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: 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!

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 patterns here. Photo credit for Doncaster Stole and Syvania Cardigan: Robert Tétreault. All remaining photos: Gabrielle Vézina. 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: 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 patterns here. All photos are copyright Georgie Hallam, Tikki 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 in GAL group on Ravelry!

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 patterns here. Images copyright Julia Trice, Mind of Winter Knitting Patterns. 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: 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 patterns here. 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.

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 in GAL group on Ravelry!

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