Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

Interview: Mindy Dykman, Raven Knits

November28

Today’s interview is with Mindy Dykman of RavenKnits. Mindy is another designer local to me but we only ‘met’ through the Gift-A-Long.

Mindy Dykman, aka RavenKnits

Mindy Dykman, aka RavenKnits

How did you get started designing?
I really started designing when my sons were little and I could find very few fun but boy-friendly knits to make for them. I messed around with converting patterns and used a sweater formula to create garments for them. This was years before I signed up for Ravelry, of course, so those designs never got further than the single prototype garment I put on my kid. On Ravelry I discovered lace shawls and indie dyers, and it was my desire to find a pattern suitable for strongly contrasting variegated yarns that spurred me to create my first ‘real’ design, Rosa Acicularis.

What inspires your designs?
I draw inspirations from three main sources; the yarn itself, the shape of natural elements primarily plants, and the ‘what if’ questions I have about basic knitting structure.

Rosa, as I mentioned, was inspired specifically for the yarn from which I knit my prototype – a glorious skein of Iachos yarn in the Styx colourway. I started designing at the same time that Kate Bachus of A Hundred Ravens Yarns started dying, and we’ve had a mutually supportive relationship as yarnie and designer since then, which has been lovely.

Rosa Acicularis

Rosa Acicularis

Most of my patterns have incorporated plant shapes and carry the latin names of the plants that inspired them. This makes my pattern library challenging to pronounce but also clearly indicative of the inspiration for the shawls.

Finally in the past year I’ve been playing a bit with the classic profiles of various shawl and stole shapes, and how to achieve them a bit more unconventionally. Wings of Change from the Spirit Wings eBook is a good example of this – it is a stole shape that starts as a classictab-construction top-down triangle. I had a lot of fun designing that one, and holding my breath when I got it to the blocking boards and finding out if what worked in my head would actually work in yarn, too.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
A bit of both, although lately it’s been the inspiration that comes first, followed by me hunting through my stash to find something suitable. I have been trying to knit from stash first this year, although we all know how well that usually goes.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I really enjoy combining a textural element with lace stitches, and then seeing how many different shapes can grow from one or two thematic stitch patterns. So I have a collection of designs themed around waterlilies that use large leaf motifs and an expanded garter rib, and I have an eBook themed around mythological birds using Estonian star stitches and feather motifs. I like grouping things that are similar, but use different weights of yarns and different constructions.

Wings of Change

Wings of Change

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’ve been fixated on lace shawls pretty much from day one. Sometimes I feel like I should be fleshing out the collection with some small accessory pieces (hats, cowls, fingerless mitts, that sort of thing) but I never quite get around to starting.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Fleece Artist Trail Socks, without a doubt. It is the only yarn I’ve worked with that I cannot bear to part with even a few inches of remnant scrap.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
It sounds a bit mad, but colourwork. The first designs I knit for my little boys were fantastic intarsia dragons and fair-isle inspired sweaters. More recently I’ve taken to double knitting like a crazy woman, and am playing with the idea of double knitting an afghan in 2015.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Taking into account the length of time a pattern has been released, I would say the Nuphar Fichu is my most under-appreciated design. That’s a little bit odd, because its closest sister, the Nuphar Shawlette, is my most popular design. The fichu pulls in the same elements as the fingering weight shawlette, but is designed to use dk yarn and be just a lovely little confection to keep your shoulders warm, or to tuck into an open coat collar.

Nuphar Fichu

Nuphar Fichu

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
A lot of my GAL casting on has been looking for suitable patterns for other people, but for me ‘personally’ I’ve got Alex Tinsley’s Howlcat on the needles, and have Rachel Henry’s Hornburg Cowl and Laura Aylor’s Spiced Cocoa mittens queued up. I have a new puppy and it’s cold these mornings when I need to be out supervising her in the yard – I want snuggly, warm accessories!

Continental or English?
English – I’m a pit knitter, so have learned to squish a remarkable number of stitches onto straight needles and use circulars only if I have no choice.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
The best thing for me is seeing how the yarn plays with different stitches to create its own story. I am always excited to see how a variegated yarn will flash and pool, or how the sheen of silk accents certain textures.

Nuphar Shawlette

Nuphar Shawlette

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Frog fearlessly. We have a great luxury in our craft that if something is not working, we can pull the whole thing out and approach it from a different angle. Knitting allows us to experiment without repercussion, so knit boldly and frog fearlessly!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My goal for this year is to choose my yarns more mindfully, and work on a ‘look’ for my shop that is distinct and professional.

It’s been a great experience in this GAL to meet and pay attention to what other designers do with their brand, as well as with the patterns themselves, and it’s made me realize the importance of a cohesive style. My styling has been, well, amateur and chaotic, and I want to address that this year while I still have a relatively small library to revamp.

View all of Mindy’s patterns here. All images copyright Mindy Dykman (unless noted otherwise) and are used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Interview: Laura Aylor

November27

I have knit several Laura Aylor’s shawl designs over the past few years so I was excited to have the opportunity to interview her as part of Gift-A-Long 2014.

Laura is running a Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday sale – buy 2 patterns get the 3rd free with the code BFCMdeal (see a full list of participating designers here, I’m also participating – follow link for sale details).

Laura Aylor

Laura Aylor, modeling Sleepy Hollow

How did you get started designing?
I wanted to make an afghan for my daughter using as many different colorways of Kureyon as I could find – one for each block. I combed the internet (this was pre-Ravelry) and all my knitting books looking for a pattern that really made use of the long color runs. I just couldn’t get excited about any of them and then I pulled out my ‘Learn to Knit Afghan’ book by Barbara Walker and started playing around with her Short-Row Stripes block. I still remember pining the first one out on my ironing board after steaming it and realizing that I needed to share it. So I sent a submission in to Knitty. They loved it and I thought my knit design career had run its course :)

What inspires your designs?
Very often one design inspires the next. There’s a lot of thinking time involved in knitting (I knit all my own samples) and it’s easy to let your mind wander to variations of what you’re working on. Sometimes I just want to make something specific that I can’t find a pattern for. Sometimes I see someone wearing an awesome knitted item and try to memorize it so I can come up with my own variation. Sometimes I’m doodling and come up with a shawl idea. It’s actually a pretty chaotic process!

Hay Cove

Hay Cove

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It’s happened both ways. For Lizard Ridge it was definitely the yarn. With Fabergé the yarn was secondary to the idea. This fall I worked on a collection inspired by a trip to Newfoundland where I just had to find yarns that supported the look/feel that I wanted.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Mostly I want my stuff to be different from the other designs out there. I’m not saying I’m never inspired by others’ work, but I don’t ever want my work to look like something that’s been done too many times. Also, I like to use techniques or stitch patterns that I find interesting or fun and I really dislike seaming. I will pick up hundreds of stitches rather than seam a garment! I’m still playing with Barbara Walker’s top-down, seamless, simultaneous set-in sleeve construction and can’t imagine that I will ever knit a sweater in pieces again.

Sea Salt

Sea Salt

What is your favourite type of item to design?
There are 3 things I seem to enjoy doing the most – shawls, cowls, and sweaters. I’ve been on a bit of a sweater kick lately – I’m just full of sweater ideas at the moment.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
For a desert island I’d have to say madelinetosh tosh merino light. I’ve knit that yarn on tiny needles for sweaters, medium-sized needles for summer tees, big needles for shawls, and doubled to get worsted weight. It’s lovely at any gauge, never pills, and takes color amazingly.

Dunbar

Dunbar, photo by Laura Aylor

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Anything but complicated lace.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Robie Street I think. I released it this past summer and was SO excited about how it came out, but it’s gotten very little attention.

Robie Street

Robie Street

Continental or English?
Continental.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Having been a science/math person my whole life I’ve had so much fun exploring my artistic/creative side! I can remember when the thing I dreaded hearing the most in school was ‘be creative’!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Be fearless! You can always rip and redo! Experiment! Have fun!

Dark Tickle

Dark Tickle

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I need to work on life balance – I have a tendency to get all caught up in the design work and neglect things like exercising, sleeping, and spending time with my husband.

View all of Laura’s patterns here. Photography by Stan Aylor, unless otherwise noted, and are used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Interview: Marnie MacLean

November27

Today’s interview is with Marnie MacLean, a prolific designer whose pieces are not only eminently wearable but also classically beautiful.

Marnie MacLean, modeling Willowherb

Marnie MacLean, modeling Willowherb

How did you get started designing?
My mom is a knitter and dad used to crochet so I grew up in a house filled with yarn and pattern books. I’ve been knitting and crocheting most of my life, though I didn’t really get serious about it until after college. When my now-husband and I moved from Boston to the Los Angeles, in 2001, I picked up my knitting needles more seriously and never really looked back. I started knitting things for myself and writing down what I did. Some of those first few patterns are a hot mess but online patterns were still really rare so I had the freedom to experiment and find my style. Once I started publishing with Twist Collective in 2008, I really started seeing my designing as more than a side hobby. It’s very much a job for me and it’s one I truly love and hope I am improving on, each year.

What inspires your designs?
This may sound strange but I actually think that people put too much value on “inspiration” when it comes to designing. Certainly, that’s what got me started and that is what fueled my first designs, but when you publish regularly, and on deadline, the need for inspiration can be the enemy of getting things done. I design things I want to wear, and sometimes I have a strong vision that drives the end product, but it’s not uncommon for me to simply sit down with some yarn and needles and a stack of stitch dictionaries and just push myself to create. I’ll swatch a bunch of ideas, pull out a sketch pad and try to fit the swatches into something that I would want to wear. Of course, there are other times when something really does feel like an inspiration, and those can come from anything. When I feel like I need some ideas and jumping off points, I’ll look up textures and patterns in nature or historical costumes, and see what little details interest me.

La Cumparsita

La Cumparsita

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Either. Sometimes, yarn companies or even publishers will send me yarn for an as-yet undefined or loosely-defined project. In that case, I construct a finished piece around the qualities of the yarn. Other times, I have an idea for a project and then I seek out the right yarn for the finished piece.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Well, I’ve been designing for a little over a decade and I have over 100 patterns under my belt, designed for men, women, and children and for knitters and crocheters of all levels. I’m not sure there’s any particular characteristic I consciously work into all my designs. Part of keeping designing interesting is feeling like I’m doing new things so while I might have a recognizable style, I hope that there’s enough variety in my portfolio to please a lot of people. What matters more to me is writing patterns that knitters and crocheters find clear and accurate. I’m constantly assessing the feedback I get and working to make my patterns better.

Astoria

Astoria

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Well, I love bigger projects like sweaters and shawls, and I think that’s reflected in my library of patterns. While there’s something to be said for designing pieces that a person can knit or crochet in a weekend or with just a single skein of yarn, I find designing those sorts of patterns almost anti-climactic. They are just done too soon for my taste.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Who could pick? Yarn is like food. If you were to eat the same thing for every meal, every day, you’d grow tired of it quickly. Some foods are best kept for special occasions or are wonderful in moderation, others are basic staples that can appear in most meals but would be unsatisfying in isolation. Yarn is the same for me. I love the variety and the right yarn changes from project to project.

Uchiwa

Uchiwa

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I love working stockinette stitch, especially in the round, and good quality metal needles and yarn that doesn’t split. I can happily knit it while carrying on a conversation or watching a show in the evening. It’s mindless and calming and unobtrusive. Perfect for times when I don’t want to think too much.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I would have loved for Jamison Square to have done better. It’s the sort of garment I love to wear, but it never really resonated with knitters.

Jamison Square

Jamison Square

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
This is almost as hard as the desert island yarn question. There are so many amazing designs in the GAL. I can count on one hand the number of designs I’ve knit by other people, since I’ve started designing but if I had time to knit other people’s stuff, I think I’d choose:
1. Carol Sunday’s Cambridge
2. Julia Trice’s Elia (full disclosure, she’s a close friend of mine, but that pullover is the bee’s knees) and
3. Natalia Sha’s Elderberry

Continental or English?
I’m a combination knitter and I knit continental. When I do stranded colorwork I hold one yarn in each hand which I guess means I’m knitting continental and english.

Arctium Shawl

Arctium Shawl

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I always tell people that I like that I am being productive while vegging out in front of the tv.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Try new things and don’t expect perfection the first time.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t make resolutions. I think that we are either ready to do something or we aren’t and that moment has nothing to do with the day of the year. I do hope that I’ll only design for as long as it brings me joy and that I continue to find ways to make my designs and patterns better. That’s something I have to work on all year round.

View all of Marnie’s patterns here. All images copyright Marnie MacLean and are used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sales in the Fibre Arts

November26

Happy Holidays Post santa's helper

It’s that time of year again, your airwaves will be filled with stores trumpeting their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales to anyone who will listen. How to cut through the noise and find out if your favourite designer or yarnie is having a sale? Marlybird knows and she’s once again created a comprehensive list of designers, yarn companies, etsy sellers, etc.

Most sales start on November 28 and run through to end of day December 1. Double check the list however, some have special codes good for one day only.

Once again I am participating – this is your last chance to buy one of my designs on sale, until November 2015 that is. Use the code bfcm2014 for 20% any of the designs in my Ravelry store.

Interview: Lee Meredith, Leethal Knits

November26

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Lee Meredith of Leethal Knits. Lee is known for her interesting construction techniques and the sense of fun she brings to her designs. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Lee Meredith, Leethal Knits

Lee Meredith, Leethal Knits, modeling Tionne

How did you get started designing?
I learned to knit in college, taught a basic knit stitch by a roommate, and then self-taught from there on, improvising everything I made for a few years. When I discovered Knitty, and Ravelry launched, in 2007, I started playing around with writing things down, and the first pattern I ever wrote was published in Knitty in Fall 2007 – I was hooked on designing from that point on!

What inspires your designs?
Everything – I get seeds of ideas from things I see in everyday life, or ideas pop into my head out of nowhere (or out of something I saw that was in my subconscious maybe), and I build up the ideas into designs.

Meridian Hat

Meridian Hat

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
The design idea almost always comes first, then I try to figure out what kind of yarn would be the best fit. Or I can picture it looking really different in different kinds of yarns, so I make multiple samples to show it different ways.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I always try to make them fun to knit! That’s kind of most important to me – if I don’t want to knit it myself, then I don’t want to put out a pattern and expect other people to knit it. Most of my designs are very customizable, and/or can be made a lot of different ways (any gauge, or other options to choose from), so you can use the same pattern many times to get different finished items.

Trunk Adventure Crescent

Adventure Knitting: The Mysterious Trunk crescent shawl

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I don’t really have a favorite item; my favorite is variety in my knitting, so I like to knit (and design) lots of different things!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Maybe Hikoo Kenzie – that’s my most recent yarn love discovery, and there are so many great colors, so I could have lots of variety with my palette. I love Imperial Yarn Columbia, and pretty much all other wooly squishy yarns like that!

Wobble Bass

Wobble Bass

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I try to have a simple project on the needles at all times – right now I have a sweater and a cotton tee, both of which are very long-term projects that I pick up once in awhile and then let sit for months at a time while I focus on designs. I am usually somewhat comforted by whatever design I’m knitting on, even if it’s stressing me out for other reasons, the act of knitting itself is comforting!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I really love my Wobble Bass hat, but it’s a very low seller. I also really love the hat I designed for Twist Collective – Meridian – which has only ever been made by a couple knitters. My cabled shawl, Freewheelin’, is one of my favorite designs, but I think it scares most knitters because it’s been liked a lot of times but not very many have made it.

Freewheelin'

Freewheelin’

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
Unfortunately I have no free time to actually cast any on right now, but several designs from GAL designers have been in my queue for awhile – three are: Mt. Hood Snow Cap by Star Athena, Waneka by Annie Watts, and Gaugeless Sweater by Elizabeth Felgate.

Continental or English?
I learned with English, tried Continental a few times, but it wouldn’t stick. So I’m a thrower.

What’s the best thing about knitting?

Hah, everything! Making something awesome by simply pulling loops of yarn through loops of yarn!

Jonathan

Jonathan

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t stress out about it, it’s only knitting, it should be fun!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
To stick to my goal design schedule as much as possible. This year I released a lot fewer patterns than I’d hoped to, because I let a few things get kind of out of control and take way too long, so next year I will try much harder to keep designs under control, simpler in a lot of cases, and stay on track!

View all of Lee’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Lee Meredith, Leethal Knits. All images used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Interview: Selina S, Knotty Turtles

November25

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Selina S of Knotty Turtles. Selina is a the first of my local designer friends that I’m interviewing for the GAL (more than half the Ontario, Canada designers live in our area, something must be in the water!). Her design esthetic is quite unique – and nothing can quite compare to seeing a large gathering of her slugs (what is the collective noun for slugs?)

Selina Siu

Selina Siu

How did you get started designing?
I don’t remember when or why I started doing my own thing, but I wrote down my first pattern when a local dyer in my knit group ask for patterns to go with her yarns. I had just knit a hat to a friend’s specifications and thought the design would look good in a variegated yarn.

What inspires your designs?
Sometimes it is because someone ask me for something, like when my partner wanted a brain slug. Sometimes its because there’s a problem to solve. For example, I was wondering if it was possible to knit fingerless gloves with only 2 ends and ended up with my Platypus gloves.

Platypus Gloves

Platypus Gloves

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Definitely the inspiration!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
As few ends and seams as possible! Maybe a bit of silliness now and then? I do try and make sure a few of the final photos have some ferrets in it. Does that count?

rand()

rand()

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I haven’t really designed enough to have a favourite. Toys are instant gratification, I don’t have enough sweaters, and my hands are always cold. Those are probably my priority right now.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
May I take my spinning wheel and a supply of qiviut? Handmaiden 4 ply cashmere if I can’t.

My Little Slug

My Little Slug

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
It might be hard to believe, but slugs and blowfishes. I know the patterns well enough to knit them during staff meetings. I have 2 nieces that I’m not allowed to buy things for, so they get a few octoslugs and blowfishes in different colours every year. They are good presents for kids and the slugs are taking over my dryer. If I don’t have anything to knit, I pull out some yarn scraps and knit slugs.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Tiriaq fingerlings. It may just remain lost in a sea of cable glove patterns! I made a number of these before someone asked me to write it down. The ribbing makes it a really flexible fit, and lots of sizing options on top of that.

Tiriaq Fingerlings

Tiriaq Fingerlings

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
1. The Minimissimi Sweater Coat. I’ve wanted to knit that forever. I was planning to start it but discovered none of my stash yarn will work.
2. Saltire kept catching my eye. I haven’t done any 2 colour crochet shawls, so it is very intriguing.
3. Mostly likely what I’ll end up doing is a splat cat, because it is hard to argue against instant gratification. Plus they crack me up.

Continental or English?
I knit English when I don’t want to look, but I learned continental so I could do ribbing faster. All continental if I’m doing double knitting or stranded.

My Little Blowfish

My Little Blowfish

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Something soft, squishy, and unique made with sweat and tears!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Try new techniques on toys knitted with wool. Go ahead and make a tons of mistake and watch them all disappear when you felt them in the washer!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Spin more. Knit more handspun. Write down some patterns. Document my yarn and fibre stash on Rav.

View all of Selina’s patterns here. Photography by Kristina Sinzig. All images used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Interview: Rachel Evans of Flame Lily Designs

November24

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Rachel Evans of Flame Lily Designs. Rachel lives in Auckland, New Zealand and designs for children.

Rachel Evans, Flame Lily Designs

Rachel Evans, Flame Lily Designs

How did you get started designing?
I knit a wee top for my daughter and people encouraged me to write it up into a pattern. Initially it was free on my blog and only covered a few sizes. Later I plucked up the courage to extend the sizing and to make it a paid pattern.

What inspires your designs?
It varies. Often it’s my children and knowing what they like to wear. Sometimes it’s the yarn. I had a lot of gorgeous variegated yarn and I wanted to design patterns that showed them off. Also sometimes it’s just because my kids need a particular item of clothing and I can’t find exactly the right pattern. My Kowhai skirt pattern is inspired by the kowhai flower. Also sometimes one design inspires the next.

Pirouette Twirls

Pirouette Twirls

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually the inspiration, then there is a mad scurry through my stash to find the perfect yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
All my patterns are seamless and knit from the top down. I like them to be simple so any beginner knitter could pick it up and start knitting. I try to make instructions clear and unambiguous and hopefully people enjoy knitting them.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Girls clothing, mostly dresses or tops. All helped by the fact that my daughter still loves to wear her knits.

Nate Hoodie

Nate Hoodie

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
This is another hard question! I recently knit with Madelinetosh tosh vintage and it was a dream to knit with. I also love Colour Adventures Dia Twist, and I adore the incredible colours of Mosaic Moon. Sorry I can’t pick just one.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Anything that I can knit while doing something else, watching tv, reading, watching the children play.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Probably Little Miss Jorja. It is one of my favourite winter knits for my daughter when she wears it with tights and boots.

Little Miss Jorja

Little Miss Jorja

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
Oh that is so difficult! I have some baby gifts to knit and have just cast on a teeny Rainbow dress (by Georgie Hallam) I’m also thinking of knitting a Baby Vertebrae (by Kelly Brooker) I also would love to cast something on for myself. I’ve been meaning to knit a Winifred (by Sarah Ronchetti) for a long time.

Continental or English?
English. I would love to become proficient at continental but at the moment I’m definitely faster knitting English.

Nina

Nina

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I love that it is so portable and that it creates something functional and beautiful. I’m also always learning new techniques or a new stitch. I also love yarn!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to give something a try. I remember knitting my very first cable (on a Milo vest) and feeling very proud of myself :D There is such a fantastic knitting community out there that you’ll always be able to find the help you need if you’re stuck on something. Also you can never have too big a stash :D

Moana

Moana

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t have any design resolutions, other than to keep designing. Every year my knitting resolution is to knit some socks. I am yet to do it. Maybe 2015 will be the year of the sock :D I also want to knit more garments for myself. My husband’s resolution for me would be to knit him a pair of slippers, haha.

View all of Rachel’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Rachel Evans, Flame Lily Designs. All images used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Second Newsletter Released: Gift-A-Long news, Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale and newest designs

November21

I had fully intended to send out a newsletter over the summer but somehow it just never happened. Really, that seems to be the way with a lot of things I intend to do during the summer. This issue talks about the Gift-A-Long and Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales (hint – they are the only time in the year that my designs go on sale) and a bit about the newest designs.

Question: Ever considered test knitting or sample knitting? I’ll be looking for some experienced knitters to do some sample/test knitting early in the new year. If you’re interested, please look for the sign up form in the sidebar and add your name to the newsletter list. The first call for knitters will go out to newsletter recipients.

Read the latest issue of the newsletter here!

Interview: Anna Rauf

November21

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Anna Rauf, a designer I discovered as part of Gift-A-Long. Anna lives in Poland and is the co-moderator of the group Knitting Break – Przerwa na dzierganie on Ravelry.

Anna Rauf modeling Billie Hat

Anna Rauf modeling Almandine hat

How did you get started designing?
I like to create different things, I’m not saying only about knitting right now. I just like to create new things in any area of my life. I love to cook and making some new dishes, I love to bake and making new cakes, I love to changing the look of my house pretty often etc.

When my little one was born, I wanted to make something special for her. I made a dress. I wasn’t really experienced knitter that time. I just did my best. Writing a pattern for it wasn’t my intention… but I received many requests about the pattern from different people from Ravelry. I had all of my notes, so I decided to write everything up. Pattern was prepared only for newborn size, but when I set up a testing thread, some other people started to asking about bigger sizes. I had no idea how to prepare them, so I read some guides, asked my friends, who already had some experience in this theme and slowly counted everything for 8 sizes.

When I realized that designing not only for myself, but also for others, can be very pleasant and give a lot of satisfaction? When I saw my little one’s dress prepared by others. I saw it in different sizes, different colors and it was incredibly pleasant feeling!

And so began my adventure with designing…

Branchee dress

Branchee dress

What inspires your designs?
I could say everything. But mostly my daughters, my husband… they are the biggest inspiration to me in any area of my life.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I can’t give you one answer. Because sometimes it is yarn and sometimes the inspiration… but mostly I’m making some sketch first. The idea is evolving in my head and then I’m looking for some suitable yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
When I’m making something for children, I often follow my eldest daughter’s tips. Although she is only 6, she had good taste and she knows what she wants… and because I like making things she will be wearing willingly, I’m always asking her what she thinks about my idea, if she likes it or maybe she would make some changes. She loves to draw, so sometimes we are working as a real team!

Billie Cowl

Billie Cowl

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’m not sure if I can answer you for this question yet. I have only few designs as far and each gave me pleasure and other experiences. I think I will be able to answer you for a few years, when I will have more experience…

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?
I don’t have one specific favourite base. I have one favourite brand – Colour Adventures yarn. So if I could knit only with one yarn from now on I would like to have any base from Colour Adventures yarn. I believe the most reasonable would be to choose some fingering (i.e. Dia Shawl), because I could always knit with few strands held together, if I will need something thicker. This is the most amazing yarn I’ve ever use. Soft, nice next to skin (which is important to me, because I’m really sensitive person!) and it just flies off the needles. Colors are vibrant, full of depth, and fully saturated through the yarn. It’s a pleasure to work with any Colour Adventures yarn, so it is definitely my desert island yarn.

Not Only for Christmas Hat

Not Only for Christmas Hat

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Hmm… I think that everything can be good to knit even if I’m tired, maybe just besides some complicated lace or lots of cables, because knitting always allow me to rest.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I think that my latest design – Snowstorm Cowl. I know that it was released not so long ago… I love it to pieces, but I had a problems even with finding an appropriate number of testers and all my patterns before had more sales during the first day after publication, than this one had even after a few days.

Snowstorm Cowl

Snowstorm Cowl

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
It is really hard choice, to point out only top 3 designs. It will be easier to give you my top three designers from GAL, rather than top 3 patterns. It would be for sure something from Monika Sirna, Justyna Lorkowska, Jenn Emerson… but it is really narrowed choice, there is much more interesting and lovely designers there, I love and admire!

Continental or English?
Honestly? I’m not sure about my technique of knitting. My mom showed me how to knit and purl long time ago… and I’m even not sure if I’m making everything the way she taught me. I found Combination Knitting group on Ravelry and I feel I’m there… I make knit stitches a different way working flat and a different way working in the round. The same about purl stitches. I could say I’m a very intuitive knitter.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Creating, relax, satisfaction… possibility of having something unique – one of a kind!

When the Sun Goes Down hat

When the Sun Goes Down hat

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid of trying new techniques. Lace, cables, short rows, colorworks… everything can be so interesting and give you a lot of fun. Don’t be afraid of trying new garment’s constructions. Maybe the one you avoid is the one you will love? Don’t be afraid of making any modification to design you are working with! Everyone has different shapes, different taste, different length comfort zone and if some change to the design will give you more satisfaction – don’t be worry to make it! I believe the designer will be happy, that you made something you love!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I want to knit more garments for myself. I’m knitting mostly for my kids, but I have some dreams also :)

View all of Anna’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Anna Rauf. All images used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Interview: Bristol Ivy

November20

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Bristol Ivy, a designer known for her use of unconventional shaping.

Bristol Ivy

How did you get started designing?
I’ve always had a tendency, once I picked up an interest, to go off on my own path with it. So when I read, I wrote. When I danced, I choreographed. Knitting was no different–it didn’t take long before
I was tweaking patterns to suit my needs, and then not long again before I was starting from scratch with my very own ideas. It helps, too, that I’m just really bad at following other people’s directions!

What inspires your designs?
I love catching random glimpses of garments in everyday life–either walking down the street, on TV, on Pinterest, and so on–and deciphering how I might reinterpret them in knitting. I also love designing based on technique and creating a wearable garment from a desire to play and explore how a certain skill or technique might work in a specific context. My favorite is when the two of those combine: when I see a ready-to-wear inspiration and use interesting techniques to construct it in my own personal way.

Triangulate Cowl

Triangulate Cowl

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Almost always the inspiration. If I’m asked to work with specific yarns, I’ll analyze them in terms of structure–how will the ply and twist handle texture or cables? Would it be good for lace or colorwork? How will it drape?–and tailor the designs from there. But often, I’ll come up with parameters for a design and try to find a yarn that fits. I’m SO picky about that when I’m mulling over options! I think my friends have learned to run for cover when I start asking for yarn suggestions, because it takes me a long time to find the perfect one!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Because a lot of what I do focuses on unconventional shaping, I try to keep the fabric itself very simple. Both in terms of the experience for the knitter AND the look of the finished garment, I like there to be a balance of complexity and simplicity. So I tend not to use a whole lot of stitch patterns, unless they’re there to convey a mood or to shape the fabric themselves. Otherwise, I just try to make sure that, no matter how off the rails I’ve gone in terms of construction, that the garment is still something you’d feel flattered by and comfortable in.

Wainwright Cardigan

Wainwright Cardigan

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love sweaters! There are so many cool ways you can play with shaping in them. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on what you can do with them!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Oh my gosh! I have to choose?! Okay, I have to cheat and pick two: one for hot days–Quince & Co.’s 100% linen Sparrow–and one for cool nights–Shibui’s cashmere and silk tweed, Pebble. I could legitimately
knit with either of these yarns forever and be completely happy.

Stria Cardigan

Stria Cardigan

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I’d have to say stockinette in the round. It’s just so cozy and calming!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
The one I probably wear the most is also probably the one that flew the furthest under the radar, my Alewives cowl. It’s texture and a teeny bit of lace in the most gorgeous earthy yarn, Clara Parkes’ CVM 1.0. I wear that sucker probably three times a week!

Alewives cowl

Alewives cowl

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
Oh wow, too many to count! I am for sure casting on is Sarah Roncetti’s Alec XL. I’ve owed my incredibly knitworthy dad a sweater for two Christmases now! I am also eyeing the Mittens that are on the list–I’ve not had a proper pair of mittens for a few years now, which is a serious problem here in Maine. The two that I’m wavering between are Reykjavik by Carol Sunday and Jazz Age Mittens by Elizabeth Elliott. Totally different designs–one’s very traditional and the other is very graphic and modern. It’ll be a tough choice! (ETA: I just bought them both and might combine the two. We’ll see what happens!)

Continental or English?
Kind of a modified English, halfway between a lever and a throw.

Hrim shawl

Hrim shawl

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Hands down, the community! It’s been a delight to get to meet such amazing and interesting people from all walks of life. I’m endlessly fascinated!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll learn the entire time you do, and even if you have to rip out, you’re still left with the two sticks and string you started with, as well as a host of new
understanding.

Metropolis Mitts

Metropolis Mitts

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I haven’t made any yet–I should probably get on that! :)

View all of Bristol’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Bristol Ivy. All images used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

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