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Designer knits hobby into career

Today's place mat set comes to us from the needles of designer and teacher Michele Wyman. She's a single mom who segued a career as a human resources consultant into a business as a designer of a line of knit and crochet patterns.

NeedleWorks: Michele, tell us about working as a professional designer and teacher.

Michele: You might say I'm one of those fortunate people who've been able to work with all those skills that bring me joy. I've been a published writer since 11th grade, an avid knitter since I was 6 and a full-time designer for the past five years. I chose to self-publish my work so I could bring needle crafters my design and pattern-writing sensibility.

You might be interested to know that every once in a while I get to "marry" my two professions. When I conduct a trainer training program (to teach others how to conduct training programs), I include an exercise where I teach trainees how to knit. I use this to demonstrate how each of us learns differently and how we must teach to all the differences. I also turn a few people into knitters during the process.

NeedleWorks: Many of your designs have a Southwest feel that certainly must come from living in Arizona. Talk about that influence.

Michele: Although I'm a native Philadelphian, I think I have always been drawn to the Southwest, particularly its art, architecture and landscaping. I enjoy letting my love of the Southwest "creep into" my design work, but I value variety, so I strive to bring the best of all my visual experiences to my design work.

NeedleWorks: You seem to love to work in knit-and-purl textures. Is this your favorite type of knitting?

Michele: I have a very specific vision of my design work, and knit/purl textures fit into that vision. I set out to design garments and home decor items that only look difficult to complete but are actually easy. I am trying to reach the beginning knitter who doesn't want to sacrifice style for ease and the intermediate knitter who values fast, fun knits.

My vision is broad enough to include knit-and-purl textures, colorwork (mosaic knitting or touches of stranding or intarsia), mixing hand-dyed yarns with coordinating solids and "seamless" knitting. With this approach, I'm able to knit a variety of projects quickly.

NeedleWorks: I noticed on your Web site ( that you offer crochet patterns. Do you do both equally well?

Michele: Yes, so far I've designed two crocheted afghans with matching pillows and crocheted totes, but my knitting patterns continue to be more popular. Needle crafters have told me they are always looking for good crochet patterns, and I believe in listening to what others have to say. In fact, the patterns here came about from listening to an online chat group talk about how much they enjoyed making face cloths.

Personally, I prefer knitting, but I wish more knitters would increase their comfort with crochet, as there are so many interesting ways to combine the two skills in one project. My Web site features my wholesale business and gives sources for obtaining the patterns shown.

NeedleWorks: I know that you teach at conferences. How does teaching fit into your life?

Michele: Prior to designing and pattern publishing, I was and continue to be a training and organization development consultant. This means when I'm not facilitating meetings, mediating conflicts or helping organizations work through change, I'm designing and conducting training programs. Teaching has always been a big part of who I am, so it seemed only natural to bring my teaching skills to the knitting world.

Earthly Delights

Michele brings us her Earthly Delights place mats and napkins (or washcloths), four designs reminiscent of outdoors: butterflies, basketweave patterning, trees and thunderbirds. These are easy patterns with fully illustrated instructions and full-color photo. The kit comes with natural colors of sage, maize yellow, natural and cinnamon. Place mats measure 12 by 17{ inches, and napkins measure 9 inches square. The yarn is Lion Brand's famous machine washable and dryable "Kitchen Cotton" 100 percent cotton. Pattern (by mail only) is item No. 574A, available for $5.95 plus $2.95 shipping. Refer to NT815. For kit, send $24.95 plus $5.95 for postage to Lion Brand Yarn Co., 34 W 15th St., New York, NY 10011. Or call (800) 258-9276.

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1999, Universal Press Syndicate