June 12, 2014

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Nathalie Williams’ Knitting

What are you working on—on the side?

As a knitter, I’m usually working on my winter wardrobe and gifts for family members. This past year, I have been knitting store samples for my friend, who is a yarn rep for international yarn companies. She has stores throughout the Midwest that she visits and presents the next season’s yarns, knit-up in the latest patterns. The projects are, at times, challenging, and force me to learn new techniques. Since they are for the public, they have to be perfect to show off the yarn well and the designer’s vision in the pattern. I work mostly on accessories: shawls, hats, cowls, etc.

This past winter, I decided to submit a knitted piece for a local exhibition called “Craft/Work.” I enlisted two of my knitting colleagues, in Iowa, to assist me with a knitted exquisite corpse triptych. It wasn’t selected, but the exercise strengthened my desire to explore this handicraft as fine art.

Another side project that I worked on this past winter/spring was as a member of the El Stitch y Bitch Collective. In addition to knitting, I also embroider and crochet. I’ve been a member of this local group of knitters, crocheters, and fiber artists for about three years. The “Untitled” (Homicide Quilt, detail above) is a map of Chicago’s neighborhoods with the names of over 400 homicide victims from 2013, hand-embroidered. This piece was selected for the “Craft/Work” exhibition and was very well-received.

How do you manage to work 
on your side project(s)?

It’s like an ongoing game of hot potato. Since making handcrafts is a physical activity, sometimes I have to take a break from one and work on another, just to give certain muscles in my hands and arms a break. At the same time, making sure I meet all of the deadlines for the yarn rep’s travel schedule, exhibition-submission deadlines, and holiday/baby gifts!

Why have side projects?

For me, I have so many side projects because they make me happy. Knitting is a productive activity, and I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I finish a piece. I also think side projects give you the freedom to explore the other facets of your personality and interests. When I’m asked, “What do you do?”, I always answer, “I’m a knitter.” Because that is what I do, that gives me the most joy.

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Diptych courtesy of Nathalie Williams.

This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.

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