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: Anneh Fletcher

December20

Today’s second interview is with Canadian designer Anneh of Shanghai Lily.

Anneh, modeling Clochán

Anneh, modeling Clochán

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I’ve been knitting off and on since I was about five years old, but I picked it up with a vengeance back in 2003. My mom originally taught me to knit with some plastic needles she cut short and then glued buttons on to make the ends. When I was in my teens, the German mother of one of my mom’s friends taught me to knit in Continental style. It didn’t matter that I didn’t speak German and she didn’t speak English, we could still understand each other!

How did you get started designing?
I started designing in October 2013. A few people had suggested I try designing before that, but I never felt like I had any interesting or unique ideas that were worth pursuing. But while I was watching an episode of the British TV show Time Team, I had an idea that really excited me. I designed Caerwent that weekend.

What inspires your designs?
For the patterns I’ve designed for self-striping yarns, I’ve been inspired by shapes and impressions that I get from watching episodes of Time Team. Sometimes a fleeting glance of an interesting geometric shape is enough to trigger an idea. Many of my other sock designs are similarly inspired, in that I will see a shape or motif somewhere, like on a building, and that will set my mind going. Of course, not all those ideas work out!

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It depends! I have a huge stash, and lots of that impossible-to-resist self-striping sock yarn. Trying to use up stash was partially the impetus for me to design patterns for stripy yarns. But when inspiration strikes first, I stash-dive to find the best fit. Of course, that doesn’t always work, and sometimes I have to buy yarn to match an idea, which is always fun.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I really want my designs to be simple and interesting to knit. We’ve all knit patterns that made us crazy, and have also knit ones that were fun and intuitive, and were therefore simple. I aim for the latter, so that the knitter will enjoy the process and also like the finished item.

Tell me about “The Black Album”, what is the story behind this collection?
This was completely self-serving: I wear a lot of black clothing, and many mornings when I was getting dressed, I would think “I wish I had more black socks.” (I’m sure I’m not alone in this). Being a knitter, of course “need more socks” meant knitting them myself. But complex patterns stitch patterns get lost in the darkness of the yarn, so I set out to design something that would still be visible, even when knit in black. I ended up having enough ideas for a whole collection!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
There’s no simple answer to this! I love the rich colours of Wollmeise, but would never knit socks from it…it’s just too precious! For socks, any of the hard-wearing “work horse” yarns are my go-to: Regia, Patons Kroy and Kroy FX, OnLine, Fortissima and Lana Grossa are all great sock yarn options that I just couldn’t live without. And then there are the stripy yarns from indie dyers like TurtlePurl, with whom I’ve partnered in the past, where the colours are stunning, and the yarn does all the work for you.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
In my humble opinion, it is Black Rib, which is my favourite pattern to knit for gifts. It makes a sock that is stretchy and easy to put on, and is not too fancy for those not used to wearing handknits, but still has enough going on to make it fun to knit.

View all of Anneh’s patterns here. All photos copyright Anneh Fletcher. All images used by permission.

You can find Debbie 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: Lisa Chemery

December20

My first interview today is with Lisa Chemery of Frogginette Knitting Patterns.

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was about 7 but I wasn’t a fan at the time and didn’t pick up the needles again until I was in my early 20s.

How did you get started designing?
I wasn’t seeing the kinds of children designs that I wanted to make, so I decided to create them myself.

What inspires your designs?
Children inspire me. Their sense of whimsy, their innocence, the way everything is fresh and wondrous to them. Also, more practically, I pay close attention to what they like to wear 😉

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Most of the times, the inspiration, though some yarns do tell me what they want to be!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I always try to make my designs as fun and straightforward to knit as I possibly can, while trying to keep unexpected elements in there. I try to stay away from fiddly techniques unless they are absolutely necessary.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love designing outerwear and chunkier cardigans. And shrugs!

Tell me about designing for babies/toddlers, what led you to design for this age group?
Initially I was in the midst of a baby-boom and was asked to knit a lot of baby items. Since then, I’ve had my own kids and between the lack of knitting time and their need to be clothed, I ended up designing what made the most practical sense at the time. I also have a short attention span, haha! I have so many ideas (as most designers do) that it’s nice to be able to move on quickly and not get bogged down in designing a grown-up sized garment for weeks at a time.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have been obsessing about stranded colorwork lately and I would love to make an all-over fair isle cardigan for myself.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a very adorable unisex sweater that should be out within the next month or so, and I am currently working on a stranded colorwork tunic for my daughter, so if I’m happy with the result, I might turn that into a pattern.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Only one yarn? That’s tough. I can narrow it down to two: The Plucky Knitter’s Primo Aran, which is absolutely scrumptious, and my favorite workhorse yarn, Eco+ by Cascade Yarns.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
That would probably be a tie between my Framboise top and my Petite Feuilles booties. I get so excited when someone knits one of these because I still love both designs!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to try new techniques, and make sure you block your hand-knits!

View all of Lisa’s patterns here. All photos copyright Lisa Chemery. All images used by permission.

You can find Lisa 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: Debbie Sullivan

December19

The second interview today is with Debbie Sullivan of Sweet Paprika Designs.

Debbie modeling Diagonal Lace Shawl

Debbie modeling Diagonal Lace Shawl

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My grandmother taught me, when I was about 11 years old. She lived pretty far away at the time, and on one of her visits she showed me and my sisters how to knit. A little while later she sent us a box of yarn, patterns and needles in the mail, which was a great way to keep us inspired to do it on our own. She had started us on straights though, so I remember it took us a while to figure out what the circular needles and stitch holders were for…

How did you get started designing?
I’d been making up things to knit for myself, often using stitch patterns from the Barbara Walker treasuries, without ever thinking of it as “designing”. Then when my sister Elizabeth and I started our business (Sweet Paprika Designs) we were teaching classes, and starting to put together written patterns to teach from. My Diagonal Lace Shawl pattern was the first one I ever wrote, it’s super simple and I was using it for a beginner lace class. This was around 8 years ago when Ravelry and online self-publishing were just starting to take off, so it was pretty natural to try putting our patterns up online for the wider public as well.

What inspires your designs?
Usually I start with the idea to make a particular item (hat, socks, sweater, etc) and then start playing with shapes, colours and stitch patterns. I’ll do some sketching and swatching and try to make it all come together in a way that makes sense for that garment or item. I can be quite picky once I have an idea in my head and have been known to knit many, many swatches in order to figure out how to make it work.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Most often it’s the yarn. I spend a lot of my time dyeing yarn as part of our business, so I have lots of opportunity to dream up what I might want to knit with it! It’s also important to us to have a range of pattern support for our yarns, so when we add a new yarn we’re always excited to start designing with it and showing it off.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
The details of construction are pretty important to me in garments. Since I have a little bit of sewing/costume making experience I’ll often start with the shape of the piece (sometimes even drape it with fabric first to make sure it will work) and then figure out how to create those shapes in knitting. I also tend to include finicky finishing details and then worry that no one else will have the patience for them!

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’ve really enjoyed working on both of my sock designs. Partly I think because the sizing/grading isn’t that complicated, and that’s my least favourite part of the process.

Tell me about “Bracquemond”, what is the story behind this design?
The Impressionists collection was put together for our first-ever sweater club. We needed three sweater designs that each used a different yarn, and for some reason I volunteered to use the fingering-weight for my design. I regretted that decision after I somehow lost one of the sleeves as it was in progress and had to re-knit a whole new one on a very short deadline! I am happy with the result though, it’s one of my favourite hand-knit sweaters to wear.

The other two sweaters in the collection are designed by my sister (Elizabeth Sullivan) and Jennifer Wood. We knew we wanted a theme to bring the three designs together, and it happened to rain on the day we had scheduled for the photoshoot so we happened to have a Renoir umbrella in several of the shots. That, together with the mood and styling of the other photos had us thinking about impressionist painters, so we ended up naming each of the designs after one of “les trois grandes dames” of impressionism. Marie Bracquemond was a late-nineteenth century French painter who was mentored by Monet and Degas.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I’m quite a fearless knitter actually – I think it comes of having lots of practice fixing my own mistakes! I’ve never knit a really complex show-stopper lace shawl and I’d love to do that someday. But currently most of my knitting time takes place on public transit, which is not so great for reading charts… Lily Go’s Narnia shawl caught my eye recently, for when I have a bit more focused knitting time.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a crocheted hat and mitts set for babies that we’ve got really cute photos for but I’ve been procrastinating about writing up. Hopefully that will be published quite soon.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
I mainly knit with Sweet Paprika yarn, partly because we always need more samples, and partly I have easy access to it in whatever colour I want! I don’t think I could pick just one yarn though, as there are so many characteristics inherent in different yarn weights and fibre types that might be perfect for one project but terrible for another.

And now I’m imagining myself stranded on a desert island, trying to find the perfect design to use rope or vines or something that I’d actually have in that situation… Maybe a twine bag for gathering edible plants?

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
For some reason my Transposition scarf has never gotten very much attention from knitters, although I get compliments on the sample from non-knitters whenever I wear it.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
I often tell beginner knitters that once they can knit and purl they can do anything – everything else is just a variation on those two stitches. It’s also great to learn to read your knitting right off the bat if you can – if you understand what’s happening it makes fixing your mistakes much easier, not to mention having your own ideas about how to modify a pattern or create a design.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I have a big bin full of bits and ends of yarn that I inherited from my grandmother and have been adding to for the past eight years or so, with the intention to someday knit it into a scrappy afghan. I’d love to finally get a start on that in the new year!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Hmm, I’m not sure – I don’t really have a design idol. I would love to meet Barbara Walker though, just to thank her for putting together those treasuries. I used to get them out of the library all the time starting when I was 11 or 12 years old, and they are still a source of inspiration for me.

View all of Debbie’s patterns here. Transposition photo copyright Kim-E Photo. All other photos copyright Veronica Schleihauf. All images used by permission.

You can find Debbie 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: Yvonne of Thread Forward

December19

This morning’s interview is with Canadian designer Yvonne of Thread Forward.

Yvonne modeling Liassic

Yvonne modeling Liassic

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was surrounded by fiber for almost as long as I can remember – my mother was a knitter, weaver, spinner and sewer. I can remember the excitement of the day that her spinning wheel arrived in the mail and helping her braid a cord for my new mittens. I was thrilled to show them at school the next day. My mother taught me to knit at a young age and I knit off and on until I was in university. Then I took it up as a form of relaxation and have never looked back!

How did you get started designing?
My first design was made for our local knitting guild’s 15th anniversary. I chose a stitch pattern with a fifteen stitch repeat and made a cowl as part of our summer challenge for the guild. A few knitter friends within the guild encouraged me to publish the pattern on Ravelry. Shortly after that, a non- knitter friend asked me to make a couple of cowls for her kids for skiing and snowboarding that winter so I designed the Fledgling Owl Cowl for her daughter and the Kids Creeper Cowl for her son. I soon published those patterns and I have been was hooked! Early in 2015, I started a blog about knitting from an early Victorian era knitting book by Miss Lambert (1843, My Knitting Book, First Series) which I affectionately called my MKB Project. At the same time decided to start publishing more patterns with the help of a technical editor. Both ventures have been great fun!

What inspires your designs?
I like simplicity, practicality and colour. I am often inspired by a need for a hat for myself or mittens for my children or to deal with some challenging yarn in my stash. As I have been working through the early Victorian era knitting book, I have found that the patterns are also simple, practical and use colour in an interesting way. I am inspired by the stitch patterns in the book and am working towards (a) publishing photographs and patterns in modern day knitting language on my blog and (b) bringing versions of the stitch patterns forward to the present in a modern context with a vintage flare.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
For the most part, I would say I am first inspired and then choose the yarn to fit. However, I have to say that sometimes it is the yarn that comes first. For example, I had a small skein of very bright fingering weight yarn that I really loved when I bought it but found I couldn’t find the right pattern for it. I found that it went really nicely with another heavier weight yarn and created the pattern for The Bus Stops Here hat.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
My goal is to make my designs simple but include something in them that people may want to try on a smaller scale such as a provisional cast on, lace or combining a crochet edging on a knitted project. As I continue to design, I hope to be able to bring old and forgotten knitting stitch patterns back to life in a modern context. Living in Canada where it can be very cold in the winter, I also want my designs to be practical and provide warmth!

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I don’t have a favourite item – I think my favourite item is whatever it is that I’m working on at the time. It grabs my attention, enthusiasm and challenges me. Right now, I am working on a design for fingerless mittens and so far I am greatly enjoying the challenge and the process!

Tell me about “Timan Ridge Cowl”, what is the story behind this design?
I was inspired to design the Timan Ridge Cowl after knitting the first pattern from Miss Lambert’s 1843 knitting manual for Siberian Cuffs. When I researched Siberian Cuffs in other knitting books and online, I learned that there are several early Victorian knitting patterns that used shades of grey and/or brown to knit garments that mimicked various types of fur, including sable and chinchilla, worn by the wealthy at the time. The Victorians were fascinated with natural history and I chose to name the cowl after Timan Ridge, geological feature found in Siberia, the home of the Siberian sable.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I think my aspirational design would be to design a lace shawl. I find them to be so beautiful and delicate and hope that I will be able to incorporate some Victorian lace patterns into a unique object with historical significance in the future.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
My next two designs will be released before the end of 2015 and will include a pair of Victorian inspired fingerless mittens (Penny Post) and a buttoned version of my previously published Guild Anniversary Cowl.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
If I could only choose one yarn to work with from now on, I would choose some kind of silk/alpaca blend to knit with. My son is someone who does not enjoy the texture of most yarns (sadly) but he loves silk/alpaca blend. But, if I was on a desert island, I would want a sturdy sock yarn that would withstand being knit, ripped out, and knit again while I wait for rescue!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
My most under-appreciated design is A Tunic For Violet. I really do love this pretty baby tunic with vintage appeal. I combined a modified version of a 173 year old Victorian lace stitch pattern with the simple shaping of a 1930s era singlet. There is a crochet shell stitch along the hem and forming the caps of the sleeves which also adds to the vintage feel. I feel that the pattern is a nice small project to try out a simple lace pattern, venture into the world of knitting garments and combining knitting and crochet without a huge financial or time commitment! And, at the end you have an adorable little tunic for a person who is new to this world!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to try something new and don’t overthink your knitting!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Not yet, I really should make some!!!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Zimmerman. Do I need to say why? I would love to talk with her about her life, her knitting and what it was really like for her when she started ‘thinking outside the pattern.’

View all of Yvonne’s patterns here. All photos copyright Thread Forward. All images used by permission.

You can find Yvonne 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: Ela Torrente

December18

My second interview today is with Italian designer Ela Torrente of Modish Knits.

Ela Torrente

Ela Torrente

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I learned to knit from my mother, but mainly from my grandmother. My granny was a cable ninja! She knits only with 2-3 mm needles because she loved to do very intricate garments for newborns. So, I will never reach ever the teacher!

How did you get started designing?
Ravelry has changed my life! I learned modern techniques and I could adapt the patterns to myself. A few years ago, it was less easy to find very small sizes (I am a pocket size woman). So… I customized everything. This helped me to create my designs later.

What inspires your designs?
Nature, more than anything else.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It depends. Sometimes one, sometimes the other. Let’s say that happens more often that I have an idea and then apply it to my stash. It means many swatches, some disappointment, a final cry of joy!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I try to do wearables. Sweaters or accessories that do not remain forgotten in the closet. It is important for me, I wear almost everyday my knitting stuff.
So, “knit comfortable” is my mantra.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Definitely top-down sweaters!

Tell me about “A Study in Single”, what was the inspiration for this collection?
For “A Study in Single” I immersed myself in the joy of working what I love most: single ply, non-superwash yarns. I know some may be frightened by felting, but there is nothing more pleasing to knit feeling the pure fiber in your hands.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I never knitted socks! A full of shaping-extralong-fair isle pair of socks! Some day… maybe… who knows.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Oh, you’ll see a lot of things in 2016! I’m working with some incredible magazines, some amazing dyers and stunning yarn companies! I’m very happy. I will be immersed also in my “Ultimate Modish Sweater Club” that I started on October: 6 brand new sweaters in 12 months!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
A giant, never ending, roving to spin. Could it be?

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
It’s a difficult question!
I’m quite new in this job and I haven’t the parameters for judging the liking of others. I can say that I underestimated my Yellow Brick Road cardi. When I released it in May 2014, I was very surprised by the popularity of the pattern. Even today, when I look at how many wonderful sweaters finished on Ravelry, I find myself surprised, proud and touched too!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Be patient, and smile more!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I would like to try out new yarns and create new relations with dyers. I enjoyed so much to work with fiber artists in 2015. I hope to find out a good ease to create new partnerships.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Oh, fantastic! Well, if I could I’d love to cooking for Barbara Walker! Her Treasures of Knitting constantly occupy tables, coffee tables, chairs or shelves in my home. She is always with us ahah!

View all of Ela’s patterns here. All photos copyright Ela Torrente. All images used by permission.

You can find Ela 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: Jessie McKitrick

December18

Today’s first interview is with Canadian designer Jessie McKitrick, you can visit her blog here.

Jessie modeling the Starlet Stole

Jessie modeling the Starlet Stole

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I didn’t happen to know any knitters when I wanted to learn, so I taught myself to knit from books; however, I owe a debt of gratitude to my mom who is always crafting something. As I was growing up, this taught me by example that there’s always a way to sort out how to make something yourself, and that gave me the confidence to give it a try.

How did you get started designing?
I’ve always had a tendency to picture something I want to make in my head before I start looking for patterns or instructions, and so, whenever I have not been able to find quite exactly the right thing to fit that picture, I’ve turned to making it myself. Ravelry was full of amazing people sharing the patterns for the amazing things they had made, and so it was only natural to start sharing, and then eventually selling, a few things. More recently, I have started submitting patterns to third party publications, such as Knit Now Magazine, Knit Picks collections and Interweave Knits, and have been fortunate enough to have patterns published with them.

What inspires your designs?
Whimsy, colour, and shapes. I love the mood boards that are often included with calls for submission, and enjoy trying to see what I can come up with for them; it’s a fun part of the collaboration!

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I can approach a design from either direction, but on balance, I would say inspiration.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Wool is definitely high in my priorities; I love working with and wearing it as it has so many great qualities! I have a tendency towards fitted garments in lighter weight yarns, and towards including graphic elements such as colourwork, cables, or texture that I find visually striking.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Definitely colourwork mittens. For such a small canvas, there are so many possibilities and so many colours to work with!

Tell me about your mitten designs, what was the inspiration for this collection?
My first mitten design “Madison’s Marvellous Mobile Mittens” were the result of a commission for a friend who wanted to text while keeping her hands warm. Popinjays are inspired by a detail from some Italian fabric from the 14th Century that I found in a book while I was looking for neat ideas for a pair of handwarmers. My mother-in-law is very fond of penguins, so I originally had her in mind when charting the Penguin mittens, but in the end, my youngest needed a new pair much sooner, so I re-worked the chart for kid-sized mittens. Floral Heart Mittens“>Floral Heart Mittens and Lily mittens both arose from a few sessions where I played around with traditional Nordic motifs, and re-interpreted them in my own way. When I’m charting mittens, hours can go by without my noticing, as it’s very engrossing watching the motifs evolve while being moved around, changed to different sizes, and combined in different ways.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I think I’d like to design and knit a traditional-style Fair Isle jumper or vest someday.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
At the moment I’m at the waiting stage for hearing back about some third party submissions, but I’m also in the early stages of working on a new pair of colourwork mittens, as well as swatching some sweater ideas.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Ooo, that’s a tough one… If I pick Jamieson and Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight, can I have all the colours?

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I’d have to say Irish Cowboy, which is a cowl/neckwarmer that doesn’t seem to have attracted much notice overall. It’s warm and cozy, it has cashmere, it has cables, and it’s a nice little knit. I wear mine all the time in the winter (so, November through May), and find it quite practical when I wear it with my V-neck coat as it doesn’t leave a gap the way scarves tend to do.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Swatches aren’t just for gauge; they’re also for trying new things. If there’s something you really want to make, but it has a new skill involved that you’re not sure of, use swatching as an opportunity to try out the new skill. Swatches are great to test out different sorts of increases, decreases, seaming, steeking, colourwork, cables, lace, or any other thing you want to try or to practice more. Also, do still swatch for gauge!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
For designing, I think I should pick something from my “I’m not ready for ‘x’ yet” list of business development, and either get myself ready, or just give it a go whether I feel ready or not. Sometimes that is the best way, as I might never actually feel ready! Knitwise, I always make my first knitting of the year something for myself, whether it is to start something new or to finish something that is languishing in hibernation.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Another tricky one! I had a lot of designers come to mind, but in the end I picked Kate Atherley, partly because of the depth of her technical knowledge and interest in improving the clarity of knitting patterns, partly because she is working on a book of mitten designs, but also because I am sure (based on following her on Twitter) that she would be entertaining company and would probably also bring ice-cream for dessert if I asked nicely!

View all of Jessie’s patterns here. Popinjays photo copyright Beverly Feddema. All other photos copyright Jessie McKitrick. All images used by permission.

You can find Jessie 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: Holly Stevens

December17

Today’s second interview is with Holly Stevens, a designer from New Zealand.

Holly modeling Diana

Holly, modeling Call Me, Diana

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My nana and my mum play a very big part in my knitting, I still have fond memories of running downstairs to mum and asking her to cast on for me so I could carry on, I would have been about 8yrs old. My 8yr old is equally as keen so hopefully a future Hollyberry prototype knitter! I have 5 young children so even if I just end up with a few knitters I will be a very happy mummy passing on my craft to a new generation.

How did you get started designing?
I bought an amazing knitting magazine almost 2 yrs ago now that had a pull out that was about designing your own hats – it spiralled out of control from there!

What inspires your designs?
A number of things really. Sometimes I think of something and I draw it and the idea spirals from there. Sometimes its a matter of searching on Rav [Ravelry] for something that I want and can’t find so I design it! A few times I have seen a stitch that I have fallen in love with and thought “that must become a hat.” I love the stitch on my “Chloe slouch” so much its echoed through quite a few of my designs. I am also working on something now that is based on a description from my 8yr old.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
The majority of the time its the inspiration, sometimes I find that no matter how big my stash is I don’t have quite what I am after so I will dye something up or talk some of my dyeing friends into a quick custom! I have one that has been floating around in my head for a while now and I just don’t have the right yarn so I expect to get the dye pots out in the very near future.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I love seamless knitting, I doubt I will ever design a seamed knit. I love trying different things so I have a few garments with raglan sleeves and one (so far) with contiguous. I have also played around a bit with different collar options. Ohhh lace – I love a bit of lace, something that I would really like to improve is my lace writing skills. I do worry a bit how much is too much – do I need a hood and a pocket and buttons and etc etc etc. I do tend to need to reign myself in sometimes and think “well that could actually be two designs instead of one with all the things”

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Its probably not that surprising but I LOVE slouch hats – probably because they really are the only type of hats that suit me (selfish designing hehe) but I love them! They are so quick and can incorporate so many different brims, stitches etc. I have a bit of a thing for furry pompoms lately so I designed Lilybelle and decided after the first photoshoot that it NEEDED a fur pompom – I have quite the stash!

Tell me about “Little Monkeys”, what was the inspiration for this collection?
Little monkeys is named after some of my children. I started with “Biddybelle” and wanted to knit my youngest a cute A-line dress with just a little something extra. I have a bit of a fascination with colourwork, although sadly my skills are lacking! The idea is that with either of the designs you get a number of different graphs for the colourwork aspect and you choose one of your liking or I encourage you to choose/design one of your own.

Jahvis” came about after my 4yr old Toby decided that he wanted a boys one with tractor pictures – so what Toby wants Toby gets right? ? Anyway I thought that a wee chest pocket makes a gorgeous wee addition for little people to pop their little treasures in. Jahvis works equally as well for girls as it does for boys. I couldn’t have designed a collection named after some of my children without naming it something that describes that – so “Little Monkeys” was born!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I do – I would love to do an adults version of “Jessie-Ivy” I love retro clothing and think a cropped fitted version would be fantastic with some of my dresses and skirts. I just don’t know if I am confident enough to take a leap into adult garments just yet. I may have to start with a couple for myself and see if I am keen to reveal it to the general public. I suffer a bit from design anxiety and it’s a scary thought to put your work out there to be judged, I love it but I think I may need to grow a thicker skin.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a couple of things on the cards right now, “Therese” is one – named after my Nana, it is a knitted dress with a full skirt on it, it’s the one my 8yr old helped to design. I love it to pieces. It incorporates contiguous sleeves and the only hold up has been me trying to decipher my hand scrawled notes. I also have an adults accessory design that I am going to start very soon, I cant reveal too much just yet but its not a hat, socks, scarf, gloves or shawl…..

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Anything on a MCN base, its so luxurious I could knit/wear it forever. My favourite MCN source is Featherbrush Yarns, Rachel is a close friend of mine and “she gets me” so if I request a custom colour its absolutely perfect (usually a red – I am very predictable)

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Definitely the Enlace Shawlette – it does incorporate a crochet edging though so I appreciate a lot of my followers don’t crochet, and the ones that do don’t knit! It also looks a lot more complicated than it is so that can be off putting. My posing in the pattern pictures probably also didn’t help!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
You can NEVER have too many WIPs, I know that sometimes when it feels like you have far too many it feels a bit naughty to start a new one. If you aren’t feeling something don’t carry on with it because you feel like you have to before you start something new – just pop it aside and start the new thing, you can always come back to it when you have rekindled the love for it. There is nothing worse than a growing hatred for a design or project because you are forcing yourself to finish it!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
hmmm good question – not really, I think my biggest resolution is to knit and design with my own yarn! I have a few yarny trade shows to go to next year to peddle my yarn and I really don’t have any good knitted prototypes of it. It would be great to have something gorgeous to show off that I have knitted for myself in yarn I had dyed. I have the odd thing but I could always use more right? I do find it hard to justify keeping yarn that could be sold but surely its cheaper than buying it retail from someone else (yes I am trying to talk myself into being selfish)

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
It would probably have to be Andi Satterlund to be honest. I just love her retro styled designs and I would LOVE to pick her brains about designing for adults.

View all of Holly’s patterns here. All photos copyright Holly Stevens. All images used by permission.

You can find Holly 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: Heather Pfeifer

December17

The first interview this morning is with Canadian designer Heather Pfeifer.

Heather Pfeifer, modeling Xale Drago

Heather, modeling Xale Drago

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My aunt taught me to knit in 2005 I think, literally as we were walking out the door to travel home from Edmonton! She only had time to show me how to cast on, do a knit stitch and then a purl stitch. She gave me the plastic needles and some acrylic to play around with as my husband drove the three hour trip to Calgary. My mother-in-law then guided me through casting off over the phone a few days later! Once I figured out the knit and purl stitches I didn’t know where to go from there or even how to read a pattern, so I put the needles down. A week before our daughter was born in 2007 I picked the needles up again to pass the time along with a How-To book from the library. And I haven’t put them down since.

How did you get started designing?
I started by modifying existing designs to fit my shape. Then started having a design element in mind but couldn’t find any existing patterns to my liking. Instead of modifying an existing one, I started from scratch using my own measurements to create something for myself.

What inspires your designs?
I love how stitches form lines of movement within the fabric, whether they are columns of cables or repeats of lace. A simple motif can make a piece seem very complex.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Sometimes it’s an element from a stitchionary, say a cable or lace pattern. Sometimes it’s the combination of yarn fibre and colour that I can see myself wearing in a certain way.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Seamless designs are always topmost in my mind when designing. When I’m done knitting, all I want to have to do is weave in as few ends as possible, then block. I also want to maximize the yardage in a skein. For my kids designs, I want my knitting effort to be enjoyed for as long as possible, so they are designed with more length in the sleeves and body and enough ease at the chest for layering.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’ve designed more tops than anything else, but I enjoy the challenge each type of pieces offers. Children’s pieces are smaller and I can knit them faster! Lace stoles and shawls are pleasing math tests and become wearable pieces of art.

Tell me about “Puddle Jumper Cardigan”, what was the inspiration for this piece?
That piece is all my son’s doing! He was 4 and wanted a sweater to wear on his first day of school. We walked into our LYS, The Loop in Kensington, and he ran to the first red yarn he saw (thankfully Cascade 220 Superwash) and then poured over the buttons until he saw something red there too – red and green frogs. We then looked through a cable stitchionary together and I gave him a few to choose from. He picked the “reeds” and the rest was up to me! He’s now 6 and can still wear it over a t-shirt.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have three dress designs in mind, but there are some design elements I’m still mulling over. It’s just a matter of sitting down to it. As for pieces from other designers, I’ve only just started stranding and have a few Fair Isle sweaters from my favourite designer to try out.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
For self-published I have a brother/sister vest pattern mostly finished that will be lovely for spring layering, a blanket/shawl inspired by my love of handspun Chiengora, and a 9 pattern collection around a lace motif. Knit Picks will be publishing one of my tops in February and a lace stole in June. I’m very excited for 2016!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
If I were stuck on a deserted island, and provided it was in Alaska, I’d want my Malamute. He’d not only be a loving companion, but a constant source of fibre to satisfy my spinning – and then my knitting – addiction! But if we’re talking commercially available yarn, it would have to be JulieSpins’ Euro Fingering, put up in 870 yd skeins and hand-dyed by the amazing artist Julie Sandell. I think I already have a lifetime supply…

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Xale Drago. It’s a shawl worked from tip-to-tip with each section based on the percentage of yarn remaining. It can be knit in any weight of yarn, in a solid or variegated colour. There are only 2 stitch patterns that seem difficult but become quite rhythmic.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Try patterns or techniques that you think are “too difficult”. Stretch your comfort zone because chances are you’ll love it! I’ve finally started stranding and absolutely adore it!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Get on the designs I have yarn for in my stash. Knit at least one of the dresses in my head.

Old Friend Handband

Old Friend Headband

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Gudrun Johnstone is my favourite designer. Her patterns are always a pleasure to make and they fit me perfectly! Her patterns introduced me to the art of seamless garments and the simple beauty of traditional Shetland lace motifs.

View all of Heather’s patterns here. Photos of Xale Drago shawl and Puddle Jumper cardigan copyright Brad Pfeifer. All others are copyright Heather Pfeifer. All images used by permission.

You can find Heather on the following social media site:

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: Natalie Volyanyuk

December16

The second interview today is with Canadian designer Natalie Volyanyuk.

Natalie Volyanyuk

Natalie modeling the Sunset Cowl

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I started to knit at the very young age, may be at age 7 or 8. At that time I was not very strong health wise and in our cold winter I was constantly staying home with some kind of cold. And of course, I was extremely bored. So I asked my gramma to teach me how to knit and crochet. My gramma was very wise woman, excellent with the kids and what’s important she had endless patience (she also taught me embroidery and how to sew). So I started my learning process. At the very beginning crocheting looked easier to me – only one stitch you should take care of and only one hook. With needles you had to take care of many stitches and shaping was absolutely out of questions. At that time what I could knit was only scarfs for my teddy bears. But with crochet totally different story – I created more or less sophisticated dresses, cardigans, berets and skirts for my little dolls. Later in my teenage years I realized that I love more knitting than crocheting and I began new era full of endless hats and ugly sweaters. My knitting skills improved with more and more practice. After I graduated the university for some reason I stopped knitting and did not touch the needles for probably good 20 years. Only in here in Canada one day I was on the beach enjoying sun during lunch break with my friend – obsessed knitter and she was knitting as always. I was curious if I still can or cannot do it. I took knitting from her and started. The needles fill so natural in my hands and in that moment I realized how I missed this whole knitting process. Since then my new knitting journey began and I never looked back.

How did you get started designing?
When I had just registered on Ravelry I noticed many regular girls like me knit not only the patterns from magazines or some big names designers, but create the knitting patterns themselves out of their own knitting projects and post it there, online. So, when I knitted one of my hats over and over again with same mistakes I decided it would be useful write down the instructions, make the pattern out of it and show to the others. May be someone found it interesting. I learned and improve from the time I came back to knitting so much that I want to share my experience with others through my designs and techniques I used to create them.

This how it works. At the beginning when I start new project I always put some notes just in case. Then if I notice that something looks not correct I start to redo and my notes at that time could be very helpful. At start I put my notes on every single piece of paper – anything from opened bills, envelopes or just random paper that caught my attention. Of course, sometimes I was losing my valuable notes. Then my husband gave me the notebook and said to put all my notes there where they can be always found. I agreed (happens very rarely with my husband’s ideas), it was an excellent idea. He called it scary notebook, because it full of scary sporadic gibberish notes that only I can understand. But it worked – all my patterns in one place, the book is always with me. I do not have to look around to find it.

What inspires your designs?
The inspiration could be anything – something I saw on the streets people wearing or in the movie. The picture of stitch pattern can push me into thinking where I can incorporate it – sweater, shawl or perhaps new hat? Even some pretty color sometimes put ideas in my head about new design.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I am yarnoholic – so the yarn comes first most of the time.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I always try to design something practical, not just knit something random and put it on the shelf of the closet. Something wearable but modern. I love cables, and lace and lacy cables.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
My favorite item to design is SWEATERS. My head always full of ideas of how my new sweater should look like, but unfortunately it’s not always coming to be a real thing. We have only 24 hours in a day and two hands.

Tell me about “Be Cool“, what was the inspiration for this sweater?
There is a movie with same name ‘Be Cool’ with Uma Thurman and John Travolta. Uma’s character was the owner of music records studio and in one episode she was wearing long vest with the hood and open back. I fell in love from the first sign with this vest, but I thought the open back is not very practical (I did racer back instead). At that time, I started exploring new top down techniques and was eager to try new contiguous shoulder top down method without sleeves. This vest was a good candidate to try this. Then I saw in one of knitters stash the perfect green Wollmeise yarn (everybody was crazy about this yarn) just created for my vest. So, I bought this yarn (and two other colors of course, how couldn’t I). When I finished knitting I decided to make two pockets in different color to add some funky look. I love those pockets!!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I am thinking about knitting Norwegian all over Colorwork sweater with some sophisticated pattern or for the start knit one of Estonian Colorwork mittens. Their Colorwork absolutely fascinates me and I am thinking all the time about start working on it.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have bunch of patterns I am currently working on, but in nearest future (November/December) – two hats, the shawl and the cowl.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
My desert island yarn is Colour Adventures Merino Light by Elena Nodel (Anadiomena on Ravelry). This yarn is from our local BC dyer. She is very talented and very creative. Her colors are so inventive, I always in front of the dilemma what color I should order.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I think it’s ‘Down the Sloquet River’. When I created this design I thought – it’s fast and easy knit and as a result you got nice warm cardigan. Testing was not a problem, many people were willing to help me. I used very popular at that time super bulky Malabrigo yarn. Personally, I wear it all the time. It’s soft, pretty and what’s important – my it’s in my all-time favorite blue color. So, I believe it really underappreciated.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Do not be conservative. Always try new things. Never look back and only go forward. Use the best fresh techniques and not afraid to knit anything.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I did not plan for the whole year but for the spring I have to finish at least one sweater out of my favorite Colour Adventures Merino Light, two shawls and couple hats. Or, I totally forgot I want to make a two color sweater from sock yarn my friend sent me from Germany. She always picks two matching colors – one is variegated, one is solid and German sock yarn is the best sock yarn.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Norah Gaughan – I really amazed by her creativity and talent. She continuously surprises me with her endless new ideas. She is always moving forward and never stay back. All her designs are very wearable and at the same time have modern and sophisticated look.

View all of Natalie’s patterns here. All photos copyright Natalie Volyanyuk. All images used by permission.

You can find Natalie 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: Darleen Hopkins

December16

Today’s interview is with crochet designer Darlene Hopkins of Crochet by Darleen Hopkins.

Darleen Hopkins

Darleen Hopkins

Who taught you to crochet/How did you learn to crochet?
My sister taught me how to chain and double crochet when I was about 10. I never did much with it then. In 2005 I picked it up again and I haven’t stopped.

How did you get started designing?
I started designing right away. I spent many months working on tension by making pot holders/trivets in various shapes. They were basic designs but my own creations. After that, every time I tried to follow a pattern I always wanted to tweak it to see what it would look like if I tried this, or tried that…

What inspires your designs?
Anything and everything. Sometimes things just pop in my head. My Christmas Tree Holiday Centerpiece was one of those. Sometimes my family suggest items. My youngest son suggested the idea behind the Baby Kitty Blanket and my mom suggested the design for the Picture Perfect Baby Blanket. And sometimes I may read about a call out for designs and try to come up for something that will fit the theme. For example, June 2015 issue of ILikeCrochet.com was looking for some wedding themed items and some baby themed items. The obvious answer, to me, was a baby bib that looked like a tuxedo! And the Pretty Spiffy Baby Bib was born.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
The inspiration almost always. Once I “see” it in my mind, I search for the perfect yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I try to figure out the easiest way to make a design work. I also like to make my designs fun and unique.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love to make hats, silly hats, or anything silly. I also enjoy designing pretty shawls but I think my favorite is anything a little silly.

Kissy Fish Hats

Some of the donated Kissy Fish Hats

Tell me about your “fish hats”, what is the story behind these designs?
As I mentioned, I love to make silly hats. I also love to make hats for children going through chemo treatments and I have been making hats for Halos of Hope for a few years. In 2013, Halos of Hope ran a campaign to collect Under the Sea themed hats for the Atlanta area children’s hospitals. This campaign inspired me to design the Kissy, Kissy Fish Face hat. I also wanted to help collect for the campaign (I live about an hour north of Atlanta) so when I put the pattern up for testing I asked each of the testers to donate the test hat to this campaign. The test was open to any who were able to use an appropriate yarn (soft only for chemo hats please!) and able to mail it to me by the deadline. I ended up collecting 31 hats for them. I was so proud of all who helped out. After the test was over, one of the testers mentioned something about a monster fish and this lead to the Black Piranha hat :)

Do you have an aspirational crochet – a complicated/challenging design that you want to crochet “some day” when you feel ready?
Broomstick and hairpin lace. I tried broomstick once a number of years ago. I got the basics but it wasn’t as neat as I wanted it. I decided to put it down and try again later. I also want to learn how to crochet left-handed. That way, if I ever need to show a lefty how to crochet, I can.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Not sure. I think I’m going to spend some time making a couple hats for donation first.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only crochet with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Pretty much any cotton with some acrylic blended in for stretchiness. I rarely use wool or other animal fibers as I’m sensitive to them. But I love soft cottons and cotton/acrylic blends. CottonEase was one of my favorites but it has been discontinued.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
The Baby Kitty Blanket. This is my favorite design. I think some may be intimated by the size but it is really pretty easy. The pattern has links to videos on my website that illustrate the color changes for the diagonal squares for those who like visual aids. My son had the initial idea for the design and he helped me with the square placement and colors. I really enjoyed designing and making it and would love to see more FOs of it.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other crocheters?
Keep crocheting. It is a skill that you can use your whole life. Even if you stop for a few years, pick it back up and enjoy.

Any crocheting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I have a throw rug I have been wanting to make for some time now out of felted thrift store sweaters. They are already felted sitting in a box, ready to be cut into strips and crocheted. I just haven’t had the time. I also want to finish the Crochet Guild of America’s Master Crocheter program. I started it this summer and got about 1/2 way through. I put it down and became sidetracked with designing. And more designs of course.

View all of Darleen’s patterns here. All photos copyright Darleen Hopkins. All images used by permission.

You can find Carolyn 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!

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