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: 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

Interview:Åsa Söderman

November30

Today’s second interview is with Swedish designer Åsa Söderman of Åsa Tricosa.

Åsa Söderman

Åsa Söderman

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I would love to say it was my dad, but that’d be a lie! Like most knitters I know I learned from my very patient and skilled grandmother, Itti. She was a stickler for detail. As am I. Oddly, for I’m messy and chaotic about everything else.

How did you get started designing?
I think I’ve never not designed – I always thought it was a good idea to cast on and wing it. Sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t. In seventh grade or so, I remember knitting and selling a striped mitten for a schoolmate who liked mine. I think I asked $1 for the pair… Anyway, most knitters I know are designers in that they like me invent and modify and find or come up with solutions to certain problems or non-pretty aspects of something we’re knitting. The main difference for me is that now those inventions and solutions have to be put clearly on paper and worked out for sizes other than my own. I like explaining things well. I dream of charts and how to better get something across.

What inspires your designs?
Me! By that I mean, I almost always knit things I’d like to wear, except for the kiddo stuff –but really, I’d like to wear those designs, too.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Tough question. That varies. I think it usually starts with a shape or an idea of a design, then I look for a suitable yarn. However, once I’ve started knitting with a yarn it usually inspires new ideas or variations on a theme I’ve already begun to play with. This is true for all my favourite yarns, come to think of it.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Clever bits. I mean, unexpected solutions to avoid seaming and ends to weave in. I also care much about finely finished details (buttonbands, pockets, edgings) that are usually worked along the way so that there is no particular finishing left to do when I cast off.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Gloves. No, wait! Ziggurat sweaters. No, wait! Ziggurat cardigans. Oh, but shawls! No, socks! (I haven’t yet, but I’m sure I will.) I think any knitted item inspires me. Especially if I can invent or come up with a clever way of doing something that creates a bit of extra knitting fun or a shape or detail that pleases.

Tell me about “Sister Syster”, what was the inspiration for this piece?
The yarn, Eden Cottage Yarns Milburn 4ply, and an occasion, the Unwind Brighton yarn festival.
I used to live in Sussex and often walked (rambled, as they say over there) on top of The Seven Sisters; seven domed chalk cliffs that easily rival the cliffs of Dover. In fact Sister Syster doesn’t’ look much like the shawl I had started to sketch and imagined – with different textures for the sea, a shoreline, the pebbly beaches characteristic of Brighton and Eastbourne, the undulating chalky Seven Sisters. That’s often how it goes… Perhaps the shawl is also a small lament over not being very close to my own syster (Swedish for sister) – the cables go in opposite directions and not quite in harmony but are connected by a textured fabric that reaches out and across.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Hm. No, I don’t think I do. Bring it all on! Actually, I’m working on a Ziggurat with all over cables, no plain or textured panels in which to add stitches for the range of sizes. Given the ziggurat zigging and zagging while setting up the shoulders and sleeve caps, this is decidedly a challenge. I may have to succumb to panels. Or just one size (namely, mine)…

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I’m trying to put all my focus into designs and knitting for my Ziggurat Book. But of course I can’t stay completely on track… so I have:

  • Mio, a funky and fun glove. It may already have gone public when you post this. It’s one of the most expensive designs I’ve put out, given how much editing and time has gone into it. And this even though I gave up (for now) on the idea of providing instructions for both top down and bottom up versions. Haha, it’s 18 pages just for the bottom up (anyone knitting from charts will need to print only 4 pages, but still!). Only charted instructions for gloves from here on!
  • This sweater.
  • A shawl in collaboration with Purlescence for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That seems to change… but if I can choose only one I’d have to choose one that is versatile for all sorts of projects, sweaters, gloves, shawls, hats… and then it has to be Wollmeise Pure. And I’m not saying that only because we have an ongoing collaboration! Wollmeise inspired some of my earliest (and best) designs and still does.

If you had asked me which yarn for my last project ever, you know like a last supper before I died or was killed, the answer would probably be different.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Tanjong Pagar! I always get compliments when wearing it as it wraps and sits so nicely, and I wear it all the time. My mum has her beady eye on mine so I’ll have to knit her one, I think…

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

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Nope, none.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Nina Machlin Dayton (ninaknits) – for so many reasons. I just would love to hang out with this generous artistic knitter, reader, crafter, artist (and singer!). I’ve only met her online so far, but I know she’s likely to suggest some interesting eatery and food. She is inspiring not least by how much she gives back to the knitting and design community — and as the major domo of the Indie Gift-A-Long she’s the reason you invited me to chat here, too! I’ll raise a glass to her and the GAL this evening! Cheers & thank you, Nina!

Thanks for inviting me to chat (aka talk endlessly about myself…) with you, Janelle!

View all of Åsa’s patterns here. All photos copyright Åsa Söderman. All images used by permission.

You can find Åsa 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: Josiah Bain

November28

Today’s interview is with the youngest designer in this series, Mr. Josiah Bain (16) of The Sock Monkey.

Mr. Josiah Bain

Mr. Josiah Bain

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
Well, I actually taught myself to knit when I was six or seven by watching my mother trying to figure out her knitting. I’d already mastered crochet, but while crochet allowed you to sort of do 3D and freeform shapes, it didn’t really look as intricate as knitting. My mother was learning how to knit from a friend, and she didn’t want me to teach me until she mastered it. So I went downstairs one night, got some chopsticks from the silverware drawer, terrible Red Heart in a multicolored blue/green/white color, and just started knitting. While I wasn’t doing it correctly by any stretch of the imagination, that was how I started out.

How did you get started designing?
I’m not entirely certain. I didn’t really knit from a pattern at all before I discovered Ravelry, so I just sort of always made things up. I think I was intrigued by the idea of getting published in a magazine, so that’s when I decided to go ahead and sit down and brainstorm a pattern idea to submit to Knitty.

What inspires your designs?
Wow, that depends. I’ve come up with things inspired by music, TV and movies, nature, and people that I know. I also think a good mood board is an inspiration catalyst, at least for me.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
That also depends! I think that for, say, a sock pattern, I need to have at least an idea of the yarn structure and color to be able to do anything. Sometimes a particular yarn will grab my attention, and then that yarn will dictate what I’m going to do with it. For another type of project, the design really benefits if I swatched with the intended yarn so that I could form a clear picture of that design. I think that as I grow as a designer, I’ll be able to speak more clearly to that, but I’m really still just figuring things out right now.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I’m making an effort to refine my style right now. Last year (and also the first part of this one), I just sort of put out whatever I thought up. What I’m going to try to do now on out is to really think through my designs; to only put out the patterns that I know are amazing and I know are the best that I can make, even if it means putting off other opportunities. Right now, I’m going through a minimalism phase, so stockinette stitch paired with really elegant detail is my friend at the moment.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Depends on what mood I’m in. I’m most comfortable with sock design, but I’ve noticed a severe drop in other people’s sock knitting over the past few years, so I’m trying to branch out into other things as well. I’m having lots of fun with striped shawls and intarsia on hats and pullovers. I’m not sure exactly how many folks will share my intarsia enthusiasm, though.

Do you find it challenging to be a “man who knits”?
Not especially. A few years ago, definitely, but now, I’ve learned not to let it bother me when people sort of stare at me.

Do you think that being a male designer helps set you apart as a designer?
Being a guy and being a teenager does set me apart—online, when people have my designs in front of them, it’s great. But in person, I think that they always take the fact that I’m a designer with a grain of salt. Things have changed in the knitting pattern design industry with the launch of Ravelry. Anyone can take the label of “designer.” That is a good thing in many ways, and I know that there are numerous designers that wouldn’t be designing if it hadn’t been for that aspect of Ravelry. To those people who try work their business, like me, you can get lost in the mix of other patterns that aren’t as good as yours in presentation and design. And if a relatively unknown designer walks up and says, “Yeah, I’m a designer of things,” I think that the patterns with mediocre design and presentation comes into their minds. That’s what happens with me when I’m introduced in person.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “someday” when you feel ready?
To be honest, I don’t have one of those. I’m not exactly sure why I don’t have an aspirational knit, because I have seen some of the unbelievable things that have been done, and I have shaken my head in awe of other knitters’ creativity. Maybe it’s because that I haven’t seen the right design yet.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
No, no! Please don’t ask me this! I think, if I had to make a choice, I’d choose something from Quince and Co … perhaps Tern? Or Finch … Maybe just a small-farm Cormo fingering weight. I’ll let you know if I do ever have to choose. Hopefully that time will never come.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Garter stitch on an item with long rows. Or stockinette stitch socks.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Definitely Curry. I think that this is mostly my fault though; I got a tad carried away with curled cuffs and I’ve learned not to use vivid mustard in a design sample. But it is a very versatile pattern. The stockinette fabric in between the eyelet panels biases, and I think they would look really striking with a ribbed cuff and semisolid hand dyed yarn. I’ll have to knit up another sample.

Continental or English?
Continental! I’ve tried English (when I was first learning), but now I think that I only use English for that colorwork technique where you hold one color in your left hand and the other in the right.

What’s the best thing about knitting?
One thing that really drives me crazy is when people are just standing (or sitting) around literally doing nothing. The best thing about knitting is that times when you aren’t sure what to do aren’t wasted on doing nothing. In fact, I’ve come to look forward to those little breaks in schedule.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
I guess that would be to get educated. There are so many things that you can learn about the science of knitting, the science of the fibers that we use, that it’s amazing. Frankly, I don’t think that you could ever stop from learning something new in this craft. Take time to learn where your fibers come from, how they are raised, and what they are best used for in knitting. Take time to get to know how your stitches will behave in different ways when you do different things with them. It is not only interesting, but it gives a deeper connection with our projects and our stashes.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I did that whole New Year’s resolutions thing at the beginning of this year, and I must say that I don’t really want to do it again in 2016. I have some interesting things planned for next year, though, but I can’t say too much about them yet. That said, I do want to explore more with brioche and colorwork.

View all of Josiah’s patterns here. All photos copyright Josiah Bain. All images used by permission.

You can find Mr. Josiah Bain on the following social media sites:

Interview: Natalie Servant

November27

The second interview today is with another Canadian designer, Natalie Servant of Natalie Servant Designs.

Natalie Servant

Natalie

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was taught to knit as a Brownie by someone who lamented that I was a leftie. I let the skill lapse for many years, but I had a strong desire for sweaters as a university student. You’ll laugh, but I thought it would be cheaper to knit them myself. I taught myself to knit from a book and spent hours learning to make my swatches look like the stitch patterns in the book. Then I got hooked on knitting lace.

How did you get started designing?
It started off with modifying designs as I knit them. Then I started coming up with my own ideas. It was slow and painful at the beginning, as with anything new. I learned a lot from great teachers in person, online, and through books. I’m always looking for the technique that’s going to turn my currently-impossible idea into something I can knit.

What inspires your designs?
My most common inspiration is architecture, but I’m always looking for ideas. Sometimes it’s from nature, colour combinations I see, or a texture I want to play with.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually (but not always) the inspiration comes first. Sometimes yarn lives in my stash for years before I come up with an idea. I love having my stash in Ravelry so that when I’ve got an idea I can search for a compatible yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I strive for unique designs and I frequently come up with my own stitch patterns. I try to make things as simple as I can while achieving the look that I want.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I still love designing lace the most. Any time I’m working out a new idea or a new technique, I’m having fun. I love coming up with different ways to make things reversible.

Tell me about “Canadian Art Deco designs”, what is the story behind this collection?
I had been looking for an area of inspiration to really sink my teeth into and develop a collection. I’d done a few Art Deco designs when it occurred to me to see if I could find Art Deco inspirations closer to home. A quick search on the Internet told me that there was plenty of beautiful material across Canada.

I’ve spent almost 3 years doing research, traveling to see buildings, sketching, swatching, and knitting. I managed to include some of my favourite techniques: lace, stranded colourwork, and double knitting. My goal with each design was to capture the spirit of what attracted me to that part of the building. Sometimes that meant simplifying things. Sometimes I had to come up with a different way to approach a design.

After a great deal of thought I decided to release the patterns as an e-book with a new pattern coming each month through 2015. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I also work at a day job. The schedule has kept me focused, but it hasn’t been unreasonable. I am itching to release the final pattern because I think it’s the one that’s the most fun and whimsical.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
One day I might design sweaters. I had a sweater idea recently that I felt strongly enough about to draw in my sketchbook. I think it would be fun, but I need to knit more sweaters from other designers before I feel comfortable creating my own.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I’ve got designs that I put on hold while I was sticking to my release schedule. As much as I tried to stay focused, other ideas popped up and begged to be started. I’ve got a half-finished shawl and a nearly-finished blanket. That’s what’s on for the next month or two. And then I’ve got two ideas for smallish collections, around 3-5 items. I’ve got all the yarn chosen for one collection and no swatches knit, and 3 swatches knit for the other collection and no yarn chosen. It’ll be interesting to see which one wins my attention first!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
It’s got to be wool. Nothing beats the warmth of wool moving through my fingers as I knit.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Ooooh, tough question. The one that I love the most that hasn’t really caught on is my Hockey Scarf. I don’t think you can fully appreciate it from pictures. You need to feel it in person to understand how thick and lush the fabric is. Plus I love reversibility in a scarf. It’s a relatively simple pattern and it’d be perfect for just about anyone to wear. I’m extra happy with it because the time between the prototype and the release gave me an idea for a better way of expressing the pattern.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
It’s knitting. You can always take it out and start again if you have to and it won’t kill you.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
After a year of strict self-imposed deadlines, I’m giving myself permission to take it easy for a while and work on whatever I feel up to doing. I’ve got lots of ideas, but I may need a bit of a break.

View all of Natalie’s patterns here. All photos copyright Natalie Servant except for Aldred Mitts, copyright Zoé Servant. All images used by permission.

You can find Natlie 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: Katy Carroll

November27

Today’s first interview is with Katy H. Carroll of Katinka Designs.

Katy modeling Interwoven Mitts

Katy modeling Interwoven Mitts

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I taught myself, from “Knitting for Dummies”. (I really wish I had thought of looking for videos on the Internet, but I didn’t!) Several online friends from a book forum were knitters, and I was intrigued by the pictures they were posting of this mysterious stuff called “Malabrigo”…I believe references to the softness of baby kittens were made. My first project was a unintentionally holey rectangle in brightly variegated kitchen cotton.

I’ve always had fiber/textile hobbies, though – I crocheted as a youngster, and sewed and did counted cross-stitch for a few decades. Knitting’s overtaken them all, though! There is just so much you can do, and so much you can make.

How did you get started designing?
In the summer of 2014, I was developing classes for “adventurous beginners” that I would begin teaching at my LYS later that fall. I was already discovering that it was easier to write up my own instructions and simple designs, rather than find patterns from which to teach. I’d improvised some things for myself prior to that, too, but it had always seemed like too much work to put together an actual pattern. Then that August, my best friend and knitting buddy, Jill, passed away unexpectedly. It was a horrible reminder that life can change in an instant, and it pushed me to tackle my fears and actually ATTEMPT the things I had been putting off for ages out of laziness and/or caution. It’s mildly terrifying to put yourself “OUT THERE”, but I’m glad I’ve made myself to do it. It’s a hobby business for now, but I do try to treat it as professionally as possible.

What inspires your designs?
The interplay of texture and color and pattern! I do like lace, but it’s cables that have my knitter’s heart. My clothes are pretty boring – usually a black shirt and jeans – so I love to use vibrant colors in my knit accessories. In its most succinct form, I think my design aesthetic is, “Stuff I Want to Make and Wear Myself”. 😉 I’ve got four kids in age from preschool to 9th, and a husband with a busy job, so I’ve jokingly said that I design patterns that will keep me awake, but won’t break my brain.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It vacillates between the two! Sometimes I like the challenge of looking at a set amount of yarn and wondering, “What could you become?” Other times, as with my Leandra Scarf pattern, I have a set idea in mind (“big ol’ cabled scarf”) that I want to achieve.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I do always try to have some sort of special detail, whether it be in the shaping, or in a finishing technique, or in the way the patterns align just so. The trifecta I aim for is 1) fun to make, 2) pretty to look at, and 3) easy to wear. We all have those knits that look impressive, but rarely get worn because they’re too fussy or fiddly for one reason or another. I would hope that my designs could become “standbys” – those knits you always reach for as you’re racing out the door.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I really do design the kinds of things that I like to make and wear myself – cowls, scarves, fingerless mitts, and I’m coming around to hats. (I love making sweaters, too, but I’m not quite ready for that challenge yet!) I like to aim for a design that could be an achievable challenge for an adventurous beginner, but still an engaging knit for someone more experienced.

Tell me about “The Virescent Collection”, what is the story behind this collection?
Before I ever saw the cable that started it all, I had been mulling over the state of my knits. After ten years of knitting, I had a great collection of accessories, but…most of it didn’t really go together. So I was starting to be drawn to the idea of making things that actually coordinated.

Then, I fell in love with the large cable motif that runs throughout the collection. I loved the large scale (17 stitches) and the organic, atypical look of it. I started to wonder how it would work when applied to all kinds of different pieces, and in different weights, even. Then people could pick and choose which ones they liked, and make their own “set”. They could even choose their favorite colorway from a preferred dyer and work within that dyer’s bases. (I must be terribly literal, because I could only imagine the collection in green!) The original concept was five to six designs, and then it somehow ended up as nine when I wasn’t looking. I still get ideas for additional pieces and I have to yell at myself, “No, nine is PLENTY!!”

I really didn’t think that ANYONE would buy the full collection, but I’m so grateful for the knitters who have. I’m grateful as well to the yarn folks who took a chance on a relative newbie – Marianated Yarns, The Plucky Knitter, Anzula, Malabrigo Yarns, and Intrepid Tulips. I’m also so, so happy with the photography we’ve done so far for the collection. My awesome sister is my photographer – I owe her huge thanks for that! She won’t let me pay her, so I try to slip fabric (her vice of choice) in her bag when she’s not looking. So far, six patterns have been released, the seventh is in testing, and I’m writing up the pattern for the eighth. The ninth should be out in January.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I don’t know that I would design this myself, but someday I want to make a fingering weight, stranded colorwork sweater. Either that, or a fisherman’s sweater covered in a million complex cables.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Beyond the remaining Virescent Collection patterns, I’ve got a worsted weight cowl design (both short and loop verisons) in Marianated Yarns coming out in early December, and then several accessory patterns in yarns from The Plucky Knitter. I’ve also got some gorgeous Targhee/silk yarn from Blue Savannah (Etsy) staring at me. I’m really excited about some “summer vacation” projects that Marian (of Marianated Yarns) and I are dreaming up for next fall – a poncho design in a fingering weight wool/mohair (baby steps towards garment design!), and a Mystery Cowl KAL using one of her lovely gradient sets.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That is really, really hard, as my head is easily turned. I would probably say Madelinetosh Vintage.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
That would probably be my Carver Scarf. The timing wasn’t ideal – it was a wool scarf released in June – but I was excited that my LYS had started carrying the yarn, and I also needed to build my portfolio. So, no regrets.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Cast-on something that scares you a little, whether it’s your own design or someone else’s. Try to make peace with ripping back.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
To take time away from designing to make myself a few more sweaters. To learn more about shawl shaping. To get over my irrational fear of provisional cast-ons.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Bonne Marie Burns of ChicKnits, even though I’ve already had dinner with her! (I attended a retreat at Imperial Stock Ranch where she taught.) I love her aesthetic and design philosophy, I admire the way she manages her business and her brand, and I also think she’s a sweetheart. I would wear her sweaters ALL THE TIME.

View all of Katy’s patterns here. All photos copyright E. Cummings. All images used by permission.

You can find Katy 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: Dana Gervais

November26

Today’s second interview is with Canadian designer Dana Gervais of Dana Gervais Designs.

Dana Gervais

Dana Gervais

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was taught to knit by my Grandmother. She was a constant knitter. She made the most beautiful garments and accessories. She is still my knitting inspiration.

How did you get started designing?
Designing was an evolution. It started with slightly tweaking patterns to suit my taste and preferred fit, which evolved into heavily modifying patterns, then I started knitting my own designs for myself, family and friends, which evolved into writing patterns, grading them, having them tested and tech edited and releasing them into the world. It has, over time, become what I do.

What inspires your designs?
Anything and everything. I can find inspiration in yarn, colour, texture, a stitch pattern, a geometric design, architecture, a book, a movie – literally anything and everything.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Both. Sometimes I love a yarn so much, that I am inspired to design something for it and sometimes I have an idea for a design so I find the right yarn for my vision.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like simple construction. I also like patterns that will work whether they are knit top-down or bottom-up since I design a lot of socks and many sock knitters want to be able to reverse the stitch pattern to suit their preferred technique. Since, as a knitter, I appreciate stitch patterns that are easy to memorize I consider that whenever possible. I also aim for gender neutrality a lot of the time.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Definitely socks! I love socks. I have been knitting them since I was a teenager. They are gorgeous, useful, easy to customize, portable, not a huge time commitment and can be knit on any budget as you can usually make a pair with less than 100g of yarn. Also, after all these years, I still feel slightly magical when I turn a heel or Kitchener stitch a toe.

Tell me about “Heart & Sole”, what is the story behind this design?
I love mosaic knitting and I really wanted to design a mosaic sock pattern. Valentine’s Day was coming and I was sitting on this really bright pink and purple sock yarn that I was itching to use, so those factors all came together as “Heart & Sole”. I am hoping to release 3 more mosaic sock designs over the next year; it is definitely my favourite colourwork technique.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
One day when I am feeling really brave and strong I might steek something, but today is not that day.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have two sock designs on the needles right now which will hopefully be self-published in the next couple of months. I am also knitting up a design for the April issue of I Like Knitting magazine as well as getting ready to start a design for the Fall 2016 issue of Knitscene. I am in the beginning stages of collaborating with a couple of other crafters about putting together some limited edition sock kits in 2016. Lots of exciting things!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
This is tough. I think I would still be a happy knitter if the only yarn I ever had access to again was either Indigodragonfly or Sweet Georgia. It took me a really long time to come up with that answer – there are so many beautiful yarns available.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
It’s hard to say. I am lucky that all of my designs have been warmly received by knitters. That being said, I am surprised that Lazy Daisy has not been more popular – It’s one of my favourites. I wear it all the time.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
There is no right or wrong in knitting. It doesn’t matter what other knitters do or how they do it, if you are happy with your finished projects, that’s all that matters.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My wardrobe is in serious need of some hand knit sweaters. I have so many beautiful sweater patterns in my queue and I am hoping to make time to knit some of them in 2016.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
This is another tough question. There are so many knitting designers who I admire and consider mentors even though I have never met them. I’m going to say Cookie A. Her sock designs are beautiful and I admire the business she has built.

View all of Dana’s patterns here. All photos copyright Dana Gervais. All images used by permission.

You can find Dana 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: Mona Lykaina

November26

Today’s interview is with designer Mona Lykaina, originally from the Western Isles of Scotland and now living in Germany. Her blog in Gaelic can be found here.

Mona modeling Calanas

Mona modeling Calanas

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I learned to knit as a very young child from my grandmother and other people in my family. I knit quite a lot during my primary school years, including sweaters for myself. However, a lot of what I do in knitting today has been self-taught since I picked it up again a few years ago.

How did you get started designing?
In a way, designing has always been an essential part of knitting for me. When I was a child, no one around me used patterns. I remember my grandmother measuring me and doing mysterious calculations on the margin of an old newspaper, and then she would tell me how many stitches to cast on. When I came back to knitting in 2009, and more specifically to Ravelry, I was surprised at the ubiquity of patterns, and at the scarcity of more systematic information. My reason for picking up knitting again was to knit sweaters for myself, and I had very specific ideas about them, I knew what I wanted them to look like. So, I did not want patterns, I wanted to understand how a sweater is constructed. I did knit a few ones from patterns, but I was always trying to understand the concepts behind them. And as soon as I felt confident about that, I started to knit more and more from my own sketches and calculations. So, it was a logical transition. And then people started to ask me about my designs, and I made several attempts at writing patterns. I was rather naive at first, and it did not really work well. However, I also started to teach workshops about sweater construction, how to measure yourself, etc at local fibre events, so I got a lot more input and feedback about the whole topic. Then I made another, more serious attempt at pattern publishing earlier this year, in February, and this time it seems to be going better.

What inspires your designs?
All my designs are garments that I want to wear. I have always been interested in fashion and textiles, but in a rather geeky way and often stubbornly out of tune with fast-moving trends. It was one of the persistent frustrations of my teenage years that I was always imagining myself in clothes that would look really cool on me, and then I could never find such things in shops. In a way I am still like that, but now I know that when something does not exist in local high street shops, it may exist somewhere on the internet, or I can knit or sew it. I think I just subconsciously inhale visual ideas of clothes all the time and mix and mess them around in my head, so that it is difficult to tell where exactly I got certain ideas from. Sometimes they are little everyday things. For example, sometimes a garment in a shop window catches my eye from afar, and I immediately get an idea for a knit design, then I walk closer and the item turns out to very different from what I saw at first sight, but it does not matter because I have my design idea in my head. I’ve also been known to stare at random strangers because their sweater has an interesting detail.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually the inspiration. I have a sketchbook full of sweater ideas, and I’d need nine lives to knit them all. Many fellow knitters are surprised that I am quite averse to yarn stashing. I prefer to buy yarn for specific projects, and it can sometimes take me a long time to decide on the perfect yarn for a design. I want to support small yarn businesses, traditional sheep breeders, fair trade companies, so the yarns I use tend to be expensive, and I need to calculate how much I need for a specific design before I can commit to buying it.

On the other hand, I’ve started to spin and use a lot of my handspun yarn for sweater projects, too. There it is usually the other way round, I start with the yarn and just figure out what it wants to become.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I don’t think I deliberately try to incorporate anything. My designs usually evolve from a vague idea of a certain shape or style, then I add the details. I like clean lines and functional elements, but I also enjoy playing around with texture. I prefer certain constructions and shaping methods that I know will result in a good fit, like set-in sleeves or a yoke/raglan hybrid, and front and back darts for waist shaping. My garment patterns always include lots of modification advice, because I would like to help every knitter achieve that perfect fit that I’m aiming for in my projects.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Definitely sweaters and tops.

You use a lot of complex cables in your designs, what is the story behind this?
Well, I suppose I just like them. They have a long history in some parts of Europe, and a lot of people think of them as “traditional”, but they are essentially timeless. The funny thing is that I’ve never thought of them as complex, just pretty. A bit tedious to knit, sometimes, but as I’m so focused on the look of the finished object I don’t mind that. I remember I was knitting the heel of my Gyvatė sock on a longer train trip, and it took me about 2 hours. That was a bit of a nuisance but I did not think much of it. Later I gave this pattern to a dozen friends for testing, and almost everybody gave up or changed the heel to a simpler version.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make the instructions for these cable patterns clear and accessible. I usually knit from wonky hand-drawn charts myself, and I find it easy to memorize a pattern after a few repeats. When you cable on the wrong side, you just have to think about how it is supposed to look on the right side. But many people have told me this is challenging for them, so I’ve put a lot of effort into providing clear charts and instructions, and I’m still working on that.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have several ideas for sweaters with interesting allover stranded colourwork, but I am really slow at knitting that because I don’t have a good two-handed technique. So I keep postponing those sweaters.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Hopefully I’ll publish two more garment patterns this year (or early next year): Bean-Sìdhe is a silk top with a gauge of 8 stitches per inch, so probably no one wants to knit that 😉 But I do think there is a lack of patterns for this type of garment, even if you can’t really wear it in public. The other one, Cascadian is a cardigan that I am very much in love with at the moment. The original is made with a handspun yarn, and it was my first time using beads.

A bit further down the line are several sexy summer tops, as well as a small series of sweaters inspired by medieval women (I’ll give you their names: Alienor, Melkorka and Merofled… now you can guess what that might mean ;))

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Shetland wool. (Not for sexy summer tops, though ;))

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
My accessories patterns feel very under-appreciated 😉 Well, I suppose I’ll just have to accept the fact that people see me as a sweater designer.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
If you want to knit sweaters that fit, please have yourself measured thoroughly. It makes all the difference! The best way to do this is to get together with a good friend and measure each other.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t really do those :) My big plan is that I want to write a book about sweater construction and how to knit sweaters that fit, in German. I have a fairly extensive script from all the classes I’ve been teaching on the topic, and I get a lot of positive feedback about that. I am just very undisciplined when it comes to working systematically on a larger project.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
That’s a tough one. I think what I would really like to do is to invite two dozen German designers to dinner and encourage us all to learn a bit of networking from our North American colleagues. We need something like Twist Collective in German, we need something like the Indie GAL, we need more fibre events with high quality classes and workshops from local people. Some of the larger events have started to invite English-speaking “star” designers and I think that sends the wrong message to the German knitting community. It excludes a lot of people who are not confident in the English language, and I also think it is more important to support local teachers and designers and develop this part of our community. We have a lot of knowledgeable people here.

View all of Mona’s patterns here. All photos copyright Mona Lykaina. All images used by permission.

You can find Mona 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: Nancy Whitman

November25

Today’s second interview is with Nancy Whitma,n knitting designer and owner of online yarn shop WhitKnits.com. You can find her blog here.

Nancy modeling A New Slant

Nancy modeling A New Slant

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My paternal grandmother taught me to knit and crochet when I was 7 or 8 years old. I dabbled a bit with both until high school when I became serious about knitting.

How did you get started designing?
I probably spent about three decades doing lots of knitting, but rarely following a pattern. Even when I did use a pattern, I modified it quite a lot. I never thought of myself as a designer, just a knitter. When Ravelry came on the scene and I saw what other indie designers were doing, I realized I could as well.

What inspires your designs?
Everything and anything. It’s hard to know what will be inspirational. I have been inspired by art, architecture, a stitch pattern or a color. Just recently, I was inspired by a fellow Raveller’s avatar.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
For me it is always the inspiration. Without it, I don’t create anything. No matter how much I love a yarn, the design inspiration must precede it.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
It changes over time. When I first started to publish patterns, I was doing more with lace. Recently I have been working with color blocking using modular garter stitch. I am always willing to try an interesting stitch pattern or fabric manipulating technique like I used in Rushmore Hat and Cowl or Ganz.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
This too changes over time. First it was socks because I was really into them at the time. For a long time I have been taken with shawls and the possibilities that open up with simple shaping.

Eden Prairie

Eden Prairie

Tell me about your designs inspired by stained glass, what is the story behind this inspiration?
Years ago, I studied stained glass. Once I was introduced to modular knitting, it seemed like the perfect construction method for knitted stained glass. I was googling stained glass images and came across this picture which gave birth to Eden Prairie:

Inspiration for Eden Prairie

Inspiration for Eden Prairie

Using some of the design elements of Eden Prairie, I came up with High Street Shawl. Whitman Sampler was an opportunity to use up leftovers while playing with the outlines of color-blocked shapes on a cowl. Piet on Point is inspired by the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. So it’s not stained glass inspired, but the look is the same as is the modular construction.

Mind Over Miter evolved out of the stained glass designs. It uses modular construction and borders surrounding different elements, but it uses stripes instead of color blocking and miters to move the stripes in a different way.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Yes, I do. It’s a color-blocked shawl with an art deco feel. The color blocking is unlike anything I have done to date and it is posing a challenge in terms of construction and shaping of the color blocks. I think if it marinates for a while, I will figure out a solutions.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a design that is almost ready to be tested, but apart from that, there is no release queue. I am not a disciplined designer and don’t plan out my releases. I design what I am inspired to knit and so my process, which might not work for others, is pretty haphazard.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Epic Lattice Socks. I really thought it would be a hit. That’s probably because I loved them so much and wore them all the time. It just goes to show how hard it is to predict what will appeal to others. That is one of the reasons I design what I like and hope others like it as well.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Push the envelope in terms of skills. I have come across many knitters who stay within a narrow comfort zone, knitting one thing over and over, assuming they are not ready to move on. I led a sock knit along where the bulk of the knitters had only knitted stockinette socks. They thought the pattern for the knit along, socks with a repeat pattern, was too advanced for them. I promised that I would do whatever it took to get each of them to make the pair. It was really amazing to see their confidence grow and the designs they took on after completing their knit along socks. Nowadays there is so much support to be had just by going online. It seems a shame not to even try something new.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Not a one! Remember that I am not a disciplined designer so even if I made a resolution, I probably wouldn’t keep it.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Herbert Niebling, an amazing lace designer. It’s said that he could transfer say a floral image directly to a chart and have the design done at the same time. This is a pretty amazing skill. I would love the chance to speak with someone whose mind works that way.

View all of Nancy’s patterns here. All photos copyright Nancy Whitman. All images used by permission.

You can find Nancy 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: Linda Marveng

November25

Today’s interview is with Linda Marveng from Oslo, Norway. You can find her blog here.

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Linda Marveng

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I learnt to knit at school but needed my mum’s patience to help me out every time I got stuck.

How did you get started designing?
I always had to modify patterns to make them fit me better, and reached a point where I thought that I should have a go designing myself. It was not long after I had started designing, that I was approached by a Norwegian publisher; Cappelen Damm asking if I wanted to make a knitting book – they had heard that I had worked for both Rowan Yarns and Loop in London – and I certainly did. It was the ultimate challenge for me. My knitting book was published in 2012, but it has unfortunately only been translated into Finnish.

What inspires your designs?
Fashion forward, elegant and feminine garments that can be worn together with both casual and party outfits. I also love garments that can be worn in different ways depending on your mood and the weather.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Most of the time it is the inspiration that comes first, but not always. The color or fiber of a specific yarn or the combination of the two, can also kick start the design process.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I tend to choose a set-in sleeve since it fits best with my style of garments. I prefer double button-bands and hems for a more professional look. I do love tucks and use them at the bottom of a sleeve or as a divider between the main pattern and the collar.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Jackets or cardigans if you like. I prefer to call them jackets because I try to make them more formal than an everyday cardigan. A lot of the time I also want to make a matching cowl to go with it. The cowl must be large enough to be worn around the hips too since it is essential to keep me warm when the temperature drops in my native Oslo.

Tell me about designs like “Atika” and “Shawl Sleeves”, you have a fashion-forward aesthetic to your designs.
I had found a reversible stitch pattern and ideal yarn mix by combining a tweed yarn and a mélange alpaca yarn, I called the design – or rather the beginning of it – Atika, for the meeting with the editor of the Norwegian magazine Made by Me, shoe designer Monica Stålvang and dress designer Judith Bech to plan our “Nordic Vintage” series. Judith had a felted wool dress without sleeves in the same color, and I thought it would look fabulous with a cowl across the shoulders and long loose sleeves that looked attached but were not.

I found the idea for the Shawl Sleeves in a fashion magazine, a picture of a jacket with loose fronts, and immediately thought that I could make my own version of it, by merely continuing each sleeve into a shawl. The Norwegian magazine Familien had commissioned a series of 6 designs in strong colors, and wanted me to use the dancer Francesca Golfetto as the model. With her dark colors I thought a deep yellow tweed would be ideal, but I could not find the right one so I had to mix two yarns to achieve my goal. It has been fun to discover new ways of wearing them using a set of shawl pins.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Yes, I do what to design a knitted dress in a fine yarn. I have several ideas on the shape of it – they cannot be combined so I need to choose one – but no stitch pattern nor specific yarn in mind yet.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I am working on completing 9 patterns that were professionally photographed recently, 4 of which will be published in the special issue Familien Håndarbeid (Handcrafts) in March. I am also eagerly awaiting the photos of my first design for the Interweave knit.purl magazine for Spring/Summer 2016.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That is a difficult question, since I do like to vary both the type of fiber, its structure and thickness. At the moment, I would pick SweetGeorgia Yarns Superwash DK because of its magnificent stitch definition and the beautiful hand-dyed color range.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Jacket in Cross, from my book, in my opinion. It is one of my favorite designs but very time consuming to knit. One of the Norwegian editors agreed and wanted to include it in the “Nordic Vintage” series so it was professionally photographed for a second time, and re-published in the special issue of Familien Trend.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Learn to enjoy finishing. I think that seams support and shape a garment into perfection. All finishing requires, is that you do it stitch by stitch, just as you knit. It is like the icing on the cake, to me.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
It will be the same as last year’s, to send off more design submissions to International magazines.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I have already been so fortunate to have shared several breakfasts with Norah Gaughan at the Danish island of Bornholm for the Strik Bornholm event last year, and would like to have dinner with her too, to learn more about her approach to cables as well as her innovative garment construction methods.

View all of Linda’s patterns here. Shawl Sleeves photos by Kim Müller. Atika, Jacket in Cross and Saga photos by Eivind Røhne. Linda’s portrait by Michael Marveng-Puckett. All images used by permission.

You can find Linda on the following social media sites:

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