The People Behind the Screen – Tiny Paper Foxes
It’s become quite clear from the comments and messages we receive that many of you enjoy hearing about what we’re reading, listening to and watching. Like us, you’re keen to know more about the people behind the screen, so we’re hoping this will become a regular feature.
Today, we’re going to catch up with the people behind the Tiny Paper Foxes YouTube Channel.
As we mentioned in our latest issue Tiny Paper Foxes is a podcast hosted by husband and wife team, Devon and Jennie, who are often joined on set by their feline co-host Colin.
Episodes are usually released once a fortnight and are currently filmed in the couple’s New York apartment, although we’re thrilled to know that Jennie and Devon’s dream of moving to New England is happening sometime in June.
Having watched all of the episodes for pleasure, it was a real treat to go back and binge watch them again for this interview.
Hi Jennie and Devon
It would be great if you could tell us and our readers a little bit about yourselves?
• J: Of course! Devon and I currently live in Brooklyn and work in Manhattan. I am a knitter and beginner sewist; I primarily create garments and accessories for my handmade wardrobe. Devon is a knitter and spinner, and although he is relatively new to the fiber arts, he has fully embraced everything wooly. During the day, I work as an instructional designer at a big university, and Devon works as a photographer and archivist at a high-end fine art gallery. We’ve been together for 10 years and married for 7, and are looking forward to the next adventure in our lives.
It doesn’t seem right not to include Colin. What can you tell us about him?
• J: When I was 18, I lived in Austin, Texas, for half a year. It was my first time living away from home, and I wanted a cat to keep me company. I went to an animal shelter my second day in Austin and found Colin—or rather, he found me! He stuck his little paw through an opening in the cage as if he were picking me out. Colin was four months old at the time, and now he is 13, so we have been together for my entire adult life.
I mention occasionally on the podcast that Colin has several chronic medical issues that require us to give him lots of attention and care. I don’t think many people would take the steps we do to ensure Colin is comfortable and happy, but it’s the right thing to do.
You both knit. When and how did you learn?
• J: My mom tried to teach me to knit back in 2002, but I had difficulty forming the stitches and quickly gave up. I picked up knitting needles again in August 2011. Devon and I were at a general crafts store, and I saw a learn-to-knit kit. I don’t know why I purchased it, but it came home with us. I spent the next couple afternoons struggling, particularly with the purl stitch. I was using the illustrated booklet from the kit, but soon realised I needed to watch someone knit and purl and turned to YouTube tutorials. In a matter of weeks, I was knitting my first scarf, planning an afghan, and tackling my first sock.
• D: I dabbled with knitting for a bit while I was in college because some friends of mine knit, but didn’t really touch it again until 2011 when Jennie decided that she wanted to learn. I put it aside again until I started to get serious about spinning. I realised part of the fun of spinning was knitting with your own handspun. Now I am knitting my first sweater.
Devon, you’re a spinner. How long have you been spinning and how did you first begin?
• D: I started spinning after we attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in 2012. This was the first major fiber festival we had ever attended. I was enchanted by the fact that people still spun yarn outside of living history museums. I spun on and off for a few years, and then this past fall I got a wheel. I have been spinning every day since. I absolutely love it.
What made you decide to start a podcast?
• J: I was searching for a way to connect with others in the making community. I am incredibly shy and was having difficulty connecting with people at fiber events in the city. It might sound counterintuitive, but I felt putting myself out there via a podcast was less scary than introducing myself to strangers at events.
How has the podcast evolved since you released your first episode in September 2015?
• J: I am gentler with myself now. In the beginning, I put a lot of pressure on myself to produce finished objects and record every week. I learned after a couple months that I couldn’t sustain that approach. Now if we need to take a break, we take one; if I can’t reply to a PM for a couple days, I accept that.
• D: When I began appearing on the podcast, I was worried—particularly with the spinning—that the fibery rabbit hole I was going down wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I realised, though, that the podcast is the one opportunity that I have to talk about my spinning projects because none of my co-workers and friends are part of this world.
We can’t imagine anyone is truly 100% happy in front of a camera (well almost). With 22 episodes under your belts and over 3,000 subscribers, it’s obvious you’ve become a part of people’s lives. Do you find it easier to relax and enjoy the process more now?
• J: I feel like we have a niche audience now and that’s largely due to Devon’s involvement in the show and what he adds to the content. I am more confident now that people will be interested in the episodes’ content, which helps me relax. Additionally, we have established a routine that spreads out how we prepare for episodes and that has made the process more enjoyable. Instead of trying to do everything the day we record, we now give ourselves a couple days to draft the shownotes, take pictures, etc.
• D: We do put a lot of work into the production of the podcast. Converting our tiny New York City apartment into a studio for recording is a bit of an ordeal. I am hoping that with our move we will be able to create a space dedicated to recording so that the process of recording is more relaxing. I do absolutely enjoy the community that this podcast has opened up to us.
Can you share with us some of the most positive things that have come about from the podcast for you?
• J: The most obvious for me is the friendships I’ve made with viewers and other makers living in NYC. Relatedly, these friendships have given me more confidence. I will always be shy, but I feel less intimidated about meeting people at trunk shows and fiber festivals.
• D: I’ve been incredibly touched by the outpouring of support for my spinning. It always surprises me how generous people are, both with sharing their knowledge but also providing unusual fibers for me to spin. I never thought anyone would go out of their way to send me things that would help me learn more about spinning. It’s just one example of how generous people in our community can be.
While we really hope there are none, have there been any negatives?
• J: Not really. People have been incredibly supportive of the podcast. Any negatives have come from within—for example, wishing that I could knit faster and finish more sewing projects. Although I don’t like comparing my making to others’, I think these comparisons have encouraged me to think about what I find satisfying about my making with regards to quantity and quality.
You’re a prolific knitter Jennie. Has podcasting impacted the designs and yarns you choose for your making?
• J: The podcast has helped me articulate my aesthetic, and as a result, I am more honest with myself about whether I will wear something when it’s finished. Also, through Devon’s involvement, I’ve learned more about wool and its properties. Because I’m creating a handmade wardrobe, I am concerned with durability and have become more mindful of the yarns I choose for projects. For example, I’ll now save singles in my stash for shawls and instead use yarns with more structure for garments.
Devon, it seems the podcast has really taken you down the spinning rabbit hole, could you tell us a little more about your breed-specific project for 2016?
• D: For each month in 2016 I am spinning fiber from a different sheep breed. Each one of these breeds has been classified as critically endangered or threatened by the Livestock Conservancy. The idea is to expand my knowledge of different breeds, as well as to raise awareness about the importance of preserving heritage sheep breeds. My dream is to one day have a small flock of heritage sheep, and this project will help me figure out which breed I would like to work with.
We were so happy for you when we heard of your impending relocation to New England. How do you think this will affect the time you spend making?
• J: After our move, I will be working from home, so theoretically I will have more time for my making. I’m curious to see if that will actually be the case. I currently take the subway to work. I’m most productive on the train because I am focused only on my knitting; when I’m at home, I’m easily distracted by my phone and the television. I’ll have to be very disciplined!
• D: More so than the time, I think having more space will allow my making to take on a whole new form.
Jennie, as novice sewers ourselves, we watch your sewing exploits with total understanding and complete empathy. What seems simple in our heads, definitely doesn’t compute to our hands and it can be damn well infuriating at times. Are you hoping to be able to devote more time to sewing your handmade wardrobe? Would you consider attending a sewing course, if there’s one close to you?
• J: I feel most creative and energised in the morning, so I plan to set aside an hour each day to sew. How wonderful it will be to feel like I’ve accomplished something before my work day begins! I am interested in taking a sewing class, but I would prefer to find one where I can use my own machine.
Do you know much about the spinning community in New England, Devon, and would you consider joining a local spinning guild if there is one in the area?
• D: One of the major reasons for moving out of New York is to be closer to the heart of the fiber community in this country. Spinning and knitting are far more ubiquitous in New England than anywhere else in America. I would absolutely consider joining a guild if there is one in the area. I think there is so much knowledge about the craft that can be passed between spinners in person that could never be expressed online.
What are you looking forward to most about your move?
• J: I’m looking forward to so much! After living in NYC for several years, it’s time for a change of pace—for a way of life that is slower and quieter. I am also looking forward to the adventure of being somewhere new and the opportunity to re-think how I want to live my life. We’re fortunate that we can just pick up and move elsewhere.
• D: I’m excited by the prospect of having access to local wool producers and mills and being able to get more directly involved with the sourcing of the materials I work with.
Do you have any woolly plans for the rest of 2016?
• J: We are definitely going to Maryland Sheep and Wool and Rhinebeck. Additionally, we will have access to several other state fiber festivals after we move, and I hope we get to one or two. We also hope to take day trips to farms and mills in New England to learn more about wool production in America.
• D: I recently acquired my first fleece, which I skirted in our apartment. Once we move I will wash, process, and spin it. I am looking forward to finding our local sheep farm and spin local-to-me yarn.
We’ve 15 quick fire questions for you:
1) What’s your favourite fibre to knit or spin with so far?
• J: I hope to have a breed-specific answer to this question once Devon’s breed study is complete. For the time being, I’ll say Quince and Co. bases are a delight to work with and are some of my favorite yarns to work.
• D: American Tunis
2) What’s your favourite food?
• J: Pizza. No contest.
• D: Pizza, followed closely by falafel
3) Dogs or cats?
• J: Cats
• D: Cats
4) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
• J: This is such a difficult question because I haven’t travelled much and would like to visit so many places. If I had to pick just one, I would say Shetland.
• D: I would like to go to Islay.
5) What’s your favourite colour?
• J: Blue
• D: I like blues and greys.
6) Tell us about the music you like to listen to.
• J: Music used to play a bigger role in my life than it does now. I don’t keep up with what’s currently popular or seek out new-to-me artists. When I want to listen to something, I turn to reliable favorites—artists like David Bowie, Andrew Bird, and Bats for Lashes.
• D: I used to be the lead singer of a punk band, but I have since diversified my musical interests. I have been listening to Max Richter and Ólafur Arnalds a lot of late.
7) Tea, coffee or something else?
• J: Tea and seltzer water are my go-to beverages.
• D: Coffee, preferably pour over.
8) What size shoe do you take?
• J: US Women’s 6
• D: US Men’s 12
9) What was the last film you saw and did you enjoy it?
• J: I honestly can’t remember the last film I saw! We binge watch TV shows most of the time. A recent favourite is Love, which you can watch on Netflix.
• D: We used to watch a lot more films; now it seems like we stream TV shows instead. We always love the Masterpiece shows that air on public television. Right now we are enthralled with Grantchester.
10) Can you crochet?
• J: Just enough to complete a provisional cast-on.
• D: I dabbled in crochet in high school and college. I crocheted several scarves and an ill-fitting hat.
11) Name 5 people dead or alive, that you’d like to have dinner with?
• J: Suzanne Farrell, Clara Parkes, William Styron, Arvo Part, and Justin Peck
• D: W. G. Sebald, Pam Allen, François Truffaut, Eugene Atget, and Virginia Woolf
12) Which is your favourite season of the year?
• J: Autumn
• D: Summer
13) Is there a book that you’d recommend?
• J: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Heartwrenching but so good!
• D: Autoportrait by Edouard Levé
14) What other craft would you like to know more about?
• J: Quilting
• D: Weaving
15) Tell us one more thing about you.
• J: As a twist, I’ll tell you something about Devon! He is an excellent cook, which is quite convenient because I am a terrible cook.
• D: To follow suit I will tell you something about Colin. When Jennie got him from the shelter, he was recovering from a broken hip. He still has a bit of a limp. In a way it looks like he is swaggering, which is perfect for a cowboy kitty from Texas.
Thank you so much for agreeing to be our first ‘Meet the People Behind the Screen’, we wish you every success with your move and can’t wait to catch up with all your woolly exploits. If you ever make the trip to Ireland, we’d love to try and meet up.
Find Tiny Paper Foxes channel on YouTube here
Ravelry Group here
Jennie is @tinypaperfoxes on Instagram
Devon is @brineandheath on Instagram
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