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.

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 “on sale” patterns here. Get 25% off participating knitting patterns during the Gift-A-Long sale from November 13-21 with the code “giftalong2014.”

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with discounts, prizes, and a KAL/CAL. Come join in GAL group on Ravelry!

All photos are copyright Anna Rauf. All images used by permission.

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 “on sale” patterns here. Get 25% off participating knitting patterns during the Gift-A-Long sale from November 13-21 with the code “giftalong2014.”

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with discounts, prizes, and a KAL/CAL. Come join in GAL group on Ravelry!

All photos are copyright Bristol Ivy. All images used by permission.

Interview: Gabrielle Vézina

November20

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Gabrielle Vézina, fellow Canadian designer from Montréal.

Gabrielle Vézina, dans la laine

Gabrielle Vézina

How did you get started designing?
When I was a kid, my mom was a fashion design teacher. We were living in a rather small apartment where she had to sleep in the living room but she had a sewing and knitting room. In this lovely environment, where I had access to every tool and knowledge I needed, I started sewing and crocheting at 6, designing clothes and accessories when I was a teen, but I really started knitting my whole wardrobe when I quit smoking in 2009 and got to keep my hands busy. In 2012, I realized my dream job would be to design knitting patterns and that’s when I really started being serious about that.

What inspires your designs?
I take my inspiration everywhere! I love nature and a lot of my designs have flowers, leaves or animal patterns. I also like designing youthful and everyday wearable pieces so I get inspired by people I see in the streets. In my nordic city, I enjoy taking the subway and carefully study interesting scarves and hats people are wearing.

Cycles Reversible Scarf or Wrap

Cycles Reversible Scarf or Wrap

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I often imagine a pattern first and then go stashbusting. If I can’t find what I need in my stash I try to find the perfect yarn at my LYS and I usually come back with more yarn and even more ideas…

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Simplicity is my motto. I like when my patterns are easy to understand and to wear. I try to use most techniques at a beginner level so knitters can enjoy working through the pattern in a stress-free way. My biggest hope is that people will really wear their creations based on my patterns so I tend to create sober yet actual designs.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’m very proud when I get to design a cardigan. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. I feel like I accomplish something big when the pattern is released. I also love wearing cardigans every single day so they never end up in the corner of a closet.

Sylvania Cardigan

Sylvania Cardigan

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
It depends if it’s a northern or southern island! For a southern island, I would go with Handmaiden Mini Maiden which is a light blend of wool and silk. For a northern island, I’d choose SWTC Llama Lluxury which is 100% Baby Llama, the softest yarn on earth, never pilling and holding its shape well even after years of frequent wearing.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I knit most of my scarves and shawls in my PJs while watching movies so I guess it makes it comfort knitting! Shawls and scarves are easy, fun to knit and there are endless possible variations.

Doncaster Stole

Doncaster Stole

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Without hesitation, the Doncaster Stole. It’s one of my favorite design but it’s also my less favorited neckwear on Ravelry. I like its combination of lace patterns – eyelets, flower and leaves. The construction is different from most scarves because it starts with a provisional cast-on and the lace sections are worked from the middle to both ends. Because of that, the stole is symmetrical. It’s not complicated and I really like the result, I wear it very often.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
1. I love love love the Tiptoe Slippers by Hanna Tjukanov
2. The Lucent hat by Hunter Hammersen has lovely details that gives it a very unconventional look
3. My teeth are hurting because this baby coat is too sweet! Red Riding Coat by Lisa Chemery

Red Riding Cowl

Red Riding Cowl

Continental or English?
I learned the English way at first but switched to Continental because it seems to be more ergonomic. I convinced my mother to switch to Continental even if she had been knitting the English way for over 40 years! We would not switch back!

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I’m still fascinated by the fact that a simple strand can take an infinity of shapes. Isn’t it wonderful? It’s like magic to me, one day it’s a skein, the next day it’s a hat! This is very concrete, in opposition to everything that is virtual in the world we live in.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Never let a cat near a basket full of balls of yarn…!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I have a yearly subscription to the famous resolution “buy less yarn and to use more from the stash”. I’m not really good at it. This year, I have also resolved to translate all my patterns from English to French. I’m quite ashamed that not all my patterns are available in my first language.

View all of Gabrielle’s “on sale” patterns here. Get 25% off participating knitting patterns during the Gift-A-Long sale from November 13-21 with the code “giftalong2014.”

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with discounts, prizes, and a KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Photo credit for Doncaster Stole and Syvania Cardigan: Robert Tétreault. All remaining photos: Gabrielle Vézina. All images used by permission.

Interview: Georgie Hallam, Tikki Knits

November19

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Georgie Hallam of Tikki Knits, a designer of new classic pieces for kids and another Australian designer.

Georgie Hallam, Tikki Knits

Georgie Hallam, Tikki Knits

How did you get started designing?
It all began with a 200g of Rainbow gradient dk weight yarn way back in 2007, when gradient yarn wasn’t a very common thing. This ball of yarn was like a magical entity. I HAD to do something special with it. I had to make something amazing with it. I decided to make my daughter Lily, whose middle name is Rainbow, a dress. The only problem was that I could not find a pattern that would do this yarn justice; that would allow the colour changes to sing easily and not be broken by seaming or joins. Some friends on an Aussie based knitting forum I used to hang out on encouraged me to have a go at knitting it on the fly. After lots of ripping and restarting and probably some fairly choice swearing, I managed to create a cute little dress that I loved.

Rainbow Dress

Rainbow Dress

I published some photos on the forum and my blog and was inundated with requests for the pattern, so I wrote it up in the size I’d knit for my daughter. Then I was swamped with requests for other sizes. That was a steeper learning curve. I had some experience with sizing and drafting sewing patterns so I applied some of what I knew from that and from knitting and adapting for my pint sized child, and came up with the Rainbow Dress pattern.

It wasn’t until two years later when I released milo that I felt comfortable charging for my patterns, and even then it only happened because knitting friends convinced me that I should do it. I still remember thinking it would be amazing if I sold 20 or so copies. Given I was largely self-taught, I didn’t really consider myself a ‘designer’. I have to admit it took me years before I was comfortable applying that tag.

What inspires your designs?
Sometimes when I design it is out of need; one of my children may need a new cardigan, beanie, dress or jumper such as my School Cardigan pattern. And initially, that was very much the case. Other times, it might be a stitch pattern that I’m inspired to play with and see where I can work it into something such as with Olearia, Cassia or Summer Festival. Sometimes I even get clear images in my head of exactly what I want to knit. That’s pretty cool. Other times, it might be a shape or line of something or even a colour that catches my eye, there is a whole lot out there to be inspired by. Retro fashion is also a great inspiration, I have fond memories of growing up in the 70s and 80s and the knitwear of that era is something I do remember fondly.

Summer Festival

Summer Festival

A lot of my inspiration comes from the simple question, “I wonder what would happen if I did this instead of that?” I really like to play around with construction and take the known and create it in a new or different manner. A number of my designs have quirky construction elements, such as Griffin where the saddle shoulders are constructed in an all-in-one sort of process, or Jane, where I wondered what would happen if I started with all of the front stitches of the raglan sleeve already cast on. Sometimes, this doesn’t always end as I expect!

Griffin

Griffin

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It’s definitely the inspiration. However, when I am working with a specific yarn company I do need to alter that process to take into account the characteristics of the yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Simplicity. Timelessness. Seamless.

I love a polished finish and am a bit of a problem solver. There are elements of seamless knitting techniques that leave little gaps or holes that have over the years driven me balmy and it’s been like a personal life quest to fix those things. Underarm holes are the bane of my life, let me tell you. Just quietly, I believe I now have the upper hand without resorting to darning.

I like my patterns to be clear and concise with enough detail so that knitters don’t feel like they’re lost in a sea of abbreviations. I like to introduce my knitters to new techniques that improve their knitting. I think the modern knitter is more adept at exploring new techniques, due to the wondrous teachers on youtube and blogs. They have, and like to have, a wider arsenal of techniques at their disposal. A generation ago most knitters in Australia at least, knit patterns that basically followed a formula and produced the same shapes and then seamed. So while they may have been knitting for years, their scope of experience in terms of what they could do was quite limited.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Cardigans! I so love a good cardie. And if you look through my catalogue you can see it is the thing I design most. It is also the knitted garment that everyone in my family, including my 6 year old son, wears the most. For our Australian climate, they’re so easy to throw on or shrug off; particularly for active kids.

Granny's Favourite

Granny’s Favourite

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)

That’s so hard. Even though a dk/8ply weight isn’t probably the most desert island appropriate yarn weight (I’m thinking an island in Fiji – so not strictly desert) it would have to be a dk. That’s my staple go-to yarn weight. As for yarn, hmmm. White Gum Wool or WOOLganics. Impossible to choose between them

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Stocking stitch sleeves knit in the round on my 30cm addi circulars. I so love knitting sleeves, which apparently makes me a bit weird.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Tobias. I love this wee cardie with its cables and pockets. My son looks so cute in it, but there you go; not everyone wants their son to look like a leprechaun.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I’m looking for some quick knits because unfortunately I still have samples to knit for deadlines.

So I am hoping to knit the Paper Boat Hat by Amy van de Laar, Astrolabe Mitts by Gabriella Henry and Sand Bank by Justyna Lorkowska.

Jane cardigan

Jane cardigan

Continental or English?
English, I can knit Continental and I use it when I work colour work double handed but I’m faster and have better tension when I knit English. My technique is not quite traditional English

What’s the best thing about knitting?
It’s a portable craft. I’m not a good sitter and do nothing kind of person. I don’t last long at a cafe for example and I’m not good at the movies nor just hanging at a park watching my kids play. Having something to do with my hands like knitting, saves a lot of pain and wriggling.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?

Learn to read your knitting. Be brave with both your knitting and your fixing of mistakes.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Knit more for myself and find a yarn that agrees with my husband, who claims he is allergic to wool. I’m taking the Elizabeth Zimmermann approach on that one, just don’t tell him ;)

View all of Georgie’s “on sale” patterns here. Get 25% off participating knitting patterns during the Gift-A-Long sale from November 13-21 with the code “giftalong2014.”

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with discounts, prizes, and a KAL/CAL. Come join in GAL group on Ravelry!

All photos are copyright Georgie Hallam, Tikki Knits. All images used by permission.

Interview: Julia Trice, Mind of Winter Knitting Patterns

November19

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Julia Trice of Mind of Winter Knitting Patterns. Julia is a designer whose work I’ve admired for years and I was thrilled she was able to take the time for this interview.

Julia Trice modeling her Loden sweater

Julia Trice modeling her Loden sweater

How did you get started designing?
I started knitting before there were patterns available on the internet when there were only a handful of sources for garments that were fashionable, so when I wanted something that wasn’t in Rowan or Vogue, I had to design it. I didn’t really think of it as designing then because it was in one size, for me. But it was a beginning.

What inspires your designs?
The yarn. I work almost exclusively with indie yarn dyers. I use their yarns as inspiration, and try to make each yarn into the best thing I can imagine for it at the time. My second inspiration is stitch pattern. Trying a stitch pattern with a yarn is the first step to learning its strengths and limitations.

Moonshiner in Plucky Primo Worsted

Moonshiner in Plucky Primo Worsted

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’m naturally a sweater designer and if you ask me to come up with something amazing for a yarn, a sweater is likely the first thing I will think of. But I am also very enamored of hats and cowls, and find them to be a nice break.

Adiri Slouchy Hat in Shalimar Haven

Adiri Slouchy Hat in Shalimar Haven

Your desert island yarn?
Oooh, that is a tough one – like choosing a favorite child, almost. If I absolutely had to choose just one it would be Shalimar Yarns Haven. It’s deceptive – a “workhorse” yarn with good yardage that knits up light as air, to a DK to worsted gauge. It has a unique character that is hard to describe. When I knit with Haven, it feels like coming home.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Cables.

Cable Bunny in Shalimar Enzo Worsted

Cable Bunny in Shalimar Enzo Worsted

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I have to start with the caveat that I almost never have time to cast on a design other than my own. I am knitting a sample sweater for Marnie Maclean, one of the GAL designers, which I anticipate will be available while the GAL is ongoing. It’s a child’s sweater, and I am knitting it for my son, Griffin. It’s the first time I’ve knit something by someone else in 4 years. I realize that is pretty cryptic, but it is the only GAL pattern other than my own that I know I will be able to knit. Following that, my top picks are Willowherb, also by Marnie, and East End by Alicia Plummer. I have a lot of exploring to do, though. I know there are a ton of gems out there waiting to be discovered, and even if I cannot knit everything, it is wonderful to look and be inspired.

Continental or English?
Both. I’m a natural thrower, but for colorwork or fast Stockinette in the round, I pick as well.

Brennan in Shalimar Breathless DK

Brennan in Shalimar Breathless DK

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid or ashamed to rip. You are never so good that you are beyond ripping, and you will never be better if you don’t rip when you should. (This is a pep talk as well as advice – I have a bit of ripping to do!)

View all of Julia’s “on sale” patterns here. Get 25% off participating knitting patterns during the Gift-A-Long sale from November 13-21 with the code “giftalong2014.”

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with discounts, prizes, and a KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Images copyright Julia Trice, Mind of Winter Knitting Patterns. All images used by permission.

Interview: Amy van de Laar, Baroque Purls

November18

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Amy van de Laar of Baroque Purls, a new-to-me designer discovered through the Gift-A-Long. Amy is a Melbourne, Australia-based designer.

Amy van de Laar, Baroque Purls, modeling Paper Snowflake hat

Amy van de Laar, Baroque Purls, modeling Paper Snowflake hat

How did you get started designing?
One day back in 2010, I had an idea for some colourwork mitts. I charted out a star pattern, and figured it all out as I went. Then I started getting ideas for scarves, and then hats, and it was all on!

I chose my blog/business/Ravelry name ‘Baroque Purls’ because it combines my main obsessions: music and knitting. My favourite musical era is the Baroque, because that’s when Monteverdi and Bach were composing. As a singer, I also love the freedom the Baroque style allows, in terms of interpretation of the music and text. And Baroque ornamentation is heaps of fun!

What inspires your designs?
Often it’s a special yarn, or colour combo, or an interesting stitch pattern. I’ll play with the initial ideas, and often they’’ll end up linking with something from the natural world or pop culture. So far I have designs inspired by honeycomb, Daleks, rainbows, ferns, Tetris, waves, stars, vinyl records, and origami! I also have plans for some music-inspired designs in the future.

INSULATE! hat

INSULATE! hat

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Sometimes I start with some special yarn that I want to really make the most of. But mostly, I tend to get inspired by an idea for a stitch pattern, and I start off by sketching and charting stitch patterns and playing around with them. This invention process is the most fun part of designing, for me.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Fun, colour, and joy in beautiful yarn! Also, as a person who enjoys complicated things (major example: my taste in music), I need to work at simplifying things a lot when I’m designing. When I hear from a knitter that they’ve used one of my patterns for their first colourwork, or their first cabled project, it’s really satisfying!

Beeswax hat

Beeswax hat

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’ve designed more hats than anything else, and I think they hit a nice sweet-spot, as they’re relatively quick to complete. I’m generally able to keep the new-idea-excitement going until I finish the project! Scarves, on the other hand, can sometimes drag on a bit. I have a large fingering-weight scarf on the needles at the moment (sigh)…

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Wow, tough question! Do I go with the most versatile, or the most luxurious, or the most inspiring colours… The most luxurious would have to be Zealana Air, which is a cashmere/possum/silk blend that feels amazing! As for versatility and great colours, I’ll have to go with Vintage Purls Sock, by a great NZ indie dyer. I have an embarrassingly large stash of this, for shawl and sock knitting. I’m also using it for my main GAL project, a short-sleeved sweater.

Queen of the Night shawl

Queen of the Night shawl

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Something simple enough that I can do it when tired or sick – a fairly plain sweater or hat or scarf that I can knit mostly on autopilot, preferably while watching a documentary or something. Complicated stitch patterns are exciting, but I’m not always up for that! I like having a few projects on the go, so I can choose my concentration level.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I love my Bushwalk Beanie hat with its fern-frond-lace pattern, but it hasn’t been knit very often. If you’re tempted to try merino-possum yarn, you’ll only need one ball to make this hat (I love possum-blend yarn).

Bushwalk Beanie

Bushwalk Beanie

My Seaswell shawl is another design that hasn’t caught on (yet!) – it’s a striped triangular shawl knit in recycled cotton yarn. Living in Australia, I’m always on the lookout for warm-weather-friendly knits.

Seaswell Shawl

Seaswell Shawl

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I’m nearly ready to cast on a Park Slope tee – I just need to measure my swatches and finalise which size to make. If I have time, I’d also like to make some Fightin’ Words mitts for a certain comics-lover in my household, and one of cheezombie’s toy patterns. I’m torn between Sheepish Toy Pattern and Garden Slug!

Continental or English?
English, but I can knit Continental when I’m stranding with both hands (which is magical).

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Making things that you can wear, and it’s relatively easy to backtrack and fix mistakes. I find sewing stressful because it’s so much harder to fix mistakes. Give me frogging over re-cutting or seam-unpicking any day…

Actually, that’s a lie – the best thing about knitting is playing with colour!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be nervous about trying new tricks! There are so many helpful resources out there these days. Ask around on Ravelry, search Youtube and blogs, visit the library, or take a class.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I want to try more lace designing, and make more garments for myself. My Ravelry queue is ridiculous, and I have a couple of sweater-lots of yarn waiting in my wardrobe.

View all of Amy’s “on sale” patterns here. Get 25% off participating knitting patterns during the Gift-A-Long sale from November 13-21 with the code “giftalong2014.”

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with discounts, prizes, and a KAL/CAL. Come join in GAL group on Ravelry!

All photos, except for the Snowflake Hat and Insulate!, are copyright Amy van de Laar, Baroque Purls. Photo credit for Snowflake Hat and Insulate! – Willie Lewis. All images used by permission.

Interview: Kate Bostwick, Cowtown Knits

November16

Today’s Indie Design Gift-A-Long 2014 interview is with Kate Bostwick of Cowtown Knits, a fellow Canadian designer.

Kate Bostwick, Cowtown Knits

Kate Bostwick, Cowtown Knits

How did you get started designing?
I think my story is similar to many others’, I wanted to knit something specific but couldn’t find a pattern for it. In my case, I wanted to knit a very simple hoodie for my toddler, something she could wear every day. I had a vision in my head of what I wanted it to be and realized I had the ability to do it myself. Then I did a LOT of reading about how to go about pattern writing and grading the right way. That first idea became the Everyday Hoodie pattern and I haven’t been able to stop designing since.

Everyday Hoodie

Everyday Hoodie

What inspires your designs?
A lot of my inspiration comes from fashion. I’ll see something in fabric and wonder how I could translate that shape or print into knitting. For example, I was inspired by all the paisley fabrics from last fall to design something with a Paisley colourwork design – which became my They’re Paisley! mittens. And right now I’m tossing some ideas around in my head on how to do some interesting construction techniques to mimic some draping I’ve seen on shirts recently.

They're Paisley!

They’re Paisley!

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Inspiration is always first for me. I am very much a product knitter/designer in that I have a vision of what I want to wear, then think about the qualities that piece must have. Then I search out the yarn that will give me those qualities.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
First and foremost, I like clean lines. You’ll notice that a few of my patterns have turned hems (Everyday Hoodie, Hearts and Butterflies, Helen Pencil Skirt). I chose that finishing technique because I like the look of the fabric to continue all the way to the edge without being interrupted by a border.

Helen Pencil Skirt

Helen Pencil Skirt

I also really love colour. Lots of colour. It’s pretty rare for me to design something in just one colour, I’ve always got to find some way of getting another one in there somewhere. My Beverly Beach Shirt was a dream come true for me – the opportunity to use the whole rainbow in one piece!

Beverly Beach Shirt

Beverly Beach Shirt

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Sweaters! Sweaters, sweaters, sweaters. I love to design sweaters. Sometimes it’s fun to fire off an accessory here and there, but I’m finding my focus more and more on pieces I want to wear every day. There are just so many possibilities for construction techniques, textures, shapes and colours.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I knit a pair of baby booties with Road to China Light from The Fibre Company and it was just the most delicious yarn ever. How could you go wrong: Alpaca – check, Silk – check, Camel – check, Cashmere – check! I have some left over but I don’t want to commit it to anything. But if I had an unlimited supply, I would use it forever.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
A big squishy sweater.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
That’s a tough one. I guess I’d have to say the Atticus Pullover. I think that people like the look of it but are afraid or unwilling to do the seaming. If I ever have time in the future I would like to give it an overhaul to make it top-down seamless.

Atticus Pullover

Atticus Pullover

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
1. I have already cast-on the Irena Wrap by Deirdre Lejeune.
2. I’m also hoping to make a Molly Hooper by Kimberly Golynskiy with some scraps I have laying around.
3. I’d also love to make myself a pair of Tess slippers by Ann Kingstone.

Continental or English?
Both. English most of the time but when I’m doing Fair-Isle I work with one strand in each hand.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
A chance to sit and relax while still feeling like you’re doing something, not just wasting time.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Learn how to fix your mistakes. Once you’ve learned to read your knitting and fix your mistakes, it’s all gravy from there. And those mistakes in your work will bother you if you leave them there!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Slow down and spend more time with my family. It’s hard, because I know it’s best for business to regularly be putting out new designs. But this is supposed to be something that’s fulfilling and enjoyable. If I put too much pressure on myself then it becomes stressful, which defeats the purpose. So, even if it’s not the best business decision, I’m going to try and put out fewer patterns next year and enjoy the process more.

View all of Kate’s “on sale” patterns here. Get 25% off participating knitting patterns during the Gift-A-Long sale from November 13-21 with the code “giftalong2014.”

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with discounts, prizes, and a KAL/CAL. Come join in GAL group on Ravelry!

All photos, except for the Everyday Hoodie, are copyright Kate Bostwick, Cowtown Knits. Photo credit for Everyday Hoodie – Ryan Barr. All images used by permission.

Interview: Jenn Wisbeck, Midnightsky Fibers

November14

As part of the Indie Design Gift-A-Long on Ravelry, I will be interviewing a few of the 293 participating designers about the process of designing and what they like to knit – and if we’re lucky, they’ll give us a peek into what’s on their needles. To launch the series I interviewed Jenn Wisbeck of Midnightsky Fibers, who I’m blessed to have as a tech editor and whose stellar skills keeps my patterns intelligible.

Jenn Wisbeck, Midnightsky Fibers

Jenn Wisbeck, Midnightsky Fibers


How did you get started designing?

I started selling handspun yarn on Etsy. Back then, there weren’t many patterns available for handmade yarns, so I started designing patterns that were quick to knit that worked well with limited yardage.

What inspires your designs?
My knitting patterns are inspired by the trips I take and the beautiful scenery around me in the Pacific Northwest. Right now I am obsessed with knitting hats, so most of design ideas show up in hat patterns.

Stonebridge Hat

Stonebridge Hat

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Almost always the inspiration first, unless I am trying to figure out what to do with some fabulous yarn. I do generally have a type of yarn in mind when I start planning, especially for colorwork.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like projects that are easy and quick to knit- the sort of projects you can throw in your bag before you hop on a plane.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Hats! What can I say, I am obsessed- several hundred hats later, I am still not tired of knitting them!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Cascade 220 and a size 32″ circular. Cascade 220 comes in lots of lovely muted colors that work well together, and the needles work for everything from hats to sweaters.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Ribbed hats in recycled cashmere yarn. I take thrifted cashmere sweaters, unravel them, and wind 3 or 4 strands together to make a dk or worsted weight yarn. The hats are nice and warm while still being lightweight.

Elevation Hat

Elevation Hat

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I just released it, so too soon to say that it is under-appreciated, but my Elevation Hat is a great quick gift project, and the chained yarn is really lovely.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?

1. A Most Bespeckled Hat pattern by Alex Tinsley- I love the pops of color!
2. Klimt Hat pattern by Nina Machlin Dayton, in some natural colors
3.Pixelated Hat pattern by Jennifer Beaumont- looks like a great way to use up some leftovers!

Continental or English?
Both! I switch between, but generally use continental.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Portability and how easy it is to rip back. Unlike weaving or sewing, it is easy to change your mind if you decide you don’t like the size or pattern you have chosen. Plus, knitting doesn’t require very many tools so it is easy to carry along on trips.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Learn to knit or join ends of yarn as you go – it will make the finishing process so much easier!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I will be trying really hard to use up some of my stash yarn that has been languishing in bins, especially the UFO’s (unfinished objects) that have been abandoned for years. Time to finish them off or rip them out!

View all of Jenn’s “on sale” patterns here. Get 25% off participating knitting patterns during the Gift-A-Long sale from November 13-21 with the code “giftalong2014.”

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with discounts, prizes, and a KAL/CAL. Come join in GAL group on Ravelry!

All photos copyright Jenn Wisbeck, Midnightsky Fibers. Used by permission.

Indie Gift-A-Long 2014

November11

Gift-A-Long 2014 Banner
Everyone is quite excited that the Indie Designer Gift-A-Long 2014 will start in two days. I have selected 20 of my designs that will be on sale for 25% off from Thursday, November 13th at 8:00 pm US EST – Friday, November 21, 2014 at 11:59 pm US EST. The collage below is the one I developed to promote my bundle of sale patterns. Edited to note: since the sale portion of the GAL is now over, I have removed the link to the sale patterns and linked to my full portfolio instead to avoid any confusion.

Janelle Martin Designs collage

Join today! There are thousands of prizes to be won, lots of chatting in the GAL threads and holiday knitting/crocheting to be completed.

From the Ravelry Group:
What is Gift-A-Long? It’s a multi-designer promotion to help you kick your holiday gift-making into high gear!

The Indie Design Gift-A-Long is a 2 month long KAL/CAL of holiday gifts made from patterns designed by a rather extensive list of independent designers. From Thursday, November 13th at 8:00 pm US EST – Friday, November 21, 2014 at 11:59 pm US EST tons of indie designers will be discounting between 4 – 20 of their patterns 25% for this event. You can read all about the details in this post: click here and find a list of the 293 participating designers, with photos, here.

Once you’ve got your Gift-A-Long patterns, we encourage you to join a relevant KAL/CAL! (For instance, if it is a cowl, please join the cowl KAL/CAL.) To join, simply write a post in the KAL/CAL thread you want to join, including the pattern name you will be knitting and a link to your project page. KAL/CAL participants are eligible for lots of lovely prizes but you gotta post to win!

80skeins collated all the stats and created the amazing infographic below. The organizers have put a lot of effort into this event, I think we’re going to blow last year out of the water. I have my cast on for Thursday night already planned!

Gift-A-Long Stats

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