October 17, 2019
Kate Atherley learned to knit at a young age from her grandmother Hilda, a knitter and crocheter herself. While she doesn’t remember the process of learning to knit, she does remember making blankets for her dolls and teddy bears, and then moving on to - as she says - “semi-successful” garments. She fell in love with knitting, however, when she got ahold of a copy of Nancy Bush's Folk Socks book.
Kate knit her first pair of socks in the mid 1990s and developed a deep love for classic sock yarns like Regia over the years. “Wears forever. [G]reat colours, consistent and fabulous!” Kate started her career in knitwear design with a line of accessories for the store she first taught at. She knit sample hats and mittens to show off the yarns they stocked, and when customers began asking for the patterns, she obliged by adding designing to her repertoire.
Educated in theoretical mathematics, Kate eventually switched from working in the tech industry to writing books, designing, teaching, and tech-editing patterns full time. She says she uses a lot of the same skills, including geometry, math, and logic, in both fields - especially when editing patterns for Knitty or other designers! We can only imagine what amazing feats of arithmetic take place in her head in order to produce the kind of detailed but accessible instructions which help us lesser beings knit socks that fit!
Kate currently has three hundred and nine patterns to her name on Ravelry.com, stretching back as far as 2005. They include accessories like hats, mitts, and shawls, as well as garments, toys, and baby items. The sock patterns, however, outnumber everything else, as they are her favourite thing to knit! Bright and funky colours appeal to Kate, but textures do as well – you just have to glance at the number of sock patterns she has written with cables or other textured stitch patterns to see she likes to keep knitters engaged! Kate is also a fan of brioche and enjoys using up sock leftovers or her brightest yarns for fun and funky neckwear like ‘Lemon Difficult'
Slipped stitch colourwork has recently caught her imagination, so we're watching out for what she comes up with next…
As well as being the Managing Technical Editor for Knitty, Kate has worked with Interweave, PLY magazine, Bluprint, Knitcrate, Berroco, Estelle, Knitscene magazine, and many more.
Kate credits the Internet with making her patterns and tutorials accessible to so many people. “I love that it’s easy for me to get patterns out there, but also allows me to publish tutorials and resources to help knitters get better at what they do, to help knitters be successful.”
Her books are already classics in the knitting world, especially Custom Socks: Knit To Fit Your Feet which focuses on fit and gauge for making socks that are both the right size and the right shape in a variety of yarns. Knit Mitts uses the same principles, but for the hands: size and gauge first, and then a selection of beautiful patterns and the tips and tricks for issues like gaps, too-tight cast ons, and more. Her book on pattern designing, The Beginner's Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns, helps budding designers turn a knitted object into a usable pattern for other knitters, touching on technical editing, test knitting, and all the little details that really help a pattern work. Her most recent book, The Knitter's Dictionary, covers some of the same ground with abbreviations and common techniques, but in a way that knitters of all skill levels can access. It also covers basics like gauge, measuring, using patterns, and caring for hand knits.
Kate says the manuscript for her seventh book was just submitted and the eighth is currently in progress, so we'll be keeping an eye out for those.
Kate calls Toronto home, along with her husband and their beagle-coonhound mix named Dexter (who turned up in her yard one day). She knits while watching murder mysteries and baking competitions, and in the afternoon falls on the ‘tea' side of the age-old dichotomy of ‘coffee vs. tea.’, but is a die-hard espresso drinker before noon.
Her columns for Mason-Dixon Knitting and Knitty regularly include technical info and tutorials for a variety of knitting genres. They range from general skills like weaving in ends and short rows to sock-specific things like avoiding those little ‘ears' that form when grafting the toes of socks Hot tip: there’s a page on her website that lists all her tutorials across the online publications they appear in!
We welcome Kate Atherley here to Wabi Sabi this weekend for four classes, two of which focus on her favourite - socks! Ottawa knitters have a choice of ‘Soxpertise’ a general sock class which includes some of the fit elements from her book Custom Socks, or ‘Two Socks At Once: The War and Peace Method’. In addition, Kate will teach ‘Intro to Brioche’ and ‘Size & Fit: Why the Medium Never Fits Quite Right’. All the class information is available here on our main website.
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