Eclectic Closet Litblog, Book Reviews & Knitting Designs

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

Interview: Heather Pfeifer


The first interview this morning is with Canadian designer Heather Pfeifer.

Heather Pfeifer, modeling Xale Drago

Heather, modeling Xale Drago

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My aunt taught me to knit in 2005 I think, literally as we were walking out the door to travel home from Edmonton! She only had time to show me how to cast on, do a knit stitch and then a purl stitch. She gave me the plastic needles and some acrylic to play around with as my husband drove the three hour trip to Calgary. My mother-in-law then guided me through casting off over the phone a few days later! Once I figured out the knit and purl stitches I didn’t know where to go from there or even how to read a pattern, so I put the needles down. A week before our daughter was born in 2007 I picked the needles up again to pass the time along with a How-To book from the library. And I haven’t put them down since.

How did you get started designing?
I started by modifying existing designs to fit my shape. Then started having a design element in mind but couldn’t find any existing patterns to my liking. Instead of modifying an existing one, I started from scratch using my own measurements to create something for myself.

What inspires your designs?
I love how stitches form lines of movement within the fabric, whether they are columns of cables or repeats of lace. A simple motif can make a piece seem very complex.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Sometimes it’s an element from a stitchionary, say a cable or lace pattern. Sometimes it’s the combination of yarn fibre and colour that I can see myself wearing in a certain way.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Seamless designs are always topmost in my mind when designing. When I’m done knitting, all I want to have to do is weave in as few ends as possible, then block. I also want to maximize the yardage in a skein. For my kids designs, I want my knitting effort to be enjoyed for as long as possible, so they are designed with more length in the sleeves and body and enough ease at the chest for layering.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’ve designed more tops than anything else, but I enjoy the challenge each type of pieces offers. Children’s pieces are smaller and I can knit them faster! Lace stoles and shawls are pleasing math tests and become wearable pieces of art.

Tell me about “Puddle Jumper Cardigan”, what was the inspiration for this piece?
That piece is all my son’s doing! He was 4 and wanted a sweater to wear on his first day of school. We walked into our LYS, The Loop in Kensington, and he ran to the first red yarn he saw (thankfully Cascade 220 Superwash) and then poured over the buttons until he saw something red there too – red and green frogs. We then looked through a cable stitchionary together and I gave him a few to choose from. He picked the “reeds” and the rest was up to me! He’s now 6 and can still wear it over a t-shirt.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have three dress designs in mind, but there are some design elements I’m still mulling over. It’s just a matter of sitting down to it. As for pieces from other designers, I’ve only just started stranding and have a few Fair Isle sweaters from my favourite designer to try out.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
For self-published I have a brother/sister vest pattern mostly finished that will be lovely for spring layering, a blanket/shawl inspired by my love of handspun Chiengora, and a 9 pattern collection around a lace motif. Knit Picks will be publishing one of my tops in February and a lace stole in June. I’m very excited for 2016!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
If I were stuck on a deserted island, and provided it was in Alaska, I’d want my Malamute. He’d not only be a loving companion, but a constant source of fibre to satisfy my spinning – and then my knitting – addiction! But if we’re talking commercially available yarn, it would have to be JulieSpins’ Euro Fingering, put up in 870 yd skeins and hand-dyed by the amazing artist Julie Sandell. I think I already have a lifetime supply…

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Xale Drago. It’s a shawl worked from tip-to-tip with each section based on the percentage of yarn remaining. It can be knit in any weight of yarn, in a solid or variegated colour. There are only 2 stitch patterns that seem difficult but become quite rhythmic.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Try patterns or techniques that you think are “too difficult”. Stretch your comfort zone because chances are you’ll love it! I’ve finally started stranding and absolutely adore it!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Get on the designs I have yarn for in my stash. Knit at least one of the dresses in my head.

Old Friend Handband

Old Friend Headband

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Gudrun Johnstone is my favourite designer. Her patterns are always a pleasure to make and they fit me perfectly! Her patterns introduced me to the art of seamless garments and the simple beauty of traditional Shetland lace motifs.

View all of Heather’s patterns here. Photos of Xale Drago shawl and Puddle Jumper cardigan copyright Brad Pfeifer. All others are copyright Heather Pfeifer. All images used by permission.

You can find Heather on the following social media site:

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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