Thea Colman likes certain things.
She likes cables.
She likes textures.
She loves classic sweater silhouettes, and loves twisting them around, too.
And she has had a ton of fun in her 13-year-long journey designing wearable handknits.
With more than 200 designs to her credit, Thea Colman creates patterns that are fresh, distinctive, and a blast to make. When you get lost in TheaWorld over on Ravelry, it’s one of those experiences where you just keep saying, “I want to make that.” “And that one.” “That one’s good too.”
For MDK Field Guide No. 8: Merry Making, Thea has created what we think of as Thea snacks—her signature love of cables and texture patterns writ small, in projects that we finish in a snap and make us feel really clever. Palate cleansers, Thea 101—however you want to think about them, these gifty patterns are such a delight.
We caught up with Thea the other day.
Lightning Round with Thea Colman
First yarn you ever knit with?
When I was a kid, I was taught on my Grandma Pearl’s 1970s acrylic, most likely in pink. The first yarn I bought to knit with as an adult was a terrible mistake—a lace ribbon yarn, which I worked in garter stitch onto metal straight needles. It’s a wonder I ever picked it up again.
Knitwear designer you’re watching right now?
I think everything Sylvia McFadden touches is gorgeous. (She’s @softsweater on Instagram.)
Most recent TV binge?
Succession, the HBO series about a family-owned media dynasty. It’s about a family of horrible people figuring out what will happen with the family business, and jockeying for power, and I just can’t look away.
Advice you gave your kid that you actually believe?
Words are a good beginning. Follow them up with actions.
First pattern you put up for sale?
Alene’s Wrap. It was my take on a wrap I found at Lord & Taylor that was $150 and acrylic.
(It’s not available on Ravelry.)
Your prettiest design?
Either Fog Cutter.
Your most unusual design?
The most unusual shape I’ve published is the Pike Stout Poncho.
© Karen DeWitz
There was a short period where I thought about designing a pair of knit culottes (is that how you spell it?) but the desire passed. And I’m not sure the market really exists for them.
The design you thought you’d never finish writing up as a pattern?
I knit mine from the top down, but decided to write the pattern bottom up, so the notes I took were useless. And it’s a complicated cabled sweater.
The design you’re most proud of?
Right now, my Water Hat, because it’s making a difference in the world.
All proceeds go to charity. I’ve managed to send over $8,000 to Pack Your Back, which not only provides Flint, Michigan, with water but also provides needy kids there with backpacks and school supplies. In addition to the donations, we are knitting Water Hats for the kids in Flint, and hoping to get 600 hats delivered before the end of November—we have 200 already, and if anyone wants to join in, there’s a thread about this in my BabyCocktails Ravelry group.
What you do when you’re not knitting—you know, your hobby?
I don’t have a single thing I do, but I try to leave the house WITHOUT knitting at least once a week. I’ll hike, or go for a run, or go kayaking if it’s nice out. I’ll go the art museum or hit up a few of my favorite thrift shops, or just bum around the city if the weather’s a little less cooperative. I guess I actually leave the hobby/craft world when I want to take a break!
Most memorable place you’ve had a cocktail?
A friend of mine rented out Hearst Castle for his wedding. There was a ’40s swing band and cocktail hour on the stairs right above the famous Greek statue swimming pool—with a view of the valley in front of us and the mansion behind us, and there were no other people at the castle but the 100 wedding guests. It was incredible, like going back in time.
Favorite cable stitch?
Right now, I’m loving honeycomb. But I’m not using it in anything that’s on my needles . . . I’ve just finished up four pretty heavily cabled designs and my next thing could just be stockinette. But after that, some HONEYCOMB.
Your go-to cocktail when you just ran out of juniper syrup or lingonberry aquavit or whatever?
I’m often making up stuff based on what’s in the fridge and bar, so, my go to “formula” would be:
- Open fridge, see what’s on hand. (Extra points if you can use something that means you finish the bottle and gain back fridge space.)
- Which spirit does it go with? Add 2 ounces of that spirit.
- 1-2 ounces of fresh citrus juice.
- Some bitters.
- Shake with ice.
If that fails, beer or wine are always a good idea.
You began your blog, BabyCocktails, in 2005. (“First Entry!” answers the burning question of why Thea named her blog BabyCocktails.) How has your blog evolved over time?
HA! I actually went back and read a bunch of these to answer this question and spent Saturday night tormenting my girls by sending them some prime photos from those first few years. As you can see, I used the blog a lot in the beginning to just share what I was doing and kind of yell in the void so I wasn’t alone with my kids. Apparently I thought I was pretty funny, too.
Around 2010, it began to morph into a more organized place to talk about knitting and drinks and I used it a place to communicate and grow my business. For a few years, it happily stayed there, but as people stopped reading blogs and the comments really began to dry up, it’s now become less conversational and more focused on my knitting news, as I really tend to go to Instagram for most of my social media now.
Prime Posts from BabyCocktails
All about Stillhouse, the turtleneck Thea is wearing in the photo up top.
Scenes from My Office, aka the room where it happens.
How does Thea pick the names for her drinks and patterns? “Introducing Plum Wine” is a sweet story.
And, planning ahead: a drink for Thanksgiving.
Meet Thea at Rhinebeck!
We are already wound up about Rhinebeck, can’t wait. Come meet Thea Colman at a Field Guide signing.
Where: the mighty Merritt Books booth.
When: Saturday, October 20, 11:00 am.
We’re trying to figure out how to smuggle in a punch bowl of Thea’s Merry Sangria. It may require an alpaca.