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Interview: Natalie Servant


The second interview today is with another Canadian designer, Natalie Servant of Natalie Servant Designs.

Natalie Servant


Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was taught to knit as a Brownie by someone who lamented that I was a leftie. I let the skill lapse for many years, but I had a strong desire for sweaters as a university student. You’ll laugh, but I thought it would be cheaper to knit them myself. I taught myself to knit from a book and spent hours learning to make my swatches look like the stitch patterns in the book. Then I got hooked on knitting lace.

How did you get started designing?
It started off with modifying designs as I knit them. Then I started coming up with my own ideas. It was slow and painful at the beginning, as with anything new. I learned a lot from great teachers in person, online, and through books. I’m always looking for the technique that’s going to turn my currently-impossible idea into something I can knit.

What inspires your designs?
My most common inspiration is architecture, but I’m always looking for ideas. Sometimes it’s from nature, colour combinations I see, or a texture I want to play with.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually (but not always) the inspiration comes first. Sometimes yarn lives in my stash for years before I come up with an idea. I love having my stash in Ravelry so that when I’ve got an idea I can search for a compatible yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I strive for unique designs and I frequently come up with my own stitch patterns. I try to make things as simple as I can while achieving the look that I want.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I still love designing lace the most. Any time I’m working out a new idea or a new technique, I’m having fun. I love coming up with different ways to make things reversible.

Tell me about “Canadian Art Deco designs”, what is the story behind this collection?
I had been looking for an area of inspiration to really sink my teeth into and develop a collection. I’d done a few Art Deco designs when it occurred to me to see if I could find Art Deco inspirations closer to home. A quick search on the Internet told me that there was plenty of beautiful material across Canada.

I’ve spent almost 3 years doing research, traveling to see buildings, sketching, swatching, and knitting. I managed to include some of my favourite techniques: lace, stranded colourwork, and double knitting. My goal with each design was to capture the spirit of what attracted me to that part of the building. Sometimes that meant simplifying things. Sometimes I had to come up with a different way to approach a design.

After a great deal of thought I decided to release the patterns as an e-book with a new pattern coming each month through 2015. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I also work at a day job. The schedule has kept me focused, but it hasn’t been unreasonable. I am itching to release the final pattern because I think it’s the one that’s the most fun and whimsical.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
One day I might design sweaters. I had a sweater idea recently that I felt strongly enough about to draw in my sketchbook. I think it would be fun, but I need to knit more sweaters from other designers before I feel comfortable creating my own.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I’ve got designs that I put on hold while I was sticking to my release schedule. As much as I tried to stay focused, other ideas popped up and begged to be started. I’ve got a half-finished shawl and a nearly-finished blanket. That’s what’s on for the next month or two. And then I’ve got two ideas for smallish collections, around 3-5 items. I’ve got all the yarn chosen for one collection and no swatches knit, and 3 swatches knit for the other collection and no yarn chosen. It’ll be interesting to see which one wins my attention first!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
It’s got to be wool. Nothing beats the warmth of wool moving through my fingers as I knit.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Ooooh, tough question. The one that I love the most that hasn’t really caught on is my Hockey Scarf. I don’t think you can fully appreciate it from pictures. You need to feel it in person to understand how thick and lush the fabric is. Plus I love reversibility in a scarf. It’s a relatively simple pattern and it’d be perfect for just about anyone to wear. I’m extra happy with it because the time between the prototype and the release gave me an idea for a better way of expressing the pattern.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
It’s knitting. You can always take it out and start again if you have to and it won’t kill you.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
After a year of strict self-imposed deadlines, I’m giving myself permission to take it easy for a while and work on whatever I feel up to doing. I’ve got lots of ideas, but I may need a bit of a break.

View all of Natalie’s patterns here. All photos copyright Natalie Servant except for Aldred Mitts, copyright Zoé Servant. All images used by permission.

You can find Natlie 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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