Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Interlude with Evelyn Clark

Last Christmas, I chose Evelyn Clark's Flower Basket Shawl as a present for my mother. It was a success on all fronts. Mom liked it, and I liked knitting it. I liked it so much, in fact, that I made a very public offer to feed Evelyn bonbons and tweak her dear little nose.

Now Evelyn's famed Swallowtail Shawl has been chosen by the readers of Interweave Knits as one of five designers to be featured in their new, free eBook, The Best of Interweave Knits Readers' Choice Awards. And in spite of my earlier statements, she was not too creeped out to answer a few questions about her work and her inspirations.

Q. You're best known for your lace designs, particularly your lace triangles. What was your first encounter with lace? Was it love at first sight, or an acquired taste?

A. I was really inspired by Robert Powell's lace shawls, and it was while knitting them that I fell in love with lace. The fabulous Icelandic Three-Cornered and Long Shawls book (Prihyrnur og Langsjol) by Sigridur Halldorsdottir* has many top-down shawls, and while studying the shawls in that book I realized I could use a top-down construction for a shawl I wanted to do as a result of the listing of the salmon. That became the Pacific Northwest Shawl, thanks to Bev Galeskas of Fiber Trends who was willing to publish my results.

Q. Tell me a bit about your design process. For example, do you like to start with sketches? By picking up needles and playing with yarn? Some other way?

A. I love to graph, and I do that with a pencil and a very large eraser. Then I start the piece, and start over if it does not work. Sometimes I have to knit the whole piece to see if it works and sometimes more than once. The beauty of being able to design for my own amusement is that I can take all the time I want.

Q. So many of your designs are based on natural motifs and indicate a very close, loving observation of the natural world. What's your favorite way to get back to nature?

A. I do like to garden and hike or walk. This year I also am able to travel more, and I am looking forward to finding new inspiration on those adventures.

Q. When you spin, what's your preferred equipment?

My favorites are the Bosworth mini spindles, and I have knit four shawls from yarn I spindle spun and plies. I love that spindles are so portable and highly recommend Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' book Spinning in the Old Way for anyone interested in spindling.

As a prize from the Wild Fibers Magazine/Buffalo Gold contest for the Heartland Lace Shawl, I got a Lendrum single treadle wheel. Having the wheel makes me acceptable at spinning retreats, but at home, I keep returning to the spindles.

Q. If you could be any fiber-producing animal, what kind of fiber-producing animal would you be, and why?

A. Some of the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest had a little wooly dog whose fur they used for fiber. Since I am not fond of standing outside in all sorts of weather, I think I would be better at being a dog that could creep close to a fire occasionally.

* * * * *

The Best of Interweave Knits Readers' Choice Awards will be available for free download from the Knitting Daily Web site until 5 pm MST on May 15, 2008.

To view and purchase more of Evelyn Clark's designs, visit her Web site.

This is the final stop of the week-long blog tour celebrating the release of The Best of Interweave Knits Readers' Choice Awards. For previous stops, visit:

Monday, April 14: Sandi Wiseheart on Smoking Hot Needles
Tuesday, April 15: Norah Gaughan on Lolly Knitting Around
Wednesday, April 16: Kate Gilbert on Moth Heaven
Thursday, April 17: Stefanie Japel on Chez Aristote

*Now available as a reprint from dear, old Schoolhouse Press.


Carol said...

Excellent interview! Evelyn's work has always been among my favorites, and it's fascinating to read about her design process.

I can't believe you posted that from my spare bedroom! Hee, hee. . .

P.S. to Panopticon readers: he's staying with me! RIGHT NOW!

Donna said...

This was a terrific interview - thanks to you and Evelyn for such a thoughtful conversation. I thought the "Barbara Walters" question was a sublime touch!

Mary Lou said...

Great interview. I just finished a class at the Yarnery using Knitting Lace Triangles, and people loved the book.

Barca Viola said...

I see a new tee shirt. 1000 Knitters: The Spare Bedroom Tour.

I need a fuchsia one. Should really be a sleep tee.

Gerrie in St Paul

mamagotcha said...

Did she like her bonbons?

Seanna Lea said...

If you could be a fiber bearing animal...

The question made me laugh!

Anonymous said...

how delightful

- -

Spinknitty said...

Thanks for the great interview -- I absolutely loved knitting the Flower Basket shawl, and will probably make another - and I rarely repeat patterns.

So, Carol -- where are Dolores and Harry?

Ted said...

"Having the wheel makes me acceptable at spinning retreats, ..."

What a fascinating comment.

kaykatrn said...

I just found out that I have a thing for Evelyn Clark's designs. I saw "The Children of the World" on Ravelry Tuesday, and searched for 3 days before I found a place to get the pattern! Even my wonderful LYS did not have it. I have several of her patterns saved on Ravelry, and did not realize they were all hers.

What wonderful timing with the interview. I will give a printout of it with the scarf to my sister-in-law (the preschool teacher). It's so perfect--a shawl with paper cut-out kids around the edge!!!

Anonymous said...

Spindle spinner!! My heroine!

Spindle Power!!!

(That's all)

Tracy in Qatar

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