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Christy Catherine Marshall

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March 21, 2007

I’ve added a new category to my blog here, “Crafty people and things.” It’s been a few years since I’ve been into making crafts. But now that my kids are getting older, I’m trying to find hobbies we can do together — and knitting is one activity I’ve been considering for my daughters.

So I’ve discovered a “knitting mentor,” Jennifer Keene! She is so talented and full of ideas — and she manages to find time to work on her knitting projects while being a mom of two boys. Jennifer has a home-based business called The Knitting Queen2, where you can see all the wonderful items she has for sale online.

Aren’t these little rabbit booties adorable?

Hi, Jennifer. How did you get interested in knitting?

I’m not really sure! It started about 12 years ago. I had been working in a job I really didn’t like and decided to quit and take a little time off before finding another one. I told my husband that one of the things I really wanted to do during my break was learn to knit.

It was just a whim. I found a cute little knitting shop nearby and took a class — it was a series of four evenings. By the end of the first evening I was hooked.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my new “talent” (I have a couple of very ugly sweaters to show for that!) and I really found my passion when I was pregnant with my first son, about seven years ago. I started making baby hats for him and for my best friend’s son.

Baby hats are adorable and make such great gifts! Is it hard for beginners to pick up knitting?

I don’t think so. It’s pretty straight forward. Knitting is made up of two stitches — knit and purl. There are many variations on this, but it all boils down to these two stitches.

Knitting patterns can look pretty daunting — they’re often written in paragraph form and use a lot of abbreviations. For a beginner, I think it can look overwhelming. But it’s really not. If you have the right person teach you in the beginning, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to pick up.

What’s the best way for beginners to get started?

I think taking a class is the best thing. All knitting stores have classes for the beginner, taught by people who love to knit. People who work in knitting stores are there because they love it so much and they get great joy in seeing someone else “see the light.”

I wouldn’t recommend trying to teach yourself to knit using a book. That being said, I also think a beginner can learn a LOT about knitting in just a few sessions. For an investment of just a few evenings or Saturday afternoons, the beginning knitter will walk away with a ton of basic knowledge.

Do you have any favorite books you’d recommend?

Two books that I bought early on have been invaluable to me. One is Vogue Knitting. It has excellent pictures and drawings and you can look up almost anything.

The other is The Knitter’s Companion by Vicki Square. This is a small spiral-bound book that fits easily into your knitting bag. Again, great descriptions and covers a lot of basics. When I was first learning to knit, The Knitter’s Companion was my bible.

A spiral-bound book sounds handy so you can leave the page open while you’re working.

Yes — and keep in mind that most knitting stores welcome the chance to help you if you need to pop in for a quick question. If the help you need is extensive, they may ask you to schedule a time and charge a nominal tutoring fee. But if there is a step in your pattern that you just can’t get, ask the experts at the store to show you. That’s what I do!

You make this sound do-able! What was your first knitting project?

My first project was from the class I took. It was a sweater. I chose very thick yarn, in a color I don’t particularly care for, and it ended up being something I knew I would NEVER wear (no one ever needs sweaters that thick in Seattle).

Somehow, my mom ended up with it and I saw her wearing it once. I was horrified!

What project would you recommend for a first-time knitter?

A sweater is actually not a bad first project — if you choose a fairly simple pattern. A sweater teaches you many skills a knitter needs to know — increases, decreases, binding off, picking up stitches, and finishing (sewing your pieces together).

I wouldn’t recommend a sweater, however, if you’re on a deadline. Even for an experienced knitter, a sweater is not a task to be taken lightly.

Scarves are obviously a good choice — that can be about as basic as you can get. Also, many hat patterns are quite easy and you can finish up a hat pretty quickly.

I love to knit socks. They are a great portable project, there are gorgeous sock yarns out there, it’s fairly inexpensive, and you’re guaranteed to wear them.

Why do you think knitting has become so popular lately?

Honestly, I don’t know. I do think the books and patterns that are available now are WONDERFUL, compared to what they were ten years ago. Designers are coming up with much more wearable, usable items and I think that intrigues people.

Also, writers like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot, Knitting Rules) are writing bestsellers about knitting. Her books are hilarious, very true to life, and I found myself loving knitting even more after reading her books.

It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg thing, though. Did people finally start seeing how fun knitting can be after seeing the great yarns and patterns, or are the new yarns and patterns the result of knitting’s rise in popularity?

For me, it is a relaxing hobby that I can do around my family. I really love to read as well, but reading is very anti-social. I can knit and talk to my kids or my husband at the same time. Many projects are easily portable and it’s a great way to kill time.

How do you find time to knit?

I quit cleaning my house! Seriously, that’s only partially true (part of the reason I quit cleaning my house is that I find it to be a losing battle. I have two small boys and a messy husband … enough said).

I often will schedule in knitting time — I do my errands, housework, etc. in the mornings. Then I usually knit during my four-year-old’s nap, and I often knit in the evenings after the house is picked up and the kids are in bed. I admit, I’m a TV watcher, and I find I can knit easily while relaxing and watching TV.

Also, my kids are getting old enough (four and seven) that they can play together and don’t need constant supervision. They would LIKE my constant attention, but I think it’s important that they rely on each other more for entertainment.

So in the afternoons I will often sit in the living room and knit while they play. I’m still very much available for them, but I am teaching them that Mommy has things she likes to do too. My family knows that knitting is important to me and I think they’ve learned to accept it (either that, or they’ve completely given up all hope…).

I’m in a Bible study once a week, and after our discussion there is an hour-long video we watch — I always knit during the video. I know some people who will actually knit during church services. I can’t do that. I honestly think I would still stay focused on the sermon, but I think others would find it disrespectful, so I don’t feel right about it.

Can you tell us about your business, The Knitting Queen2?

About a year ago I started selling my baby hats on ebay. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for seven years now and I really wanted to find something that I could call my own.

I’m not ready to go back to work, but I want to try to contribute a bit to the household income (or at least make enough to support my habit!). Knitting is something I am truly passionate about and it just seemed like the next logical step, to try and sell my creations.

I had been knitting for friends and had been getting a lot of great feedback, so I’m trusting that the general public will also feel the same!

I agree. Your knitting creations are so adorable!

I knew ebay wasn’t quite the right venue, but, well, you have to start somewhere.

The name Knitting Queen was already taken, so I became Knitting Queen2. I carried it over to my Etsy store just so I wouldn’t get confused with my different IDs.

I was so excited when I found Etsy! It’s a website to sell hand-crafted items! It’s easier and less expensive than ebay and I feel it’s a much better fit for me. So now I am exclusively on Etsy, trying to make a go of this.

I’m selling hand knit baby and toddler hats, baby slippers, coffee sleeves (I’m from Seattle, remember?!), and hand knit plush cupcakes. I have a list a mile long of upcoming projects, so the more people buy, the more I can afford to come up with new creations!

How can we get in touch with you?

My shop on Etsy can be found here. I also have a blog at The Knitting Queen or people can email me directly at jen_keene@hotmail.com.

Thanks, Jennifer. You’ve inspired me to learn more about knitting!

Thanks so much for inviting me, Heather!

You can see Jennifer Keene’s knitting creations at her website, The Knitting Queen2.