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A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

Interview: Jenny Wiebe


Today’s second interview is with Jenny Wiebe of VANGY Knits, another Canadian designer.

Jenny Wiebe

Jenny, modeling After the Ball

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I don’t actually remember learning, because both my grandmas and my mother were all avid knitters. At some point in my childhood I picked it up, likely on each of their knees as they knit away. When I actually go into knitting as an adult, I went to my mom for a refresher.

How did you get started designing?
I started test knitting for other designers. As I did this I learned what made a good pattern, and what didn’t. One day, sitting in church, I saw a cute blouse with ruffles on the sleeve, and I thought, “Hey, I could totally knit that!” I went home and cast on Edith, which was my first sweater design.

What inspires your designs?
My kids. I’ve got 5, and they all love my knits. I’m slowly narrowing down what I like to knit for them, and what they like to wear, and so that’s what I design, mostly. I do, also, knit for my imaginary infant daughter! 😉 I’ve never had an infant daughter, but the imaginary one is incredibly well dressed in handknits.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Inspiration, for sure. I actually don’t have a huge stash, because once I’ve got an idea of what I want to knit in my mind, I like to find the perfect yarn for that project, and rarely is that in my stash.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like simple designs with a little flare: a unique collar, or stripes, or some ruffles, or the like. I also appreciate that people knitting for children aren’t usually looking for something hugely complicated, so I like to work top down and seamless, if I can.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Cardigans. I enjoy knitting hats and cowls and such, but when it comes to putting design to paper, I much prefer working on cardigan patterns. There are so many possibilities, and so much joy in seeing my handknits worn.

Tell me about “Songs and Stripes”, what is the story behind this collection?
I knit the first pattern in the collection, Rhymes with Shawl, for my sister-in-law’s foster daughter, who would eventually become my daughter, through adoption. She needed a little love, and a handknit sweater is how I show my love. Next came Cadence and Hue, which was meant to be the boy version of Rhymes with Shawl. It took me 2 years to get the guts to knit an adult version, but Curtain Call was it. I thought that would be the end of the collection, until I knit a few projects with fingering weight yarn, and realized I needed a light weight version for myself. So, I knit up After the Ball, and completed the collection!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Cables. I would love to do a really complicated cabled sweater in multiple sizes.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I’ve got an addition to the Little Old Man Collection on my needles right now. It’s so much fun, and I might do a mystery knit in the new year.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That’s a hard one. I don’t actually feel I’ve tried enough different yarns to pick just one. I need to branch out a little more, I guess.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Rundle. It’s this gorgeous, squishy cowl that gets so much attention when people see it, but online it gets lost amongst so many others, I guess.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Knit what inspires you, not just what you think you can do. Pick a project that you actually want to knit, and do it. There is nothing you can’t learn on YouTube, and in the end, you will have something you actually want to wear/use.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I’d love to release 12 patterns next year: One a month.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Hands down, Elizabeth Zimmerman. Mostly, because I love her writing. I am an avid reader, and can’t believe how much I love reading her books. My husband thinks I’m such a nerd when I read her books, because I laugh and smile, and read passages aloud just to hear what her words sound like. I love her.

View all of Jenny’s patterns here. All photos copyright Jenny Wiebe. All images used by permission.

You can find Jenny 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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