Interview: Angela Tong

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Angela Tong and I go way back—she’s actually one of the very first people who tested a Mochimochi Land pattern! That was when we both lived in New York (she’s now in New Jersey and I’m in Chicago), and also before her career as a teacher and designer of elegant, attractive knitwear and accessories took off.

Like SpillyJane, Bonney Teti, and Knit Picks, Angela is a sponsor of the 10th Anniversary Mochimochi Photo + Video Contest—winners will receive PDF packages of her designs. I hope if you’re reading this, you’re working on an entry! Read Angela’s interview and then get back to work!

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Hishigata Hat, #10 Ribbed Cowl, Monsoon Shawl

Anna: Who taught you to knit, and what was the first thing you made?

Angela: At my first job in NYC, my co-worker who I became friends with taught me to knit. At the time she only knew how to knit scarves, so I learned to knit a scarf. I then went on to teach myself more stitches and other projects through books.

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Anna: How did you decide to become a knitting teacher and designer? Which one came first?

Angela: Becoming a knitting instructor came first. I have always enjoyed teaching people how to make things. I decided to get certified by the Craft Yarn Council of America’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was great and I learned a lot. I started designing after I took Stefanie Japel’s online shawl design class. It was like a light went on in my head and ideas started flowing. I really feel as though I found a career that I feel passionate about and also inspired by the endless possibilities.

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Anna: I imagine you’re pretty structured with your days, based on how professionally you come across. Can you share how your typical day goes? What’s the balance of creative work vs. business work?

Angela: This made me giggle because I don’t feel like my days are very structured. I try to keep a schedule, but my schedule often changes with whatever needs to get done right away. To help keep me on task, I have started using the Bullet Journal system. My day begins by making breakfast for my 8 yr old and getting her to school. Then I brew my coffee and make my breakfast. This is most often the time I make my social media posts. As I am feeding my 2 yr old her breakfast, I will surf the internet because it takes her a while to finish her food. After she is done and starts playing with her toys, I will reply to emails and check in to Craftsy to answer student questions. I look at my Bullet Journal to see what tasks needs to be completed that day and try to work on them. Lunch time hits and my 2 yr old and I eat together. When she goes down for her afternoon nap, I can pull out my knitting or weaving to work on. Then the rest of the afternoon and early evening becomes very hectic. I juggle between picking up my older daughter from school or from her after school activity, keeping the 2 yr old happy and then also begin making dinner. I often don’t get to sit down to work again until 9pm. It sounds crazy, but I get most of my actual knitting work done at night. I tend to be a night owl and that is the only uninterrupted time that I have. I feel as though I am multitasking between life and work every day. Some days are more successful than others.

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Anna: What advice would you have for a budding knitwear designer in 2016?

Angela: Go for it. There is nothing to lose. Don’t get discouraged by rejections.

Anna: What are your favorite colors to work with right now?

Angela: The publications I work for tend to dictate the colors I work with for each season. I seem to be seeing a lot of blues and purples recently.

Anna: Do you have a favorite stitch pattern that you find yourself returning to often?

Angela: No, but I do go through phases. I designed a lot in lace in the beginning. This past year, I dabbled in cables. These days, I am really into textured stitches which is a manipulation of knit and purl stitches.

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Anna: I’m so in love with what you’ve done on a loom. What do you have to say about weaving to someone who’s never tried it?

Angela: You either hate it or love it. Weaving is the fun part, but people don’t realize you spend 80% of your time setting up the loom. I love weaving and how there are so many different types of looms. For someone that has never tried weaving, I would suggest starting with a frame loom or pin loom. It’s a great way to get your feet wet.

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Anna: I know you’re quite the chef. Someone once told me that knitters make good bakers and crocheters make good cooks. What do you think of that theory? Do you like following recipes exactly, or do you improvise quite a bit?

Angela: I am a very intuitive cook. I hardly use recipes and if I do, I use them for general guidelines. I constantly substitute ingredients if I do not have the ingredients called for. I like using what I have in my fridge and pantry instead of having to run out to the store. When it comes to baking, I definitely follow the recipe more closely. Baking is like chemistry and you need to mix certain ingredients together to have your baked goods come out correctly. When I get comfortable enough with a baking recipe, I do sub certain things.

Anna: Who are YOUR favorite designers? Favorite knitting/craft publications?

Angela: I admire a lot of knitwear designers, but I never have the chance to knit their patterns. When I have spare time, I tend to knit or crochet dolls because my kids love them and I love making them. So I think toy or doll designers are my favorite.

Anna: Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?

Angela: I am excited to be working on another weaving project with Handwoven Magazine. Their first special issue which concentrates on working with small looms was very well received. I am thrilled to see that small looms are getting more attention. The biggest project that I am currently working on is my first book. It is about weaving and it will be published by Stackpole Books in 2018.

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Thank you to Angela for taking time out of her very full day to chat! (And so exciting about the weaving book, yay!) Be sure to check out Angela’s blog and all her designs on her Ravelry page. And don’t forget to enter the Mochimochi Photo + Video Contest by November 14th for a chance to win a pattern package of her lovely designs!

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