In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.
Ever since I first laid eyes on Jerome Sevilla’s Gridjunky hats, sold in his Etsy shop and detailed on his blog, I’ve wanted to know more. He’s a knitter and graphic designer living in San Jose CA, and I’m so glad he agreed to answer these questions—
Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?
I knit and I love it. I started knitting at the tail end of 2009, so that would put me in my fourth year of daily knitting. When I started, I really didn’t have much in the way of tools. I had some knitting needles and yarn tucked away. I don’t even know where they came from, but I dug them out one day and jumped right in.
That’s the great thing about The Internet Age, isn’t it? That we can look up a YouTube video on how to knit, and get thousands of relevant hits; it’s pretty empowering. After the initially torturous adjustment to the appropriate muscle motions of knitting, it just clicked. I’ve been knitting every morning ever since.
I also sew by hand and machine, and make necklaces out of beads and hemp.
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadillos.
When I started knitting, I made this commitment to buy needles from the only LYS in my area, The Bobbin’s Nest in Santa Clara. They happened to carry a comprehensive selection of ChiaoGoo circulars. Whenever I could afford it, I’d ride my bike down there and buy a set. The store was forced to close, but by that time I had accumulated a modest range from US0 to US11. This set has served me quite well over the past three and a half years.
I’m a pretty meticulous guy, if you haven’t noticed. So I did my research before committing to an investment on needles. The question I kept coming back to in my observations was: Why would I use double pointed needles at all? And the only answer I could muster was: You can use them to knit cables, or point to things on Antiques Roadshow. And since I do neither of those things, I went with circulars.
So yeah, I use 40 inch circulars for everything, from knitting swatches flat, to bulky loop scarves in the round. There are a few sets of bamboo double points in there that never get used.
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
ChiaoGoo circulars come in these tall, resealable bags. Part of why I chose the brand was because of this particular packaging characteristic, and I’d be pretty disappointed if they decided to change it. The card stock inside the bag has a unified design that indicates needle sizes towards the top, so flipping through them is quite intuitive. I keep them organized in a simple wooden box I picked up at Ikea.
I’m a big fan of tobacco tins. These ones I have are great for keeping notions and tools. Plus they just look cool. As a male knitter, it can be tough to find organization solutions that speak to a men’s aesthetic. I don’t have many, and I’m always looking out for them at flea markets. They’re just one of those things I’m drawn to, visually.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
I’m very methodical. I don’t like not being in control. I’m ruthless when it comes to self-editing. So in terms of works-in-progress, I never have more than three projects. Most of the time I only have one. So keeping them (it?) organized is pretty easy. It just sits on the table. Work on it daily. Finish it. Start the next one. Dead Reckoning.
Most of my work involves combining multiple strands together, so in order to keep it tidy, I use bowls and boxes. If you’ve been following any of my posts, you may already be familiar with these objects. I always try to include them in my progress photos. They’re important little supporting actors to the primary subjects of each work in progress photo.
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
I have a gigantic pair of fabric shears that belonged to my mother, and before her, my grandmother. They’re battle-scarred and bad-ass and I love them.
Do you lend your tools?
No, never. Well, I loaned out a tapestry needle once. Guess what? I never got it back.
What is your favorite place to knit?
I call it my office, but it’s just another room in my house. Gridjunky happens in this room. When I get up in the morning, I’ll make a coffee, come up here, and bang out the morning knitting. When it’s time to break out the sewing machine, it happens here. Most of the product photography happens in this room because the light is good, and the walls are bare. They could use a fresh coat of white though, now that I think about it.
What effect do the seasons have on you?
I knit every day without fail. This past week has been hellishly hot, but hey. That’s why I knit in the mornings. It just means I have to get up earlier if I want to knit more during the hotter months. The ritual of it is important to me. I think the act of making something every day makes me a happier person.
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?
Despite the polished photography and design-oriented aesthetics of my personal brand, I’m not a person of means. I come from a poor family, and I sacrificed a lot to do what I do, and share that creative journey with the world.
I recycle yarn from sweaters because I can’t afford to pay what other knitters pay for yarn. I’m not “eco-chic,” I’m just a poor guy with a design education but no job. I had one once, and I hated it. Nowadays I don’t make a lot of money, but trading paycheck for passion has definitely made me happier.
What are you working on right now?
Since my work takes forever to complete, it’s sometimes a challenge to do personal work. Most of the time I’m focused on evolving the pattern compositions of my hats, and getting them listed in my shop. But Summer is when I ease up on shop production, and work on personal work.
Lately I’ve been working on some design sketches for a Fall shop line, and a scarf for myself that I’ve been chipping away at for the past few months. I post exclusive first looks to my Facebook Page so check it out if you ever want to see what ridiculous projects are on the Gridjunky horizon.
[Editor’s note: You can also follow him on Twitter and Flickr.]
PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Leigh Wells
All photos © Jerome Sevilla/Gridjunky
So much fun! I’m so glad this feature is running.
Sorry for the lull in the action — June was so nutty for me. But more great stuff to come!
Fantastic interview. Between this and the new BT collection, it’s a great day for male knitters!
Thanks for the interview, Karen!
Thank YOU for hitting it out of the park.
When you contacted me about doing the piece, I have to say I connected with the theme almost immediately. The connections we make to our tools is an intimate one. Within the grand scheme of ‘creative process,’ this relationship offers a unique look into that connection between the things we make, and the people we are. In terms of copy writing, I think you may have stumbled onto content gold.
It’s descended from a series I did in a magazine I used to publish, called The Readerville Journal. Talking to readers online every day, I became hyper aware of how much of being a reader is about one’s relationship with the books themselves. And how much you can learn about a person by knowing whether they hoard or curate them, wrap them in mylar, alphabetize, or dogear and lend them with abandon. It’s the same with making — how you make, what tools you use, what your attitude is toward it all, is often at least as interesting as the end product.
To me, anyway. I’m so glad so many people agree!
I follow his blog and on FB. Love your interview, it fleshed out the artist for me and made me like him even more. I asked him if he was going to do a book. I think he would give us a really good one.
I’d buy it.
What a great interview. Jerome’s work continues to inspire and motivate, he is meticulous and methodical, which I envy. I love the photos in this interview as well. They paint a beautiful story, my favorite: Grandma’s scissors.
I know, what a treasure!
This is one of the many reasons why this is my favorite blog. Thank you, Karen. Gridjunky, I am a huge fan of yours, your brand, your aesthetic. As a teacher, I have regular conversations with a Math colleague, and fellow knitter, about developing a “Math Knitting” class at our high school!
Did you hear about the Heroku developers convention (programmers) where they invited in makers for the coders to interact with? I heard about it through Folk Fibers, who was there quilting with them. Love love love this. And as someone who’s worked a lot with programmers, I can totally picture what that would have been like. I know at least two of them who knit — there’s so much sense in it.
Also! My friend Sarah just finished her first sweater and was telling me yesterday that after Kitchenering one underarm, she had her mechanic husband study the diagram and do the second underarm. And of course he totally got it.
I love the intersection of math/science/technology and knitting.
Of course he did. My son wanted to do his thesis project on knitting, and I said, “Ummm…you don’t knit.” It didn’t ruffle him in the least. I think he ended up doing it on string theory, though. I don’t remember. I know we had many hours of conversation about it.
Anyway, before I die or retire, whichever comes first…I’m GONNA (co-)teach a math knitting class!
This is such a great feature! Its always inspiring to read about other ‘fiber artisans’ and their processes!
I love his designs.. amazing work.
He inspires me.
What a terrific find, Karen. I LOVE these hats! And I love knowing more about the man behind them. These questions for him couldn’t be better.
Fantastic feature! Very inspirational. :)
This was such an inspiring interview. I love Jerome’s aesthetic and commitment to his artistic vision. It’s a reminder for me that I need to appreciate the gift knitting truly is and not take it for granted.
Yahoo! to Jerome Gridjunky!! I, too, follow his posts wherever they may be and am completely inspired by his work and his creative genius. I also think he’s a really nice guy and appreciate how he answers posts. His suggestions have helped my own knitting and his complex designs pushed me to bend my distractable mind to trying – and finishing – complex hat patterns. The euphoria! Now I’m checking out the ChiaoGoo circulars and mulling over knitting everything on 40″ circulars. Hmmm… simplification.
I first came across Gridjunky via this very blog, and have since gone bonkers many times over the hats – the unraveling – the everything. and yeah, i guess what i really really love is the dedication that each piece takes. also his dedication to recording the process. thanks so much for the further insight.
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