Q & A with Kata Golda Golda, Author of Kata Golda's Hand-Stitched Felt
How did you learn to sew?
I learned to sew by watching my mom and grandma, who were always doing handwork. Both of them loved needlepointing and Grandma also liked to knit afghans. When I was in the second grade, my mom opened a needlepoint shop and officially taught me how to use a needle. I made a pillow with a cat on it, though sadly I don’t know what happened to it.
Which project in Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt was the most fun to work on and why? Which project was the most challenging?
My favorite things to draw, whether I’m using a pencil or a needle and thread, are faces. So for me, the finger puppets are the most fun to create—each one is subtly different, with unique expressions and shapes.
The most challenging project is the messenger bag. Unlike the finger puppets, the pieces of felt for the bag need to be cut and assembled in a specific way (perfect squares are important). But both projects suit different moods: The finger puppets are quick, playful, and imperfect, while the messenger bag requires more precision and is not unlike doing a puzzle—there is a specific way the pieces fit together, and the fun is figuring it out.
If you could use only one word to describe your book, what would it be?
What does Kata Golda mean?
Kata Golda is my Hebrew name given to me by parents when I was born. It is the name of my company and it is also the name I go by professionally. I prefer it to my other name.
What is your favorite animal to stitch or appliqué?
I don’t necessarily have a favorite animal—for me, it is the nuances in how I stitch each creature that determines if it will become a favorite. I prefer heads that tilt a little to the side and tend to like faces that are looking straight at you. I love to play with expressions—the eye placement, size of the eyes, how close the nose is to the eyes and mouth…it’s amazing how much can change with a tiny stitch.
When you were a child, what did you imagine you would be when you grew up?
As a child I always had crafty projects going—painting barrettes, sewing bags, beading—but I never considered then that those experiences would be so formative in what I would be when I grew up. In school I chose drama over visual art, thinking I would be an actress like Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz. And as I got older I thought I would be more like Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live. At one point I thought I would be a television news anchor, which is quite funny now as I don’t even own a television.
If you could spend an afternoon stitching with one person in history, who would it be?
I know it would be a writer—someone with a lot of stories. I’m often too busy to read because I’m making things with my hands, but I am a good listener. Perhaps Anne Frank. She is such a clear and articulate observer of her world, and I like a story told from a child’s perspective. Or maybe William Steig, author of CDB!, The Amazing Bone, and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. I think he would make me laugh and say simple phrases that I would want to write down and remember. And while I sewed things, I imagine that he might be drawing (I love the distinct and simple quality of his drawings).
If you could time-travel back to a different time or place and spend the day with sewers there, where would you go?
I’d want to go back to a time where ladies sat down with their mending—darning socks, sewing on buttons, repairing quilts, taking in and letting out pants—sharing their secrets with the group, each believing that her technique was superior. I appreciate that in earlier times everything was not so disposable; there was no plastic, the quality of materials made items worth repairing, pieces had histories and stories. In those times, zero waste was not a movement, it was just the way things were.
Do you always sew with felt, or do you like to sew with other fabrics, too?
In additional to felt, I also like to sew with linen and canvas and I do a lot of appliqué work with these materials. I also like to sew motifs, such as butterflies, bees, or mice onto my own thin cotton shirts, and sometimes repair torn clothing with appliquéd patches (to which my daughter asks, “Mom, do you have to Kata-Golda everything?”).
Who is your favorite artist of all time?
Andrew Wyeth. I love that so many of his paintings are in similar locations, with similar subject matters and color palettes, proving that you don’t need to go far away to feel inspired. He also has an unmatchable ability to capture texture. In fact, I recently saw some of his paintings and couldn’t believe how he captured the wooliness of a wool sweater. I almost touched it to confirm it was a painting (almost).
Where is your favorite place to sew?
It depends on the weather. In the warmer months I like to sit on the bench in front of my house in the sunshine. In the cooler months I sit in the glassed-in front porch, which heats up like a greenhouse on a sunny day.
What is the most unusual or exotic place you’ve ever sewed?
I like to take sewing projects with me when I go backpacking, so I’d have to say somewhere above the treeline in the Olympic Mountains.
What is your happiest sewing memory?
When my daughter plays her violin or piano for me while I’m stitching. Sometimes she’ll even read aloud to me while I stitch. I’m glad that I’m able to recognize such a happy memory as it is happening right now.
What are you making now?
Right now I am sewing hundreds of patches that will be the covers of photograph albums. The best part about my job is that I can sew lots of things like patches to fill orders, and then run off to the mountains, which is where I like to create new designs since there are no distractions and I can really focus.