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Interview: Nicole Montgomery

November20

Interview # 3 of the design interviews is with Nicole Montgomery, of Trappings and Trinkets.

Nicole

Nicole

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My friend, Kristin taught me how to knit. She mentioned to me one day that she was knitting a bear for some sort of church charity thing, and I told her I had always wanted to learn to knit, but had never quite caught on when I looked at diagrams in books. She hosted a “Knitting and Sangria” night at her house and tried to teach a group of us to knit. Most of our friends were more interested in the sangria than the knitting, but I came home that night with a swatch full of dropped stitches and holes, and kept practicing until I had it figured out. But Kristin really only knew how to knit and purl, so my first project was making squares out of fun fur (I know, I know) that I intended to sew together into a blanket. But the universe interrupted my ill-fated blanket project before it was finished by dropping a “knitting guru” into my lap in the form of Paula (of Knitting Pipeline fame). She is a friend of a friend who was also at the Knitting and Sangria night, and Paula had offered to lead a knitting class at church, so I tagged along. She showed me how to knit in the round and do basic things like increases and decreases. I remember telling her that I really wanted to try a pattern, but that I probably wasn’t ready for that yet. She said, “You can follow a pattern. All you have to do is read the first instruction, then do that. Next read the second instruction and do that. And if you don’t know how to do it, you know where I live.” That was all the encouragement I needed to be a fearless knitter, and I’ve never shied away from a project for fear that it was “too difficult”. I know that all I ever have to do is figure out how to do the next instruction. (And if I can’t figure it out, I’m confident that someone around me can help me!)

How did you get started designing?
A friend of mine is a photographer and about five years ago she approached me about making a “sock monkey hat” that she could use when doing infant pictures. “So you want me to make a hat that looks like a monkey head that sits on top of the baby’s head?” I believe that was my reply to her…I didn’t get it. But she was trying to start her photography business at the time, and I wanted to be supportive, so I went home and googled “sock monkey hat” in the hopes of finding a knitting pattern. Only one webpage popped up with a pattern link (there were a couple for crochet, but only this one link for a knitting pattern), and when I clicked on it, it was a virus. It totally destroyed our computer. I ended up coming up with my own pattern, and thought, “Maybe there are other people who would like to knit this, and if I can sell this pattern for a few dollars, maybe I can make some money that I can put toward replacing the computer that I just destroyed.” The response I had from knitters was so kind and generous, it motivated me to write up and share future patterns that I came up with.

What inspires your designs?
What doesn’t?! I often write patterns for things I want to make for myself, or that I think would be great gifts for other people. I might see some yarn and say “these 3 colors need to be used in a sweater together!” – that happened with “Jillian”. I might have a specific occasion in mind that I want something special to wear for – “Summer Vines” was supposed to be for my 20-year high school reunion…until it was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales! Maybe I’m watching a tv show and the costumes inspire me – my “Honeysuckle Hat” was inspired by a character in “Foyle’s War” and “Rory and Jojo” was my interpretation of a hat Rory wore on the “Gilmore Girls”. Or maybe I see something being worn out in public and take inspiration from that. “Siesta Tee” came from a long-sleeved mesh sweater I saw on someone at Panera. And “Leap of Faith” is a reboot of a hoodie I wore so much in my early 20s that I had to sew patches on the elbows. Once it was too worn to wear, I put it in a drawer in the hopes I could one day find a way to re-create it…that was before I even knew how to knit!

Sometimes I see a certain technique in a book or used in another knitting project that I see somewhere – “The Sweetest Thing” was completely designed around a delicate scalloped edging I saw in a knitting book and my “World War G{loves}” came from the idea of using welts on fingerless mittens. I also keep a Pinterest board with inspiration, and I have used some ideas from there. I pinned a fabric scarf that had lacy baubled fringe along the edges, and used that idea for my “Borderline” shawl. I am working with 2 ideas right now and use another idea from my Pinterest inspiration board, but you’ll have to stay tuned until mid-December for the first design and early February for the second one to be published!

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Either one. With me it’s really about 50/50. Sometimes I see the yarn first and I know what it wants to be. And sometimes I have an idea of something I want to make in my head and I go on a search for just the right yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like pretty un-fussy stuff. So I’d say that my general style is clean lines with an interesting detail or two. I like a modern fit (not too baggy, not too square) with garments. And I like a wide variety of colors & textures!

What is your favourite type of item to design?
For pure enjoyment, I’d say hats because they’re generally pretty simple. But I do love knitting sweaters, and those patterns give me the biggest sense of accomplishment, although I find the 8 hours or so that I have to spend with spread sheets and calculators pretty brutal!

You design a lot with rainbow colourways, such as the RollerGirl Raglan and Layers and Links.
What is the story/inspiration behind this?

RollerGirl was a design where the inspiration came from the yarn. I saw the “Carnival” color way of Knit Picks Chroma and decided that it needed to be made into the arms of a raglan sweater with a solid color used as the body. It turned into a “roller derby-themed pattern” because the color way was bright & happy and reminded me of colors you might see on circa-1980 leg warmers that would be worn with short shorts on someone at a roller rink. “Layers and Links” is part of a new collection that I’m in the process of publishing. It’s a 13-project pattern collection called “Color Packs & Stash Scraps” that is full of smaller projects that use smaller quantities of multiple colors of yarn. So it’s great for using the mini skein color packs that are so popular right now, or for making use of your lightweight-yarn leftovers. Layers and Links ended up as a rainbow hat because that color way caught my eye when I was looking at A Hundred Ravens’ internet shop, and trying to figure out how to approach her to see if she’d be interested in supporting my new collection!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I really don’t, since I never consider anything “above my skill level”. There’s certainly things I haven’t made yet and techniques I haven’t tried, but as soon as I’m interested in something, I just do it. For example, last week I read a few Ravelry posts about “Invisible Stranding”, a technique that you can use when doing stranded color work that allows you to carry floats for as long as you wish. I immediately found “It’s Not About the Hat”, a pattern that taught this technique and made two hats using it – the first had a design on the front only, and I carried the floats across about 60 stitches around the back of the hat (replacing the need for intarsia in the round). The second hat I did was a modified version of the “Passerine Hat”, which has some long floats that would have made me unhappy if I had used regular stranded knitting. Now I can’t wait for more people to learn this technique because it opens up exciting possibilities for me as a designer!

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
As of today, I have 7 more patterns to release as additions to my “Color Packs & Stash Scraps” collection. I’ll be adding one pattern a week until the week of Christmas. After that, I may have a bit of a lull…designing, writing, knitting, testing, editing & releasing 13 patterns in a short period of time has been a big challenge for me (I started this collection in June 2015, and it will be totally published by December), so I’m going to need a minute to find my writing mojo again. But I do have a couple things – a scarf with a “woven” look to it, and a cabled men’s sweater – that are already knit and mostly written, so I’ll probably be releasing those later this winter or in the spring.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I’m working with Anzula Cricket right now and it is delightful! But if I’m going for gorgeous colors, I’d probably have to stick with madelinetosh. I’m a sucker for tonal color ways!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Either the Leap of Faith sweater or the Orchard Pullover. I wear both of those all the time, but I think that they might intimidate some knitters. Leap uses steeking (although I can’t stress enough how very simple it really is if you can get over the fear of cutting your knitting!), and I think the fact that it has a zipper instead of buttons is another stumbling block for some knitters. I think the cables in Orchard look scary to some knitters, although there’s nothing more difficult there than a 2 x 2 cross. I guess that’s the downside to having no knitting fear – it’s difficult to predict what projects other people will be willing to take on!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
There is nothing about knitting that is too difficult for you. People in remote villages hundreds of years ago figured out how to do this stuff. So certainly you, with access to You Tube videos, a vast array of books, and staff at your local yarn shop, can learn whatever techniques you set your mind to!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
For the past couple years, my goal has been to publish 12 patterns a year (my “year” is September – May, and I try to keep the summers low-pressure since my kids are home from school…though that didn’t quite happen this summer since I was working so intensely on my new collection!) But that goal will probably continue. I also like to make sure I add to my knitting library each year – stitch dictionaries, books on pattern writing, things that keep me moving forward as a designer.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I honestly don’t have a knitting idol. I started writing patterns very soon after learning to knit myself, so I never had that period of time when I was knitting enough patterns from other designers that I developed favorites. But if I were to choose a dinner companion based solely on how enjoyable the dinner would be, I’d have to go with Stephen West. I think the videos he puts out are a riot, and I bet he would be a lot of fun to talk to. And even though I don’t think I’ve ever knit anything he’s written, I have a lot of respect for someone who thinks so far outside the box!

View all of Nicole’s patterns here. Photos copyright Nicole Montgomery. All images used by permission.

You can find Nicole 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!

posted under interview, Knitting
One Comment to

“Interview: Nicole Montgomery”

  1. On November 20th, 2015 at 2:43 pm Katinka Says:

    For what it’s worth, Nicole, I love the Orchard Pullover and have the pattern and City Tweed waiting in my stash! :)

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