An Interview with: Anne Kuo Lukito

This post is a long time coming, and we're so glad to have found the time to finally put it up!

We met Anne, of Crafty Diversions and the Handicraft Cafe at our first TNNA in January of 2009.  She has always been a huge fan and supporter of the Fibre Company and our yarns.  Last fall, she contacted us about using Canopy Fingering in a new and exciting project she was working on, her Liberation pattern collection of six hats.  Since we love hats -- and the idea in general, read more about it here -- we were delighted to provide yarn support for not one, but two, of her designs.

The first design, Septima Clark, features Canopy Fingering in Yerba Mate.

anne-septima-clarkphotograph courtesy of Anne Kuo Lukito

The second, Alice Paul, features Canopy Fingering in Paw Paw (pictured below) and Cat's Claw

alicepaul-1479photograph courtesy of Anne Kuo Lukito

We were lucky enough to have both hats in our both at TNNA in January, and everyone who saw them -- including us! -- was really impressed with the attention to detail and craftsmanship in design.  Both hats have been on our "must knit" list for some time.

Okay, onto the interview!

Kelbourne Woolens: Let’s get back to basics.  When did you start knitting and what led you to open both the Crafty Diversions pattern shop and Handicraft Cafe yarn store?  What came first the patterns or the store?

Anne Kuo Lukito: Good question! I think the patterns came first, but I didn't think to do it seriously at first and Crafty Diversions just started out as a blog to show off my stuff since at that time, I didn't know anyone else that knit.  I only started knitting about 5 years ago and taught myself first from a terrible book that told me that left-handed people can knit like left-handed crocheters by using a mirror. I quickly found out the limitations of that method!

The store came later. I always had a dream of opening some sort of artsy-fartsy boutique / hippie coffeehouse. So, I began thinking more seriously about it and decided to try it.  Well, we were slow getting started but now we have and sell through our website. However, the economy, as you know, has not been very good and we've postponed opening a brick and mortar store for now. Once the economy is in a more stable upswing, plans to open a physical store is something that we'll definitely be re-visiting.
KW: You have a large variety of techniques covered in your knitting patterns, and all types of designs -- accessories, sweaters, home decor, etc.  Do you have a particular item you like designing best, or technique that you are most drawn to, or are you a more "equal opportunity" designer?
AKL: I do love accessory projects because they are so versatile and can be worn almost any time of the year, especially hats.  With sweaters and garments, I personally tend to gravitate towards a more fitted look that may have 1-2 key elements without being too fussy. As far as techniques that I'm drawn to...that's a harder question. Generally, I am really drawn to alternative construction and techniques and I also like to challenge myself into doing things that I wouldn't normally think to do, if that makes any sense.
KW: We’re so happy you use the Canopy Fingering for 2 of the hats in your Liberation collection.  What about the yarns do you think made them great for knitting your hats?
AKL: What's not to love about Canopy?!? Seriously, Canopy Fingering was one of the first yarns I thought of to include. The colors are fantastic and it's one of those yarns that I'd like to sleep with everyday. (Road to China ranks pretty high on my sleeping list too.)
KW: Let's talk about your design process. For these two designs, Alice Paul and Septima Clark, did you have a project in mind and then choose our yarns, or did you first swatch and then design a project specific to the yarn’s properties? Do you find that your methods change depending on the project or do you have one way you always work? If the design came first, what made you chose our yarns for each design? If the yarn came first, in what way did the yarn “inform” the designs?  More specifically, what about the fiber content, gauge, drape, or colors helped you in your design process?
AKL: My design process started with 2 rough sketches: Amelia Earhart and Septima Clark. The moment I envisioned Septima Clark, I knew that I wanted to use Canopy Fingering (CF)  - it was a very easy decision for me and I did not even swatch ahead of time to see if it'd work, because I really didn't need to. I had been fondling the CF in the shop for some time and had been dying to use it for a project. I knew that the sheen, texture and drape of the merino/alpaca blend in CF would lend itself beautifully to a beret, especially knit at a slightly looser gauge. The hardest part of choosing the yarn for Septima Clark was choosing the color! I wanted a deeper, earthy color and finally settled on Yerba Mate for the subtle melange colors.
The design and yarn decision for Alice Paul was a little more challenging. Alice Paul was one of the last designs in the collection. I sketched out the idea, but I hemmed and hawed for some time because I was not sure how it would work. What I did know was that for it to really work, selecting just the right yarn was imperative. Initially, I thought that I would also use CF for Eleanor Roosevelt, a slouchy hat with 2 shirred panels and a visor. While that would have worked out well, I really did not want to use CF for the 2 slouchy beret-type hats in the Liberation Collection. I then thought about Alice Paul again and how structured and rigid the hat itself could appear, which was not what I wanted. I wanted the hat to have a sense of structure with a nice balance of softness, so I turned to CF. My main concern with the hat's construction was to make sure that the visor added additional interest without looking hard and busy, so I swatched and worked a prototype test piece of the visor with CF. The result was more amazing than I had hoped or imagined! The fiber content of CF gives any fabric created from the yarn a nice soft drape and a light halo, which was exactly what Alice Paul needed to juxtapose the more structured look of the shirred panel and shirred visor.
KW: You have been a stockist of the Fibre Company yarns for a long time.  What about The Fibre Co yarns appeal to you and how do you think they contribute to your designs?
AKL: What attracted me to The Fibre Company initially was how refreshing, earthy and colorful all the yarns within each line seemed. After I met and talked to Daphne and got a sense of her wonderful character and passion for her company (which was fairly new at the time), I fell in love with the company even more.
Shortly after stocking the Fibre Company yarns, Savannah DK and Bulky quickly became one of my favorites. (Canopy was not out yet at the time).  At that same time, I was starting to submit designs to publications. I used Savannah in 2 designs that I submitted, and to my delightful surprise, both were selected for publication. One was Morgan, which uses Savannah DK and was published in Knitty, Fall 2008. The second was Mermaid, which uses Savannah Bulky and was published in 101 Luxury One-Skein Wonders.
KW: For each project, you picked different colors from the Fibre Co palette.  With a yarn shop full of beautiful yarn, you must have many many options to choose from.  How does color inform your design process or do you just pick based off of what colors you like on that particular day?   More specifically, why did you choose the Cat’s Claw (buttery orangey/greeny yellow) and yerba mate (deep rich greeny-brown) for the hats?

AKL: As I mentioned earlier, choosing the yarn was easier than choosing the color! No kidding, I really love all the Canopy colors. Generally when choosing colors for samples, I cannot always choose my favorite colors, because first of all, that means many of my patterns will all have the same colors. Another consideration in choosing colors for the samples is making sure that the colors will photograph well. As much as I love deep, dark colors, like chocolate brown, burgundy and red, those colors do not photograph well, especially with finer and more intricate details.

I chose Yerba Mate for it's depth and richness and for the fact that the color would lend a nice sophistication to Septima Clark, but it was very hard to photograph. Even though the details of Septima Clark as less intricate than that of Alice Paul, I spent twice as much time photographing the hat. For Alice Paul, I really wanted a lighter color so that the textures of the hat would photograph well relatively easily. So for Alice Paul, I chose to work samples in both Paw-Paw and Cat's Claw.  I wasn't going for an animal theme - that was pure coincidence.

If photography was not an issue, I may have chosen some of the darker colors in the collection. Honestly, if I find some time later, I would love to work another sample of Alice Paul or Septima Clark in Macaw or Acai for myself.  I almost chose Macaw for Alice Paul, but I was afraid the darker blue would not photograph well enough to show all the details, but in person, I know that it would be fantastic.
KW: Is there anything else you would like to add?
AKL: I think I've said enough already and may have been to verbose! Thank you so much for your support of my work and my designs!

Again, thanks so much Anne, for taking the time to do this little interview with us and sharing a little about your design process!

*** Are you a LYSO, LYSW or designer - new or veteran - who has knit a project or designed something using Fibre Company Yarns? If so, shoot us an email at info {at} kelbournewoolens {dot} com and we would love to feature you on our blog!