Knitterview: Chrissy of the Snappy Stitches videocast
Knitting podcasts have become an important part of my day-to-day life. My job is very detail oriented, and listening to podcasts helps keep me focused. Several years ago I started listening to the Manic Purl podcast, which is still one of my favorites. Today I’m talking with Chrissy, the host of that show.
Chrissy, who lives outside of Vancouver, has gone through something I would consider one of my worst nightmares – an injury forced her to quit knitting and spinning for two years. She’s finally reunited with her pointy sticks, and has started a new videocast, Snappy Stitches.
What is your knitting story?
I learned to knit from my maternal grandmother when I was about 5 (although both my grandmothers were prolific knitters). I never really knit anything other than strips and small (never finished) garter stitch blankets. I enjoyed the act of knitting immensely, but was frustrated that my knitting never looked like what I thought ‘knitting’ should look like (aka stockinette stitch). I was also limited by the fact that no one had ever shown me how to cast on, which left me waiting for a trip to grandma’s house for her to do it for me. For some reason I kept at it, and I couldn’t tell you how many brightly coloured acrylic strips I knit over the years. I could never really put into words how much I enjoyed the act of knitting, even if I really wasn’t making anything.
Fast forward to 2000, when I was 17 – I still had the desire to knit, but I also had a few bucks in my pocket for basic supplies and the internet at my disposal (so I could learn handy things like the purl stitch and how to cast on/bind off). I remember going to half a dozen dollar stores looking for knitting needles and buying some scratchy super cheap acrylic yarn at Safeway. I cast on about 200 stitches and started knitting, and I never really stopped. Since 2000, knitting has always been a part of my life.
It had been a couple of years, and I had knit a few small items (I can’t even remember what at this point), and started crocheting (a massive blanket that I did eventually finish in time to give it to charity). My husband (well, future husband at the time) and I were up at his family’s cabin, and a friend of ours and his new girlfriend came up with us for the weekend. She was a knitter. I was working on the huge crocheted afghan. She doesn’t know this, but I believe that she had a huge impact on my future knitting. We were all sitting down at the beach, and I had to leave my project upstairs because I didn’t know that you could ‘craft wherever’ at this point. So, we’re all sitting by the water on driftwood and she pulls out the most gorgeous variegated tiny red yarn (this was not common at all yet), which had been hand wound into a ball and it was attached to the smallest project on double pointed bamboo needles I had ever seen. She was working on a sock. Without realizing it, she had introduced me to both sock knitting and portable knitting and I am being completely honest when I tell you that my life would never be the same.
I bought a hank of variegated garnet coloured Fleece Artist superwash merino sock yarn and a set of 2.25mm double pointed bamboo needles the day after we got home from that trip and never looked back.
I became interested in spinning in 2005, and in September of that year I bought an Ashford drop spindle and a small amount of Coopworth fiber to spin. I enjoyed drafting the fiber, but I strongly disliked the act of drop spindling – my shoulders would ache, since my arms always seemed to be above my head. I played around with a drop spindle for a few months, before realizing that it really wasn’t for me, and put it aside.
In March 2008, I attended a local fiber festival and spun on a wheel (and Ashford Traveller) for the first time. I spun with and bought an Ashford Joy the next day. I loved spinning on a wheel right away, and spun and knit an entire sweater in the two weeks after buying my wheel. In the fall of 2009, I bought the wheel of my dreams, a Lendrum.
What was your first project?
I can’t remember what my first actual project was, but my first ‘big project’ was the cardigan from the first Stitch ‘n Bitch book. I learned lots about subbing yarns with this one – the pattern called for wool, and subbed out a cotton acrylic blend (Rowan All Seasons Cotton). The sweater grew and grew and grew. I also learned about the importance of a gauge swatch.
On a typical day how much time to do you spend knitting and spinning?
I find that day to day the amount I spin and knit varies quit a bit, but I do try to remember to pull out my knitting when I’m a passenger in the car, or waiting for anything. I’d say I generally knit for about an hour a day, but then there are those days where I don’t knit at all (or only manage 1 row on a sock) and those days where I spend 5-6 hours knitting. Knitting fills all of the empty patches of time I end up with.
Since spinning is so much more stationary, I tend to spin for only half an hour or so at a time, and usually not everyday. There are days where I spend the whole day at the wheel, but I try to get up and walk around after 30 minutes of spinning – this is helped along by the lack of a single comfy chair in our whole house.
Generally, I think I spend an hour and a half to two hours knitting/spinning each day though.
How big is your stash? What yarn do you have the most of?
My stash is actually pretty small right now – only 5 of the Ziploc storage bags (the extra extra large bags, not the food storage bags). I have the bad habit of going through my stash and destashing pretty regularly. We moved at the beginning of the year, and I think I sent a total of 3 big black garbage bags full of yarn to charity. By far, most of my stash is sock yarn, although I have plenty of yarn for anything from dishcloths to sweaters.
Where do you do most of your knitting?
I do a ton of knitting in the car and in our living room in front of the TV, although I have discovered video podcasts, so I do a chunk of my knitting in front of the computer now too.
Do you do any other crafts?
Yes! I swear, I have an addiction to hobbies. In addition to knitting, crocheting, and spinning, I also quilt and sew garments and home decor projects. Though technically not a craft, I also enjoy fixing up vintage sewing machines.
I first got to know you through your podcast, the Manic Purl. What made you decide to start a podcast?
I started Manic Purl in early 2008, when there really weren’t that many knitting podcasts out there. I used to listen to Knitcast and Cast On, and loved those podcasts. I wanted to do something to give back to the online knitting community, and I thought that creating a knitting podcast might just do it.
You recently started Snappy Stitches, an awesome videocast that I absolutely love. Can you tell us a little about it?
Snappy Stitches is a videocast focused on my current knitting and spinning projects. I try to keep them short, 15- 20 minutes, so it is not a huge time investment for viewers.
What made you decide to move away from the podcast and try something new?
The Manic Purl had been on hiatus for quite a while, and I thought that a short videocast would be a good way to ease back into the podcasting arena. I love to be able to actually show people what I’m knitting!
Are you still going to do the occasional Manic Purl episode or has Snappy Stitches taken its place?
That is the big question. Honestly, I’m not sure. I had originally planned to produce Snappy Stitches temporarily and return to the Manic Purl on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, but there was a bit of an outcry from people who want me to keep doing Snappy Stitches permanently.
What type of equipment do you use – both for the podcast and the videocast?
For the podcast, I use a Blue Snowball microphone and Audacity to record and edit. For the videocast, I use my Nikon D90 DSLR in video mode, which is not ideal by any means, since I can’t do any close-up shots of my projects. At some point I would like to upgrade to an actual video camera, but that’s a fairly significant investment, so it won’t happen for a while.
How long does it take to put an episode together?
The Manic Purl takes me about 6-8 hours to record and edit, and Snappy Stitches takes me about 45 minutes to record and edit. This doesn’t include sourcing show content, putting together show notes, or upload times. Let’s just leave the rest of the time it takes in the ‘you don’t want to know’ category. LOL!
As a long time listener of your podcast I know that in 2010 you started to have problems with a repeated stress injury. What happened?
I started having problems with my wrists in early 2010. It started with just a little twinge of pain once in a while, but fairly quickly got to the point where I was unable to grip anything (even a door handle or grocery bags). It was the grip or grip and pull motion that became almost impossible. It wasn’t caused by knitting, but certainly derailed it. It turns out that it was the muscles in my forearms pulling my wrists out of place (caused by push ups). Since my wrist pain wasn’t aggravated when I was doing push ups, it took a long time to figure this out, and it was almost 2 years before I got it all figured out. The pain was on the outside edge of both wrists. I stopped doing push ups for about a month as an experiment to see if there was any way that was causing the pain, and the pain disappeared. Even now if I do only a couple of push ups, it doesn’t take long for the wrist pain to return.
Did you have to entirely stop knitting and spinning or just cut back?
I pretty much stopped knitting and spinning entirely. I struggled through 1 pair of socks in those 2 years, but that was pretty much it. I couldn’t grip, so I couldn’t knit or spin.
What was that like?
It was really terrible. At first, I thought it was temporary, but as the months went on, I started to think that my wrist pain was permanent. I sold my spinning wheel, because looking at it was just depressing – a reminder of what I wasn’t able to do anymore. I also destashed most of my yarn. We lived in a little 1 bedroom 450 sq. ft. apartment with pretty much no storage, and I just couldn’t get away from the reminders of the hobbies I loved so much without getting rid of them.
I try to look on the bright side though. I started sewing more seriously because I was able to guide fabric through the sewing machine, since it didn’t involve gripping the fabric. I also threw myself into running, and completed the 2011 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon in 2h 15min.
How does it feel to be knitting and spinning again?
It feels fantastic! I feel like myself again. Even when I wasn’t knitting, I always identified myself as a knitter, just not currently practicing. It’s something that’s ingrained in me, and I don’t take one single stitch for granted anymore.
What are your favorite types of projects to knit?
I love knitting socks for their portability and that knitting them never goes out of season. I also seriously enjoy knitting triangular shawls out of sock yarn. They are the perfect weight for our fairly mild Vancouver winters. Lately I’ve been on a sweater kick, and in the last few months I’ve completed the Tinder Cardi by Jared Flood, the Effortless Cardi by Hannah Fettig and the Mondo Cable Cardi by Chic Knits. I don’t think I could live without knitting sock though…they would be my desert island knitting.
Which of your projects is your favorite and why?
As you are probably aware, I have a bit of an obsession with the Multnomah Shawl. I’ve knit 5 of them, and I get the most use out of them of any project I’ve ever made. I’ve knit all of them out of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock (4 lightweight and 1 heavyweight).
Any knitting disasters you’d like to share?
Back in 2005 I found a pattern for a super bulky cardigan sweater with colourwork reindeer on it. It was a White Buffalo pattern and I used White Buffalo unspun yarn in black for the main body and this yarn left a waxy black residue on my hands and knitting needles while I knit it. Every moment knitting this sweater was unpleasant. I finished the back and two front pieces, and began knitting the sleeves. At this point, I really wanted to be done with the sweater, and it seemed to take forever to knit the first sleeve. After I finished the first sleeve, I put it away, and started on the 2nd sleeve. I think it took me at least 6 months to knit that 2nd sleeve. Well, by the time I finished the 2nd sleeve, the 1st sleeve had vanished (I think it ended up wrapped up in something and accidentally going to charity).
There was no way I was knitting a 3rd sleeve for this sweater, so I discarded the sleeve idea altogether and decided to make a vest. I seamed it up, and knit the collar, only to find that the sweater was way too big for me. It still needed a button band or zipper or some sort of front closure, but I decided to give it to my dad – a huge fan of Cowichan style sweaters.
The look on his face was priceless, and I know he was looking at this unfinished sweater and wondering where the rest of it was, but he wore it. Actually he still wears it in all its unfinished glory today – 7 years later. I really should make him a better sweater, since it’s almost as embarrassing when he tells people I knit if for him, as it is when my mom tells people I knit her fun fur scarf.
What is on your needles at the moment?
Right now I’m knitting Hermione’s Socks by Erica Lueder out of Abstract Fiber Supersock in the Harvest colourway.
If you could knit with only three yarns for the rest of your life what would they be?
Ooohhh this is a tough question! Berroco Ultra Alpaca, Socks That Rock Lightweight (I love it for shawls), and Sweet Georgia Superwash Sock or maybe Koigu KPPPM.
What project(s) are next for you?
I definitely want to cast on for another sweater in the near future. I knit the Acer Cardigan a while ago, but it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, so I’m going to knit it again. I also want to start spinning for an Aranami Shawl – I have some of the most gorgeous merino fibre in 5 different shades from New Zealand, I think it would be perfect for this shawl.
What is the best piece of knitting advice you’ve ever gotten?
Wash your swatch! Seriously. I don’t swatch for most things, but if I’m knitting a sweater, I always swatch, wash my swatch in the way I plan to wash the finished sweater, and wait for it to dry before measuring it. Even if I’m knitting with a yarn I’ve knit with before, I still swatch for each sweater.