Sock Knitter Interview: Mary the Hobbit

If there is one thing I love more then sock knitting, it’s talking to other knitters about sock knitting. I sent a call out for knitters who would like to be interviewed and a few brave souls responded. So, please enjoy the following interview with Mary the Hobbit-

Please tell us your name, where you live and any special talent(s) you have, (other then knitting)?

My nom de chaussette is Mary the Hobbit. I live in Reno now after working in Silicon Valley for 25 years as a computer programmer. I have an affinity for languages – studied Russian in college, and Japanese was an obsession for several years. I wrote a blog called Language Geek for awhile until the knitting bug bit. Also I have a serious book collection of translations of The Hobbit, hence the name.

How long have you been knitting? Who taught you how to knit?

My mother taught me to knit when I was little. In northern Wisconsin where I grew up, knitting was a fun thing to do in winter. After college I was working and living in California. When we moved to Reno 5 years ago I decided to knit a throw for the new living room, started visiting yarn shops, and discovered all the wonderful yarns that have appeared since I last checked 30 years ago.

When did you start knitting socks?
Tell us about the first pair of socks you ever knitted? (What pattern did you use? Who did you make them for?)

I was looking for interesting projects to feed my new knitting obsession. As a girl I knit mittens on 3 needles but I’d never tried socks. So I got a book of sock patterns, I think it was Vogue’s Socks Two, and gave it a try with some purple and blue Red Heart yarn. They turned out clunky and enormous. Another early attempt was ribbed socks for The Spouse made with cotton/bamboo yarn because he thought wool was scratchy. Ha – little did he know that 2 years later he’d be begging for more wool socks!

Where are those socks now? (i.e., in your drawer, frogged, in sock heaven?)

I don’t wear the Red Heart horrors, but sometimes I show them to students as an example of a first attempt at sock-knitting. Kind of a before and after thing – it’s clumsy at first but with practice you too can make fine socks that fit.

What made you decide to become a designer?

It’s been an evolving thing. First I knit a few socks, then I knit some more socks, bought more sock yarn, knit more interesting and complicated sock patterns, bought lots of colorful sock yarn, bought and read sock books, started tweaking sock patterns, went to Sock Summit, learned new sock knitting techniques, and eventually it turned into designing socks for fun. The first pattern I ever published was my Seriously Southwestern Socks and they were/are free. I didn’t start selling patterns for awhile because I didn’t think they were worthy.

What was the first design you ever sold?

I don’t consider myself a Real Designer yet, because I’ve only sold patterns on Ravelry. Also I have no blog (sigh), which is de rigueur for Real Designers IMO.

What advice would you give to other aspiring designers?

Learn as much as you can about different techniques and architectures and yarns and experiment with them, so you have lots of possibilities for expressing your idea. When you have a design, make a good-looking sample and use it to market your pattern.

What are your most treasured pair (or set) of knitting needles that you own? Tell us why?

I have some Lantern Moon bamboo dpns, size 1, that I used for my first dozen or more pairs of socks. They’re bent and battered but I still love them, even though I mostly use Addi Turbo circs these days.

Where is the furthest your knitting has ever traveled?

Birmingham, Alabama – The Spouse and I participated in the Mustangs Across America event, and I knit a pair of socks in the car.

If you were a yarn, what type and color would you be?

I would be a multicolor blue/purple Malabrigo Sock yarn, soft and fine.

Fantasy knitting- If you could knit something for anybody (dead, alive or fictional), who would it be and what would you knit for them?

I would knit some thick warm socks for Strider (Aragorn) of Lord of the Rings, because he spent all those years as a Ranger in the wilderness of Middle-Earth, protecting Hobbits from evil creatures.

What’s on your knitting needle(s) right now?

I’m working on Yet Another sock design, of course! I keep swatching with different yarns, trying to get the right effect. For some reason, each swatch looks like a sock toe!

Some people just can’t seem to understand why in this day anyone would ever think of knitting socks. So, I’ll ask you the question sock knitters get all too often- Why would anyone waste their time knitting socks when you can get a 12-pack for five bucks at Wal-Mart?

Anybody who asks that question misses the point, which is not to obtain cheap thow-away socks. Knitting socks is a hobby that fulfills many needs: for relaxing activity, for a feeling of accomplishment (look what I made!), for self-expression, for creative impulses (what would this pattern look like with that yarn?), and of course, for comfy socks!

Could you please provide a link to your website, blog, Flickr, Facebook, Ravelry or Twitter, or all of the above.

This is embarrassing, but I have no blog. I keep meaning to start one but am easily distracted by new shiny yarn and pattern ideas. My Ravelry designer page is http://www.ravelry.com/designers/mary-the-hobbit.

Thank you Mary for giving your time and giving your talent to the world of knitting!