Telling Stories: Meet Maria of Subway Knits

I should begin this by saying that I cannot listen to podcasts. I mean, I can turn them on and have them playing, but my brain just automatically tunes them out. I can’t do audiobooks for the same reason, and I used to test relatively low on the listening comprehension portions of standardized tests. But I’ve listened to many episodes of Subway Knits because I like Maria’s organization and the range of topics she covers. If you’re looking for a new knitting podcast to add to your rotation, you should definitely stop by Subway Knits.

Maria Subway Knits Podcast

Q: How would you describe your podcast to newcomers?
Subway Knits is a podcast documenting my knitting adventures both in and out of the subway in New York City. I share what’s on and off the needles, knitting trainwrecks (and what I’ve learned from them), knitting travels (both around and outside of NYC, and talk about what’s fun, new and interesting in the knitting world. The podcast also has an ongoing Queue-Along, where we work to knit things off the ever expanding queues.

Q: What inspired you to start a podcast?
I always loved to tell stories and I did that a lot via my old blog; however, there was a time when I noticed that my regular blog lacked a focus and it was just me whining about my current state of affairs in grad school and trying to plan my wedding.

I discovered podcasts when I was living in Japan and really got into the knitting ones when I (finally!) moved back to NYC. It was in Summer 2009 when knitting really took off for me (there was a hiatus due to me frantically trying to finish a Master’s degree in a year) and I didn’t really have a knitting group.

Listening to podcasts made me feel as though I belonged to a community that was beyond the Ravelry boards because it was people actually speaking, which was more interactive for me (if one means by interactive as trying to talk back to the hosts of the show!) and it meant that I got to knit while I listened to people talk about knitting.

That interactivity and the idea of going beyond the forums and the blogs inspired me to take up the mic because I first wanted to try and see what it would be like and if there was room for yet another podcast, but from a different location (very few East Coast podcasts compared to the Midwest/West Coast ones, but correct me if I’m wrong!).

Q: Which episode has been your favorite to record so far?
It’s a close tie between Episodes 5 & 6 (“From the West to the East” and “Harajuku Knitters”) and Episode 11 (“Equal Opportunity Yarnies Unite!”). I see 5 & 6 as a single unit because the main topic was about knitting in Japan and Japan has a very special place in my life so I love sharing my experiences living there especially when it does relate to knitting because it was living in Japan that provided the impetus for me becoming a knitter and a crafty person in general.

In Episode 11, I finally got a bit of courage to speak about a somewhat controversial issue (yarn snobbery) and while I was a bit worried about the feedback I would get, I finally got a sense for the first time that as a podcaster, I do have a voice in the community and can express my opinions about specific issues that are of concern to knitters beyond what kind of yarn to get. That episode pushed me beyond my limits as a podcaster because it was in that particular episode where I talk more about my knitting and go beyond my little nook in the knitting world.

Q: In your opinion, why are podcasts becoming more and more popular with people in general and crafters in particular?
First, I think it’s the interactive aspect of it: People listen to podcasts, comment on the podcast group forums and blogs and wherever possible, have meetups—it’s as if the podcast serves as the part of a very big social media circle. One can argue that Ravelry is that center for us knitters and crocheters in terms of social media and interaction, but I think that for those that listen to podcasts, it can either be the center, or a catalyst for that interaction. To some extent, podcasts take us out of the forums and into the real world especially when it does come to meeting people at festivals or even random twitter knitter meetups.

With regards to popularity among crafters, I think you can learn a lot from thoughtfully planned out crafting podcasts—be it about a new knitting pattern that you didn’t know about, or an aha! moment that the podcaster had, but you also did as well. Given that knitting and crafting is general has become so popular and experienced a resurgence in the last decade, podcasting helps give it more legitimacy—knitting is no longer just aout an itchy Weasley sweater but there are actual issues and debates going on. Podcasting gives a voice to that and with a simple search in iTunes, people can come across them without having to be on Ravelry first (slim chance, but hey it is possible that people pick up knitting because they listening to a knitting podcast first!)

Second, since podcasting in general serves as a new form of journalism it gives people choice and if they choose to take up the mic a voice in whatever field they choose. If I were not a knitter I would still love podcasts because it gives me the opportunity to learn something new without having to pay for it (well, except for the MP3 player). One of the very first podcasts I listened to was “12 Byzantine Rulers,” and I loved that you could essentially listen to a radio show whenever and either catch up on back episodes still not miss a thing—and I would say for myself, my library is split 50/50 between knitting podcasts and non-knitting ones.

Q: There’s many crafting podcasts, some with single hosts and others with duos or small groups. You host Subway Knits by yourself, but you’ve had some crafty guests come on the show. What differences, challenges, and/or advantages do you find when working collaboratively in some capacity on the podcast?
One of the biggest challenges is scheduling! I just started my first year as a Special Education Public Middle School teacher and I am in grad school (again, blargh) part time so that means trying to schedule things with others is a bit tricky, especially when I really really want to interview someone. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Then we have the technical issues—when I was interviewing Anna Hrachovec of Mochimochiland, I was so worried that the mic on my iPhone wasn’t picking up the audio very well because the café was noisy. But it turned out well—also proved to me that so long as I have my iPhone, I really don’t need a separate digital recorder. GarageBand on the other hand, likes to pick a fight with me every once in awhile.

The advantage of working or speaking with others collaboratively is being able to hear other people’s stories and their own perspectives on something that I also had the opportunity to experience with as well—in Episode 3, I recap the colorwork class I took with Jared Flood with my friends Lisa and Shelley and it was great to listen to what they thought of the class because I may have missed something that they picked up on, and by having others talk about it maximizes the experience for the listeners.

In addition, when I have the interview episodes as part of the “In the Conductor’s Booth” series, one of the advantages is not only getting to meet in person the people who inspire my knitting, but also getting to share that with others and perhaps show something that they never knew about those designers or authors before.

Q: I think that, for me, I’d have trouble recording a podcast because I would feel an absence of interaction, of back and forth with the audience or another speaker. How do you stay enthusiastic about “speaking into the void” so to speak?
The way I stay enthusiastic is by the follow-up to “speaking into the void”—the responses via twitter, the forum and the blog and being able to talk about what I discuss further with either my friends or other listeners. I use that to fuel what I will talk about next and hopefully make the show more interesting.

Q: What are some of your favorite podcasts?
Heh, that is A LOT of podcasts. I currently subscribe to 44 of them, both knitting and not knitting. Here are some of the ones that make me run to my laptop, download and listen to immediately (if you want the whole list, feel free to contact me!):
Yarngasm
A Playful Day
Electric Sheep
Knit Knit Café
Caithness Craft Collective
Fluffy Fibres
The Knitmore Girls
Just One More Row
iMake
Miss Elle Knits
Never Not Knitting
Stash and Burn

Thanks, Maria, for taking the time to answer my questions. Dear readers, do you listen to knitting podcasts? Which are your favorites?

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3 thoughts on “Telling Stories: Meet Maria of Subway Knits

  1. Thanks for this great interview, I’ll be running home from work today to listen to the episodes about living in Japan and the things that inspired Maria to begin knitting!!! I have been a regular listener to two of the podcasts on the master list, and an awareness of two more, but not any of the others. Glad I will have some downtime this weekend to check it out! THANKS!!!!

    • Great! I’m so glad this post pointed you to some new podcasts. Maria’s a wonderful host and I hope you’ll enjoy catching up with her episodes. 😀

  2. Pingback: In Which I Answer More Questions » Subway Knits

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