Spotlight: Kate Atherley, Knitting Teacher, Designer and Managing Technical Editor for Knitty.com

Kate Atherley

Spotlight: Kate Atherley, Knitting Teacher, Designer and Managing Technical Editor for Knitty.com

Kate is Knitty.com’s Managing Technical Editor and a seasoned designer and teacher of all things knitterly. She’s known for her attention to detail in her patterns and her classes, and she regularly teaches at stores and events across North America, including Interweave YarnFest and Vogue Knitting Live. Her work has appeared in many books and magazines.

Kate AtherleyTell us a little bit about you and what you do. How long have you been
knitting?

I learned to knit when I was a young child, at my grandmother’s feet. I don’t actually remember learning, but I must have been six or seven. Then I dabbled in knitting, on and off, until I finished University, when I suddenly had time on my hands. I happened to live around the corner from the biggest yarn shop in Toronto, and I decided to refresh my skills. 20+ years later, and I haven’t put the needles down.

Have you always wanted to do what you are doing? If not, what made you decide to start? What brought you into the knitting world, and now Managing Technical Editor for Knitty.com?

I worked in the software industry for some time, but knitted on the side. I started teaching classes at a yarn shop that belonged to a colleague’s wife, initially just for fun on the weekends.

Inspired by this, I started writing articles for online knitting websites and blogs, and eventually for Knitty.com. My many articles about the details of sock knitting led me to become their technical editor for socks, and from there I moved up the ranks to be the managing technical editor.

I didn’t even know this job existed when I was younger, let alone thought I could do it! But it turns out that this job is the perfect combination of my knitting skills, and my professional training in writing and mathematics.

What is your typical day like?

I do many different things: I design and publish my own patterns, I write books, edit others’ books and patterns, and I travel to teach. One of the reasons I love my work is that I have a wide variety of different types of days.

When I’m in my home office, I do my editing in the morning, and designing and creative work in the afternoon, and most of the actual knitting in the evening. I spend a lot of my time working in a spreadsheet – there’s an awful lot of arithmetic and mathematics in pattern editing, and in design!

Kate Atherley

When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?

I always loved clothing and design and style. I remember being very particular about my outfits when I was a child. There was a particular dress – striped, if memory serves – I desperately wanted my Mum to buy for me. She was initially unconvinced, but I remember her telling me that I was right, and it was a good choice.

How does your education in mathematics influence your career as an expert knitter?

Mathematics is crucial for what I do: I need it to do the calculations for the patterns I create and publish, and I rely on it heavily when editing others’ work. There are a lot of numbers and geometry behind the scenes in knitting design.

Do you feel that you chose your “passion” for knitting, or did it choose you?

I think it chose me – it runs in the family. My grandmother was also mathematically inclined, and a very skilled knitter. She passed on those skills to my mother, and I’m honoured to carry the legacy!

Kate AtherleyWhat is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your book(s), especially your new title, A Knitter’s Dictionary? {Side note: I’m just a novice knitter and love the book! I need more patience and practice with my knitting!)

Knitters can take on new challenges, to expand their skills, to be fearless to try new patterns and techniques. I designed my Dictionary to help knitters build their skills, one project at time.

How do you make time for creating and knitting? Do you try to create daily?

I knit all the time: when I’m on the phone, in the evenings when I’m watching TV, when I’m travelling. Knitting is the ideal way to the pass the time when I’m on the train or a plane, waiting at the airport, in the car (as a passenger, of course!). I knit when I’m waiting at the dentist, in long lines at the passport office, at the coffee shop or pub with friends.

I always have two types of knitting projects on the go: small and easy ones, that are ideal for carrying in my purse, and terrific for working on while paying attention to other things, like a good TV show, to my friends’ chat, to the announcements at the airport. And then I have more engaging projects, more challenging work: these are engaging and satisfying, and excellent for passing time on long flights.

Kate Atherley

What is creativity to you? Do you consider yourself to be creative? Why or why not?

I believe everyone is creative: even your choice of style and color of your clothes is a creative thing! How you put outfits together, how you arrange your furniture, the design of your favourite coffee mug for your morning jolt – every choice involves creativity.

When you are thinking of a new knitting pattern or project, what is your creative process? How does an idea in your head get to a pattern for you to try and then to publish?

It differs from project to project. Sometimes inspiration comes from a particular item I want to make.

Last year, I designed a knitting pattern for a motorcycle-style jacket – I had seen a stylish friend wearing one, and I realized I’d never had that type of jacket, and wanted to create one for myself.

Sometimes, I’m inspired by a technique: I’m currently completely fascinated by a technique called brioche knitting, and I’m playing with the design possibilities that it brings.

And sometimes I’m inspired by a yarn: a ball of the softest and most luxurious yarn in a the softest and sweetest shade of green just had to become something for a baby, so I made a traditional style of bonnet.

Kate Atherley

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?

I think it’s that I’ve figured out how to make my living and spend my days being creative, that every day I get to do something I truly love – and through teaching and writing books, I get to share that with others.

Are there any other creative channels you use to express your creativity?

I very much enjoy sewing, too. I don’t get to do it as often as I would like. But I adore being able to create outfits exactly as I imagine them.

How many UFOs do you think you have?

Aieee! A terrible question! I have a fair number of UFOs that I will defend as class samples. For example, I have a pair of socks on the needles that I started about five years ago. It’s a sample for my ‘knitting two socks at once’ class. Goodness knows if they’ll ever be finished.

Then there are design samples, so I’m not sure those count, either. Some of them are ‘rough drafts’ that might not get finished. But I haven’t undone them because they’re part of a larger project that’s still underway.

And then there’s my fun/selfish knitting — last year I promised my brother a hat, and I’ve got the swatch and needles on my desk but I haven’t actually cast on yet – does that count as a UFO? And I’ve got two pairs of plain socks on the needles, both of which I started well over a year ago… I work on them when I have time, between other larger projects.

And there’s a third pair, knitted a few years ago, that need an adjustment. I planned them to be a gift, but I knew I wouldn’t finish them in time for the birthday so I made a hat instead. I plan to adjust them to fit me. Not sure if those qualify as UFOs or WIPs!

Kate Atherley

What is your favorite storage tip for yarn?

Big plastic tubs, with lids that properly seal – keeps the moths out!

It’s fun to go through them a couple of times a year. Then I see what delights I have and might have forgotten about. I organize the boxes by yarn type and label them to give me a rough sense of what I have. There’s a very large tub of sock yarn, and a couple of tubs of mixed lace weights and garment quantities of various goodies.

I always warn knitters about keeping tiny bits and pieces of leftovers. They can quickly take over your stash. Despite all good intentions, I find that we rarely find ways to actually use them up. Donate them to retirement homes, seniors’ centers and schools.

Kate AtherleyWhat can we expect to see from you in the future?

I’m working on a new book idea. In the meantime, you can see me around North America and the UK. I look forward to teaching at a number of events. I adore teaching, and it helps me with my books. It keeps me in touch with people. I learn what they want to knit, what they want to know, what they want to learn.

Where can people find your books, patterns and you?

My website is www.kateatherley.com, and I’m on Twitter and Ravery as kateatherley and Instagram at kateatherleyknits


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