I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with the amazing Maggie Pace recently about her work as knitting expert on the show Knit and Crochet Now! Maggie is well known for her enticing and innovative felt work, as seen in her books Felt Forward and Felt It. Teaching on the show, running her business (Pick Up Sticks), designing, and even branching her portfolio out to graphics, sewing, and embroidery, it is safe to say that Maggie is a powerfully strong force in the crafting realm.
What got you started in knitting? How long have you been knitting?
My grandma and mom both taught me to knit when I was around five or six. My mom was an avid knitter so I was exposed to it throughout my whole childhood. The first time I knit a garment (a little pink tank top) I was in eighth grade. I knit during high school but on the sly because it was not a cool thing to do. By college I could care less about what was cool, and I would troll second hand stores and garage sales for yarn I could afford. My roommate, who is still my closest friend, taught me how to graph out Fair Isle designs and decrease for the top of a hat. She didn’t know how to follow a pattern and neither did I (without my mom’s help) so we just sort of made up all these funny little hats with really unusual color work and shaping. I discovered then that it’s really good to not know what you are doing because you aren’t limited by doing anything “wrong.” Those hats are still among my favorite designs. I started taking design seriously when I discovered felting in 2003.
What prompted your move into felting expertise? I was 32, living in Oakland with my husband and 2-and-a-half year old daughter and I was knitting like mad. My next door neighbor had a felted diaper bag that she bought from an artisan in France. I loved it, and absolutely could not believe it had been created with knitting. It seemed to have no relationship with knitting. I couldn’t see the stitches or how the colorwork was created by turning the bag inside out. I really wanted to figure out how the artist had added color to the bag and also how she achieved its shape. I was fascinated and decided to start experimenting to see what I could figure out. I knit and felted a few small, simple bags, but didn’t get really hooked until I started making hats. I was pregnant at the time and was told I needed to go on bed rest. In fact, I had to be admitted to the hospital for a few weeks for preterm labor. That time turned out to be a blessing. It gave me the space I needed to make design after design, and really learned how knitted felt worked. If a design came into my head, it would come right out onto my needles. My mom would take the hats home to felt them for me and bring them back to the hospital so I could see how they turned out. By the time I was able to leave the hospital, my room was covered wall to wall in hats and yarn. One of my friends took my designs to my local yarn store and the owner bought the patterns for all six of my designs, plus samples. That’s when I learned how to write patterns.
The opportunity to be on Knit & Crochet Now! Must have been exciting! How’d that come about? Producer Candi Jensen met me at my first trade show in Columbus in 2005. She asked if I wanted to write a book for her publisher, Storey Publishing, featuring my patterns. I was thrilled, and I agreed to meet with her about it back in California where, coincidentally, we discovered we lived in the same town. I did do the book for Storey (Felt It!) We remained in contact and later, when Candi got into producing, and she asked me if I wanted to join the show. It was a thrill to be asked, but nerve-wracking!
What is the experience like working on the show? Working on the show is really fun. The other cast members are my favorite part. They are all so nice and supportive. I love catching up with them each time we film. Brett is a wonderful person to work with. She is so calm and also unbelievably knowledgeable. She not only understands knit and crochet inside and out, but she is a real “natural” on camera. She literally never misses a take.
What inspires your project choices for the show? I am given all the projects by the producers, so I often don’t know what I’ll be presenting until a little bit before the show. That is the hardest part: Learning someone else’s design, which often involves techniques I’m not familiar with, in a relatively small amount of time. When you see me presenting my own work, you know I’m having fun. I have designed several things just for the show and always enjoy teaching people designs I’ve come up with.
Now, have you seen Knit and Crochet Now! yet? With Brett Bara as the host and a wealth of fabulousness from their crochet and knit experts, you learn so much about techniques, garments, and accessories. It airs on PBS, so if you can’t find it in your area, be sure to reach out to the network! Season 4 is filled with throws and shrugs, animals and lace, shawls, and alternative fibers — it is such a fun series! You can purchase past seasons at the Knit and Crochet Now! website.
In the meantime, do you want to see Maggie and her fellow experts on Season 4? I have two, yes TWO, DVD sets to giveaway! Just leave a comment below and two winners will be picked on Monday. Please note: US residents ONLY.