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.
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!