Our challenge for April has been to mix it up with some game-knitting, so we were totally blown away when the designer behind the fab e-book we’ve all been using, Lee Meredith, agreed to do this interview with us! We are totally smitten with her unique design style and her versatile patterns – many of which are any-gauge patterns. How cool is that? Read on to find out more about why we love Lee so much!
Knitters Rumble: Thank you, Lee, for taking the time to answer a few of our questions! First, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started with knitting and crafting in general. What was your first knitted project?
Lee Meredith: I’ve been doing various crafting basically since I could move my fingers – in elementary through high school I did lots of jewelry making, basic sewing, and dabbled in other stuff, but I didn’t learn to knit till college, when I got intrigued by an apartment-mate who knit hats.
My first project was a classic scrappy garter stitch scarf, long and narrow and uneven, but I was so proud of it! I just realized that was in late 2002, which means the end of this year will be my 10 years knitting anniversary!
KR: How did you transition from knitting as a hobby to making it into a career? We understand that you work at designing full-time these days, is it anything like you expected it would be? What are some of the ups and downs and self-employment in a creative field?
LM: The transition was completely unplanned, it just happened slowly over time… I first started selling some things I improvised, not thinking to actually write down patterns (or knowing how to), in 2005, then that eventually evolved into writing patterns, releasing my first designs in 2007, all while working photography-related full-time day jobs.
I also released a zine and started my blog in 2007, and “leethal” was starting to become a thing beyond a hobby, though I wasn’t really making any actual money at it… until I settled into my new home in Portland (after moving from California), started getting more into design, and was gaining connections around town, and I got offered a series of craft teaching jobs that would run on weekends throughout the summer of 2008. So, I asked my boss at my photo lab job if I could drop down to part time and have weekends off, and he said no way, so I was forced to quit, totally unplanned.
From that point on, I grabbed any freelance job I could get (teaching, photography, craft-related blogging) and worked hard at everything leethal – it used to be more selling things I made, but it’s evolved over the years to now being pretty much just knit design, which I’m very happy with. I still grab freelance photography, teaching, and other random jobs to make ends meet – I can’t yet get by on the designing alone.
I can’t say it is or isn’t how I expected, because I had no plans or expectations, I just am now where my life has led me… Ups are that it’s completely awesome; I love working for myself, at home, on my own schedule, being in full control of my work, etc, doing what I am passionate about, all that. Downs are pretty much just financial-security related, that’s it really.
KR: Many of your designs have such unusual construction. What do you attribute your unique design vision to? Can you give us a glimpse into your design process – from initial inspiration to the final steps?
LM: Hmm I guess I attribute my design vision to my brain… I generally just brainstorm up a construction idea, or a starting concept for a design… Something I see or think of will cause it to pop into my head, or I’ll think, I want to design a ___ (cabled hat, lace mitts, etc) and then I’ll kind of sit on it, trying to come up with a way to make that basic thing original. Then I’ll think and/or swatch and/or sketch until it develops into a full on design.
With the more unusual constructions, I usually have to knit the entire thing up at least a couple times (or, like 8 times, sometimes) to tweak the specifics until it’s just right. Often, during the knitting trial-and-error process, the original design idea will transform into something pretty different from my original vision, usually for the best.
KR: Here at “Knitters Rumble” we choose a topic to focus on each month for our monthly challenges. April was “Game Knitting” month and May is going to be all about designing. Do you have any advice for new designers?
LM: I guess just try to think outside the box… Don’t think about other people’s designs too much, try to develop your own style and do your own thing. Come up with design ideas that really excite you, and if an idea isn’t really working out and it stops being fun or exciting to you, then put it aside and stop wasting time on it, try something different until an idea clicks.
LM: Thanks! I’m excited that the twitter mystery knit-a-long is going really well so far! I mostly just use social media in ways which are fun for me; the benefits are pretty much what you said – I’m very easy to get in touch with. I am pretty terrible at answering emails a lot of the time, I absolutely hate talking on the phone, but I’m always checking my twitter and ravelry, so if you tweet to me or post in the leethal forums, I’m sure to read it (I read all emails as well, I just suck at replying). I like there being a leethal community, making it easy for knitters of my patterns to talk to each other, that kind of thing.
KR: Your most recent collection of patterns “Remixed” is gorgeous. What other design plans do you have coming up?
LM: Thank you I’m taking a bit of a design break at the moment, as I finish the yarn-making tutorial part of Remixed, build a new pattern website, and lead the twitter knit-a-long… I do have several designs kind of in the works though, for later. I am slowly working on a collaborative project with a couple designer friends; I have a long-term ebook I’m beginning work on, for release in late 2013; I have another mystery knit-a-long in the beginning planning stages. Once things slow down a bit I plan to start working on a Remixed Vol.2, but that may be more of a distant future project.
KR: Thank you again for taking the time to do this interview, Lee!
Ravelry project pages for patterns shown in this post:
All of the photos in this post were used with permission from Lee Meredith.