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Interview with Katherine Vaughan | Rope Knits

Well, things have been a bit slow around here lately. The blog was down for several days thanks to an attack on my host’s server  and I’ve been trying to crawl out from book-related work (deadlines approach!).

But I’m back today with the first of a series of interviews with designers!

Katherine Vaughan, KTLV on Ravelry, was nice enough to answer a bunch of questions about her designs, the creative process, what she loves and hates about designing and, of course, The Princess Bride. If you want to get to know her even better and see more of her designs, you can visit her website at www.ktlvdesigns.com (she’s also a much-in-demand tech editor).

"Inconceivable!" shawl

You’re KTLV on Ravelry and design under the name Katherine Vaughan. Do you like to go by KT or Katherine?
In general in the knitting world I go by Katherine, but I’ve had the nickname KT for so long that it’s hard to break (and so I hardly bother).  In my other career (academia) I find that the gender-ambiguous name “KT” can be very useful in what is still a male-dominated world.  In knitting, however, I feel like having a female identity is equally useful—so I go by my full name of Katherine.  It’s also a handy way to separate the two sides of my working life, kind of like having a secret identity!


I don’t really know that I have a particular style.  I tend to avoid anything dealing with colorwork, except maybe for simple stripes and occasionally a bit of mosaic work, but I also dislike stockinette, so I suppose you could say that I specialize in texture and form – focusing on accessories and, surprisingly, baby blankets.  In North Carolina we don’t have much call for heavy woolens, so I also tend to gravitate to either non-wool yarns or to smaller accessories (or both).

I see you have 53 patterns available on Ravelry and I know you have a full-time job as well as a family. How do you stay prolific without getting burnt out?
Well, that’s 53 patterns spread out over at least 5 years of designing, so it comes to less than one pattern per month, on average. I’m one of those designers who started out writing down and giving away for free patterns to things that I had made up for gifts, and then morphed into a designer who designed gifts around what she wanted to write patterns for.  So every one of my baby blanket patterns, for example, were designed and knit for specific babies – of friends and relations.  This means that I have very very few of my samples left – they were all given away!  Burnout for me is more likely to happen with magazine/book designs where I have a lot less creative freedom (and don’t get to give away the sample). To combat this I’ve backed away from doing as much submitting of proposals so that I can manage my time better.

I notice that The Princess Bride inspired one of your patterns (Inconceivable!) and of course your Jayne hat is a nod to Firefly. Have you been inspired, either directly or generally, by other books/movies/TV shows?
TPB (as those of us in the know call it) also inspired the Valerie sampler scarf (which I am unduly proud of), and the Isidore Shawlette is inspired both by Isadora Duncan (a modern dancer who particularly liked working with shawls) and the taxi driver Isidore in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration book for the movie Blade Runner).  In general, though, I tend to be inspired by a person I know, or a texture, or something in the yarn.  One of my sources of inspiration (as seen in both the Fauxhawk baby hat and the Amirah Blanket) is my bus commute every day—so many interesting things to see there—and the Phat Fiber Sampler Box themes.  I’m really just a sponge, taking in images that can hang out for a very long time before popping out of my brain.

How do you keep track of ideas?
Lol. I don’t.  I know I should!  I’ve played with keeping a sketch journal, Pinterest, and other notes, but just can’t keep up with them (or, in the case of physical notebooks, keep track of them).  It’s very frustrating!

Ocean Park Hat

What’s your least favorite part of designing?
Writing up the actual patterns.  I like writing down the instructions proper, but all of the other little pieces of the pattern that have to be perfect are just a pain in the butt.  Things like, getting my metric conversions right, making sure the gauge and measurements agree, and all those other little details that make up the difference between a hobby and a professional pattern.  I also really need to work on my photography skills – sending my spouse to photography lessons (which, to defend myself, he wants to do), and finding a regular model are on my to-do list.

Have you ever gone through a creative slump? If so, how did you get out of it?
Yes, right around Christmas I had a bad one that lasted quite a while (this is often the case – something about the darkness of the day seeps into my soul).  Luckily right at that time this year I had several patterns come due for some magazines, so I had no choice but to work on them.  By the time they were done I was a little better – and I always have a backlog of patterns in some stage of polishing (writing, photographing, testing, editing) that need help, so that usually tides me over.  Since I also work as a tech editor, I nearly always have something to do, even if I’m not in a knitting mood. When all else fails, I work on baby hats for the Johns Hopkins or UNC hospital nurseries.

Do you have any favorite resources that help you be more creative (books, magazines, websites, classes, etc.)?
My bus ride!  Seriously, my favorite place to look for ideas is just going out in public and seeing what people are wearing or what they are doing – not just the knitwear but also colors, textures, pattern. I also love looking at submission calls for inspiration, even if I don’t often submit things for them. 

Jayne Hat

What about activities? Any non-knitting hobbies/interests that you feel contribute to your creativity—or that you just plain enjoy?
I love to garden – pulling weeds is nearly as good a meditative activity as knitting (though dirtier and more difficult to do in the winter).  So much of my day life is spent thinking, teaching, and writing that I like having hobbies that create something or otherwise show something off – so I spend a lot of time knitting and gardening. I have two wonderful kids that I really enjoy playing with (or just watching), and we often go to sports events at UNC (especially women’s basketball and gymnastics) as well.
Do you want to give a shout-out to a favorite yarn or LYS?
My LYS is Yarns Etc. in Chapel Hill. The owner is a friend from my church as well as my yarn pusher.  I’m excited that right now they’re doing a KAL of one of my sock patterns (Releve). I’m also excited to be working on several patterns using Malabrigo yarns, due in large part to the Malabrigo Quickies series being managed by our friend Alex Tinsley.  Who doesn’t love Malabrigo?
Which knitwear designers do you find particularly inspiring/influential?
My all time favorite designer is Cat Bordhi.  What a creative thinker! I am in complete awe of her ability to really be able to think in three dimensions – a skill I’ve not been able to completely develop. She was the teacher assigned to my table at a Stitches one year, and I about died when she admired my bag (Reduce Reuse Recycle)!
What have you been reading lately (knitting or non-knitting, whatever you’d like to chat about)?
I’m having a bit of an odd day today, actually.  Earlier today I finished reading The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, an odd book that I’m not sure I particularly understood completely.  And then this evening I finished watching the last MacGyver episode on Netflix. It’s weird to be between books and series at the same time. I tend to gravitate towards sci/fi in both books and TV/movies, though my choice is usually on the psychological side rather than space opera. I particularly love LeGuin, Atwood, Eco, Stephenson, Tolkien.  For some reason I’m also on a serious zombie books kick!

Windowpane Baby Blanket

Have any questions for KT? Feel free to ask here!


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