a quick chat with Jill Wolcott

Late last month, I asked designer and teacher Jill Wolcott a few quick questions about her designs and teaching. I met Jill online a year and a half ago, began working with her, and it was great to finally meet her in person last May at TNNA. I wish we lived closer, she’s a lot of fun. Her passion for fashion comes across in her designs and she works hard for knitters to understand the why and how of working through a knitting pattern.

little acorn:
You have published an extensive catalogue of patterns. What is your favorite type of design?
JW:
I am most fascinated by garments. I think I excel at creating designs that look good on a variety of body types and that are easy to wear, although hopefully never looking simple! Fashion is my absolute passion and I cannot help but inject it into everything I do.
little acorn:
JillWolcottKnits-Windsor-Capelette-featuredI believe you do! Thank you for letting me borrow your Tuscany Caplet when the evening chill surprised me last May. I’m a differently sized than you and believe it looked good and fit me very well, something I can’t say for most cape-styles. It was really hard to return it to you, I really do need to knit my own! I’m also hoping to knit a Windsor Capelette (pictured) someday, hopefully soon.
What is the one thing you wish knitters would do when they first approached a knitting pattern (or they wouldn’t do)?
JW:
Gauge swatches. Knitters usually leap into projects without doing this step, then wonder why the end product isn’t what they wanted it to be.
Measurements. We are so hung up on our statistics, but whether your waist is 22″ or 42″ it only matters in terms of whether or not that garment is going to fit over it. But most knitters don’t take measurements and don’t consider the body that is going into the garment.
little acorn:
Yes swatching is something we should definitely do when fit is important, and we shouldn’t forget to measure row as well as stitch gauge. I’m guilty about not always doing it, though I know where the fault lies if I don’t!
When not knitting you can be found…
JW:
I’m a reader. I will read almost anything, but like the NY Times, fashion magazines, Women’s Wear Daily, and then books. I read a lot of fiction, but am trying to tackle non-fiction with some regularity. I also listen to books. I do really long ones that way; I read/listened to Master of the Senate by Robert Caro in 2013—all 72 hours of it! Right now I’m listening to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
I also love music. I have gone from listening to rock through singer-songwriters, and now mostly listen to jazz. Hate classical.  Bill Frisell is my most listened to musician. I’ve probably gone to 20 concerts of his.
I love to eat too—which means I have to cook. I like to eat out, but don’t do it as much as I used to. 
little acorn:
You teach at FIDM, what lesson from either of your classes do you think could be beneficial to any maker?
JW:
This is a huge question so I’m going to answer it in parts.  I teach a class on developing a line of fashion garments—how do you do that? and I teach a class on creating a portfolio for graduating product development students.  I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and although I rarely intersect my two work lives, there are lessons there for knitters. None of these are part of the curriculum I actually teach, but I teach each of these things in my classes because otherwise, they won’t learn the other stuff.
JillWolcottKnits--PlanningWorksheetsProject management. This is so huge and many of us do it without really thinking about it, but it is what gets big jobs done.  Be it cooking a holiday dinner, creating a portfolio or line of clothing, or getting through a knitting project, it is all the same: lack of planning will trip you up. Knitting projects tend to be multi-faceted and feature parts which we don’t really love, so getting through those is really crucial. Most knitters (myself included) fall apart at the finishing phase. I think this is partly because the creator of the pattern doesn’t give specific enough information, and because we know it is going to be time consuming and tedious and who wants that! So I have found that by creating a path or list of what has to be done, allotting time for doing each step, and then setting aside time is what leads to finished work. Otherwise, it is just piles of UFOs.
Challenge yourself. This seems kind of silly, but unless you are doing my job (creating the design and pattern) you don’t need to know everything. You do have to take the time to learn how to do what you don’t know. Sure, you can make socks forever, but sooner or later you will become bored and quit knitting. It is the challenge that keeps us going.
Reward yourself. Keep track of what you get done. I’m one of those who will put the smallest thing on my list if it makes me feel better. Then give yourself some reward. Knitters can do a quick and easy project, or plan another project. Put those rewards in front of you so you are working towards something. It works.
Fill the well. Do whatever you need to do to fill your internal self (it may be spiritual, educational, cultural, etc.). No one else will do this for you and if you don’t fill your well, it will go dry. Look at magazines, read books, think about what you are seeing in the world (look up from your screen!), take walks, go to museums, travel, talk to friends, go to movies and really enjoy being in another world.  Much of this happens when we are taking in the world IN REAL LIFE. So put down your phone, step away from the computer, put down the tablet, switch off the TV. There’s a whole world out there. Figure out what parts you want to experience.
little acorn:
Yes! This. All of this. Sometimes I forget to reward myself for the little things (even though I’m a long-time fan of the done list and writing it all down) and it’s easy to think that it’s more important to finish a certain project or task instead of taking even just 15 minutes to refill the well. Thank you!
Ok, I ask everyone, kitten or puppy snuggles?
JW:
I have no pets, no plants. I have a lovely spouse who requires daily care and feeding and I am very good at it, but it is all I can do—I’ve got lots of knitting to conquer.
little acorn:
Thank you Jill!

You can find more about Jill at her site, jillwolcottknits.com.

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