We got a chance to chat with Padma R. this month!
She’s the designer of the Squishy Hat from this issue, as well as numerous others!
Tell us a bit more about yourself. Where do you live? How did you end up there?
I live in India, in the busy city of Mumbai, which is on the Western coast. I’m originally from South India, but am working in Mumbai. Mumbai city is a sprawling metropolis, vibrant and colorful and full of life – you’ll find people on the streets even at 2 am!
India is a country of great diversity – I always think of it as many small countries rolled into one. We have cold winters in the North and warm weather elsewhere. Knitting is popular in the North; I recently discovered a lot of YouTube channels in Hindi with tens of thousands of followers – none of these knitters are on Ravelry! Yarn isn’t much in demand elsewhere, although thread crochet seems to be popular in some areas. As compared to knit and crochet, we have a long and rich heritage in textiles, particularly handloom cottons and silks.
What are your favorite things:
That’s a difficult question! I loved blue as a child (it’s my school house color too), but now I don’t really have any favorites. I like to put colors together in unexpected combinations and stitch patterns and see if they work.
I’ve worked with yarn weights from light fingering to bulky and I like them all! They all have their uses, and it’s fun to change from one to another. I find that deciding on stitch patterns for small projects in the heavier yarns (aran and above) is a bit more challenging as you have to choose smaller stitch multiples. You don’t have that issue with the lighter weights. Laceweight is next on the cards and I’m really looking forward to it.
Fibers (especially since you’re from a warm climate)
Cotton and linen (and their blends) work well in our hot weather, and most of my daily wear is made of these. The same applies to yarn.
I have a confession – I like working with warm fibers too, so I don’t let the weather discourage me! I may not get to wear the warm things I make (unless I’m traveling to a cold place), but I give them away to family members as gifts – they enjoy receiving and using them!
Types of objects (e.g., shawls, hats, etc.)
Like many knitters, I have a fondness for shawls, especially lace ones! You don’t have to worry too much about gauge, and lace is relaxing. That moment when the lace comes off the blocking mat and drapes beautifully is quite something. I like hats and cowls too, because they’re quicker, and there’s always a bit of excitement in hat shaping. I’ve designed a child’s crochet sweater, and I have a Tunisian crochet top design half made, but I’m a long way from getting into adult garment design, mainly because of lack of time.
Why do you like to design?
Many reasons! I remember reading somewhere that designers are just people who can’t follow patterns, and it’s true! My very first crochet project (a scarf and hat set) turned out very different from the pattern because I was using a heavier yarn than recommended. I almost always modified every pattern I used, often because of necessity 🙂 These days, I don’t usually get to make other people’s patterns because I don’t have time to try out all the ideas swirling in my own head 🙂
To get back to your question, designing brings color and grace into my life. I can use a different part of my brain from the part I use at work. It’s very satisfying to see how a design plays out, and to get to have control over just a few things in life!
And despite the stress of design deadlines, it’s always a high when you see other people making and using your patterns. In a small way, I feel that I get to become a part of their lives too, and that’s very gratifying. My most unforgettable design story so far is that of the Calm Bay shawl (a free pattern in Knotions!). A bride saw her friend’s shawl, asked her to make another for herself, and used it in her wedding ceremony. There are photos on the Ravelry project pages – so heartwarming!
You’re both a knitting and a crochet designer. How do you decide which one to use for a particular design? Or, do you start out by saying “I want to knit (or crochet) a [knit/crochet] design” and go from there?
Interesting question! I’ve never really thought about that. Often after I’ve been knitting for a while, I get this hankering for my Tunisian hooks and start thinking what TC pattern I can design next. Of course, the vice versa is also true! And sometimes, it’s the yarn which dictates – for a solid fabric, a heavier yarn always propels me towards knitting, because TC and crochet generally produce thicker fabric.
I learned to knit only around 2014-15. I’m pretty much a self-taught crafter (from books and the Net) and it took me a few years before I realized that my first knitting project, a scarf, had been made completely in twisted stitches! Looking back, I must have been really determined to finish it (and I kept wondering why knitting was so difficult and how other people could find it easy)! Unfortunately, I have no photos of that memorable (surprisingly attractive) scarf, as it was gifted away.
I find that being familiar with different techniques has changed the way I handle yarn. And switching between crafts helps prevent RSI (repetitive stress injury) which is a bonus.
What made you originally choose to submit to Knotions?
I think I saw the design call on the Knotions website and I liked the sound! My very first third-party published design Pretty Pavement cowl was in Knotions. I really appreciate every bit of the publishing process with Jody and the Knotions team – they’re very straightforward, prompt and helpful – all important factors for a designer. Knotions has been, and still is, a part of my design journey and it’s always a pleasure!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
From many places (like all designers, I think). Sometimes, it’s a design submission call which will set me thinking. Often, it’s yarn in my stash which I want to use – occasionally, it turns out to be difficult to handle in the sense of not producing the fabric I initially had in mind, and then I’ll keep swatching and frogging in equal measure until the yarn and I agree!
Can you tell us about your process when you design? I’m curious about your inspiration and how you bring that to life?
I usually start with the yarn. I like to knit a fairly good sized stockinette swatch first; it gives me an idea of what the yarn feels and looks like when it’s worked up, and my fingers become familiar with handling it too. Then I decide on the fabric and the project. If it’s lace, it’s usually a shawl.
Sometimes, it’s the changing scene around me that gets my mind buzzing. A Time of Rain was designed during the Indian monsoon, and Flame Tree shawl is inspired by the showy beauty of the gulmohar tree.
Who are your favorite designers? (both craft and non-craft)
I’m not really familiar with fashion designers, so can I skip that part? 😉
Elizabeth Zimmermann makes me think of knitting as fun and Barbara Walker is so versatile – both were geniuses, and I learn something new every time I read one of their books! I admire Nicky Epstein and Melissa Leapman (very prolific knit and crochet designers), Kim Guzman and Dora Ohrenstein (in Tunisian crochet), Norah Gaughan, Hunter Hammersen and a whole lot of other current designers, too many to mention.
What is your nemesis? The thing that makes you want to run and hide when you think about it.
Hmm, nothing really so far, but you never know! I really want to be very, very good at seaming so that I don’t always lean towards seamless designs, and hopefully I’ll get there someday. I thought handling yarns in stranded knitting would be difficult, but I find it’s very addictive. There are so many techniques to try!
What do you do in addition to being a designer?
I’m a full-time healthcare professional, and my job is quite demanding and time-consuming. I have a six-day week, and there are days when I don’t get time to touch my yarn. It’s gratifying to be able to help people, and it keeps my life balance steady.
What does a typical Padma-day entail?
Get up before 6.30, get breakfast and packed lunches done, get ready for work. I try to get 10-15 minutes to knit or crochet before I leave the house – I find it really settles and calms my head! I have no time for yarn at work, except to look at Instagram during my lunch break 🙂
I’m back home in the evening, and then get involved with family, house, dinner etc. As you can see, my yarn time comes in 15 – 30 minute periods in between many other things. I’m always a little sleep-deprived – but don’t tell my family I said that! Fortunately, I get a little more time on weekends.
Other than knitting, crochet and designing, do you have any other creative endeavors?
No, none at present. I did cross-stitch and embroidery in my pre-yarn days; nowadays, I can’t imagine how I had the patience! I guess the nature of patience changes with age, maybe? 🙂
Do you have a stash? Or if you buy it you make it up pretty quickly?
I do have a stash – a rather eclectic one at that. My first yarn purchases were bulky weight because that was the only yarn available in that town – so I got lots. My daughter and sister have added bits (of their choice!) to my stash over the years. I’m trying to be frugal-minded, so I buy yarn only if it’s a weight I don’t have, or if I need it for a specific design. I try to stick to the rule of ‘use up the yarn I have before I get more’ and over time, I hope to make significant dents in my stash!
I really enjoyed answering these questions, and they made me think a bit too! Thank you very much for having me here. It’s always an honor and a pleasure to work with Knotions.