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Featured Artist: Kimberly K. McAlindin of Hooked on Knitting

by The SpinArtiste on November 10, 2013

KM - Self - HeadshotPublisher’s Notes:  This week’s featured artist, Kimberly McAlindin of Hooked on Knitting,  truly does it all.  Kimberly’s fiber resume is phenomenal:  Chairperson of the Crochet Hall of Fame, co-host of Namaste Farm’s Blogtalk Radio show, and many published pattern designs in publications such as Interweave Crochet, Knit n’Style, Knit 1-2-3 and several books.  And, you know what else, she is a really sweet, genuine, wonderful person too as you will see from her interview below.  Kimberly, take it away!

Spin Artiste (SA):  Hi Kim!  Let’s start with hearing about the origins of your “fiber” career?

Kimberly McAlindin (KM):  I learned to knit in an after school  program in 4th  grade. I remember going with my mother to pick  out knitting needles (Boye straight #9’s) and yarn  (Red Heart variegated yarn). I was so excited to learn, I wish I could  remember the  mother that taught that class – how I would love  to thank her for introducing me to this  passion! I knit for a while and then  left it for things like boys  and college. I didn’t pick  it up again  until I was a newly married woman and I started knitting afghans for bridal shower gifts… baby  shower gifts, it was a gift heavy time in our lives
with not much  income between the  two  of us. I spent hours  and hours every night back  in the  mid  to late  90’s working on gifts for people. Then in 1997, at one of my great friend’s shower, she opened a wicker laundry basket filled to the  brim with crocheted sweaters and booties and blankets. I knew  of crochet, but never knew  how to do it. I was fascinated with the  shear  amount of knitwear in that basket.KM - Interweave Crochet - Moss Fern Lace Shawl - Copy After  the  gifts were  open  I went up to the woman who crocheted every piece.  With  my mouth open  and fingers twitching I asked…  Mrs. Vitale, how long  did it take  you to crochet all of those  things for Maria?  She smiled and told  me that she could  whip  up a pair  of booties in about an hour  and a blanket in 2 nights of TV watching, same  with a sweater… but she could  make  a baby  sweater in a day if she needed to. I was so fascinated by the  speed  of her work. Here I was spending weeks to knit an afghan (this  was before I discovered doubling the  yarn and using  large  needles). I went out the  next  day to my local Michael’s and bought an instruction book  and hook.  I crocheted for 5 years  exclusively… I couldn’t stop.

I also worked at my local yarn  shop (Knit-a-Bit in Westfield NJ) as a crochet instructor and had many great students that taught me a lot about crochet. Harriet and Susan (owners of Knit-a-Bit) brought me along  to TNNA in 2005. I had just had another baby  (#3) and it was a great trip to get  away  and spend  time with yarn! During that trip Stacy Charles  of Tahki  was assisting Harriet and Susan with their order and asked  what I did… Harriet told him that ‘no one can crochet like  Kimberly”.  Stacy asked  if I was a designer and told me he was putting out a crochet book.  I was about to say no, when  Harriet and Susan both  said “yes she is” and Stacy asked  if I would submit something to him.  I had no idea  who Stacy Charles  was, I had never designed a garment in my life, but I went home  and made  2 sweaters and a belt  and they are all featured in the  very  first Tahki  Stacy Charles  crochet book! I then started getting design requests for other yarn  companies for crochet and basically became a crochet designer.

Tammy Hildebrand, Carol Alexander and Kimberly McAlindin

Tammy Hildebrand, Carol Alexander and Kimberly McAlindin

I became a member of the  CGOA (Crochet Guild  of America) and went to a Summer Conference (they call it Chain Link)  in the  summer of 2008  (or 2009  I can’t remember). I took classes  and met  with a bunch of yarn  companies. I was hired at that conference to design for Cari Clement of Caron yarns, Bobbie  Matela of Coats & Clark yarns  (Red Heart) and also became very  close with my Conference Bestie  designer Tammy Hildebrand. Tammy was very involved with the  guild and so following her lead,  I signed up to become more  active. I can’t stress enough how much  those conferences jump started my career as a designer and got influential people in the  industry to notice me.

Currently I am the Chairperson for the  Jean Leinhauser Crochet Hall of Fame,  which is an absolute honor  to do for the  Guild. One day in the  spring of 2010, I was at another one of my local yarn  shops  (Knitknack in Maplewood, NJ) and the  owner and friend of mine  Meera  was talking about spinning.  “Spinning”,  I said, “what do you mean  spinning?”  I went home  with a spindle, DVD and some  roving (green of course) and I began my journey with spinning. That Mother’s Day my husband bought me my first wheel and I began my spinning journey. Trying to learn everything I could  about spinning I was trolling around Youtube when  I came  across  an amazing woman named Natalie Redding. Her how-to videos were  so relaxed, so empowering that I instantly fell in love! I joined her Ravelry group and really just kind  of stalked her.  I began buying her beautiful fleeces and became an active member of her group. Natalie and I have become friends and I am constantly in awe of her fierce love  of animals, family and me!  We co-host a weekly blogtalk radio  show about everything from animal husbandry to knitting and crochet and everything in between! Oh my Gosh, I haven’t even  talked about weaving yet!!!!!

KM - Redheart website - Filigree CardiganSA:   What is your  favorite part about being in the  fiber art community?

KM:  My favorite part about the  fiber art community is that we are such a diverse group of people, from many different backgrounds but come  together and share  this  amazing passion. It doesn’t matter where I am or whom I am with, once someone finds out I am a knitter/crochet-er/spinner/weaver the  conversation flows and we are both  usually smiling!

SA:  You mentioned that your  college major was Industrial Psychology. Have you found that your  college studies influenced your  fiber art style  or methodology?
KM:  Not one bit! I’m embarrassed to admit this  (but I will)  I didn’t want to go to college. I am thankful for the  experience and glad that I had it (don’t get  me wrong I loved being in college) but going to college was a decision my parents pushed me into. I believe that the  whole  college scene  prepares to you be an adult. You have  to get  yourself to class on time, schedule your  time to fit in your  studies (and  a sport if you do that) and eat on a regular basis.  You have  to work  in order to pay for fun things (at least I had to!). College  was a great introduction to real  life.

SA:   I loved your  story about how “Knitting came  to the  rescue” when  your  family was experiencing financial hardship, after getting married and having children. Can you tell  us more  about how knitting helped your  family?

KM - Marin McAlindin Knitting - CopyKM:  I will  answer this  with a funny story. One day I was having a horrible day my children (3 of them) were  young and it was just one of those  crazy,  stressful young mom  days…  I was yelling and angry and one of my boys  came  up to me with my knitting and said very  quietly, “Mom, maybe you should sit down  and have  a little knit”. I love  that story because even  my wee ones knew  how much  knitting made  me more  relaxed and happy and even.  There is something about the  way  the  yarn  moves through my fingers and the  click  click  of the  needles soothes me. A happy Mom is a happy family!

SA:   Are any of your  children interested in fiber art? And, if so, what would you like  to pass down  to them in terms of both  skills  and fiber keepsakes?

KM - MCAlindin boys knitting in studio - CopyKM:  All three of my children (2 boys  and 1 girl)  can knit. I have  the cutest picture of a snow day from school  when  they were  young and they are all knitting. My daughter Marin  (9) is the  one with passion like  I have.  She prefers to spin and weave, but her gift is in color.  She just has the  greatest knack  for mixing colors  both with yarn  and in the  dye pot!
My maternal grandmother was a knitter/crocheter and died  when I was 10. My mother has scarves that she made  for us but what I loved was growing up when  we were  sad or cold,  my mother would ask if we needed a hug from Baba (that’s what we called my grandmother). She would go into  the  antique wood  chest that held  blankets and pull  out a wrap  that my grandmother had made  and she would wrap  us up in it. It always made  me feel better. Being  a stitcher now,  I know  that there was so much  love, so much  of my grandmother in those  wraps…  I’d like  to leave each of my children a hug.

SA:  What has your  teaching experience been  like?

KM - new design for Tahki Stacy CharlesKM:  I was a knit and crochet teacher for years  in my local  yarn  shops. I enjoyed teaching for a long  time. I learned so much  from my students, they had great questions and always kept me on my toes.  Sometimes I would have  to learn  a new skill  in order to teach a class and I loved that part of  it.  I don’t really teach anymore because my other jobs keep  me very  busy  right now.

SA:  What do you keep  in mind when  creating a pattern for a knitting magazine or your  student audience?

KM:  I love  to make  beautiful garments with simple shapes  that are fashion lasting… meaning they are classic  with just a bit of spunk in them!

SA:  And, they do!  My favorite is the Bridal Shawl (readers, this beautiful pattern is actually FREE on Kim’s website — click here).  I know  you have  been  published quit a few times. What was it like  to see your  instructions in print, and how have  these  features changed your  fiber business?

KM:  I really thought that seeing the  pattern in print was pretty boring! I still think the  pattern writing is a chore  and checking my patterns to me feels like  I am sticking a knitting needle in my eye!  The most exciting part for me is to see the  garment on the model… Oh I just love  that! I love  to see the  piece  come  to life and also to see how someone else styles it. The way it shows  up in print is not always the  way I would wear  it, but it is so exciting to see!

KM - Redheart website - Bridal Shawl 2

KM - Redheart website - Bridal Shawl

SA:   You have  made  some  amazing pieces  over  the  years. What pieces  have  you created this  year  that unexpectedly blew  you away?

KM - Cut-Out Cardi from Ply magazine Issue 1 - CopyKM:  I loved this  sweater that I co-designed with Tabbethia Haubold called the  Cut-Out Cardi that used hand  spun  yarn  (by Teri Conroy) and Tabbethia’s yarn  together. It was featured in the  first issue of Ply magazine. I also designed a really comfortable top  for Knit 1-2-3  magazine that will  be out soon.  The construction was so simple, yet  the  piece  looks  so stunning on, and its so comfy to snuggle up on the  couch  with!

SA:  The Cut – Out Cardi is a beauty!  Now, about spinning… What is your  go-to  wheel?

KM:  I love  my Kromski Sonata  with my Woolee  winder on it.

SA:  And, what can you tell  us about your  studio?

KM:  My studio is a room  on the  first floor of our home  with large windows on 2 sides of it. It used to be called the  sunroom but now it is called the  knitting room. I have  a new job in the  industry that is causing me to have to redecorate my studio. I am currently the  Editor-in-Chief of the  magazines Knit 1-2-3  and Crochet 1-2-3.  I need  to have  a desk and some  sort of filing system… I’ll figure it out. Right now,  all of my work  stuff is on my kitchen island  and it not only  looks  horrible, but also is in danger of getting cereal spilled on it!

SA:   If you could  learn  new spinning techniques from anyone from knitting’s past or present who would it be and why?

KM - Caron website - Lobito Jacket - CopyKM:  Well I’m not sure she was a spinner, but she was a Knitter (with a capitol K) I would have  loved to have  sit and had a knit with Elizabeth Zimmermann. I read  her books  and feel so happy inside! Elizabeth’s books  helped me become a designer actually. I loved her recipes for knitting a garment – it was up to you to use your  brain and finish the piece.  I did call Schoolhouse Press once and got her daughter Meg Swansen on the  phone…  I said “Oh hello Meg, this  is Kimberly McAlindin.  How are you?” She was so sweet she said “Kimberly McAlindin”, real  slow and pronounced correctly, “do I know  you?” “No, I said but I recognized your  voice from the  videos and I just thought I would say Hi!” “McAlindin…. What a lovely last name, reminds me of the  linden tree….” she says, “beautiful trees” Any woman that speaks  like that to someone she doesn’t know…  I want to meet her Mom!

SA:  You picked my favorite too.  The very first knitting book I read was Knitting Without Tears.  I fell in love with EZ and knitting right then and there. 

One last question for you – Finish  this  sentence: “When I grow  up I want to be a …”

KM - Self with husband (Jollimar Skirt)KM:  When  I grow  up I want to be a strong, passionate, funny (with a touch of crazy) person that made  people feel good.

SA:  We think you there!  No further improvements needed!!  Thank you so much, Kimberly.  It has been a delight getting to know you better and very inspiring.  Readers, make sure to visit Kimberly’s website, Hooked on Knitting where you can find a lot of Kimberly’s wonderful patterns (free and for sale).

Update on The Journey to the Golden Fleece:  We’ve been going crazy keeping up with all the enrollments!  In fact, the launch has far exceeded our expectations and we are closing enrollment for this semester this Friday, November 15th.  If you don’t get in then, you can get on the list for the next semester beginning February 2014 which will be limited to 100 students.  Interested?  Click here to learn more. 

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