"Challenging myself in knitting is a compulsion": Q&A with Faye Kennington

Faye Kennington – designing as Ukeeknits, after the nickname of her island home – is a GAL stalwart and mod. Her designs are always beautiful, but can be very broadly divided into two types: the more whimsical, quirky projects (like the 2hr Artist's Loop, which I made in GAL2014, or her hilarious Sasquatch balaclava) and the classic styles (like the beautiful geometric Modern Puzzle Throw). I love her creativity, her wit, her sense of colour and her gorgeous photos! 

You can find her on Instagram and in her Ravelry group.

1. You’re one of the few designers I know with actual fashion training, but you didn’t make it a career. What ultimately brought you to knitting design?
I crocheted and sewed throughout my youth and thought fashion would be an interesting career choice. My teenage dream was to be a shoe designer. I enrolled in an amazing and intensive fashion design programme after high school, but by the end of it, I’d had enough of it to quit hemming my own pants. You know how sometimes turning a passion into work is, well, work? That’s what happened to me.

I didn’t actually learn to knit until my 20s. I only started designing knits in 2010, when we moved to a new town and I was between jobs and didn’t know people in my new community. Unfortunately, we had to pare down our possessions quite a bit to make the move, and after ~15 years of hauling them around, I threw out all my fashion school resources on pattern making. Fortunately, I still well remember making pattern blocks in class.

2. What motivates you?
I’m a type A personality. I’m always keeping busy. Knitting, and challenging myself in knitting, is a compulsion.

3. What did you expect to achieve when you first started designing? Are those goals still relevant?
I started designing as a lark. I was just having fun making friends and interacting on Ravelry. In the first few years of things taking off, I had firm goals, but I’m not trying to set too many for myself right now. I take the business side of designing much more seriously than at the beginning, but continuing to enjoy the design process is important to me. I’m a process knitter, so most of my current goals are about making things I can actually use. 

4. What’s your fave of your own designs? Which is the most unfairly neglected?
My current favourite is probably Alpenglow. I was disappointed that Feather Throw didn’t get more recognition. It took me years to develop that feather motif. [RW: I have to agree, it's perfection…]

5. Do you find social media important for your marketing? What does it mean to you to have a “personal brand”?
Absolutely! If it weren’t for Ravelry and Instagram, I would have never gotten started in this field. Personal branding is something I continue to chip away at, but never feel like I have perfected.

6. You’re one of our awesome GAL mods – thank you! What do you most look forward to in the GAL, as a knitter and as a designer?
You’re welcome! I love the Indie Design Giftalong and have been involved since the start. Most of the work I do is behind the scenes to support the designers. This year I will be maintaining the @indiegiftalong account on Instagram, however, I am hoping to still have lots of gift knitting time. This is the one time a year I knit other designers' patterns and it feels like a holiday. I love not having to do any of the formatting or pattern editing needed to produce one of my own designs.

7. What GAL patterns have caught your eye? Are you making anything?
I’ll be knitting five gifts, for sure. I won the yarn and pattern to make the Wayfarer Hat by Carol Herman in last year’s giftalong, so I think I’ll make that for my Dad. Since he’s more into cars than yarn, I hope he doesn’t read your blog and that’s safe to say. I’ll be secretive about the rest of my recipients, though. Two other patterns I’ll be making are Christelle Nihoul’s Abencerage and Raven Knits’ the Beekeeper Mittens.

I’m fantasizing that I’ll be able to make myself Meghan Jones’ Abbey Glade, Michelle Krause’s Golden Harvest Shawl and/ or Megan Nodecker’s Mara. Unfortunately, the giftalong is only 6 weeks long, so that’s not realistic after gift knitting.

8. What haven’t you done yet (in craft, in business or in life) that you really, really want to? 
Do some northern travelling. I want to stay in an ice hotel or in one of those of those crazy glass-roofed yurts under the northern lights. I’d love to go Iceland, too.