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Behind The Stitches: Stephen West

Behind The Stitches: Stephen West


Depending on when you’re reading this you might not know that this post is the official launch of my new blog. I’m so excited about the inspirational stories that I’m going to get to share with you over the next few weeks. We’re going to be starting things off with Stephen West. Before I interviewed Stephen I heard someone describe meeting him at Vogue Knitting Live as visiting Disney Land and meeting Mickey. I always record my interviews for my notes and I can hear the childlike excitement in my voice as the interview started. When we follow people online we think that we know them. But a person’s online presence is just a snapshot of who they really are. I quickly realized that, even though Stephen makes it look easy, he is one of the hardest working people in the industry and his success is a combination of hard work, talent, and being an extremely likable human. I hope that you enjoy this snapshot into the life and career of Stephen West.

"I’m a knitting nomad obsessed with yarn"

Stephen: Are you in New York?

Sam: Yeah! Where are you right now?

Stephen: I’m in Amsterdam at home right now.

Sam: Oh, ok. So you’re in between adventures?

Stephen: Yeah. I just came from Dublin, the Woollinn Festival. Then before that I was at Porto Portugal at a knitting festival. Then I was in Japan before that.

Sam: Oh my gosh.

Stephen: It’s been really fun, but I haven’t been home at all.

Sam: It sounds like you’re a little bit of a nomad.

Stephen: Totally! I’m trying to calm down a little bit. Next year will be a little bit more relaxed. Only like four or five festivals next year.

Sam: How many did you do this year?

Stephen: Umm, I haven’t done too many. I did these three trips and I was in New York in January. I usually go there for the Vogue Knitting Live event every January. And then there’s a few more. We’re going to...let’s see I’m going to Denmark next, and then we’re going to Oslo and Barcelona this fall. I’ve never been to those two countries, so that’ll be fun.

Sam: Do you actually get to see the countries you visit for work? Or are you just going from the hotel to the trade show?

Stephen: I usually just get to have one free day. Except in Japan I had a week and a half vacation attached to it. So that was nice.

Sam: Oh, that is really nice.

Stephen: I get to meet lots of knitters all around the world!

Sam: It seems like you have such a crazy life! So how would you describe what you do to someone outside of the knitting world?

Stephen: To someone who doesn’t understand why someone would knit all day I’d say “I’m a knitting nomad obsessed with yarn”. Yarn has just consumed my life for the last ten years. Literally (laughing) it’s a lot of yarn. So I’d tell someone that I’m a knitting nomad and that I started this whole thing as a hobby and it turned into a full time passion for fashion.

It started off really small and it turned into this full time job that I kind of directed into the places that I wanted it to go. Like the traveling, the teaching, the book publishing, and now the yarn shop in Amsterdam. So there are all of these components to having a busy yarn life. But I get to tame it down at some parts of the year and have it be more calm. And other times I sort of ramp it up. Right now I’m working on my next book.

Sam: Ooh, that’s exciting!

Stephen: Yeah, so I tell people that I just knit a lot and that I make sweaters, scarves, and write all of the patterns for them. I’m really proud that that’s still the primary focus of what I do. I knit and I create patterns. I have people that help me with all of the behind the scenes stuff. There are people that help me with the graphic design and the patterns support. Because there are so many things that I didn’t even know that I was jumping into years ago and it takes a ton of time. So I realized that I needed help.

Sam: Was that an easy realization for you? That’s something that I haven’t really accepted yet.

Stephen: Yeah, it’s a struggle. ‘Cause it’s such a weird mix of always loving what you do, but then it’s your job. You think sometimes “Oh I can just do anything! I can do it, because I love it and it’s ok that I don’t do anything else”. But I need help. I need to distribute and have help with the tasks that take a ton of time and energy away from the actual knitting and creating new things. So I try to have a balance of getting some behind the scenes stuff done. But my primary focus is always what’s next and what do I want to make next and how do I want to present it. So I’m still quite hands on with the knitting of everything, designing patterns, and working on the books.

Sam: When did you learn to knit and who taught you?

Stephen: I learned to knit when I was sixteen years old. From a friend in high school. I did a lot of theater and dance. We had a lot of down time when we’d have to wait until we were on stage. I was really bored and my friends were making beautiful hats and phone covers and stuff. So I asked them to teach me and I was immediately addicted. I was like never without yarn after that. I was the knitting kid in high school.

Sam: Do you still have your first WIP and what was it?

Stephen: Yeah! I made lots of long scarves that took forever. I don’t recommend that for beginner knitters. Don’t make a long scarf, because it never ends. It will start off one width and end up being skinny and wide. So I always recommend doing a hat or something for newbie knitters. But yeah, I made scarves and I made gifts for a lot of my friends in high school. I’d make them scarves and hats. I remember there was a knitting club in my high school. So I was a part of the knitting club. It was a high school of four thousand students. So there was a club for everything. I remember this one mentor, teacher, lady came into our club. She was telling us about sweaters, and gauge and how you have to keep your yarn labeles so that you remember what yarn you’re working with. I was like “yeah, yeah yeah”. But then I was like oh, when you run out of yarn how will you know what yarn it is when you go back to the yarn store? She was saying that it takes months and months and months to knit a sweater. Then I started my first sweater. She had underestimated how crazy and addicted I was, cause I made my first sweater in two or three weeks. For a pretty newbie knitter I thought that was pretty quick. I was like ooh this wasn’t so bad I can make another sweater and another sweater and another. Then like thousands of shawls and sweaters later here I am.

"I moved to Amsterdam in 2010. With nothing but two suitcases. One filled with yarn and one filled with clothes and personal belongings. That was all I had"

Sam: Here you are. Fully addicted. So you’re always traveling so do you have yarn stashed all over the world?

Stephen: I used to. I’m very good now. I used to have yarn stashed in Iceland, in New York, in New Jersey, Chicago, Amsterdam. Just all spread out. But now I’m a little more focused. I have my primary stash. I call it a collection. I like telling knitters that you don’t have a stash of yarn. You have a curated collection from your adventures. So I have a cabinet at home and I think that it’s pretty under control. Then I have a collection of yarn in Iceland, because I go to Iceland a lot to knit with my friend Linda over there. She helps me out with a lot of my test knits and sample knits. So we have a colorful collection in Iceland that’s my home away from home. Then I have the yarn shop Stephen and Penelope here in Amsterdam. So that’s my backup.

Sam: How did you end up where you are today? Can you walk us through your knitting journey?

Stephen: Yeah I can walk you through the highlights. So I started knitting in high school, I went to college for dance and I was knitting this whole time. But I was a dance student. Then I quit dance school after two years to knit more (laughing). But seriously I stopped, because I wanted to knit more. Then I was like, my gosh what am I going to do with my life. I was making these patterns and I just kept publishing more and more patterns. In that first year of publishing patterns I saved up enough money so that I could cover my cheap rent and I could get a plane ticket to Amsterdam where I found this new dance program. So I moved to Amsterdam in 2010. With nothing but two suitcases. One filled with yarn and one filled with clothes and personal belongings. That was all I had. So I moved all the way to Europe with nothing but the yarn on my back.

So I went to dance school here. Again for two years. Then stopped again to travel the world, teach at knitting festivals and promote all of my books and stuff. So those are kind of the highlights. Then I met my friend Malia who started the yarn shop here in Amsterdam. And I joined her about four years ago officially. We renamed it Stephen and Penelope. So now I’m a part of the store. We do lots of kits, knit-a-longs, clubs, and all kinds of fun stuff based here in Amsterdam.

Sam: So I didn’t realize that the store was already in existence and then you came on board afterwards.

Stephen: Yes! It was started by Malia. She’s kind of the “Penelope” of the business. But Penelope is just a made up name.

Sam: Where did the name Penelope come from?

Stephen: The shop was originally named Penelope Craft and then when I joined it about four years ago Stephen and Penelope was born… or reborn. We just rebranded, moved to a new location, and joined forces.

"I always told myself 'If it becomes a job and it feels like work then stop doing it' because I love it and I don’t want the job and the work to take over my passion for it"

Sam: What made you decide that you wanted to take that on?

Stephen: Well, it was a very natural progression. It started out with my friendship with Malia. I was there the first day when she opened her first little shop in Amsterdam. I just hung out there all the time. We became friends and I started collaborating with her on projects and ordering new yarn. That was right when a lot of the hand dyed yarn was coming up like Malabrigo, Madeline Tosh, and all of these indie dyers. That was a big obsession of mine, to bring in that new colorful hand dyed style. So then we just made it official and yeah, joined together. We have different styles. I love the hand dyed splashy splashy colors. Malia’s more neutral. More sophisticated than me (laughing). So we have a really nice balanced selection and I think we reach a lot of different knitters through the two of us working together.

Sam: It sounds like once you started knitting you were obsessed with knitting and absolutely loved it. But did you ever make a conscious decision that this was going to be your career or did that just kind of happen?

Stephen: Nooo, it kind of accidentally turned into the full time thing. It was always sort of a side thing along with dance and school. I always told myself “If it becomes a job and it feels like work then stop doing it” because I love it and I don’t want the job and the work to take over my passion for it. That happened and I still loved it. It’s still a balance of when is the personal knitting time and when do I need to sit down at my computer and really crank things out. But it’s always going to be juggling and I think that’s the case for a lot of people who work and live a creative life. How do you strike that balance? My answer is that there’s never a balance (laughing). It’s just always… not a struggle, but just always perfectly imbalanced. I’m not a balanced type where I can separate my personal life from my work life. I’m just working all the time and I love it. Yeah, sometimes it’s crazy. But I don’t really have a distinction between personal knitting and work knitting.

Sam: It all blends together.

Stephen: Yeah, it all blends together. I love it all.

"Sometimes you don’t really get to the good stuff until you let loose, improvise, and totally go wild"

Sam: When you’re designing a new pattern what comes to you first, the colors that you want to use or the item of clothing?

Stephen: Most commonly it’s the colors. I usually start with a pallet of colors and that kind of dictates what kind of style it is. If it’s going to be faded, graphic, or marled. So color first and then I think “ok, I’ll do these colors in a shawl. Or I’ll do these colors in a sweater”. Right now I just started making a circle with these colors and in my head I’m thinking “shawl, or sweater, or blanket” and I still don’t know.

I make up a lot of the fabrics improvisationally while I knit. So I don’t draw and sketch out too much. I like to figure it out while I go and make choices while I knit. It usually takes me two or three times to get to the final design. But I can’t figure it all out in advance. It all happens on the needles.

Sam: When you’re working off the first draft do you make notes for yourself for when you turn it into a pattern? Or do you go back and do that after?

Stephen: I almost always try to type it out on the computer while I knit. ‘Cause I used to not do that and I would have to make a full sweater all over again while writing it down the second or third time. So now I make notes. That’s what I would recommend to anyone who wants to design. Even if you don’t know where it’s going. Take notes as you go. It’s not fun, so I personally don't always do that. But I try. When you’re taking notes as you go it’s kind of like your editing as you go. Or stopping and starting as you go. Sometimes you don’t really get to the good stuff until you let loose, improvise, and totally go wild. Then you’re like “Ok that was crazy. Let’s tone it down. Take two.”

Yarn is really important to me. I have a collection I work with. Lately a lot of my first prototypes of the shawls that I make are really really really colorful. I’m trying to embrace now that that’s going to be the case. The first version is not going to be the final version. It’s hard for me to let go of that, because I want to make something and have that be the final version and be done! But I usually make the first version really colorful and in colors that I love. Then I look at what I have and go “Ok this would be nice in four main colors and one contrast color”. Or “this would be a good two color design”. So I make the first colorful prototype and then edit and do the final prototype or have a friend make the final sample for me.

Sam: Why don’t you use the first super colorful version?

Stephen: Sometimes I do! But sometimes it’s just harder to explain what color to use when. It can get a little chaotic to try and describe exactly when I changed colors. It’s just a little too complicated to have access into the pattern when it’s like “What yarn do I need to make that”. So I try to simplify it after I go off and do my crazy thing. A lot of the time I go back, rain it in and realize that maybe I only need five colors or even three colors. So then it’s easier for people to have an access into starting the pattern.

But it’s kind of half and half. Some of the designs are really simple and graphic in terms of the color usage. And then some are more improvisational color collages. Like with some of my patterns I just have the total weight of yarn I use and it’s up to the knitter to marl their colors together and make their own painting with the colors they have. That’s kind of the difference between patterns you can have kits for, a more simple kind of layout, and stash busting patterns. I love the stash busting patterns.

Sam: How long does a typical photo shoot take?

Stephen: Ooh! Those have always been my favorite days. When it all comes together. With the makeup, and the outfits, and the designs. We do a full day. We start in the morning for the photos. Like 9am-5pm for the photos. The designs themselves can range. If I’m really under a deadline I can whip up a design and knit a shawl in a week or something. But I’m on a process now of creating the design, getting the right sample yarns in, having the final sample made, getting it tested and tech edited, and then photographed. From when I start a design to when it comes out that’s usually, at least, about three or four months. Three months to sometimes up to eighteen months ahead. I’m working on my fall book and a lot of the things I made for it started last summer. They just kind of sat around I’ve tweaked them, had other samples made, and saved some good ones for the book. Then there’s always a last minute shawl. For every project I do it’s always like “Ok everything’s done. I have enough stuff... no, I can do one more”. That’s usually one of my favorite ones. The last minute crunch design.

Sam: Do you kind of squirrel away projects that you come up with and really love? Knowing that eventually they could get used in potential books or for publication?

Stephen: Yeah. I hoard designs. I used to release everything immediately. I would make something and publish it the next week. I would just take my selfies with my Canon Powershot Pro camera from college ten years ago. Now it’s more collaborative with the store. And I have people helping me. So it’s forcing me to be more planned and more communicative. It’s like “I have this. Let’s get the yarn for it. Let’s get it knit up beautifully. Let’s photograph it the right way and not rush it”. So that’s a lesson in patience that I’m always learning. But yeah, I always have a pile of at least ten to twenty designs at all times that are done or in progress. Those won’t come out until the next season or the season after that. I’m kind of backlogged with ideas. But it’s exciting. It’s all kind of cyclical to me. All of the designs relate to each other. They feed into these families of sort of styles. I really like the theme and variation that I get to present. So something you see this fall might be related to something I did five years ago. Or I might do something this fall and then later in the winter I’ll have a sort of similar design that plays with that stitch pattern in a different way. I really like spacing these ideas out.

One of my favorite things to do is sharing my designs. I make what I love and I get really excited about it. So then I like to get other people excited about new techniques or new types of colors and get them to try different things.

Sam: So what can you say about this new book that’s coming out?

Stephen: It’ll come out in the fall. It’s going to be the third WestKnits BestKnits book. There’s BestKnits one that’s shawls. BestKnits two that’s sweaters. WestKnits BestKnits three is going to have a lot more shawls in it. I can say that it’s going to be an explosive series of shawls from simple to splashy and colorful. It’s kind of a celebration of ten years of knitting. It’s my ten year anniversary of designing patterns. So this book is going to be a ten year celebration of shawls through the years. From my early style going through the years of how it’s sort of changed and evolved.

Sam: Are these patterns that you’ve gone back and grabbed from your pattern hoard? Or are these patterns that you recently made using some of the techniques from past designs?

Stephen: It’s going to be a mixture. People are going to see some old ideas represented in a new way. Then there’s going to be a lot of fresh new designs as well.

Sam: Fun! I’m excited about that. I do want to take a quick detour though to talk about your jump roping.

Stephen: Oh, Yeeeah! I used to be on a little elementary school team.

Sam: You were?!?

Stephen: Yeah, we did traveling demonstrations. This was when I was eight or nine years old or something. Maybe like ten. We did traveling jump rope demonstrations to promote physical health and cardiovascular endurance (laughing).

Sam: Did you go around to different schools?

Stephen: We just went to schools and conferences.

Sam: That’s amazing!

Stephen: We had routines and things we did. Like solo jump roping, jump rope duets where each of you have a handle of the other person’s rope. That’s called the wheel. You stagger the rope movements so every other person jumps at a different time. We had one routine that was kind of like a square dance, rodeo style song that we all jump roped to. It started off slow and then it picked up really quick. So it was kind of like a two step jump rope.

Sam: I’m incredibly jealous because I just don’t have that hand eye coordination. Do you bring your jump rope everywhere you go?

Stephen: No, I used to. But my jump roping has been on hold. I haven’t jump roped in like a year or so. I need to get it out for summer.

Sam: You should!

Stephen: ‘Cause I had one idea where I just jump rope around the world. And just take little video clips of me jump roping in all different places.

Sam: Yes, and then a big compilation video.

Stephen: Yeah, totally!

Sam: I fully support this idea. So you don’t always have your jump rope. But what are a few items that are always in your suitcase?

Stephen: Ooh, there’s always… typically when I travel I always have two big suitcases and one of them is just shawls. (laughing) I travel with fifty pounds of shawls. Lots of yarn. I always travel with five knitting projects. Then when I get to a destination i always want new yarn to start something else that I didn’t bring. I think that a lot of knitters can relate to that. That always happens. It’s like “I’m going to be gone for two weeks let me take these five projects. I’ve got my starter project, my easy project, my challenging project. And my colorful project”. And then you don’t knit any of them. All of a sudden I'm like “Ooh that’s pretty! I like that yarn! Let’s start something new’.

Sam: Yeah and that just adds to the pile of hoarding.

Stephen: Yeah. I also always travel with my notebook in my bag just to sketch down little ideas. But mostly it’s lots of yarn, lots of knits, and lots of sparkly colorful outfits. Most people when they travel they say “Just wear the basics, because that goes with anything and you don’t know what the climate will be like”. When I travel I think “If I ever get stranded for a year, what would be the one crazy outfit I’d want to wear every day”. So I always bring something… flashy.

"When you do something you have to think about that sacrifice. What does that really mean? If you’re doing something that means that you’re not going to be doing something else. What do you want to do more?"

Sam: I always like to talk about the struggle of building a small business. What are some of the challenges, if any, that you faced behind the scenes when you first started out?

Stephen: I think when I first started out, a struggle that’s changed lately was treating it like a serious business. I think for a lot of years there was a limbo stage of “It’s a business, and I’m so lucky that it’s a business, because I love it”. Then you have this ambiguous relationship to it. Like you’ll sacrifice so many things, because it’s something that you love. You’ll say yes to things and you won’t get paid for so many types of things. That is sometimes fine if you’re really decisive about it. But for me I was easily... not forced to do things, but I forced myself to do things that I really didn’t want to do early on. Having design deadlines, certain trips and travels, piling too much stuff on my plate. Because I’m like “I’m lucky to do it and people are telling me to say yes and take advantage. When you get an offer say yes, because that chance might pass you by”. But when you do something you have to think about that sacrifice. What does that really mean? If you’re doing something that means that you’re not going to be doing something else. What do you want to do more? Do you want to go off for months and months and months and travel but not have a home? Or do you want to be home a little more, be productive, nurture the behind the scenes of your business and not let that get too out of hand?

I think that there’s a common thing where people feel the need to say yes to things. Because you should be so lucky with a creative job, that you get opportunities to work. And yes that’s amazing, but if you’re that spontaneous all the time that’s not healthy. So I would encourage people to kind of relax. I’m glad I dove into things years and years ago. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. But now if I were to look back and tell myself anything I would tell myself to just chill out. The opportunities are going to come, but you can direct them a bit more when it’s on your time and how you want to do them.

Sam: So then how do you put up boundaries for yourself?

Stephen: Personally, what’s helped me the most is having close friends around me that I trust to bounce ideas off of. I have one person that helps me now with responding to things like that. We have meetings and I know what’s going on. But for event requests, projects, emails, and keeping up with everything I have somebody who helps me organize all of that into folders. And help me with responses so that I don’t get too stressed out or guilty about doing things or not doing that. So yeah, having close people around me that I trust. I’d say don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Because everybody needs a lot of help. (Laughing)

So that’s one key thing. Then also, early on, as knitters we buy so much yarn. Then when I started as a business that was another excuse for me to buy yarn. It was always “Oh, it’s for my business! It’s for a design I should get it”. I’ve kind of made more of a budget and a limitation for myself on how much yarn I acquire and buy. Because I bought so so so much yarn years and years ago! You don’t use it all but I used the justification of “it’s my business, it’s my passion, I need yarn” and you do. But you don’t need THAT much yarn. So I’d say chill out with that category too. I really love collaborating with dyers for the store, for my designs. So for anyone who for them that’s their job or who’s a designer or a dyer, reach out and collaborate. I think that it’s more special when you can do projects with friends and people who you really trust and admire in the yarn industry. There are so many great yarnies and yarn makers. So I love collaborating with them and giving a spotlight to their creativity.

"Don’t overwork yourself, you have to space it out. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Try to be a little bit more thoughtful when it comes to how much you work and how much energy you’re putting out there"

Sam: Do you ever struggle with the level of celebrity that comes with doing what you love to do?

Stephen: Yeah! It’s been crazy at times. Again, in Amsterdam it’s way more chill. The shop is usually chill, but sometimes we get big groups of knitters and it can be overwhelming sometimes in the store. I never walk into the store when there’s not anybody there decked out in West Knits. I feel like, I don’t know, like it’s an amusement park sometimes there. (Laughing)

It’s really fun. I can’t complain at all. I really love it. I didn’t start it really intentionally, but I could have shied away and not been as visible. But I really love it. I love to be out and meet people. But at some festivals it can get overwhelming. Like at Vogue Knitting Live in New York there’s a lot of people. At Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival there’s a lot of people. So I love it and I’m there and you can’t ignore that there’s going to be lots of people. Like at Rhinebeck one time I stopped and there was a line of like fifty people that formed in the middle of nowhere. I’m like “Ok this is a little… I’m not ready for this”. I needed some control. But yeah, I haven’t had any horrific experiences. Sometimes whenever you feel that tightness or you get overwhelmed a little bit you just have to force yourself to take a break, go away, and decompress. I’m getting better at spacing out when I’m a people person and when I’m alone. Because some people think that I’m really party party, extroverted, and as crazy as my colors. But I’m really really very quiet, and usually avoid people, and I’m at home all the time. So when I go out I can turn it on and I love to meet people. I get really inspired by seeing what they make. But it energetically wipes me out. So I’ve had to really cut back on how many events I do and how much I work each day. So that’s also something that I’d recommend to people. Don’t overwork yourself, you have to space it out. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Try to be a little bit more thoughtful when it comes to how much you work and how much energy you’re putting out there. So I only do one class a day now. Some tours I did back over the years I would do a morning class, an afternoon class and then an evening book signing/trunk show. Then I would just cry at the end of the day because I was so tired. So then I was like this is a sign. Do a class a day and then do another class the next day and that’s fine.

Sam: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

Stephen: I guess when I got really really crazy colorful that was something easy to identify and latch onto. I do love color. But there was a period of time when anytime I got a gift or anytime someone picked out yarn for me it was always the same color of yarn. A really crazy, rainbow, insanity. And I love it! But you can’t have that all the time. It’s like saying you love pizza. But I’m not gonna eat it all day every day.

Sam: (Laughing) Speak for yourself.

Stephen: (Laughing) Yeah. But the thing with the colors is that I do love bright colors and I equally love weird murky colors. I love neutrals too. I think whenever you do something that people recognize you for then when you do something different their like “wait, that’s not you”. Because that’s what happened when I first started doing really colorful things. It wasn’t the rustic colors I started with and some people were outraged. They were like “what is this? Who are you? You can’t wear that! That’s so loud and obnoxious!”. Now if I do something in grey people are concerned for my well-being. So I’ll do a grey thing and then the next thing is going to be a colorful thing. I like to move in between my color moods.

Also, I love cats. I always write keep on knittin kitten. I’ve made a couple videos on YouTube that have cats in them. So I think people think that I’m a crazy cat person. I do like cats. But I actually like dogs better. But maybe don’t tell anyone. Puppy doesn’t rhyme with knittin. So I guess my truth is that cats are... fine. I love cats. Sometimes people think that I have like twenty cats. But I just take pictures of lots of cats cause their cute and I don’t see as many dogs around.

"I’m really a no rules kind of knitter"

Sam: We started to talk about your YouTube skits earlier. My personal favorite is Steven East knits.

Stephen: A little short lived, those were really fun! I did those thinking that I would do a whole series of videos. But after I filmed those I was so exhausted!

Sam: I’m sure! It seems like there was a lot of prep work and editing that went into them. Can you walk us through the process of creating a video?

Stephen: Yeah, it was a lot of work. I did all of these takes and then I edited it. But there was a sweet spot when I first did those videos. When I went to teach some people thought that’s how I was all of the time. I think that they were expecting me to be totally crazy. One lady came to a workshop soon after those videos and said “I just wanted to come and see if you were crazy. You’re not though. You’re fine. You’re ok”. I’m like “that’s a weird reason to come to a workshop, but ok nice to meet you”. But I’m much more chill in person than I think some people expect. I’m real patient. I like to be one on one. I’m really kind of calm and soft spoken with people when I meet them. I like to give everyone some attention and get to know them a little bit when they come to festivals or my classes. So I think people are pleasantly surprised when they meet me… I hope so.

Sam: So what is your favorite part about doing your classes and your workshops?

Stephen: I really like seeing people’s process in the class. Going from maybe having expectations of what it’s going to be like. Maybe by like halfway through the class you see this relaxation occur. Then there’s this freedom that unfolds during maybe the last hour of class. So I really like watching people relax and find their own choices. Because in classes I give people things to do, teach certain techniques, and I have tips and tricks. But I’m really a no rules kind of knitter. So I really like when other people have the realization of “Oh! This is just the guideline. But I can really use the colors however I want”. When they don’t take the rules too seriously. I like watching people relax into endless possibilities.

Sam: Since this is Bobble Club House I always have to end with this question. What do you like to binge watch or listen to while you craft?

Stephen: Ooooooh well, I just binge watched all of Game of Thrones. I joined that late. And then everyone was hating the end of the series. But for me it wasn’t so bad. Because I hadn’t invested years and years of my life into it. I watched it all in a few weeks. So it was a lot. I think some things could have been better. But I’m not outraged. So I watched that and I always keep up with RuPaul’s Drag Race. I love watching those episodes. It’s such good TV. Great entertainment. It’s color. It’s creative. I like seeing the outfits they make.

Sam: Who’s your favorite?

Stephen: I was really happy with Yvie Oddly from this newest one. I really liked her. But my favorite favorite is Katya. She was on season seven. I really like her insane accessorizing and fashion choices.


Thank you, Stephen for taking the time to chat with me. And for sharing this fun peek into your crazy life with all of us! I definitely suggest taking a look at Stephen’s website for more information on his designs and the Stephen and Penelope website for more information on the shop.

If you have suggestions for whom I should talk to next leave a note in the comments section. I’m always on the hunt for inspiring crafters. Also, don't forget to follow along on my Instagram account @bobbleclubhouse for your daily dose of all things knitted and to stay up to date on our upcoming NYC events. Until next week, happy crafting!

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