Interview: Jessica Gamache of Totally Rad Jess
How did you learn to crochet and knit?
I learned to knit when I was 6 or 7 from my great grandmother. She was a very skilled and extremely prolific knitter. Cables were her specialty. We’d sit and knit together in her living room for hours. I still use her knitting supplies whenever possible; it makes me feel close to her. I learned to crochet as an adult while home bound with an injury. I wasn’t working due to the injury and wanted the additional challenge of learning a new craft to keep me from getting cabin fever. So, I bought a kit and a skein of yarn from Michael’s and I’ve been hooked ever since (pun intended)!
What advice would you give to someone interested in learning crochet or knitting?
YouTube is amazing! Every time I don’t know how to do something, or need a refresher on a specific skill, I just type it into YouTube search and there are lots of videos to help. Also, don’t get too hung up over small mistakes when you’re starting out. Learning to read your work is an important skill and you won’t learn it if you never make a mistake!
How do you select colors for your projects?
Since I work mostly from my yarn stash, I’ll often take many skeins out that match the criteria I’m looking for (weight, yardage, etc.) and start grouping them together in different sets to see which ones speak to me.
When I’m in a yarn store, I’m often drawn to bright colors and speckles. I will admit to buying yarn without a pattern in mind but I am trying to be better about that!
I’d love for my community to be a place where we make beautiful things
What new techniques have you been wanting to try out?
Brioche for sure; I’ve seen some gorgeous patterns using brioche and I just haven’t tackled that technique yet.
What do you most love about stitching?
The sense of accomplishment at the end of each project really can’t be beat! I find it extremely fulfilling to make something with my hands, and there’s no such thing as waiting when you’ve got a project to work on.
What inspired you to create an online community for stitchers on Twitch? What would you love to see that community become?
When I started streaming on Twitch, I didn’t even know there were crafters there. It is mainly a gaming platform and that’s what I streamed in the beginning. I decided to try a WIP Wednesday stream and it was so fun and interactive that I changed the direction of my channel from that day forward. I want my channel to feel like a fun craft circle. We listen to music, chat, and craft together. Often there is a topic that we discuss, but the conversations aren’t limited to that topic. We also have giveaways to celebrate pattern releases that I’ve tested for, or when I finish a big project.
I’d love for my community to be a place where we make beautiful things, share our projects or ideas with each other, and learn new things. I think the fiber arts community as a whole can do a lot with the live-streaming form of media, and being a part of that is so exciting.
What change(s) would you like to see happen in the crochet and knitting community?
I’d love to see more involvement with this form of media (live-streaming). I’ve also noticed a lot of negativity in social media (criticism/judgement of others’ work) and I’d love to see that go away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for constructive criticism as part of the growth and learning process, but just because an item, color choice, fiber choice, pattern, etc., isn’t for you doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of the maker’s pride.
You test for Cerulean Orchid and several other designers; what do you most enjoy about testing? How would you describe your experiences as a pattern tester?
For me, testing is an adventure. I’ve done a lot of technical documentation in past jobs, so I like to help designers find any parts of the pattern that need correcting or clarification. It also feels special to be one of the first crafters to get to make a design. I always hope my project pages on Ravelry help people decide to buy the pattern.
What would you like to see more of as a pattern tester? Is there anything you would recommend to a designer looking to work with testers?
One of the things that helps me decide if I’m going to test a pattern is the photos of the sample. As much as I love the styled photographs of a model wearing the item, what I really need is a close up of the fabric/stitch pattern and a photo or two of the entire item. For designers, I think one thing that can be useful is setting expectations with your testers as to when you would generally be communicating with them. I know everyone has busy lives and that expectation is of course subject to change, but if I know that generally the designer would be checking for tester questions from 12:00-3:00 p.m. or after 8:00 p.m., I know roughly when to expect an answer to a question I’ve posed. I may also wish to send questions during that time in case there’s some back and forth required. It may relieve some pressure from the designer to drop what they are doing and answer the question.
With all the stitching that you do as a sample maker and pattern tester, what do you do to help keep your body healthy and ready to stitch more?
Stretching is important to keep my hands from cramping, so I try to take breaks every couple of hours to shake out my hands and do a few stretches. I also try to craft with my arms supported in some way. On stream, I use a gaming chair with adjustable arm rests and make sure to keep my elbows on them as much as I can. Off stream, my crafting spots around the house all have good back and arm support. I also sleep with my dominant wrist in a brace so I don’t accidentally sleep in a weird position and hurt it.
You are preparing to do a rebranding - can you share any details about what we can look forward to seeing from you in the future?
In addition to my live-streaming content, I will be blogging and creating YouTube content. I’m also working on designing a few patterns that I hope to release soon.
What are some of your fiber goals for 2019?
I want to challenge myself to keep learning new techniques and to finish all my long term WIPS. I’d like to make more projects than I did last year and release my first set of patterns. I hope to encourage and assist any stitchers, designers, spinners, dyers, and brands who want to try live-streaming. Oh, and go to my first fiber fest/con!