Introducing Carolyn Bloom, the talent behind Bloom Handmade Studio. I spotted her embroidery on knitting technique and fell in love instantly. I was so excited that the questions just started falling out of my face uncontrollably. LOL! Keep reading to find the answers to all of my questions.
Carolyn, I want to start by saying thank you for taking the time to chat with me. I am truly intrigued with this technique. So tell me do you work in a variety of mediums? Knit, crochet, embroider and other forms of needle art? What was the first craft you learned? How did you become involved with this technique? What draws you to it?
As a staunch believer that variety is the spice of life, I work in a multiple of mediums. I love to knit, crochet and over the course of the past year, I have done a deep dive into exploring the addition of embroidery into these two skills. Knitting was my first experience with needle art. When my children were little, I signed up to take a weekly knitting class at a local community college and was instantly smitten. These were the days before Ravelry hit the scene, before Vogue Knitting went Live and before Rhinebeck was a thing. When I couldn't see my teacher to ask questions, I would go to the library to look things up. (Wow, that last sentence makes me sound very old.) Pretty soon, I started pulling books off the shelf for crochet and slowly, but surely, started learning this craft too. Then, when Instagram turned the world upside down, I found myself spending time gazing longingly at hashtags related to embroidery and fell in love with that skill. Even though I don't know how to sew, I am completely infatuated with this medium and how to incorporate it into my knitting and crochet projects.
My passion for hand crafting is fueled by so many things. Of course, I love the mental exercise of being creative and trying to push myself to learn a new skill or come up with a new design. I also thoroughly enjoy the repetitive motion of the steps required to create something by hand. It is interesting how my relationship with making has changed through the years. What started as a hobby to tinker with when my children were little has morphed into so much more. It is now my business, my muse and my primary means of making friends. I'm remarkably thankful for all that the realm of being creative has meant to me through all the phases of my life over the past twenty years.
LOL, I remember that, a good ole session in the library. Times have definitely changed. Can we talk about inspiration? What process do you use when you think about a new piece? Do you begin with sketches? Photos? Visits to museums? Nature Centers? What is the process from start to finish for a work?
What a wonderful question! My designs have been inspired by fairly eclectic muses, such as a favorite game from childhood (Water Arcade), bicycling down a 14,000 foot mountain (Concurrent), rides in a convertible (Cabriolet) and modern quilts (Kagan's Quilt and Four Squared). I like to ponder possibilities while I take long walks by myself. Often by the time I return home from these sojourns, I have a concept that is exciting. I then like to take a swim in my stash and see if there is yarn that further inspires me. However, one of my favorite things to do is collaborate with indie dyers to come up with the perfect yarn in just the right shade for an idea. From these collaborations, many wonderful friendships have been borne and cross promotions have proven to be helpful for each of us.
Once I have my yarn, I begin swatching. Through these "conversations" with the fiber, I refine my ideas. You can learn so much about what the yarn "wants to be" by actually getting it on to your needles or your hook. Being willing to rip things out and start over is a critical part of my process. Sometimes ideas that I would have sworn were really good end up getting kicked to the curb in favor of something better all because of swatching.
Once I've committed to the design, I begin making a finished piece in earnest. I take careful notes - okay, that's not true - I TRY to remember to take careful notes, which become the foundation for my pattern. I love to take photos of my works in progress for social media and for my Ravelry page. Once my pattern is about 90% of the way completed, I start looking for test knitters. I am so lucky to have a handful of lovely women who are willing to give my patterns a go and give me detailed feedback. I am always happy to be questioned about my instructions at this phase. Better to fix it now then to find out once the pattern has been released. Sometimes I will make a second sample myself just to make sure that the final design is as close to perfect as possible before it is released onto Ravelry and my website.
Why did "take a swim in my stash" make me smile? I need to swim in mine. LOL. Let's stay with the stash ok? Many of us working with needle arts collect yarn, thread and other raw materials for future unknown projects. Some artists just buy what they need for a specific project. Is your studio filled with stash of all kinds of materials? If so, how do you organize everything? Do you pick up unusual supplies as you travel? Can you show us a photo of your studio?
Oh, you want a stash shot! Yes, I can do that! But first let me tell you that I recently moved from our family home of fifteen years into an apartment half the size. This is inherently stressful, but for a fiber artist who works from her home, it was rather, how shall I put it? - loathsome? detestable? yucky? - to have all your yarny hidey holes exposed! I have yet to discover new places to tuck away my yarn, so much of it is, sadly, still in boxes.
Back when I knew where things were, I used to sort things by a few different indexes. By weight was the easiest. Super bulky here, aran there, DK in that cubby. Fingering weight - my preference for most projects - is a little trickier. Favorite dyers are kept together. I have a huge bag of blue - my preference for most projects - fingering weight yarn. And when I say huge, please just believe me. I have a smaller bag for pinks and corals. And I even have a bag of yarn that someday I would like to destash. Here's the thing about knitting for nearly twenty years: your tastes change. That sweater quantity purchased years ago for a sweater you no longer want to wear, much less knit? It's okay. We've all been there. Likewise, the BFL that takes dye so beautifully? Sometimes you discover that BFL makes you itch only after you've purchased a ridiculous amount of it. After two decades, I have become more discerning at the time of purchase, but I have also become more forgiving of those impulse buys that may never make their way to my needles or hook.
The photo is just some of my fingering weight yarn which has been sorted into Ziploc bags and stowed in the chest at the foot of my bed.
I wish I was that organized, my stash is everywhere. I love how you draw inspiration from multiple sources. What artists have influenced your work? If you could choose a group of artists (dead or alive) for a dinner party, which 6 would you choose?
The advent of Instagram has influenced my design work tremendously. I think anyone on that platform would admit that the readily available stream of inspirational images invariably impacts your aesthetic. Every day, my scrolling is stopped by photos of artistry that I find notable. Some of the makers who inspire me on this platform include:
Knitters: Denise DeSantis (@earthtonesgirl), Whitney Hayward (@whit_hayward), MaraLicole (@maralicoleknits), Nancy Ricci (@gettingpurlywithit)
Crocheters: Toni (@tlyarncrafts), Deb Rosse (@debrosse_nyc), Tinna Þórudóttir Þorvaldar (@tinnahekl)
Quilters: Kathryn Upitis (@kupitis), Laura Hartrich (@laurahartrich)
Embroiderers: Constance Posey (@constance_posey), Aaron Sanders Head (@aaronsandershead)
As for a dinner party? Oh, it's tricky to keep it to six!
Kaffe Fassett, whose depth and breadth of work and use of color is remarkable.
Georgia O'Keefe, whose work inspires my daughter to pick up her paint brush.
Jordana Martin Munk, curator of The Tatter Blue Library, which I would like to make my home away from home.
Jan Havicksz Steen whose work I enjoyed the most at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
The Head and the Heart, whose music makes me feel all the feels.
Amor Towles, who wrote A Gentleman in Moscow, one of my favorite books.
Carolyn thank you so much for spending time with me. I have one final question, where can our readers find you and your work?
My photographs and a custom embellished canvas have been shown at the Donald Gallery in Dobbs Ferry, NY.
To see my complete set of designs and my photography, please visit my website at https://bloomhandmadestudio.com. My designs are also available on Ravelry, where my user name is BloomHandmade. And to see what I'm up to daily, follow me @BloomHandmadeStudio on Instagram.