Susan Anderson-Freed is the author of Colorwork Creations, which features over thirty stranded colorwork accessories, including hats, tams, mittens and flip-top gloves. What makes her designs truly special are the motifs she designed based on woodcarvings: nuthatches, cardinals, wood ducks and even a griffin. Susan is currently working on her second book, Nordic Knitting Traditions, which comes out in September 2012. The book will explore traditional Fair Isle, Icelandic and Scandinavian knitting while breathing new life into them with original designs and fresh colors.
And here’s Susan, to tell us more about knitting, designing and writing her book:
Q: When did you start crafting? What craft did you start with?
Susan: When I was nine, my grandmother from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan came to our home in Green Bay for a week-long visit. Grandma “Enoch” brought along a set of double-pointed needles, a “How To” booklet that included knitting, and a booklet of mitten patterns. I learned to knit 4-needle mittens during that visit.
Q: Colorwork Creations is innovative because it features mitten and glove designs that are knit from finger to cuff. Why knit from finger to cuff?
S: Many years ago my friend Matthew Hesson-McInnis gave my daughter Jenny a “do-it-yourself” high school graduation present. Matthew had created a pattern for men’s gloves knit from the fingers to the cuff. He wanted a similar pattern for women’s gloves; and the beautiful silk/cashmere yarn he included with the instructions for the men’s gloves was the only enticement I needed. I had sworn that I would never knit gloves—too many fingers! As I worked through Matthew’s directions, changing the instructions to fit a woman’s hands, I thought of the beautiful Fair Isle gloves and mittens I had seen in pattern books. I’ve been hooked on top-down glove design ever since. I’ve knit gloves both ways and I am convinced that top-down glove knitting is far easier than cuff-first glove knitting.
Q: What other crafts do you do besides knitting?
S: In the past I have scoured fleeces, dyed wool, embroidered or needlepointed many a picture or Christmas ornament, woven on my eight-harness loom, crocheted several afghans, and spun many skeins of yarn. I also love to cook! At present the neuropathy that is a side effect of ongoing chemotherapy limits my abilities in knitting and spinning. Since my very immature 4-year old golden retriever makes the latter craft currently impossible, I stick to knitting and cooking.
Q: What made you decide to write a book?
S: Publication is a requirement for tenure and promotion at any university, including Illinois Wesleyan where I taught for 33 years. Since I’d written several computer science books, I had no problem generating knitting designs on it and collecting them. Knitting became a way to deal with endless hours and years of chemotherapy. Colorwork Creations and my forthcoming book, Nordic Knitting Traditions, represent more than 10 years of pattern development.
Q: What is the best part about writing a book?
S: Designing the patterns and watching them come to life is the best part of writing a knitting book. Seeing the finished items worn by nonfamily members is also fun!
Q: What is the most difficult?
I think the most difficult parts of book writing are checking the patterns for accuracy and consistency and ensuring that the directions are easy to follow.
Q: How do you get inspired when you’re feeling a lack of creativity?
S: I’ve never suffered from a lack of creativity. I find inspiration in everything: my father’s bird carvings, trees, flowers, and traditional patterns. I have collected many knitting or craft books while traveling through Europe, Canada, and the United States.
Q: What is the skill or technique that most intimidates you?
S: I find any new technique intimidating; however, I know that with patience and practice I can master any technique.
Q: What tool, notion or material can you not live without?
S: For designing, my computer and my books are essential. I collect books on virtually everything. For knitting, I keep a travel kit of essential tools. This kit contains scissors, row and stitch markers, large safety pins, a tape measure, darning needle, and spare knitting needles.
Q: How has knitting changed your life?
S: My husband says that knitting, designing, and donating are what keeps me alive. I have been undergoing chemotherapy since 2004 for a re-occurrence of breast cancer. I knit during chemotherapy, as well as before and after. I design when the steroids given with chemo keep me from sleeping and when the effects of chemo wear off. I donated more than 30 items from Colorwork Creations to my Community Cancer Center for a fundraiser that included a reception, book signing, and silent auction of my knitted projects. This event raised more than $8000 to pay for chemo for uninsured or underinsured patients.
If you’re a knitter, Colorwork Creations is an essential part of your library. And be sure to keep an eye out for Nordic Knitting Traditions, due out in September.
Susan Anderson-Freed is the author of Colorwork Creations. She is a retired Professor of Computer Science at Illinois Wesleyan University and a published author in that field. She is the author Weaving a Web Site and coauthor of Fundamentals of Data Structures in C, which has been translated into French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Korean. She has been knitting for over 50 years. She has offered knitting workshops in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.
Susan lives in Bloomington, Illinois with her husband John, a retired professor of history at Illinois State University, as well as two cats and a rambunctious golden retriever.