Maine, United States

Making No. 6 / BLACK & WHITE: An interview with Susan B. Anderson
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Making No. 6 / BLACK & WHITE: An interview with Susan B. Anderson

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Enjoy an interview with Susan B. Anderson! She designed the Black Sheep, White Sheep project for Making No. 6 / BLACK & WHITE.

Tell us about your craft?

My craft is knitting and much of my design work is centered around the creation of small three-dimensional characters. So although my designs are created through the techniques of knitting, my inspiration often comes from children's literature illustrators, ceramics, photography, and children. The melding of these inspirational elements and many years of knitting experience brings me so much joy which I hope comes through in my final designs. 

How did you get started?

I taught myself to knit as a teenager. I didn't know any knitters and there was no internet at that time so my resources were extremely limited. I struggled and struggled but I was a very determined soul. I persevered through my first project which was a white acrylic sleeveless top of sorts that was knit at a very tight gauge. I was so proud of this top that I gave it to my sister and although she was extremely gracious about my gift, it was never seen again! I didn't give up though and really the challenge of knitting has been a steady force in my life ever since. 

Where does your heart lie? 

My heart lies in my home with my family. I live in Madison, Wisconsin, kind of in the heart of the midwest, where I raised my four children along with my husband. Although my kids are grown and some are still in college, they are all still here in the Madison area and we truly enjoy spending time with each other. I love teaching knitting and traveling and meeting students all over the country and beyond but I have to say the age-old adage remains true for me, "Home is where the heart is." 

What does the heritage of your craft mean to you?

The heritage of knitting is long and fascinating, and it means a lot to me to recognize those that blazed the trail before us. Decades ago skills were passed down through family lines, as outside resources were scarce for learning and for materials. This meant that knitting often stayed close to home and varied due to location. Along those knitting lineage lines, I am always struck by how knitting is woven into the stories of different families, communities and geographical areas throughout time. The knitting of days gone by varied due to lifestyle, weather, local materials, and the skills and practical needs of the people in that region. I think it’s somewhat the same today but it’s so easy now to appreciate and knit designs from all over the world using materials from all over the world. And in turn to make your knitting your own. We are able to easily appreciate worldwide knitting now and that’s so remarkable and wonderful. Knitting comes with a deep heritage, sometimes it is practical and sometimes it is artistic but mainly, knitting always has endless inspiration from the past and new opportunities for learning more.

Tell us a story about something that’s happened with a project.

When I was writing my second book in 2006 I had the opportunity to design a toy for the first time. This was something I had always wanted to try and I was pretty excited by about it. I ended up designing and knitting a funny little bunny that I named, Chubby Bunny. I carried the Chubby Bunny around with me and showed it to everyone in my path. Most everyone was kind and enthusiastic about my first toy design but I saw so much more. I saw overwhelming potential and creativity in this bunny. I fell in love with knitted toy-design at this exact moment.   

Share a project, either past present or future that you are especially proud of.

Anytime I come up with new construction when I’m designing toys I feel really proud of it. My design construction has evolved overtime. I try to make all of the little parts come together smoothly without much seaming or no seaming at all. I try to take the guesswork out of the project. These design goals keeps me on my toes where I am always trying out new ideas and techniques. For example, I was really proud of the Sleepy Kitten Set in the Making :: Lines issue. The Kittens were one of the first times I used the construction where the limbs, ears and tail are knitted first and then these appendages are worked into the body and head as you go. When you come to the last stitch, the toy is completely finished other than some face embroidery. It is a really fun and effective design construction and that makes me (and hopefully the knitters) feel proud.

What role does black and white play in your making?

I have mentioned this before but I have spent a lifetime completely in love with the colors black and white. In fact, my wedding colors were black and white (we had very colorful flowers though!) and I had an entire set of dishes that were black with cream trim. In my home growing up, my mom had black and white artwork all over our house. I have some of that same black and white artwork hanging in my own home now. I think when you take away color in design the techniques used become even more important. There is something so beautiful about simplicity combined with technique, especially in black and white.

If you were going to create something just for fun today, what would it be?

I would knit a little sweater for a knit bunny design I have sitting on my studio table. He is being very patient while waiting to be properly dressed. 

If you could collaborate with three people, who would they be and why?

Kevin Henkes ~ My favorite current children’s literature author and illustrator.

Beatrix Potter ~ My favorite children’s literature author and illustrator from the past.

A. A. Milne ~ The author of Winnie the Pooh, another sweet favorite of mine.

I would love to be given the opportunity to bring all of these authors’ inspiring characters to life through my knitting and to put my own twist on them. And I’d love to come up with new characters together with all and any in this group. Could you imagine?

What materials get you the most excited to make?

Using my own wool yarn lines which I’ve created for my company, Barrett Wool Co.! Barrett Wool Co. has been the dream of a lifetime and the wool yarns are so good for all types of projects.

What excites your about the project you designed for Making?

Black sheep and white sheep are the first things that came to my mind when I started thinking about a design for the Black and White theme of the new issue. I decided to make the toys small and reversible! Each sheep is two toys in one. This always excites me. One side of the toy shows the black sheep and when turned inside out, the white sheep shows. It is a fun and clever little toy that kids and adults, especially knitters, will enjoy!

Any helpful links to online resources that might help makers create your project?

What are you currently making/knitting right now?

I am working on kits and designs for Barrett Wool Co. which include a tiny collection called Fall Harvest Charm Set, a pair of stripy mittens using my Waiting for Winter mitten pattern, a new and fantastic heel for socks called The Ultimate Heel, and so many more toy designs.

If your craft would send a message to the world, what would it be?

Only love.