Illustrator Spotlight: Kitty McCarthy


© Kitty McCarthy

August 1, 2023

It's the first of the month, so we are featuring illustrator Kitty McCarthy and her website banner design for Kidlit411. Also, read about her picture book, A Yarn About a Tree (Weirwood LLC 2021). Enter to win a copy via the Rafflecopter below!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to illustrate for children.

It’s hard to say. I don’t consider myself a children’s illustrator. When I was 9 or 10 I took “painting lessons” and did various forms of art work through school. In college, I majored in painting but fell in love with weaving, so I ended up going to graduate school in textile design. I got my MFA in 1986 and began designing towels and sheets for a company in Miami. I’m still designing textiles.

© Kitty McCarthy

Congrats on your banner design for Kidlit411. Can you tell us how you approached this design and project?

I had just finished all the illustrations for my book when I saw the contest and I guess I was looking for a project. The idea of an owl as a teacher (wise old owl) seemed like the best idea and I was afraid someone else would use it, but I guess no one did. It took me about 4

days to do the illustration once I had the design finished.

You work in fabric arts and illustrate through embroidery. Tell us how you came to this medium.

My mother taught me to sew and knit as a child. I don’t know which came first, but I feel like it’s something I’ve always done. My mother used to be the person you came to if you wanted initials embroidered on something. This was before embroidery machines. She didn’t do it for a living and I’m not sure she even charged for it. Naturally, I picked that up.

© Kitty McCarthy

The idea of illustrating a book with embroidery just evolved over the last few years. Women have done “hand work” forever to express themselves. A little embroidery on an otherwise drab garment, repairs on old clothes that turn into decoration, little patterns knit into

sweaters to identify the knitter. I thought about all these things as I worked on this book.

Tell us about your book, A Yarn About a Tree. What inspired it?

I’d always wanted to write a book. I finished a YA book years ago and it never went anywhere. And I was busy working to earn a living and raising a family. I wrote this book or a variation of it 3 or 4 years ago, but didn’t really get into illustrating it until the quarantine.

© Kitty McCarthy

I was thinking about a book where there was a little girl knitting a scarf that trailed through the whole book, I’m still thinking about that one, I’ve got the illustrations in my head, but can’t quite write it yet. Then I started thinking about how kids could make a difference in

the world and I hit on the idea of kids saving a tree by calling attention to it with yarn bombing.

You indie-published your book. What are some tips you’d pass on to other kid lit creators about self publishing a book?

Find someone who knows more than you do. I found Larry Issa on a SCBWI zoom group for indie publishing. He was offering a free consultation and I took him up on it. Amazingly, he got excited about my concept, walked me though every step of the process, and

did the graphic design for the book. He only charged me for the graphics and we’ve become good friends. We’ve even done some shows together to market our books.

© Kitty McCarthy

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

Be different. There’s a lot out there, especially now with A-1, so distinguish yourself in some way.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

Because I love to travel, I’ve worked on cruise ships as an Artist in Residence off and on for over 20 years. I have two master’s degrees and I can’t ride a bike.


Where can people find you online?





Kitty McCarthy’s home is filled with her fiber creations. As a child she learned that she needed to keep her hands busy, so knitting and sewing became a creative outlet. This inevitably led to weaving, textile design and quilting. She received a MFA in Textile Design in 1986 and a MS in Nursing Home Administration in 1998. Kitty lives on Virginia’s Eastern Shore with her partner Dan. They have five children, nine

grandchildren and no pets to tie them down now that all the kids have left.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. That was a wonderful interview. Kitty you are a very talented artist, wishing you so much success in the future. Barbara

  2. Looks like a great book. Would love to win it for my wife.

  3. Happy to see the inclusion of a child in a wheel chair

  4. Looks wonderful. Regine karpel

  5. Looks like such a wonderful read! Thanks for sharing this great interview! Looking forward to what’s in store for the future and super excited to follow along! Can’t wait to see more! Wishing everyone an incredible summer filled with smiles!

  6. This looks like such a fun book to read


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