Meet Lee Meredith AKA leethal! Lee is a maker of things, doer of stuff, with a main focus on designing and self-publishing original hand-knit accessory patterns. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon, where she spends her time brainstorming, knitting, writing, photographing, spinning, teaching, and creating. With a background in photography and art, and a love of color, puzzles, and experimentation, she brings all these elements into her creative work, known for designing knitwear with unusual construction, bold lines and shapes, and lots of color. Lee is teaching Self-Publishing Your Own Knitting Patterns and Sideways Edge Cast-On and Bind-Off at Knit Fit! 2012, and she'll also be hosting Game Knitting on Saturday night. Learn more about Lee on her blog, and check out her new pattern website and of course you can find leethal on Ravelry.
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Who taught you to knit? A college roommate sparked my interest in learning and taught me knit stitch, and my mom helped me out a little with what she remembered from when she knit in college, but then once I did my first garter stitch scarf I self-taught myself with books and the internet. Debbie Stoller was a big help, as the first Stitch 'N Bitch came out right when I was first getting more into knitting and I just couldn't stop from that point on.
What was the catalyst that took you from knitting to designing? That was definitely knitting's growing presence on the internet - Ravelry introduced me to the world of knitters who wanted to knit other peoples' designs, and Knitty showed me what independently designed patterns looked like. I was always an improvisational knitter; from the very beginning, I would just teach myself techniques and make up projects with them, never knitting from patterns - I think mostly because patterns scared me and seemed over my head. Improvising projects just always worked with the way I thought about knitting, but I never wrote things down or thought of myself as a potential designer, until I started paying attention to Ravelry and Knitty. This was before Ravelry hosted pdfs and I didn't yet know about the world of independently published pdf patterns, so when I wrote my first pattern, I submitted it to Knitty and it got in and there my life as a designer began!
Tell us about your design process. A design usually starts with a concept - like a construction idea, or wanting to use some technique, or wanting to try designing a certain kind of item - and then I'll usually kind of think on it a bit, sometimes sketch, or write down ideas. Depending on the design, I'll swatch a lot, or not swatch at all and just jump straight to knitting a first prototype. Sometimes I write out the entire pattern first draft before picking up the needles; sometimes I write the pattern as I knit the sample, it depends on the design. With the kinds of accessories I design, I usually knit several prototypes of each design, making changes to details as I go, until I'm eventually happy with it.
I notice that you have affection for the old (records, zines, recycling garments) but you embrace the new too (ebooks, your twitter KAL, drawing on the ipad). Are you an early adopter or do you need to be convinced about new technology and ways of doing things? Hmm I'm always up for trying new things, but if trying a new thing is expensive (like an iPad) then I need to be really convinced and think about it for a long time before going for it (or, you know, I can't afford it so I just try not to think about it - I still don't have an iPhone, just an old school flip phone). I don't think of trying new things as a decision to veer away from the old or anything like that - like, I listen to both streaming music on Spotify and records on vinyl - I just use what appeals to me.
You use a lot of recycled yarn (and other materials!) in your projects - what drives this? Thrift, environmentalism, creative constraint... ? Pretty much a combination of all three! I think when I first read about the idea of making yarn from thrift store sweaters, it was the price tag that appealed to me most of all - a sweater quantity of nice wool (or cashmere if you're lucky!) for under $10 is quite the deal. I've always hated waste, so I love bringing a new life to an old unwanted sweater, especially if it has holes or stains so I doubt anyone would rescue it from the thrift store to wear. And I've made projects with recycled yarns that I never would have made with commercial yarns, that I love. So yeah, I'm pro recycled yarn on all accounts!
Tell us about Game Knitting. Game Knitting is a concept that turns the act of knitting your project into a game, which creates randomness in the stitch pattern, whatever the stitch pattern might be. What you do is make a list of things that you know will happen at random intervals - I usually play to TV shows, so the list would be things that happen a lot in the show, but you can also play with movies, audiobooks, podcasts, real life. So then you use that list while you're knitting and make changes in your work whenever something on the list happens; this might mean you switch from knit to purl, or you make an eyelet hole, or you cable, or you slip a stitch… my ebook has tons of different game patterns that work well with the randomness. When you're done, you have a totally one-of-a-kind knit piece that not only looks cool, but also carries with it the memory of playing the game - and it's super fun to play with other people and shout out the things when they happen.
The online world of leethal gives the impression that everything in your house is covered with colorful knitting and fabric, from light switches to chairs to speakers etc. and that you and your husband spend all day making up games and drawing. How close is that to the truth? Haha umm, I guess it's partially true. The part about everything in my house being covered with colorful knitting and fabric… except that most of the surfaces are just cluttered, not decorated on purpose. I just started drawing a bit this year because I miss it - I minored in studio art, so I drew constantly in college, and when I got into knitting and other crafts after college, those things kind of took the place of drawing. But my iPad has made is easy for me to do more drawing now, so I've been playing around with different apps lately - as for my husband and I drawing together, we do play Draw Something a lot when he's away for work. We've made up a couple games over the years (we invented Game Knitting together, and Bad Movie Bingo) but we mostly just play games, and we go to trivia nights weekly-ish. Mostly though, my day to day life is just working on designs, and everything that goes with that, plus freelance photography jobs here and there, stuff that wouldn't be exciting to read about on my blog, so the "online world of leethal" is made up of the bits and pieces of my life that people would care to see.