Knitters You Should Know: Elephantjuice
Meet Elephantjuice! From England, Cheryl knits beautiful, cozy projects: flipping through her photos is like looking at pages of a magazine perfectly tailored to the modern knitter. Muted and neutral colors, utilitarian designs, and gorgeous patterns contribute to a wealth of beautiful, wearable pieces. Find Cheryl on Ravelry and on her Blog!
How did you get into knitting?
A friend of my Mum taught me when I was a small child, I think around 5 or 6. My Mum used to knit also, but I’m left handed and so was her friend so she thought it would be easier for me to learn from a fellow leftie. I remember thinking that “purl” stitches sounded so mysteriously pretty and exotic! I still have the bright orange plastic needles that I used to use, but thankfully the tangled acrylic messes I made are long gone!
I must have gotten frustrated or bored with knitting, because I didn’t knit for a very long time after learning. I wish I could remember what inspired me to take it up again. I do remember that I was in my final year of university, and something prompted me to order Debbie Stoller’s Stitch n’ Bitch book online (I was probably procrastinating – I’m good at that!). Once it arrived I delved into it with some cheap needles and acrylic yarn from the local market, and all the basics I’d learnt as a child came rushing back and just clicked into place. I’ve not looked back since!
Do you have a ‘real world’ job other than knitting? If so, what do you do?
Sadly not, I’m job hunting at the moment but I was working for a new media start up company until fairly recently. If there’s anyone out there who wants to employ a knitting obsessed law graduate, then please do get in touch!!
Where are you from? Do you have one or two interesting insider tips or observations about your home or hometown?
I’m from Sunderland. It’s a coastal city in the North East of England. There’s not really a whole lot going on in Sunderland, but the North East as a whole is a fantastic region. We’ve got some really beautiful beaches, stunning countryside and lots of lovely heritage sites. A couple of my favourites are Hadrian’s Wall, and Cragside, the country house of a Victorian inventor which is home to some beautiful William Morris wallpaper and was the first house in the world to be lit by electricity!
What is your favorite knitting spot? Do you have an ‘artistic process’ when it comes to knitting, or do you bring the needles wherever you go?
I’ll knit almost anywhere! I often bring a small, simple project (usually socks) to work on in the car or on public transport. In the summer I love to knit in the garden, with a pot of tea and an audiobook. The rest of the year I usually knit in front of the TV or the computer so I can watch films and TV shows.
Describe your average day.
My average day at the moment involves job hunting on the internet, and sneaking in a bit of knitting in between applications. I’m also trying to write up some of my own knitting patterns, so in the afternoons I might work on those for a bit. When my boyfriend comes home from work we have dinner, and then we usually chill in front of the TV or watch a DVD and out comes the knitting again!
What is your favorite quote?
I used to have plenty when I was younger, but now I don’t really have one particular favourite. Although I pretty much love anything George Bernard Shaw said. The man was a sage. “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself” is a great one. I’m also quite a fan of Winston Churchill.
Tell me about your favorite project.
Oh, that’s a tough one. I love the Tree of Life Wedding blanket that I made for my best friend for her wedding present. That was really enjoyable to knit, and although it’s not a particularly difficult pattern it’s one of the largest things I’ve made, so there was a real sense of achievement when I finished it. I also love the sentiment behind it, and the fact that it’s a little bit like knitting an heirloom. I love that it’s a cherished knit.
In terms of my favourite project to wear or use, it would have to be my McCafferty. It was the first thing I’d ever test knit, which was a bit of a thrill, and it’s such a great pattern. It’s wonderfully light and warm, and so easy to throw on and wear with anything. It’s definitely my most reached for knit.
If you could have one splurge knitting purchase and project, what would it be?
I’d love to knit a Shetland wedding ring shawl with silk cashmere cobweb weight yarn. That would be a splurge of money and time!
Who is your favorite knitwear designer and why?
There are so many brilliant designers out there, I couldn’t choose just one! Lily Kate France is such a talented young designer who has already designed some beautiful knits with wonderful little details, and her patterns are so well written. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with in future. Ysolda Teague is another designer whose designs have such wonderful details, and Tiny Owl Knits is definitely on my list for having the most whimsical and ethereal designs with the sweetest names! Kate Davies is another favourite, her designs look so organic and I love the process and development that goes into every one. For colourwork projects, I love Kate Gagnon Osborn. Her designs have such a fun modern twist on the traditional. Stephen West’s shawls and hats have such wonderful textures, and I absolutely love Jared Flood because everything he designs is just so achingly beautiful!
Do you have any hobbies other than knitting?
Knitting was my gateway drug into spinning and dyeing, and now I have a hard time choosing where to spend my time! I also love reading, and baking and a little bit of gardening. I used to do a lot of cross stitching as a kid, and I’d love to get back into that. I do love photography, although I’m very much an amateur and would love to develop my skills in that area more. And I’m not sure if you could count it as a hobby, but I also have a serious addiction to make up and nail polish!
What is in your knitting bag right now?
What isn’t in my knitting bag right now, haha! I’m currently swinging between a silk Ishbel, a pair of vanilla socks, another pair of socks and some fingerless mittens which I’m in the process of designing, and a double knit hat that I started back in November and which seems to have stalled slightly. I’m also on the cusp of casting on for another pair of socks… and they’re just the projects I can remember! I’m definitely not a monogamous knitter!
Do you have any advice for new knitters trying to refine their craft?
Buy the best yarn you can afford – it’ll make knitting so much more enjoyable. Also, keep at it. Practice makes perfect, and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, try new things and learn new techniques. If things go wrong, don’t stress over it too much. You can always rip back, and after all, it’s only knitting! Above all, have fun!
Your project photography is beautiful. What role does photography play in your knitwear documentation, and how do you get such fantastic shots?
Thank you! I suppose photography pays quite an important role in my documentation. I always look forward to photographing my knits, trying to showcase them as best I can, and I tend not to mark a project as “finished” until I’ve photographed it and uploaded the photos. It sounds very twee, but I do like things to look pretty!
How I get my shots tends to be a bit of trial an error to some extent. My current camera is a five year old point and shoot, which seems to do an ok job most of the time, although I would love a shiny new DSLR and lust after one on an almost daily basis! I use natural light, and have a couple of places in my house that I’ve found to be ideal locations for pictures. I like to use a neutral background, and I also take a lot of shots so that I can choose the best ones. I find that the macro mode gets the best pictures, and allows me to get right up close to my objects for some interesting shots.
Do you think the internet is changing the world of knitting? If so, how?
I think the internet is undoubtedly changing things. I like to think that the knitting and fibre community would have continued to grow in popularity on its own, but I think the internet has truly injected new life into it. The online knit community and sites like Ravelry have really empowered knitters and made knitting so accessible to such a wide variety of people. It’s so easy to just Google a technique that you might be stuck on or interested in, and you instantly have a whole host of pictorial or video tutorials to learn from. The internet has made it so easy to source different yarns and materials which might not have been so readily available otherwise. There are so many yarn stores and suppliers who might not have been able to afford to maintain a brick and mortar presence on the high street, but are able to reach a worldwide customer base with the internet. Likewise with indie dyers and designers. There have been many trailblazers who have been keeping things independent, or turning a hobby into a business, which is fantastic in terms of inspiration, choice and variety for the whole knit community.
What is your favorite item to knit? (Shawls, sweaters, mittens?)
Shawls and socks, definitely! There are so many beautiful shawls out there, and I’ve always been a big scarf wearer, so I love the twist of wearing shawls as scarves rather than in the more traditional way. As for socks, they’re such a great portable knit, which yields something practical and cosy at the end. What’s not to love!? I do like to knit the odd hat too, they’re such fast and satisfying projects.
What is the weirdest comment you’ve gotten about knitting?
I’ve not really had any weird comments about knitting, people are usually quite nice and upbeat about it, or else they’re so weirded out that they’ve kept quiet! When I’ve knit on the Metro (the public transport tram system where I live) I usually just get some strange stares and gawps, but no one’s ever said anything. At least not to my face!
What role, if any, do you think knitting will have in your life in ten years?
A happy and warm one, I hope!