My Design Inspiration: Sarah Kurth

Sarah's studio

My first exposure to knitting was through my grandmother's huge stitch dictionary, which my crocheting mother gave me. I was around the age of 7 or 8, and loved making things with my hands. I would play “knitting” with scraps of fabric and stretched-out cotton balls. The fancy designs in the knitting binder intrigued me but without instruction or proper materials, I lost interest until I was in college.

I have a degree in architecture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly's motto is “learn by doing” and getting my hands right into the middle of things is an excellent way for me to learn. I chose architecture school because it took math and logic and mixed it up with art and creativity. The foundational knowledge included color theory and principles of design, then moved on to 3-dimensional expression of sometimes vague concepts. I learned how to bring order to wild art that needs to be experienced to be known.

This is how knitting is in my hands as well: art that must be experienced to be known. Although I can appreciate knitted (and crocheted and sewn and woven) items by looking at them, the true joy for me lies in the handling. There's a big difference between seeing a texture and feeling a texture, and it's the combination of seeing, feeling, and doing that is so very pleasing.


I am usually so focused on my yarn production process that I forget to allow time for inspiration to come to me. By inspiration, I mean the ideas that seem to come on suddenly, the moments where pieces finally fall into place. If I patiently wait for ideas to come, nothing ever happens. It's like expecting a fire to ignite without fuel. So I have to wander a bit, let my brain fill up with flakes of color, texture, and light, then let it settle for awhile before I can do anything with it. I must go out into the world to gather kindling: to museums, to yarn shops and fiber events, to interesting buildings and landscapes, and soak in all the textures. And then I get my hands busy doing.


Often when I'm dyeing, I'll mess up a color recipe or have the opportunity to experiment on purpose. When I start out with a specific color in mind, it's very difficult to hit it. However, when I let intuition take over—as when I'm trying to salvage a screwed-up dye lot—I find layers of color do unexpected things. I start to get excited as I take the wet yarn out of the dyepot, seeing how the colors have absorbed unevenly into the yarn in a perfectly imperfect way, and I know that when it dries, it's exactly what the yarn needed to become. As I stare at the yarn, images and words flood my brain; images gleaned from the world around me, and mostly in nature. It's where I feel most grounded and at peace, so that's how I choose colorway names.


I'm so thankful to have found a craft in which I can bury my hands and let my creative intuition lead me. I find that I need this process of inspired doing to balance out all the boring, purposeful doing in my life. Thank you, Knit Purl, for your continued encouragement to keep playing with color!


To see more of Sarah's work, visit her website and her Instagram page.

May 16, 2016 by Guest Blogger
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