Today’s interview is with Carol Sunday of Sunday Knits. She lives in rural northern Illinois.
Shakespeare in Love
How did you get started designing?
I was a fashion designer at age 6. That is, it was my very favorite thing to do. I liked to draw and created a cardboard doll, cut her out, and used her as a template for a huge wardrobe of paper outfits … drawn, colored and cut. I was really into it and put a lot of thought into fabric patterns, sleeve styles, collars, pockets and trim for her little coats and dresses.
My mom taught me to knit when I was 7 or 8 and it was love at first stitch, so needles and yarn replaced pencil and crayons, and my Barbie, among others, acquired a wardrobe dominated by knitwear. By the time I was in high school, my own wardrobe, besides a lot of things that I had sewn, included nearly a dozen knit and crocheted designs of mine … a color-block pullover, a cabled cardigan, a fitted henley, an argyle sweater dress (worn with a wide cinch belt and tall lace-up boots), a mini skirt inspired by elaborate Mexican hammock lace.
Knitting has always been my passion … while I was in the restaurant business, in environmental engineering, and then medical school. Whatever job or career I wasn’t particularly well suited for, knitting was always the thing. Most recently, before designing knitwear professionally, I had been self-employed as an artist, so had a studio and a routine and liked being my own boss. But after 18 years, my artwork seemed stale to me, art fairs weren’t as lucrative as they used to be, and severe storms were making it sometimes downright scarey to be out on the street in a tent.
The best thing, though, about doing art fairs was the time I had to sit and knit. When customers would ask me about my artwork, I would do my best to engage in the conversation … and tear myself away from my knitting. But if someone asked me what I was knitting … well now THAT was something I could get excited about! I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that I was working at the wrong craft.
I kept that day job after starting to sell my knitwear design patterns and, at the same time, my line of Sunday Knits yarns in 2008. The yarn side of the business and the design side are symbiotic. But atypically, I don’t design so that I can sell yarn, I sell yarn so that I can design!
What inspires your designs?
I always have knitting on the brain, so anything I see could influence a pattern idea. We live in the woods and I like to spend time outside, so I see a lot of flora and fauna, which makes nature-inspired motifs a given.
Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Quite a few of my designs – Kelmscott, Adam’s Ribs, Milkweed, Acorns – have been inspired by nothing more than yarn and needles. Rather than beginning with an idea for the garment and then swatching for it, these started with the swatch. I love playing with yarn, engineering my own stitch patterns … what happens if I do this? and what will it look like if I try that? … and so will spend many (some suggest too many) blissful hours developing and tweaking, and retweaking a stitch pattern. My swatch may be several yards long before I’m completely pleased with it, and only then might I consider whether it will be used for the front panel of a sweater, or a yoke, or maybe mittens. I have a basketful of such swatches, still waiting to become … something.
What is your favourite type of item to design?
I am a sweater designer. I love the engineering aspect of garment construction. I’m a fanatic about fit. And then there’s the wearability factor. Maybe it’s because there are so many possible ways (infinite?) that one can design a sweater. It’s never boring!
Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That’s easy … I have my own line of yarns, so it would be something from Sunday Knits, and probably Nirvana, my merino-cashmere blend. Yummy.
What’s your “comfort knitting?”
If I just want to knit for relaxation and pleasure, then I would probably stay away from color work or cabling, but would definitely opt for something with some texture to keep myself engaged. Whatever the stitch pattern, though, it would definitely be a sweater.
Clair de Lune
Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Wow … there are so many (lol). But my absolute biggest dud that I think is a actually a very nicely designed little number is my Flower Wrist Purse. Total flop.
Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
Three’s a very small number, and with so many gorgeous designs this year! But if I must narrow it down, I am starting with Tori Gurbisz’s Coastal Hoodie. It’s designed with such nice attention to detail, and I’ve admired it since it came out. For number two, I really enjoy making little stranded mittens in the dead of winter, and do so love Elizabeth Elliott’s charming Firenze mittens. And third, for my head, I simply cannot resist Alex Tinsley’s cute and clever Kotiya. I know you said just three, but in my mind the list is going on, and on, …
Continental or English?
Both. My traditional method of knitting is with long straights – the right needle wedged between my thighs, and the left moving just a bit as my finger pivots yarn above the stationery right. I’m very fast! Although I’ve recently taught myself to pick (much less fast), which I do when working in the round or when stranding – both strands held in the left hand.
Ginkgo & Lotus
What’s the best thing about knitting?
I really appreciate that it’s portable, but the thing I love the most about knitting is that doing it is just so very, very enjoyable! I’m not sure what makes it so pleasurable. But for me, the best thing about knitting is … the knitting!
What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Be creative. Which means to take chances with your knitting. Feel free to make mistakes. Do not rip them out! Keep them, relish them even. Perfection is highly overrated.
Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
It’s the same one every year … fewer starts, more finishes.
View all of Carol’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Carol Sunday and 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!