Susan, welcome to Art of Crafts and thank you for taking the time for this interview. I first became aware of your work through the fabulous Craft Sanity podcast and from there I have run some giveaways of your books on my site and people just love them. So it is really cool that we can now sign up for a couple of your classes on Craftsy, Wee Ones and The (Not-So) Itty Bitty Giraffe and have access to your teaching first-hand.
* Firstly, please could you tell us a little more about how you got involved in crafting? I grew up a crafty child in a creative home where we made just about everything, including that my mom made a lot of my everyday clothes and always my special event clothes growing up. Through my mom’s innovative craftiness, I fell in love with making things from an early age and have never stopped throughout my life. I love all kinds of crafts, not just the knitting, although knitting is always center stage.
* What is your earliest memory of crafting and is it from school or home? One of my earliest memories is when my mom took a crochet course that was several weeks long when I was around 6 or 7 years old. My sister and I used to wait by the front door for her to get home so she could teach us the latest stitch she had just learned at her class. We were so excited about the whole thing. It was funny looking back. The other thing I always remember about growing up “crafty” is that we could always find a solution to fix any problem using things we had at our house. Being crafty is a lifestyle and a way of thinking that can solve almost anything that pops up.
* Do you undertake your ‘crafty’ life on a full-time basis or do you have other work/family commitments? Tell us a little about your typical day. I am definitely a full-time mother with four kids, who are getting older but still take a lot of time and effort and work. Along with that I am also a full-time knitting designer and blogger at the same time. It is a busy, busy life. The work days for me are always different depending on what deadline is right around the corner. It could be designing, knitting, sketching, planning, winding yarn, emails, blog writing, pattern writing, photography, writing for my books, editing my books…. all sorts of things. That’s what is so fun about being a professional designer/knitter, you never know what’s next.
* We all have something arty or crafty that stands out as something we are proud of. Tell us about something that you loved creating, and why it was so special to you? I am most proud of my Itty-Bitty series of three books. These books, and specifically, Itty-Bitty Hats, started my knitting career and will always hold a special place in my life. There was something so magical, exciting and miraculous about getting that first book deal. I love everything about knitting, writing and creating books and collections of designs.
Another project that jumps out in my mind is when I designed my first knitted toy. It was the Chubby Bunny in Itty-Bitty Nursery, my second book. I fell in love with knitting toys at that point. I couldn’t get enough of it and that bunny just turned a lightbulb on in my head. It was an exciting time and right after that I asked my publisher if I could do a knit toy book and they said yes! That’s when I started working on Itty-Bitty Toys.
* For those that are new to knitting, tell us why you love it and why people should give it a try? The best thing about knitting is that you are never done learning and challenging yourself. It is so much more than a craft, for me it is a total lifestyle. I breathe knitting, I love it so much. Even after close to 30 years of knitting, I am constantly trying new things and coming up with new ideas. It never gets old. There is so much to learn, so many smart and talented knitters coming up with new twists and turns and then there is also the older generation with bountiful knowledge to soak up and cherish. It is a great time in history to be a knitter with access to anything you could dream of at your fingertips. New knitters are welcomed with open arms into the knitting community like never before.
* You are an established teacher of knitting, with several gorgeous knitting books published. What do you love about sharing this medium with others? I love teaching knitting, in fact, before I became a full-time knitting designer, I was a public school teacher for many years. Teaching is kind of in my blood, I guess. I love to help people learn new things about knitting and to see people have that a-ha moment. When I was teaching a baby hat class many years ago, I had a student learn how to use double-pointed needles for the first time. The look of joy and astonishment on her face was the best. She exclaimed, “I can’t believe I am actually doing this!” That was a great moment and just the kind of experience that makes sharing knitting so worthwhile. It’s not as hard as it looks. In a nutshell, teaching knitting is pure and simple fun!
* Your classes on Craftsy, Wee Ones and The (Not-So) Itty Bitty Giraffe offer the perfect way to master the skills involved, what would you say are the biggest advantages for people with an online class such as this? Craftsy.com is like a dream come true for instructors and students. I think most people are helped by seeing something being done in front of them and also having the written pattern to refer to. Visual learning, especially for knitting, is highly effective. I love that you can take the courses at your own pace, at any time, without any rushing or deadlines. It takes so much pressure off and lets the student have fun and relax. The note-taking and stopping and starting capabilities, and the question/answer platform on the Craftsy site are fantastic. The student is in charge of the pace of the course. Craftsy.com has opened a huge new world for everyone interested in learning hands-on crafts.
* What did you enjoy the most about making the Craftsy online courses? I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be a Craftsy instructor. I loved everything about making the Craftsy courses. I loved the planning and preparation. I loved designing the Wee Ones Seamless Knit Toys projects from scratch specifically for the Craftsy course. It was fun and exciting to shoot the videos and the staff and crew was top-notch and fun. It is a great place to be!
* As this is Art of Crafts I have to ask, do you enjoy any other crafts? If so, please tell us more. I’ve done and enjoy all kinds of crafts like furniture design, painting, watercolors, mosaic art, sewing, embroidery, punch needle embroidery, rug making, crochet, interior design, needlepoint, kids crafts…. etc. I’ve actually had several of my kids crafts published in Parents Magazine. I basically love it all!
* Are there any exciting plans you have in development, what’s next for your ‘crafty’ life? I have a new book coming out early next year and I am really proud of how well that is coming along. It is going to be a beautiful little book. I have another book or two in the works right now being hammered out. I have a huge project going with a fun yarn company that I am really excited about. I am doing some magazine work for Knit Simple for the upcoming holiday season of 2012.
I love keeping up with my Ravelry group, Itty-Bitty Knits. I just finished a fun sock knitalong on Itty-Bitty Knits that took off like fire. I am planning another mystery knitalong this fall because the last one was so much fun and successful. I am constantly working on my blog of 6 years, http://susanbanderson.blogspot.com. Blogging is an everyday thing for me. There is always something new going on around here.
Also, I am teaching two new classes in October 2012 at the Vogue Knitting Live event in Chicago! One is a toy workshop and the other is for a top-down seamless baby cardigan with lots of choices and options. I can’t wait for that. Come see me if you get a chance!
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