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Featured Artist: Jillian Moreno

by The SpinArtiste on May 31, 2015

JM - Self - jillianspindlewarriorPublisher’s Notes:  Jillian Moreno.  Yup, THE Jillian Moreno…the one you know from oh, so many places in her present and past:  Knitty…Big Girl Knits…Interweave…PLY magazine.  When it comes to “thought leadership” in the fiber community, it’s hard to think of someone more accomplished.  It is my great pleasure to feature Jillian this week, here at Spin Artiste.  I know you will enjoy this post.

Spin Artiste (SA):  Jillian, I know you have been knitting and spinning for decades with knitting being first, I think. What led you to learning how to knit and then how to spin?

Jillian Moreno (JM):  I actually started out as a weaver! I lived in Lawrence Kansas at the time and there is an amazing store there called the Yarn Barn.  It’s a fiber playground. I wove for a few years and decided I wanted to knit at the ripe old age of 26. My first project was an awful pink cotton sweater with lace and bobbles; I don’t start small! I knit off and on for a few years, but it really took hold when I found a store in Ann Arbor (Fiber Expressions – now closed) where I found excellent teachers and Rowan yarns. I haven’t stopped knitting since then.

JM - HSY - fractal

I didn’t start spinning until my 30’s.  My first wheel was a little Reeves castle wheel I bought the first time I lived in Ann Arbor. I wanted to make yarn, yarn that was different than the yarn I saw in knitting shops. And I wanted to use all of the gorgeous fiber and fiber blends I saw at fiber shows. There is something so soothing to me about the process; it’s the rhythm like getting in to the groove with a long spell of knitting or like rocking a baby. I tired to teach myself to spin which was, interesting and frustrating. I didn’t spin with confidence until after I took a class with Maggie Casey; she is a spinning goddess.

JM - HSY - Moreno spin for stitch 1

I put spinning away for a bit when my daughter was small, but something happened to me after my son was born. I can remember the day I was sitting in our family room and I had the uncontrollable urge to spin again. I pulled my wheel out the basement and haven’t stopped since.

JM - Fiber - batts

SA:  Your “fiber” resume is truly astounding — published author, sought after teacher, a founding editor at Knitty, former Marketing Director at Interweave Press and now on the editorial board of Ply magazine…it is hard not for me to sound “Fan-sy”, I know…but it seems like you have done it all…from a professional standpoint are there still dreams to fulfill?

JM:  I’m always dreaming about something new to do and try! I love teaching and I love writing I hope to never stop doing either. I want to do more designing for handspun yarn across several mediums and get people excited about using handspun yarn whether they are a spinner or not.

JM - HSY - big and little yarn

 I really love coming up with ideas with people whether those ideas are for me or someone else to execute. I’m that person, when someone comes to me and says I want to do something that’s a little like this and a little like this, I’ll ask 500 questions and then say – how about this? and here’s a plan to roll it out….. I did new product development at Interweave and that was one of my favorite jobs of all time.

SA:  Let’s talk about Knitty. It’s amazing to think that it’s been going since 2002!!! And, you’ve managed to stay true to it’s humorous, grassroots vibe, not to mention have kept it free to the readers. Many people would have sought to monetize it further by creating a “premium” subscription version. Have there been times over the years when you’ve considered changing your approach? What has made you decide to stay consistent with the original approach to providing content?

JM:  Amy Singer (the founder and publisher of Knitty) and I feel strongly about keeping Knitty free to knitters and spinners. It’s really at the heart of the grassroots idea of Knitty.  Knitty is supported by the designers who loan us their patterns and by the advertisers who buy space so we can pay the people who design and work for Knitty. Every issue of Knitty is archived in the Knitty Library too, that’s 12 years of free patterns. That being said we do love when our readers support us by buying from our advertisers and donate to the Knitty tip jar.

SA:   If you had to pick just ONE pattern from Knitty over the years that captured your heart more than any others, what would it be? I will go first and tell you that mine is the Stitch Surfer Sock…

JM:  I can’t pick just one:

Elizabeth Freeman’s mind blowing handspun Aeolian shawl


Julia Farwell-Clay’s gorgeous ‘it doesn’t have to be all handspun’ sweater Party Mix


and MK Carroll’s cuddly, educational and political Womb


SA:   I have and love both “Big Girl Knits” books! I saw mention online that you are working on another book to possibly come out next year. What can you tell us about that project?

JM:  It’s about all of the decisions when making a yarn from fiber to finishing and how they build on each other. Making yarns mostly, but not exclusively, to knit with and using commercially processed fiber. It’s for spinners who want to spin from all of those beautiful braids and not process their own fleeces.

It’s due out late next summer from Storey Publishing. They published books from Deb Robson, Sarah Anderson and Beth Smith, so I feel like I’m in excellent company.JM - HSY - Moreno Big Yarn 2

JM - FO - Moreno Ply for Knitting 2

SA:  Here I go sounding “fan-sy” again…but I also have your Craftsy class on plying (and yes, I love it too). Can you compare the teaching experience between the live classroom and delivering it via the Craftsy platform where you don’t get the in person interaction?

JM:  With videos I love that I can reach so many spinners! I really enjoy that they feel like they can contact me with questions and comments. The Internet has changed a spinner’s ability to connect in the best way.

With teaching in a classroom I love the overall conversation that happens when I teach. Spinners know so many things and come from such varied and interesting backgrounds that inform how they approach spinning. I learn as much when I teach as I hope my students do. Also when I teach live there is usually candy, sometimes singing.

Getting ready to teach

Getting ready to teach

SA:  I’d like to turn to focusing on your own personal artistic approach. If you are just playing around with your needles and your wheel and some fiber with no deadline, no class to teach, what happens? What colors do you gravitate towards? Do you naturally gravitate towards traditional approaches or not so? Do you engage in freeform work?

JM:  When it’s just me I use lots of texture and color. I explore the juxtaposition of texture – wooly, smooth, bumpy, slick in a single yarn and in knitting cloth. I have to have color, right now I’m a little fixated on how to manipulate dyed colorways in spinning, to make them flow differently in knitting.

I’m also playing with the relationship between a particular fiber, twist and the stitched line. I’ve only been stitching for a year or so and I almost instantly had a head full of questions about creating my own yarn and thread to use. What would happen if I used this in this way with this stitch?

JM - Other - zoom-leaf.smalljpg

JM - Other - Moreno spin for stitch 3

Floating around the edges right now are ideas about handspun and weaving. Beth Smith and I are noodling on ways to explore that together, since we approach both spinning and weaving from different mindsets.

SA:  How do ideas come to you? Do you have a process or are you the type of person who gets inspirations at random times?

JM:  I get ideas and weird connections constantly. I have notes scribbled all over. I try to keep a notebook with me – physically writing really makes my ideas flow. Plus it’s a great excuse to buy lots of cool pens! But I put a lot of ideas and photos in my phone too.

I try to keep my ideas all in one place, to use my notebook or phone and stop with the scraps.

When I think I’m cured of the weird little scraps of paper, I find a yarn ball band with the words -ice cream, boucle, corespin, flow, NZ Corriedale, indigo and clay and a drawing of a tree on it.

I have a desk drawer of ideas, post cards, color chips and the weird scraps of paper.

 I try to go through all of my ideas and connections regularly, especially on the days when I’m feeling a little lost or feel like I’ve stepped on a path that I may not have chosen with the right intention.

JM - HSY - corespun yarn vision

SA:  Getting down to the brass tacks now…we always have to ask, “what is your go to wheel and why?”

JM:  My Schahct Mtchless, is my everyday spinning wheel. My spinning grew up with her. I bought it when it was really too much wheel for me, but I was smitten! She has never failed me and is so versatile and bombproof! My son when he was a toddler used to tackle her to the floor regularly. I’m not sure why, but he thought it was hilarious and neither one was ever the worse for wear.

I use my Lendrum DT for highly textured yarn and any learning or manipulation that needs a big orifice and slow treadling.

I use my Hansen Espinner when I need to just crank out yarn, usually for a bigger project.

JM - FO - variegated veg melody

SA:  And, tell us about your work/studio space.

JM:  I don’t have a dedicated studio space, so I spread out all over my house.

I have fiber in basement, wheels in our living room and family room, vintage library carts with boxes and baskets of samples and yarn piled on them. I have probably 500+ fiber books in bookshelves up and downstairs and on our dining room table.

I dream about having a studio but I’m afraid it would have to be pretty big.

SA:  What is in your fiber stash that you are hoarding?

 JM:  I just did a big stash clear with my last round of teaching. It felt good to lighten my stash and to share it with people who appreciated it.

I will admit to hording some fiber from Lynne Vogel, Sandy Sitzman and Pippikneesocks, dyers who aren’t dying (or dyeing much) any more. Plus, I have a little stash of Hello Yarn and Southern Cross fiber that was gifted to me by Amy King of Spunky Eclectic. Oh, and some Abby Batts, they are so small and beautiful they are easy to hoard.

 SA:  On your fiber-travel bucket list, where haven’t you been yet?

JM:  Believe it or not I’ve never been to Maryland Sheep and Wool! The date never works with my husband’s travel schedule (he’s a book publishing rep). Shetland Wool Week and all of the wonderful fiber events in the British Isles call to me too.

SA:   Now, a silly question: You’ve been to your fair share of fiber festivals…if you could put together your ultimate fiber festival lunch menu, what would it include and from which festival?

JM - Self - moreno headshot ramenJM:  Grilled lamb from anywhere and those pot pies that used to be at Rhinebeck. Can I sneak in Jenni’s ice cream too, even though it’s a cheat because it’s not a fiber festiva? It’s from The National Needlework Association show (TNNA)

SA:  Jillian, thank you so much!  I am sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that the new book sounds like a “have-to-have” AND if you ever can come to MDS&W, you are going to be welcomed with many open arms.

For those of you who entered the giveway from last week’s post about the Ekelund Carder, our winner is Victoria!  I will be in touch to help you claim your prize.  Thanks as usual to everyone who entered.

If you are looking for more fibery goodness to read about, I posted last week about how I recently overcame my over fiber slump last week over at Fibery Goodness.  It has a happy ending, I assure you. 

Till next time, all my fibery best, Arlene


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