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: Cristina Ghirlanda

December23

Today’s second interview is with Italian designer Cristina Ghirlanda of Minimi Knit Designs.

Cristina Ghirlanda

Cristina Ghirlanda

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My mother taught me how to knit when I was maybe 5 years old. I was more interested in crochet at that time. Then I have relearned knitting from the Internet in 2006.

How did you get started designing?
By pure coincidence. I’ve designed the Minimissimi Sweater Coat for myself, then I’ve got many requests for the pattern. That’s how I got started.

Minimissimi Sweater Coat

Minimissimi Sweater Coat

What inspires your designs?
I don’t know. My ideas seem to come from the air. But I’m sure that they are unconscious elaboration of what I see on the street and on photos.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
For garments it is almost always inspiration first. For accessories it is mostly yarn first, I don’t like collecting a stash so I design accessories to use up leftovers.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Sweaters! I’m more interested in designing simple sweaters with unique shaping and unexpected details rather than designing sweaters with intricate stitch pattern.

Tell me about “Caffe Latte”, what is the story behind this design?
That design came to my mind one morning while I was sipping caffe latte. “Caffe Latte” sounds just the right name for a convertible cowl!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
No, really. I love resolving challenges as they come. Life is too short to wait 😉

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
A color block pullover, a drapey vest, a kids pullover and a kids hat. Check out my Ravelry group if you are interested in test knitting!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage! It is squishy and pill-resistant.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
La Spiga hat. It is my go-to hat since this fall, but it got far less love than my other designs.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Check your gauge after about 5 inches of knitting. Swatches sometimes lie.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Finish all my pending patterns and take a break!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Zimmermann! She’s an amazingly talented designer and knitter!

View all of Cristina’s patterns here. All photos copyright Anneh Fletcher. All images used by permission.

You can find Cristina on the following social media sites:

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: Xandy Peters

December23

My first interview today is with Xandy Peters of So, I Make Stuff.

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My mother taught me when I was 5.

How did you get started designing?
About 5 years ago, I was having a hard time finding work in the field of manufacturing after getting my degree in Industrial Design. I found out that Stephen West, who’s patterns I had seen in Knitty Magazine, was selling knitting patterns online. He seemed similar to my age and it was working out for him. I figured I could apply my design training to knitting at least while I was looking for work and maybe people would take interest.

What inspires your designs?
I tend to focus on interesting stitches for accessories, usually curiosity in a certain technique leads to swatches. For garments, I do some trend research and find the shapes and details that seem relevant.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It depends on the project, I guess sometimes I design for a yarn, but mostly I look at stitches and sketches first.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I have been doing a lot of stacked stitches, mostly because it’s kind of like my “signature” thing. That means colorwork is usually a big thing for me.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
It tends to change from month to month.

Tell me about “Stacked Stuff” patterns, what is the story behind these pieces?
I was doing a lot of shoe design work, but freelancing in that world is always feast or famine. At some point I was thinking about applying to grad school for textiles so I could work in materials development and find an office job. The stacked stitches development project was going to be my application portfolio. On the off chance that there would be some interest online, I made some patterns from my swatches. The response has been surprising.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I bought a book of Niebling lace designs and want to have the time to make one mostly to learn about lace design. There’s just never time to make one though.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have some secret stuff going on. You can expect a Jersey Shore Knits Book 2 this summer, that’s for sure.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
http://www.ravelry.com/yarns/library/woolbearers-fingering-wool – Woolbearers fingering wool is really great. It comes in a lot of colors, and there are regular and mini size skeins. It’s mostly a colorwork yarn.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
The boardwalk wrap is one that people just need to experience, so the online response has been pretty disappointing. More so because people really love it in real life and I’ll never get the airy lightness to come across in the images.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
If you are curious about something, try it. You can get all sorts of amazing things to happen when you take risks.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I want to do more teaching in 2016.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I have been really lucky to get to talk to a lot of people that I respect lately, but I’ve always wanted to meet to Olga Buraya-Kefelian. I greatly admire how she’s been able to stay true to her somewhat high fashion and mathematical aesthetic while making it relatable to so many people.

View all of Xandy’s patterns here. All photos copyright Xandy Peters. All images used by permission.

You can find Xandy on the following social media sites:

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: Holli Yeoh

December22

Today’s second interview is with Canadian designer Holli Yeoh; you can find her website here.

Holli Yeoh

Holli Yeoh

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
When I was 5 years old, my Mum taught me how to crochet and then how to knit. She taught me in the summer and I remember carrying my project (a baby pink scarf) around the neighbourhood and working on it while I was playing with my friends. Some of those rows were pretty grubby from my dirty hands! I would count my stitches at the end of each row and run home for some help if my stitch count was wrong.

How did you get started designing?
I’ve always designed, whether it was sewing doll clothes when I was a child or jewellery after I graduated from art college. It was natural that I would come to designing knitwear at some point. When we decided to start a family I knew didn’t want to be exposed to the toxins that are prevalent in the jewellery studio, so I turned to my knitting passion that was already consuming all of my evenings. My early designs were all baby sweaters but as my baby grew I began branching out, designing for everyone.

What inspires your designs?
My inspiration comes from many different places. Sometimes it’s the wake behind the ferry boat, sometimes it’s a stitch pattern on a garment I see in a store, sometimes it’s a costume on a period drama I’m watching on TV, and sometimes a complete stranger walks past me on the street and his or her outfit catches my eye.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
My early designs using self-patterning sock yarn were definitely inspired by the yarn. But really, for me designs can come from anywhere: the yarn, a concept, a stitch pattern, a stranger on the street. When I’m deep in design mode everything I look at translates into stitches and knitting.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I design for function and I like classic styles that will last. I’ve heard my designs termed “investment knitting,” meaning that it’s something you’ll want to use or wear for years to come and if it takes a long time to knit, it’s well worth the time investment. Of course, many of my designs are also quick knits.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love to design, knit and wear sweaters.

Tell me about “Tempest”, what is the story behind this collection?
Tempest is a book collaboration I did with Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia Yarns. I wanted to work on a cohesive collection with one dyer’s yarns. After pitching probably 30 designs, we narrowed it down to a handful and then I continued to design more pieces along the theme that began to develop around one of the recurring stitch patterns. It was a pattern I had seen on a garment in a store. I had played with that pattern by stretching it, condensing it, pulling it and distorting it. The stitch pattern reminded me of waves and wasn’t one I had seen in stitch dictionaries so I named it Procella, which is Latin for wave. Another translation of Procella is tempest. I found tempest such a wonderful word that evoked all sorts of imagery for me. We centred on it as a theme and built the collection around both the Procella stitch pattern and handknits you might want to surround yourself with when walking on the beach on a blustery day or hunkered down inside by the fire with a raging storm outside.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I’ve been doing a lot of freelance work lately, which means that my indie releases go on the back burner. I do have an idea for another collection of patterns and I’m in the beginning stages of fleshing out the designs and conversing with an indie dyer.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I think Jamie often gets overlooked. It’s a really fun design because it’s knit modularly and there are no seams. The finishing is minimal. It’s knit in strips, each one joining to the one beside it. The last strip closes the body. The shoulders are joined with a three needle bind off and the sleeves are picked up around the armholes and worked down, in the round. There’s a little edging around the neck and the hem and then it’s just a matter of sewing in a few ends. I used self-patterning sock yarn because the construction plays with the width and depth of the stripes.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to rip back to fix a mistake, if that’s what’s needed. If the mistake bothers you, then you’ll be much happier with the finished piece if you’ve fixed the mistake. It’s a shame to knit a whole sweater and have it live at the back of your drawer because you don’t like wearing because of a mistake. You know, most of us knit for enjoyment, so look at it this way. You’re getting more enjoyment out of the project because there was a little more knitting when you reworked a section of it.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t usually make resolutions, at least not in the New Year. I would like to create a self-publishing schedule and give it equal standing with the freelance work that I do.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Really, every knitwear designer would be a fascinating dinner companion. I love sharing information and learning from how another designer approaches the business or a design. I’m very intrigued with Ysolda’s rise in the knitting world and would greatly enjoy getting to know her and her approach.

View all of Holli’s patterns here. Jamie photo copyright Art of Light and Wake photo copyright Alexa Ludeman. All remaining photos copyright Rob Yeoh. All images used by permission.

You can find Holli on the following social media sites:

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: Kristina Vilimaite

December22

This morning’s interview is with designer Kristina Vilimaite from Hungary.

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My grandmother tried when I was six, but my first memory of knitting is about being in fury – I was knitting so tight I was not able to work the next row. Then, at 10, I was totally bored when we learnt knitting at school. My mother finished up the cowl I was so bored about so I did not get bad marks. And at 15 I remember meditation like feeling when knitting a sweater – since then I could knit.

How did you get started designing?
I made that first sweater without a pattern, though I didn’t think it was a design then, I was just making a sweater. Then, just before my daughter got born, I found out about Ravelry and started knitting again. LYS owner in Budapest issued a call for designs from their yarns. I gave it a try, and just got hooked.

What inspires your designs?
Nature and stitch patterns. I worked in environmental protection for years, so nature is always on my mind, and I just adore Estonian lace and Japanese stitch patterns. I also like watching the world around for interesting shapes and colours – be it a building, an interestingly cut coat of a passer by, or a ceramic bowl in a museum.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I often start with an idea and only when I like how it looks in white single ply wool (I also like to swatch with cotton), I search for a suitable yarn. Then yarn influences the final details of the design. Of course I have a lot of yarn that I’ve got because it was simply beautiful. Most of it is still in my stash.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like when it is possible to make differently looking knits from the same patten. So my shawls are in many sizes, customizable and they can be worked from different weight yarns. Currently I like complex looking stitches, which I adjust so they are easier to work but still intricate. I also love beads – even for mittens. I get little sparkling moments of happiness when I wear something with beads, such knits make me feel extraordinary.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Shawls. Right now I am hooked on a simple triangular shape that is worked sideways. This shape is like a painting canvas and it gives me so much freedom to for my knitted flowers to grow.

Tell me about “Recowled”, your new collection, what is the story behind it?
When I design I have to make finite choices: about shape, stitches used, all other details. Sometimes I see so many options that I can’t choose. I was drafting Tulippa shawl (not published yet), and this thought was always around – “maybe this should be a cowl, this would be a great cowl”. So I decided to let them both be. All three patterns in “Recowled” will be based on shawl patterns that look equally well as cowls. I also experiment with shapes, so two of the cowls will be scowls, kind of hybrids of shawls and cowls worked top down stating with just a few stitches. One will be of a traditional shape worked sideways.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have lots of ideas for cardigans. Well, I never wore the sweater I knit when I was 15. The size was OK, but I didn’t like how I looked in it. I acquired a better body image since then, but I am still not sure that a sweater I dream up and invest a lot of time into making would fit me and others well. At some point I will probably gather my courage to make one.

Tulippa

Tulippa

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I just started another collection called Lace Mittens for Snow Battle and I am almost ready with the second design from it. That knit is really addictive, so it pushed other half finished things down the queue. But probably I will release Tulippa shawl earlier.

Your desert island yarn? (If you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light. I like most of single ply yarns, but this one is dyed in such a way that it looks like as if it was shining from inside.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Icy Rivulet. For three years it was my favourite shawl to wear, both indoors and outdoors. It is actually my first design, but I made a very unlucky decision to publish it through a magazine. Only when I got the rights back, I could release it in the quality I am satisfied with, but the momentum was gone by then.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
I am not sure anybody wants my advice – but I can tell what worked for me when mastering knitting and designing. I reverse engineered a couple of hats and some stitch patterns. For me it brought a real breakthrough in understanding how to read my knitting, and helped me to understand the principles behind some techniques.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I prefer to go with the flow, I mean my individual flow. I do what I like when I think the moment is right for that. I probably never in my life had a New Year’s resolution… and if I had, I do not remember, probably I didn’t keep it anyway.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Could I have a party instead? Ten different people every week? If I have to choose just one today, that would be Kate Davies. I really love her designs and she writes interesting stuff.

View all of Kristina’s patterns here. All photos copyright Kristina Vilimaite. All images used by permission.

You can find Kristina on the following social media sites:

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: Josh Ryks

December21

Today’s first interview is with Josh Ryks of Sword of a Knitter.

Josh, modeling Ad Hoc

Josh, modeling Ad Hoc

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I learned to knit from a learn-to-knit kit that came with a book and needles and some notions. I taught myself from that little instruction booklet on some truly horrible acrylic yarn (the stuff was splitty and just awful. My second yarn that I used was much nicer acrylic yarn!) and got going. I remember finding the cast on and knit stitch much easier than the purl stitch. I had to grab a different book for that one!

How did you get started designing?
I started designing after knitting some of Stephen West’s shawls and other “modern” designers that introduced me to the world of color and shaping and new techniques that stemmed from the base techniques of knitting and I understood the structure of it all.
The combinations of color and shape and line and texture hooked me and I actually started thinking that I could do this too. So I did!

What inspires your designs?
I find inspiration in black and white photography, architecture, shadow, and line play. I also love tessellation art and the geometric motifs found ornamenting our everyday.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It really depends! I find that the inspiration comes first, but (depending on the yarn!) the yarn may change everything and become the muse of the piece!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Graphic, clean lines with bright, bold splashes of color and techniques that create texture and color play.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I LOVE designing shawls! It’s the most versatile canvas we have as designers to push the boundaries of knitting and play around with color, shape, technique, line, texture, shadow, etc. It’s also a fantastic why to show off the amazing indie dyers that make such beautiful yarns!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I do! It’s a shawl concept that I’ve had milling around for a long time and I will one day sit down and tackle the shaping and technical details to get it started.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That’s a tough question! Hmm… At the moment it would have to be a combination of Neighborhood Fibre Company’s Rustic Fingering weight single and 716knit 716solo neon-tactic tonal color ways. I could be a very happy knitter with that yarn combo!

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I would say shawl knitting in any shape or form or design is my comfort knitting. For me, comfort knitting is more about the yarn and the colors I’m using more so than the knitting itself.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I would say Color Spike. It’s one of my personal faves and the way the cables and short rows and slipped stitches and color all work together is a great shawl that speaks of Josh and his style of knitting.

Continental or English?
Continental.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
The ability to create something that’s unique, original, and handmade all the while playing with fibers and colors that you can’t get anywhere else!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Have FUN knitting! Don’t stress about the techniques and any insecurities you may feel about something. Just go for it, have fun, and even if you end up with a mess, have fun and laugh and move on! Knitting is supposed to be fun and make us feel better! So don’t bring stress and obligation into it!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I am hoping to finish all the mystery designs I have going on at the moment and to publish my second and third collections next year!

View all of Josh’s patterns here. All photos copyright Josh Ryks. All images used by permission.

You can find Josh on the following social media sites:

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!

Blennerville Stole, 4th pattern in Northern Landscapes part 2 collection

December21

Blennerville Stole

I’m so thrilled with my newest design release, the Blennerville Stole. The combination of the graphic patterns and the lusciousness of Sweet Paprika’s Adagio yarn (a truly decadent combination of silk and camel fibres) make for an indulgent wrap. This is the 4th release in Northern Landscapes, part two collection.

Stitch detail of Blennerville Stole

Patterns in Northern Landscapes, part two are available individually or as part of the collection. During the pre-order period, the ebook is available at a special, discounted price of $24.95. Filigree and Shadow Stole, Peridotite Stole and L’Anse aux Meadows are already released, as is Northern Landscapes, part 1. The rest of the patterns will be published over several months and once all the patterns are available individually, the eBook version of the patterns will be uploaded (tentatively end of February 2016). At that time the price of the eBook rises to $35.95 (full retail price of patterns is $75).

If you choose to purchase individual patterns from the collection you will still be able to take advantage of the ebook pricing. Once you purchase the equivalent of $35.95 in patterns from Northern Landscapes, part two, the rest of the patterns will be automatically added to your cart/library.

Interview: Anneh Fletcher

December20

Today’s second interview is with Canadian designer Anneh of Shanghai Lily.

Anneh, modeling Clochán

Anneh, modeling Clochán

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I’ve been knitting off and on since I was about five years old, but I picked it up with a vengeance back in 2003. My mom originally taught me to knit with some plastic needles she cut short and then glued buttons on to make the ends. When I was in my teens, the German mother of one of my mom’s friends taught me to knit in Continental style. It didn’t matter that I didn’t speak German and she didn’t speak English, we could still understand each other!

How did you get started designing?
I started designing in October 2013. A few people had suggested I try designing before that, but I never felt like I had any interesting or unique ideas that were worth pursuing. But while I was watching an episode of the British TV show Time Team, I had an idea that really excited me. I designed Caerwent that weekend.

What inspires your designs?
For the patterns I’ve designed for self-striping yarns, I’ve been inspired by shapes and impressions that I get from watching episodes of Time Team. Sometimes a fleeting glance of an interesting geometric shape is enough to trigger an idea. Many of my other sock designs are similarly inspired, in that I will see a shape or motif somewhere, like on a building, and that will set my mind going. Of course, not all those ideas work out!

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It depends! I have a huge stash, and lots of that impossible-to-resist self-striping sock yarn. Trying to use up stash was partially the impetus for me to design patterns for stripy yarns. But when inspiration strikes first, I stash-dive to find the best fit. Of course, that doesn’t always work, and sometimes I have to buy yarn to match an idea, which is always fun.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I really want my designs to be simple and interesting to knit. We’ve all knit patterns that made us crazy, and have also knit ones that were fun and intuitive, and were therefore simple. I aim for the latter, so that the knitter will enjoy the process and also like the finished item.

Tell me about “The Black Album”, what is the story behind this collection?
This was completely self-serving: I wear a lot of black clothing, and many mornings when I was getting dressed, I would think “I wish I had more black socks.” (I’m sure I’m not alone in this). Being a knitter, of course “need more socks” meant knitting them myself. But complex patterns stitch patterns get lost in the darkness of the yarn, so I set out to design something that would still be visible, even when knit in black. I ended up having enough ideas for a whole collection!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
There’s no simple answer to this! I love the rich colours of Wollmeise, but would never knit socks from it…it’s just too precious! For socks, any of the hard-wearing “work horse” yarns are my go-to: Regia, Patons Kroy and Kroy FX, OnLine, Fortissima and Lana Grossa are all great sock yarn options that I just couldn’t live without. And then there are the stripy yarns from indie dyers like TurtlePurl, with whom I’ve partnered in the past, where the colours are stunning, and the yarn does all the work for you.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
In my humble opinion, it is Black Rib, which is my favourite pattern to knit for gifts. It makes a sock that is stretchy and easy to put on, and is not too fancy for those not used to wearing handknits, but still has enough going on to make it fun to knit.

View all of Anneh’s patterns here. All photos copyright Anneh Fletcher. All images used by permission.

You can find Debbie on the following social media sites:

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: Lisa Chemery

December20

My first interview today is with Lisa Chemery of Frogginette Knitting Patterns.

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was about 7 but I wasn’t a fan at the time and didn’t pick up the needles again until I was in my early 20s.

How did you get started designing?
I wasn’t seeing the kinds of children designs that I wanted to make, so I decided to create them myself.

What inspires your designs?
Children inspire me. Their sense of whimsy, their innocence, the way everything is fresh and wondrous to them. Also, more practically, I pay close attention to what they like to wear 😉

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Most of the times, the inspiration, though some yarns do tell me what they want to be!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I always try to make my designs as fun and straightforward to knit as I possibly can, while trying to keep unexpected elements in there. I try to stay away from fiddly techniques unless they are absolutely necessary.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love designing outerwear and chunkier cardigans. And shrugs!

Tell me about designing for babies/toddlers, what led you to design for this age group?
Initially I was in the midst of a baby-boom and was asked to knit a lot of baby items. Since then, I’ve had my own kids and between the lack of knitting time and their need to be clothed, I ended up designing what made the most practical sense at the time. I also have a short attention span, haha! I have so many ideas (as most designers do) that it’s nice to be able to move on quickly and not get bogged down in designing a grown-up sized garment for weeks at a time.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have been obsessing about stranded colorwork lately and I would love to make an all-over fair isle cardigan for myself.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a very adorable unisex sweater that should be out within the next month or so, and I am currently working on a stranded colorwork tunic for my daughter, so if I’m happy with the result, I might turn that into a pattern.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Only one yarn? That’s tough. I can narrow it down to two: The Plucky Knitter’s Primo Aran, which is absolutely scrumptious, and my favorite workhorse yarn, Eco+ by Cascade Yarns.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
That would probably be a tie between my Framboise top and my Petite Feuilles booties. I get so excited when someone knits one of these because I still love both designs!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to try new techniques, and make sure you block your hand-knits!

View all of Lisa’s patterns here. All photos copyright Lisa Chemery. All images used by permission.

You can find Lisa on the following social media sites:

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: Debbie Sullivan

December19

The second interview today is with Debbie Sullivan of Sweet Paprika Designs.

Debbie modeling Diagonal Lace Shawl

Debbie modeling Diagonal Lace Shawl

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My grandmother taught me, when I was about 11 years old. She lived pretty far away at the time, and on one of her visits she showed me and my sisters how to knit. A little while later she sent us a box of yarn, patterns and needles in the mail, which was a great way to keep us inspired to do it on our own. She had started us on straights though, so I remember it took us a while to figure out what the circular needles and stitch holders were for…

How did you get started designing?
I’d been making up things to knit for myself, often using stitch patterns from the Barbara Walker treasuries, without ever thinking of it as “designing”. Then when my sister Elizabeth and I started our business (Sweet Paprika Designs) we were teaching classes, and starting to put together written patterns to teach from. My Diagonal Lace Shawl pattern was the first one I ever wrote, it’s super simple and I was using it for a beginner lace class. This was around 8 years ago when Ravelry and online self-publishing were just starting to take off, so it was pretty natural to try putting our patterns up online for the wider public as well.

What inspires your designs?
Usually I start with the idea to make a particular item (hat, socks, sweater, etc) and then start playing with shapes, colours and stitch patterns. I’ll do some sketching and swatching and try to make it all come together in a way that makes sense for that garment or item. I can be quite picky once I have an idea in my head and have been known to knit many, many swatches in order to figure out how to make it work.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Most often it’s the yarn. I spend a lot of my time dyeing yarn as part of our business, so I have lots of opportunity to dream up what I might want to knit with it! It’s also important to us to have a range of pattern support for our yarns, so when we add a new yarn we’re always excited to start designing with it and showing it off.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
The details of construction are pretty important to me in garments. Since I have a little bit of sewing/costume making experience I’ll often start with the shape of the piece (sometimes even drape it with fabric first to make sure it will work) and then figure out how to create those shapes in knitting. I also tend to include finicky finishing details and then worry that no one else will have the patience for them!

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’ve really enjoyed working on both of my sock designs. Partly I think because the sizing/grading isn’t that complicated, and that’s my least favourite part of the process.

Tell me about “Bracquemond”, what is the story behind this design?
The Impressionists collection was put together for our first-ever sweater club. We needed three sweater designs that each used a different yarn, and for some reason I volunteered to use the fingering-weight for my design. I regretted that decision after I somehow lost one of the sleeves as it was in progress and had to re-knit a whole new one on a very short deadline! I am happy with the result though, it’s one of my favourite hand-knit sweaters to wear.

The other two sweaters in the collection are designed by my sister (Elizabeth Sullivan) and Jennifer Wood. We knew we wanted a theme to bring the three designs together, and it happened to rain on the day we had scheduled for the photoshoot so we happened to have a Renoir umbrella in several of the shots. That, together with the mood and styling of the other photos had us thinking about impressionist painters, so we ended up naming each of the designs after one of “les trois grandes dames” of impressionism. Marie Bracquemond was a late-nineteenth century French painter who was mentored by Monet and Degas.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I’m quite a fearless knitter actually – I think it comes of having lots of practice fixing my own mistakes! I’ve never knit a really complex show-stopper lace shawl and I’d love to do that someday. But currently most of my knitting time takes place on public transit, which is not so great for reading charts… Lily Go’s Narnia shawl caught my eye recently, for when I have a bit more focused knitting time.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a crocheted hat and mitts set for babies that we’ve got really cute photos for but I’ve been procrastinating about writing up. Hopefully that will be published quite soon.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I mainly knit with Sweet Paprika yarn, partly because we always need more samples, and partly I have easy access to it in whatever colour I want! I don’t think I could pick just one yarn though, as there are so many characteristics inherent in different yarn weights and fibre types that might be perfect for one project but terrible for another.

And now I’m imagining myself stranded on a desert island, trying to find the perfect design to use rope or vines or something that I’d actually have in that situation… Maybe a twine bag for gathering edible plants?

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
For some reason my Transposition scarf has never gotten very much attention from knitters, although I get compliments on the sample from non-knitters whenever I wear it.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
I often tell beginner knitters that once they can knit and purl they can do anything – everything else is just a variation on those two stitches. It’s also great to learn to read your knitting right off the bat if you can – if you understand what’s happening it makes fixing your mistakes much easier, not to mention having your own ideas about how to modify a pattern or create a design.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I have a big bin full of bits and ends of yarn that I inherited from my grandmother and have been adding to for the past eight years or so, with the intention to someday knit it into a scrappy afghan. I’d love to finally get a start on that in the new year!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Hmm, I’m not sure – I don’t really have a design idol. I would love to meet Barbara Walker though, just to thank her for putting together those treasuries. I used to get them out of the library all the time starting when I was 11 or 12 years old, and they are still a source of inspiration for me.

View all of Debbie’s patterns here. Transposition photo copyright Kim-E Photo. All other photos copyright Veronica Schleihauf. All images used by permission.

You can find Debbie on the following social media sites:

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: Yvonne of Thread Forward

December19

This morning’s interview is with Canadian designer Yvonne of Thread Forward.

Yvonne modeling Liassic

Yvonne modeling Liassic

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was surrounded by fiber for almost as long as I can remember – my mother was a knitter, weaver, spinner and sewer. I can remember the excitement of the day that her spinning wheel arrived in the mail and helping her braid a cord for my new mittens. I was thrilled to show them at school the next day. My mother taught me to knit at a young age and I knit off and on until I was in university. Then I took it up as a form of relaxation and have never looked back!

How did you get started designing?
My first design was made for our local knitting guild’s 15th anniversary. I chose a stitch pattern with a fifteen stitch repeat and made a cowl as part of our summer challenge for the guild. A few knitter friends within the guild encouraged me to publish the pattern on Ravelry. Shortly after that, a non- knitter friend asked me to make a couple of cowls for her kids for skiing and snowboarding that winter so I designed the Fledgling Owl Cowl for her daughter and the Kids Creeper Cowl for her son. I soon published those patterns and I have been was hooked! Early in 2015, I started a blog about knitting from an early Victorian era knitting book by Miss Lambert (1843, My Knitting Book, First Series) which I affectionately called my MKB Project. At the same time decided to start publishing more patterns with the help of a technical editor. Both ventures have been great fun!

What inspires your designs?
I like simplicity, practicality and colour. I am often inspired by a need for a hat for myself or mittens for my children or to deal with some challenging yarn in my stash. As I have been working through the early Victorian era knitting book, I have found that the patterns are also simple, practical and use colour in an interesting way. I am inspired by the stitch patterns in the book and am working towards (a) publishing photographs and patterns in modern day knitting language on my blog and (b) bringing versions of the stitch patterns forward to the present in a modern context with a vintage flare.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
For the most part, I would say I am first inspired and then choose the yarn to fit. However, I have to say that sometimes it is the yarn that comes first. For example, I had a small skein of very bright fingering weight yarn that I really loved when I bought it but found I couldn’t find the right pattern for it. I found that it went really nicely with another heavier weight yarn and created the pattern for The Bus Stops Here hat.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
My goal is to make my designs simple but include something in them that people may want to try on a smaller scale such as a provisional cast on, lace or combining a crochet edging on a knitted project. As I continue to design, I hope to be able to bring old and forgotten knitting stitch patterns back to life in a modern context. Living in Canada where it can be very cold in the winter, I also want my designs to be practical and provide warmth!

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I don’t have a favourite item – I think my favourite item is whatever it is that I’m working on at the time. It grabs my attention, enthusiasm and challenges me. Right now, I am working on a design for fingerless mittens and so far I am greatly enjoying the challenge and the process!

Tell me about “Timan Ridge Cowl”, what is the story behind this design?
I was inspired to design the Timan Ridge Cowl after knitting the first pattern from Miss Lambert’s 1843 knitting manual for Siberian Cuffs. When I researched Siberian Cuffs in other knitting books and online, I learned that there are several early Victorian knitting patterns that used shades of grey and/or brown to knit garments that mimicked various types of fur, including sable and chinchilla, worn by the wealthy at the time. The Victorians were fascinated with natural history and I chose to name the cowl after Timan Ridge, geological feature found in Siberia, the home of the Siberian sable.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I think my aspirational design would be to design a lace shawl. I find them to be so beautiful and delicate and hope that I will be able to incorporate some Victorian lace patterns into a unique object with historical significance in the future.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
My next two designs will be released before the end of 2015 and will include a pair of Victorian inspired fingerless mittens (Penny Post) and a buttoned version of my previously published Guild Anniversary Cowl.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
If I could only choose one yarn to work with from now on, I would choose some kind of silk/alpaca blend to knit with. My son is someone who does not enjoy the texture of most yarns (sadly) but he loves silk/alpaca blend. But, if I was on a desert island, I would want a sturdy sock yarn that would withstand being knit, ripped out, and knit again while I wait for rescue!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
My most under-appreciated design is A Tunic For Violet. I really do love this pretty baby tunic with vintage appeal. I combined a modified version of a 173 year old Victorian lace stitch pattern with the simple shaping of a 1930s era singlet. There is a crochet shell stitch along the hem and forming the caps of the sleeves which also adds to the vintage feel. I feel that the pattern is a nice small project to try out a simple lace pattern, venture into the world of knitting garments and combining knitting and crochet without a huge financial or time commitment! And, at the end you have an adorable little tunic for a person who is new to this world!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to try something new and don’t overthink your knitting!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Not yet, I really should make some!!!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Zimmerman. Do I need to say why? I would love to talk with her about her life, her knitting and what it was really like for her when she started ‘thinking outside the pattern.’

View all of Yvonne’s patterns here. All photos copyright Thread Forward. All images used by permission.

You can find Yvonne on the following social media sites:

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

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