GIFTING IS GOOD FOR YOU
By Rasha Refaie
Knit Designer Kristin Spurkland talks about her new book,
bikinis, Vivienne Westwood, and why knitters like to give
Based in Portland, Oregon, knit designer Kristin Spurkland
doesnt just kick ass in a bikini. She studied fashion
design at Portlands Bassist College, has been teaching
knitting classes for years, and her patterns have appeared
in Vogue Knitting, Interweave Knits, and the recent "Stitch
n Bitch: A Knitters Handbook"(Workingman,
2003) by Debbie Stoller of Bust Magazine. Now Spurklands
knitting book, "Knits from the Heart: Quick Projects
for Generous Giving" is out starting March 1st (Martingale
& Co). All the projects are beginner-friendly accessory
items suitable for young, old, feline, and infant
perfect for all those Williamsburg babies I see cruising
the sidewalks in Hummer-sized carriages. One angle of the
book is how to combine knitting with volunteering (its
the only book Ive ever seen that fully acknowledges
the existence of preemie babies, homeless people, cancer
patients, and that they have needs too). Maybe Spurklands
most revolutionary concept is that of using ones talents
to help others. Here in New York, we are trained to use
our talents to brutally crush the competition. Its
refreshing to think of doing things to improve someone elses
life, not wreck it. I interviewed Spurkland recently to
get the goods on this trend known as gifting.
RR: Theres some Buddhist saying like the student
is the teacher and vice versa. If this is true, what do
you learn from your knitting students?
KS: Ive learned what frustrates and confuses the
average knitter when working with written instructions.
So my students have taught me how to write clearly. I also
pick up information on what people want in books. The basic
concept of this new book came from a student who said "Why
cant I find a book that is just a collection of accessory
projects?" Inevitably, when people are knitting, issues
around patience and self-esteem come up. Ive seen
students swear, cry and have tantrums when a project isnt
working. Dealing with these situations has made me more
RR: Tell me about the meeting point between the knitting
community and the volunteer community.
Most projects are undertaken with the intention of giving
the finished project to someone else. Knitting as a form
of community service is a logical extension. It gives people
a creative outlet without the pressure of having to make
a profit. Some people have an easier time justifying knitting
if they know the finished product is going to a good cause.
Making a blanket for a homeless person or premature baby
is a valid pastime. I think the number of knitters using
their talents to help others is growing.
RR: How long does it take to knit a bikini and is it really
KS: The bikini could be knit in a week by an intermediate
knitter. Its not difficult, but requires fine yarn
and small needles.
RR: Whats your favorite kind of cheese?
KS: Parmigiano Reggiano. I like hard, salty cheeses.
RR: What do you sing while you knit?
KS: I dont know when Ill stop having 50 Cent
in my head. I sing Justin Timberlake too. Some people have
a hard time with this.
RR: Are male knitters shy about their knitting?
KS: Most Ive met are very much "out." They
know knitting makes them cool guys without gender hang-ups.
Youre married but no kids yet. How did you know what
baby stuff to put in the book?
KS: From students who have kids. I ask my friend Sandy,
a knitter with two grown daughters. Shes very blunt.
RR: What are your favorite colors to knit with, and your
KS: Red. And I love stripes. Favorite yarn is wool for
sure. I love KPPPM, by Koigu. Its 100% wool, hand-dyed
in amazing colors. The other is a mohair and silk blend
from Rowan called Kidsilk Haze. Its drape-y and soft
and the colors are fantastic.
RR: What was your item in "Stitch n Bitch"
and how did you get involved?
KS: A mohair hoodie "Under the Hoodie"
is the name in the book. A student of mine mentioned her
design going in the book. After feeling jealous for a day,
I got in touch with Deb Stoller. She was looking for someone
to design a hoodie, which is just my kind of thing. So there
RR: You credit fashion designer Vivienne Westwood as one
of your early inspirations. What would you do if you met
KS: I would probably be terrified. Id tell her how
much I respect her, how important she was to me when I was
13 and felt so confined by my social environment. Id
like to know what she reads. Chocolate cake and port with
Vivienne would be lovely. And Id wear a dress with