Tell us a bit more about yourself. Where do you live? Who do you live with? How did you end up there? Where are you from originally?
My name is Duke. I now live in Memphis, Tennessee, but I was born and raised in a suburb of Tokyo, Japan – called Saitama, which is pretty much equivalent to what New Jersey is to New York. I went to high school in Saitama, and left home for another suburb of Tokyo – a beach city of Shonan, to go to college.
During my college days, I met a boy from Memphis named Daniel. We started spending a lot of time together in Tokyo and fell in love, but he had to go back to the United States. Long story short, I made a decision to move to the U.S. Daniel and I eventually got married, and many years later, relocated permanently to a charming old neighborhood in Memphis, not too far from where he grew up.
Who taught you to knit?
In 2010, we lived in Detroit and lived near a local yarn store called City Knits. A very kind instructor named Desi took me under her wing and taught me how to knit. I would go to the store every weekend to knit at a community table, chatting and learning new things. I fondly remember Desi as my Fiber Godmother. Unfortunately, we lost touch (she doesn’t use social media), but I’m hoping to reconnect with her soon.
What made you want to do knitting design?
After I learned to knit, it was a slippery slope to designing.
Initially I was knitting other designers’ patterns from Ravelry and books / magazines, but I also found myself sketching and figuring out how to knit some of the ideas bubbling up in my head. Learning to crochet in 2014 enhanced my ability to think creatively and to construct in a more freeform way. I think a crocheter can follow hunches and impulses to change directions and stitches, or to maneuver whatever shapes you want. Knitting is not as fluid a design process. To me, knit designs require more pre-planning, and changes are often more time-consuming. However, I love the precision and the “square-ness” of knitting, and for now, I’m sticking to my first love—knitting—for designing patterns.
Do you design full-time or part-time?
When I started designing in 2019, I still had a 9 to 6 job as an IT project manager at a major international bank. But the job was so stressful that I developed migraines and I knew I needed a change for my health and happiness. That is when I decided to go full time with knit design, and it’s the best decision I have ever made because I can devote my full energy to what I love: exploring new ideas and working them into my own unique designs.
What are your favorite things:
When I knit for myself, I gravitate toward cooler colors like blue and green, as well as black and gray. But for published knit designs, I try not to limit myself, and add bold and vibrant colors to my design palette.
DK weight is probably my most favorite because of its versatility. It’s light enough to wear in the fall and winter in Memphis, and yet knits up faster than fingering weight.
Wool is of course my #1, but I also like using cotton, silk, bamboo, and other alternative fibers. I’m planning on using Tencel yarn for one of my upcoming designs, and I’m looking forward to it!
Types of objects (e.g., shawls, hats, etc.)
I started with simple square coaster designs, then transitioned to accessories like hats, mittens, and rectangular scarves. Sayagata Shawl is my first triangular-shaped design, and I really enjoyed the experience so I will be designing more of those in the future.
Do you have a design that you think people should give a little love?
I have a handful of LGBTQ+-themed charity designs that I sell to raise funds for local LGBTQ+ organizations. Of those, Stonewall Hat (Ravelry and LoveCrafts) is something I was really excited about but did not get much love when I released it.
In the design, I conveyed the message of gender inclusiveness by placing various gender symbols. I think it’s a fun colorwork design and I hope more people will get the pattern.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
A lot of my designs are based on Japanese characters or cultural symbols. I like infusing my East Asian aesthetic into the Western world of knitting. I am proud to bring diversity into the handknitting world.
Can you tell us about your signature style?
I have designed a lot of double-knit reversible designs that have Japanese characters on both sides of the fabric. I call it “Amimoji”—which translates to “knitted characters.”
Japanese characters and double-knitting go well together because many characters are symmetric, and they look exactly the same on mirrored designs. They are also logograms (a la Emoji) so they graphically represent the object. One example is the character for Mountain (Yama – 山). Doesn’t it look like a mountain with the summit in the middle?
What is your nemesis? The thing that makes you want to run and hide when you think about it.
Brioche knitting. Brioche is like double-knitting’s cool sister—the technique used and the thick fabric it creates are similar between the two. But I find Brioche knitting to be painfully slow, and also the reverse / inner side of Brioche fabric is often wasted or forgotten. In double-knitting, both the front- and back-facing sides of the design receive equal attention. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to decide which is the “front” or the “back.”
What does a typical Duke-day entail?
A lot of knitting and document editing. In addition to designing my own, I like test knitting other designers’ patterns, because we can learn so much from each other and they often inspire me. On most days, I probably knit 10 hours a day every day – I like listening to podcasts and audiobooks; or watching YouTube videos or movies if the project is “TV-knitting” level.
I am interested in and spend a lot of time editing my self-published pattern layout (fun fact: in my previous career, I used to proof-read owners’ manuals and installation manuals of electronics products). I want my patterns to be thorough yet easy to read and navigate.
Other than knitting and designing, do you have any other creative endeavors?
Besides knitting, I volunteer at a local animal shelter when I am available, and I try to get some running in to get the rush of adrenaline and inspiration.
I also enjoy cooking Japanese food. Japanese seasoning is relatively simple – with just soy sauce, sake, mirin (sweet sake), and miso, you can make hundreds of different dishes.
Do you have a stash? Or if you buy it you make it up pretty quickly?
I have a sizeable collection of different yarns that I have acquired from previous fiber festivals. But I seldom order yarn online, so the pandemic has been a great opportunity to “shop” my stash. Now that life seems to be opening up again, like any good knitter, I imagine my stash will grow again! I like the interactions with yarn dyers and LYS shop owners. My next planned trip is to Stitches West 2022 in March.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Now, several years later, Daniel and I live in his hometown (Memphis, Tennessee) and lead a happy life fostering cats, building my design career, and enjoying marriage.
added by Knotions: Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your life and a bit of your knitting career. And of course, enjoy the kitties and being with Daniel!