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Knitting on O'ahu | | The Honolulu Advertiser

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ISLAND LIFE Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2008

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By Karen A. Iwamoto Special to The Advertiser

Yarn and sand. Knitting and the beach. It sounds like an unlikely match, but not for M.K. Carroll. Carroll, 33, lives on the Leeward Coast, where she creates knit and crochet patterns. "When you tell people that you knit in Hawai'i, you oftentimes get a blank stare and they're like, 'What can you knit in Hawai'i?' " Carroll said. "And I'm like, " 'What can't you knit in Hawai'i?' There are so many options out there." Carroll pays her bills as a professional massage therapist, but it's the patterns she designs on the side that have garnered her national attention. Those familiar with Debbie Stroller's popular knitting book, "Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation" (Workman) — a popular choice for do-ityourself crafters in their 20s and 30s — will recognize Carroll as the designer of a knitted Head Huggers headband and Mobile Monsters cell phone covers. Carroll's Ladylike Gloves pattern appeared in Stroller's book about crochet, "The Happy Hooker" (Workman).

M.K. Carroll, of Makaha, displays her handiwork at Isle Knit, 1188 Bishop St., Suite 1403. Carroll learned the craft from her mother when she was very young. Photos by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

ONLINE M.K. Carroll online: • • •

"My younger sister, who's in her teens, is a good gauge for the Stitch 'n' Bitch crowd," Carroll said. "When I was working on the cell phone cozy, she saw it in my purse. I just heard this squeal and she said, 'I want this!' I figured that was a good sign.' After Carroll's pattern for a crocheted sushi cushion was published in "Get Hooked: Simple Steps to Crochet Cool Stuff" (Watson-Guptill), she appeared on the DIY Network show "Knitty Gritty" in 2006 to demo how to make a knitted version of the pillow. "I can't say enough good things about the crew — all of them were talented, friendly, hard-working people," Carroll said of the experience.


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Knitting on O'ahu | | The Honolulu Advertiser

12/8/08 4:02 PM

LEARNED AS A TOT Carroll's mother taught her to knit and crochet when she was 3 or 4 years old, but it wasn't until she was a student at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa that she began studying books such as "Knitting Without Tears," by Elizabeth Zimmermann (Scribners). "Those gave me the tools to work out how to make things without following patterns," said Carroll, who double-majored in art and anthropology. While pursuing her art degree, she studied everything from sculpture to photography — but nothing yarn- or fiber-related. That remained just a hobby. Her foray into designing began in 2001, when she was traveling on the Mainland. "I wanted to make myself a hat, so I started crocheting one and I wound up gifting, selling and swapping several of them before I finally got one to keep for myself," she said. "At that point I decided I was not interested in doing production work and I started writing down what I did and teaching anyone who asked how to crochet and knit."

Hats by Carroll, whose foray into fiber design started with trying to make herself a hat.

Her timing was spot on. As knitting, crocheting and other crafts continued to grow in popularity, so did the demand for patterns. Popular crafty Web sites such as and offer online tutorials and step-by-step instructions for everything from quilts to costumes. Carroll discovered Stroller's request for projects on "I e-mailed her photos of some of my work, wound up contributing two patterns to 'Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation,' and realized that this was something I could do on the side that was fun, creative and could generate a little bit of income," she said.

EXERCISING CREATIVITY Designing for someone else's vision can be a challenge, Carroll admitted. "I think that the weakest designs I've done are the ones where I was trying too hard to do something that would fit in with a theme," she said. "The strongest pieces are the ones I make for myself or as gifts. That has meant coming up with more housewares and light, warm-weather accessories, since I don't get a lot of mileage out of warm clothing right now.

A barrette.

"Very few designers make a living doing this full time," she added. "In June I made less than $200. In August, September, October, things start to really pick up." On the other hand, designing allows her to exercise her creativity, and technology has expanded the options for a new generation of pattern designers. Thanks to Web sites like, a community networking site for knitters and crocheters, Carroll can upload PDF versions of her patterns online. Links to her patterns can be found on her blog and in her etsy shop at It's one of the ways the Internet is changing how designers market themselves, said Shannon Okey, owner of the crafty workspace Stitch Cleveland, author of the book "Alt Fiber" and columnist for Knit.1 magazine. "No longer do you need to rely on getting published in the big magazines to make a name for yourself," she said. "If the quality of your work is high, you will find a following."

M.K. Carroll, of Makaha, displays her handiwork at Isle Knit, 1188 Bishop St., Suite 1403. Carroll learned the craft from her mother when she was very young.


Okey is also the founder of Stitch Cooperative, an independent pattern distribution company, and she curated the 2006 Alt Fiber art show in Cleveland. One of Carroll's designs — a knitted womb — was featured in the show. Then, published the pattern and wombs knitted by dozens of knitters from around the country were on display at the show.


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Knitting on O'ahu | | The Honolulu Advertiser

12/8/08 4:02 PM

Carroll did not visit the exhibit, but said she is now working on an updated version of the womb: a knitted womb purse.

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Karen A. Iwamoto was born and raised on the Big Island. She lives and writes in New Mexico.

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Newest first ADS BY PULSE 360 coolmoves wrote:

In addition to Yarn and Friends, Ui Mau A Mau is another GREAT shop on Oahu for knitting and crocheting supplies!! Tracy, June and Gaylord are so friendly and willing to help. Tracy is very creative with her original designs. Also: There is a Seniors Knitting Group at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church in Aiea that meets two Wednesday mornings a month. 12/05/2008 11:07:33 p.m. Recommend

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mkcarroll wrote:

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A lot of people are surprised by how many yarn shops there are in Hawai'i! I've maintained a list of them on my blog for a few years now - you can check it out at There are also groups of knitters, crocheters, and spinners meeting all over the place; I hang out with the Aloha Knitters at Mocha Java (Ward Center, Thursdays 7 - 9pm), and I always see a happy crowd at Yarn & Friends! I know they aren't the only ones - if you know of any other groups that would like a little publicity, please post here and/or let me know! 12/05/2008 7:29:08 p.m. Recommend

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Betsymcq wrote:

We have a wonderful yarn shop here in Hoholulu. Yarn and Friends! Such a warm and friendly place. Everyone there is so nice, talented, and willing to help. Lots of Aloha as soon as you walk in. 12/05/2008 7:10:18 a.m. Recommend (3)

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HiloReader96720 wrote:

Great to hear Oahu has a yarn shop... Hilo has The Yarn Basket by KTA and Harriet is the best! We DO need hats for chilly mornings and nights in Hawaii. And neck wraps for office buildings with freezing A/C 12/05/2008 2:37:28 a.m. Recommend (3)

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Knitting on O'ahu | | The Honolulu Advertiser

12/8/08 4:02 PM

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Knitting On Oahu  

Feature article about textile artist and pattern designer M.K. Carroll. Published Dec. 5, 2008 in the Island Life section of The Honolulu Ad...

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