Joan of Dark (right) jamming for the Naptown Roller Girls. Photo by Tom Klubbens
Give us a bio on yourself and your alter ego.
I was a rocker before I was a derby girl. I started playing music when I was 12, and played guitar, bass, and sang on stage until I was 26. After I quit playing music, I felt like something was really missing in my life, and I wasn't sure how to fill the void. When my friends Strawberry Jam and Sweet C started obsessing about roller derby, my ears perked up! It seemed like exactly the "hobby" I was looking for. Of course, like every other hobby I pick up, it became a total obsession that took over my life! When I'm not in skates, I own a coffee shop called Strange Brew, where I get to meet lots of interesting people, including lots of derby fans that come in the morning after a game for coffee and a rehash! I read, write, play with my dogs, cats, mini horse, and llama, and hang out with my husband (one of our announcers, Dill Her0).
Joan of Dark is my inner me. My aggressive side that is always wound just a little bit too tight. When I'm "letting Joan out" I feel like I'm always a bit on the edge. Ready to fight, ready to protect my friends... just ready for action! I'm a lot more unpredictable when I'm Joan! She also comes out more frequently than before. I used to keep her pretty much confined to the track, but I've noticed her coming to the surface more and more in annoying situations. God help the person on their cell phone in a movie theater!
Tell us a little about the book.
Depending on how you look at it, it's either a knitting book with derby, or a derby book with knitting! There is an attempt to suck knitters that might not necessarily be derby girls into the derby world, and derby girls who aren't knitters into the knitting world! There is also a bit of background on my team, The Naptown Roller Girls, including bios of our players, pictures of bouts, and of course, NRG girls were the models for all the finished items. I also tried to include some interesting tidbits, facts about the sport, and information for people on how to get started!
What inspired you to put this book together?
One of our skaters, Scary Poppins had broken her shoulder during practice. My friend Sweet C and I joked about knitting her a sling, which Sweet C did. Then the ideas just kept coming! I wanted a jammer beanie, Sweet C wanted leg warmers that could come on and off without removing your skates, we needed pillows for broken ankles, and bags to tote our stuff in...the ideas just kept rolling in! Then we got booked on the show called Knitty Gritty, where they were showcasing unusual knitters and I kind of thought, "Are we that unusual? I bet there are a lot more of us out there!” Then I just went through this period where I kept seeing derby girls that were also knitters, or sewers, or just generally crafty! It got me really excited about showcasing what my team was doing and maybe reaching out to other girls like us!
What is your most favorite pattern you’ve ever created?
I have a new favorite pattern every other week! In Knockdown Knits, I would say it has to be a close tie between the the Jammer beanie and the Girlie Ref tank. They're both simple, easy to knit, and totally derby.
Non-derby wise, I really love making weird toys. I crocheted a little bunny named "Filler Bunny" after the comic character created by Jhonen Vasquez. I'm also working on a stuffed toy based on another Vasquez character, "Jhonny the Homicidal Maniac". I love the idea of snuggling with these cute soft toys, when their original creator’s intent was to make them disturbing and dangerous.
Do you think it takes a natural talent to knit, or can anyone learn?
If I can learn to knit, anyone can learn to knit! Though, personally, I was never able to learn out of a book. Trying to teach myself ended in many tangled messes being chucked across a room. My grandmother sat me down and taught me. I would start a pattern, get to something I didn't know and drive over to her house for help. I've passed on the knowledge by teaching quite a few of the girls in my league to knit as well. It's a cool way to get to know the girls you skate with. It's kind of hard to have a casual conversation about common interests when you're hitting each other or screaming through leg lifts.
How do you find the time to knit, become a published author, help run the Naptown business, and skate?
I don't know! At my shop, I try to sneak design time in while I'm working in the back office. During my down time at work I knit behind the counter as well. My husband has been very supportive about picking up some of the slack when I'm working on a deadline. Sometimes practice would be a challenge. I was aware that I had a project that had to be in the mail the next day, but I would have practice until 9:00 at night! Those nights were hard, but I would drag my butt to practice, work out hard, get home, sit up all night knitting and writing, and then drink lots of coffee when I opened the shop the next morning!
As far as helping run the Naptown business, it would never get done if it weren't a collective effort. Strawberry Jam (founding member) has always been great about giving us direction, and delegating responsibility evenly. I do as much as I possibly can while working 12-16 hour days, going to practice, writing, etc.
What advice would you give other rollergirls looking to become published authors?
Let your track persona come out. I am not a very confident person in sneakers, but I found myself digging deep, letting Joan come out, and approaching a gal who worked for Wiley Publishing at a party with my idea. I got nervous lots of times in the initial proposal stage, but I shook it off and kept pushing forward.
What advice would you give to newbies?
I would give a newbie knitter the same advice I would give a newbie roller girl: Just try it! I am a firm believer that you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to, if you just keep trying and don't give up!
My next piece of advice would be: while I love combining derby and knitting, don't skate with your needles.
Any final words or future plans?
I really want to do another type of derby craft book: something more inclusive to knitting, crochet, sewing, all sorts of crafts. And after seeing how many talented derby girls are out there, I think it would be great to include projects from other derby leagues as well.