Indie Designer of the Week: Hunter Hammersen
In our latest exclusive interview, independent designer Hunter Hammersen tells us how it was her love of telling people what to do that led her to designing knitting patterns. She also shares her top photography tips and the wide-ranging inspiration behind her beautiful designs and their unique names. To browse all of Hunter’s designs, click here.
Hi Hunter, welcome to LoveKnitting! Tell us when and why you started knitting…
I taught myself to knit when I was in college. It was the winter of 2001, and my first attempt at a project was an abject failure. I learned how to knit, I learned how to purl, and I took to heart the idea that ‘knitting is just two stitches, if you can do them, you can do anything.’
I’ve never been very good at starting with a beginner project, so I got a book of fancy cable patterns, some yarn, and some needles to match. The yarn was a horrid, nubbly, acrylic mess, and I thought matching needles to yarn meant picking a color of needle that looked good next to your yarn. So, armed with questionable yarn that hid any fancy stitch work and needles that were far too small, I started on some very intricate cables. After about 6 inches, I had a piece of fabric that could stop a tank, terrible cramps in my wrists, and a deep conviction that knitting was stupid.
But the idea of knitting stayed in the back of my head, and in the spring of 2005, a pretty little lace scarf caught my eye. I fought my way through it. Can I mention here that I didn’t know what a swift or ballwinder were? And that I was working with four strands of laceweight held together because I didn’t know how to join on new yarn and so had picked my yarn based entirely on which one offered the most the yardage? I just untwisted each of the 4 hanks, unwrapped 10 yards or so, twisted the hanks back up, smoothed the yarn together, and knit it. Over and over and over again. This was exactly as much fun as it sounds. But when the scarf was done, I once again declared that knitting left something to be desired and put it away.
That lasted until the fall of 2007. That’s when I started thinking about knitted socks. I’d seen sock yarn…it came in tidy little pre-wound balls. The balls were just the right size for socks. This seemed like the solution to all of my problems. I made a pair. I was smitten. I’ve never really looked back.
Tell us the story of your first knitting pattern…
That happened in the spring of 2009. To understand how it happened, you need to know two things about me. I hate following directions, and I’m very bossy!
After I’d made a few pairs of socks from patterns, I started wondering if I could just do my own thing instead. A sock seemed like a tube with a bend in it. I figured I could probably work that out on my own. So I did. I posted pictures of a few of these early experiments on some of the sock chat threads on ravelry. People liked them and asked what pattern I had used. I said I’d made them up myself, and a few folks were kind enough to ask for a pattern.
Now I’d only ever followed about four knitting patterns in my entire life, and I’d only been knitting in any sort of regular way for a year and a half. But I am nothing if not bossy, and a pattern seemed like just another way of telling people what to do. So I figured I’d give it a shot. I wrote down what I’d done, I took a few pictures, I made a quick website, and I put the pattern up
Then people made the socks. Lots of people made the socks. It was unreasonably fun to see other folks making things from my instructions, so I wrote some more. It just kept growing from there.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Just about everywhere really! The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet patterns were all drawn from vintage natural history illustrations. I once pulled out my cell phone to grab a picture of the tracks my shopping cart left in the snow in the grocery store parking lot. A bit of carpet in a hotel library got a similar treatment. Almost anything is fair game, and I have a long list of things I want to do!
What is your most popular pattern?
The names of your patterns are beautiful yet unusual, what’s the inspiration behind them?
Naming patterns is both fun and tricky. The book patterns have always had their names come from the subject of the book. So, for my first book, all the patterns were inspired by different styles of oriental rugs, and the patterns were named after those styles of rugs. For the Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet books, all the patterns were inspired by vintage natural history prints, so the patterns took the name of the plant or animal depicted in the print that inspired it (this approach did lead to some names that were hard to spell or pronounce, but it seemed to fit so well with the source material that I couldn’t resist). For my most recent book, Curls, all the patterns are named for the color of the yarn used for the pieces shown in the book.
For the individual patterns, I’ve got a bit more flexibility. I tend to favor one word names, and I like to use interesting words that fit with the look of or inspiration for the pattern. I will confess to a certain shameful glee when I realized I had patterns starting with every letter of the alphabet!
And I promise, the next book (due out next summer) still has fun names, but they are all much easier to spell and pronounce!
What are your knitting essentials when sitting down to write a pattern?
I’m a tremendous fan of graph paper (especially the green sort meant for engineers with the nice tiny squares) and mechanical pencils. I start all my patterns out on paper in a sort of knitting shorthand. I do all my planning there before I go to the computer to type things up and draw proper charts.
I tend to keep my original paper notes (plus the yarn labels and the swatches) pretty much forever, it’s surprising how often they come in handy if someone has a question down the road.
Above: Fucus asparagoides Shawl
Your photographs are lovely – how do you photograph your work?
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my camera and getting better at taking photos. It took a lot of practice (and I still take an awful lot of pictures that will never see the light of day), but I feel much more confident with it now.
I’ve found it really helpful to pay attention to things you like in other photographs (knitting pictures or more general photography) to help train your eye. I actually have Pinterest boards of poses I like for pictures of hands and feet. It’s so much easier if you can show someone a pose and say ‘try this,’ rather than just hoping to stumble across something that shows off the piece and doesn’t look forced.
I’m also always on the look out for great places to take pictures. I’ve dragged my husband or my friends off to creepy stairs in the middle of the woods, an abandoned greenhouse, an old warehouse, the carriage house of an old library, the doorway of a church, and more than one vacant lot. Which brings up another important issue…accommodating friends are a tremendous help!
What would be your top tip for someone looking to start sell his/ her own patterns?
Just jump in. The first three or four are the hardest, and there’s no way to get past them and on to the easy ones without just making the mistakes and pushing through. Do yourself a favor and make a style sheet early on (it’s much easier if you have a format and stick to it). It will help your patterns be more cohesive and unified and save you a lot of time in editing!
Thank you for joining us Hunter! Click here to shop all designs and eBooks from Hunter Hammersen.
Want to sell your patterns? Click here to find out more.
Last updated: January 21st, 2015.