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Monday, January 16, 2012

Guest Blogger - Meet Jane Thornley - Inspired Knitter Par Excellence! Part II

I THINK this photo on the left was the first one of Jane's I saw that so reminded me of my own Bernadetta Scarf style, pictured on the right.  Hers is wider and contains such an array of luscious, hand-dyed yarns and fibers.  Mine makes use exclusively of stash yarns.  But the resemblance is uncanny; hence her coining the term "Kindred Spirits" for us.  As we've come to know one another, there are other uncanny similarities in our work and in our lives.  We do indeed hope to actually meet in person one day...............!

And so I happily present the second part of my interview with Jane Thornley and reprint - with her permission - an article published in the Camelid Quarterly from February 2009.  I am so in awe of this woman..........!

8. Describe your workspace?
Once upon a time I had a house, a whole house. Now I have a downstairs living area sandwiched between a lower floor recreation area that has turned into kit-making central with winding swifts of my husband’s invention. Walk into our ‘rec room’ and you’ll see yarn wound and ready to go. On the very top floor of our aerie, we have the office/beading area on one side of the house with the knitting/yarn room separated by a hall on the other. During the day, I sit at the computer writing and at night move to the knitting room to work on my designs while watching movies or shows. Yarn and knitted pieces assault the eye everywhere. I literally have pieces festooning over the banister separating the upstairs from the open kitchen below.

9. What is one of your best moments as a crafter/artist?
When someone emails to say that something I did or said or made has made a positive impact on their life, I pause to ponder the power of the human hand. To think that something I did has touched another both honors and humbles me.

10. What advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting their own craft business?
I was once cited in a book as a how-to example on becoming a crafts entrepreneur. The problem was, I didn’t have a business plan and still don’t. Nothing I did follows the rules. I prefer to think of what I do as an evolution, a way of following my inclinations towards self-expression in an intuitive way. I once sat at a big desk in a big job with lots of employees supposedly under my jurisdiction. My creative voice choked on budgets and bored meetings and management issues. Oh, and budget cuts.

Then I escaped and refuse to enter another cage for anyone.

My message to anyone wanting to start a business is encapsulated in one word: passion. That says it all. And, yes, an entrepreneurial spirit helps, as does a bit of life experience, but if you don’t have fire in your belly to create, nobody will follow your light. Do what you believe and enjoy the process!

Knitting Off The Grid
By Jane Thornley
The Camelid Quarterly 1 March 2009

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I began my knitting life at twenty-one as most of us do, by following a knitting code along a linear path called a pattern. Somehow my efforts never turned out like the originals; like the sweater sleeve that turned into a trunk warmer for an elephant. But the fact that my hands had created this miraculous piece of slubbed, apricot-coloured, textile overrode niggles of disappointment. While my passion for yarn had begun, my frustration caused me to explore ‘knitting off the grid.’

I took extension courses through the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design but, with the help of my mother and so many wonderful books and magazines, taught myself most of the beading, embroidery, sewing, painting and drawing techniques that have since embellished the otherwise plain surfaces of my life. Along the way I made time to acquire a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in English, a Bachelor of Education and a Masters of Library Service. These enabled me to spend many years as the passionate advocate of school libraries.

Creating jewelry is a relatively new passion, though a natural extension of my love for colour and texture. My bead drawers brim with semi-precious stones, pearls and metals from all over the world which lure me to compose talismans of adornment for otherwise bare necks and wrists. Wherever I travel, I find inspiration and more beads to weave into something to celebrate the rich global trove in which we live.

Give me detail to austerity any day. Something to catch the eye, drawing theattention deeper into the subject, is my preferred aesthetic. My early multicoloured sweaters contained as many as fifty different colours of yarn. For me,
colour and texture rule and most of the inspiration feeding my imagination comes from the natural world. I see knitting as art, as viable as any other, and no matter what the tool or preferred palette, in human hands, magic happens.

Besides jewelry creation and knitting, the latter of which has sustained me on the parameters of many demanding executive careers in public education, I also write women’s fiction. Seven novels, a few agents, and a tendency to focus more on writing than the business end of becoming published, and I’m still authoring at least one novel a year. Once upon a time, I was listed as one of the most popular authors in fiction and mystery on the now defunct Time-Warner website, I-Write. I am currently working on a book for knitters tentatively entitled ‘Adventure Knitting’ which takes the knitter on a ride through the textural landscape of novelty yarns.

Along the way my knitting evolved into the 'free-range knitting' philosophy I favour today. Now I knit and design patterns that feature a mix of fabulous yarns, rather than complex pattern work and stitch gymnastics. The style is
intuitive. In workshops, I guide knitters to explore their own creativity through the rich world of yarn.

My early attempts at following patterns, or not following patterns, plus my education background, taught me that many people have difficulty decoding standard patterns, which has nothing to do with ability, education or intelligence. The symbols scramble, the attention wanders, or they simply find all that direction-following stressful. I certainly did.

Now I encourage knitters to banish the inner perfectionist and explore a sense of play. I often provide colour and texture maps in my patterns to provide a reference point to encourage knitters to experience knitting 'off the grid.' I try to decrease the use of symbols, though they are often necessary and very useful. Gauge rarely features and I advocate a 'no wrong turn' approach. What mistakes? Mistakes are simply deviations on the road to adventure. Being too fixed on a specific result amputates creativity so 'loosen up' is my mantra.

In workshops, I like to introduce 'yarn whispering' as a way to unlock a knitter's intuitive self. Every knitter has the ability to create unique works of fiber art once they trust that inner voice. Confidence is rarely achieved without a little risk and adventure can never happen without an element of serendipity.**

But, most important of all, this is free-range knitting and free-range knitting is about knitting with passion. Take a look at the projects in the project gallery for some of my patterns and you'll see passion blooming in other's knitting

During my first trip to Italy, visiting a castle in Tuscany, I began imagining bringing a group of art, food, fiber and culture enthusiasts to Tuscany, using the castillo as a home base while touring the area. Travel has always been one of my great loves even way back in my first life as an educator. In the early days, I used to organize groups of junior
high students to travel in North America. If you can keep teenagers happy, safe and fed, you're well on your way to coordinating anything. My first workshop was 'Knit a Beach' in Nova Scotia, then came Tuscany and tomorrow the world, I hope. I seek out the extraordinary and the inspiring with a view to weave in the culture, spirit and colors of
the region I visit. Next up: Morocco followed by Ireland. Did I mention the world?

My wonderful, supportive husband, John, a talented stone mason, painter and cabinet maker in his own right, and I live on the edge of the Partridge River, in a place that has become a sanctuary and an inspiration for us both.

Like so much of human experience, after a certain steam burns away, what is left hardens to the core. Adhered to mine then, is the love for books, learning, and the celebration of the human voice through words or art. Only recently have I come to fully live what I believe.

About the Author
Jane Thornley calls Mineville, Nova Scotia home but is using the world as her creative muse. She may be reached by
e-mail at More information abouther workshops, yarn whispering and her inspired patterns may be found on her website:

**serendipity - originated in 1754, coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”

The Camelid Quarterly 2 March 2009
Knitting Off The Grid

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