Knitterview: Helena of Ignorant Bliss
For my first interview I chose someone whose work I not only admire, but who also taught me a very important lesson about my knitting I’ve tried not to forget. Helena, who writes the Ignorant Bliss blog, is a knitter from Tampere, in western Finland.
A few months after I went from being someone who occasionally knit to living and breathing knitting I stumbled across her on Ravelry. At the time I was content knitting project after project with brightly colored variegated yarns, even though the results were less than stellar. Helena’s projects were modern, timeless and, most importantly, knit out of gorgeous saturated wools. Wool that was one color. A lightbulb went on in my head.
While our taste in patterns are different, I always look forward to seeing what Helena knits next. She has a wonderful talent for choosing yarn that perfectly suites the pattern she’s working on, and knows how to photograph her projects so they shine.
What is your knitting story?
I learned to knit in elementary school, as did all kids in Finland. We were all taught some textile crafts like sewing, crochet and knitting as a part of our basic education. However, I didn’t start to actually enjoy knitting until in the late 90s while I was a university student, and picked it up again, so I’d say I’ve been a “serious knitter” for 13-15 years. I still remembered the basics I’d learned at school, and used knitting magazines to expand my skillset, since back then there was no online knitting community to turn to. As a grown-up I’ve never taken a knitting class, but nowadays I use online articles and videos for learning new techniques. I don’t remember why I started knitting in the first place, but I keep doing it now because it’s rewarding to create things with my own hands.
What was your first project?
I have no idea what my very first project was, but I think my first finished one was a scarf knit for a school craft class in my early teens. I remember my gauge at the end of the scarf being very different from the beginning, and my teacher didn’t give me a particularly good grade, because she found me lacking in positive attitude and motivation.
On a typical day how much time to do you spend knitting?
It varies quite a bit, but I’d say 1-3 hours on average.
How big is your stash? What yarn do you have the most of?
At the moment my Ravelry stash has 85 entries, each one containing 1-20 skeins of varying sizes. I try to keep it below SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy) and get rid of yarn I will never likely use. The largest section of my stash is fingering weight merino yarn, which is also what I use the most at the moment.
Where do you do most of your knitting?
Do you do any other crafts?
Very infrequently. I would like to learn to weave at some point.
What inspires you?
Beautifully designed and photographed projects and pretty yarns. Occasionally an actual practical need for an item.
I’ve talked with several people who have recently gone through periods where they briefly lose their desire to knit. It’s something I’ve experienced as well. Does this happen to you?
Yes, I’ve often had periods of several months during which I do minimal knitting, or no knitting at all. I always know I will get back to it eventually, though.
Every knitter I’ve ever met has strong opinions about color. What colors are you most drawn to?
Several colors, lately in particular mustard yellow, rusty orange, teal, and grey.
What are your favorite types of projects to knit?
I have different phases during which I’m attracted to particular kinds of projects, lately it’s been shawls.
Which of your projects is your favorite and why?
I don’t know if I can name a single all-time favorite. My favorite at any moment tends to be my latest finished object!
Any knitting disasters you’d like to share?
There are plenty of failures. Back in the late 90s when I started knitting actively I knit several sweaters, none of which fit, because I never checked for gauge. There have also been some more or less accidental felting disasters.
Socks – do you prefer toe up or top down?
Both techniques have their pros and cons, I can’t say that I have a definite favorite. I prefer the look and feel of the toes of toe-up socks and the cuffs on top-down socks.
Do you like knitting with light or heavier weight yarns best?
Light yarns, definitely. Fingering weight is my comfort zone.
How do you choose the yarn for your projects?
First I go by what yarn inspires me, and then I tend to do some online research on how that yarn works with the particular kind of project based on other people’s finished objects. I also try to learn from my past mistakes of what yarns not to choose. It’s been eye-opening to see how critically the choice of yarn affects the outcome with patterns that I’ve knit with more than one yarn.
What is on your needles at the moment?
A Pogona shawl and a Shift of Focus cardigan. And a Kleio shawl that’s likely on its way to the frog pond.
Your projects are always photographed so beautifully. Would you tell a bit about the photo shoots?
I take the photos myself. If I’m also posing for the picture, I use a tripod and a remote control for the camera. Nowadays I use a Nikon D5100, until recently I used a Nikon D40X. Both are consumer level digital SLRs. For the majority of my knitting photography I use a 50 mm f/1.4 lens, and a fast lens is absolutely essential for my style of photography, because I always use natural lighting and because I want to have control over how much of the photo is in focus (to be able to blur the background). For finished objects I usually take somewhere around 40-80 pictures, and most of them don’t turn out, because they are out of focus, I’m partially out of the frame or the lighting is wrong.
If you could knit with only three yarns for the rest of your life what would they be?
At the moment I would pick Cephalopod Yarns Skinny Bugga!, Wollmeise Lacegarn and Berroco Ultra Alpaca as my desert island yarns. Were I actually stranded on a tropical island, though, I would probably trade the worsted weight Ultra Alpaca for something lighter!
What project(s) are next for you?
What is the best piece of knitting advice you’ve ever gotten?
Swatching for items that need to fit, and wet-blocking for everything. It took me a long time to absorb that advice.