No one can rock a pair of knitting needles – or baby bangs for that matter – like Vickie Howell. You can see her work the yarn on DIY Network’s Knitty Gritty, brighten up the pages in magazines such as Knit.1 and Budget Living. This chica also holds her own as a member of the Austin Craft Mafia. But Vickie owns a special place in mi corazon. Back in the day, we were among a few crafty chicks who launched web sites as a way to express our passion. Now when I see how far Vickie has come – I’m awestruck!. VH trivia: Did you know she is part Latina?
So – Vickie has a new book: New Knits on the Block,(Sterling Publishing, $14.95) and she took some time to chat with me about it. Before I go into the questions, I want to share that Vickie doesn’t just knit a scarf and then toss down her needles. No way. She designs, she comes up with ideas for her show and books, and even does the styling on her photo shoots. I love that, because everything you see, it is all her energy in there. Good job, girl. We’re all cheering for you!
You can step into Vickie’s world by visiting her web site, VickieHowell.com.
If you had never picked up a set of knitting needles, what would you be doing with your life right now?
VICKIE: Ooh, no one’s asked me this one before. You’re so crafty with your questions, my friend! Until I left Los Angeles, I always assumed that I’d go back to working in the entertainment industry after my boys started school. I’ve always dreamed of hosting my own craft-related show and writing books however, so I’d like to think that I’d still be doing that only on a less specialized scale. Man, it’s really hard for me to imagine my life without knitting, though!
What was the inspiration behind your new book, New Knits on the Block? And I have to ask – were you ever a fan of New Kids on the Block? Any posters of Jordan Knight lingering in your parent’s basement somewhere?
V: This book was inspired by a couple of things: 1.) My sons’ insatiable appetite for toys and costumes, and 2.) My own memories as a child receiving socks and underwear as gifts from a well-meaning aunt. My kids’ reaction to the socks and mittens that I’ve knit for them is much the same as mine had been to my aunt’s practicality, utter indifference. I wanted to create a collection of projects that would be as fun for adults to knit as they would be for children to receive. Oh, and to answer the 2nd part of your question…Let’s just say that I spent some formative time in the 80’s “Hangin’ Tough”. 😉
What is the one, most challenging stitch that you just can’t get the hang of – the one that everytime you go to show it on TV or in a demo, you say a prayer in your mind that it comes out right?
V: Fortunately, since my guests do the majority of the teaching, I don’t have those TV panic moments often. Off-camera though, I still haven’t mastered complicated lace patterns. I don’t seem to have the attention span that it takes to successfully complete a fine-weight lace shawl. I guess the fact that I usually have a small child jumping on me while I’m knitting *may* have something to do with my lack-of-concentration abilities. 😉
When was the last time a handmade item gave you the chills? What was it and where did you see it?
V: My friend Whitney Lee makes the most amazing latch hook rugs that combine traditional design with portrayals of voluptuous nude models. Her pieces make such a strong feminist statement about “women’s work” and sexuality. I’m always in awe of her talent and creative vision.
Most people know you as a knitting superstar, but actually you are into gobs of other crafty genres as well. Which are your favorites?
V: Dude, that’s like asking me to choose between which of my children is my favorite! No matter what the genre, if it’s crafty, I love doing it. J
What is the most daring knitted item you’ve ever attempted/finished? Did you keep it or give it away?
V: Honestly, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything all that daring. That’s something that I really want to work on in the future—stepping out of my knitting comfort zone. I guess I’d have to say though, that this punk rock kilt I designed for my next book was kind of a step in the right direction. I combined simple knitted intarsia with a fabric skirt for that one. It’s not a difficult project, but still a bit different than any of my other designs.
What are your personal guilty pleasure yarns and patterns? The old faithfuls, so to say?
V: Ya know it’s gonna ruin my Knitter’s street cred to say this, but I’m still a fan o’ the garter stitch scarf or pillow using scraps to create inconsistent stripes. I love the texture and Bohemian feel of these types of projects.
Have you seen that new circular knitting tool that doesn’t use needles? What’s your take on that? Why should someone use or not use it?
V: I have seen those. I think they’re cool if you don’t feel like hand knitting a tube. The tool really just kind of turns the process into a different craft of sorts, one that is definitely less time consuming! It’d be handy to use one to make a plain stockinette stitch beanie and then add-on hand knit or crochet embellishments. Even though I’d never completely give up my needles, I actually really like experimenting with new tools to see how they effect design strategy.
Lately everything is about knitting – there are kits, books, DVD even novels. Are you worried the genre will become over saturated, kinda like scrapbooking did? Or do you think knitting is a classic hobby that is here to stay?
V: It’s unlikely that knitting will always be as hot as it is now. That said however, I think that it’s a craft that once learned sticks with you forever. Knitting is about more than just making something out of yarn; it’s also about relaxation, creative expression and community. Those are all things that I think our society really craves and undoubtedly will hold onto indefinitely.