Emily Peters, on knitting, and her absolutely gorgeous Octopus Mittens in particular:
Q) What inspired you to design mittens with octopi on them?
I bought the yarn I used with a different aquatic pattern in mind, and only after the fact realized I had bought DK yarn for a pattern calling for fingering weight (this, by the way, was before I had ever knit anything in stranded colorwork). I definitely wanted to do something oceanic, and this octopus looks a lot like a doodle I’ve been drawing in margins since college — but it still took me almost a year to put the two ideas together.
Q) You’re a mathematician. Could you tell us a little bit about how your math background influences you as a knitter?
Some of what I make, like my fractal cowl pattern , is directly inspired by math. And, in fact, I was taught to knit by a good mathematical friend (the incomparable sarah-marie belcastro) But beyond that, I also think the same things that make me love math — a general love of patterns and puzzles, imagining things in three dimensions, and figuring things out for myself — make me love knitting.
Q) What do you enjoy most about colorwork? Least? What would you say to a knitter who may be a little nervous to try stranded knitting patterns like Octopus Mittens?
The best part of colorwork is blocking a project at the end. Normally I love knitting and hate finishing, but when you block colorwork, you get to watch all the unevenness and puckering relax, and the awesomeness of your project makes a quantum leap. I think my least favorite part is tension problems, but actually, I have tension and/or gauge problems with a huge amount of what I knit.
To a knitter who’s nervous to try stranded knitting, I would say — be brave and press on! It feels really awkward at first but it will get more and more natural. (Though honestly, octopus mittens aren’t a great first project. Maybe make them your second.) To me, learning new techniques is one of the best parts of knitting.
Q) Anything else you’d like to share?
Octopi are awesome! I started reading a lot about them after I had designed these mittens. For instance, since their arms are ridiculously flexible and there are 8 of them they have poor proprioception and so they lack stereognosis (thanks for the big words, wikipedia!). Also, they can basically squeeze through any opening their beak can fit through. I’ve now spent hours on YouTube watching videos of octopi getting in and out of coke bottles and
Thanks, Emily, and thanks also for letting me use pictures of your gorgeous mittens!