Isn't it just beautiful? We thought it was a good time to spend a little time getting to know her! We hope you'll enjoy our chat. (If you like cats or yarny tattoos, I recommend reading to the end).
1) How did you discover Anzula Yarns?
I was in Columbus, Ohio for my 25th HS Reunion in October of 2015 and had set up a time to do a trunk show at “Yarn It & Haberdashery” yarnitanddash.com in Grandview, OH while I was there. It was at Esther Hall’s lovely shop that I discovered your yarn. She had lots of it there and well, some of it had to come home with me! With red (in every shade) my favorite color, this was what came home with me!!
2) When did you start knitting? How did you learn?
I grew up in a house where fiber was everywhere in just about every form. My mother was a knitter, spinner, and natural dyer. Even though I grew up surrounded by fiber, the knitting bug didn’t bite me until much much later in my life. When I moved to Albuquerque, NM from Tucson, AZ in June of 2008 I approached my Mom about teaching me how to knit. I had been hearing about the groups of women that she knit with on a regular basis and the incredible friendships she had built that had helped her through good times and bad (the sudden death of my only brother) and I really wanted to be a part of that. I knew nothing about how to knit but I knew it was something I wanted to share with my Mother. I wanted to have something that she and I could do together.
3) What was your first project? (bonus points if you have pictures)
My first project was a scarf. Mom and I decided on a scarf because it was a small project I was certain I could achieve success with. Mom gave me some of her lovely hand spun yarn, and she cast on my stitches for me on a set of Brittany Straight Needles (which were incorporated into my knitting tattoo that I would get years later). Mom taught me the knit stitch. I practiced it over and over again with her until I was certain I had it right. Mom told me “just do this over and over again. Don’t worry about trying to purl right now. Just practice the knit stitch.” My Aunt Betty was there at the time and unbeknownst to my Mom, she slipped me a beginners knitting book. When I got home that knit I continued knitting, just using the knit stitch. I didn’t even know the term “garter stitch” yet, even though thats exactly what I was doing. I woke the next morning and all I wanted to do was knit. I couldn't remember the last time something had this kind of hold on me, but I was drawn to it like nothing else before. I picked up my knitting to continue the knit stitch but I found that I was quickly getting bored of this stitch. I opened the book that my Aunt Betty gave me and taught myself how to purl. Now things were cool! I had two stitches I could do! My mind instantly went to…”what if I combined these stitches in a way that makes a cool design?” I called my Mom (this was day 2) and told her I needed more yarn and a couple different colors if possible. She quickly brought it over to my apartment and didn’t ask any questions. I ripped out the knitting that I had done back to the cast on. I had no idea how to cast on so that had to stay put. I quickly put a design together in my head and tracked it on post it notes. I didn’t know it at the time but what I was making was a basketweave scarf with alternating colors for each row. I didn’t know how to properly join yarn or change colors so I completely winged it and it worked. I had this idea that I didn’t want the first thing I knit to be something I couldn’t actually wear. I wanted it to be something I could be really proud of. It didn’t occur to me until years later, when I started designing, that what I had done from the very beginning was design my own work. Designing for me was a very natural course of progression for me. It was in my mind from the very first thing I knit that I really liked the freedom of doing my own thing. Putting this with that and seeing what I would get from it was something that really appealed to me. It certainly did with my first project! Here is a picture of my very first knitting project…
I had always been a “crafty" person and had designed other craft projects in the past. When I started knitting, it was like finding out I’d always been an artist, yet for the first time, I had just discovered the true medium with which I was supposed to be working in all along. It was a revelation for me for sure.
4) What inspired you to design Riverton?
The front page of the Riverton pattern says…
When the “Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible; 260 Exquisite Patterns by Hitomi Shida” was released in 2017, I could not wait to design a shawl with these perfectly delicate stitch designs. Looking through the book was like looking through a coffee table art book, it was simply stunning. It didn’t take me long to start swatching! A collaboration with Anzula Luxury Fibers, Riverton is my first exploration into using Japanese stitch patterns and variations to create an exquisite rectangular shawl with timeless movement and fluidity.
I knew the second I opened up the book that I would be playing around with and designing pieces using these incredible stitch patterns. Mom and I had the book on pre-order for 5 or 6 months. When it arrived in the mail it was like Christmas. We each used different colored post its to mark our immediate favorites we knew we would want to play with. The pattern used in the body of Riverton was one of the first patterns I marked. The the stitch pattern used along the long sides of the shawl is generally intended for work that isn’t heavily blocked. I wondered what it would be like to take that pattern, use it, then block the daylights out of it and see what happens. I loved what I saw as it made a perfect edging. You get a whole different level of results when you take a stitch pattern intended for a sweater or something that won’t really be blocked and use it in lace. I love it!
When I contacted Anzula and asked if they wanted to collaborate they were excited to do so and asked me to work with their Lunaris base. I chose the color Frankie because I LOVE mossy, yellowy greens. And the Lunaris base has a bit of stellina in it which made it all that much better. I hadn’t yet designed anything with stellina so I was very excited. When they sent me the yarn I almost couldnt believe just how beautiful it was1 The color easily mimicked the moss and leaves you might see along the side of a little river or brook somewhere in the mountains. Turning to the book, one of the first patterns I marked was the one I knew was perfect for this design and this yarn. Riverton is intended to mimic flowing water and the stellina really adds to this affect beautifully by looking like sparkling water. The marriage of yarn and design were perfect to me. I hope others like it too!
5) Do you do other fiber crafts?
Oddly enough, not really. Knitting and designing is where its at for me! I have done some bead work in the past but thats about it.
6) What lead you to start designing?
My mother had the complete set of Barbara Walkers "Treasury of Knitting Patterns” and I remember going thru the first one completely wide eyed and in complete awe shortly after I started knitting. I remember saying to my Mom…”you mean you can put this…with this…and this…and design your own piece?” And she looked at me and said “absolutely! You can do whatever you want with them!” The first book in that series sparked something in me. The book is blue and has an AMAZING pattern on the front cover. I’ll never forget that feeling of realizing I could literally do whatever I wanted with design.
Fast forward a couple years to 2011. After a few years of knitting and posting pictures of finished objects on Facebook I was approached by a friend of mine I went to HS who wanted me to knit a shawl for her and was more than willing to pay a good price for my work. I had been toying around with the idea of starting to design my own patterns but just hadn’t done anything about it yet. My friend Tameron wanted an intricate lace shawl. I knew I could not rightfully take someone else's pattern, knit it up and then turn around and charge my friend hundreds of dollars for this as it is against most designers copyright to do so. I took the opportunity to design something for her, and for me, for the first time. For this first design, I looked back on the moment I discovered Barbara Walkers "Treasury of Knitting Patterns.” Especially that first book. As sort of ode to Barbara Walker in thanks of what I now knew I could do, I choose the patterns on the cover of the first book to be my first major design element. Little did I know then that this pattern would be, and still is to date, the most difficult pattern in my collection. Knit in 100% cashmere, I used the frost flowers pattern as the body of the shawl, then added long side edges and a knitted on border and she was done. I was beyond proud of this design. I wanted to thank my friend for kick starting me into design so I named the shawl after her. This is Tameron, my very first design from 2011...
7) Who are your favorite designers? Who inspires you? (designers can be knit designers or fashion designers)
My favorite designers tend to be ones who do completely different stuff than I do. Especially garments. I don’t knit garments, except for babies and children, and I certainly don’t design garments! Some of my favorite garment designers are Joji Locatelli, Laura Nelkin, Taiga Hilliard, Carina Spencer, Veera Valimaki, and Thea Coleman. For shawls I really admire Josh Ryks-Robinsky (Geoknittrix designs), Anne Podlesak, Andrea Mowry, Stephen West, and Kay The Arky Designs (Kay Smith…and yes I know she’s my mother) but she and these others I’ve listed do very different things than what I do and I truly admire that. Josh Ryks-Robinsky’s sense of color and texture are really fantastic. I want to knit his entire collection. I can’t imagine how he comes up with his designs!
Color and yarn are HUGE inspirations for me. I’ve had my head in so many design books that when I see color and different yarns I tend to look at them and think..well, this pattern or that pattern would go SO well with this yarn. But I also love nature and the elements that you can find there too. There are so many things that inspire me from color, to yarn, nature and even emotion!
8) Cats or Dogs?
I have one cat, a rescue, named Audrey Grace. She is a long haired tuxedo girl and is an only cat as she doesn’t get along well with other animals. She was adopted out from the Humane Society twice and returned both times because she was adopted into a situation with other animals. She most definitely needs to be the only princess of the house. And she is! She is absolutely spoiled rotten. But the love she gives us in return is ten fold. She isn’t just a pet, she is a family member. She is a person in a little furry suit. When she sits, she does so with her paws crossed. She is treated like royalty and acts like it in return!
9) Coffee or tea?
I LOVE tea but I tend to drink more coffee. If I’m not feeling well or just really want the feeling of coziness, I will make a pot of tea. We have a lovely tea house here in Albuquerque that I LOVE to go to; the St. James Tearoom. Most of my recent love affairs with tea are as a result of the time spent at the St. James having formal tea.
10) Cake or pie?
Both. I do not discriminate. I love cake as much as I do the pastry of pie!
11) Tell us about your favorite yarn shop?
I tend to not discriminate here either. I love ALL yarn shops. But probably my favorite yarn shop is Yarn & Coffee in Santa Fe, NM. Certainly since our home yarn shop, Village Wools, closed a couple years ago after almost 45 years in business. For that homey and neighborhood feeling now, we get that at Yarn & Coffee. You can check them out at yarnandcoffee.com Deborah Grossman, the owner, has such a wonderful selection of anything and everything a crafter could possibly want or need for their crafting needs. From an amazing selection of popular and local yarns, to unique craft bags from www.blueq.com There is plenty of room to sit down on either of her sofas or chairs in the knitting nook as well. Deborah is very knowledgable when it comes to the industry and her shop. She serves coffee and tea up as well, making whatever you are doing at her shop a super cozy experience. She has always been so supportive of my work and has hosted several trunk shows for me, the latest of which was just this past weekend with the release of Riverton. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend stopping by. There is a special front area which is AWESOME and perfect for trunk shows for designers or yarn dyers! There is plenty of room to set up shop and stay a while! Contact Deborah if this interests you!
Here is a pic of my knitting tattoo. Because knitting and designing is a huge part of who I am and what I do, I had to have it tattooed on me. I have many others on my arms now but my knitting tattoo was the first. In it are the Brittany needles I used in my first knitting project, and red yarn. My favorite color! The wrist says knit and purl depending on how you are looking at it. There are pictures showing each perspective.
We certainly enjoyed our time with Claudia, and hope that you did, too! Please check out her blog at claudiadonnellydesigns.blogspot.com or you can find her on Ravelry as mrsdonnelly