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A picture of Lorna Watt

Lorna Watt

Yarnbomber (Knits for Life)

in knitting, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Lorna Watt, and I am a fiber artist at Knits for Life in the Silicon Valley. I design knitting and crochet patterns for hobbyists, create fiber art for collectors, and yarnbomb the streets.

I mostly work with my sister, Jill Watt a.k.a. The Dapper Toad, on surprising designs to make people smile. I'm also the Artist in Residence for the Downtown San Mateo Association and publish a yarnbombing zine called Fuse. My past lives made me fluent in three languages, traveling to over 15 countries on 3 continents, with notable scientific publications about the evolution of biodiversity.

I'm best known for our Squid Tree and Monster Bench yarnbombs, and my chain link scarf and monster feet slippers patterns. Currently I'm pushing the boundaries of knitting with machine-knit animations about our technological lives and am learning to hack a knitting machine.

What hardware do you use?

I believe in using the right needle craft for the job, so we have pretty much every fiber art tool known to man. Knitting uses straight, double pointed, and circular needles, for which we use a mix of Clover, cheap bamboo sets, Addi Clicks, and Knit Picks. I prefer sharp knitting needles with a short taper for speed with continental style knitting. Fortunately crochet is limited to simple hooks. I prefer Boye but Jill likes Susan Bates and is allergic to metal, so we have a wide mix from jumbo to micro. I store a wide assortment of yarn on a 9x13' peg board wall, which we wind on a Lacis Ball Winder with the yarn label tucked inside.

I have 4 manual knitting machines: the Embellish-Knit i-cord mill, the Addi Express king size mill, a vintage extended flat bed Ultimate Sweater Machine plus a new one for extra parts, and a vintage flat bed Elna 2400. The USM is my workhorse for large-gauge plain and striped knitting, while the Elna takes punch cards for finer gauge colorwork designs. I use a punching machine and a 50 foot roll of punch card paper liberally for designs on the Elna. We're preparing to purchase a hackable Brother 270 bulky electronic machine with a fully programmable needle bed. Other essentials: digital ring counter, knitting graph paper, cheap college-ruled and graph spiral notebooks, lazy susans, bent tip tapestry needles, bobby pins, thumb tacks, t-pins, retractable tape measure, and any small, sharp scissors.

Photography is either on an iPhone 4S, a Canon PowerShot SX200IS point and shoot, or Jill's Canon Rebel SL1. My 27" iMac (+ WE external drive, wireless trackpad & keyboard) is my workhorse at home, while I shuttle a prehistoric 2006 13" MacBook to and from the art studio. I print office stuff on my Canon multifunction, taking the zine and patterns to Staples Print Center.

Entertainment is essential with our repetitive tasks. I watch stuff in the studio on my Kindle Fire, which I have few better uses for, with audio on a JBL docking speaker. Transport is either my silver '98 New Beetle with 250k miles or on my teal 70's Ladies Schwinn Suburban with matching skirt guards.

And what software?

Mostly web-based. I prefer not to invest until I outgrow open-source and free resources. I keep track of my projects and sell patterns on the giant online database, Ravelry. Google Drive and Wordpress meet my publishing needs for the moment.

For photography I rely on Jill's Lightroom and Photoshop skills, but when she's busy or unnecessary I tweak in Gimp, iPhoto, PicMonkey, Diptic, VSCO Cam, and PicPlayPost. For notes and admin I like straightforward, low-tech tools that don't require babysitting; mainly Gmail, Notes, TextEdit, Calendar, Dropbox. For social marketing I ditched HootSuite and TweetDeck and post directly on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in order to take full advantage of their capabilities, but still optimize my Instagram usage with Iconosquare (formerly Statigram).

I scout yarnbombing sites with Google Street View and follow global #yarnbomb activity on Instagram. I consume media in the background all day and subscribe to Rhapsody, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime, with nerdy podcasts and NPR in heavy rotation.

What would be your dream setup?

We moved into our art studio this past spring and aimed for our dream set-up, so I'd say we're pretty close. It goes without saying that I'd trade my kingdom for a world with no electrical cords. I'd like a program that lets you chart an image onto knitting graph paper with a full range of options, but I think I'll have to create one in Inkscape.

My ideal knitting needles are a non-existent hybrid of KnitPicks, Addi Turbo, and Clover needles: Turbo-coated metal with sharp tips, a short taper, and a flexible, free-spinning cord on circulars. I get excited just writing that! I hope that the resurgent interest in knitting machines makes them more widely available. I have my eye on a Brother CK35 Standard Commercial Knitting Machine that includes an automatic 6 color yarn changer, but if I ever get that you'll know I've gone off the deep end.

Oh, and of course 100% recycled acrylic yarn in every weight and color.