Spun Spotlight on designer Alex Tinsley


Spun Spotlight on Alex Tinsley!

Alex Tinsley

Back in 2015, Alex Tinsley was on a list of designers that we wanted to represent in our soon-to-open shop: her designs are clever and accessible, showcasing her ever-evident wit and creativity. Then, to our happy surprise, Alex dropped us a line when we actively started looking for for staff members. We hadn't yet met in person when, at that year's fall Fiber Expo (see the theme?), we noticed Alex browsing yarn one booth over. It is possible that our overly enthusiastic "Hey!" caught her off guard at that first meeting, but she politely pretended to know who we were and what was going on ("Oh, um, hey!"), but we all connected the various necessary dots soon enough. Alex is funny, creative, thoughtful, generous, and awfully smart. She's launched a bunch of new ventures since leaving Spun. Her latest is her most ambitious: an online-for-now and soon-to-be brick-and-mortar fabric shop in Ypsi. We caught up to find out more.

What kind(s) of knitting are your favorites?
Hats have always been my favorite--they're quick and don't take much yarn (I'm a single-skein hoarder), but you can apply just about any technique to them. Plus, I prefer knitting in the round, and I always have cold ears. This last year, with all the stress and confusion and resulting brain fog, I've been finding that the only thing I want to knit is 1x1 ribbed beanies using fingering weight singles held double. I swear it makes the perfect hat and I've probably cranked out a dozen by now.

What is your knitting background?
I learned, as I learn many things, primarily out of spite--my 10th-grade boyfriend dumped me for a girl who knew how to knit, which he thought was pretty cool--and I (completely missing the point) was like, "Whatever, anyone can do that." So I taught myself out of a Melanie Falick book for kids. Joke's on me, I fell in love with it and made a decade-long career out of it, haha.

My approach to designing has usually been "What can I make with this pretty yarn I found?", sometimes mixed with "What technique do I feel like exploring today?" Occasionally I have a particular end product in mind and I shop specifically for it, but more often than not, the yarn comes first.

What advice would you give to someone who is just learning how to knit?
Fully expect your first few projects to be janky--it's part of the process and it doesn't mean you're not doing well! Choose materials that feel good in your hands. And once you've knit a bit, sit down and look super closely at your knitting. Follow an individual strand and see where it goes. That will help you learn to read your knitting, which will in turn help you with EVERYTHING.

We first met you as a knitwear designer but you actually design all sorts of stuff. Do tell!
I'm like one of those eccentric old ladies that collects stray cats, except it's hobbies. In the last decade I've knit, crocheted, woven, spun, drum-carded, embroidered, sewn, dyed, painted, drawn, macramed, and the list of things I'd *like* to learn to do is twice as long. Recently I've been devoting most of my time to illustration and product design--enamel pins, tee shirts, etc.--for my business Wild Hunt. I've also recently gotten into quilting (with the so-far-online-only-but-hopefully-not-forever shop to match), and am really trying to resist buying a rug-tufting gun (my stimulus just hit today, uh oh).

What is a knitting tool you just couldn't live without?
I've used many, many needles over the years and I'll struggle through with just about anything, but by far my favorite is Knitter's Pride Dreamz. The wood is quiet and smooth, the tips are just the right amount of pointy, the cords are ideal, and I appreciate the color-coding.

Anything else you'd like to share?
Some other places to find me and my designs, if you're so inclined:

  • Pins, tees, merch, and some knitting patterns (trying to get the rest up soon!) here.
  • If you're a sewist as well as a knitter, this is my new shop.
  • All my patterns are on Ravelry: OR you can find me on Instagram as @wildhuntdesign or @ypsilantidrygoods!