Artist Profile: Colleen Teerling

It can be downright exciting to break rules, don’t you think? Some of us, however, stick to the(safe) rules when we knit, weave, or dye. Colleen Teerling is a rule breaker. And her gorgeous colorwork speaks for itself! It was thrilling last year to see her amazing Canada Quilt — a unique piece that tells Colleen’s personal story. A crowd quickly formed around her quilt; we were all gobsmacked! And how VERY exciting that she joins our Fiber College faculty this year! Have you tried basic stranded and intarsia colorwork before? Then this class is for you!

During Colleen’s class “Adventurous Colorwork Knitting” on Friday, September 9 from 1:30 – 5:30 PM, she’ll work with experienced knitters to create their own patterns as they continue their journey with intarsia and stranded color-work. The results promise to be thrilling and unique to each individual. Let’s meet Colleen and then you can go to http://www.fibercollege.org to learn more about her class and sign up. Note: An additional 2-hour class will be offered on Saturday for those wishing further assistance.

Note: This is NOT a class for beginners; students should have done basic stranded and intarsia color-work and have some experience with stitches other than straight knitting and purling.  

Colleen's tells colorful stories with her personalized knitting.

Colleen’s tells colorful stories with her personalized knitting.

As we celebrate the tenth year of our Fiber College community, tell us about how community plays a part in your life as a fiber artist. Tell us how you entered into the world of fiber and the fiber arts.

I learned to knit from a friend while working at a fishing camp off the coast of British Columbia.  It rained constantly for 84 days straight, and there wasn’t much else to do.  My first project was a rather overly ambitious sweater, and I was so bored with it that it took me four years to finish it.  Then I stumbled onto the fact that if I designed my own knitting and followed my own ideas, it was far more interesting for me than following a pattern.  I love seeing a project go from a sometimes vague idea in my head to a finished item.

For the first 15 or so years of my knitting life, I knit in almost complete isolation.  In some ways that was not a bad thing; no one told me the “rules” of knitting, so I did pretty much whatever I wanted as long as I could make it work, and I developed a rather distinctive style and aesthetic of knitting.

But then I discovered Ravelry, and my world opened up!  I was suddenly exposed to the creativity of knitters from around the world.  At about the same time, I moved to a new area where I developed knitting friends.  Having a community of creative people around me, both online and in real life, encouraged me to explore and expand my own creativity, and I grew hugely as a knitter and artist.

Colleen encourages her students to tell their own stories with their colorwork

Colleen encourages her students to tell their own stories with their colorwork

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given to a student or another fiber friend?

I think the best piece of advice I constantly give knitters is this:  Knitting is the one area in life where you can make a terrible, awful, utterly catastrophic mistake.  And then you rip it out.  And then it’s as if that mistake had never happened.  In how many areas of life can you say that?  If you don’t like what you knit, you can always rip it out and try again.  So be utterly fearless in your knitting!

Colleen is fearless when she knits!

Colleen is fearless when she knits!

How do you keep your creativity fresh and new?  What have you experimented with in the fiber arts in the past year?

I keep my creativity fresh by learning new skills and trying different techniques, or putting techniques together in different ways.  My skills and my style of knitting are constantly evolving, which keeps things exciting for me.

Colleen has fallen in love with spinning

You’ve hit a roadblock and need to get back into your creative groove. How would you do that?

When I hit a roadblock, creatively, it’s often because of difficulties in other areas of my life.  I try to be patient with myself and give myself permission to take a break, although I always look for joy and beauty in whatever is around me.  However, I often find that if I surround myself with creative people, it sparks creativity in me.  Anytime I go someplace like Fiber College, I come away with my head just brimming with ideas and possibilities!

How do you imagine your work might change in the next three to five years?

My work is constantly changing and evolving.  I can’t really predict how it might change in the next 3-5 years, but I can predict that it will change.  I just learned to spin last year, and have already started to custom-spin yarns for specific projects.  I can foresee custom-spinning fancy art-yarns for special effects in my knitting.  That would be fun.

Colleen's fantastic Canada Quilt -- you can read more about it on Ravelry (Teerling)

Colleen’s fantastic Canada Quilt — you can read more about it on Ravelry (Teerling)

How do you ensure plenty of time to be an artist?

I ensure I have enough time for my fiber art by having a rather haphazard relationship with housework!

Teerling_2016_rabbits_and_reed jacket

Colleen’s Rabbits and Reeds jacket

What project of yours has surprised you the most and why?

I think the project that really surprised me was my Canada quilt.  http://ravel.me/teerling/cq .  Its first incarnation in my head was a rather simple colourwork quilt, but it quickly grew into a deeply personal tale of my history and my land and my love for the places I have lived.  Because the quilt was so personal and specific to me, I was surprised and moved at the very emotional responses it often evoked in others (the stories behind each square can be seen at the above link).  I’m glad when it inspires others to create something that tells their own personal tales, and I am looking forward to helping students in my class knit images that are personal to them.

Colleen knits intarsia style and loves to break knitting rules

Colleen knits intarsia style with stranded colorwork and loves to break knitting rules

What’s the most important thing that you want potential students to know about you?

I think the most important thing that students should know about me is that I am not the sort of person that will have you follow five steps which will allow you to create an item that looks much like your neighbor’s item.  I want to find out what YOU might like to create (in terms of colour-work for this class), give you some general principals, as well as specific tips, techniques and ideas, and then help you create something that is personal and specific to you.

I don’t have a blog, but can be found on Ravelry as “teerling”.

One thought on “Artist Profile: Colleen Teerling

  1. Gorgeous work! I love the idea of what looks to me a knitted quilt – combining the love of knitting and putting it all together like a ‘quilt’. Wow!

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