Denae Merrill is a serious knitter. I might even go so far as to say, a hardcore knitter. On a recent post from her blog, DenKnits, she mentions a Knit-A-Long she is planning of a pattern that she designed, a charity knit-along that she is taking part in for a lap blanket, some blanket squares that she is working on to make a couch blanket for her own family, and a color-work project that started as a hat but then became a scarf. In the same post (which was only written 2 weeks after the previous post) she also catalogs a shawl that she completed, 2 spinning samples she created, and 2 skeins, one of them 2-ply, one single-ply, that she spun. When I asked, "How do you finish so many projects?" She seemed to be under the impression that her knitting output was not unusual. Considering I have a blanket that I started at age 12 which I still haven't finished and is currently gathering dust in the corner of my room, I felt a bit differently. :)
Denae got a "learn to knit" kit for Christmas in 2007, but it wasn't until later in 2008 when she got some hands-on lessons from her Mother-in-law that she really got hooked. She did have some trouble learning because there aren't enough good "learn to knit" books written for lefties! Her MIL is left-handed as well, but she knit right-handed, and that's what Denae ended up doing as well. At the time she was traveling constantly due to her job, and a co-worker of hers helped her expand her knitting skills. I asked Denae if she ever tried out any other crafts. "I used to do lots of scrap-booking, but knitting has taken over!" she tells me. While she has tried out crocheting and weaving, knitting remains her strong favorite.
Denae has many great ways to fit more knitting into her day. "I knit every day," she explains while answering my question about her nearly super-human productivity. "I find some down-time in the evening, I knit when I'm waiting in line - I always have a project with me." She has some specific projects that she likes to have going simultaneously. She usually has a sock project going, just because they travel so well, one simpler project and then one more complicated project. I may have to try this method myself. It seems like a great way to prevent being bored with one particular project. When I asked how she managed to have so many FOs (finished objects) as opposed to the many UFOs (un-finished objects) that I have hovering around my room, her answer was simple. "I just really want to have the finished product," she remarks. Maybe I need to get re-invigorated about some of my old pieces.
Denae started making her own designs at almost the same time that she started knitting. She would find a stitch pattern she really liked, and then modify it so it would work with whatever piece she wanted to make. As her knitting skills improved and expanded, she got more ambitious. She would find inspiration in lovely knitted garments in movies or television, and then create her own personalized version. While she does plan things out prior to starting a new design, Denae tends to be very flexible once she's in the middle of one. "I don't like ripping out work and starting over, I'd rather make it work from where I am," she says.
In addition to her blog, Denae is on Ravelry under the username "denmoma" - click here to see all of her original patterns - and under the same name on Instagram. Social networking - especially the fellow hardcore knitters she has met on Ravelry - have really helped expand the reach of her blog and her designs. She also has a great "podcast"-style show on YouTube where she does product reviews, talks about her own personal twist when designing, and demonstrates some unique and fun ways to wear finished knitted pieces. You can find all her videos here. Most recently, Denae has opened up her own small online shop where you can get great kits including her patterns and all of the yarn needed to make them. Check out her store here.
When I asked about her most memorable project, Denae said, "The cowl-neck poncho I designed that started the great relationship I now have with Darn Good Yarn!" Denae had found Darn Good Yarn through Facebook, and had just finished creating the cowl, made of Recycled Photon Rainbow sport weight silk yarn, just in time to enter it in a designing contest that we were holding at the time. When she won the contest, she used the gift certificate she received to get some great Banana Fiber yarn and came up with another great pattern, "That Sunset was Bananas!" - and we here at Darn Good Yarn loved that one too! She since has provided us with some lovely hat patterns with our llama wool yarn (find a kit for those here), and a couple more of her patterns will be showing up on the site soon. Her patterns are some of my favorites that we have on the site! (Shhh, don't tell any of the other pattern designers.)
So many thanks to Denae, for bringing us such lovely patterns on our website, and for taking the time to chat with me. Keep on madly knitting, designing, and inspiring!