Interviewing David Wasser

David Wasser and I met briefly at the YarnCamp last Sunday, when he would hold a session on Kaffe Fassett‘s colorful designs. Believe me, David’s own creations (“knitted garments” would be an expression way too mundane) are nothing short of amazing and I knew right there and then that I really wanted to write a blog post about him. But – to quote the German Wilhelm Busch – “first, things turn out different and second, than you might have thought” …

© David Wasser

The story I wanted to write became an interview. Here it is, framed with the pictures I took in Frankfurt during the session.

How, when and why did you learn to knit? What was your first project?

My mother owned a yarn store (in Providence, Rhode Island and Schenectady, New York) for several years when I was growing up. She was often knitting or doing needlepoint and I learned from her. She also taught me to cook and bake for which I am very grateful. Often on weekends or during school holidays I would work at the shop putting price tags on items and stocking shelves and sometimes teaching little old ladies to knit ;-).

I think the first thing I knitted was a stuffed toy (a snail, if I recall correctly). I also remember a huge bright orange and green scarf as an early project. Unfortunately the moths got to it and I had to throw it away recently, but I must have had it for 40 years or so. I probably did a few simple things (mittens, hats) and then stopped knitting and needlepoint about the time I was 15.

About 10 years later I saw a really great Perry Ellis sweater in a magazine which I couldn’t afford to buy, but I figured I could probably get Mom to help me knit it. You can see the pattern here. And that’s when I got really really interested in knitting again. Since then I’ve always got several projects going in parallel.

Compare to book cover below

Do any of your family members knit? I envision you sitting there between wife, children and grandchild, being the only one who knits …

Oh, no. My mom of course. My sister in Seattle knits and crochets. My wife knits. All 4 of my daughters knit (some more than others). The grandchild is only 4 – she needs a bit more time ;-).

Kaffe Fassett

What is it that you like best about Kaffe Fassett? The challenge? The patterns? The colors?

The idea of knitting a sweater using 10 balls of the same yarn in stockinette stitch makes me yawn. The Perry Ellis sweater was pretty complicated. It contained a lot of vertical panels in about 5 different colors and each panel was a different cable knit. I found the complexity interesting. My mother kept sending me or showing me patterns and books and one day she showed me Glorious Knits (Kaffe Fassett’s first book). We both drooled over the pictures. I’m sure the combination of color (lots and lots of color) and (perceived) complexity was what hooked me. I bought the book, started reading and couldn’t decide which thing to make first.

open admiration at the YarnCamp
open admiration at the YarnCamp

What’s it like seeing your family wearing the socks or sweaters you made?

I love it. I’ve knit a lot of things for myself, but also for my own family. I love seeing things I made for my children get passed down to my sister’s children and now my grandchildren. We still have a number of sweaters and things that my mother or my grandmother made that have made the rounds. Most of my knitwear is very colorful and the kids usually get a lot of compliments when they wear it. I think they also like to be able to say “My dad made this for me!”.

David Wasser

What is currently on your needles?

Wow, what a question! I tend to have a ton of half-finished projects laying about the house. I always have a sock project in progress. Since I just finished a few projects recently I’m actually debating about whether to pick up a half-finished project and finish it (for example, my rainbow-back vest keeps begging to be completed) or start something new.

David Wasser

We’re pretty much through 2013. Did you have a knitting goal and did you achieve it?

I don’t really work like that. I have my own company (we develop mobile applications – “Apps”) and that keeps me pretty busy. Knitting is only one of my other favorite things to do. I read a lot. I weave. I have been building a brick wall in the garden. In 2012 I got interested in Steampunk and so I’ve been creating Steampunk gadgets and sewing Victorian costumes and things. I knit when I feel like knitting. There are periods of time where I do it a lot, and other periods where I do other things.

David Wasser

What made you go to Frankfurt (out of all places? :))

That’s kind of a complicated story 🙂 The short answer is that my wife and I wanted to spend some time living in Europe. I had a business relationship with a company in Offenbach and they hired me in 1990. Since then I’ve changed jobs several times and now have my own company, but I’m still in Frankfurt. I like it here 🙂

Kaffe Fassett

And – last but not least – talking from monster to zombie designer: why zombies??

Heh heh. I have a 13-year old daughter. She is very crafty and is always making things – doll furniture, costumes, jewelry, hats, etc. She also really likes “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Doctor Who”. I saw this book “Knit Your Own Zombie” that I thought she would like, so I got it for her birthday earlier this year. She started making some of the Zombie parts and then got distracted with other things. Fast forward to August this year. We (daughter, wife and I) decided at the last minute to go to the Black Forest on vacation for a week. House on the lake with nothing to do. We would read and knit and play games and take walks and stuff. I realized that I had no suitable project to take with me, I didn’t want to pack an entire suitcase full of yarn for one of my many-color projects and didn’t feel like knitting socks. Then I remembered the Zombie book. So I grabbed that and a small bag of appropriate-thickness yarn and tossed that in the suitcase. During that week all three of us ended up knitting Zombie parts. It was great fun. I started with the Dracula, and when he was done I just needed to do another. They knit up quickly and are fun to decorate. It was very therapeutic :-).

© David Wasser

Thank you David for answering all my questions to such an extent!

The YarnCamp 2013

Last weekend I almost ended up not participating in the YarnCamp 2013. Work had been lunatic. I was tired, stressed, and in no travelling mood (to say the least). But isn’t it true that the less you feel about doing something the better it usually turns out to be? Already the 5-hour-train ride to Frankfurt was fabulous. I sat next to the window and spent my time day dreaming or knitting or both. So when getting into Frankfurt I was perfectly relaxed and ready for the adventure awaiting me.

And – against all odds – the YarnCamp was wonderful!

Do you ever knit or crochet in public?To be honest: I don’t. Somehow it seems to embarrass me. Now try to imagine how I felt to be in a room with about 80 people – female (90%) and male (10%) – with almost everyone click-clacking away with their knitting needles (I love that sound :)) or crocheting along, while listening, discussing, or chatting with one another. Some would change rooms while knitting, others would display their beautiful work carried along in suitcases. Trust me, it took me a while to become an active part of the greater whole – but I finally managed to work on a pair of wrist warmers while there.

Do you have a smartphone? Well, I don’t (I am a dinosaur – I know …) and I guess that made me the only one among all YarnCamp participants. The use of smartphones was almost as excessive as everyone’s handling with yarn. They would twitter and take pictures, check ravelry or network with one another, comment on facebook or read each other’s blog posts. Those who weren’t knitting were online and vice versa.

Right from the start, we were encouraged to present a session or otherwise contribute to the event. And when in no time 18 sessions were defined and written down to structure the day, I was deeply impressed by the responsibility and passion of participants turned into lecturers. After all, most of us had never taken part in a BarCamp before and were (more or less) used to passive ex-cathedra teaching rather than active discussions.

In the course of the day, I would learn about Kaffe Fassett’s knitting (blog post to come), and about how to become an author (eventually). I would finally understand how to use twitter and got the chance to participate in a lively debate on how to write the perfect pattern.

In between sessions we would not only admire each other’s work but exchange patterns and pieces of advice. I very much enjoyed getting to know Mienchen, Claudia, and Pia (watch out for her homepage Akizu that is soon to be out :)), just to mention a few. Seeing Frau Elise in person after reading her blog for quite a while was a pleasant surprise and participating in David‘s session made me want to write a blog post about him and his work (see above). The ladies at dye for yarn do an incredible job not only in dying yarn but turning it into the most beautiful lace shawls and the ocean colored patchwork blanket I saw will hopefully inspire me to actually work with my stash.

Generous sponsors, showering us with yarn, knitting needles, magazines, and even books spoiled us endlessly. A splendid buffet, excellent coffee, and delicious smoothies added to our comfort. Like I mentioned before: the YarnCamp was AMAZING and beyond all (my) expectations.

Last but not least, the yarn camp organizers, Rebekka, Sara, Romy and Lutz, did a tremendous job in taking care of everything, from concept to event, before, during, and after the YarnCamp. Thanks a MILLION! I sure hope to see you again in 2014!

not mine - I took the train
not mine – I took the train
dye for yarn
dye for yarn
ocean colored patchwork blanket
ocean colored patchwork blanket
Mienchen's bag
Mienchen’s bag
dye for yarn
dye for yarn
the wrist warmers I made while there, blue & silver (doesn't show)
the wrist warmers I made while there, blue & silver (doesn’t show)

BarCamp / YarnCamp

Now tell me the truth: would you be able to explain a BarCamp to anyone? Well, I wasn’t until earlier this week. But fortunately there’s wikipedia and here’s their definition:

“BarCamp is an international network of user-generated unconferences primarily focused around technology and the Web. They are open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants. […] The format has also been used for a variety of other topics, including public transit, health care, education, and political organizing [and has been] adapted for specific industries like banking, real estate and social media.”

Ahhh … that’s what it is? What is it again? 🙂

A BarCamp is a conference that isn’t a conference but an unconference. It’s when a bunch of people, all of whom are interested in the very same subject (i.e. yarn!) meet at a certain place and time to benefit from each other’s skills and know-how. No rules, no hierarchy, no agenda. At least not in advance. Because the content of all sessions is driven and created by all participants during the course of the event. So if I want to learn how to knit socks, or have others take part in my knowledge of crocheting flowers, or learn about possible penalties when yarn-bombing  – I can not only suggest any of my favorite topics but vote for them to take action. And it’s up to me whether I give a lecture or listen to others, whether I impart knowledge or gain skills or both. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

So why am I blogging about it?


The lovely Ms. Elise over at “Gemacht mit Liebe” (= “made with love”) called my attention to the first German YarnCamp (ever!). Fifty tickets were available and – guess what! – I am going! Not sure (yet) how, but I am going! Well, part of me is going and needs to convince “the other half” …

  • “It’s far …” – “Take the train.”
  • “Someone needs to take care of J while I am gone” – “Drop it! He’ll be with his dad. They’ll be fine.”
  • “It’s on a Sunday …” – “Take Monday off then.”
  • “I’ve never been to any of those … (sigh)” – “No one has. It’s the first!”
  • “What will I do there?” – “Well … knit?! And blog about it once you’re back?!”

This is where I am at. But like I said: I am going. And I am happy 🙂