Team Indie’s Co-Captain this year is, Ruth Brasch, and her adorable new baby, Jo! I met Ruth on Ravelry, in the Indie Design Gift-a-long. A mom of 3 little ones under the age of 5, Ruth offers patterns for mom’s on the go (and non-eco amazingly colored hand dyed yarn too!). But just because she’s a purveyor of commercial yarn, this designer has a lot of eco going for her too. She and her husband are going tiny by currently retrofitting a school bus for a cross country trip! Join me as we delve into an interview with this diverse designer, who has an explorers heart and an remarkable eye for design!
Q1. I’ve enjoyed knitting several of your designs, “Fairy Wings” and “Ode to Summer,” but realized our designing comes about completely differently. What’s your design process?
My process varies, but usually goes something like this: an idea or question comes to mind; usually it begins with “what would happen if I paired this technique with that yarn”, or a desire to know “why not?”. For example, my Bad Wolf Bay Socks feature very bright, highly speckled yarn and a lace pattern. Typically, knitters are told that variegation or speckles can’t mix with lace because the pattern will be obscured. I wanted to find a pattern that was bold enough to both highlight the yarn AND the lace together. Why not? Once I have an idea, I do a rough sketch in my design notebook, with bullet points of all the features I want to include (lace, bright indie yarn, visibility, etc), and then I swatch! (Well, usually I swatch. If I’ve used a yarn/needle combo before, sometimes i’m naughty and just start knitting, which is what I did with the BWB socks!) After swatching, I do the math for all the sizes I want to offer, and then cast on the sample! Whew. Did you read all that?
Q2. Both knit and crochet and now hand sewn bags and dyeing yarn too! When did your love of all things fiber start and where does your inspiration come from?
When I was young, my Mom was always making something. She knit a little (enough to teach me to cast on and work a knit stitch), cross stitched, sewed us clothing and toys, you name it! She also gave me a love of books, and we went to the library regularly, which is where I found the books I learned to knit from. When I was about 10, I found a crochet hook in her closet and asked what it was. She couldn’t remember how to crochet, so I asked my Grandmother. We live 10 hours away from my Grandmother, so she taught me to do a chain stitch, and sent me home. I chain stitched an entire skein of yarn on the ride home, and then went to the library again. You guessed it: I’m about 90% self-taught, with the help of library books.
Because this was in pre-Ravelry/pre-YouTube days, I essentially improvised designs for years without realizing that’s what I was doing. I guess you could say that early inspiration came from necessity. I didn’t realize there was a way that I “should” knit, because I was teaching myself, so I did what I wanted and learned from my own work!
Watching a string turn into a finished object is one of the most satisfying things I do. I find it very soothing, and each design is like a puzzle asking me to solve it – when I can get a concept off the paper and into reality, it feels a bit like magic!
Q3. What is your favorite stitch technique?
This is a tough question to answer, because my favorite technique is always the one I’m learning at the moment! I really love faux smocked stitches like the ones I feature on my “Cobble Socks” pattern. That’s another pattern I designed to show off variegated and speckled yarns; the faux smocks help each color to have its moment in the spotlight instead of getting lost in the pattern.
I also have a continual love affair going on with cables. If I could do only one technique for the rest of my knitting career, it would be cables, without a doubt. Probably about half of my designs are cabled, purely because I love working them!
Q4. Your podcast is super fun. I love seeing your design sneak peeks, FOs, and especially your knitter / crochet project bags. For new viewers, what is your podcast all about and how did you come up with the name, “Coffee Yarn and Dinosaurs”?
Thanks, I ‘m glad you enjoy it! My podcast is essentially about 3 things, which is why it has the name it does.
Coffee: I love to feel like i’m sharing a cup of coffee and chatting about projects and designs with friends, even if it’s just online. I show FOs, WIPs, and design concepts in progress; I sometimes even ask for viewer input, so you get to help be part of the design process!
Yarn: This is the section where I talk about the yarn dyeing I’ve been doing. I show off new colorways, and talk about shop stuff.
Dinosaurs: This is the real life section! Because we’re doing something so radical (see Q6), I love sharing a bit about it with my viewers. My designs are very heavily related to my life, and inspired by what I’m experiencing at the time they’re conceptualized, so I don’t want to just be an isolated face on the screen. It’s important to me that my viewers see me as a real person, going on a real life adventure!
Q5. What’s up next? Do you have any upcoming pattern releases to share?
I have two patterns in testing right now – a massive shawl, and a pair of kids socks. The kids socks will be released first, because they take my testers and tech editor less time to get through! They’re bright, cabled, and sized for babies to older children (6 months- 9 years). They were inspired by my eldest son, and are just like him – happy, fun, and perfect for snuggling!
Q6. Skoolie, I’m shocked and amazed, and rather in awe as you are the first person I know personally to go tiny. What was the impetus behind this radical move and how can we follow along with your adventures?
You know the saying “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here?” That’s essentially where we’re at! My husband and I have been talking about moving west and building our own house for at least 5 years. Initially we settled on Northern Idaho, but we realized that moving somewhere you haven’t lived is a big risk – what if we bought land, built a house, and then realized Idaho wasn’t where we wanted to live?
At the same time, we currently share a house rental with my younger brother in law who is preparing to move into his own apartment (for various reasons), so we can’t afford to live in the house we’re currently renting.
So, with the need to move somewhere new anyway, we decided to go on an adventure! We’re planning to take our trip the long way around, and explore the Western US before deciding where we want to live. The added bonus for this is that I’ve recently begun dyeing yarn, so we can just take that business on the road with us. So, the fiber arts adventure will continue while we’re on the road, which I’m really excited about.
You can find our bus adventures on Instagram as @wandathebus (cause we’re going to go “wanda” the country! Get it? That was my corny idea!), and we’re soon going to be putting bus updates at www.coffeeyarnanddinosaurs.wordpress.com (which is where I put podcast show notes right now)
Find Ruth around the web at the following places:
Etsy: EverydayYarnworks http://everydayyarnworks.etsy.com/
Facebook: EverydayYarnworks http://www.facebook.com/EverydayYarnworks
Instagram: everydayyarnworks http://instagram.com/everydayyarnworks
Pinterest: EDYarnworks http://pinterest.com/EDYarnworks
Twitter: everydayyarnworks http://twitter.com/everydayyarnworks