Creative Genius: Hannah Thiessen, Author of Slow Knitting
Learn how to take it slow from the avid-knitter, boss, editor and author herself.
Hannah Thiessen, author of Slow Knitting, does it all. Besides being an avid-knitter and author, she is the Chief Creative Officer of Knitcrate, a monthly knitting subscription, the production editor at By Hand Serial and a self-proclaimed “yarn-creative-consult-for-hire.”
Somehow, Hannah still has time to knit. She teaches classes on the craft and even runs a personal blog, Knitting Vividly. Yet her advice is still, “Take it slow.” Her book, inspired by the slow food movement, encourages readers to take it easy, celebrate their craftsmanship and think environmentally.
We asked Hannah a few more questions about knitting, how to slow down and take things one stitch at a time.
How do you find time to knit?
I honestly find time in between everything else to knit. I wish I could say that I devote certain times of day to knitting, and I absolutely try. I'll often stitch a little bit with coffee in the morning if I wake up early, or knit while watching TV at night, or knit in bed before I go to sleep instead of looking at my phone. It's great if you're trying to cut back on screen time, as a replacement to keep your hands busy. That's what also makes it a good carry-along project to doctor appointments or waiting rooms, places you're going to wait awhile without anything to do. I take it to the salon and knit while my color processes, even.
What advice would you give to someone who doesn't think they have time to pick up a craft/hobby like knitting?
We make the time we need. I don't have time to do a lot of things, but I seem to keep doing them anyway. Gardening, baking, cooking dinner for my fiancé, doing the laundry, reading books — these are all things I don't really feel like I have time for. Knitting is great in that you can co-opt your Netflix time with it, not many hobbies allow that. Once you get the knit and purl stitches down you'll be able to do more of it without looking over time, so you can actually watch and work at the same time, which is nice. If you don't think you have room for a hobby in your life, look at how you're spending your time. Balance is so important. I could work 12-hour days — the work is there — but I shouldn't work 12 hour days, because it will burn me out. Knitting is whatever you need it to be — something to do with your hands, a creative outlet or escape. Allow yourself those moments.
What advice do you have for a first-time knitter?
Just start and take it slow. You are teaching your hands and mind to think in a new way. Remember how hard it was to learn to tie your shoes? This is just like that, except that after you get the basics, the possibilities are open to you. I know so many knitters who learned the knit and purl stitches at the beginning of the year and were knitting sweaters by November. This is not a hard thing to learn, but it provides endless options once you get going. Don't compare yourself to others, because comparison is the thief of joy. Take it in your own time.
What is your favorite part of knitting?
I love playing with color, texture and fashion, and I think knitting really allows me to do all three. I get to design garments that I love that also are custom-fit to my measurements and wear beautifully. I am very passionate about buying yarns from farms that I can interact with directly and I love the magic of finding the perfect yarn and pattern and marrying them together, all the while knowing where the yarn came from and who designed the garment and maybe even having met the sheep at some point. In what other fashion or textile industry do you get to work so closely with your sources?
What inspired you to write Slow Knitting?
I was feeling overwhelmed by this idea that knitters should always be gift knitting, knitting for other people and focusing on so many projects. I wanted to slow down and regain some of the passion that I had for the craft, some of the wonder that we feel when we are first learning. For me, that comes from working with materials close to my heart, so the idea of slow knitting was a little bit of all these things put together. I like to think of it as a "slow food movement" within the yarn community; it's about honoring your materials and honoring the time you're putting into something. We don't have to knit anymore, everything is available to us if we want to walk in a store and pick up a hat, socks, a sweater. So what we make should be special and without pressure, and we should love every moment of it and embrace every challenge and new technique and skill.
What can people expect out of your classes?
My classes cover such a big range of projects and processes. I'm not a teacher who teaches patterns or projects, but more concepts, so you can kind of start at whatever level you come in at and still get something out of most of the courses. Obviously, a basic understanding of knitting is necessary and some of the skills are listed for specific courses, but for other classes, it's more open. I teach a workshop called Art & Wool at Harrisville Designs (a 100+-year-old woolen mill in New Hampshire that is super picturesque and a lovely getaway in general) and it's all about playing with color, getting comfortable with color and textile building. That's for everyone, any skill level could get something great from that class. I teach other classes that are more technical, like a class on sock construction methods, and that requires some prior experience and skill building. Generally, though, I tell people to give something a shot if it interests them. It's more about the motivation of the student than the class outline.
Can you give us any info on your new book?
Yes! My next book comes out from Abrams next year (2020) and follows along the path of Slow Knitting, the first book. Slow Knitting is like a slow food movement but for yarn — where the wool comes from, heritage breeds of sheep, processing methods, dye methods that are all interesting and thoughtful and beautiful. It's like a coffee table book for knitters, the first one.
This [next] one is more process-oriented. I wrote all the patterns myself, it's seasonal, like an almanac, and I'm calling it Slow Knitting Seasonally, as of right now. There's a mix of projects and patterns and also little practices and guides for things like attending your first wool festival, darning a sock, or figuring out what needle type you like best. There's a lot of writing in this one but there will still be so many beautiful pictures.
I'm working with so many incredible people. The same photographer, Katie Starks, is back for this book, but I've also enlisted the help of some new stylists, models and friends. It should be a really nice book when it's all finished!
You can buy Hannah’s book, Slow Knitting, on Amazon. Be on the lookout for her second book, in collaboration with Abrams Craft, set to come out in 2020.