We adore designer Stephanie Dosen of Tiny Owl Knits! Her designs are fantastical and brimming with originality, making them a joy to knit. To celebrate the release of Stephanie’s first book, Woodland Knits, we asked Stephanie a few questions about her design process and the mythical world which she inhabits. We’re also giving away 3 copies of Stephanie’s book to UK and Ireland peeps – read on for a chance to win!
We loved chatting with Stephanie – we hope you enjoy Stephanie’s charming answers as much as we did!
1. Your knits are so full of humour. Tell us a joke.
What did 0 say to 8? Nice belt. Wow that was bad. I’m sorry I really am terrible at jokes. I usually can only remember the punch line. I used to try to be funny on stage to distract the audience when I was tuning my guitar between songs. I do a pretty good impression of a bear at the zoo with an ice cream headache. You can imagine that now if you like.
2. We love the way you manage to infuse your patterns (and your new book!) with your unique style. You experiment a lot with texture and layering. Who are your style icons?
Thank you! For a while I think it was Snow White meets Courtney Love in a grandmother’s attic. They’d sift through the old wooden trunks for doilies and old needlepoint and pin them to each other’s frocks. Maybe then they’d stop for a tea party, but Courtney would get tea stains on everything. They’d just laugh about it though and run out to the forest to roll around in the leaves. It’s evolved a bit lately though. Now I’m stuck in the forest overnight and I’ve started to wear the trees and bushes!
3. Which fairy tale character would you most like to be? Why?
It’s always been Snow White for me. It was the first movie I saw in the theatre. (It came back to theatres in the 70’s.) I had the storybook and record set and my whole world was about her. I dressed up like her for Halloween more times than I can count. And now I spend most of my time dancing around the house cleaning and singing to my plants and animals. I’ve known quite a few gnomes and dwarves too. But that’s where the similarity ends. I don’t even really like apples so I’d never go down that way.
4. When designing what is it that most interests/ intrigues you?
Sometimes designs have a mind of their own. You can start with something and it morphs into something else entirely. That can be fun. But I really get so excited when I finish a design and go back to look at the original sketch and it’s identical. That means I was able to use the yarn like a potter uses clay to make the exact thing in my head. That surprises me, freaks me out and makes me squee like a wild maniac. I’m not saying that’s the only time I can be satisfied. Ok maybe I am saying that.
5. We would love to spend a day dancing around with a pair of your fairy wings on. Have you ever seen a real fairy?
Ooh let’s do it! You should come over! I’ve met lots of different types of fairies, elementals and faery. They have such a high vibration it is easy to miss them, it takes time and an open heart to see them. They may appear as sparks of light or little shimmers in the atmosphere. You can certainly feel them though. The larger faery are majestic and have been here to help us for a long time. They will tell you almost anything you need to know, all you need to do is ask. Just acknowledging each other peacefully is all both races need to be in harmony.
6. When did you start knitting?
My grandmother taught me when I was young but I didn’t retain it. I was more of a crocheter. In about 2003 I got hired at a local yarn shop as a crochet teacher but I started knitting immediately. It was a large and busy shop and I worked there for 3 years. Now I jokingly refer to that time as my time at “Knitting University.” I learned what kind of questions people have when they are knitting a pattern. I keep it all in mind as I write now and try to keep the directions as clear as possible. My job is to get the knitter from sticks and string to heirloom and I have a few pages to do it in. I love seeing finished objects on Ravelry.com because that lets me know I’m doing it right!
7. A few of your designs involve felting, what advice would you give to those trying this technique for the first time?
Felting is so much fun, about 10% of my brain is always going. “Ooh, could I felt that?” But felting is really an experiment. It is a lot like working with wet clay. There is always a long while during the process where it just looks absolutely wrong. Even though I’m fairly experienced with it I always seem to forget that fact and get scared it won’t come out right. My tip is to not give up! Keep going, shaping and molding the work until it looks exactly right. I get lots of emails from people saying “My project didn’t felt enough.” My response is always, “Keep on going! You can felt and felt again.” The wool will suddenly just take form. It’s just like magic. It’s real alchemy!
8. Your knits are inspired by nature; do you prefer country life to the city?
I’m a country girl! I actually grew up on Green Country Road. Recently, I lived in London for 5 years and though I love England dearly, living in the city grew increasingly hard for me to deal with. Now I’m back in the country in Colorado and loving it. I’m obsessed with the mountains and the prairies. I much prefer to be out in the middle of nowhere. When we have to drive into the city for something I actually get a little anxious these days. I find the cement and pavement a little creepy.
9. The Bo Peep Scarf and Midsummer Night’s Dream Hood are our favourite patterns from the book, do you have one?
Ooh thank you! I’m really excited about Midsummer Night’s Dream too. I designed it about 3 years ago to wear at a Faery Festival in Cornwall. It had the antlers at the time but there wasn’t any flora attached to it. I loved it, but I didn’t think it was really worthy of releasing at the time so it went into the closet. Then this year I started knitting little moonflowers and didn’t know that to do with them. Suddenly I remembered the hood and it was a perfect match! I tacked them on and right around Midsummer and knew I wanted to release it. That is a good example of how some patterns can take several years to be just right. OOh sorry I got distracted. My favorite pattern is definitely the faerie wings. I’d wanted to knit wings for a long time but just couldn’t come up with a way to make them really really easy. These are so easy and that’s why they please me. Hey, that rhymed!
10. You are also a singer. What things are you listening to at the moment?
I actually don’t listen to too much music these days. I have lots of fountains in my house and I put on soundtracks of birdsong and campfire and crickets. I like it because it doesn’t interfere with my mood too much. But I’m really excited right now, as I’ve just received the mixes for my new record earlier this week! I’ve been listening to that and I’m really happy with the way it came out. The band is called Snowbird and it’s a project I started with Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins/Bella Union Records) several years ago. The recordings were basically shelved for a while but its finally been mixed and mastered and will be released in Spring 2014. For years I’ve been telling my family and friends “No really, I have a book and a record coming out soon!” They’ve finally given up on asking me when it’s actually going to happen. That must have been the trick because both projects are finally set for release!
And we’re so glad they are! Thanks Stephanie! We loved getting to know the lovely lady behind Tiny Owl Knits.
Woodland Knits by Stephanie Dosen and photographs by Tiffany Mumford is published by Quadrille and is available for £14.99. Check out Stephanie’s blog for more of her hilarious musings!
Now onto the giveaway fun! We will be giving away 3 copies of Woodland Knits to UK and Ireland readers, courtesy of Quadrille. To be eligible, all you need to do is comment on this post telling us your favourite fairy tale character before the end of October 3rd and we’ll choose three winners on Friday the 4th! Happy commenting! [This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Tilly, Edya and Naomi!]