Susan Shildmyer is a master knitter. I caught up with her to learn more about her craft and her artistic journey.
How did you get started?
I was sewing at 7 . In my early teens my Mom wanted to learn knitting. They needed one more person for the class and I went along and that started me down this lifelong path. I learned all the rules. I didn’t feel like I could break the rules until I knew them.
How does your experience painting affect your craft?
In late middle age I enjoyed painting which helped me understand color. It deepened my sense of color theory and helped me to work with dyeing my yarns which I do today.
What kind of projects intrigue you?
It’s always about texture and color. The project has to challenge me. Can I translate something that strikes me visually and emotionally into a wearable piece of art? This leads to a lot of ripping out. It’s test and fail many times.
What’s your process from your first glimmer of an idea? I know you’ve been pursuing a certain sweater project for a couple of years.
I like to mix knitting and crochet and even painting in a collage fashion. I have this vision of a sweater with a cityscape against a sunset sky. I am working to figure out the colors I will need to dye and how best to accomplish the piece technically. I’m thinking that I’ll knit the base sweater and then apply the knitted cityscape and paint the sky. But it is a work in progress and this may not be the final construction process.
What effect has knitting had on your life?
Well I don’t do housework and I don’t cook. All my time is knitting when I’m not working! It’s my zen, where I find peace, where I lose myself. It’s so rhythmic and yet it challenges me. It’s my go-to when I get nervous or sad. If I don’t have projects going I’m at loose ends so I keep lots of projects in various stages at any given time.
What’s the best way for a new knitter to get started?
Knitting is both simple and complicated depending on your goals. There are only two stitches, knit and purl. And it really comes down to using pointy sticks and string. Starting out It’s a great idea to develop a relationship with a local yarn shop. They have classes, can find a simple pattern for you and help you select the right yarn. In return you’ll buy yarn there. Don’t forget that knitting is making fabric so the yarn itself may dictate how it is used and having an expert helping you can be invaluable..
A last thought?
When you see the work of a maker, value it not just in terms of how much the materials cost but the years of exploration, learning and experience that go into each unique piece.