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Interview: Josiah Bain


Today’s interview is with the youngest designer in this series, Mr. Josiah Bain (16) of The Sock Monkey.

Mr. Josiah Bain

Mr. Josiah Bain

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
Well, I actually taught myself to knit when I was six or seven by watching my mother trying to figure out her knitting. I’d already mastered crochet, but while crochet allowed you to sort of do 3D and freeform shapes, it didn’t really look as intricate as knitting. My mother was learning how to knit from a friend, and she didn’t want me to teach me until she mastered it. So I went downstairs one night, got some chopsticks from the silverware drawer, terrible Red Heart in a multicolored blue/green/white color, and just started knitting. While I wasn’t doing it correctly by any stretch of the imagination, that was how I started out.

How did you get started designing?
I’m not entirely certain. I didn’t really knit from a pattern at all before I discovered Ravelry, so I just sort of always made things up. I think I was intrigued by the idea of getting published in a magazine, so that’s when I decided to go ahead and sit down and brainstorm a pattern idea to submit to Knitty.

What inspires your designs?
Wow, that depends. I’ve come up with things inspired by music, TV and movies, nature, and people that I know. I also think a good mood board is an inspiration catalyst, at least for me.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
That also depends! I think that for, say, a sock pattern, I need to have at least an idea of the yarn structure and color to be able to do anything. Sometimes a particular yarn will grab my attention, and then that yarn will dictate what I’m going to do with it. For another type of project, the design really benefits if I swatched with the intended yarn so that I could form a clear picture of that design. I think that as I grow as a designer, I’ll be able to speak more clearly to that, but I’m really still just figuring things out right now.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I’m making an effort to refine my style right now. Last year (and also the first part of this one), I just sort of put out whatever I thought up. What I’m going to try to do now on out is to really think through my designs; to only put out the patterns that I know are amazing and I know are the best that I can make, even if it means putting off other opportunities. Right now, I’m going through a minimalism phase, so stockinette stitch paired with really elegant detail is my friend at the moment.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Depends on what mood I’m in. I’m most comfortable with sock design, but I’ve noticed a severe drop in other people’s sock knitting over the past few years, so I’m trying to branch out into other things as well. I’m having lots of fun with striped shawls and intarsia on hats and pullovers. I’m not sure exactly how many folks will share my intarsia enthusiasm, though.

Do you find it challenging to be a “man who knits”?
Not especially. A few years ago, definitely, but now, I’ve learned not to let it bother me when people sort of stare at me.

Do you think that being a male designer helps set you apart as a designer?
Being a guy and being a teenager does set me apart—online, when people have my designs in front of them, it’s great. But in person, I think that they always take the fact that I’m a designer with a grain of salt. Things have changed in the knitting pattern design industry with the launch of Ravelry. Anyone can take the label of “designer.” That is a good thing in many ways, and I know that there are numerous designers that wouldn’t be designing if it hadn’t been for that aspect of Ravelry. To those people who try work their business, like me, you can get lost in the mix of other patterns that aren’t as good as yours in presentation and design. And if a relatively unknown designer walks up and says, “Yeah, I’m a designer of things,” I think that the patterns with mediocre design and presentation comes into their minds. That’s what happens with me when I’m introduced in person.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “someday” when you feel ready?
To be honest, I don’t have one of those. I’m not exactly sure why I don’t have an aspirational knit, because I have seen some of the unbelievable things that have been done, and I have shaken my head in awe of other knitters’ creativity. Maybe it’s because that I haven’t seen the right design yet.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
No, no! Please don’t ask me this! I think, if I had to make a choice, I’d choose something from Quince and Co … perhaps Tern? Or Finch … Maybe just a small-farm Cormo fingering weight. I’ll let you know if I do ever have to choose. Hopefully that time will never come.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Garter stitch on an item with long rows. Or stockinette stitch socks.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Definitely Curry. I think that this is mostly my fault though; I got a tad carried away with curled cuffs and I’ve learned not to use vivid mustard in a design sample. But it is a very versatile pattern. The stockinette fabric in between the eyelet panels biases, and I think they would look really striking with a ribbed cuff and semisolid hand dyed yarn. I’ll have to knit up another sample.

Continental or English?
Continental! I’ve tried English (when I was first learning), but now I think that I only use English for that colorwork technique where you hold one color in your left hand and the other in the right.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
One thing that really drives me crazy is when people are just standing (or sitting) around literally doing nothing. The best thing about knitting is that times when you aren’t sure what to do aren’t wasted on doing nothing. In fact, I’ve come to look forward to those little breaks in schedule.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
I guess that would be to get educated. There are so many things that you can learn about the science of knitting, the science of the fibers that we use, that it’s amazing. Frankly, I don’t think that you could ever stop from learning something new in this craft. Take time to learn where your fibers come from, how they are raised, and what they are best used for in knitting. Take time to get to know how your stitches will behave in different ways when you do different things with them. It is not only interesting, but it gives a deeper connection with our projects and our stashes.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I did that whole New Year’s resolutions thing at the beginning of this year, and I must say that I don’t really want to do it again in 2016. I have some interesting things planned for next year, though, but I can’t say too much about them yet. That said, I do want to explore more with brioche and colorwork.

View all of Josiah’s patterns here. All photos copyright Josiah Bain. All images used by permission.

You can find Mr. Josiah Bain on the following social media sites:

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