The short and formal bio:
Elizabeth Rislove Etler is an independent designer of handknitting patterns and full-time graduate student at UC Berkeley. She studies crowding, an example of the brain’s failures of correct feature binding and object recognition that occurs in the normal periphery and amblyopic fovea. She realizes that probably sounds like gibberish and will spare the audience much further science talk, unless of course it’s requested.
She lives in San Francisco with her husband Sam and a sweet seal-pointed ragdoll cat named Tango.
The informal, chatty, armchair bio:
My mother taught me to knit at a cabin in the woods overlooking a lake in Northern Minnesota. I was about 10. I started on what was supposed to be a scarf using super cheap needles and even cheaper yarn. I ended up asking her to bind off for me after probably 10 or maybe 20 rows (over which time I’d somehow managed to increase a number of stitches, mostly by splitting them) which meant my scarf had become something suitable for a doll’s skirt, at best.
I put down the knitting for a while and picked it up again toward the end of college, finding myself in need of something to do on long flights home to Minnesota and a roadtrip my roommates and I took to PEI. My roommate at the time taught me to cast-on and to purl and, armed with those skills, I knit a piece of cloth that, were it not in some pretty hideous colours could make a pretty decent pillow cover. I suppose there’s someone out there who would love those colors, and the kitchy feel the whole piece has, but that is neither here nor there.
The third time, they say, is the charm. The third time I took up knitting was again borne of a need to keep my hands busy on long flights to and from Minnesota. Well, that and my mother sending me patterns for chemo caps and telling me about her knitting cancer support group. (I was, frankly, more interested in sewing at the time as I found I would tire of and abandon knitting projects as soon as I’d seen where they were going and the challenge was gone). Anyway. For whatever reason, whether it was because it felt like part of my mother’s legacy, or because it had simply become a habit on long flights between San Francisco and Minneapolis or because I began to have lengthy periods of time that demanded busy hands even when I wasn’t flying home all the time — something to do with long bus rides between Berkeley and San Francisco for dance practice — it grabbed hold and became a hobby, then a passionate creative outlet and now a vocation, too.
I draw inspiration wherever and whenever I can, and enjoy challenging myself to look for inspiration in places I’d be less inclined to find it, but mostly I find it comes from my great loves — travel, Victorian, Edwardian and Belle Epoque fashion, photography, dance and the theatre. (My scientist side is what helps with the engineering parts of design). I also love tea, chocolate, coffee, champagne and fabulous food but I haven’t quite figured out how those fit into my designs. Yet. I’m still kind of new in this world so I’m sure all these things will have their day(s).