INTERVIEW WITH KNITTING DESIGNER AND BESTSELLING AUTHOR ANTJE GILLINGHAM

Today is a very special day for us here at SKEINO. I met with knitting designer and bestselling author Antje Gillingham who just started collaborating with us. Meet Antje and learn about why she actually started knitting snakes!

Antje Gillingham for SKEINO

Matt: Hi Antje, I’m glad you’re here with us today! 

Antje: Hi Matt, excited to be here!

Matt: Your first name sounds German, are you a “pilgrim”? 

Antje: Actually, “Antje” is a Dutch name. My parents adore Nordic names, therefore my siblings and I all have them! I do come from Germany though.

I learned how to knit in school at the age of 8. Back then, we had a class similar to home ec.

Matt: When did you come to the US and how did you feel when you came here? 

Antje: I came to the States a looong time ago…gulp…well, let’s just say, I was 18 years old. I landed in Burbank, California with my former husband, and moved to the Monterey Peninsula a few years later. You know how I felt when I got here? “Let the adventure begin!” And boy, it’s been a fantastic ride so far!

Matt: Today you’re living in Hawaii. That sounds like a dream! Is it as great to live here as we all imagine it to be?

Antje: Wow, how much space do I get for this answer? I could gush, and drive the word count up substantially!! But to keep it super short: I loooove living in Hawaii! It is where I belong!

Matt: Let’s talk about knitting! Can you recap when you learned to knit and how you became a designer?

Antje: Again… it was a long time ago in a land far away…But seriously; I learned how to knit in school at the age of 8. Back then, we had a class similar to home ec. It started in 4th grade. My first project was a super-colorful snake. It took me forever to seam that up!! I no longer make snakes, and I do have a love-hate relationship with seaming things.

Designing snuck up on me by way of socks. I, as many other knitters, have always had second sock syndrome, and still have a few single socks in the drawer because I couldn’t get myself to knit the same thing twice. I was introduced and immediately intrigued by the unconventional technique of knitting 2 socks at the same time on 2 circular needles, and became obsessed. I refined the steps, and I started offering classes at my shop. People loved the technique and that excited me. I began to teach the class all over the country, it always sold out. And suddenly, I found myself designing patterns, specifically for knitting 2 socks simultaneously on 2 circular needles because they didn’t exist back then.

One big knitting trend for fall-winter 2015-16 is oversized everything – sweaters, ponchos, scarves and such; bulky yarns are back for quick knits and instant gratification; textured and directional patterns, color as well as bead work are also trending for the upcoming cooler season.

Matt: You wrote several best-selling knitting books. Can you briefly talk about them?

Antje: It was thrilling to write those books and then have two of them, Knitting Circles around Socks and Knitting more Circles around Socks, became bestsellers! I loved the process of creating the designs, of taking a skein of yarn, finding the perfect pattern for it and then watching it jump off the drawing board and into life. The fact that so many knitters not only learned how to knit 2 socks at a time but in general how to knit socks using the instructions in my books is an exhilarating feeling!

Antje Gillingham with her bestselling books

Matt: How would you define a good design for a knitted piece?

Antje: That’s easy! The design has to fit the yarn. Considering all the time and money knitters put into their projects, the end-result needs to be just as lovely and comfortable as the picture promised. After all, we buy patterns because we like what we see. But if we follow the instructions and end up with something that doesn’t live up to its promises is so disappointing and just plain horrible!

Matt: What are the hottest trends in knitting right now and are there evergreens that never run out of fashion?

Antje: One big knitting trend for fall-winter 2015-16 is oversized everything – sweaters, ponchos, scarves and such; bulky yarns are back for quick knits and instant gratification; textured and directional patterns, color as well as bead work are also trending for the upcoming cooler season. Hats, scarves, shawls, fingerless mitts, accessories and small projects in general – as always – remain evergreens. In the end though, it only really matters what the individual knitter loves to do. That’ll be their hot fashion trend for any season!

For SKEINO, it’s their luscious vivid colors, and that combined with a quality product makes them stand apart from the rest.

Matt: You just started collaborating with us at SKEINO and we’re soooo excited! Can you tell our readers how all of this started and why you chose to work with us? I heard you turned down other offers from yarn companies wanting to collaborate with you.

Antje: I did have offers from other yarn companies but SKEINO was just the perfect fit for me.

I used to own a yarn shop, and first met Bjorn and Rex at The Summer NeedleArts Trade Show in Columbus, Ohio about … oh wow … I think it was about 10 years ago! I remember walking through the aisles, stepping in and out of booths, admiring new yarns for the fall season, and being completely overwhelmed. Then I came across their booth and saw Bjorn in front of a display of magnificent color, talking to a customer. That’s really all I saw at first, the color. We got to talking and hit it off right away! We talked yarn, color and a little Germany, switching back and forth between English and German. It felt like we’d known each other forever! Poor Bjorn – at the end of our conversation and without warning, I flung myself at him for a big hug…he was very gracious about it. Of course, Rex got a hug as well! They both must have thought me pretty strange, but they never led on.

We’ve been in touch ever since, on a business level and on a personal level. I have used their sock yarn in one of my books (loved it!), and we’ve always talked about a collaboration but our schedules never matched….until now. I am thrilled to finally be a part of SKEINO!!

Matt: From your professional point of view, how would you describe SKEINO yarn?

Antje: AMAZING COLOR! That comes to mind first! It goes without saying that SKEINO yarns are high quality yarns, but let’s be honest; there is quite a lot of great yarn on the market these days. In order to stay competitive you have to take that extra step and offer something not commonly found. For SKEINO, it’s their luscious vivid colors, and that combined with a quality product makes them stand apart from the rest.

Antje Gillingham with SKEINO yarn

Matt: There are several designs in the making and we’re uber-excited to learn more. What can you give away about them?

Antje: You’re not the only ones uber-excited! I have been seriously sequestered away….on the patio and at the beach (seriously!), swatching my fingers to the bone. I’ve played with ideas and tested patterns, and created designs that bring out the best qualities and some surprising attributes in each yarn and its color. I found pattern repeats that are relatively easy to work yet look like they’re complicated stitch work. Above all, I hope that my designs bring excitement to the coming season, and that the patterns are fun to knit up; and if they are gifts, I hope it will be hard…nay, near impossible to give them away! Happy knitting, everybody!!

Matt: Sounds amazing! We truly appreciate having you at SKEINO. One last question: Is knitting the new yoga?

Antje: Knitting is, and I think has always been Yoga for the soul!

Matt: Thank you for your time and we’re excited to see your designs!

Antje: I should thank you because you let me play with your wonderful yarn! I can’t wait to share my designs!

About Matt: Matt Lehmann is one of SKEINO’s owners and he is in charge of marketing and communication. His knitting skills are practically non-existing but he does know the difference between sock weight and super bulky weigh by now. Oh, and no – unfortunately he didn’t have the chance to actually visit Antje in Hawaii yet, sniff….

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2 thoughts on “INTERVIEW WITH KNITTING DESIGNER AND BESTSELLING AUTHOR ANTJE GILLINGHAM

  1. What an enjoyable and informative interview with Antje Gillingham. I am about to start knitting the “anklets and ruffles” pattern from her book Knitting Circles Around Socks. It is one of my favorite sock knitting books because of the extremely clear instructions and illustrations and the variety of sock patterns that are included.

  2. Loved this article! I met Antje when she owned her Knitting Nest in Maryville, TN! It is because of her encouragement that I enjoy knitting so much today! I really miss her!

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