Today, I’m so happy to share an interview with my dear friend, Kate Jordan, who’s just published her very first book, Onward Knits. Kate and Mr. N went to university together in New Zealand, and I met her for the first time over three years ago during our trip to NZ after years of online chatting about our mutual love of wool and knitting. Since then our friendship has been sustained by Facebook chats, Skype knitting sessions, and, earlier this year, an epic trip to Edinburgh Yarn Festival! I actually find it a little hard to believe that we’ve only spent a few weeks in each other’s company over our years of friendship–the internet is a wonderful thing!
Kate’s beautiful book is a collection of eight patterns of knit accessories, each inspired by the architectural features of the Wellington Railway Station. It also includes a fabulous short history of the station and the people who have used it. Filled with beautiful texture and colorwork, the patterns range from the beginner friendly to the more challenging. I love that the collection pays homage to a beautiful building, drawing attention to details that people might miss during the hustle and bustle of a daily commute. All the book’s beautiful photography was done in the station–Kate’s even reproduced a map of the station and has marked the photo locations on it, a detail I just love! It’s been such a privilege to see this project take root and grow …. but I’m going to let Kate tell you a little about that! On with the interview!
First off, massive congratulations Kate on your first pattern collection!
It’s been so much fun to see this project grow over the past … I don’t even know how long it’s been! When did you decide that you’d write a book of patterns inspired by the Wellington Railway Station?
It’s really hard to pin down a start date because it grew organically. Originally, it was just going to be one pattern, then a booklet of mitten patterns, then I had an idea for a scarf and before I knew it, I had a book. Looking back, I think it’s been about two years.
I actually can’t believe it’s been two years in the making! So why the Wellington Railway Station? Do you often find yourself inspired by the built environment?
I honestly can’t say why the railway station and not another building. I guess it does combine so many of my interests – history, built heritage, travel. Maybe it’s because I’m always 15-20 minutes early for a train so I have more contemplative time there than in most places!
I really enjoyed reading about the history of the station. Can you tell us a little about the research you did? Did the history of the station influence your design process at all?
I was very lucky that Neill Atkinson has written an excellent history of rail in New Zealand, called Trainland. That provided a lot of a wider context, and I filled in more of the detail from a mix of secondary and primary sources, including newspapers.
You’ve published the book as an e-book and a print book. Why was having a physical book important to you?
I’m very attached to physical patterns, they acquire a patina and history all of their own. One of the first patterns I used was a photocopied pattern for mittens out of a Women’s Weekly magazine that had my Mum’s notes scribbled all over it. Of course, it later had mine on top of that! I love that books can be borrowed, have things tucked in them, can be written on.
And what about the yarns you used for the book? What was your selection criteria?
The two yarn brands are Ashford and Zealana. I wanted to showcase New Zealand yarns, while making it very clear that knitters can (and should!) substitute yarns that they love. That’s why I always used the term ‘sample yarn’.
Do you have a favorite pattern from the collection?
Kat, really, would I ask you to choose a favourite child? That said…my most-worn is probably the Alight Mitts – they’re just so practical, they fit really well and they’re nice and light, good for walking.
Can you tell us a bit more about the process of putting a book together? What was the biggest challenge? The biggest surprise? Anything that was much easier than you anticipated?
The biggest challenge was time and energy. I work full time at a job I adore, but loving your job doesn’t make it any easier to come home at the end of the day and do more work.
The photo shoot was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I had a friend doing the photography and friends as models and I was really worried that I would either (a) say something really tactless and hurt someone’s feelings or (b) because of worrying about (a) not say anything at all and end up with photos I didn’t like.
I was needlessly worried. Nicola (my photographer) and I worked really well together – I made sure the knitted sample looked good, while she looked after the ‘bigger picture’. And my models were such champs – they were so patient and willing. (Side note: Kate’s written a really fun post about the photo shoot on her blog — I highly recommend you give it a read!)
I think my biggest surprise has been people’s (including non-knitters) reaction to the book. It’s a concept people understand immediately and really like – I thought I’d have to explain it a lot more than I do! (Does that even make sense?)
It totally does, but I’m not surprised people are immediately intrigued — I know I was when you told me about your idea! So for any readers hoping to visit Wellington, other than the railway station, what are your top three pics of cool places for them to visit?
Zealandia – an eco-sanctuary just 15 minutes from Wellington’s CBD with an amazing array of New Zealand’s native birds.
One of the city walkways – when it’s not pouring with rain or blowing a gale, Wellington is great for walking. I’d particularly recommend the Southern Walkway – stunning views, and a great mix of the natural and urban environment.
Matiu-Somes Island – a wee island in the middle of Wellington Harbour with a big complicated history – and, being New Zealand, more stunning views!
(I’ve just realized these are all outside activities and I’m sitting inside on a beautiful sunny day)
And finally, what’s next for you? Do you have any more pattern collections up your sleeve?
A couple of weeks ago, weighed down by print deadlines and distribution concerns, I would have said I’m never publishing a book of knitting patterns again. But as soon as I had a bit of space to relax, the ideas started coming in…watch this space!
Massive thanks Kate for taking the time to talk with us about the book!
Kate’s put together a beautiful collection that celebrates history and the importance of place in a really cool way, from mittens that take their inspiration from brickwork to a super clever modular scarf (I had the pleasure of testing it!) that’s based on the graphic motif of the station’s arches (check them out amidst these photos of the scarf that Kate’s posted on Instagram). And …. she’s really kindly given me a copy of the book to giveaway to a reader!
To be in with a chance to win a lovely print copy of this book, comment below sharing what pattern you’d knit first (you can see all the patterns here). And if you can’t wait, you can buy the ebook on Ravelry, order the book from Kate’s Felt shop, or check the list of retailers (UK readers: Northern Yarn is going to have copies shortly!)! I think this would be a perfect holiday treat for yourself or a knitting friend! I’ll keep the giveaway open for about a month, til January 4, and draw a winner shortly thereafter.
Thank you again to Kate for chatting with us today and for the giveaway copy! And massive congratulations to her. It’s been such a privilege to be involved in a small way with this beautiful book, and I’m so proud of the amazing work my friend has produced. Kate blogs at rosalindcraftsupplies.com and shares photos of her knitting and sewing adventures, as well as lovely shots of life in Wellington, on her Instagram account, @kateljordan.