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: 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!

Interview: Katherine Matthews, Purl Diving

December18

Today’s interview is with Katherine Matthews of Purl Diving, a friend and design colleague.

Dulce - Scarf and Shawl

Dulce – Scarf and Shawl

How did you get started designing?
I’d always played around with making changes to things and doing things my own way a little, but when Knitters magazine had their first sock designing contest, I realized that I had knit enough socks to have totally absorbed the mechanics of the basic shape, and that all I had to do was figure out how to plug in a stitch pattern and tweak some design elements to make things pleasing. I entered two pairs in the contest: Tipsy Knitter socks, and Ribble socks, and both of them made it into the Socks, Socks, Socks compilation. Then a sweater I’d designed for my niece made it into their collection of baby patterns. Even after that, I mostly just designed things for myself, until my friends at the LYS (Shall We Knit?) encouraged me to start publishing patterns for what I was doing.

What inspires your designs?
Lots and lots and LOTS of things — it can be a phrase in a book I’m reading, or something from a movie I’ve watched that will set an idea in motion. I love museums and art galleries, so sometimes the exhibits I see will spark something off. Or, I can just be walking down the street and see an interesting pattern or shape. So many different things can be an influence.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I’ve had it work both ways — bought a yarn and then worked an idea around it, or had the inspiration and gone searching for the yarn. But I think, most often, the inspiration comes first, and then I search for the yarn.

Breakwater Shawl

Breakwater Shawl

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like minimalistic garments — those are what I wear most often, and those are what I enjoy designing most. I love garter stitch, and it finds a place in many of my designs.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love to design shawls and scarves — again, they’re what I use most often on a daily basis, and I like to wear what I design.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I don’t think I could pick one yarn, especially with all the beautiful ones out there these days — however, I do know that it would be fingering weight. That’s what I love to design with most.

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
Socks — plain socks. I generally only knit socks for my husband Rob, and I’ve got his socks down to a science. I know exactly how many stitches to cast on, how many rows to work, I just put the yarn on the needles and go.

Tide

Tide

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I have to say that I wish there had been a little better reaction to Tide — though I think I understand why there hasn’t been. I’ve recently started working with a photographer and model for my pattern photos, and Tide was the design that was, essentially, our learning process. Also, the day we chose to shoot was incredibly bright, and I don’t think the colour shows up as nicely as it might have otherwise. But it’s a pattern I love, and I’m looking forward to knitting it again and maybe re-shooting the photos at some point.

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
I’ve already cast on Ananke by Shannon Squire — that pattern was just so “me”, with the garter stitch and ribbing. I suspect that’s the only one I’ll have time for during the GAL, sadly. I have the yarn set aside to make Linda Choo’s Kawartha Morning Mist, which is such a pretty shawl. And I need to brush up my almost non-existent crocheting skills, but I would really love to work one of Beth Graham’s crochet patterns, maybe the Swirly Blanket or her Chained scarf, at some point.

Continental or English?
Mostly English, but I can knit Continental, and use it for two-handed colourwork.

Dulce - Scarf and Shawl

Dulce – Scarf and Shawl

What’s the best thing about knitting? What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
I kind of see these two as related — for me, I love the fact that you can rip something out if it’s not right or it’s not working — and I’d tell knitters not to be afraid to do just that. Nothing is a waste, and you can always learn something from the experience. And sometimes, ripping out a project that just isn’t what you want is incredibly freeing!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?

Oh, too many! But I’ve got several projects that I’ve left percolating, and I think it’s time to see if I can make some progress on them in 2015.

View all of Katherine’s patterns here. All other photos were taken by John Meadows Photography, with modeling provided by Jennifer Santos Bettencourt. Photos are used by permission.

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

Interview: Linda Choo

December8

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

5 Shades of Acer Collection

5 Shades of Acer Collection

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

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

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

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

Spring Garden Walk Collection

Spring Garden Walk Collection

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

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

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

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

Kamagata Collection

Kamagata Collection

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

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

Continental or English?
English

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

Woodland Path Collection

Woodland Path Collection


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

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

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

View all of Linda’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Linda Choo. All images used by permission.

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

Interview: Beth Graham

December4

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

Beth Graham, modeling Scarf Theory

Beth Graham, modeling Scarf Theory

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

A Useful Pot to Keep Things In

A Useful Pot To Keep Things In

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

Wedgie Blanket, photo by Mary Chapman

Wedgie Blanket, photo copyright Mary Chapman

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

Chained Scarf

Chained Scarf

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

Offset Spike Scrap Cloths

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

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

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

Bandwagon Blanket

Bandwagon Blanket

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

Jenny June Scarf

Jenny June Scarf, photo copyright Mary Chapman

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

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

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

Not true.

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

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

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

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

Interview: Anne Blayney, AnnieBee Knits

December1

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

Anne Blayney, modeling Brightness and Contrast.

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

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

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

Chawton Mitts

Chawton Mitts

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

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

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

Hue and Value

Hue and Value

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

Mitred Square Blanket

Mitred Square Blanket

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

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

Umami Cowl, Photography by Lindsey Ligett/Waterloo Wools

Umami Cowl, Photo by Lindsey Ligett/Waterloo Wools

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

Continental or English?

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

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

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

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

View all of Anne’s patterns here. All photos, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Anne Blayney. All images used by permission.

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

Interview: Selina S, Knotty Turtles

November25

Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Selina S of Knotty Turtles. Selina is a the first of my local designer friends that I’m interviewing for the GAL (more than half the Ontario, Canada designers live in our area, something must be in the water!). Her design esthetic is quite unique – and nothing can quite compare to seeing a large gathering of her slugs (what is the collective noun for slugs?)

Selina Siu

Selina Siu

How did you get started designing?
I don’t remember when or why I started doing my own thing, but I wrote down my first pattern when a local dyer in my knit group ask for patterns to go with her yarns. I had just knit a hat to a friend’s specifications and thought the design would look good in a variegated yarn.

What inspires your designs?
Sometimes it is because someone ask me for something, like when my partner wanted a brain slug. Sometimes its because there’s a problem to solve. For example, I was wondering if it was possible to knit fingerless gloves with only 2 ends and ended up with my Platypus gloves.

Platypus Gloves

Platypus Gloves

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Definitely the inspiration!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
As few ends and seams as possible! Maybe a bit of silliness now and then? I do try and make sure a few of the final photos have some ferrets in it. Does that count?

rand()

rand()

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I haven’t really designed enough to have a favourite. Toys are instant gratification, I don’t have enough sweaters, and my hands are always cold. Those are probably my priority right now.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
May I take my spinning wheel and a supply of qiviut? Handmaiden 4 ply cashmere if I can’t.

My Little Slug

My Little Slug

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
It might be hard to believe, but slugs and blowfishes. I know the patterns well enough to knit them during staff meetings. I have 2 nieces that I’m not allowed to buy things for, so they get a few octoslugs and blowfishes in different colours every year. They are good presents for kids and the slugs are taking over my dryer. If I don’t have anything to knit, I pull out some yarn scraps and knit slugs.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Tiriaq fingerlings. It may just remain lost in a sea of cable glove patterns! I made a number of these before someone asked me to write it down. The ribbing makes it a really flexible fit, and lots of sizing options on top of that.

Tiriaq Fingerlings

Tiriaq Fingerlings

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
1. The Minimissimi Sweater Coat. I’ve wanted to knit that forever. I was planning to start it but discovered none of my stash yarn will work.
2. Saltire kept catching my eye. I haven’t done any 2 colour crochet shawls, so it is very intriguing.
3. Mostly likely what I’ll end up doing is a splat cat, because it is hard to argue against instant gratification. Plus they crack me up.

Continental or English?
I knit English when I don’t want to look, but I learned continental so I could do ribbing faster. All continental if I’m doing double knitting or stranded.

My Little Blowfish

My Little Blowfish

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Something soft, squishy, and unique made with sweat and tears!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Try new techniques on toys knitted with wool. Go ahead and make a tons of mistake and watch them all disappear when you felt them in the washer!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Spin more. Knit more handspun. Write down some patterns. Document my yarn and fibre stash on Rav.

View all of Selina’s patterns here. Photography by Kristina Sinzig. 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!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Email Preference *
Email Format

Visit my Ravelry Shop

My Knitting Patterns


Audrey II



Angular Path Scarf



Cartouche Stole



Fossetta Cowl



Fossetta Hat



Sargaço Shawl



Whitman Hat



Every Which Way Cowl



Every Which Way Hat



Every Which Way Fingerless Mitts



Gothic Forest Scarf



Valencia Scarf



Branching Path Cowl



Flower Bell Stole



Whitman Cowl



New Tech Cowl



Vieux Carré Stole



Stacks Socks



Anna Perenna Shawlette



Taming of the Fox


Don't Ask Y

Cantilevering Leaves



Amplification Stole



Combs Cowl



Mindfulness Cowl



Tipsy Scarf



Gridwork Scarf
Ravelry Free Download