Gift Along 2020 Interview with Michael Harrigan

Gift Along 2020 Interview with Michael Harrigan – getting to know you

Gift Along 2020 Interview with Michael Harrigan 1
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Today I’m chatting to Michael Harrigan, tell us who you are and what you do?

Nice to be with you. I’m an American living in Thailand and have done so for the last 20+ years – first for my work and then on into retirement. I knit, design, garden, and care for our house by the sea and our two dogs. Travel has been an important part of life as well, although unfortunately that hasn’t been possible this year.

How did you get into knitting/crochet and who taught you?

When I was around 9 years old my mother showed me the basics of knitting and crocheting. However, I grew up on a farm in the northeastern US, and in that area and at that time, knitting was not one of the approved pastimes for a young boy. The needles and crochet hooks were put aside – for quite a few years, in fact.

Fair Isle Snood by Michael Harrigan Gift Along 2020 Interview with Michael Harrigan
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Fair Isle Snood by Michael Harrigan

What made you want to start designing?

It wasn’t long before I started combining stitch patterns into designs and decided to write out the instructions so I could share them with others (and remember them). I soon discovered I could upload the patterns to the internet and was off on a new adventure. I also improved my skills and increased my range through the Master Hand Knitter certification program of The Knitting Guild Association (tkga.org).

Over the past few years I have designed patterns for accessories, including shawls, wraps, cowls, hats – and a Fair Isle-patterned gansey. I’ve self-published the majority of my designs but have also produced others for yarn companies and online and print magazines. My first book of knitting patterns – Travel-inspired Knits – was published earlier this year.

What’s your favourite part of the design process?

I work from memories, sketches, and photos of places and things I’ve seen on my travels and then move on to select/design the stitch patterns and choose colors. Usually it’s design first – but sometimes it’s the yarn and/or color first.

I like to spend time in historic settings, visiting local artisan markets and bazaars, and also taking in landscapes and natural features. I try to recreate what I have seen in stitch patterns—interpreting elements of nature, landmarks, and textiles I’ve come across.

Gift Along 2020 Interview with Michael Harrigan - Drummie Bees and Snowflakes by Michael Harrigan, a wrap knitted in shades of white through to blue
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Are you a full-time or part-time designer and how does that fit into your life?

Most everything I do is part-time and together the activities form more than a full-time existence. Travel has always been a major part of my life. Some decades ago I spent the better part of a year in Central America and was captivated by the colorful work of artisans in Mexico and Guatemala. Many years later my travels took me to Africa, where I was enthralled by the magic and mystery of Egypt and Morocco, and the talented artisans of South Africa. I have been fascinated by the designs

of rugs in Turkey and the embroidery I’ve come across in China. There’s such an amazing wealth of hand-crafted riches throughout the world – and I certainly enjoy travels of discovery.

A couple of summers ago, we visited the Shetland Islands – long an inspiration to me, both for the knitted lace from the northern island of Unst, and the wonderfully colorful patterns of Fair Isle. On a trip to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania last year I had the opportunity to get some hands-on advice on color-stranding knitting technique in Riga, Latvia. At the end of that trip, on a visit to the Russian National Museum in St. Petersburg, I found inspiration for a new colorwork design based on a piece of ethnic embroidery.

Since I moved to Thailand in late 1998, the country’s natural environment, iconic images, and architecture have provided ongoing inspiration for my designs.

Sea Changes Shawl shown in grey worn by a smiling woman. Pattern by Michael Harrigan
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Do you have a favourite thing to design and why

That’s an interesting question, as I have favorites to design to satisfy myself but know that they might not be so popular with other knitters. I like to design complex colorwork pieces but also design a lot of simpler cowls that would appeal to those looking for a more straightforward knitting experience.

Do you have much time to make things for yourself or for gifting?

I tend to give away samples from my design process from time to time and also take the time to knit an item for myself if I need one. Not much knitwear is needed in Thailand, but we do travel to cooler destinations when that’s possible.

Berries Leaves and Vines by Michael Harrigan, cowl held by a dark haired woman
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If someone knitted or crocheted a gift item for you, what would you love the most?

I would love to have someone create a colorful rug for me – as I’m not likely to do that for myself.

Do you have a favourite yarn and why?

I really like wool and silk blends and wool and linen blends. I’d have to say they’re my favorites for how they work up into fabric.

What’s your favourite of your own designs and what do you love about it?

That would be my Drummie Bees and Snowflakes Shawl. It is connected to one of my favorite parts of the world – Shetland –and features two traditional lace stitch patterns that I particularly like. I also love the colors.

Thai Tropics Wrap inspired by Thailand
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Is there anything new you can tell us about or a recent design you’d like to chat about?

I am currently working on a design to accompany a book in the Miss Babs Yarns Book Club (Spring 2021) – but can’t say more about it at this time. Check out the website – https://www.missbabs.com/ – for information on the club.

What’s your favourite colour?

I think it’s still blue – but if you look at the photos of my designs you’ll find quite a range of colors. It likely depends on what works for a given project.

Trellised Vine by Michael Harrigan
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Trellised Vine by Michael Harrigan

Have you been a participating designer in the Indie Gift Along before and what do you love most about it?

This is my first year and I’m so glad I joined. I’ve gotten to see lots of designs I wouldn’t have otherwise, and it’s generated a good number of sales as well.

Which Gift Along 2020 designers inspire you and why?

A top inspiration is christal-lk-designs – particularly for what she does with color and how she designs with color. There are certainly others as well, but she comes to mind immediately

How do people get in touch with you or see more of your work?

Patterns on Ravelry: https://www.ravelry.com/designers/michael-harrigan
and LoveCrafts: https://www.lovecrafts.com/en-gb/user/Michael-H/e322ccc1-faf4-4343-b4e9-c6ec5e56d730

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HarriganHandknits
Instagram: mwharrigan
Twitter: malcontent

Website: http://www.thismanknits.com/

Book – Travel-inspired Knits – available from publisher: https://anchorandbee.bigcartel.com/product/travel-inspired-knits

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