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: Jessie McKitrick

December18

Today’s first interview is with Canadian designer Jessie McKitrick, you can visit her blog here.

Jessie modeling the Starlet Stole

Jessie modeling the Starlet Stole

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I didn’t happen to know any knitters when I wanted to learn, so I taught myself to knit from books; however, I owe a debt of gratitude to my mom who is always crafting something. As I was growing up, this taught me by example that there’s always a way to sort out how to make something yourself, and that gave me the confidence to give it a try.

How did you get started designing?
I’ve always had a tendency to picture something I want to make in my head before I start looking for patterns or instructions, and so, whenever I have not been able to find quite exactly the right thing to fit that picture, I’ve turned to making it myself. Ravelry was full of amazing people sharing the patterns for the amazing things they had made, and so it was only natural to start sharing, and then eventually selling, a few things. More recently, I have started submitting patterns to third party publications, such as Knit Now Magazine, Knit Picks collections and Interweave Knits, and have been fortunate enough to have patterns published with them.

What inspires your designs?
Whimsy, colour, and shapes. I love the mood boards that are often included with calls for submission, and enjoy trying to see what I can come up with for them; it’s a fun part of the collaboration!

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I can approach a design from either direction, but on balance, I would say inspiration.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Wool is definitely high in my priorities; I love working with and wearing it as it has so many great qualities! I have a tendency towards fitted garments in lighter weight yarns, and towards including graphic elements such as colourwork, cables, or texture that I find visually striking.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Definitely colourwork mittens. For such a small canvas, there are so many possibilities and so many colours to work with!

Tell me about your mitten designs, what was the inspiration for this collection?
My first mitten design “Madison’s Marvellous Mobile Mittens” were the result of a commission for a friend who wanted to text while keeping her hands warm. Popinjays are inspired by a detail from some Italian fabric from the 14th Century that I found in a book while I was looking for neat ideas for a pair of handwarmers. My mother-in-law is very fond of penguins, so I originally had her in mind when charting the Penguin mittens, but in the end, my youngest needed a new pair much sooner, so I re-worked the chart for kid-sized mittens. Floral Heart Mittens“>Floral Heart Mittens and Lily mittens both arose from a few sessions where I played around with traditional Nordic motifs, and re-interpreted them in my own way. When I’m charting mittens, hours can go by without my noticing, as it’s very engrossing watching the motifs evolve while being moved around, changed to different sizes, and combined in different ways.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I think I’d like to design and knit a traditional-style Fair Isle jumper or vest someday.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
At the moment I’m at the waiting stage for hearing back about some third party submissions, but I’m also in the early stages of working on a new pair of colourwork mittens, as well as swatching some sweater ideas.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Ooo, that’s a tough one… If I pick Jamieson and Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight, can I have all the colours?

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I’d have to say Irish Cowboy, which is a cowl/neckwarmer that doesn’t seem to have attracted much notice overall. It’s warm and cozy, it has cashmere, it has cables, and it’s a nice little knit. I wear mine all the time in the winter (so, November through May), and find it quite practical when I wear it with my V-neck coat as it doesn’t leave a gap the way scarves tend to do.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Swatches aren’t just for gauge; they’re also for trying new things. If there’s something you really want to make, but it has a new skill involved that you’re not sure of, use swatching as an opportunity to try out the new skill. Swatches are great to test out different sorts of increases, decreases, seaming, steeking, colourwork, cables, lace, or any other thing you want to try or to practice more. Also, do still swatch for gauge!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
For designing, I think I should pick something from my “I’m not ready for ‘x’ yet” list of business development, and either get myself ready, or just give it a go whether I feel ready or not. Sometimes that is the best way, as I might never actually feel ready! Knitwise, I always make my first knitting of the year something for myself, whether it is to start something new or to finish something that is languishing in hibernation.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Another tricky one! I had a lot of designers come to mind, but in the end I picked Kate Atherley, partly because of the depth of her technical knowledge and interest in improving the clarity of knitting patterns, partly because she is working on a book of mitten designs, but also because I am sure (based on following her on Twitter) that she would be entertaining company and would probably also bring ice-cream for dessert if I asked nicely!

View all of Jessie’s patterns here. Popinjays photo copyright Beverly Feddema. All other photos copyright Jessie McKitrick. All images used by permission.

You can find Jessie 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!

Interview: Holly Stevens

December17

Today’s second interview is with Holly Stevens, a designer from New Zealand.

Holly modeling Diana

Holly, modeling Call Me, Diana

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My nana and my mum play a very big part in my knitting, I still have fond memories of running downstairs to mum and asking her to cast on for me so I could carry on, I would have been about 8yrs old. My 8yr old is equally as keen so hopefully a future Hollyberry prototype knitter! I have 5 young children so even if I just end up with a few knitters I will be a very happy mummy passing on my craft to a new generation.

How did you get started designing?
I bought an amazing knitting magazine almost 2 yrs ago now that had a pull out that was about designing your own hats – it spiralled out of control from there!

What inspires your designs?
A number of things really. Sometimes I think of something and I draw it and the idea spirals from there. Sometimes its a matter of searching on Rav [Ravelry] for something that I want and can’t find so I design it! A few times I have seen a stitch that I have fallen in love with and thought “that must become a hat.” I love the stitch on my “Chloe slouch” so much its echoed through quite a few of my designs. I am also working on something now that is based on a description from my 8yr old.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
The majority of the time its the inspiration, sometimes I find that no matter how big my stash is I don’t have quite what I am after so I will dye something up or talk some of my dyeing friends into a quick custom! I have one that has been floating around in my head for a while now and I just don’t have the right yarn so I expect to get the dye pots out in the very near future.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I love seamless knitting, I doubt I will ever design a seamed knit. I love trying different things so I have a few garments with raglan sleeves and one (so far) with contiguous. I have also played around a bit with different collar options. Ohhh lace – I love a bit of lace, something that I would really like to improve is my lace writing skills. I do worry a bit how much is too much – do I need a hood and a pocket and buttons and etc etc etc. I do tend to need to reign myself in sometimes and think “well that could actually be two designs instead of one with all the things”

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Its probably not that surprising but I LOVE slouch hats – probably because they really are the only type of hats that suit me (selfish designing hehe) but I love them! They are so quick and can incorporate so many different brims, stitches etc. I have a bit of a thing for furry pompoms lately so I designed Lilybelle and decided after the first photoshoot that it NEEDED a fur pompom – I have quite the stash!

Tell me about “Little Monkeys”, what was the inspiration for this collection?
Little monkeys is named after some of my children. I started with “Biddybelle” and wanted to knit my youngest a cute A-line dress with just a little something extra. I have a bit of a fascination with colourwork, although sadly my skills are lacking! The idea is that with either of the designs you get a number of different graphs for the colourwork aspect and you choose one of your liking or I encourage you to choose/design one of your own.

Jahvis” came about after my 4yr old Toby decided that he wanted a boys one with tractor pictures – so what Toby wants Toby gets right? ? Anyway I thought that a wee chest pocket makes a gorgeous wee addition for little people to pop their little treasures in. Jahvis works equally as well for girls as it does for boys. I couldn’t have designed a collection named after some of my children without naming it something that describes that – so “Little Monkeys” was born!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I do – I would love to do an adults version of “Jessie-Ivy” I love retro clothing and think a cropped fitted version would be fantastic with some of my dresses and skirts. I just don’t know if I am confident enough to take a leap into adult garments just yet. I may have to start with a couple for myself and see if I am keen to reveal it to the general public. I suffer a bit from design anxiety and it’s a scary thought to put your work out there to be judged, I love it but I think I may need to grow a thicker skin.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a couple of things on the cards right now, “Therese” is one – named after my Nana, it is a knitted dress with a full skirt on it, it’s the one my 8yr old helped to design. I love it to pieces. It incorporates contiguous sleeves and the only hold up has been me trying to decipher my hand scrawled notes. I also have an adults accessory design that I am going to start very soon, I cant reveal too much just yet but its not a hat, socks, scarf, gloves or shawl…..

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Anything on a MCN base, its so luxurious I could knit/wear it forever. My favourite MCN source is Featherbrush Yarns, Rachel is a close friend of mine and “she gets me” so if I request a custom colour its absolutely perfect (usually a red – I am very predictable)

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Definitely the Enlace Shawlette – it does incorporate a crochet edging though so I appreciate a lot of my followers don’t crochet, and the ones that do don’t knit! It also looks a lot more complicated than it is so that can be off putting. My posing in the pattern pictures probably also didn’t help!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
You can NEVER have too many WIPs, I know that sometimes when it feels like you have far too many it feels a bit naughty to start a new one. If you aren’t feeling something don’t carry on with it because you feel like you have to before you start something new – just pop it aside and start the new thing, you can always come back to it when you have rekindled the love for it. There is nothing worse than a growing hatred for a design or project because you are forcing yourself to finish it!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
hmmm good question – not really, I think my biggest resolution is to knit and design with my own yarn! I have a few yarny trade shows to go to next year to peddle my yarn and I really don’t have any good knitted prototypes of it. It would be great to have something gorgeous to show off that I have knitted for myself in yarn I had dyed. I have the odd thing but I could always use more right? I do find it hard to justify keeping yarn that could be sold but surely its cheaper than buying it retail from someone else (yes I am trying to talk myself into being selfish)

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
It would probably have to be Andi Satterlund to be honest. I just love her retro styled designs and I would LOVE to pick her brains about designing for adults.

View all of Holly’s patterns here. All photos copyright Holly Stevens. All images used by permission.

You can find Holly 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!

Interview: Heather Pfeifer

December17

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!

Interview: Natalie Volyanyuk

December16

The second interview today is with Canadian designer Natalie Volyanyuk.

Natalie Volyanyuk

Natalie modeling the Sunset Cowl

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I started to knit at the very young age, may be at age 7 or 8. At that time I was not very strong health wise and in our cold winter I was constantly staying home with some kind of cold. And of course, I was extremely bored. So I asked my gramma to teach me how to knit and crochet. My gramma was very wise woman, excellent with the kids and what’s important she had endless patience (she also taught me embroidery and how to sew). So I started my learning process. At the very beginning crocheting looked easier to me – only one stitch you should take care of and only one hook. With needles you had to take care of many stitches and shaping was absolutely out of questions. At that time what I could knit was only scarfs for my teddy bears. But with crochet totally different story – I created more or less sophisticated dresses, cardigans, berets and skirts for my little dolls. Later in my teenage years I realized that I love more knitting than crocheting and I began new era full of endless hats and ugly sweaters. My knitting skills improved with more and more practice. After I graduated the university for some reason I stopped knitting and did not touch the needles for probably good 20 years. Only in here in Canada one day I was on the beach enjoying sun during lunch break with my friend – obsessed knitter and she was knitting as always. I was curious if I still can or cannot do it. I took knitting from her and started. The needles fill so natural in my hands and in that moment I realized how I missed this whole knitting process. Since then my new knitting journey began and I never looked back.

How did you get started designing?
When I had just registered on Ravelry I noticed many regular girls like me knit not only the patterns from magazines or some big names designers, but create the knitting patterns themselves out of their own knitting projects and post it there, online. So, when I knitted one of my hats over and over again with same mistakes I decided it would be useful write down the instructions, make the pattern out of it and show to the others. May be someone found it interesting. I learned and improve from the time I came back to knitting so much that I want to share my experience with others through my designs and techniques I used to create them.

This how it works. At the beginning when I start new project I always put some notes just in case. Then if I notice that something looks not correct I start to redo and my notes at that time could be very helpful. At start I put my notes on every single piece of paper – anything from opened bills, envelopes or just random paper that caught my attention. Of course, sometimes I was losing my valuable notes. Then my husband gave me the notebook and said to put all my notes there where they can be always found. I agreed (happens very rarely with my husband’s ideas), it was an excellent idea. He called it scary notebook, because it full of scary sporadic gibberish notes that only I can understand. But it worked – all my patterns in one place, the book is always with me. I do not have to look around to find it.

What inspires your designs?
The inspiration could be anything – something I saw on the streets people wearing or in the movie. The picture of stitch pattern can push me into thinking where I can incorporate it – sweater, shawl or perhaps new hat? Even some pretty color sometimes put ideas in my head about new design.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I am yarnoholic – so the yarn comes first most of the time.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I always try to design something practical, not just knit something random and put it on the shelf of the closet. Something wearable but modern. I love cables, and lace and lacy cables.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
My favorite item to design is SWEATERS. My head always full of ideas of how my new sweater should look like, but unfortunately it’s not always coming to be a real thing. We have only 24 hours in a day and two hands.

Tell me about “Be Cool“, what was the inspiration for this sweater?
There is a movie with same name ‘Be Cool’ with Uma Thurman and John Travolta. Uma’s character was the owner of music records studio and in one episode she was wearing long vest with the hood and open back. I fell in love from the first sign with this vest, but I thought the open back is not very practical (I did racer back instead). At that time, I started exploring new top down techniques and was eager to try new contiguous shoulder top down method without sleeves. This vest was a good candidate to try this. Then I saw in one of knitters stash the perfect green Wollmeise yarn (everybody was crazy about this yarn) just created for my vest. So, I bought this yarn (and two other colors of course, how couldn’t I). When I finished knitting I decided to make two pockets in different color to add some funky look. I love those pockets!!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I am thinking about knitting Norwegian all over Colorwork sweater with some sophisticated pattern or for the start knit one of Estonian Colorwork mittens. Their Colorwork absolutely fascinates me and I am thinking all the time about start working on it.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have bunch of patterns I am currently working on, but in nearest future (November/December) – two hats, the shawl and the cowl.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
My desert island yarn is Colour Adventures Merino Light by Elena Nodel (Anadiomena on Ravelry). This yarn is from our local BC dyer. She is very talented and very creative. Her colors are so inventive, I always in front of the dilemma what color I should order.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I think it’s ‘Down the Sloquet River’. When I created this design I thought – it’s fast and easy knit and as a result you got nice warm cardigan. Testing was not a problem, many people were willing to help me. I used very popular at that time super bulky Malabrigo yarn. Personally, I wear it all the time. It’s soft, pretty and what’s important – my it’s in my all-time favorite blue color. So, I believe it really underappreciated.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Do not be conservative. Always try new things. Never look back and only go forward. Use the best fresh techniques and not afraid to knit anything.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I did not plan for the whole year but for the spring I have to finish at least one sweater out of my favorite Colour Adventures Merino Light, two shawls and couple hats. Or, I totally forgot I want to make a two color sweater from sock yarn my friend sent me from Germany. She always picks two matching colors – one is variegated, one is solid and German sock yarn is the best sock yarn.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Norah Gaughan – I really amazed by her creativity and talent. She continuously surprises me with her endless new ideas. She is always moving forward and never stay back. All her designs are very wearable and at the same time have modern and sophisticated look.

View all of Natalie’s patterns here. All photos copyright Natalie Volyanyuk. All images used by permission.

You can find Natalie 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!

Interview: Darleen Hopkins

December16

Today’s interview is with crochet designer Darlene Hopkins of Crochet by Darleen Hopkins.

Darleen Hopkins

Darleen Hopkins

Who taught you to crochet/How did you learn to crochet?
My sister taught me how to chain and double crochet when I was about 10. I never did much with it then. In 2005 I picked it up again and I haven’t stopped.

How did you get started designing?
I started designing right away. I spent many months working on tension by making pot holders/trivets in various shapes. They were basic designs but my own creations. After that, every time I tried to follow a pattern I always wanted to tweak it to see what it would look like if I tried this, or tried that…

What inspires your designs?
Anything and everything. Sometimes things just pop in my head. My Christmas Tree Holiday Centerpiece was one of those. Sometimes my family suggest items. My youngest son suggested the idea behind the Baby Kitty Blanket and my mom suggested the design for the Picture Perfect Baby Blanket. And sometimes I may read about a call out for designs and try to come up for something that will fit the theme. For example, June 2015 issue of ILikeCrochet.com was looking for some wedding themed items and some baby themed items. The obvious answer, to me, was a baby bib that looked like a tuxedo! And the Pretty Spiffy Baby Bib was born.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
The inspiration almost always. Once I “see” it in my mind, I search for the perfect yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I try to figure out the easiest way to make a design work. I also like to make my designs fun and unique.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love to make hats, silly hats, or anything silly. I also enjoy designing pretty shawls but I think my favorite is anything a little silly.

Kissy Fish Hats

Some of the donated Kissy Fish Hats

Tell me about your “fish hats”, what is the story behind these designs?
As I mentioned, I love to make silly hats. I also love to make hats for children going through chemo treatments and I have been making hats for Halos of Hope for a few years. In 2013, Halos of Hope ran a campaign to collect Under the Sea themed hats for the Atlanta area children’s hospitals. This campaign inspired me to design the Kissy, Kissy Fish Face hat. I also wanted to help collect for the campaign (I live about an hour north of Atlanta) so when I put the pattern up for testing I asked each of the testers to donate the test hat to this campaign. The test was open to any who were able to use an appropriate yarn (soft only for chemo hats please!) and able to mail it to me by the deadline. I ended up collecting 31 hats for them. I was so proud of all who helped out. After the test was over, one of the testers mentioned something about a monster fish and this lead to the Black Piranha hat :)

Do you have an aspirational crochet – a complicated/challenging design that you want to crochet “some day” when you feel ready?
Broomstick and hairpin lace. I tried broomstick once a number of years ago. I got the basics but it wasn’t as neat as I wanted it. I decided to put it down and try again later. I also want to learn how to crochet left-handed. That way, if I ever need to show a lefty how to crochet, I can.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Not sure. I think I’m going to spend some time making a couple hats for donation first.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only crochet with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Pretty much any cotton with some acrylic blended in for stretchiness. I rarely use wool or other animal fibers as I’m sensitive to them. But I love soft cottons and cotton/acrylic blends. CottonEase was one of my favorites but it has been discontinued.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
The Baby Kitty Blanket. This is my favorite design. I think some may be intimated by the size but it is really pretty easy. The pattern has links to videos on my website that illustrate the color changes for the diagonal squares for those who like visual aids. My son had the initial idea for the design and he helped me with the square placement and colors. I really enjoyed designing and making it and would love to see more FOs of it.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other crocheters?
Keep crocheting. It is a skill that you can use your whole life. Even if you stop for a few years, pick it back up and enjoy.

Any crocheting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I have a throw rug I have been wanting to make for some time now out of felted thrift store sweaters. They are already felted sitting in a box, ready to be cut into strips and crocheted. I just haven’t had the time. I also want to finish the Crochet Guild of America’s Master Crocheter program. I started it this summer and got about 1/2 way through. I put it down and became sidetracked with designing. And more designs of course.

View all of Darleen’s patterns here. All photos copyright Darleen Hopkins. All images used by permission.

You can find Carolyn 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!

Interview: Lori Law

December15

After a week off to catch my breath – and catch up on some pattern writing – I’m back to finish up this year’s interview series. First up is Canadian designer Lori Law of Oceanwind Knits.

Lori Law

Lori Law

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was taught to knit about the age of 5 or 6 by my mother, assisted by my paternal grandmother, because I was being a ‘pain’ while there was quilting going on (a stretched quilt in progress was a perpetual fixture in grandmother’s living room) which I was not allowed to partake in (very often… occasionally, my grandmother would allow me to ‘quilt’ and would take out the long loopy threads after I was shooed off to bed). I wanted to be doing something crafty and ‘make something’. I pretty much grew tired of the garter-stitch scarf idea fairly quickly. It was rather frustrating for my mom since I couldn’t yet read so finding written patterns for me to work with was out of the question. I wound up leaving it for a few years, but by high-school I was knitting sweaters. Neither my mother or my grandmother lived to see my published designs; I often wonder what they would think of them.

How did you get started designing?
I have been noodling in knit design for as long as I can remember, especially when I was younger and yarn was much harder to find (especially around rural Ontario) than it is nowadays. I would rewrite existing patterns in different gauges to suit whatever yarn I had around which taught me a lot about the basic elements that go into designing. I began to seriously develop and publish patterns about 12 years ago when I started fussing around with yarn dyeing. The two were inter-mingled. I would have ideas for a knitting design but instead of sourcing yarn, I decided to develop my own yarns. For a while before dyeing I designed felted bags, when Cascade 220 first came to Canada. Since I started dyeing I’ve worked mostly in fingering yarns. That started around the time the whole sock-knitting craze hit.

What inspires your designs?
It’s hard to say. Sometimes I just see a lace stitch pattern in one of my stitch pattern books and it talks to me. Or an idea floats into my head. Sometimes I have a particular itch for a certain something and I will go rooting through books to find a stitch pattern to start with and it just grows from there. It’s not always written in stone… there are times something will morph into something very different from its origins after manipulating stitch patterns and playing with the yarn I want to use. In the end, a lot of my work winds up reminding me of something in nature, or something conceptual or something poetic. I have a hard time describing my designs because a lot of the time they are kind of extraneous bits of stuff from my psyche which get translated into lace or cables which eventually wind up ‘feeling’ like such and such but the end result might not have been the initial inspiration; things sort of evolve as I work.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Depends on what I am working on. If, for example, I have a new yarn I’m developing which I want to highlight (and play with), the yarn will be the starting point. Sometimes things don’t gel so there will be a series of fits and starts and I might wind up changing yarns. But I like to work in yarns which are interchangeable with other yarns… mostly I wind up working in laceweight or fingering weight. So even if I’m working on something for a particular yarn of mine, it will more than likely work in a lot of other yarns as well. There is such an array of yarns available these days. Other times, I have an idea and I will dye up a yarn or a set of yarns specifically for it. I am trying to push myself to work more in heavier yarns. I’m working on sweater designs lately, which I prefer in sport weight or worsted, which is a nice switch from the lighter yarns.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I tend to be drawn to developing concepts which flow along but tend to have a little dramatic flare here and there. I’m not likely to fill an area of a shawl with an ‘all-over’ stitch pattern, for example. I tend to want to have a highlight of sorts whether it be a striking edging or a recognizable motif in the lace pattern. Something the eye will pick up on. I also tend to hopefully mingle a combination of traditional elements in a modern format, but also have a relatively timeless quality in my pieces. I like to knit things with those sorts of elements, myself (when I actually get around to personal knitting, which isn’t often – currently I’m working on STRÅLE, by Bristol Ivy, between designing and dyeing and weaving projects, which I find to be a brilliant design all around and something I can wear a for a good number of years, or perhaps I should say ‘for years once I am finally finished’. LOL – my track record for finishing personal knitting projects is fairly pathetic. I have a lot of UFOs). So when I put together a design I hope the knitter will feel it’s still fun to wear years after it’s completed.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I tend to lean towards shawls and smaller items (although I find cowls much trickier to put together than one would imagine), scarves, mitts, socks. For the last few years I’ve been on a bit of a shawl bender. But, I also really like to plunk all the elements for a sweater design into the spreadsheet and spend an afternoon tackling all the details, making sure the measurements and numbers jive and working out decrease schedules and fitting in stitch pattern requirements for different sizes (I have wondered if there is some sort of name for this, if it’s a bit of an affliction LOL). I find this surprising because I’m not really a ‘math’ person, but I like what math can do in terms of having all the required blocks click into place. I like being able to trust the formulas to give me the required numbers. I do a fair amount of tech editing for other designers because I enjoy the numbers process (I should get around to posting a tech editing section on my website, but I never seem to get it posted). I honestly don’t think I would enjoy designing as much as I do if there were not spreadsheets included in the process. I always have several on the go on my desktop.

Tell me about “Creissants”, what is the story behind this collection?
Creissants started several years ago as a way to motivate my working strategy. I hadn’t really lost my mojo, so to speak, but I was struggling with a lot of things and I needed a way to focus which would also motivate. So I settled on crescent-shaped shawls, which was a new element for me to work in at the time. It’s taken a lot longer to complete the collection than I anticipated it would, with other designs popping up as well, but I’m nearing the finish line on the final design – about 6 more rows to go. I’ve really enjoyed putting together a collection. I set it up so I would have boundaries to work in, because sometimes, when I’m at loose ends as I was back then, I tend to get distracted easily and flounder around trying this and that which can be therapeutic but not all that productive. I wanted to be productive. It has helped to get me publishing more regularly than I was for a while.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have aspired to the work of so many great knitters over the years. I came across Starmore early (in the ’90s) but have never knit one of her designs. There have been a lot of different works I’ve been inspired by or sighed over, especially as more and more historical and current knitting have become available on the Internet. For years I was influenced by whatever I found in knitting books at the library or by knitting magazines. The intricate traditions which today’s knitting builds on push us to try new techniques and keep us growing as knitters and designers. I don’t really have a particular knit in mind when I think about an aspirational knit, so to speak, but I do have the Haapsalu Shawl book and someday I would like to knit Greta Garbo out of that book in Estonian laceweight wool (which I have here waiting patiently for me). The question is, always, ‘when’? Someday. :)

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Well, as I mentioned, I am nearing the finish line on the last design of Creissants (which I am really excited about, it’s going to be a bit of a showpiece to finish off the collection). That will be published before the end of the year. I’m looking at a re-release of a new version of Oyster Bay, which was my first shawl design, because Oceanwind Knits is 10 this year (as of November 2015). I have a sock design nearly finished up. And, I’m working on several sweater designs which I hope to have available over the winter. I’m also thinking for my next ‘collection’ of designs, I might work on a series of infinity cowls.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That is a TOUGH question. So long as it wasn’t scratchy and was either wool or silk or a combo of one or the other, I’d probably be ok. But if someone came and took all the fingering weight merino out of my house right now, I would be pretty lost, even with the other yarns that would be left.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Cintamani Socks. Strangely. (Or not?). I’m not sure why, but it’s not nearly as popular as my other sock designs or any of my designs.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
If you come across something you don’t know how to do and wish you knew how to do, learn how to do it. The resources to learn new techniques out there today are stellar, unprecedented.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My main goal every year is to keep going forward, to be creative, productive and progressive. (And, possibly, I will tackle some of those UFOs :D).

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I met Kaffe Fassett years ago, sometime around 1995. I was actually working on a vest design of his at the time. It was a brief meeting, he was in a booth at what is now the Creative Live (?) show in Toronto, I forget what it was called back then. I just love his use of colour, how brazen it is. It wasn’t all that busy (it was mostly booths for quilters back then, not too many knitters were about) so we got to talking. He said the reason people get so frustrated with knitting, especially intarsia, is because people are so resentful about finishing and darning in their ends; they forget to enjoy the process which is the whole reason for bothering to knit something in the first place, that knitters seriously need to relax; just pull out a length of yarn instead of fussing with bobbins, knit as long as you can with it, pull out another length of yarn…. and he showed me how to knit in my ends as I worked. I’ve never forgotten that meeting, I’ve heard his words in my head often over the years. I would love to meet him again sometime.

View all of Lori’s patterns here. All photos copyright Lori Law, except for Knothole, which is credited to Twist Collective/Chrissy Jarvis. All images used by permission.

You can find Lori 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!

Interview: Carolyn Macpherson

December7

Today’s second interview is with Canadian designer Carolyn Macpherson of The Next Beautiful Thing.

Carolyn Macpherson

Carolyn Macpherson

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My Nana taught me when I was quite young – maybe 6 years old or so? She would have me down to her cottage for tea and then pull out old knitting pins (kind of like dpn’s I suppose). She would wrap one end of each with elastic bands so my stitches wouldn’t fall off and then patiently talk me through many garter stitch doll scarves and blankets.

How did you get started designing?
A few years ago, my husband (the man) looked at me after I had thrown another wip down in exasperation and said, “You change those patterns up so much, why wouldn’t you just make your own?” Something with that kind of clicked in my head and I had to think about it for awhile… like a year awhile. Then, slowly, after a whole lot of reading and research, I started to work my confidence up enough to start putting original patterns out into the world.

What inspires your designs?
Oh geez. Everything and anything! It could be something I hear or see or dream. I could be out for a walk and see a tree with really nifty bark and *snap* a picture goes into my phone for future mulling over. My phone is almost out of memory because of all the photos on it! Though truthfully, for it to realize from an idea into an actual pattern, it’s usually got to be something that has strong emotions for me. A feeling of a place. The mood of a storm. Loss of someone or something. Hope…. Oh and the beautiful spaces around me. I love this province (Ontario) and how diverse and gorgeous it is.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I would LOVE to be able to say it was inspiration first. I have so many notebooks full of sketches and ideas that i often buy yarn for and then the feeling has passed and I’m already on to something else (lol, I’m very much a “hey, how’re you doing… SQUIRREL” kind of gal). Most of the time, I’ll buy yarn that catches my eye for some reason and I have to let it sit out where I can see it for however long it needs to tell me what it is supposed to be. The last yarn sat there for about 5 weeks and suddenly one evening it came to me how perfect it would be as a slouchy tam. I had the pattern drafted, swatched, sample knitted, frogged and knitted again, within 24 hours. Now, comes the tricky part of getting the icky computer work done.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Hopefully bits and pieces of my personality. Hints of things that I love. People, places, stuff around me. Some are just fun with perhaps a nod to popular culture, like the “Rainbows! In Space!” wrap was an attempt at teasing my youngest son, Ewan, about Nyan Cat. Other things, I try to incorporate an essence of times, places. For instance, I have a shawl in testing that is quite literal in this way, called “Silent, Soft, Slow” and the lace patterning reminds of bare tree limbs and snowy winds. Another item that is in development is more suggestive rather than literal with a mood of those hazy winter mornings where the sun shines yellow and almost watery through grey cloud cover.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Hats seem to come easiest to me, but I really enjoy working lace. Shawls are a bigger canvas for lace and I’m just getting started into more shawl design. I just wish I could wear them more often!

Tell me about “The Ghost Hunter’s Cloche”, what is the story behind this design?
Oh that’s a long story, lol. The short version is this… My eldest son who is Autistic (both are unfortunately), Aidan, is a ginormous fan of the tv show “Ghost Hunters” and it is one of the very few shows that the entire family will watch together. Early last fall, someone on the TAPS team did an amazing thing to brighten Aidan’s life and sent him some TAPS swag. It simply was incredible. The next episode we watched, one of the men was wearing the exact same t-shirt as one of the ones Aidan had got, while one of the female investigators was wearing a kind of amazing felted tweed hat. Around that same time, I was also doing quite a bit of urban exploration and the people I was with would always joke about what would happen if we ran into ghosts. Somehow these two things kind of mashed up and I had dreams of a vintage heroine off ghost hunting in mysterious country manors. I imagined that she would be wearing something like “The Ghost Hunter’s Cloche”. If only I could find my own haunted mansion to explore!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
As a designer? Geeeeez, man, how I’d love to learn how to grade sweaters properly! More research is needed on this! As a knitter? I so want to get my colour work chops up. There are so, so many gorgeous stranded colour work items out there and I would absolutely loooooove to make myself a bohus style yoked sweater.

Silent, Soft, Slow

Silent, Soft, Slow

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Here is where I bounce excitedly! I have several projects getting ready to go and I’m hoping to release quite a few things (4 hats, 3 shawls, 2 cowls, 1 pair of slippers… and a partridge in a pear tree) before the end of December. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been procrastiknitting quite a bit this year. I also am so thrilled to say that I’ve been talking, plotting and hatching plans with another designer friend for an awesome project which should be ready to premiere Fall 2016! Be sure to stay tuned!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Wow… that’s like asking me to pick a favourite colour! LOL I don’t know if I can pick just one. Excuse me while I walk over to my stash (currently living in my living room… our basement flooded) and fondle some lovelies to see if I can decide. Yep. Nope. Can’t do it, man. How do I choose? Dyeing method? Fibre content? LOL I’m actually stressing about this… I suppose, if I absolutely had to have only one kind of yarn I’d want depth of colour and “glazing” like you’d get from madelinetosh or Yarn Indulgences on a base of Kate Davies’ Buachaille…with maybe a bit of alpaca thrown in…Geez Louise, lol, I’m such a freaking yarn whore. Seriously. I can be sweet talked in to just about anything if yarn is involved.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Easily, it’s “My Watch” cap. Every single time I wear mine, I get so many random compliments from strangers. It’s got a double thick brim, to keep ears warm, and worked in a twisted broken rib which turns into geometric pillars and then into garter stitch which neatly hides the crown decreases. It’s a fun knit, quickly worked in DK weight. I’ve made it myself a few times for my kids and brothers last year as gifts.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Be excellent to each other. I really, really mean it. There is so much misery and ugliness out there in the world. Knitters are creators! We make and treasure beautiful things! We support one another and help each other grow. We shouldn’t shame someone because they use acrylic yarn, or are struggling to learn basic stitches or speak a different language in a different country. We do all have our challenges and more than plenty of differences. But I have this theory that knitters are nurturers. The patience and care we put into our work, if we could just try to apply that out there in that great big world, I think slowly, stitch by stitch, we would start seeing a global community coming together for the better of so many things.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Hahahahahahaaaaa, yeah…I’m supposed to be going a yarn diet. The challenge has been put to me to at least make it 6 months without purchasing any new yarn and work through some of this stash. Although, as I said, I’m easily bribed, swayed, induced, and/or sweetened with any and all kinds of wooly, fibre-y, beautiful cakes, skeins or hanks. *big exaggerated wink*

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Another hard question! I have several designer “heroes” that I truly look up to; Carol Feller, Romi Hill and Melissa Leapman. And I would absolutely be over the moon to meet any of them! Buuuut, I think, I need an amazing one-of-a-kind, full of laughter kinda night out and I can’t think of anyone more fun, random and brilliant than Stephen West. He’s one non-repeatable colourway of a designer who isn’t afraid to be himself and in embracing that has become one of the most easily recognizable faces of knitting. I think it would be a total blast, even if all we did was knit and bitch.

View all of Carolyn’s patterns here. All photos copyright The Next Beautiful Thing. All images used by permission.

You can find Carolyn 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!

Interview: Jenny Faifel

December7

This morning’s interview is with Canadian designer Jenny Faifel of Cloud 7 Knits.

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My grandmother taught me how to knit at age 7.

How did you get started designing?
I have always preferred to knit things out of my own head so to speak. Not to say that I have never knitted from a pattern(I have!) but for me it was less scary to follow my own calculations and ideas.

What inspires your designs?
I like simplicity and wearability, not too much fuss or too many distracting patterns and details. I guess one could say I am a bit of a minimalist.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Both? haha

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
For accessories, my preference is reversibility so I don’t have to spend extra time arranging it. And for sweaters I really prefer top down seamless construction, if possible.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Stoles – really large rectangular accessories. I also really love convertible garments such as my Sleeveless in Vancouver.

Tell me about “trigonometry shawl”, what is the story behind this piece?
I really love math and i really like knitting top down triangular shawls but I tend to not wear them, so Trigonometry is a way to combine all this into an accessory that I would actually wear!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Not really. It is not so much as feeling ready as having the time. I have way too many ideas I’d like to implement but the main obstacle is the lack of time.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have several exciting things! Hopefully another MKAL sooner than later as well as some garments and of course, a stole!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Colour Adventures Merino Light – I love he base and Elena’s colors are to die for!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I think it’s Spine – which is too bad because it was so much fun to knit!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Knit what you want now, don’t wait until you’re ready, don’t be afraid to experiment or make mistakes and don’t forget to swatch and measure yourself!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Normally, I would say I don’t do New Year resolutions but this year my resolution will be to stop buying yarn until I have knit at least 5 things from my stash. There, I have said it, so now I have to do it!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Zimmermann, because she brought knitting to the masses and encouraged people to just knit and not be afraid or intimidated.

View all of Jenny’s patterns here. All photos copyright Jenny Faifel, except for Spine photo, copyright Anadiomena. 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!

Interview: Aurelie Colas

December6

Today’s second interview is with Scottish designer Aurelie Colas of The Auld (Wooly) Alliance.

Aurelie Colas

Aurelie Colas

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
Like many people, I learnt the knit stitch thanks to my granny. I was 7 or 8. She would cast on a few stitches, knit a few rows to get me started, and I would knit a few rows before moving on to another activity.

Fast forward fifteen years, I have immigrated to Scotland to live with my partner. He was working long hours, I was searching for a job during day time (when the Internet cafe was open), and was at home on my own with no Internet, no phone, no TV until late at night. What does one do in this situation? I was cooking and baking. A lot. Until one day I realised that it was not sustainable: I had baked 75 muffins the day before, we knew no one in the city… For our own health, it was better if I could find another hobby.

The following morning, I woke up with my hands doing some motion. It took me a few minutes to understand that this motion was that of me mimicking the ‘needle in, yarn round, bring the stitch out’ motion. It was like a shock: I remembered how to do the knit stitch.

That day, I went to the book store, bought a beginner’s book to learn how to knit, bought some cheap yarn and needles. And I haven’t had the opportunity to bake 75 muffins ever since…

[Here is a link to a blog post I wrote this spring about how I learnt to knit.]

How did you get started designing?
I am not too sure… I don’t think I ever managed to follow a pattern without changing something. Not always for the best, mind you, I have made lots of errors when adapting jumpers, etc (and I still do). With each mistake and each project, I understand a little better how knitting works, how increases and decreases shape the fabric, how to play with drape, texture, cables, etc. And naturally, I want to build on this knowledge to make something else.

Slowly, I went from adapting things, to making my own things from scratch. The jump to actually writing the patterns came later, along with a desire to share an idea or a technique for instance.

What inspires your designs?
Mostly, I get inspired with texture or objects, with stories, and places. For instance, in the Castle Fraser throughout the year collection, based on a dear to me local Scottish castle, some designs are inspired by the texture of the roof or the shape of the windows, a little woodcarving, or the wallpaper of the library. I also like to add some humour to my knitting, like when I designed Puddle, Puddle, Splash! socks, which tell the story of a hiker or a dog walker in Scotland.

Sometimes, the magic happens and the design imposes itself in my head, like with Hobby Horse for Little Knights. But more often than not, a design idea starts with a ‘what if…?’ question. What if… the sock started at the heel? All Aboard! Puff puff puff… What if… the yoke of a cardi was worked side-ways and shaped with short-rows? Romane and Roman…What if…there was a hidden code in the sock? Date with Ada…What if… a sock was entirely knit inside out? Inside-Out Hypnosis

And yet, sometimes, the yarn tells me what it wants to be, like when I designed Christmas Scot-ing. It is one of the few designs I created where the yarn came first.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Most often, the inspiration comes first, and the yarn second. More precisely, I often start with a constraint, or a set of constraints, which I create myself. It could be a technique I want to use, an unusual construction, a very precise theme, or a combination of these.

I find having constraints stimulating, almost freeing, in fact. It is an interesting paradox that, when confronted to some constraints, creativity seems to bubble, and the brain comes with all sorts of ideas to challenge these constraints.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Socks are an interesting object to design, because of the three-dimensional aspect. Also, there are two socks in a pair: they could match, they may not. It gives some freedom. However, all socks have to have some toe and heel, and a leg and a foot portion, and fit over a standard foot… which gives some interesting constraints in terms of shape, stretch of the fabric, etc.

Tell me about “British inventors and scientists”, what is the story behind this collection?
I have a background in science: mathematics, computer science and bioinformatics. A bit of theoretical chemistry too, but I have forgotten it all. I also did some engineering, and have now lived in Scotland long enough to call it home. So it was only natural that I would use this as a theme for a collection.

I selected 6 inventors or scientists, most of whom have a direct connection to my former life. This gave me 6 sets of constraints to work with, trying to create socks that would represent each of them, or part of their work, in a unique and distinctive way. For each pattern, I write a couple paragraph on the inspiration behind the design. In some cases, it sparked interesting discussions: on the work and fate of Rosalind Franklin when I published And there was Photo 51 for instance; similarly with Ada Lovelace and her contribution to computer science and algorithms after Date with Ada was released.

I have been working on this collection for almost a year now, and there is one last design to be published. A few months back, there was a little Guess the Scientist game in my ravelry group. But at this point, no one has guessed who the last inventor/scientist is…

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Do you mean using patterns from other designers? There are lots of interesting patterns I would like to knit some day. I like to buy patterns to understand a technique or a construction. None of them are left on the “to-knit” list because of their complexity. It is mostly for lack of time that they don’t end up on the needles. For instance, I would like to learn more about traditional knits, like Estonian lace, Latvian fine knitting, Andean colourwork, etc. Or special techniques, like the many ways to create a neckline, or to fit a shoulder.

If only I had a time turner…

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
In theory, socks and a blanket. But I also have a couple items for little people on the list which could jump the queue. And a couple accessories planned too.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Shetland wool in fingering weight, probably. It is quite versatile, would work nicely for colourwork, jumpers, hats, mitts… I could cut into it if necessary without even having to reinforce the steek. It may not work as well for socks, but maybe I could add twist to it to fit this purpose (I mean, if I am on a desert island with nothing to do, I can always take the time to make a spindle and re-twist my yarn, right?). It comes in a million colours (dyed and undyed). And even better: it becomes softer and better as time passes. So, if I am to be stranded (haha) on a desert island, it better be with a yarn that ages nicely…

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I don’t think I have much success with my bags designs. But that’s okay. I understand that knitting bags probably appeals to a minority of knitters. Even more so when double knitting is involved! Still, I don’t regret spending the time to design and create them. They were a fun challenge.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Be daring. Don’t stick to what you know and do well: try new techniques, fail a lot and learn even more.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Oh dear. I am so bad at resolutions… I have a few designs at different levels of completion. I should really complete some of them before succumbing to the “oh! shiny new idea!” issue. So I guess this could be a resolution?

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Zimmermann. I came across Knitting without Tears one day as I was browsing the bookshelves in a lovely yarn shop. I read the first couple pages, took it home and read it cover to cover that night. I believe it changed my comprehension of knitting as a craft, as a tool to create fabric and garments the way I chose. It was such a freeing and empowering read. I would have loved to have the opportunity to listen to her. And simply to thank her.

View all of Aurelie’s patterns here. All photos copyright Aurelie Colas except for Inside-Out Hypnosis, copyright Jenny Rose Photography. All images used by permission.

You can find Aurelie 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!

Interview: Cynthia Levy

December6

This morning’s interview is with Canadian designer Cynthia Levy of Redtigerdesigns. Cynthia is from the North West Territories, a part of Canada I’m eager to visit.

Cynthia Levy

Cynthia Levy

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My paternal grandmother taught me the basics of knitting, crochet and embroidery when I was very young. I promptly found a fair isle yoke pullover in one of her pattern books and announced that I would make it to match one of my figure skating dresses. Fortunately, my mother was quite accustomed to my habit of skipping any learning curve and diving straight into a complicated project, so she willingly supplied the yarn and left me to it.

How did you get started designing?
I grew up wearing hand-knit socks produced in great quantity by my grandmother, and after she passed away, realized that I would just have to make my own. To avoid the monotony of knitting plain socks, I started designing fancier patterns that gave me more enjoyment in the sock production process. I later discovered that, in keeping with her nurturing and hoarding character, my grandmother had left behind a huge stash of completed socks for everyone!

What inspires your designs?
My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Stitch dictionaries and yarn content often provide my starting point. The landscape and scenery around Yellowknife also provide inspiration. Tundra Trails Socks were designed during an autumn camping trip on the tundra north of Yellowknife.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I’d have to say that the yarn usually comes first. I often receive yarn support from indie dyers or yarn clubs and am tasked with finding the inspiration to design a pattern specifically for the supplied yarn. Given that there are no yarn shops within visiting distance of my community, my stash generally dictates my design options.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Symmetry and continuity are important to me. I try to ensure that each element of a design flows smoothly into and out of the next element. In my cabled sock and fingerless glove patterns, the cables grow out of the ribbing and fade away into ribbing or stockinette.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Socks and fingerless mitts are my favorites. Since they usually require just one skein of yarn, it’s easy to find the perfect yarn for any deign in my stash. Living so far from yarn shops forces me to work with the materials that I have on hand unless I can find the patience to order yarn and wait for delivery.

Tell me about designing socks, why do you find these compelling/interesting to design?
Socks are fun to design because they provide a small canvas on which to feature interesting stitches and patterns. Cables, lace and colorwork are all suitable for socks, so the design possibilities are endless.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I’m always ready for a challenging or complicated project but there just aren’t enough hours in the day! One of my hibernating projects is Viticetum Coat. It’s a very complex allover colorwork pattern that is absolutely gorgeous, but unless you’re tall and thin, it needs some daunting alterations.


?
What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
My next release will be Midas Touch Scarf: a pretty little project suitable for a single skein of luxurious laceweight yarn. Look for it as a new release during the Indie Gift-a-Long on Ravelry (ed. note – the pattern is now available)). I also have a few sock and fingerless mitt patterns in various stages of completion and slated for release through indie dyers, sock clubs and self-publishing.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
It would depend on the location of the desert island! If it’s in the north where I live, I’d need a warm yarn to survive, so I’d choose qiviuk. If it’s a tropical island, I’d opt for a cotton or linen blend.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Stoloniferous Fingerless Mitts seem under-appreciated for a new release. It’s a quick project and perfect for gift knitting, and they’re both simple and cute, so I’m not sure why they seem to be lacking in love.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?

Trust the designer! Much time and effort goes into creating a design and writing a pattern. While an instruction may seem counter to a knitter’s experience, the designer likely has a valid reason for it, so give it a fair chance.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My goal for the upcoming year is to dedicate more effort to my website and blog. I have ideas but struggle to find the time to execute them. I’m going to experiment with scheduled posts, starting with “ToolBox Tuesday”, which will feature my favorite knitting and designing gadgets and trinkets.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I’d love to sit down to dinner with my online friend Jennifer Wood of Wood House Knits. She designs the most amazing cable and lace sweaters with incredible attention to detail and fit. It would be fun to meet her in person and chat about knitting.

View all of Cynthia’s patterns here. All photos copyright Cynthia Levy. All images used by permission.

You can find Cynthia 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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My Knitting Patterns


Audrey II



Angular Path Scarf



Cartouche Stole



Fossetta Cowl



Fossetta Hat



Sargaço Shawl



Whitman Hat



Every Which Way Cowl



Every Which Way Hat



Every Which Way Fingerless Mitts



Gothic Forest Scarf



Valencia Scarf



Branching Path Cowl



Flower Bell Stole



Whitman Cowl



New Tech Cowl



Vieux Carré Stole



Stacks Socks



Anna Perenna Shawlette



Taming of the Fox


Don't Ask Y

Cantilevering Leaves



Amplification Stole



Combs Cowl



Mindfulness Cowl



Tipsy Scarf



Gridwork Scarf
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