Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Interview With Madam Butterfly

One of my favorite things about blogging has been all the lovely people I've 'met' online. I thought it would be nice to introduce you to some of the terrific e-pals I've made, including my fellow knitting designer and friend, Lidia Tsymbal. 

I sometimes joke with Lidia that we must be long-lost cousins since we share a lot of similar ideas in knitting, yarn, stitches and more. You may know her beautiful designs on her blog Atelier Madam Butterfly

Lidia was kind enough to ask if she could interview me for her blog, and wrote up a lovely profile. Today is my chance to turn the tables and share a little about her through the answers she gave to my questions. 
You write part of your blog posts in Russian, did you move to the US from Russia or another country? How and when did you come to the US?
I came to the US some 20 years ago. I came from the country that doesn’t exist any more, the Soviet Union. I’ve lived in its different parts for many years, then it was time to either move to Germany or immigrate somewhere else. I chose to move to the United States and never regretted it. When I moved to the US I stopped knitting, because I could not afford a good quality yarn and there were very few yarn shops around. I was a big yarn snob and couldn’t bring myself to knit with acrylic yarn. I didn’t knit for about 15 years. A few years ago I was inspired to get back to knitting by one of the Russian knitting sites. I write my posts in Russian so friends that I’ve made on that site could understand what I am talking about.

How long have you been knitting and how did you learn?
My sister taught me some basics of knitting when I was about 11 years old. I knitted a lot when I was young and never followed patterns. I’ve learned clothing contraction from my mom, who was a sewing, design and clothing construction teacher. She had her own studio and the high society clientele. My mom always made me make a live size pattern (like one for sewing) of my design (sweater, cardigan, etc.) and then after swatching I made my own calculation for my garment. She insisted that if I wanted my clothes to fit well, I should do the blue print first. I’ve learned knitting and finishing techniques from the books. I was about 13 years old when I knitted my first garment.

Do you have a favorite knitting technique?
When I was young the fair isle knitting was my favorite one. Since I came back to knitting, I haven’t had time to revisit this technique. I do hope to make something with fair isle technique in a year or so.

What is your favorite type of thing to knit – shawls, sweaters?
It is hard to say… I love lace, but I do enjoy cable and texture stitches. One day I want to design something intricate and airy, the other day I am in the mood for stockinette stitch and a minimalist sweater. I am trying to balance out my knitting, by alternating lacy shawls with other garments.

Why did you decide to design patterns?
It seems that even if I follow someone’s pattern I always have to recalculate and customize a pattern to my liking. This was one of the motivations to write my own patterns. I want to create patterns that will look equally beautiful on a curvy lady and on a skinny girl.

Also, in 2010 ShibuiKnits asked me to design a couple of items for them. While my patterns for ShibuiKnits were in the process, I decided to start writing down and publishing instructions for my designs on I’ve received positive feedback from other knitters and never looked back. I have lots of ideas and it is hard to keep up with them. Sometimes I wish that I had a couple more arms and 48 hours in a day.

What was the biggest surprise about being a designer?
I don’t know if I can say it was a surprise. It is rewarding to see that other people can use my knowledge and produce something that they like by following my instructions.

You mention in your profile that you are a small business owner. Does this involve knitting?
Our bread winning business is in a very different world. It has to do with freight and transportation. Well, with recent developments in my knitting/designing/teaching I had to register my Atelier Madam Butterfly as a business in Portland, OR. Will it be a one year fling, or will I be in the knitting world for a long haul? It remains to be seen, but I have a hunch that knitting will take over.

What’s new on the knitting horizon for you? Do you have anything coming up that you’d like to share with my readers?
Next month one of my patterns will be published in one of the magazines by Interweave Knits. Also I have a few patterns in the process for ShibuiKnits and Bahh! Yarn. I’ll keep you posted on this developments on my blog. 

Thank you very much again! It is an honor to appear on your blog. I wish you and your readers lots of happy hours with their yarn and needles.


Thank you Lidia, for your friendship and generosity of spirit. It is a pleasure to share your work here and I wish you much success in your design journey!

And many thanks to all of my readers for stopping by today, I wish you much peace, many blessings and happy stitching!


  1. What lovely designs! I will have to check them out on ravelry ... and I agree about meeting such interesting and talented people online :)

  2. Thank you , Robin for interesting and not-so-usuale questions! I love Lidia's designs.
    I feel so lucky that I know both of you by inrernet! And it is so nice to find out little bit more about people I respect!

  3. Robin, thank you very much for your friendship and for this opportunity to be interviewed by you! I am really glad that I met you and got to know you and your gorgeous designs!
    My design in knit.wear came out and it could be found via link

  4. Thank you Robin for interview with Lidia and interesting questions :) I'm happy to know something new about her.

  5. Thank you, Robin and Lidia for great collaboration. I read the interview in one sitting. You are both wonderful people and designers!
    ~ Iryna

  6. Robin, thanks for the interview! It was informative and I agree with Iryna!

  7. Merci beaucoup, Robin, pour cette inteview. J'aime beaucoup tout les ouvrages de Lidia. Ils sont superbes!
    Bien cordialement, Elena

  8. What a nice interview. I loved learning more about Lidia. I have been reading her blog for a long time and have admired her spirit and her beautiful knitting and designs.

  9. Great interview! I loved reading more about you. Now I'm looking forward to seeing some fair isle work from you! :)