Knitwear designer Kalinumba (Anja) is a professional photographer in the 4th generation and the person with the most hilarious Ravelry Avatar I have seen so far. (Don’t believe me? Have a look!). She has published knitting books as well as novels.
Anja was gracious enough to take the time to talk with me about her beginning in knitting, tactics for hiding your stash from your husband and how cats can actually be of help in knitwear design.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, where do you live? What is your educational background?
I’m living with my husband, two kids and four cats in a small town near Frankfurt, Germany. My professional background is a creative business: I’m a photographer (although I hadn’t have a chance to get my hands on a camera in a while) in the 4th generation already. My creativity seems to be family heritage!
Did you undertake formal training in college or within the industry, or did you find your way into knitting via a different route?
Back in school I was taught knitting and related fiber arts but actually hated it. My love for yarn unveiled during my pregnancy with the boys – I wanted to create something special for them. All I know now I taught myself using instructions available on the internet.
What are your favorite projects to knit?
Anything that doesn’t consist of more than one part. There’s nothing as boring as having to knit the same thing twice: sleeves or socks, for example. There’s no thrill left after the first item! Therefor hats, blankets or scarves are my favorites.
How would you describe your style?
My publisher keeps telling me my style’s too edgy – that’s not the whole truth but it’s not wrong neither. I don’t follow trends, I do what I want and how I like to do it and usually hope others like my style, too.
What inspires and influences the designs you create?
I love the style of Man Ray, Escher and Dali but my ideas tend to come spontaneously. Often, I can’t really tell where they came from.
What types of materials do you prefer to use?
Single-colored or gradient colors and simple yarn bases. I don’t care much for self-striping, hand dyed or boldly textured yarns – using such yarns is like trying to paint with old, fraying brushes.
Do you have a favorite knitting related book or a favorite project from one of your favorite knitting books?
I’ve got tons of stitch pattern collections but no pattern books, actually (except for author’s copies). I don’t follow patterns therefor I don’t need any. I don’t care much for knitting items I know how the finished product looks like in advance.
Please walk us through the process, from idea to the finished design, of one of your pieces.
Pondering, trial and error, repeat – until I’m satisfied with the result. Then I knit the item and write a pattern for it. Afterwards, some people get the pattern for test knitting and editing. As soon as everything’s ok I publish the pattern. Generally, I tend to spend more time in front of the computer than with my knitting needles.
Can you show us photos of your stash and your work space?
My stash is tactically spread over the whole apartment to prevent my husband knowing how much yarn I actually got. Everything I’m working on is within reach of my knitting place – kind of a creative chaos.
Our four cats got a fancy business hours system I don’t understand yet fully, though: one of them always lies between keyboard and monitor making sure there’s something furry to pet If I’m in need. Charly sometimes manages to make screen captures while Pieps messes around with my fingers as she’s annoyed by the sounds of my keystrokes.(Remark: would you tell us the names of the other two cats, too? Weren’t there four cats? 😉
Which software do you use on a daily basis?
I’m minimalistic: a pocket calculator and notepaper are sufficient for me. For my patterns, I use Word and Excel together with a knitting symbol font. Or did you mean in my dayjob? There’s Photoshop and Audio/Video editing software but I’m quite sure that’s not what you intended to know with this question.
Of all your designs, do you have a favourite?
All my designs are like my own babies but the newest one is always my favorite one. Maybe the Tiger (Insomnia) because I actually created it while being unsure whether it would work out like intended.
What was your most frustrating experience in design? What didn’t work? (Only because we as knitters like to know that EVERYONE frogs)
Designers frog more than knitters in my experience, at least if they’re actually creating something new and not build based on existing items. Of course lot of things tend not to work but I don’t mind; and I don’t mind frogging neither: first, in this way you double the knitting time per skein (and it’s all about knitting after all, isn’t it?) and second, one always learns from it. You just have to ask yourself WHY you needed to frog. It’s only annoying if you find out you could have known it better at first hand.
If you could knit anything for yourself, what would you knit and what yarn would you choose?
Last winter I knit a Norwegian sweater. I choose yarn to fit the project I have in mind or choose a pattern based on what’s in my stash. I don’t have a favorite yarn brand. Besides work, I always got something on the needles for me or my family.
What projects are you currently working on?
An ebook around sock yarn scraps – strictly confidential! 😉
What would you most like to knit that you haven’t made so far?
A huge granny square blanket. I really fancy them but don’t have enough patience to make one.
Where would you like to see your designs in five years?
In a museum! But I really like to see projects using my patterns on yarn festivals or knitting meetings – wearable art in a way.
What would be your number one piece of advice to someone wanting to get started in knitwear design?
Just do it and don’t let anybody distract you! Everybody’s got a favorite item there’s no pattern for. So why not try to create one for yourself? Stop worrying and start playing around with that yarn. Now!
Anja Belle (Kalinumba) graduated in photography in 1995. After many successful exhibitions and deployments she now works in desktop publishing and as freelance writer. On Ravelry, she is known as Kalinumba.