An Interview with Cynthia Spencer

I’ve been lucky to chat with a lot of knit and crochet designers throughout the indie design gift-a-long, today I am sharing an interview with Cynthia Spencer of Really Clear you can find all of her patterns on ravelry too.

Make a million featured pattern smaller file size (2)

What do you think is the biggest influence on your design process?

It’s almost a cliché, but Elizabeth Zimmermann. Actually, come to think of it, she was a confirmation almost as much as an influence. I certainly gained a great deal of technique from reading her books. But I also gained emotional support: I was relieved that I was allowed to be that way! There are so many ways to accomplish knitting, it doesn’t have to be hard, and you don’t have to take yourself seriously. For a few years, I taught a “Zimmermannia” class at Stitch Your Art Out, a local yarn and quilting shop that I co-own near State College, PA, and we all had an incredible amount of fun making her things.

I think that the one area that I diverge from her on is fit. She figured that whatever she was making would fit someone or another, but I am fanatic about it. This is purely because I’m selfish and want to wear my stuff! I have been called the gauge witch—but it doesn’t stop there. I make all my customers check fit as they go for everything they make.

Which leads to the real answer to your question: I have to say that by far the biggest influence on my design process is the customers in my yarn shop. They are busy people, and they want their patterns to work, to fit, not to be a struggle to think through (and that means clarity, no mistakes, and an easy-to-follow construction for a tired brain after a long day of work).

I try hard to make my patterns work for them. Now each year instead of a Zimmermannia class, I have a Really Clear class. It’s been such fun seeing everyone enjoy making my designs! We meet once a month and have a blast. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for their support.

I’m the most heartened when people make one of my patterns for everyone in their family. That’s when I’m sure it’s not a “pity knit”!

How many WIP’s do you currently have?

Conservatively about 20. But to avoid mental overload, I generally work on no more than 3 things at a time. When one item gets finished, something else goes into the rotation. I try to have one movie- or car-knitting project (something I can knit on without having to look at my hands), one more difficult project to make life interesting, and one lightweight, carry-with-me project for restaurants or other kinds of waiting.

Do you have a favourite yarn or fibre that you like to knit with?

It always comes back to wool. I actually love the more rustic wools, such as Kureyon or Harrisville Highland. (In fact, I love those two wools put together.) Like everyone else, I turn to Madelinetosh over and over. Their colors are so beautiful. And Cascade also has some of the best colors in the industry.

I am a certified color consultant for the company Color Me Beautiful, and that makes it easy to see that both fiber and color are equally important to me!

If you could knit/crochet only one item type what would it be?

Without a doubt, sweaters. It doesn’t yet show in my pattern line, but I am a sweater fanatic. The reason that it doesn’t show is that I am so uncompromising about fit. I am working hard on ways to describe sweater fit the same way in a pattern as when I teach sweater classes. I’m just about there on a new sweater pattern. I’m so excited about it! You’ll probably see it in January.

My favourite design of yours is definitely Jordi, it’s a great shape; which one is your favourite and why?

Oh thank you! That was a fun knit! That was a pattern with a mind of its own. It was supposed to be a shawl as I was designing it, but it turned itself into a poncho as I was putting it together. Just last week I finished a new Jordi for myself out of Zauberball. It has panels of all the same length. It was a lot of knitting, but totally worth it. I absolutely love it!


My personal favorite, although it’s not flashy, is my Make a Million Shawl. I truly have made many of them! It is my perfect answer to having yarn that I’m not sure what to do with, in a grab-and-go project. I knit wherever I go, so that feature is important to me. I like the crescent shape, and I like the little increase line down the center back. I spent hours and hours swatching and perfecting small details about how to increase in that shawl.

 Which one of your patterns would make a great gift?

I’ll list the ones that my customers have made the most gifts from and that are the quickest to knit: Teegan, the Miyuki cowl, the Quick-Knit Hat for guys (boring for the knitter, but they love it!), Gatsby, Button Pusher, Tangled Pumpkin Vines, Maria and Maude (the cowl in that pattern), Lindsay’s Perfect Mitts, and Pop-Top Mittens. Lots of people have given my Toe-Up Socks, but usually those are not for rushed gifts—which is the point we’re at right now! [Pictured is the Miyuki Cowl.]

My business partner says that my super power is being practical. I think that makes my patterns work well in general for gift knitting.

Miyuki final ps done with topaz (2)

Without giving too much away, are you working on any new designs at the moment?

I never stop! I have four hats in the works, one of which is a holiday hat that I’ll publish any second now (it’s at the tech editor), a pretty poncho, mittens, a cowl, a redo of a scarf, and the sweater I mentioned earlier. I also have an idea for a new sweater based on one of my abstract paintings. You’ll probably see that in 2016! I need to keep everyone busy in the next Really Clear Year, so I will have patterns coming out all year long.

And finally what will you be working on during the GAL?

I try not to put too much pressure on myself for knitted gifts since all year long I have a lot of deadline pressure at work to knit. (It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!) Let’s just say that my Quick-Knit Hat makes a terrific guy present, and that they are unlikely to read this interview.

Thank you for talking with me Cynthia


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