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: Eszter Sarkadi Nagy

December5

Today’s second interview is with Hungarian designer Eszter Sarkadi Nagy of Wondrlanding.

Eszter Sarkadi Nagy

Eszter Sarkadi Nagy

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was about 10, when my grandmother taught me how to cast on, knit and purl, since then I train myself from books and the internet, or just experiment. But I have only been knitting madly since I have had my kids.

How did you get started designing?
Creating and design was always part of my life, only the medium changes from time to time: painting, weaving, sewing, then graphics, architecture and now knitwear. A friend asked me once why I don’t design knitwear and it was the right question, since it applies pieces from all the things I was doing before.

What inspires your designs?
In my opinion anything could be inspiring around us, so an open eye and creative mood is a good start. Ideas sometimes hit me after a long day, when I lay in bed and stare at the darkness – this time the bits of things I have met recently build up the image. Other times ordinary things turn into something interesting, for example the lines I see in the water falling down from the tap.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually inspiration comes first, then the idea will find its suitable form and material.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like to pair simple lines with interesting detail. I think these elements have to have their space, and for that stockinette stitch provides an excellent canvas. Furthermore, I prefer to design seamless items, I love, that these structures apply different techniques.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Until now I haven’t thought about favorites, I love accessories and garments, too.

Tell me about “Fold”, what is the story behind this design?
A knit item is not merely functional, it has an effect on the senses, has to be touched, so texture is elemental. I wanted to create a three dimensional, creased effect over Fold that plays with scales, too. I came up with this gathered panel, sort of a magnified stockinette row.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
An adult sweater-dress with some interesting detail. I am super excited about it, and hope to release it very soon.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Hard question, I love yarns that combine animal fibers with plant fibers.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Citta skirt, that has an asymmetrical, draping front overlay. Maybe because it requires sewing a lining, but I think the extra effort turns this item more special.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Experiment. It is a great fun to find a technical solution, the right stitch, the right technique.

View all of Eszter’s patterns here. All photos copyright Eszter Sarkadi Nagy. All images used by permission.

You can find Eszter 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: Rich Ensor

December5

The first interview today is with male designer Rich Ensor of That Bald Guy Knits.

Rich Ensor

Rich Ensor

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I am entirely self taught. About 8 years ago, I had a very stressful job, so much so that it was interfering with my sleep. I knew I needed to find a hobby that would allow me to quiet the drama that I was bringing home with me from the office. At the same time, I was pet sitting for a friend, and found a stitch dictionary sitting on her coffee table. I was completely fascinated by the charts and the abbreviations, so I purchased a copy of Knitting for Dummies, some acrylic yarn and straight needles. I would spend about an hour each evening reading through the book and swatching whichever stitch pattern was covered in the challenge. It didn’t take long for me to realize that just making these swatches cleared my head and allowed me to relax, so knitting became my respite.

How did you get started designing?
I stumbled into designing completely by accident. I had been knitting for a few years, and I usually knit socks exclusively during the summer months. I like knitting really interesting sock patterns, but found that many sock patterns are not written for a size that will fit. I had become rather adept at resizing socks either by adding a repeat, or altering a chart. My LYS was hosting a Sock Design class by Anne Hanson, which sounded like it would be fun. I had no intention of becoming a designer. I was thinking that the class would help me unleash some creativity for personal use. As part of the class, every participant was working on their own creation. My LYS owner saw my sock-in-progress at the end of the day, and offered to buy the pattern for their website. I found that I really enjoyed the process of writing the pattern, and thus, a designer was born.

Do you find it challenging to be a “man who knits”?
I think the only challenge I’ve every found as a male knitter is finding a pattern that I like that will also fit. This really isn’t that much of a challenge because there are so many resources out there to help a knitter figure out how to resize a pattern.

What inspires your designs?
The best answer I can give is that designing is like playing to me. I like to play with stitches and swatches until I find something that is visually appealing. I don’t really have a set process that I follow. Sometimes, I’ll start with a stitch pattern. Other times, I’ll doodle for a while until the scribbles look like something I’d want to knit.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Sometimes it’s the yarn, and sometimes it’s the inspiration. I’ve designed some socks for clubs, so in those cases it’s always the yarn that comes first. There are other times when I have a chart scribbled down, and I rummage through my stash looking for the right yarn for that chart.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Twisted stitches and cables tend to be a recurring theme in my designs. I have started branching out into other areas. Cordon is a color work pattern, which was a lot of fun to design. Shaking with Mirth is a lace pattern, which was a huge learning experience for me.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Socks – it’s a small canvas with so much potential.

Tell me about “On the Edge of a Maelstorm“, what is the story behind this design?
On the Edge of a Maelstrom was commissioned for the Barking Dog Yarns sock club. This was the first time I was working with Suzan, and I wanted to do something that felt special. I like the idea of having a cabled sock where the cables were interrupted by a band that traveled around the leg. This pattern is a really good example of playing with some stitch patterns to get an interesting result.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
The short answer is probably anything that isn’t a sock. Time is really my biggest challenge when it comes to designing. I have this day job that gets in the way, which is why I stick with socks because they just make sense to me. When I have a little bit more time on my hands, I hope to branch out and design some other garments.

Do you think that being a male designer helps set you apart/differentiates you as a designer?
The only quantitative example of how my gender may set me apart is that I do get occasional feedback from knitters that they like the fact that many of my sock patterns are something a man would wear. That’s most likely because most of the sock patterns that I’ve written are socks that I would wear. Other than that, I don’t think that my gender differentiates me from other designers, and honestly, I don’t want it to. I want people to want to knit my designs because there is something appealing about the pattern itself.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have two completed samples that I am woefully behind on getting the patterns written. I hope to have one of them ready for publication in early January. The other will probably be ready in the February/March timeframe.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Cephalopod Yarns Skinny Bugga! – which is sadly discontinued.

Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg“>Gatlinburg

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Gatlinburg

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Everything gets easier with practice, so keep at it.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I’m planning a move next year, so I’m giving myself some low expectations for knitting and designing to keep myself from getting too stressed out. I think my only resolutions are to keep knitting, and keep it fun.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Probably Cookie A because she’s the reigning Queen of Socks, and I think I would learn much from her.

View all of Rich’s patterns here. All photos copyright Rich Ensor. All images used by permission.

You can find Rich 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: Olga Wedbjer

December4

Today’s second interview is with Swedish designer Olga Wedbjer of O-knit.

Olga Wedbjer

Olga

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I started off with crochet at the age of 9 or 10. During my summer vacations spent at my grandmother’s, I had free access to small hooks, fine cotton yarn, and instructions for small tablecloths in a weekly magazine. Then I moved on to fantasy animals. Knitting came a few years later. I made my first sweater in my early teens, still supported by my granny.

How did you get started designing?
Mainly because I couldn’t find a pattern that resembled the idea I had my head. But it took a while before I actually started writing patterns.

I used to be a product knitter, anxious to finish the garment. Nowadays, I’m more into the process. I love to see how ideas transform from an abstract notion to a concrete piece. To explore ideas and see how they work. Being patient and enjoying the process make it easier. And a lot more fun!

What inspires your designs?
Usually, I have a vision of how the finished piece should look and feel. For instance, a light and airy sweater. Then I work from there and incorporate other design elements to enhance the look and feel I’m aiming for. This could involve accentuating certain body parts – and pay less attention to other parts.

I can also be inspired by a special era, like the 70’s (Pitch), or a particular garment, such as the riding jacket (Prominence). A stitch pattern or a technique can also be inspiring, or the combination of the two, as in Wave me closer. In most cases, the inspiration is a feel and look that I want to transform into a knitted garment.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I would say inspiration, but if I find a fabulous yarn I need to find a way to use it.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
This is an interesting question. For garments, fitting and drape are important factors for the look and feel. For instance, I’m not fond of too much extra fabric around the waist. I always incorporate waist shaping in my sweater and cardigans, which accentuates the female figure and helps creating a nice fall, but I usually leave some positive ease around the waist, because, at the same time, tummy hugging garments makes me too body conscious and can be less comfortable over jeans with a belt. I also prefer set-in sleeves for a more tailored look.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
At the moment, sweaters and cardigans. I have ideas for shawls and hats, but they have been put aside for the garments.

Tell me about “Accents in Black and White”, what is the story behind this collection?
I had a vacation in mind, with a set of garments covering different needs: A more casual but stylish tee to wear during the day, a long-sleeved sweater to wear next to skin suitable for lazy evenings, and a figure flattering jacket as a second layer for late dinner out.

Body parts are a central theme in the collection as well. After designing Frontier, I wanted to continue to explore how to use colour for highlighting certain part of the body, such as shoulders and neck, and thus playing down other parts.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Fair isle with steeks. Some day, yes, tomorrow, no.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a sweater in fingering weight yarn almost ready for tech editing, and next in line is a black cardigan with large cables. I know cables in black are considered a no-no. However, I felt a need for a black cardigan, but wanted something more elaborate.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Tough question! Merino in sport or fingering weight, maybe with some added silk.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Maybe my tweed shawls (Rusticity and Romanticized) with lace edges.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
At the risk of sounding like a commercial: Just do it! You cannot improve or expand your skills without practicing. Oh, I must add: learn to enjoy re-knitting.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Not really. Keep enjoying my work.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
To choose just one is impossible. I admire a variety of established designers as well as indie designers, and I would like to gather them all for a dinner party!

View all of Olga’s patterns here. All photos copyright Olga Wedbjer except for the headshot of Olga and Emphasite which are copyright Torbjörn R. All images used by permission.

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: Yuliya Tkacheva

December4

Today’s first interview is with crochet designer Yuliya Tkacheva of Ms Weaver’s Deisgns and A Cup of Stitches.

Tri cowl

Yuliya modeling Tri

Who taught you to crochet/How did you learn to crochet?
I learned to knit from a book and with some help from my grandmother what feels like a million years ago, but haven’t really practiced knitting in the past couple of decades. Crochet is my much more recent infatuation, since back then, when I was already a confident knitter, I could not for the life of me get crochet. Its non-linear nature could not fit in any of my mind’s drawers. A few years ago I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials and something just clicked somewhere and it suddenly made complete sense. I guess I just needed to forget knitting to be able to understand crochet!

How did you get started designing?
Probably like the majority of us, being rubbish at following patterns! I also seem to constantly have an urgent need to make something which I cannot find a pattern for.

What inspires your designs?
This question is always the hardest to answer! I think there are so many things at play at the same time, that I don’t really have a clue! This is why I find writing pattern intros so difficult: I feel like I should mention the source of my inspiration, but can’t always put my finger on it.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
The idea! With yarn, we are not a married couple, only lovers. I don’t even own any yarn stash (gasp!) except leftovers from previous projects and gifts.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Texture, uniformity and rhythm. I like stability and predictability, and I think that comes through in my designs.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’ve always liked to design shawls and scarves since those seem like a perfect canvas for showing off interesting stitch pattern combinations (and I love to play with those!). I often get carried away with garment ideas, although those designs, unfortunately, are not always the best business decisions, at least not in crochet.

Tell me about “Linen Letters”, what is the story behind this collection?
This is actually a very special little collection! A few years ago I received a surprise package with three skein of lovely LitYarn linen from my friend and business partner Lena Fedotova. I have already mentioned that I do not start with yarn, and all those years this linen was waiting quietly for its perfect match. “Letters” seemed like an appropriate name for the collection made with the yarn received from someone living miles away and whom I never met in person.

Do you have an aspirational crochet – a complicated/challenging design that you want to crochet “some day” when you feel ready?
At the risk of sounding arrogant, I don’t think there is anything profoundly complex or challenging in crochet. Crochet can be time-consuming and there are plenty of techniques I don’t know or haven’t tried, or haven’t even been invented yet, but ever since my “big crochet revelation”, I know I am ready for just about anything. Bring it on!

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I cannot tell you how excited I am about 2016! Lena and I are brewing two themed joint collections, which we plan to release in early spring and then in autumn. This is a completely new stage in our designing careers, since so far we have worked pretty much “solo”. It is also a big challenge for both of us, as we will need to bring our designs, colour choices, photography and pattern presentation together into one harmonious whole. We cannot wait to start on those!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
It would be Malabrigo! There is something about that yarn (luscious squishiness? stunning palette?) that makes me go back to it again and again.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
This would be my all of my garments. I wish clothing were more popular with crocheters!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other crocheters?
Be adventurous! Learn a new technique, try thinner yarn, make yourself a sweater, get out of your crochet comfort zone! (Although this might sound “rich” coming from someone who likes stability and predictability!)

Any crocheting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Get more people to make crochet clothing!

Of Sails and Waves

Of Sails and Waves

View all of Yuliya’s patterns here. All photos copyright Yuliya Tkacheva. All images used by permission.

You can find Yuliya 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: Yellow Mleczyk

December3

Today’s second interview is also with an international designer, Polish designer Yellow Mleczyk and you can find her blog here.

Yellow Mleczyk

Yellow Mleczyk

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was about 6 or 7 when my mum showed me how knit and purl.
All my childhood and teenage years the economical situation in Poland was very poor and you just had to use your own ingenuity if you wanted to look out of ordinary. The shops didn’t offer much and there was no variety. I used to knit my own sweaters and try out different ideas that I imagined or saw in foreign magazines. And that was my knitting school.

How did you get started designing?
As I said, I used to invent my own garments. I always preferred to wear something unique, that nobody else wore. Consequently, I had to design the items.

In fact, I never knitted anything following the pattern, primarily because I didn’t know there was such an option. When I was a teenager there were pattern magazines available but they offered patterns I always had to adapt and it was easier to invent something from scratch than to adapt a pattern.

Many years passed and about three years ago I decided to browse the internet to find an idea for a sweater. I didn’t think of looking for a ready-made pattern, I was looking for inspiration only.

And that was my revelation day! I discovered that the world of knitting is something completely different to what I remembered from my youth in the times of communism. A week later I had my blog, three weeks later my first lace shawl was ready.

Then I decided to join my two passions: knitting and learning foreign languages and a few months later I started to write my own patterns. In English first, then I got to translate them into Polish, and now I am thinking of French. I just need a spare moment and a French native knitter kind enough to help me out a bit!

Being able to speak different languages is a blessing, of course, but it also complicates things a bit. My blog is in Polish and my English speaking friends can’t profit fully, Ravelry is in English, Facebook is international. I sometimes get lost, especially if I want to reach everybody.

What inspires your designs?
Stitch patterns. For a very long time I knitted mostly sweaters and tops which didn’t involve complicated stitch patterns. When I discovered lace shawls three years ago, I fell in love with knitting lace! My patterns usually start with a single stitch pattern I see somewhere or I imagine. Many times it happened that I followed someone in the street just to look at the stitch pattern they had on their garment. Or sat down next to someone in a waiting room for the same reason.

When I have a stitch pattern in my mind, my imagination just starts working and adds other elements: the item it would look good on, the yarn, the other stitch patterns that could emerge out of it etc. I am a very intuitive designer and I am often surprised myself at the final effect I get.

And, when an idea first comes to me, I always ask the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and ideas. And I believe He does a lot of work for me!

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Always the inspiration, yarn is secondary.

I have a friend who works in a yarn shop and she always tries to persuade me to buy variegated, self-striping, with beads or other embellishments and I always refuse and explain that I don’t like it when somebody does the designing for me. And that you can’t do much with such yarn, just knit and purl so that the effect of colours is not spoiled.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I just design things I would like to wear. Simple but not simplistic. Feminine, a bit romantic, no unnecessary elements.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Lace! I just love it! It offers so many possibilities and it is so beautiful!

Tell me about “Feel Good Baby Set”, what is the story behind this collection?
It was designed for a little baby in the family. Little Adam is my favourite cousin’s first grandson and I wanted to do something nice and unique for him.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
A very big, lacy, triangular shawl with nupps!

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I am knitting a shawl for a friend. She chose the yarn and the rest is going to be a surprise. As her style is totally different from mine, I am trying hard to meet this challenge. Starting at the colour which I would never wear myself!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Solid colour, laceweight, natural fiber to block well, some silk in it. Any yarn that meets these requirements would be fine.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
To myself, the Silver Touch shawl. I just did it because I didn’t have any better idea for a shawl. I didn’t even want to test it, it seemed so disappointing to me. And to my great surprise, it turned out a success.

To my customers, most of my hats. They are not too successful. Probably my idea of a hat is not the popular one.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Experiment! Never be afraid of trying out your own way! There is never just one way of doing things and this is especially true with knitting where everybody has a different method of doing the same thing. Trust your instinct, look at the model and try!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I am not particularly fond of resolutions as to me they consist of two parts: deciding on what I want to do or achieve (easy), but then accounting for what I have done. And this second part usually gives me the sense of failure.

I prefer to do it the other way, which is to check and sum up what I managed to do in the last year. When I see my achievements, I feel better and motivated.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
It is the most difficult question and I had been turning it in my head over and over until I finally decided. I wouldn’t like to have dinner with anybody, but I would LOVE to spend a week in either a Scandinavian or Canadian village in the 19th century. To live with the people, look at these great knitters of that time who followed designs passed from generation to generation, who knew how to do things and did them so expertly! (‘Anne of Green Gables’ was my number one for several years and I truly admired all those great women who could do everything!)

View all of Yellow’s patterns here. Lace shawl photos copyright Yellow Mleczyk, other photos copyright Radek Delimata. All images used by permission.

You can find Yellow 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: Carol Feller

December3

This morning’s interview is with Irish designer Carol Feller of Stolen Stitches.

Carol modeling Woodburne Cardigan

Carol modeling Woodburne Cardigan

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I actually don’t remember learning to knit; it feels like I’ve always known! I suspect in reality that it was a combination of school and my mother. My earliest knitting memory was from school probably at the age of 6 or 7 knitting fingerless mittens in a delightful lemon acrylic. I actually found them in my parent’s attic a few years ago and they brought back a lot of memories for me. Interestingly the love of knitting appeared to skip a generation in my house; my mother always found knitting too slow and she much preferred crochet and sewing but her mother was a fantastic knitter. In fact at one point when she was being wheeled in for an operation she made them stop so she could examine the stitch pattern on the doctor’s sweater :-)

How did you get started designing?
Designing did not initially begin as a conscious decision. When I left school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I did an art foundation course with the intention of becoming a graphic designer. During the course I found that textile was actually what I gravitated towards and I won an award for my textile design at the end of the year. However I missed math and science so I switched to civil engineering, specializing in structural engineering. After graduating I moved to Florida with my husband and worked for a few years as a structural engineer there. However engineering also never felt like the perfect match; I wanted both! Over the next few years I had 4 children, moved back to Ireland, ran an online natural parenting company and eventually after selling the company decided to become a full time mother.

That didn’t last very long; within a few months I rediscovered knitting and was immediately hooked. I swiftly moved from relearning knitting to designing. The first pattern that I had accepted was a knit ball for Knitty magazine, Doddy. This suddenly made me realize that I could become a designer! I set up a website, began submitting to other magazines and self-publishing my own patterns. For the first time in my life I had found the perfect blend between art and math.

What inspires your designs?
Inspiration comes in many forms; sometimes it’s a wonderful garment detail, other times it might be a fantastic yarn or yarn combination and other times I just want a functional garment that fits! The busier I get the harder it is to find the mental quiet space that’s needed for creative work.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It’s not always the same, sometimes when I’m asked to do work for a yarn company by it’s nature the yarn comes first. I’ll then work with the yarn swatching and building my idea until I have something that works well with the yarn. Other times (especially for magazine work) I’ll envision the end product; how it fits, how the stitch pattern will behave and then the challenge is to find a yarn that complements the design you want to do. This is the easiest way to work, as you’ve already got the image of the finished piece in your head and you’re pulling the strands together to get it to work.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
In my designs there are a few things that always make me happy; I like seamless deigns, interesting construction methods that make you think (but still make sense!), and wearable pieces. I want all of my designs to be both fun to knit and also very wearable. As a knitwear designer you’re really performing two roles; a fashion designer that creates objects that people want to wear but also a knitter that writes patterns which are accurate, easy to follow and teach knitters new skills while they are working on them.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love designing and knitting garments, especially cardigans. From a knitting point of view I like working on big projects; you spend time setting it up and planning it and then you have several weeks of knitting fun to work on them.

Tell me about “Short Row Knits”, what was the inspiration for this collection/book?
I’ve always loved short rows; they are so versatile and easy to use. However when I began using them I really hated the pick up method for the standard wrap and turn. I kept messing with it until I found a way to get it to work better for me. From there I started learning as many short row methods as I could. This lead to short rows becoming one of my first in-person classes and it proved very popular. From there I did a free Craftsy mini-class that now has almost 160,000 students! Based on the popularity of short rows (and the fact that I use them in almost everything I design) it seemed like a perfect topic for my new book.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I don’t really! As a designer I like to challenge myself, so often when I’m a little uncomfortable with a technique or type of yarn I’ll do a design in it to push myself to mastering it. This happened last year with lace weight yarn; I found it hard to keep very lightweight yarn tensioned so I avoided lace weight. In the Irish Yarn Club last year I picked a Hedgehog Fibres lace weight yarn for the Feamainn shawl. I loved working with the yarn and got over my lace weight fear!

My next challenge now is stranded colorwork. While I am able to work stranded colorwork the challenge for me is to design something I like to wear. Often these designs are complex and heavily patterned which is very different from my own personal style. I want to create a design that uses this technique in a very contemporary way that feels more like me.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I’ve currently got a few designs ready to go, they’re just waiting for the right season! One is a lighter weight sweater that will be released in the spring and the other one is a children’s sweater and hat combo that is nearly ready for release.

A little further down the line I’m busy planning the Irish Yarn Club for 2016. The yarns are coming in so I’m working on the designs. I love this club; being involved right from the yarn and color choice to the end design gives you so much control.

Finally I’m also at the first stages of planning for another bigger project that I hope to release next September. It’s still in early development but I’m giddy with excitement :-)

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Is that really possible? I suspect for me that that yarn would keep changing. One of my current favorites is Dovestone DK from Baa Ram Ewe. I did a booklet for them, Dovestone Hills, that was released in August. This yarn is a great blend of soft and rustic that makes it rather wonderful to knit!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Hmm, there are some that get lots of love but aren’t knit very frequently but one that I just love that just never took off is the Mayu Skirt. I love knitted skirts, they’re great to wear with a pair of leggings and big winter boots but I guess not everyone feels the same way about knitted skirts!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Nothing in knitting should scare you! If you can knit and purl and read a pattern then the whole knitting world is open to you. Keep lots of technique books close by, ask for help and don’t worry about ripping.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I’m in need of a little recharge time. Creativity doesn’t work in a rushed world so I’m overdue some time out. I’ve run a business before where it kind of ran away with me. I was so focused on growing the business that I didn’t take the time to look at the direction it was going in. I have to keep reminding myself to regroup, remember what I love and stop myself from heading in the wrong direction. To keep the business sustainable for me I have to keep loving it. This means that I must allow myself enough time to design, redesign and think about what I’m doing. As there are so many hours in the day this sometimes means turning down commissions and making hard decisions.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Is this dinner for fun or to learn?? For fun it’s probably be Laura Nelkin, she is a ton of fun!

Now if we’re being serious and it’s for learning then I’d love a dinner with Eilzabeth Zimmermann, she seems like such a fascinating woman.

View all of Carol’s patterns here. All photos copyright Joseph Feller. All images used by permission.

You can find Carol 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: Nidhi Kansal

December2

Today’s second interview is with designer Nidhi Kansal, from Mumbai, India. You can find her blog here.

Nidhi, modeling Daisies in Pearl

Nidhi, modeling Daisies in Pearl

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My earliest memory of knitting is of a summer vacation when I was very young. My mother used wool from some DIY kit lying around, took off the flags from the ends of two flag sticks, sat me down and taught me to knit and purl.

I only remember making a long and narrow brown rectangular band that vacation. It was many years later, after I took up a job, when I saw someone on a bus knitting a sweater and I suddenly felt the urge to learn again. The internet then played a major role in my knitting lessons, right from patterns to tutorials / online classes and eventually Ravelry.

How did you get started designing?
I live in Mumbai, India where we get about 2 months of ‘cold’ weather and the temperature rarely drops below 15 deg C even then. But I’ve always loved knitwear and carry a cardigan or jacket along with me at the slightest hint of a drop in temperature.

So I think it all started with modifications to existing patterns due to the climate I live in. I found that most of the Ravelry patterns I liked were made in dk / 8 ply or thicker weight yarns which would not work here at all.

My first mod was of a tunic pattern written for dk weight but I used light fingering weight. It involved a lot of math due to change in gauge but I was so proud of the final outcome.

I modded a few more patterns after that, one of them being Wilde by Melissa of the Plum Dandi group, a super bulky weight cardigan that I converted into sport weight.

That’s when I found out that my love of math was rearing its head again and I was open to experimenting with numbers and maybe head out on my own without the comfort of a written pattern.

I started out with smaller projects though, it took me a while to summon the courage to design a sweater and not only write the pattern but also grade it.

What inspires your designs?
Apart from the warm climate, it could be a stitch pattern that I see somewhere, or even parts of a very elaborate stitch pattern. Also, the cuts and styles that traditional Indian clothes, like a kurta might have.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Since I don’t have the luxury of walk-in yarn stores, and shipping can be quite steep, it is very rare that I buy yarn without a design in mind. I find I have almost zero stash most times, except for leftovers from previous projects. I find that once I have a basic plan in place, I can make a purchase more easily, hence inspiration first at most times.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like them simple, I like straight lines and symmetry. I almost always have a stitch pattern or colorwork going on to simply tackle the monotony of endless stockinette. And I love the stockinette stitch because it keeps my fabric lighter than any other textured stitch pattern.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Sweaters! Cardigans and pullovers and I like them with long sleeves.

As a designer from a warmer climate, do you feel that makes a difference to what/how you design?
Not too much in terms of design elements. But I do try to keep it really light, using fingering weights whenever possible.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
There are quite a few patterns that I think are gorgeous but I doubt I’ll ever get around to making it. Like this one: Assol’.

In techniques, I definitely want to try out steeking but I can’t bear the thought of cutting through yarn that I procured with so much difficulty in the first place!

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a boxy fit pullover made with Tosh Merino DK that’s currently being tested. A crescent shaped shawlette/ scarf made with alpaca is also blocked and ready to go. I hope to write the pattern soon and put it up for testing.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I’m at a stage where I still have a lot of yarns to try out but the current favourite is Malabrigo Sock yarn – a dream to work with and I’d love to knit a few more projects with it.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
My shawl Rithu. I enjoyed working with the yarn, I made all these charts on excel and was quite proud of the finished product. It hasn’t done well at all.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid of frogging, ripping, tinking. It actually makes you a better knitter:)

Getting a whole bunch of ripped out stitches back on your needles successfully will overcome your fear of making mistakes while knitting, and the sheer tediousness of that process will prevent you from making any more mistakes in the future!

We all make mistakes and there are tips and tricks to make amends if you spot an error only after the project is finished. But a lace repeat that has gone off centre or one cable that’s twisted left among all the other right cables, if spotted within a few rows of work, can definitely be reworked.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I would like to attempt top-down designs especially with circular yokes. I would also like to enter the beautiful world of fair isle and intarsia.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
A really tough one because each designer has their unique style and techniques and you know even a few moments spent with them would be an amazing learning experience.

But to name one, I’d go with Isabell Kraemer. I love the simplicity of her designs like Ravello which I hope to knit up soon. I have just finished knitting up the gorgeous Monte Rosa for a cousin.

View all of Nidhi’s patterns here. All photos copyright Nidhi Kansal. All images used by permission.

You can find Nidhi 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: Brandy Velten

December2

Today’s first interview is with Brandy Velten of Brandy Velten Knitting Designs.

Brandy Velten

Brandy Velten

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I actually learned how to knit using videos on the web. I have known how to crochet since I was little, when my mom taught me, but I never learned how to knit until just a few years ago. I’m sure having the crochet experience really helped me pick up knitting quickly.

How did you get started designing?
I got started a bit slowly, just modifying patterns I had purchased with different details to better fit my aesthetic. I was pretty nervous about actually putting myself out there with original designs, so I started with smaller items like hats and cowls to build my confidence. I then kept challenging myself to design items that incorporated new techniques. I always aim to push myself to get better and braver with each design I release.

What inspires your designs?
Color and shape are two of the things I find the most inspirational.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually, the inspiration and then I hunt down the yarn that will help me realize the image in my head to the greatest effect. It helps stop me from just going nuts in the yarn store and buying all the beautiful things!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I try to incorporate style and comfort while keeping things fun with color and texture.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Right now, I’m totally on a sweater kick. But I also love designing new color work designs.

Tell me about the fairy tales that inspire your designs.
Sometimes, I think fairy tales, and especially the women of fairy tales, get a bit of a bad wrap in today’s society with people proclaiming they are anti-feminist and whatnot. But I be the first to admit that I grew up with Disney-ified fairy tales and I love them. I think the women in the stories are actually strong and often quite independent and headstrong. They fight for what they want, even when it might be different than what is expected of them, and they don’t let others dictate who they should be. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy feeling a little special now and then. I’m not sure if any of my designs actually capture that sentiment, but I hope someday they may.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I really wanted to knit the Mull of Kintyre cardigan by Anna Davis this year, but my color work skills are just not at the necessary level for working with that many colors at one time. Someday, though.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
My next release will be my Karou pullover that is just finishing up testing this month and will be release in early December.

Karou Pullover

Karou Pullover

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I have to go with Madelinetosh tosh merino light. I love that stuff for everything. I’ve made two sweaters with it plus numerous accessories. I love the colors, I love how it knits up, and I even just love how it smells. Yeah, it’s weird.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I would say my Mont Royal socks. They were one of my very first designs, so I’ll always be oddly attached to them.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Trust your gut. If something isn’t appealing to you as you knit it, then you probably won’t enjoy it when it is finished. When I design, if something isn’t coming out the way I pictured it, I’ve learned the hard way that it is better to just rip back and work to make it better than to carry on with something only half my heart is in. I think people can oddly sense that sort of thing when you release a design.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I would really love to get organized enough to put together a full collection for next fall/winter.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Amy Miller’s design aesthetic has been a big source of inspiration for me as I work to develop my own ideas. I would love to just hang out with her and talk about color and texture and what inspires her.

View all of Brandy’s patterns here. All photos copyright Brandy Velten. All images used by permission.

You can find Julie 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: Faye Kennington

December1

This morning’s interview is with Canadian designer Faye Kennington.

Faye modeling Folklore hat

Faye, modeling Folklore hat

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
In 2004 my roommate and I were vintage knitting pattern collecting junkies. We combed all the thrift shops. She taught me how to knit. My first project was a Mary Maxim cardigan “Dancing Blades.”

How did you get started designing?
When I started teaching knitting at my Local Yarn Shop, I got inspired to write some patterns for use in classes. Then the LYS put together some kits based on my work. Working with the LYS owner got me inspired to get more active in design.

What inspires your designs?
Lately I’ve been playing with stitch patterns and seeing if I can find ways to put my own spin on them. The stitch pattern often tells me how it wants to applied to an accessory or garment.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It goes both ways!

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’m having a lot of fun with neckwear right now, but hats are a favourite, too.

Tell me about “Waverleaf”, what was the inspiration for this pattern?
I went on a Malabrigo Worsted spree last year and I’ve had all these great colours just sitting in my stash, so I was looking for a way to put them together. I loved the braided look of the 2 colour bind off and played with ways to make it a little more fluid. Waverleaf was the result of the stash and stitch play combined.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I keep feeling like I need to do more sweaters, but I really prefer the instant gratification of smaller accessories. I think after I design a sweater with set-in sleeves, I’ll believe I can design anything.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a super cute thrummed head accessory coming out as a Malabrigo Quickie in early January.

Your desert island yarn?
Gah! It’s like asking me to pick a favourite child. Sorry, I can’t do it.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I’m going to go with Chroma Dot Blanket. I understand some of the reasons why it hasn’t many projects, but look at Knit Picks’ FO photos! That is one desirable throw.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Try to work on my fall releases in my spring downtime!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Probably Annie Watts. I think we could egg each other on it the best way and have a hoot doing it. If teleportation were possible, I think I could convince her to set a date.

View all of Faye’s patterns here. All photos copyright Faye Kennington. All images used by permission.

You can find Faye 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: Jenise Hope

December1

This morning’s interview is with Canadian designer Jenise Hope of Feminine by Design, perhaps best known for her Persian Dreams blanket.

Jenise Hope

Jenise, modeling the January pullover

Who taught you to knit/crochet – How did you learn to knit/crochet?
My aunt taught me to cast on and work garter stitch when I was about 12. I knit a bit that summer, then forgot all about it. When I was 18 or so I taught my younger sister to knit using books from the library (even though I couldn’t really knit myself), and then from there eventually decided to give it a try myself, again using books to figure it all out.

How did you get started designing?
It was on a complete whim, just for fun, with the Knit Picks IDP program. When one of those first patterns became popular and sold quite well, I realized there was potential to build a business and decided to give it a serious try for a year or two. I never stopped!

What inspires your designs?
Everything! Right now, probably the most dominant source of inspiration comes from my own wardrobe – I like to make the kinds of things I like to wear.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Depends on the project, but usually the inspiration and then it’s a huge search to find an appropriate yarn. I prefer yarn-first, then I don’t have to find the right yarn, which can be a long and difficult search.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I don’t enjoy finishing, so I try to minimize that. I like seamless when it makes sense, in part because I like to see the right side of my work at all times, and I have an irrational hatred of turning my work around. Beyond that, each design is its own creation and I love to experiment as I knit so you won’t find a lot of common threads through my work.

What is your favorite type of item to design?
The one I have planned to do next, always. It is more fun to think up ideas and plan than to do the hard work and math to get a pattern completed!

I get the most satisfaction out of my sweaters. Honestly, sweater patterns are usually the most complex and convoluted patterns to create, partly due to the complex construction, part to the fact that it needs to look good on, but mostly because I write them in 6 sizes and it is a mental workout to imagine how each detail will change or stay the same in each size and how to write them all together in a way that makes sense! Without fail, every sweater pattern involves some late nights and hours staring at a spreadsheet of numbers (the key measurements and stitch counts for each size) while I mentally knit each size and then place it on a body that size and evaluate how my choices will look on each body shape. All from a page of numbers, and there is plenty of doubt and double checking numbers while I go. If I seriously considered the time and headache a sweater pattern is to write, I probably wouldn’t have any. But I love knitting them, and love owning and wearing them, and that’s what I consider when I start a new sweater pattern. After the headache stage, when the pattern is basically complete, it is deeply satisfying to have worked through so many challenges.

Toques and cowls I design mostly for fun – I enjoy using them, and the patterns I could practically write in my sleep. It is such a relief to write a basic pattern after doing some difficult ones. I couldn’t only do them, though. I get bored and need challenges!

Tell me about your “Epic Projects”, what is the story behind some of these pieces?
Generally, my “Epic Projects” are the ideas I had that were so complex or time consuming that I never thought anyone else would ever want to knit them, but for some reason the idea was compelling to me and I did it just because I had to.

The most epic would probably be my Persian Dreams. I had this thing that I wanted to try making a modular blanket, with colorwork, in a Persian theme. I don’t like small blankets, so it had to be decently large. I had a fairly specific color palette I wanted to use, and thanks to that, I had to change plans from making it in sport weight to fingering as I couldn’t find the right colors in sport. Who would ever want to knit a massive colorwork blanket in fingering weight? I assumed no one else would, but I was completely wrong! It is my best selling pattern by far, having sold thousands of copies (even now, when I consider this it is hard to believe), and on Ravelry I love to hang out in the KAL thread and watch blankets in progress and complete. Just a little while ago I made a worsted weight version of the pattern, and I also have a completely different sport weight blanket with a similar construction. They are really fun to watch grow, though they are time consuming!

Second to Persian Dreams would be my Twig Sweater. Cobweb weight, all lace, and the shaping is in the stitch pattern. Nupps too. Ironically, this was actually the first sweater I ever knit (I was fairly confident in lace skills by then, and charting and adapting lace stitches came naturally), and the reason it is so complex is that I was deeply concerned about if a thicker yarn would be flattering to wear (this might be a good reason to use sport or fingering weight, but I fell in love with Centolavaggi in my LYS, and so ended up with cobweb. Also, it is a single skein project, and when you are worried that you might not like the end result, cobweb is very affordable, even in a lovely soft merino). Thanks to my fascination with lace stitches and basic skills altering stitch patterns, it seemed like an enjoyable challenge to work all the shaping in the stitch pattern. And it was. Ok, and I was also convinced that I would give up if I had to make it in stockinette because it would be too boring. I had yet to learn the joys of mindless knitting. After starting to design, I didn’t dare try to write the pattern – it took a couple years before my sizing and writing skills were up to the task of figuring out different sizes and making them work together!

After that, I have some lace and fingering weight sweaters. I understand the joys of a quick worsted weight sweater, but the truth is that my skinny yarn sweaters are the ones I actually wear in my real life. They fit in my wardrobe, they are not too hot to wear indoors. Most of them exist because I wanted to knit a sweater that I would actually wear on a regular basis, not the handful of days a year when it is cold enough to wear a heavy layer of merino and I am going to be outdoors for some reason. I love my worsted sweaters, but I wear my lace and fingering ones.

Do you have an aspirational knit/crochet – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
No? Right now, pretty much anything I can imagine that I also think would be desirable to make I feel that I am up to creating. I guess my pattern writing skills caught up to the limit of my imagination 😉

That said, I do have some complex ideas that I really want to make, but the feeling ready has more to do with having time to do it than skills to do it. I mean, Persian Dreams was my first colorwork pattern, and it only scratched the surface of what is possible with modular colorwork. It’s not like making more complex variations of that is going to be quick and easy like writing another toque pattern, I know it will be a somewhat experimental and a learning process, but I feel better equipped to do that than I did when I made Persian Dreams!

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
A book! Last spring (while I was also in the process of getting engaged and married and moving, those were busy months) I had a publisher offer me a book contract and that is consuming the lion’s share of my time right now. It is slated to come out fall 2016, and those who are on my email list or members of my Ravelry group will hear all about it when I get closer to publishing time!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit/crochet with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Just one? The very thought makes me sad! If I am allowed unlimited choice of the colors of that yarn, Palette from Knit Picks, because I have a lot of favorites among those 150 colors, and I like using skinny yarns. If I am not allowed a large stock of all the 150 colors, I would probably pick a favorite color from Malabrigo’s Merino Worsted, though I also wouldn’t like to be limited to worsted weight (is the desert island cold at night? I might never wear anything I make if it isn’t). Can I cheat and bring my favorite yarnie along instead? Here is what I do when I need a particular color and can’t find it anywhere: I email Stephanie from SpaceCadet and start begging! It is definitely a designers perk, to request custom colors, and it is the most wonderful feeling to describe the color I need and then have it arrive on my doorstep a month or so later, exactly as it should be.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Haha, probably July Tee. It is one of my most-worn handknits, and I quite enjoy amazing non-knitters when I say I made it. However, it does take a certain level of, well, I won’t say stupidity, perhaps commitment is the better word, to take on a positive-ease top in slippery laceweight silk at 8 stitches to the inch (32 to 4 inches). I only knit about half of my samples (Too many ideas and too little time to knit them all, so I am deeply thankful to my faithful sample knitters) but July I knit all by myself and made it through all the emotional highs and lows of such a slow and slightly picky project. Just a tip, the first 3 inches are the hardest part. It only gets better from there.

Why all the fuss and time? Well, laceweight just looks so perfect (no one would ever guess you made it yourself). July is a favorite cut of mine – the boxy tee – but with a huge improvement for those of us with curves. Bust Shaping. If you are over a c cup, you might notice that boxy cut tops will glide out to your bust, and then continue gliding outward over your stomach into a sort of point that can make you feel as though you are wearing a tent. In addition to this, you may also end up with some funny wrinkles under your arms and across your back at bust level. Either of these fit issues means your bust is too large for the cut, and both are easily fixed with some short rows over the bust (or darts in a sewn top). Bust shaping will make the back lie perfectly flat, and the front will hang straight down after your bust instead of swinging out. The larger your bust, the more dramatic these issues will be, and I have yet to ever see a commercially made tee with darts to fix this. Handmade, we can add the perfect amount of shaping for our body, and end up with a level of perfection and flattery that can’t be bought. Why silk, since it is so slippery to work with? Fingers get used to it after a couple rounds, and it won’t seem slippery anymore. But if you are asking why, I can probably take it for granted that you have never in your life worn pure silk. Everyone should try it at least once, and that’s real silk, not polyester. You might be tricked by the appearance, but when you are actually wearing the garment, especially on a hot day, pure silk is the single most comfortable fiber I can imagine. Polyester is completely different – cotton or linen are more comfortable than it.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters/crocheters?
Keep experimenting, and try things that make you excited! If you know the basics (knit and purl, in the round or flat), you can try anything you want – You-Tube any techniques you don’t know as you work and make the things you really love. You will be an expert before you know it!

Any knitting/crochet/designing New Year’s resolutions?
No, I make resolutions all year whenever I feel the need for them :) Right now, the main one is to keep track of where my needles and scissors are. So far, I am only half keeping it. I don’t think it counts when I find the scissors the next day… the other resolution is to stop leaving needles in half-knit swatches. This relates back to resolution 1 since it is a place that needles disappear to (a yarn bin) and whenever I feel that I am doing pretty well keeping it, I find a needle in a half knit swatch.

It should be a resolution to keep all the yarn neatly contained in specific storage bins, but I have not made that particular resolution because I don’t think I could keep it anyways. It is like a mental disorder, the need to have at least 6 skeins lying out in the open where I can see them. Whenever I put them all away, I find myself pulling yarn out just so I can see it.

If you could have dinner with one knitting/crochet designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Zimmerman. If it wasn’t for EZ’s books, I would never have tried to knit anything. She gave knitting a certain fascination and it compelled me to just do it.

I seriously wonder if I would enjoy her personality live (not in writing), but it would be nice to take her out just to say thank you!

View all of Jenise’s patterns here. All photos copyright Jenise Hope. All images used by permission.

You can find Jenise 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!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jenise-Hope/1625071427771444?pnref=lhc

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