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: Henna Markkanen

December9

Today’s interview is with Henna Markkanen, a designer from Finland who loves to design with lace and cable patterns.

Henna Markkanen, modeling Consonance

Henna Markkanen, modeling Consonance

How did you get started designing?
It actually began with finding Ravelry with its variety of knitwear patterns, as well as finding out how simple it actually is to publish one’s designs and/or offer them to online magazines. Leafing through all the wonderful patterns, projects and photos Ravelry had to offer made me curious to start trying my own hand in designing.

What inspires your designs?
I suppose each design has a slightly differing inspiration, but mostly, I get inspired by first coming up with an idea for a lace or cable pattern, and then I build the actual design around it. Those patterns are, on the other hand, inspired by various sources – geometrical shapes, mathematics, nature… Sometimes the inspiration also comes from knitting another designer’s pattern and both learning from it and being impressed by it. Aletheia, for example, was born after knitting the glorious Evenstar Shawl by Susan Pandorf, and thereby falling for circular lace shawls.

Aletheia

Aletheia

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Almost always, the inspiration, closely followed by the hunt for a suitable yarn. Sunray Shawl is an exception – there I was inspired by the sheen and colour of the yarn and only after acquiring it began to have ideas for a design.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I really like both lace and cable patterns, so each of my designs incorporates one or both. I also like to maintain some form of symmetry or logic with the flow of the lace/cable pattern. For example, in my newest design, Pelion, the cable pattern is complex, but the new cable strands are always formed after the same intervals, thus making it easier to follow the large chart – at least in my opinion.

Pelion, (c) Twist Collective

Pelion, (c) Twist Collective, photo by James Brittain

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Previously it was lace shawls and scarves, but after learning about garment design as well as grading for different sizes, I will have to answer that my new favourite is garments. I haven’t designed many, and the numbers are pretty laborious to work out, but I just enjoy the maths and logic involved. The garment will still have to incorporate lace or cables, though, to be a favourite.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Malabrigo Arroyo – the softness and colourways are just too lovely.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Anything that’s not too easy but not too complex either. For example, a garment with a cable or two thrown in for interest, but simple enough to watch a nice tv show while knitting it.

Sunray Shawl

Sunray Shawl

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Consonance vest (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/consonance). I enjoyed designing, grading, knitting and writing the pattern really much, and thought that each small detail succeeded well, so it’s a pity that it hasn’t garnered more attention.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I’m currently knitting Heidi Atwood-Reeves’s Belle Isle, which will be a Christmas present. And, if only I had time, I would cast on Ink by Hanna Maciejewska or Willowherb Pullover by Marnie MacLean, both of which I have had my eye on for quite a while now.

Continental or English?
Continental. That’s the way I was taught to knit when I was a child, and the method has stuck with me ever since.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I like to both see and feel how the fabric forms, be it a lacy figure, an intertwining cable, the interesting form a variegated yarn takes or even the soft, smooth surface of plain stockinette.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
One thing I too frequently skip is knitting a large enough gauge swatch. I have learned the hard way that it really saves me from a lot of frustration. So, from experience, I heartily recommend knitting one when casting on a project in which gauge is crucial.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Nothing firm, but I would like to learn something new, knitting-wise, during 2015. Perhaps double knitting?

View all of Henna’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Henna Markkanen, except where indicated otherwise. 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: Linda Choo

December8

Today’s interview is with Linda Choo, an Ontario designer who creates stunning lace pieces. Linda’s daughter, Shaulaine White is both her model and is also a designer. It must run in the family!

5 Shades of Acer Collection

5 Shades of Acer Collection

How did you get started designing?
I have always changed patterns and seldom knit something as written unless it is a test knit. Most of my sweater patterns (and sock) were done from scratch to match my size and gauge. Writing things up seemed a natural evolution. I started designing lace shawls geared towards the beginner lace knitter. I used them for teaching at a LYS.

What inspires your designs?
Most of my designs are inspired by something in our garden. It can be a plant, texture, colour, or mood.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually the inspiration comes first and the yarn is chosen to suit it. Less often, but sometimes the design is inspired by a special yarn or handspun.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
My designs are usually lace and sometimes a texture. I love Estonian lace stitches and use them often. My designs often look more difficult than they actually are to knit.

Spring Garden Walk Collection

Spring Garden Walk Collection

What is your favourite type of item to design?
It used to be shawls, but I am now venturing into socks, cowls and fingerless gloves.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)

If I had to pick one, I would say my handspun laceweight.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Probably socks. If I am particularly stressed, I revert to fairly plain sweater knitting, where I can just focus on the yarn and the process.

Kamagata Collection

Kamagata Collection

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
My Estonian Garden series of shawls seem to have the fewest projects. Maybe the combination of nupps and entrelac is a bit intimidating to many.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I haven’t really decided yet, since i am in the middle of a series of test knits for another designer, Romi. Once I am done with those, I will likely go and look for a sweater design to knit up.

Continental or English?
English

What’s the best thing about knitting?
The process itself and feeling the yarn. That is why I love spinning so much. Life is too short to waste on substandard fibre.

Woodland Path Collection

Woodland Path Collection


What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Knitting is a great stress reliever. It has kept me sane through the years. Well, relatively sane.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I have spent the last 6 months or so on socks and other accessories. I want to get back to several shawl ideas. I am also toying with the idea of writing up some of my sweater designs.

The main resolution is to organise my stash and get some of it used.

View all of Linda’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Linda Choo. 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: Laura Chau

December5

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Laura Chau. Laura began her designing career while working at a well-known yarn shop in Toronto, Ontario.

Laura Chau, modeling Foxley Cardigan

Laura Chau, modeling Foxley Cardigan

How did you get started designing?
I began working in a yarn shop not long after I started knitting seriously in university. I learned a lot while I was there and was inspired to design my own sweater when I couldn’t find the pattern for what I had in my head! That idea was my first self-published pattern, Lucy in the Sky.

What inspires your designs?
I mostly design things that fill a gap in my wardrobe. I do keep an eye out for interesting details and constructions in everything from current fashion to interior design and architecture.

Levina

Levina

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It depends. When I worked in the LYS, I would see lots of different yarns and would try to come up with an idea to use it for. But these days I’m often asked to come up with the idea first and match it with a yarn later, or I’ll need to order yarn for an idea because I don’t have it in my stash!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I always try to design items that are fun to knit and comfortable to wear. I like stitches that are easy to memorize, so you don’t always have to keep looking at the pattern.

Laurentian

Laurentian

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Definitely sweaters! I love wearing them, I love knitting them.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Oooh that’s a tough one. I love Koigu.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Stockinette sweaters all the way!

Orbital Ornaments

Orbital Ornaments

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I don’t get to knit much by other people, but I love Light Trails by Suvi Simola and Krewe by Lee Meredith.

Continental or English?
Continental.

Cerasus

Cerasus

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I love that it’s a slow process that builds something bigger. Good metaphor for life, or something. On the practical side, I love that it can be ripped out and started again if you need to!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Keep at it and enjoy the process. Don’t settle for making things you don’t like!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t make a lot of resolutions, but every year I want to be happier and more productive with my work than the year before!

View all of Laura’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Laura Chau. 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: Beth Graham

December4

Today’s interview is with crochet designer Beth Graham. Beth is another local designer and friend of mine. Her patterns have been featured in several crochet design books, as well as through her independently released designs.

Beth Graham, modeling Scarf Theory

Beth Graham, modeling Scarf Theory

How did you get started designing?
After I began teaching crochet at my local yarn shop, Shall We Knit?, owner Karen Crouch suggested that I make up my own patterns to go with the classes. Although I wasn’t sure I could do it, I decided to give it a go, and discovered that I really enjoyed the challenge of communicating clearly in this format. A Useful Pot to Keep Things In, is an example of an early design I wrote to support my teaching.

A Useful Pot to Keep Things In

A Useful Pot To Keep Things In

What inspires your designs?
I design mostly for myself – as well as for my imaginary student. I like to learn new things and I have a goofy sense of humor. In fact, I’ll often come up with a silly word or phrase first, as with my Wedgie Blanket, and then play with ideas that fit the name.

Wedgie Blanket, photo by Mary Chapman

Wedgie Blanket, photo copyright Mary Chapman

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like texture, geometry, and simplicity. Specifically, I like patterns that look harder than they are, and I’m drawn to tailored forms that appeal to knitters just discovering crochet.

Chained Scarf

Chained Scarf

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I really love quick, one-skein projects – primarily pieces using fingering-weight yarn, which I find can soften crochet’s structured look and feel. I also love using up leftovers from previous projects, so many of my designs incorporate small amounts of scrap yarn.

Offset Spike Scrap Cloths

Offset Spike Scrap Cloths; copyright Annie’s; Published Crochet World, October 2014

What’s your “comfort crochet?”
A better question would be, “What’s your ‘comfort crafting’?” And that would be socks. There’s nothing better than making and wearing handknit socks. In fact, I must have about 30 pairs in my sock drawer right now!

One of the best things about knitting so many socks? I end up with lots of leftovers for my long-term Bandwagon Blanket project.

Bandwagon Blanket

Bandwagon Blanket

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
The Jenny June Scarf, adapted from a thread crochet bedspread motif in a book from the 1880s located via www.antiquepatternlibrary.org, is perhaps my least-appreciated design to date.

Jenny June Scarf

Jenny June Scarf, photo copyright Mary Chapman

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to knit/crochet?
Howlcat by Alex Tinsley; Vinter Votter by Anniken Allis; and Soft as Butter by Sarah Jane Designs.

What’s the best thing about knitting/crocheting?
For me, the best things about knitting and crochet have been the people I’ve met and the chance to learn new things.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other crafters?
New crafters should strive to be fearless learners. It’s really hard to learn new skills, and as adult learners we often fall into “all or nothing” thinking: If I can’t learn something immediately, that means that I’m no good at it and that I’ll never be good at it.

Not true.

Learning is hard work, and it’s a process. Be gentle and patient with yourself, and remember that all the mistakes you make now will turn you into a better crafter down the road!

View all of Beth’s patterns here. All photos, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Beth Graham and 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!

The number of crochet designers participating in Gift-A-Long this year has grown. For a listing of all crochet designers, please click here.

Interview: Alex Tinsley, Dull Roar

December3

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Alex Tinsley of Dull Roar. Alex is known for a prolific designer known for her love of simple textures and interesting shapes. She lives in Michigan.

Alex Tinsley, modeling Chevzam Cowl

Alex Tinsley, modeling Chevzam Cowl

How did you get started designing?
In college I was knitting a lot to keep myself awake in class, and I started selling my spoils on etsy. I rarely used other people’s patterns, preferring to just sort of making stuff up as I went. After awhile I noticed that a lot of people were selling patterns (this was pre-Ravelry, when you had to email the pdfs individually from etsy) so I started doing that as well. When Ravelry came along I transitioned over to pretty much just doing patterns.

What inspires your designs?
Usually I’m toying with some stitch or motif or design element that I’m into at the moment, and playing with how best to show it off/combine it with others. No magical bolt from the blue, I’m afraid- just good ole trial and error 😉 At this point I tend to have ideas faster than I can knit them, so I write down or sketch out whatever pops into my head so that I can go back to it later.

Peregrine

Peregrine

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It totally varies! Some yarn seems to plant an idea in my head, sometimes I’ve agreed to design with a particular yarn so I have to think something up for it, sometimes I have an idea and have to go stash-diving. I collect a lot of single skeins so I usually have a good number of options for small projects like hats.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I tend to keep my designs in the advanced-beginner/intermediate area (or what I call “tv knitting”- interesting enough to hold your attention but easy enough that you can probably watch tv while you work.) And obviously I make a lot of hats 😉 I’m not sure there are many other consistent characteristics though.

Speedline

Speedline

What is your favourite type of item to design?
It’s probably obvious from my Ravelry page, but hats!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Malabrigo Merino Worsted, my yarny soulmate.

Northern Line

Northern Line

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
A good ole stockinette hat in the round. Maybe in handspun yarn.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Vahl is one that I liked quite a bit, but didn’t really catch on.

Vahl

Vahl

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
*Sigh* to be honest I probably won’t get to knit any of them, I almost never have time for personal projects :-( But I did pick up Jenise Reid’s Persian Curled Toe Slippers (so cool!) and I’ve had several of Alicia Plummer’s patterns in my queue for ages. And by several I mean like… at least 50% of them, haha.

Continental or English?
Continental

Howlcat

Howlcat

What’s the best thing about knitting?
You can make just about anything you can imagine, with just a bit of string and a few simple tools. That’s so cool!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t forget to check your row gauge! Sometimes it matters more than you think it will, haha.

Emrigail

Emrigail

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Not resolutions exactly, but I do have some big plans :-) I hope to see more garments in my future!

View all of Alex’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Alex Tinsley, Dull Roar. 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: Laura Goodman, Dragonwing Arts

December2

Today’s interview is with Laura Goodman of Dragonwing Arts. Laura lives in SW Virginia and designs with several independent yarn dyers.

Laura Goodman, modeling Braided Cable Cowl.  Photo by Emily Mauger

Laura Goodman, modeling Braided Cable Cowl.
Photo by Emily Mauger

How did you get started designing?
I started designing when I couldn’t find a pattern on Ravelry that fit what I wanted for a particular yarn. I had gotten a skein of yarn from a local dyer, Unplanned Peacock Studio, and I really wanted a leafy scarf. I couldn’t find anything even close to what I had in mind, so I started scouring stitch dictionaries and found some stitch patterns I really liked. This became my Spring’s Beginning Scarf. I still love wearing this scarf regularly and have thought repeatedly of making it into a triangular shawl at some point.

What inspires your designs?
Sometimes it is something I have seen locally, such as the window at the Moss Performing Arts Center at Virginia Tech. Sometimes it is the yarn that gives me inspiration on it’s own, such as the yarn used for my Jack Frost Shawl. The theme for the yarn club was Fairy tales, and with the ice blue that had a metallic silver strand running through it, it made me think of ice crystals and snow showers.

Jack Frost Shawl

Jack Frost Shawl

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It varies. Sometimes, the yarn I am given inspires the pattern. Sometimes, I am able to get a yarn dyed specifically to match my ideas. It is absolutely wonderful to be friends with an independent yarn dyer!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I really love lacy designs and textures. I try to use shapes and textures to convey my ideas.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
LACE! Lace and more lace. I love to knit it, so it is what I am most drawn to. I’m trying to expand, as I know not everyone has my obsession with intricate lacework, but I always want to go back to what I love.

Spring's Beginning Scarf

Spring’s Beginning Scarf

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Malabrigo lace…. mmmmmmalabrigo. I can put more than one ply together if I need something thicker. Great feel, beautiful colors and I can afford it, need I ask for more?

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Lace, believe it or not. I prefer if it has easy wrong side rows, but I do love how the design evolves and develops as I work.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
My Princess Cut Diamonds scarf. I think I need to knit a new sample and get some better pictures. I think this is really one of my favorite designs.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
1. The Ambassador by Kimberly Golynskiy, but I have to get the beads still
2. Pelion by Henna Markkanen – a wonderful new release!
3. Rufflebye by Jennifer Dassau – I may have to make more than one of these, it looks like a wonderful way to use a hank of sock yarn!
I really doubt I’ll have time to get all three done, but wow, I want to!

Continental or English?
English – I have tried continental, but it’s not comfortable.

Princess Cut Diamonds Scarf

Princess Cut Diamonds Scarf

What’s the best thing about knitting?
The relaxation and the enjoyment of the finished product. It is so calming and enjoyable, and I end up getting something wonderful about it.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
It’s ok to make mistakes! If you have to frog a project, so be it, it just means your yarn lasts you longer! We all make mistakes, and it’s ok.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I have two patterns on my needles I want to get done. I also would like to come up with some new ideas. I didn’t design much this year because life went and got in the way. I want to get my name out there and have more people knit my patterns. I would love to get enough of a following to actually have *gasp* test knitters and not have to do it all on my own!

View all of Laura’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Lee Meredith, Leethal Knits. 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: Anne Blayney, AnnieBee Knits

December1

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Anne Blayney of AnnieBee Knits. Anne is another local designer and friend and we were all amazed by her stunning early design – the Chawton Mittens. Being published by Interweave for one of your first designs is quite an accomplishment!

Anne Blayney, modeling Brightness and Contrast.

Anne Blayney, modeling Brightness and Contrast.
Photo by Meredith Sexton

How did you get started designing?
My first substantial design was the Chawton Mittens that were published in Interweave’s inaugural issue of Jane Austen Knits back in 2011. (I just recently re-released them with updated notes and under my own branding.) Quite honestly, I submitted the design on a whim — with the encouragement of my local knitting group, but never really thinking that it would be accepted. I saw the call for submissions and the idea for the mittens sprang to mind quite fully formed. The technical details of quite how to realize that idea took longer, of course, but I was incredibly lucky to have such a start! Having the professional team behind the magazine showing me the way certainly set the standard high for my own independent designs — now I wouldn’t dream of releasing a pattern without a tech editor’s help, for instance.

What inspires your designs?
I tend to be inspired by techniques, or ways of resolving a certain issue. In the Chawton Mittens, it was about how to bend the cables around the cameo, and how to handle the long floats in the cameo. In my newest shawl pattern, Brightness and Contrast, it was about how to deal with really wildly coloured handpainted yarns — those yarns that are so exquisite in the skein, but so chaotic (and often muddy) when knit up. In one of my earliest designs, the Umami Cowl, it was about playing with different yarn bases in the same colourway, one superwash and one feltable, to experiment with the texture. In a new design I’m working on, for a pair of mittens, it’s a new construction, working in an entirely different direction than most mittens! The focus on techniques and problem-solving means that my designs may have very different styles from one piece to the next, but it also means that I’m never bored — and neither is my tech editor!

Chawton Mitts

Chawton Mitts

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Sometimes the yarn IS the inspiration, as with Brightness and Contrast or the Umami Cowl. Other times, it’s definitely a case of having a design in mind and seeking out the yarn that will best realize the vision. (Yarn inspires me in general — it makes me want to knit! — but it doesn’t always insist on a certain design.)

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Is it a cliche to say that I only design things that I’d be happy to wear? I want my patterns to be approachable and clear, and my designs to be pieces that make the wearer feel warm and beautiful (or handsome, I suppose).

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’m most comfortable with accessories — because that’s what I knit most for myself! I love shawlettes and probably have enough to wear a different one every day for three weeks, or much longer if I reclaimed ones that I’ve knit as gifts. I love the flexibility of accessories, and the ability to reinvent basic wardrobe staples with a splash of colour and special yarn!

Hue and Value

Hue and Value

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Oh goodness, I can’t possibly choose. It would almost certainly be fingering weight, wool (maybe with silk or cashmere) with no nylon content — I love to make everything from sweaters to shawls to gloves to blankets in fine yarn like that. But asking me to pick one dyer would be like asking a painter to pick only one tube of paint!

Mitred Square Blanket

Mitred Square Blanket

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I’ve been knitting squares for a mitered-square blanket for myself for several years now. Well, truth be told, I knitted squares for one, then my sister got engaged and I ended up giving her the blanket as a wedding present. I started another one for myself immediately! I knit the squares separately, so they’re modular and portable, and I can rearrange the colours as I add new yarns. I’ve finally hit 170 of these 4″ fingering-weight squares for the new blanket, so now I just (just!) need to weave in the ends and seam it up, then add a border. Not having my little bag of squares with me at all times is making me twitchy, though; I need to find another portable project so I always have something easy to grab! I know you, too, are very familiar with the allure of the mitered square…

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Probably the Umami Cowl — though I can understand why its appeal has limits. The yarn company (Waterloo Wools) has closed, and it’s not always easy to find coordinating yarns in superwash and non-superwash versions, particularly in heavier yarns. I think I may work up a fingering-weight version, because lots of dyers offer superwash sock yarn and non-superwash shawl yarn. Then again, there are always new things to knit, so my older designs languish without as much attention as I might intend to give them!

Umami Cowl, Photography by Lindsey Ligett/Waterloo Wools

Umami Cowl, Photo by Lindsey Ligett/Waterloo Wools

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I’ve already made a little Anticipation sweater for a friend’s baby, due next month. I’ve also cast on an Airstream hat to coordinate with it. (Shhh!) I’ve also nearly finished a Cross Stitch Cowl, for myself.

Continental or English?

English. I’ve never learned Continental, much to my chagrin!

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I call it ‘productive fidgeting.’ I’m really not that good at sitting still, without something to occupy my hands.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
No matter how complicated the design, the thing about knitting is it’s always just one stitch at a time. Breathe deeply, and make that next stitch.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My local knit group is coordinating a Stashdown event for 2015, so you can bet that knitting from stash is on my list! (I may be guilty of wanting to buy ALL THE YARN now so that I can count it as stash come January…)

View all of Anne’s patterns here. All photos, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Anne Blayney. 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: Mindy Dykman, Raven Knits

November28

Today’s interview is with Mindy Dykman of RavenKnits. Mindy is another designer local to me but we only ‘met’ through the Gift-A-Long.

Mindy Dykman, aka RavenKnits

Mindy Dykman, aka RavenKnits

How did you get started designing?
I really started designing when my sons were little and I could find very few fun but boy-friendly knits to make for them. I messed around with converting patterns and used a sweater formula to create garments for them. This was years before I signed up for Ravelry, of course, so those designs never got further than the single prototype garment I put on my kid. On Ravelry I discovered lace shawls and indie dyers, and it was my desire to find a pattern suitable for strongly contrasting variegated yarns that spurred me to create my first ‘real’ design, Rosa Acicularis.

What inspires your designs?
I draw inspirations from three main sources; the yarn itself, the shape of natural elements primarily plants, and the ‘what if’ questions I have about basic knitting structure.

Rosa, as I mentioned, was inspired specifically for the yarn from which I knit my prototype – a glorious skein of Iachos yarn in the Styx colourway. I started designing at the same time that Kate Bachus of A Hundred Ravens Yarns started dying, and we’ve had a mutually supportive relationship as yarnie and designer since then, which has been lovely.

Rosa Acicularis

Rosa Acicularis

Most of my patterns have incorporated plant shapes and carry the latin names of the plants that inspired them. This makes my pattern library challenging to pronounce but also clearly indicative of the inspiration for the shawls.

Finally in the past year I’ve been playing a bit with the classic profiles of various shawl and stole shapes, and how to achieve them a bit more unconventionally. Wings of Change from the Spirit Wings eBook is a good example of this – it is a stole shape that starts as a classictab-construction top-down triangle. I had a lot of fun designing that one, and holding my breath when I got it to the blocking boards and finding out if what worked in my head would actually work in yarn, too.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
A bit of both, although lately it’s been the inspiration that comes first, followed by me hunting through my stash to find something suitable. I have been trying to knit from stash first this year, although we all know how well that usually goes.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I really enjoy combining a textural element with lace stitches, and then seeing how many different shapes can grow from one or two thematic stitch patterns. So I have a collection of designs themed around waterlilies that use large leaf motifs and an expanded garter rib, and I have an eBook themed around mythological birds using Estonian star stitches and feather motifs. I like grouping things that are similar, but use different weights of yarns and different constructions.

Wings of Change

Wings of Change

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’ve been fixated on lace shawls pretty much from day one. Sometimes I feel like I should be fleshing out the collection with some small accessory pieces (hats, cowls, fingerless mitts, that sort of thing) but I never quite get around to starting.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Fleece Artist Trail Socks, without a doubt. It is the only yarn I’ve worked with that I cannot bear to part with even a few inches of remnant scrap.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
It sounds a bit mad, but colourwork. The first designs I knit for my little boys were fantastic intarsia dragons and fair-isle inspired sweaters. More recently I’ve taken to double knitting like a crazy woman, and am playing with the idea of double knitting an afghan in 2015.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Taking into account the length of time a pattern has been released, I would say the Nuphar Fichu is my most under-appreciated design. That’s a little bit odd, because its closest sister, the Nuphar Shawlette, is my most popular design. The fichu pulls in the same elements as the fingering weight shawlette, but is designed to use dk yarn and be just a lovely little confection to keep your shoulders warm, or to tuck into an open coat collar.

Nuphar Fichu

Nuphar Fichu

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
A lot of my GAL casting on has been looking for suitable patterns for other people, but for me ‘personally’ I’ve got Alex Tinsley’s Howlcat on the needles, and have Rachel Henry’s Hornburg Cowl and Laura Aylor’s Spiced Cocoa mittens queued up. I have a new puppy and it’s cold these mornings when I need to be out supervising her in the yard – I want snuggly, warm accessories!

Continental or English?
English – I’m a pit knitter, so have learned to squish a remarkable number of stitches onto straight needles and use circulars only if I have no choice.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
The best thing for me is seeing how the yarn plays with different stitches to create its own story. I am always excited to see how a variegated yarn will flash and pool, or how the sheen of silk accents certain textures.

Nuphar Shawlette

Nuphar Shawlette

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Frog fearlessly. We have a great luxury in our craft that if something is not working, we can pull the whole thing out and approach it from a different angle. Knitting allows us to experiment without repercussion, so knit boldly and frog fearlessly!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My goal for this year is to choose my yarns more mindfully, and work on a ‘look’ for my shop that is distinct and professional.

It’s been a great experience in this GAL to meet and pay attention to what other designers do with their brand, as well as with the patterns themselves, and it’s made me realize the importance of a cohesive style. My styling has been, well, amateur and chaotic, and I want to address that this year while I still have a relatively small library to revamp.

View all of Mindy’s patterns here. All images copyright Mindy Dykman (unless noted otherwise) and are 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: Laura Aylor

November27

I have knit several Laura Aylor’s shawl designs over the past few years so I was excited to have the opportunity to interview her as part of Gift-A-Long 2014.

Laura is running a Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday sale – buy 2 patterns get the 3rd free with the code BFCMdeal (see a full list of participating designers here, I’m also participating – follow link for sale details).

Laura Aylor

Laura Aylor, modeling Sleepy Hollow

How did you get started designing?
I wanted to make an afghan for my daughter using as many different colorways of Kureyon as I could find – one for each block. I combed the internet (this was pre-Ravelry) and all my knitting books looking for a pattern that really made use of the long color runs. I just couldn’t get excited about any of them and then I pulled out my ‘Learn to Knit Afghan’ book by Barbara Walker and started playing around with her Short-Row Stripes block. I still remember pining the first one out on my ironing board after steaming it and realizing that I needed to share it. So I sent a submission in to Knitty. They loved it and I thought my knit design career had run its course :)

What inspires your designs?
Very often one design inspires the next. There’s a lot of thinking time involved in knitting (I knit all my own samples) and it’s easy to let your mind wander to variations of what you’re working on. Sometimes I just want to make something specific that I can’t find a pattern for. Sometimes I see someone wearing an awesome knitted item and try to memorize it so I can come up with my own variation. Sometimes I’m doodling and come up with a shawl idea. It’s actually a pretty chaotic process!

Hay Cove

Hay Cove

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It’s happened both ways. For Lizard Ridge it was definitely the yarn. With Fabergé the yarn was secondary to the idea. This fall I worked on a collection inspired by a trip to Newfoundland where I just had to find yarns that supported the look/feel that I wanted.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Mostly I want my stuff to be different from the other designs out there. I’m not saying I’m never inspired by others’ work, but I don’t ever want my work to look like something that’s been done too many times. Also, I like to use techniques or stitch patterns that I find interesting or fun and I really dislike seaming. I will pick up hundreds of stitches rather than seam a garment! I’m still playing with Barbara Walker’s top-down, seamless, simultaneous set-in sleeve construction and can’t imagine that I will ever knit a sweater in pieces again.

Sea Salt

Sea Salt

What is your favourite type of item to design?
There are 3 things I seem to enjoy doing the most – shawls, cowls, and sweaters. I’ve been on a bit of a sweater kick lately – I’m just full of sweater ideas at the moment.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
For a desert island I’d have to say madelinetosh tosh merino light. I’ve knit that yarn on tiny needles for sweaters, medium-sized needles for summer tees, big needles for shawls, and doubled to get worsted weight. It’s lovely at any gauge, never pills, and takes color amazingly.

Dunbar

Dunbar, photo by Laura Aylor

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Anything but complicated lace.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Robie Street I think. I released it this past summer and was SO excited about how it came out, but it’s gotten very little attention.

Robie Street

Robie Street

Continental or English?
Continental.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Having been a science/math person my whole life I’ve had so much fun exploring my artistic/creative side! I can remember when the thing I dreaded hearing the most in school was ‘be creative’!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Be fearless! You can always rip and redo! Experiment! Have fun!

Dark Tickle

Dark Tickle

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I need to work on life balance – I have a tendency to get all caught up in the design work and neglect things like exercising, sleeping, and spending time with my husband.

View all of Laura’s patterns here. Photography by Stan Aylor, unless otherwise noted, and are 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: Marnie MacLean

November27

Today’s interview is with Marnie MacLean, a prolific designer whose pieces are not only eminently wearable but also classically beautiful.

Marnie MacLean, modeling Willowherb

Marnie MacLean, modeling Willowherb

How did you get started designing?
My mom is a knitter and dad used to crochet so I grew up in a house filled with yarn and pattern books. I’ve been knitting and crocheting most of my life, though I didn’t really get serious about it until after college. When my now-husband and I moved from Boston to the Los Angeles, in 2001, I picked up my knitting needles more seriously and never really looked back. I started knitting things for myself and writing down what I did. Some of those first few patterns are a hot mess but online patterns were still really rare so I had the freedom to experiment and find my style. Once I started publishing with Twist Collective in 2008, I really started seeing my designing as more than a side hobby. It’s very much a job for me and it’s one I truly love and hope I am improving on, each year.

What inspires your designs?
This may sound strange but I actually think that people put too much value on “inspiration” when it comes to designing. Certainly, that’s what got me started and that is what fueled my first designs, but when you publish regularly, and on deadline, the need for inspiration can be the enemy of getting things done. I design things I want to wear, and sometimes I have a strong vision that drives the end product, but it’s not uncommon for me to simply sit down with some yarn and needles and a stack of stitch dictionaries and just push myself to create. I’ll swatch a bunch of ideas, pull out a sketch pad and try to fit the swatches into something that I would want to wear. Of course, there are other times when something really does feel like an inspiration, and those can come from anything. When I feel like I need some ideas and jumping off points, I’ll look up textures and patterns in nature or historical costumes, and see what little details interest me.

La Cumparsita

La Cumparsita

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Either. Sometimes, yarn companies or even publishers will send me yarn for an as-yet undefined or loosely-defined project. In that case, I construct a finished piece around the qualities of the yarn. Other times, I have an idea for a project and then I seek out the right yarn for the finished piece.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Well, I’ve been designing for a little over a decade and I have over 100 patterns under my belt, designed for men, women, and children and for knitters and crocheters of all levels. I’m not sure there’s any particular characteristic I consciously work into all my designs. Part of keeping designing interesting is feeling like I’m doing new things so while I might have a recognizable style, I hope that there’s enough variety in my portfolio to please a lot of people. What matters more to me is writing patterns that knitters and crocheters find clear and accurate. I’m constantly assessing the feedback I get and working to make my patterns better.

Astoria

Astoria

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Well, I love bigger projects like sweaters and shawls, and I think that’s reflected in my library of patterns. While there’s something to be said for designing pieces that a person can knit or crochet in a weekend or with just a single skein of yarn, I find designing those sorts of patterns almost anti-climactic. They are just done too soon for my taste.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Who could pick? Yarn is like food. If you were to eat the same thing for every meal, every day, you’d grow tired of it quickly. Some foods are best kept for special occasions or are wonderful in moderation, others are basic staples that can appear in most meals but would be unsatisfying in isolation. Yarn is the same for me. I love the variety and the right yarn changes from project to project.

Uchiwa

Uchiwa

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I love working stockinette stitch, especially in the round, and good quality metal needles and yarn that doesn’t split. I can happily knit it while carrying on a conversation or watching a show in the evening. It’s mindless and calming and unobtrusive. Perfect for times when I don’t want to think too much.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I would have loved for Jamison Square to have done better. It’s the sort of garment I love to wear, but it never really resonated with knitters.

Jamison Square

Jamison Square

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
This is almost as hard as the desert island yarn question. There are so many amazing designs in the GAL. I can count on one hand the number of designs I’ve knit by other people, since I’ve started designing but if I had time to knit other people’s stuff, I think I’d choose:
1. Carol Sunday’s Cambridge
2. Julia Trice’s Elia (full disclosure, she’s a close friend of mine, but that pullover is the bee’s knees) and
3. Natalia Sha’s Elderberry

Continental or English?
I’m a combination knitter and I knit continental. When I do stranded colorwork I hold one yarn in each hand which I guess means I’m knitting continental and english.

Arctium Shawl

Arctium Shawl

What’s the best thing about knitting?
I always tell people that I like that I am being productive while vegging out in front of the tv.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Try new things and don’t expect perfection the first time.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t make resolutions. I think that we are either ready to do something or we aren’t and that moment has nothing to do with the day of the year. I do hope that I’ll only design for as long as it brings me joy and that I continue to find ways to make my designs and patterns better. That’s something I have to work on all year round.

View all of Marnie’s patterns here. All images copyright Marnie MacLean and are 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!

« Older EntriesNewer Entries »

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Preference *
Email Format

Visit my Ravelry Shop

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
Ravelry Free Download