threadbanger interview

leethal did an interview with me for the threadbanger blog. a fabulously creative thrifty crafty person herself, i am honored. thanks lee!

wood and water hat

it can be found here.

threadbanger is a blog, sprouting from the DIY movement, about style and making your own fashion. you should check out their site too, while you’re at it!


this is an interview with Flo Dowling (pictured below). Enjoy!
age: 65


Flo was forced to learn to knit in 5th grade – she said that they made her make a scarf with broomstick handle needles, “I failed knitting.” She picked it up again when as a senior in high school she wanted an aran isle sweater but couldn’t afford it. Sears sold imported Irish wool, and she could afford the wool. She got a pattern and thought about what she didn’t learn in 5th grade (i.e. how to knit) and she knit an aran isle sweater. She quipped, “knit my first sweater and I’ve been knitting ever since.”

Flo has taken breaks from knitting twice. In graduate school, she was an on again, off again knitter until she started taking her knitting to class. Ironically, taking her knitting to class improved her grades. Flo is a member of my Tuesday knitting group. She knit with friends in undergraduate and knit in classes. She didn’t knit a lot in England because she was doing archeological digs and it was hard to keep things clean – but she’d pick up her knitting again whenever she wasn’t living in a tent.

When I asked the question: “What’s your favorite thing to knit?” she answered, “yarn.” (haha). But she really likes textured objects rather than colored design. For instance, she’d prefer a gansey over intarsia or fair isle. According to Flo, small is good because you can carry them in your pockets (socks, mittens, caps). Needle-wise, she likes double points and circulars, doesn’t even own straight needles.

I think most of my blog readers have heard me say this before, but Flo and I have very similar taste in yarn. She likes wool because it is forgiving. She loves yarn that looks like yarn and feels like it might have come from a sheep. If she was going to knit with something not wool, her first choice would be alpaca. The only time she like artificial fibers blended in is if it is useful – for chemo cap yarn or sock yarn. She will take linen and silk over cotton any day. Brown Sheep is one of her all time favorite yarn producers. She likes to tell the story of how once at TNNA, she approached the Brown Sheep booth to complain about how the cuffs of her sweater were wearing out saying something like, “I’m very disappointed… I only knit this sweater 20 years ago…” They totally thought it was a real complaint.

Flo especially likes low process wool like that from Green Mountain Spinnery and Harrisville – small independent people who process (or get processed on a small scale) their own wool. She is good friends with the owner of Autumn House Farm and has been known to organize weekend getaways for those in our knitting group. This love of small independent farms and businesses is one of the reasons why she really likes the new book Shear Spirit that recently came out. This blog entry by the author of Shear Spirit features a picture of Flo at Maryland Sheep and Wool getting a tattoo put on her prosthesis.

Flo’s all time favorite knitting book author is Priscilla A.Gibson-Roberts. She sees her as an archaeologist of knitting – going in and finding out how other people in other times knit. Every time a historical knitting book comes in to the store, Flo and I both need to look at it – these two mitten books are on loan from the Flo library.

loaned books

When asked if she does any other needle art, Flo mentioned an empty 4 ft., 8 harness Harrisville loom. She has also done lots of cross stitch and needlepoint. Currently she mostly knits, but she also gardens when the weather is nice.

Flo’s basic rule of thumb when it comes to needles is the smaller the better. On her very small needles right now, she has a sock. On slightly larger needles, she has a multidirectional sweater that she’s designing as she goes along.

flo's knitting

She’s also working on the Lorna’s/Mountain Colors shawl with sleeves for the shop and has 3 ganseys done down to the wrist. I have the Monk’s traveling satchel from Folk Bags that Flo knit, but that needs to be put together. I also have numerous sweaters that Flo got bored with knitting over the years to rip apart for yarn.

Flo is very much so a process knitter. If she doesn’t like what she’s doing she’ll stop. She takes the most pleasure in figuring out how to do it. She likes both designing herself and following patterns, although she admits to being not very good at following patterns, saying “I don’t know what they’re telling me.” Rather than following a pattern for a shape, she’ll go through a book on gansey knitting and put together a bunch of different things from there for her gansey.

Flo’s favorite knit is “anything I’m knitting at the time or wearing at the time. I like stuff that taught me something new… so I’m always excited about a yarn I’ve never used or a stitch I’ve never learned.” She can often be found wearing and knitting socks for herself. She knits for herself because very few people she knows who don’t knit would appreciate the things she knits. That said, I’ve seen Flo suffer through 3 skeins of merino ribbon from Colinette in the name of friendship. For her to do that, though, it must be a pretty good friendship and she must know that the person will actually appreciate it.

Flo likes the feel of wool in her hands, learning something new, and doing something that has been done for thousands of years. She enjoys that she has a connection with people of the past through her knitting.

When asked to describe her stash, Flo said pointedly that it has decreased in size because she has been giving it away to me and Lauren. Point taken – the wool for this sweater came from her, as did these and the blue in this.

Flo has taught knitting at a knitting store before, but mostly she’d say that she babbles a lot, so most people who hang around her long enough don’t have the choice to not learn something about knitting. She especially enjoys the younger people who come to knit with us, mentioning one of our regulars who is 13.

Flo knits for several reasons. First, because “I can design what I want to wear. I can make it in the fiber I choose to make it in.” She also pointed out that knitting is meditative for her. “If I’ve had a really bad day I pick up something that I don’t care about the gauge or anything and just knit it.” For a while, during recent chemo, I remember her knitting on her 70 stitch garter nothing. Now, after finding no one younger than her willing to do slave labor, she’s working on a huge I-cord so she can felt it and coil it into a bowl. As a follow up question I asked Flo if there has been any particular time in her life when she felt that knitting was really important and she answered right now. “It gets me through chemo” in the sense that it is a meditative process. “I have always used knitting to get me through the good times and get me through the bad times. It is the constant. I know that all things pass – good times pass away and bad times pass away.”

Thanks Flo, for sharing your knitting life with us!

If you missed my previous interview with Sue, it can be found here.

chat it up

just a short preface. meet sue:


she is the first of the knitters who i plan to interview for this blog. i’ve obviously been listening to way too much craft sanity… but that aside, since i’ve arrived in pittsburgh i’ve been continually astonished by the knitter friends i have, and i thought it a due tribute to their fabulous knitting lives to share it here on the blog.

Sue Lazaroff
age: 68
19 grandchildren
In Pittsburgh 51 yrs.

Sue taught herself to knit when she was 16 years old.
She was a cheerleader and in order to have correctly colored socks, the girls had to knit them themselves. She has been knitting ever since, with brief breaks now and then. Now she knits every day.

Sue’s first knitting group is the group we both knit with. She was invited by a woman who used to work at Knit One who was trying to get some educators together to start a knitting group. (Side note – I think the group has grown beyond that now :).

Her favorite thing to knit is socks. She loves the progression, cuff, leg, heel flap, heel, gusset, foot, toe. It’s constantly changing so that you don’t get bored. She has no problem getting around to do the second sock, and when I talked to her, I got the feeling that she had even heard of second sock syndrome!!

As to other needle arts, Sue does rug hooking, needlepoint, and quilting, but her most favorite is knitting. Why? Because it is portable.

Sue also loves to knit because it is fun, relaxing, and enjoyable. “I love color and texture.”

Although she knits for herself once in a while, Sue tends to knit for her grandchildren, children, friends, and dogs. Generally, she has 5 to 6 projects on the needles at a time. Despite all the projects, Sue perseveres and finishes each project in good time. There are no half finished sweaters from five years ago at her house. She said that some of the projects are planned for particular people and some are just wanting play with the yarn. She leaves much of her knitting open ended. Often as she’s knitting, someone (family member) will see what she’s making and say ‘oh! give that one to me’ and so she says ‘of course!’

In general, Sue likes to follow patterns and when I talked to her, I got the feeling that she loves nothing more than an ingenious pattern. It is fun during Tuesday knitting group to see what she’ll pull out of her bag that week. Recent projects that I remember are the Eye of Partidge Shawl in some black and purple hand dyed sock yarn, a colorwork hat in pale green and white with matching mittens for one of her daughters, the Lizard Ridge afghan, and a fabulous scarf that started with a lot of spiral i-cords on one end. This week she was winding up some bright melon colored lorna’s laces sock yarn. I remember that recently she was very excited to get her copy of Hats On! by Charlene Schurch in the mail (one of my favorite hat books). (ravelry links)

Her all-time favorite knit is the bright and sassy color on color scarf from scarf style – lots of color, lots of stitches, turning every which way. (ravelry link)

As techniques go, I would say the same as patterns. Sue is always up for learning something new. She just recently became interested in and picked up the magic loop. She’s also a very loose knitter, which matches her relaxed and playful knitting life.

When I asked Sue to describe her stash she laughed. Then said, “Multitudes of fantastic colors, textures.” It apparently has its own HUGE room. When I asked how others live with her stash she said, “They all know that I will do what I want to do. Nobody bothers me. And I expect the same of them.” Some of Sue’s favorite yarns are Karabella Aurora, which she likes to use for scarves, and Jitterbug and Fleece Artist sock yarns.

Sue has passed on the craft of knitting to her granddaughter Ali. Ali, who is now 12, started knitting when she was 8. She has a huge stash that fills half of her closet. She mostly knits scarves. Her and Sue knit together and Sue said that it’s a great time to “chat it up.”

On a personal note, Sue loves thrift store shopping. Since I’ve shown up in Pittsburgh, she has been known to buy me the odd sweater or two to wear or rip for yarn. I also benefit from her large stash in that she has been known to pass small quantity yarn onto me when she gets sick of looking at it.

Thanks Sue, for sharing some of your knitting story with us.


Queen Cosy of the woodland realm Originally uploaded by alissa.piroska.

there’s a new interview with me up online over at the aesthetic elevator. the theme of this blog really resonates with me as something i think about daily. self-described as “Exploring the visual arts, architecture and community planning in the context of American culture — towards a well-considered visual environment.” How necessary! Paul, the artist who runs it, also has a lovely set of sculptures seen here. He found out about me through his wife who is a fellow etsian.

if you’re not so into theology, there is very different interview with me by shannon okey of knitgrrl fame here.

if you have any further questions from reading these, i’d be happy to answer them! my email is cosyknitsliterally (!at) gmail (!dot) com.

UPDATE: this blog entry is a brief description of the thesis too. i realize that many of you are newer readers and the entry had been buried back at the beginning. maybe i should learn more about blogging and put a link to a page in my sidebar…