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Interview: Henna Markkanen


Today’s interview is with Henna Markkanen, a designer from Finland who loves to design with lace and cable patterns.

Henna Markkanen, modeling Consonance

Henna Markkanen, modeling Consonance

How did you get started designing?
It actually began with finding Ravelry with its variety of knitwear patterns, as well as finding out how simple it actually is to publish one’s designs and/or offer them to online magazines. Leafing through all the wonderful patterns, projects and photos Ravelry had to offer made me curious to start trying my own hand in designing.

What inspires your designs?
I suppose each design has a slightly differing inspiration, but mostly, I get inspired by first coming up with an idea for a lace or cable pattern, and then I build the actual design around it. Those patterns are, on the other hand, inspired by various sources – geometrical shapes, mathematics, nature… Sometimes the inspiration also comes from knitting another designer’s pattern and both learning from it and being impressed by it. Aletheia, for example, was born after knitting the glorious Evenstar Shawl by Susan Pandorf, and thereby falling for circular lace shawls.



Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Almost always, the inspiration, closely followed by the hunt for a suitable yarn. Sunray Shawl is an exception – there I was inspired by the sheen and colour of the yarn and only after acquiring it began to have ideas for a design.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I really like both lace and cable patterns, so each of my designs incorporates one or both. I also like to maintain some form of symmetry or logic with the flow of the lace/cable pattern. For example, in my newest design, Pelion, the cable pattern is complex, but the new cable strands are always formed after the same intervals, thus making it easier to follow the large chart – at least in my opinion.

Pelion, (c) Twist Collective

Pelion, (c) Twist Collective, photo by James Brittain

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Previously it was lace shawls and scarves, but after learning about garment design as well as grading for different sizes, I will have to answer that my new favourite is garments. I haven’t designed many, and the numbers are pretty laborious to work out, but I just enjoy the maths and logic involved. The garment will still have to incorporate lace or cables, though, to be a favourite.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Malabrigo Arroyo – the softness and colourways are just too lovely.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Anything that’s not too easy but not too complex either. For example, a garment with a cable or two thrown in for interest, but simple enough to watch a nice tv show while knitting it.

Sunray Shawl

Sunray Shawl

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Consonance vest ( I enjoyed designing, grading, knitting and writing the pattern really much, and thought that each small detail succeeded well, so it’s a pity that it hasn’t garnered more attention.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I’m currently knitting Heidi Atwood-Reeves’s Belle Isle, which will be a Christmas present. And, if only I had time, I would cast on Ink by Hanna Maciejewska or Willowherb Pullover by Marnie MacLean, both of which I have had my eye on for quite a while now.

Continental or English?
Continental. That’s the way I was taught to knit when I was a child, and the method has stuck with me ever since.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I like to both see and feel how the fabric forms, be it a lacy figure, an intertwining cable, the interesting form a variegated yarn takes or even the soft, smooth surface of plain stockinette.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
One thing I too frequently skip is knitting a large enough gauge swatch. I have learned the hard way that it really saves me from a lot of frustration. So, from experience, I heartily recommend knitting one when casting on a project in which gauge is crucial.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Nothing firm, but I would like to learn something new, knitting-wise, during 2015. Perhaps double knitting?

View all of Henna’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Henna Markkanen, except where indicated otherwise. 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!

posted under interview, Knitting

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