February 11, 2008
Today our limelight shines on Wendy Johnson, of Wendy Knits fame. I was a long time blog reader of Wendy’s before starting The Loopy Ewe and her amazing knitting was always such an inspiration to me. How DOES she get so much knitting done?? Not only does she knit socks, but she also knits lace, mittens and sweaters, and she designs her own patterns. Loopy had a good time interviewing her this week, and I hope you enjoy reading it! (And be sure to check out the free Wendy Knits patterns that are always available here at The Loopy Ewe for free downloading, as well as the other ones that we have available in the shop.)
Loopy: Hi Wendy! So, how did you learn to knit and how many years have you been at it?
Wendy: I learned to knit before I learned to read. When my older brother started school and I was left at home, the potential for getting into trouble through boredom was great. One day I found a screwdriver and took my tricycle apart. When my mother happened upon this scene, she took the screwdriver away from me, cast a few stitches on needles and showed me how to form the knit stitch. I don’t think I’ve put the needles down for more than a few minutes since. So I’ve been knitting for mumblety-mumble years.
I remind my mother from time to time that if it weren’t for her taking that screwdriver away from me, today I’d be an engineer or a mechanic.
Loopy: But we’re glad you got into knitting instead. I’ll bet your mom is, too. Do you have a favorite pattern or item that you have made?
Wendy: Ooh, that’s a tough one, seeing that I’ve knit approximately 40-bajillion items in my life. If I had to choose just one item I’ve made, it would have to be Alice Starmore’s fair isle pullover, Luskentyre. The pattern is in the long out-of-print book The Scottish Collection, and I think it is the most beautiful fair isle I’ve ever seen. (You can see photos of my Luskentyre here: http://wendyjohnson.net/knit/luskentyre.htm.)
When I was knitting it, I discovered what I thought must be an error in the pattern chart (three colors used in one row, something that never occurs in traditional fair isle knitting) and I emailed Ms. Starmore about it. She emailed me back the next day and confirmed that this was, indeed, an error, and in the years since that pattern was published (it was ten years at the time I was knitting it), I was the only one to point it out to her!
Loopy: So obviously you’re very good with patterns! Do you have any “what was I thinking” items that you have knitted?
Wendy: Another tough question! I asked my knitting buddy L-B if she can remember me ever whining about something that could qualify as a “what was I thinking” item. She said she couldn’t think of a single thing. I always have a pretty clear vision of what I want to knit. I am also extraordinarily picky about choosing patterns to knit, particularly cable knits and lace. I think this up-front pickyness is in a large part responsible for my happiness with my completed work.
Loopy: The Loopy Lady says she saw all of your stash when she visited you and it’s impressive. How do you store it all?
Wendy: Most of my stash lives in gallon-sized ziplock bags in my stash room. I don’t have any problems with m*ths, thankfully, but I like to be on the safe side.
The yarn that doesn’t fit in my stash room lives in my linen closet. The yarn that doesn’t fit in my linen closet is festooned about my living and dining room.
Loopy: Well, we know you like yarn like all of the rest of us. What is your “can’t live without” knitting accessory?
Wendy: Pen and paper! No matter how many times I tell myself that I will remember how many pattern repeats I did on one piece of a sweater or on a sock so that I can repeat it on the other piece or sock, I have finally admitted to myself that I won’t remember. I take copious notes along the way as I knit. I am a happier, saner knitter because of it.
Loopy: You’re one of Loopy’s most favorite pattern designers, but what other jobs have you had?
Wendy: Awwww, thanks!
When I was in high school, college, and graduate school, I worked in the Clerk’s Office at the Circuit Court in Arlington, Virginia. Partway through graduate school I got a job as a paralegal in a law office, and worked part time in a LYS. (I had to quit the yarn shop job – I was spending way more than I was earning.)
After that, I worked as a publications assistant at the American Psychological Association, then editor of an EDP audit, control, and security newsletter, and then as a technical writer at a series of software development companies, followed by a stint as director of business communications for an internet start-up company, and then a series of positions in the federal government: technical writer, public affairs specialist, and labor-management liaison specialist.
A long and varied career, huh?
Loopy: We’re glad you ended up as a knitting designer and blog writer, even if you still work to pay for your habit. What is your idea of a perfect day?
Wendy: A perfect day: Sleep until past 6:00 a.m, then wake to find that I’ve lost 5 pounds without trying. Check my email and discover that I’ve won the lottery so I can quit my job!
Loopy: I’d like that kind of a day, too. So do you stockpile anything, like chicken br**sts or almonds?
Loopy, if you asked Sheri, she would be able to tell you that I have no food in my home – only a refrigerator stocked with many, many bottles and cans of diet soda and a few condiments.
I do stockpile yarn, however. I mean – what if sheep suddenly became extinct?
Loopy: Perish the thought. Extinction for all of us sheep? (shudder) Let’s get off of the subject of knitting. Any recipes/book or movie recommendations you’d like to share?
Wendy: Well, since I don’t cook (see my answer to the previous question), I’ll tell you that two of my favorite authors are Iris Murdoch and Barbara Pym, both now sadly deceased. I own every book that these two have written and happily reread them from time to time.
My favorite movie? Brief Encounter, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, directed by David Lean. In fact, I never met a David Lean movie I didn’t like. I’m fond of old British movies in general. There are a number of great Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger films I would recommend: I Know Where I’m Going!, Black Narcissus, and The Red Shoes, to name a few. And if you’d like to see a movie that’s so howlingly bad it’s enjoyable, try The Astonished Heart, starring Noel Coward and Celia Johnson, directed by Antony Darnborough and Terence Fisher.
L-B says I should get a job on Turner Classic Movies introducing the films. Ted Turner, are you listening?
Loopy: I’m pretty sure that Ted is a knitter and reads this blog. Let us know if you get a job offer. What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
Wendy: I can recite the rock opera Tommy, in its entirety, from start to finish, from memory. I am a woman of . . . ahem . . . many talents.
Loopy: I’ve never known anyone that could do that. You are indeed a woman of many talents. Anything else you’d like to add?
Wendy: I love The Loopy Ewe!
Thanks to Wendy for being in the Limelight today! Did you learn anything new about her?