This month, I’m interviewing Taiga Hilliard of Cashmere Junkie. I first came across her work when I was looking for a pattern to make matching sweaters for my two youngest sons. I started exploring her patterns and was just amazed by the sheer quantity and variety of her patterns. FYI, my questions and comments are in black, and Taiga’s are in Purple.
It turns out Taiga is practically my neighbor. We live across a mountain range from each other in northern Arizona. We haven’t met in person, but maybe we’ll be able to eventually.
Taiga, tell me about how you got started in fiber arts. How did you first learn to knit?
My sister, mom, and grandmother all knit, but it never really interested me as a child. Then about 10 years ago while on vacation one evening, my sister showed me again the wonder of knitting. I came home from that trip realizing I had already forgotten everything my sister had shown me; but by then my interest was peaked, so I went on YouTube and found out myself how to knit from videos along with much trial and error.
What led you from there to designing your own patterns?
After about a year of knitting, there was a gradual desire to change every pattern to my own taste. With this thought in mind, why not try designing my own knitting pattern? It seemed like there was not the kind of patterns for babies that I wanted, so that is where my special focus on designing really started.
When you’re looking for inspiration for a new pattern, where do you find it?
When I travel or look at nature or am just out and about in my daily routine, lots of little things inspire me: patterns, shapes, colors.
You are by far the most prolific pattern designer I’ve ever seen! How do you come up with so many different patterns?
I have ADD, so knitting and designing help me keep focused. I always have 5 to 10 projects going at any given time and bounce back and forth between them. From the moment of wakefulness to the arrival of sleep, my mind is designing and planning, and during that time my hands are knitting or designing.
One other thing that struck me when I was going through your patterns is the number of different people photographed wearing your designs. How do you do that?
I have always loved photography since I was a kid, and I have lots of wonderful friends and neighbors who let me pester them into modeling. I want to show my knits on all ages and sizes and shapes, so I work hard to have that variety. Also, my testers are really sweet in letting me use some of their photos to add into the mix.
Clearly we share a love for luxury yarns. Did you always use luxury fibers, or did you start out with acrylic like most knitters and make the move to finer fibers over time?
Yes, I started out with acrylic from Goodwill and Walmart but soon realized that only luxury fibers are for me. Because you spend so much time knitting on a project, you might as well enjoy every minute of it with a special yarn that makes you and your hands happy.
That’s exactly what I think! I spent some time living in Italy as a young adult, and everyone there prefers natural fibers, so I sort of became a “natural fiber snob” way back then, even before I got started in fiber arts. It was just a natural step for me to start with good soft wool and alpaca and silk when I started weaving and spinning so many years ago.
Which comes first? The yarn or the pattern? Do you find some yarn and come up with the perfect pattern to go with it, or do you have a pattern idea in mind and go in search of yarn that would complement it?
Sometimes I have a design in mind and find the best yarn to show it off, and sometimes the yarn itself or colors inspires me. Chicken and egg…
What’s your favorite weight of yarn to work with?
I am kind of obsessed with super bulky, and often use it as a palette cleanser between projects or as a quick way of seeing how a pattern will knit up. The grand scale of super bulky is really interesting.
What fun! I tend to be impatient to get each new project done, so I like super bulky yarn a lot too.
What’s your favorite fiber to work with, and what do you like about it?
Cashmere (always cashmere) and sometimes wool and silk blends. I am crazy about Seawall fibers luxe DK, which is a silk/wool blend. I also enjoy knitting with anything from Mary Gavan or Anzula.
What is your own personal favorite design that you have made so far?
I love my baby dresses the most and have named them after the special women in my life.
Where can we find your patterns?
- Ravelry.com (cashmerejunkie)
- Patternfish.com (Taiga Hilliard)
- Etsy.com (CashmereJunkie)
- Loveknitting.com (Taiga Hilliard Designs)
- Craftsy.com (Taiga Hilliard Designs)
Is there anywhere else we can find you online?
What upcoming plans do you have for your work as a designer?
Last year was the year of the shawl, but I am getting back to what I started with, which is baby dresses and kids items.
Well, I know we are all looking forward to seeing what new wonderful patterns you add to your already wonderful collection this year! Thanks for joining me today.