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: Jenny Wiebe

November24

Today’s second interview is with Jenny Wiebe of VANGY Knits, another Canadian designer.

Jenny Wiebe

Jenny, modeling After the Ball

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I don’t actually remember learning, because both my grandmas and my mother were all avid knitters. At some point in my childhood I picked it up, likely on each of their knees as they knit away. When I actually go into knitting as an adult, I went to my mom for a refresher.

How did you get started designing?
I started test knitting for other designers. As I did this I learned what made a good pattern, and what didn’t. One day, sitting in church, I saw a cute blouse with ruffles on the sleeve, and I thought, “Hey, I could totally knit that!” I went home and cast on Edith, which was my first sweater design.

What inspires your designs?
My kids. I’ve got 5, and they all love my knits. I’m slowly narrowing down what I like to knit for them, and what they like to wear, and so that’s what I design, mostly. I do, also, knit for my imaginary infant daughter! 😉 I’ve never had an infant daughter, but the imaginary one is incredibly well dressed in handknits.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Inspiration, for sure. I actually don’t have a huge stash, because once I’ve got an idea of what I want to knit in my mind, I like to find the perfect yarn for that project, and rarely is that in my stash.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like simple designs with a little flare: a unique collar, or stripes, or some ruffles, or the like. I also appreciate that people knitting for children aren’t usually looking for something hugely complicated, so I like to work top down and seamless, if I can.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Cardigans. I enjoy knitting hats and cowls and such, but when it comes to putting design to paper, I much prefer working on cardigan patterns. There are so many possibilities, and so much joy in seeing my handknits worn.

Tell me about “Songs and Stripes”, what is the story behind this collection?
I knit the first pattern in the collection, Rhymes with Shawl, for my sister-in-law’s foster daughter, who would eventually become my daughter, through adoption. She needed a little love, and a handknit sweater is how I show my love. Next came Cadence and Hue, which was meant to be the boy version of Rhymes with Shawl. It took me 2 years to get the guts to knit an adult version, but Curtain Call was it. I thought that would be the end of the collection, until I knit a few projects with fingering weight yarn, and realized I needed a light weight version for myself. So, I knit up After the Ball, and completed the collection!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Cables. I would love to do a really complicated cabled sweater in multiple sizes.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I’ve got an addition to the Little Old Man Collection on my needles right now. It’s so much fun, and I might do a mystery knit in the new year.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That’s a hard one. I don’t actually feel I’ve tried enough different yarns to pick just one. I need to branch out a little more, I guess.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Rundle. It’s this gorgeous, squishy cowl that gets so much attention when people see it, but online it gets lost amongst so many others, I guess.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Knit what inspires you, not just what you think you can do. Pick a project that you actually want to knit, and do it. There is nothing you can’t learn on YouTube, and in the end, you will have something you actually want to wear/use.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I’d love to release 12 patterns next year: One a month.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Hands down, Elizabeth Zimmerman. Mostly, because I love her writing. I am an avid reader, and can’t believe how much I love reading her books. My husband thinks I’m such a nerd when I read her books, because I laugh and smile, and read passages aloud just to hear what her words sound like. I love her.

View all of Jenny’s patterns here. All photos copyright Jenny Wiebe. All images used by permission.

You can find Jenny on the following social media sites:

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

Interview: Triona Murphy

November24

Interview # 8 of the design interviews is with Triona Murphy, of Triona Murphy patterns for handknitting.

Triona Murphy

Triona modeling Land Under Wave Hat

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
When I was about 20, a friend of mine stayed at my house for a while and left a “How to Knit” kit behind. It included a video (on VHS—yikes!), a skein of squeaky acrylic yarn, and a set of horrible, incredibly blunt metal needles. Out of curiosity and boredom, I popped in the video one day and was immediately hooked by the challenge of learning the stitches. I found knittinghelp.com and the old Knittyboards pretty quickly, and everything beyond simple knitting and purling I learned from those websites or from library books.

How did you get started designing?
I purchased a sweater on a trip to Paris and wore it to death after I got home. While I loved it, there were all these things I wanted to change. It was boxy with no waist shaping, had an unflattering neckline, and the cables were all out of proportion. So I decided to design my own version with all of those details fixed. When I posted it to my Ravelry project page, a whole bunch of people said they would purchase a pattern for that sweater, which surprised the heck out of me! But I had just left my job and had some time on my hands, so I studied every pattern I could get my hands on and then gave it a shot. That sweater (Chandail) is still my most popular pattern to date!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Before I started designing, I had a hard time finding garment patterns that flattered my large chest and smaller waist. All of my garment patterns are designed to be flattering to this body type (without needing custom solutions like short-row bust darts). I also try to size my patterns as far up and down as is feasible because I hate excluding anyone.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
While I love designing woolly sweaters, I haven’t had as much time recently due to having my first child last year. So my current favorite is hats! They’re really quick and a great canvas for fun colorwork or intricate cables. I love wearing the finished objects when the temperature drops outside.

Tell me about “Babe in the Woods”, what is the story behind this collection?
This collection was designed in collaboration with the Malabrigo Freelance Pattern Project. Their superwash yarns are some of my absolute favorites, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity. Because my design time is limited with the little one, I knew I needed to keep my collection to small items—and with my ready-made model, a baby/child collection of mostly accessories in mostly bulky yarn made sense!

My son, who was only about 8 months old when we did the photo shoot, was such a trooper! He has now modeled about a dozen of my designs and is getting really good at it. :-)

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I just finished up an extensive test knit for a nautical-themed baby/child pullover, and next on deck for pattern writing is a cabled vest for the same age group. On my needles, I currently have an Aran-style, dolman-sleeved adult pullover.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Oh boy, this is a tough one. My favorite yarns are hand-dyed in semi-solid colorways, smoothly spun, and bouncy. Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage and Malabrigo Yarn Rios are both definitely up there. I just released a hat design in Frabjous Fibers March Hare, a new yarn to me that I really enjoyed working with—hopefully I can do more with that yarn in the future!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
The Aureate Scarf from the Babe in the Woods collection didn’t get a whole lot of love on its own, but my son wore it constantly last winter! It fastens with snaps into a sort of cravat shape, which fits perfectly into the top gap of a bulky winter coat and doesn’t leave any long ends that would be a strangulation hazard. Plus it’s mega-cute—my son got tons of compliments every time he wore it out somewhere.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
This is pre-New Year, but I’d really like to try steeking during the Gift-A-Long this year. I’ve never tried the technique, but I love colorwork, so it seems like something I should have in my designer toolbox!

View all of Triona’s patterns here. All photos copyright Gavin Cahill except for the baby photos which are copyright Triona Murphy. All images used by permission.

You can find Triona 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: Vicky Chan

November23

Today’s second interview is with Vicky Chan of Vicky Chan Designs, a fellow Canadian designer of both knit and crochet patterns, as well as those that combine both.

Who taught you to knit/crochet – How did you learn to knit/crochet?
My aunt taught me to knit and my grandmother taught me to crochet when I was little. It was fun learning with my two sisters the basics through knitting a scarf and crocheting a coin purse.

How did you get started designing?
It all started with “may be I’ll give it a try”.

What inspires your designs?
Fashion magazines and Japanese craft mooks.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
The inspiration.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Botanical and lace themes.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Sweaters.

Many of your pieces combine knitting and crochet. How does the design process differ than designing for just knit or crochet?
(I only have few pieces combining knitting and crochet at the moment, but I do plan to design more of them.)
The design process is pretty much the same for me, except I would also consider how the knit and crochet portions should complement or balance each other, and if the gauge difference between the two would impact the yarn choice.

Do you have an aspirational knit/crochet – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I would like to try free form crochet on a sweater.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
A knitting pattern is coming next in my release queue.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit/crochet with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Any nice, soft cotton/linen yarn because I have sensitive skin.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
The sweater that I have wanted to design for my husband.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters/crocheters?
Make a swatch.

Any knitting/crochet/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I’ve never made any New Year’s resolutions – I’m too impatient to wait for the New Year. ?

If you could have dinner with one knitting/crochet designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Michelangelo! What? He doesn’t do knitting/crochet design? Can I still have dinner with him? Pleeease…

View all of Vicky’s patterns here. All photos copyright Vicky Chan. All images used by permission.

You can find Vicky 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: Jennie Santopietro

November23

Today’s interview is with Jennie Santopietro of A Lovely Homemade Life, a designer from Texas.

Jennie Santopietro

Jennie in Lady Wren

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I started off crocheting in college. A sweet friend taught a whole bunch of us in the dorms how and let’s just say, there were a lot of scarves around campus that year. I didn’t switch over to knitting until many years later when I joined a local yarn club that met once a week at a coffee shop. I had just started dabbling with knitting, learning from YouTube videos and taking on projects that were just a little beyond my skill level. Soon after, a couple of the women decided to open a local yarn shop–The Fiber Universe in Peoria, IL–and I wanted to help in any way I could. They needed some samples knit for opening day, so I picked up patterns and yarn from them and got busy knitting. Once I realized how versatile knitting was and the endless variety of patterns and techniques, I was hooked.

How did you get started designing?
Having kids, and being able to stay home with them, was a big part of becoming a designer. I love making special things for them and I started imagining different pieces I wanted to create. I could never find patterns for exactly what I had envisioned, so I started making up designs myself. Baby Wren was my first published design, and after I released it, the ideas just kept flowing. I now work with a tech editor and have brought all of my early designs in line with my style sheet, so I’m excited about what the future holds as I continue to grow my portfolio.

What inspires your designs?
Featuring a certain technique or stitch pattern is usually the impetus for a design. Once I’ve decided how best to showcase what is special about a particular knit, the rest of the details seem to fall into place.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Definitely the inspiration. I have two sketchbooks full of designs that I hope to get around to writing up in the future. When an idea hits, I try to draw it out and make notes about it right away. I’ve tried buying beautiful yarn first, but I tend to get stuck working from yarn to design and all the while my stash keeps growing!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like to incorporate texture into my designs. There are so many lovely stitch patterns and variations to work with, and I like combining them in different ways. I also love to provide multiple options within the same pattern for lots of customization possibilities.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I really enjoy designing sweaters of all varieties! My sketch book is filled with mostly sweater designs, in fact! They’re so much more time consuming to sample knit and to grade, so I try to intersperse sweater designing with smaller accessories to avoid getting burnt out.

Tell me about “Lady Wren”, what is the story behind this design?
Lady Wren is by far my most requested design. When I released my first pattern, Baby Wren, I got tons of messages asking if there would be an adult version in the future. Honestly, I hadn’t even considered it, but it really was a great idea. I live in Texas, so as much as I love wool sweaters, I don’t get to wear them very often. A short sleeved cotton blend sweater seemed like a very functional piece. I wanted to be sure the pattern was accessible for beginning knitters too, because I know making the jump to adult sized garments can be intimidating, so I tried to balance simplicity with just enough detail to be an interesting and beautiful project to knit and wear.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have plans to design a series of sweaters for men, women and children that incorporate colorwork using a cool technique at the shoulder to preserve the continuity of the colorwork pattern. I have all the yarn, and the sketches–it’s my big project for 2016.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a hat design, called Featheround, off to my tech editor now that will be out in December. It’s a hat with a feather motif brim band that can be knit as either a beanie or a tam, depending on what shape you like. I’m also working on a MKAL called Bowties Are Cool because I’m a huge Dr. Who fan. The release of Clue 1 will coincide with the season finale in January 2016! It’s my first MKAL so I’m really excited!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Just one? That’s tough…can I say anything MadelineTosh? Okay, Tosh Merino Light. The colors simply glow. Each colorway has so much depth and tonality to it. And all of their bases are heavenly. I’m really spoiled to live only an hour away from their flagship store…it’s my favorite yarn shop destination!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Scarlet Ibis. It’s my first shawl design and it also includes instructions for an asymmetrical shawlette. It’s charted and written, so it’s easily accessible no matter your instruction style preference. It’s knit sideways from the center out to the tips and I just love the garter wedge in the center that gives it a wing-like shape when blocked. It was such a joy to knit and I love the elegance of how it drapes around the shoulders and the feather motif. I just want everyone else to love it too!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to frog! I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted working on projects that I knew weren’t quite right or that I wasn’t in love with. Life is too short to waste time on knits you won’t wear!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I’d like to publish 10-15 new designs next year. I would also love to host more knit alongs in my Ravelry group (A Lovely Homemade Life) and build up a fun community of knitter friends! I love connecting with people on Ravelry!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Asja Janeczek. I am in love with everything she releases. We’re “friends” on Ravelry, but I’m thinking we’d be BFFs in real life :) The language barrier might be an issue (I have my BA in French, but I don’t think it would help much)…but I’m sure our mutual love of knitting and designing would win out.

View all of Jennie’s patterns here. All photos copyright Jennie Santopietro except for the first photo which is copyright Michael Santopietro. All images used by permission.

You can find Jennie 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: Lotta Groeger

November22

Today’s second interview is with Lotta Groeger of Atalante Knits, a designer from Berlin, Germany.

Waldhaus socks

Das Waldhaus socks, toe up or cuff down. They are so much fun to knit and the effect with the cables is really neat.

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I learned at least the knit stitch when I was younger from my mother. But never really knitted, so I forgot what I learned. I re-learned to knit, and purl this time too, when I stared at Uni thanks to internet tutorials and youtube. I needed something to keep my hands busy and preferably portable to do while traveling to Uni or between lectures.

How did you get started designing?
At first I adapted sock patterns for my growing knee high collections. So I made charts for myself before I started designing. Then I found some stitchonaries and started to combine different patterns. And well sometimes you just search for that one perfect garment or accessory and can’t find what you’re looking for, so I made my own.

friendly neighbourhood spider-shawl

friendly neighbourhood spider-shawl, I’m so in love with this design. And I used my own handspun, from a Doctor Who fibre club.

What inspires your designs?
I’m a very nerdy person. I have two collections inspired by fairy tales. Currently I have a few designs inspired by superhero comics and I’m working on more.

Other times I just find a neat technique and just have to play with it.
But I also have a friend who sometimes requests designs when she can’t find that one perfect pattern and I try to design it for her.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually the inspiration. I have a folder with more or less finished design inspirations, the designs are between just two or three notes to full drawings and calculations. But sometimes there is yarn that just wants to be a certain thing and I’m not the one telling it it can’t!

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Anything lace. I just love to knit lace. Lace is really something I can knit anytime, anywhere. That fun to create holes and nudge stitches into different directions and then you have created an intricate beautiful pattern. And the magic of blocking a lace piece never stops being amazing.
And socks. you just can’t have enough socks, be it with or without lace.

Tell me about “Once Upon a Time collections”, what is the story behind these collections?
I really love fairy tales. My mother has a huge collection of different fairy tale form different cultures and read them to me and my brother when we were younger.

I recent years I started to read the comic book series „Fables“, honestly if you like comics or fairy tales take a look!, which rekindled my love for these characters.

Lady Sif Gauntlets

Lady Sif Gauntlets – One of my superhero inspired knits. And every woman needs to feel like a warrior god sometimes.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I really want to get to the point of being satisfied enough with the quality of my sweater patterns to actually publish one. But there is one that’s looking really good, so the „some day“ is pretty near.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I had a really great photoshoot with my photographer/friend in which we managed to take pics of some really great designs. So there are a few shawls, I did mention that love for lace, a cowl and socks coming. Most inspired by comic book characters, not all heroes 😉 But which one is the next one to be published is still a bit unsure. But keep an eye out for the „new releases“-thread in the GAL group, I’ll post there when.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Uhhh that is a tough one! Yarn Edition Cashmere & Silk is a really lovely 65% cashmere and 35% silk, that is so soft I wanna sleep in it. But it’s not perfect as it’s really warm and sometimes I don’t want to knit with fuzzy yarn.

But for those occasions I may smuggle in a skein of DyeForWool Fingering // Merino/Silk which is surprisingly slick and cool for such a high merino content. The shawl I made from it is still perfect for winter.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Juliane. It may look really complicated but it’s so much easier to knit! I designed that for the friend mentioned above, and she loves it so that was enough for me.
But I would like to see more knitter work up this design as it’s so close to my heart.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Charts are really easy and if you made a mistake, you can just frog.

I usually craft with a „I won’t die if it goes wrong, so let’s just do it“ approach. With my sewing I stared with advanced sewing patterns and never bothered with „easy beginners“ patterns like cushions.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
As usual: More structure and discipline with my files. I can be a bit chaotic and sometimes find files with notes without a pattern or notes on printed charts that make no sense after a few weeks ….

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
May I have Ysolda S. Teague? I really like her patterns, Coraline may be one of the things why I restarted knitting, and she reads like a kick-ass-person!

View all of Lotta’s patterns here. Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Shawl photo copyright A. Siegel. Remaining photos copyright N. Fleischer. All images used by permission.

You can find Lotta 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: Kelene Kinnersly

November22

Today’s interview is with Kelene Kinnersly of Kelene Kinnersly Designs, a fellow Canadian designer.

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I taught myself to knit with the help of good old YouTube.

How did you get started designing?
I dove in, head first with the help of a good editor and lots of support from my knitting friends and family. It just seemed a natural fit for me.

What inspires your designs?
Often I am inspired by the yarn itself. The colour, and what it reminds me of. Other times its elements I find in architecture and nature.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Yarn

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I often like to put in a little design element that you wouldn’t normally see in a particular design, Like a round of eyelets or row of purls after ribbing. I like to think of it as, I’m leaving my little signature.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Lately I’m in love with designing my own colourwork motifs. I’ m sure you’re going to see a lot more of stranded work from me in the future. I also always have a shawl on the go.

Tell me about “Promiscuous Stripes Shawl”, what is the story behind this design?
I wanted to make a sideways striped shawl. I had the purple Cascades Heritage for a long time (months upon months), I kept putting it beside other yarns trying to pair it up, you know I was looking for the prefect contrast in a variegated yarn. I was on the search when I came across the quote in “Knitting in plain English” (I think) that said…if you’re pairing a variegated with a solid, pick the least prominent colour in the variegated that is the closest color to the solid. It was a light bulb moment, and it made pairing it a lot easier. I love the colour combination.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have a couple!! They involve complicated lace.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a little bit of everything on the go. Hats, sweaters and a couple of pretty little lace shawls for summer.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Mad Tosh Merino (Editor’s Note: madelinetosh tosh merino)

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
My Diamond Cut Collection of fingerless mitts. All based on diamond cuts, and the personalities associated with each cut.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
There are no mistakes, only learning experiences!!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I would like to pull together a full fall collection, maybe even find another designer that I could collaborate with, for this purpose.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Joji Locatelli hands down, she seems like a very down to earth person and she seems to love to knit just as much as me. I would just love to sit knit and chat with her.

View all of Kelene’s patterns here. All images copyright Kelene Kinnersly. All images used by permission.

You can find Kelene 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: Steven Hicks

November21

Today’s second interview is with designer Steven Hicks of Rodeo Knits, the first in the sub-series of interviews with male designers. I was curious to find out if their views on designing were influenced by their gender so I asked them two additional questions: “Do you find it challenging to be a “man who knits”?” and “Do you think being a male designer helps set you apart/differentiates you as a designer?”

Designer Steven Hicks

Steven Hicks

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I taught myself to knit out of Family Circle magazine when I was about 7 years old. My first project was a hat — the pattern was literally a big garter stitch square with a whip stitch seam joining the cast on/bind off and a length of yarn threaded through the garter bumps on one end to close it up. Actually, a perfect first pattern and so much better than an interminable scarf.

How did you get started designing?
Like many knitters/crocheters/crafters, after so many years of practicing your hobby, you start to drift away from following patterns religiously and start tinkering with your own designs. This period for me coincided with a new yarn shop that opened in my hometown. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time that gave me the opportunity to start teaching classes and designing patterns for those classes.

What inspires your designs?
I’m generally inspired by a technique or a specific stitch and then expanding on that and seeing where it takes me. For example, I was enamored with a star stitch and the texture it created. From there, I designed the three patterns Carriage Trail, Quarry Creek and Ridgeview. Each uses the same star stitch with variations of other textures like cables or lace.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
For me it’s inspiration and the yarn comes second. At the same time, the inspiration can be affected by my desire to use a specific yarn, though more likely, it’s a weight of yarn that I want to use. I’m very caught up in sport and light DK weight yarns right now.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I think because I started from the teaching side of the business, I’m always trying to incorporate a new technique or skill into each design. I want everyone to know that they can do anything in yarn, to refuse to be intimidated by anything. I think the hardest part about any technique in knitting is trying to learn it from a badly written pattern, and writing patterns is hard work. And I’m sure I’ve written my fair share of terrible patterns.

Do you find it challenging to be a “man who knits”?
There’s an initial novelty in being a man with needles and yarn. There’s also always the “Oh, Rosey Grier did needlepoint” comment. And of course, some yarn shops aren’t able to comprehend that I know what I’m doing. But with Ravelry and the rise of some big name male designers/knitters, that’s changing very quickly.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Right now it’s neckwear — scarves, cowls, shawls, etc — but I’m also going through a major stranded colorwork phase. So far it’s a series of hats, which just seem so accessible. I just released Whittaker and there are at least three more to follow.

Tell me about “The Vandalia Collection”, what is the story behind this collection?
The Vandalia Collection” was the first group of patterns I released as a “serious designer.” I wish there were a more interesting story to go along with it. I sat down with a notebook and my sketches of ideas and just put it together, making changes and edits so that I feel like it goes together a little more cohesively and has a wider range of designs. And since I try to name all of my patterns after something related to West Virginia, my adopted home state, I thought Vandalia would be a good name for the collection. Vandalia was an early name proposed for the state of West Virginia.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I’ve been working on a series of sweaters that I’m very excited about, but also very nervous about. There is so much that goes into a sweater design, so many moving parts. 2016 is the year, though.

Do you think being a male designer helps set you apart/differentiates you as a designer?
I’m not sure gender has much to do with a person’s ability as a designer but it is a defining characteristic, albeit one that I can’t control, that does help give me an identity. For example, sometimes I’ll run into someone that I’ve met very briefly at the local yarn shop and they’ll say “Oh, you’re that guy who knits” and it’s a great conversation starter.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
There are three more stranded colorwork hats that I’m refining and reknitting and testing and a cowl that I’m still designing-on-the-needles and now I’ve reached a point where I need to make some big decisions. And sweaters! But that’s down the road.

Sneak Peek

Sneak Peek

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
“Only one” is a knitter’s worst nightmare! But I almost always reach for Miss Babs’ Yowza. I mean, the yardage is unbeatable, colors are gorgeous and the weight is perfect for a lot of different projects.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I really wish that Ruffner was more popular and I know deep down that it comes to the photographs. In a perfect world, I’d love to pull that one away from the world, make it disappear, and re-release it with amazing photos. It’s a lace poncho knit flat but completely seamless thanks to a well-placed provisional cast on.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
You can knit anything. Knitting is only knits or purls with some variations and sometimes an intentional hole. And an unintentional hole is just a design element.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
It’s definitely sweaters. There are at least 6 designs that I’ve been working on trying to refine and work on all the different sizes and options.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I’d say Pam Allen (call me!). She always seems to have a timeless sense and accessibility in her designs. And I love the Quince and Co. yarn and what they stand for.

View all of Steven’s patterns here. All images copyright Steven Hicks. All images used by permission.

You can find Steven 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: Gabrielle Danskknit

November21

Interview #4 is with fellow Canadian designer, Gabrielle Danskknit.

Gabrielle Danskknit

Gabrielle Danskknit

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My grandmother gave me some yarn and needles and taught me the basics when I was about 12. Then I went to the library and learned more with books.

How did you get started designing?
I always felt like something was missing in the patterns I was knitting at the time (mostly French patterns). I wanted to take a little bit of this and a little bit of that, knit in the round, etc. Plus, my gauge was never right. So I started creating things just the way I was imagining them.

What inspires your designs?
Stitches and textures mostly. Sometimes I will stare at someone’s hat in the bus, get inspired and when I get home I just need to cast on!

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Inspiration more often. Nowadays I’m lucky to have a good stash, so sometimes it’s the yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Easiness. I often go for straight forward construction and minimal sewing. Texture too.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
It changes! Right now it’s all about hats. When I started it was mostly baby items and blankets.

Tell me about your aviator hats, what is the story behind these pieces?
I wanted to knit something for a fellow knitter and she liked aviator hats. I thought it was something I could easily make so I just designed one! Then I had to add textures, colours, etc. An entire collection was born after a few years.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
A sweater for me. I don’t think it’s that much of a challenge but I mostly knit small items and get bored easily. So I will need to find the perfect combination of yarn and pattern to keep me motivated!

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
More hats! And baby items, I can’t stop!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Malabrigo Rios. That thing is… wonderful!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I think I have a few ones. I also think I would like to revamp some of them. A design I like which is not getting as much attention as I think it deserves is Bergen Snowflake.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
When you no longer have motivation to finish an item, just drop it. The freedom you have after, to just cast on something new and forget about the old one…

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Knit for myself more often!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Maybe Ysolda Teague? A dinner in Scotland with a talented designer!

View all of Gabrielle’s patterns here. Photos copyright Gabrielle Danskknit. All images used by permission.

You can find Gabrielle 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: Nicole Montgomery

November20

Interview # 3 of the design interviews is with Nicole Montgomery, of Trappings and Trinkets.

Nicole

Nicole

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My friend, Kristin taught me how to knit. She mentioned to me one day that she was knitting a bear for some sort of church charity thing, and I told her I had always wanted to learn to knit, but had never quite caught on when I looked at diagrams in books. She hosted a “Knitting and Sangria” night at her house and tried to teach a group of us to knit. Most of our friends were more interested in the sangria than the knitting, but I came home that night with a swatch full of dropped stitches and holes, and kept practicing until I had it figured out. But Kristin really only knew how to knit and purl, so my first project was making squares out of fun fur (I know, I know) that I intended to sew together into a blanket. But the universe interrupted my ill-fated blanket project before it was finished by dropping a “knitting guru” into my lap in the form of Paula (of Knitting Pipeline fame). She is a friend of a friend who was also at the Knitting and Sangria night, and Paula had offered to lead a knitting class at church, so I tagged along. She showed me how to knit in the round and do basic things like increases and decreases. I remember telling her that I really wanted to try a pattern, but that I probably wasn’t ready for that yet. She said, “You can follow a pattern. All you have to do is read the first instruction, then do that. Next read the second instruction and do that. And if you don’t know how to do it, you know where I live.” That was all the encouragement I needed to be a fearless knitter, and I’ve never shied away from a project for fear that it was “too difficult”. I know that all I ever have to do is figure out how to do the next instruction. (And if I can’t figure it out, I’m confident that someone around me can help me!)

How did you get started designing?
A friend of mine is a photographer and about five years ago she approached me about making a “sock monkey hat” that she could use when doing infant pictures. “So you want me to make a hat that looks like a monkey head that sits on top of the baby’s head?” I believe that was my reply to her…I didn’t get it. But she was trying to start her photography business at the time, and I wanted to be supportive, so I went home and googled “sock monkey hat” in the hopes of finding a knitting pattern. Only one webpage popped up with a pattern link (there were a couple for crochet, but only this one link for a knitting pattern), and when I clicked on it, it was a virus. It totally destroyed our computer. I ended up coming up with my own pattern, and thought, “Maybe there are other people who would like to knit this, and if I can sell this pattern for a few dollars, maybe I can make some money that I can put toward replacing the computer that I just destroyed.” The response I had from knitters was so kind and generous, it motivated me to write up and share future patterns that I came up with.

What inspires your designs?
What doesn’t?! I often write patterns for things I want to make for myself, or that I think would be great gifts for other people. I might see some yarn and say “these 3 colors need to be used in a sweater together!” – that happened with “Jillian”. I might have a specific occasion in mind that I want something special to wear for – “Summer Vines” was supposed to be for my 20-year high school reunion…until it was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales! Maybe I’m watching a tv show and the costumes inspire me – my “Honeysuckle Hat” was inspired by a character in “Foyle’s War” and “Rory and Jojo” was my interpretation of a hat Rory wore on the “Gilmore Girls”. Or maybe I see something being worn out in public and take inspiration from that. “Siesta Tee” came from a long-sleeved mesh sweater I saw on someone at Panera. And “Leap of Faith” is a reboot of a hoodie I wore so much in my early 20s that I had to sew patches on the elbows. Once it was too worn to wear, I put it in a drawer in the hopes I could one day find a way to re-create it…that was before I even knew how to knit!

Sometimes I see a certain technique in a book or used in another knitting project that I see somewhere – “The Sweetest Thing” was completely designed around a delicate scalloped edging I saw in a knitting book and my “World War G{loves}” came from the idea of using welts on fingerless mittens. I also keep a Pinterest board with inspiration, and I have used some ideas from there. I pinned a fabric scarf that had lacy baubled fringe along the edges, and used that idea for my “Borderline” shawl. I am working with 2 ideas right now and use another idea from my Pinterest inspiration board, but you’ll have to stay tuned until mid-December for the first design and early February for the second one to be published!

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Either one. With me it’s really about 50/50. Sometimes I see the yarn first and I know what it wants to be. And sometimes I have an idea of something I want to make in my head and I go on a search for just the right yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like pretty un-fussy stuff. So I’d say that my general style is clean lines with an interesting detail or two. I like a modern fit (not too baggy, not too square) with garments. And I like a wide variety of colors & textures!

What is your favourite type of item to design?
For pure enjoyment, I’d say hats because they’re generally pretty simple. But I do love knitting sweaters, and those patterns give me the biggest sense of accomplishment, although I find the 8 hours or so that I have to spend with spread sheets and calculators pretty brutal!

You design a lot with rainbow colourways, such as the RollerGirl Raglan and Layers and Links.
What is the story/inspiration behind this?

RollerGirl was a design where the inspiration came from the yarn. I saw the “Carnival” color way of Knit Picks Chroma and decided that it needed to be made into the arms of a raglan sweater with a solid color used as the body. It turned into a “roller derby-themed pattern” because the color way was bright & happy and reminded me of colors you might see on circa-1980 leg warmers that would be worn with short shorts on someone at a roller rink. “Layers and Links” is part of a new collection that I’m in the process of publishing. It’s a 13-project pattern collection called “Color Packs & Stash Scraps” that is full of smaller projects that use smaller quantities of multiple colors of yarn. So it’s great for using the mini skein color packs that are so popular right now, or for making use of your lightweight-yarn leftovers. Layers and Links ended up as a rainbow hat because that color way caught my eye when I was looking at A Hundred Ravens’ internet shop, and trying to figure out how to approach her to see if she’d be interested in supporting my new collection!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I really don’t, since I never consider anything “above my skill level”. There’s certainly things I haven’t made yet and techniques I haven’t tried, but as soon as I’m interested in something, I just do it. For example, last week I read a few Ravelry posts about “Invisible Stranding”, a technique that you can use when doing stranded color work that allows you to carry floats for as long as you wish. I immediately found “It’s Not About the Hat”, a pattern that taught this technique and made two hats using it – the first had a design on the front only, and I carried the floats across about 60 stitches around the back of the hat (replacing the need for intarsia in the round). The second hat I did was a modified version of the “Passerine Hat”, which has some long floats that would have made me unhappy if I had used regular stranded knitting. Now I can’t wait for more people to learn this technique because it opens up exciting possibilities for me as a designer!

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
As of today, I have 7 more patterns to release as additions to my “Color Packs & Stash Scraps” collection. I’ll be adding one pattern a week until the week of Christmas. After that, I may have a bit of a lull…designing, writing, knitting, testing, editing & releasing 13 patterns in a short period of time has been a big challenge for me (I started this collection in June 2015, and it will be totally published by December), so I’m going to need a minute to find my writing mojo again. But I do have a couple things – a scarf with a “woven” look to it, and a cabled men’s sweater – that are already knit and mostly written, so I’ll probably be releasing those later this winter or in the spring.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I’m working with Anzula Cricket right now and it is delightful! But if I’m going for gorgeous colors, I’d probably have to stick with madelinetosh. I’m a sucker for tonal color ways!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Either the Leap of Faith sweater or the Orchard Pullover. I wear both of those all the time, but I think that they might intimidate some knitters. Leap uses steeking (although I can’t stress enough how very simple it really is if you can get over the fear of cutting your knitting!), and I think the fact that it has a zipper instead of buttons is another stumbling block for some knitters. I think the cables in Orchard look scary to some knitters, although there’s nothing more difficult there than a 2 x 2 cross. I guess that’s the downside to having no knitting fear – it’s difficult to predict what projects other people will be willing to take on!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
There is nothing about knitting that is too difficult for you. People in remote villages hundreds of years ago figured out how to do this stuff. So certainly you, with access to You Tube videos, a vast array of books, and staff at your local yarn shop, can learn whatever techniques you set your mind to!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
For the past couple years, my goal has been to publish 12 patterns a year (my “year” is September – May, and I try to keep the summers low-pressure since my kids are home from school…though that didn’t quite happen this summer since I was working so intensely on my new collection!) But that goal will probably continue. I also like to make sure I add to my knitting library each year – stitch dictionaries, books on pattern writing, things that keep me moving forward as a designer.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I honestly don’t have a knitting idol. I started writing patterns very soon after learning to knit myself, so I never had that period of time when I was knitting enough patterns from other designers that I developed favorites. But if I were to choose a dinner companion based solely on how enjoyable the dinner would be, I’d have to go with Stephen West. I think the videos he puts out are a riot, and I bet he would be a lot of fun to talk to. And even though I don’t think I’ve ever knit anything he’s written, I have a lot of respect for someone who thinks so far outside the box!

View all of Nicole’s patterns here. Photos copyright Nicole Montgomery. All images used by permission.

You can find Nicole 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: Tabi Ferguson

November20

Today’s interview is with Tabi Ferguson of Sericin Silkworks. There must be something in the water here locally, for Tabi is just one of many amazing designers hailing from my local community (Sally Melville, Debbie New and the many interviewed as part of last year’s series).

Editor’s Note: Tabi’s yarns are truly luscious and I highly recommend you visit her store! For the sake of total transparency, I have designed several pieces in her yarns (Gothic Forest Scarf, Pyrenees Shawl, and Crow’s Foot Cowl). Tabi currently has yarn kits available for the Crow’s Foot Cowl which include a coupon for the pattern.

Ceylon Cowl

Tabi modeling the Cowl of Ceylon

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit? And dyeing?
My grandmother taught me to knit when I was fairly young, maybe 6 or 7 years old. She also crocheted and sewed. I started dyeing in 2010 because I wanted to create hand dyed silks for spinning.

How did you get started designing?
I also started designing in 2010. I love lace designs and had knit quite a few Nieblings so I was intrigued by his unique style. I also wanted to create motifs that weren’t in stitch dictionaries.

What inspires your designs and dyeing?
My designs are often inspired by architecture here and abroad and design magazines and websites. I enjoy re-interpreting classic shapes that we might see in stone, tile or wood and translating them into texture and colour. Dyeing is almost always the serendipity of the day.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It really depends on the project, but usually the inspiration comes first, then I get excited imagining all the different types of yarns I can use for the implementation.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I prefer my designs to be concise with minimal finishing or simple shaping. I’m a slow knitter, so I try to consider ‘quicker’ techniques such as stranded colourwork vs. double knitting or brioche or mosaic. The effect is subtly different, but it’s much faster (for me) to knit.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Because I’m not great at fit, I still mainly design accessories, particularly stoles and scarves, but also socks and gloves. Overall stoles are my favourite because you can tell a story across its width, similar to medieval tapestries.

How do your travels connect into your dyeing?
My travels connect directly with both my dyeing and my designs. I’m often inspired by the architecture and carvings of temples, churches, palaces of far-off places, but also ‘mundane’ objects like baskets and piles of fresh produce in open air markets.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I would love to do a Fair Isle cardigan at some point incorporating my handspun yarns.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a double sided (but not double knit!) reversible colour work scarf and neckwarmer design in the immediate queue. I knit the original scarf for my partner, but I keep stealing it (I usually ask first), so I decided to knit and write up a neckwarmer version so we can figure out who gets which.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That’s way too hard! My first answer would be any handspun, but mill spun yarn would have to be Sericin Silkworks 50/50 Bison/Silk.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
That’s a tough one. Either my Clouds of Luxury Fair Isle Fingerless Gloves or Stupas and Spires. Clouds was inspired by the many beautiful fair isle patterns, but with a more modern look. It was spun then knit from a luxury fiber sample pack, but I’ve since knit the pattern with fine fingering weight yarns, a shetland yarn would be perfect, and I even knit a worsted version for my mom from commercial yarn.

Stupas and Spires was released in the Spring 2014 PLY magazine. It is a side-to-side stole, originally made from a graduated handspun laceweight yarn whose colours and design were inspired by the temple complexes of Sri Lanka.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
I don’t feel I’m a very accomplished knitter. Although I enjoy complicated lace and colourwork, I’m terrible at fit and shaping. However, I’m very fortunate to have a great LYS, Shall We Knit?, and many local talented knitting friends and designers. My biggest piece of advice is to seek out other knitting friends, you will learn so much, not only about knitting but life!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Herbert Niebling. He was able to sit down and immediately translate an organic (ie. non-geometric) motif to a lace design.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I need to get better at queuing up my next knitting or spinning projects before finishing the current one. I often find myself knit- or spin-less for a week or two between projects. Valuable time wasted! Plus it’s embarrassing when you get invited to knit or spin-ins and you don’t have a project. :-)

View all of Tabi’s patterns here. Photos copyright Tabi Ferguson. 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!

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