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Interview: Elizabeth Elliott


Today’s interview is with Elizabeth Elliott of e.elliott knits.

Note: It’s the last of the GAL interview series and, despite my well-meant intentions, did not get published before Christmas. Rather than have it get lost in the holiday season, I decided to hold off and post the interview today.

Firenze Mittens

Firenze Mittens

How did you get started designing?
I’d been playing around with structure and stitch patterns for a while, and came up with an idea for a reversible baby blanket with an integrated short-row hood (the Sweet Lullaby Seamless Hooded Blanket). My mum suggested that I write the idea down and submit it to Knit Picks’ Independent Designer Program, which had just started up. I sent it in, they accepted it, and they were so supportive and encouraging that I just kept going.

What inspires your designs?
To be honest, I don’t always know. Sometimes it’s a particular yarn or combination of colours; sometimes I want to play with a technique or experiment with structure; sometimes I’m just falling asleep and an idea will come seemingly out of nowhere, and won’t let me sleep until I get up and sketch it. The Firenze set started out as a scarf that needed a border. I was going for a Renaissance look, so I went to the library and looked through books of paintings from that period. I fell in love with a detail from Andrea del Castagno’s painting, Pippo Spanno, which it turned out worked better on its own than with the main pattern of the scarf, so I used it for mittens and a cowl, instead. I’m still looking for a border for that scarf.

Backroad Scarf, Aran weight

Backroad Scarf, Aran weight

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It could be either. The Backroad Hats started with the yarn: Michelle at Widdershin Woolworks asked if I’d test out a new yarn she was thinking of carrying, and I tried to come up with a stitch pattern that would show off the variegated colourway and work well with the yarn’s sproinginess. The wrap I’m working on now started with an idea for a lace border; I tried several yarns before finding one that clicked. I’ve been working on some more colourwork ideas using the Sunday Knits 3-ply yarns: the colour palette is so huge, there’s lots of room to play around with colour combinations.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Since I started spinning a few years ago, I’ve become more and more interested in suiting the yarn to the purpose: wooly wools for outer layers, tightly plied yarns for items that will see a lot of wear, lofty yarns for large projects like blankets. I try to come up with designs that are interesting to make, so that the process is as enjoyable as the final product.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
That changes all the time, but overall I’d say stranded colourwork. I like the mathiness of it — the challenge of coming up with attractive designs within the grid format — and it gives me a chance to play around with colour combinations.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I think it would be Sunday Knits yarn. It’s soft and pleasant to knit with, with a good plying structure, so it’s very versatile. The colours are just lovely, too.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Socks. I used to be into fancy socks, but I find that I really like working on plain, 3×1 rib socks, especially since I’ve done enough of them that they’re mindless knitting for me now. When I’m working on one of those socks in self-striping yarn (especially in handspun), it feels like my hands just know what to do, while the stripes keep it interesting with no extra effort from me.

Jazz Age mitts

Jazz Age Mitts

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I kind of feel like the Jazz Age mittens don’t get the love I thought they would. They’re getting more attention with the Gift-A-Long, especially since I changed the main photo (it’s so hard to choose the right photo sometimes), so hopefully more people will see them now.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
Well, I finished Laura Chau’s Orbital Ornaments and Birch Hollow Cottage’s Little Fox Mittens, both of which were a lot of fun. Next up is Marnie MacLean’s Cercis sweater for me.

Continental or English?
English. My English grandmother taught me to knit, so that’s how I learned. I’d really like to learn Continental, though. My stitching-and-coffee friend knits Continental, and it’s amazing to watch her go.

Gimble Mitts

Gimble Mitts

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Always having something productive to fill slack time. I recently had to fly to Alberta from Birmingham, and without knitting, those flights would have been mind-numbingly tedious. I like having a way to keep my hands busy while reading, watching movies or tv shows, sitting in waiting rooms, and so on, and at the end you have something you can use.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. The worst that will happen is that you’ll have to rip out your work and try again, and even then you’ll have learned something.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t really do resolutions, but I think next year I’ll finally try to learn Continental knitting. I’d also like to be designing sweaters by the end of next year.

View all of Elizabeth’s patterns here. All images copyright Elizabeth Elliott and used by permission.

posted under interview, Knitting

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