In this month’s issue of Knit Now, we met Nathan Taylor – one of our Online Innovators of the Year in 2016’s Knitter of the Year awards – who is a popular podcaster! We had a lot to talk about with Nathan, including knitting, designing, and what it’s like to be a male knitter.
Hi Nathan! How are you and what’s on your needles today?
I’m really well, thank you, and REALLY busy, which is great! On my needles at the moment, I have various things, ranging from a fair-isle tank top (a re-knit of an attempt that went badly wrong, gaugewise, earlier in the year!), to a pair of [essentially] vanilla socks, based on my Sockmatician’s Toe-Ups recipe, but with the gusset on the top of the foot, rather than down the sides of the ankles.
I’m also finishing off my Twisted Soul socks, which I designed for a Mystery Knitalong this summer, and to my shame, I haven’t managed to finish the pair yet, even though many other people already have!
I also have two scarves on the go (both worked in the double-knitting technique, unsurprisingly…), one of which takes a mathematical construct (a fractal, to be precise), and renders it across the surfaces of the scarf using double-knitted cables, so the cables on both sides show up as the contrast colour, over the flat fabric of the background colour.
Oh, did I mention that it is also knit on the bias? (It’s truly preposterous…) The other one is based on Victorian floor tiles from the hallway of a house in North-West London. (Inspiration can come from ANYWHERE!)
Goodness, you sound very busy! Why did you decide to start Sockmatician?
All this knitting malarkey has happened by accident! It genuinely wasn’t ever part of a plan. First and foremost, I’m an actor, working in musical theatre, and that’s where my passion has always been.
About seven years ago, a group of knitting friends were trying to convince me that I should start knitting as well. For the longest time, I wasn’t really interested. Finally, they badgered me to the point of submission, and taught me how to knit a sock. I was immediately addicted.
Then I needed to find a name on Ravelry, and I’ve always approached things from a very mathematical point of view—that’s just how my brain works—and because I was knitting socks exclusively, I squished the words “socks” and “mathematician” together, and Sockmatician was born. From there, another friend set up my Ravelry group for me. Prior to that, I was just releasing a couple of patterns, and mostly using Ravelry as a pattern browser. The group has gone from strength to strength.
The other completely accidental thing was the podcast. Right from the beginning, I had been recording video tutorials and uploading them to YouTube. Some of the patterns I have released include techniques which aren’t necessarily completely standard, and won’t be familiar to a lot of people. I didn’t want people to be put off making them, so whenever I use an unusual process, I always make sure that there is a video to go with it, that I can link to from the pattern pages.
I’ve always been really keen on ensuring that people feel that I am with them every step of the way when they are making one of my patterns. I try to write in my own voice, so that they feel I am holding their hand all the way through, and the videos have always been a big part of that.
What I didn’t know, however, was that there was a whole community of knitters using YouTube as another form of social media, and that many of them were posting comments and questions on my videos, that I had no knowledge of. When I discovered that there was a plethora of interaction going on via YouTube, I realised that I needed to tap into this community, and use it as a way of engaging with people that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach out to. I took the plunge, and recorded my first podcast episode.
That was just over two years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I absolutely LOVE the community that has built up around it. There are some very loyal watchers whom I have come to know through messages on Ravelry, YouTube and Instagram (I’m Sockmatician on all those platforms), and I now consider them to be friends.
There are now nearly ten thousand subscribers to my YouTube channel, which totally blows my mind! I’ve been very lucky, and I get to teach double-knitting at a lot of yarn shows, retreats, and local yarn shops. It’s wonderful when I can meet people in real life at those events having only ever come to know them online.
Just some of Nathan’s fabulous designs on Ravelry!
I’m sure you are asked this a lot, but as a male knitter do you find you receive a lot of questions about why you knit and what you like to knit?
I think being a boy knitter in a predominantly female world is still something that gives people cause to stop and stare. I knit in public all the time, mostly on the tube, so I’ve got very used to people staring. Most of the time, the attention is positive.
There was one time, however, when my friend Trevor and I sat down on the tube, and both pulled our knitting out. The lady sitting opposite us saw what we were doing, grunted audibly with disgust, got up, ad went to sit at the other end of the carriage! It was clearly a homophobic response, and I felt very sorry for her. Sorry that she has so much pointless, pent-up dislike of someone she has never met.
When people ask why I knit, I give them the honest answer, which is, “because I don’t know how to stop!”
Tell us about when you learnt to knit.
I originally learnt to knit as a child. I was about eight years old, and my sister was given a kit to make a pink panther toy. Obviously, the kit only included one set of needles and enough yarn for a single toy, but I always wanted to do whatever my older sister did, so my mum found a very large pair of needles and some VERY thin, dark green yarn, and I knitted myself a dark green string vest! I still have him, my dark green pink panther(!), and I’m very proud of him.
Can you share some of the most important things that you’ve learned over the years (knitting or otherwise!)?
Life according to Sockmatician:
Be true to yourself in everything you do. It’s the only path to happiness.
Kites fly highest against the wind, not with it.
On the heel of a sock, the perfect symmetrical match to a k2tog is actually the SSP, and NOT, as most people would have you believe, the p2tog!
To find the rest of the interview with Nathan, buy your copy of Knit Now issue 77 from your local magazine stockist, or online from www.moremags.com – on sale 10th August 2017.