Friday, January 20, 2012

An Interview with...Mary Jane Mucklestone

Retro Andean Pullover from

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.

Mary Jane is best known for her colourful and inventive stranded colorwork designs featured in Interweave Knits, Twist Collective, Classic Elite Yarns, Alchemy Yarns, St. Denis Magazine and an assortment of books. She has a  BFA in Printmaking from Pratt Institute, studying fashion at Parson’s School of Design and Textiles and Historic Costume at the University of Washington. She also worked  in the fashion industry in New York City and the related fields of advertising and interior design. She is the author of 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory

You can find Mary Jane here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere I look. From architecture to the colors of a misty sunrise. Canned food labels and a pile of grass clippings. There are patterns and interesting color combination's everywhere. I also find inspiration in books and films, magazines and browsing the Internet. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Well, I like all kinds of knitting. I love to learn about traditional techniques and I’ve done quite a bit of traveling to learn firsthand. For Fair Isle knitting I’ve been to Shetland a couple of times, I’d love to make it a yearly excursion. I’ve learned so much just seeing the scenery, the colors of the countryside are exactly the colors you find in the yarns!

I’ve also been to Peru to learn how the amazing men’s hats called “chullos” are made. They use an interesting form of intarsia in the round, as well as having some darling and fun to knit trims.


Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love to look at other designer’s work. I’m not afraid of being influenced, it is bound to happen, but I’d say “inspired” is a better word choice.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
Being a self taught knitter, I kind of resent the dumbing down of patterns but maybe not in the way you mean. I had to figure out how to do so much on my own, there just were not books to describe the techniques that I saw, which led to a lot of experimentation, which makes for a better knitter I think.

If you mean dumbing down patterns to make them fit into a magazine format, I’ve got mixed feelings about that. Luckily we have places like Twist Collective and Ravelry now, with downloadable patterns, so a designer can make their pattern as many pages as they’d like.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I do most of it myself, and only occasionally use sample knitters, who are a wonderfully patient breed. But since I design on the needle, I can’t really farm the work out. I’m starting to use test knitters for alternate colorways though. Anyone care to sign up?!!

Did you do a formal business plan?
Nothing recent and I have to do it.

Do you have a mentor?
I have a few trusted friends who I can talk the biz with, a couple are my knitting idols so I feel very fortunate.

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Tech Editors are the gods of the industry!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
My working style is probably not the best. I work late late late for days on end, and then crash and read detective novels.

How do you deal with criticism?
I think criticism is helpful. I try to learn from it.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I’ve learned you can never stop and take it easy, gotta keep your nose to the grindstone!

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Go for it!  

1 comment:

  1. Her patterns are lovely. I regularily read your blog, and you provide a plethora of information, but I feel you need to provide an explanation of why you feel there is a contraversy with the "dumbing down of patterns." I personally find beauty in a well executed simple knit as well as the most complex lace shawl. I don't see a contraversy.