Knitters You Should Know: MotherOPurl

Meet MotherOPurl!  I was introduced to Alexis Winslow’s designs when I saw her figurehead shawl in Knitscene magazine- I immediately had to cast on!  All of Winslow’s work has a wonderfully hip and wearable feel, and many of her designs feature bold, graphic stripes and patterns which hint at her formal training in textile design.  But the moment when I knew that this designer was sure to become one of my favorites was when I saw her blog’s video feature.  Watching her explain the history behind and ways to wear her different designs makes it clear just how friendly, approachable, and forward-thinking Winslow is.  Enjoy the interview, and make sure to explore Alexis’s Ravelry page and Website for more of her fantastic knits!

How did you get into knitting?
I got into knitting when I was a teenager. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in the woods outside of Norman, Oklahoma. We were pretty isolated so summer vacation was just excruciatingly boring. One summer when I was about 16 I got into some of my mom’s old knitting stuff that had been buried for ages in the back of a closet. I got on the Internet and typed, “how to knit”. I’ve scarcely put the needles down since!

Do you have a ‘real world’ job other than knitwear design? If so, what do you do? 
I work as a printed textile designer and I specialize in children’s bedding. It’s basically graphic design, but I also get to do a lot of sewing and embroidery to make our original samples that buyers see. One really cool thing I get to do is run a giant printer that is like a desk-jet on steroids. I can print my designs directly from my computer onto a piece of fabric and then sew it up into a sample for our showroom.

What is your favorite knitting spot? Do you have an ‘artistic process’ when it comes to knitting and design, or do you tote the needles wherever you go?
If I can manage to get a seat I do my very best knitting on the subway train. A combination of needing something to do on a long commute, and a lack of distraction make it my perfect knitting spot. The train can be so awkward because it’s hard not to stare at people (funny, right?). Knitting gives me, and usually everyone around me, something to focus on. It almost makes me look forward to commuting!

You have an awesome feature on your website where you give a video demo of each of your patterns.  What was the evolution of this idea?
I’m so glad you asked about this because I’m very excited about this feature! The idea coincided with the release of my first pattern in a magazine. I was so delighted to see my pattern in print, but something was missing. One of the most important design elements had not been photographed and was barely even mentioned in the pattern. I’m sure they did the best that they could, but the fact is that there is limited space in a magazine and it is impossible to fully document every detail in a design. With my videos I want to show people how my designs look and wear on a real person. I try to talk about each design element, my inspiration, and my yarn choices. If I were about to invest a big chunk of my precious free time and paycheck, I would want to know EVERYTHING about what I was getting into :) I haven’t gotten much feedback about it yet, so I’d love to hear what other people think.

Do you design everything you knit, or do you knit from others’ patterns as well?
At this point, I design absolutely everything I knit. For me, knitting is a tremendous creative outlet. I’ve got too many ideas and not enough time! Even if I’m making a quick gift for someone, it’s an opportunity to create something unique, or maybe even a pattern. That’s not to say I don’t look at patterns, because I do. I have a whole library of old magazines and piles of books that I am constantly referencing.

Do you have any hobbies other than knitting?
I’m also a painter, and a seamstress. I went to art school and studied both painting and pottery. I briefly got into portraiture, but lately I’ve been more into painting my own ideas. You can see some of my work on my other website, I also love riding my bike with my hubby, when the weather is nice.

What is in your knitting bag right now?
I’ve been working with a new system where I’ve always got a small or easier “purse” project and a larger or more involved “couch” project. Right now my “purse” project is a new hat design for Knitscene Magazine. My “couch” project is a summery lacy shrug. The hat is an easy going cloche style that I’m so exited about, so keep your eyes peeled for that one (Winter ‘11 issue)! Usually I’ve got more going on, but I’m kind of taking it easy right now because I’m in the process of redoing my website. It’s been quite laborious, but there are some great new features that I’m eager to put out there.

Do you have any advice for new knitters trying to refine their craft, or trying to design professionally? Any tips about self-publication?
Self publication is easier than you might think. Anybody can self-publish on the Internet through Ravelry and reach a giant audience. Besides designing, there are several things a designer can do to set themselves apart: take good pictures, layout the pattern as clearly and professionally as possible, and use your personal style to brand yourself. It’s good to start out offering a few patterns for free until you get the hang of it. When you’re publishing on the Internet you can always put a new version out there with very few consequences. I’ve gone back and revised my first self-published pattern several times at this point.

Do you think the Internet is changing knitwear design? If so, how?
The Internet has been around the whole time I’ve been designing. One thing that I’ve seen evolve is how close designers can get to the people they are designing for. I’m always corresponding with fans or people with questions on Ravelry. It really gives me, as a designer, a sense of who my audience is and how I am doing. People aren’t very shy about offering constructive feedback in the online knitting community, which is great because it helps me grow as a designer.

What role, if any, do you think knitting will have in your life  in ten years?
If it goes at this rate, in ten years knitting will have totally taken over! So watch out! Much like King Kong, you’ll need to call in the military to stop me. It was just a couple of years ago that I started self-publishing my patterns, and now I’ve got 10 patterns coming out in magazines and other publications this year. I hope things do keep progressing so quickly for my design career. Also, I’d love to put together a book someday. Maybe in 10 years I will have achieved that.

2 Responses to “Knitters You Should Know: MotherOPurl”
  1. Cheryl says:

    Great designs! I love the video feature too :)

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  1. […] also had the pleasure of being interviewed by Deborah over at Interrobang Knits for her series, “Knitters You Should Know”. It was a fun interview and she asked some really great questions. You should all go check out her […]

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