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: Lori Law

December15

After a week off to catch my breath – and catch up on some pattern writing – I’m back to finish up this year’s interview series. First up is Canadian designer Lori Law of Oceanwind Knits.

Lori Law

Lori Law

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was taught to knit about the age of 5 or 6 by my mother, assisted by my paternal grandmother, because I was being a ‘pain’ while there was quilting going on (a stretched quilt in progress was a perpetual fixture in grandmother’s living room) which I was not allowed to partake in (very often… occasionally, my grandmother would allow me to ‘quilt’ and would take out the long loopy threads after I was shooed off to bed). I wanted to be doing something crafty and ‘make something’. I pretty much grew tired of the garter-stitch scarf idea fairly quickly. It was rather frustrating for my mom since I couldn’t yet read so finding written patterns for me to work with was out of the question. I wound up leaving it for a few years, but by high-school I was knitting sweaters. Neither my mother or my grandmother lived to see my published designs; I often wonder what they would think of them.

How did you get started designing?
I have been noodling in knit design for as long as I can remember, especially when I was younger and yarn was much harder to find (especially around rural Ontario) than it is nowadays. I would rewrite existing patterns in different gauges to suit whatever yarn I had around which taught me a lot about the basic elements that go into designing. I began to seriously develop and publish patterns about 12 years ago when I started fussing around with yarn dyeing. The two were inter-mingled. I would have ideas for a knitting design but instead of sourcing yarn, I decided to develop my own yarns. For a while before dyeing I designed felted bags, when Cascade 220 first came to Canada. Since I started dyeing I’ve worked mostly in fingering yarns. That started around the time the whole sock-knitting craze hit.

What inspires your designs?
It’s hard to say. Sometimes I just see a lace stitch pattern in one of my stitch pattern books and it talks to me. Or an idea floats into my head. Sometimes I have a particular itch for a certain something and I will go rooting through books to find a stitch pattern to start with and it just grows from there. It’s not always written in stone… there are times something will morph into something very different from its origins after manipulating stitch patterns and playing with the yarn I want to use. In the end, a lot of my work winds up reminding me of something in nature, or something conceptual or something poetic. I have a hard time describing my designs because a lot of the time they are kind of extraneous bits of stuff from my psyche which get translated into lace or cables which eventually wind up ‘feeling’ like such and such but the end result might not have been the initial inspiration; things sort of evolve as I work.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Depends on what I am working on. If, for example, I have a new yarn I’m developing which I want to highlight (and play with), the yarn will be the starting point. Sometimes things don’t gel so there will be a series of fits and starts and I might wind up changing yarns. But I like to work in yarns which are interchangeable with other yarns… mostly I wind up working in laceweight or fingering weight. So even if I’m working on something for a particular yarn of mine, it will more than likely work in a lot of other yarns as well. There is such an array of yarns available these days. Other times, I have an idea and I will dye up a yarn or a set of yarns specifically for it. I am trying to push myself to work more in heavier yarns. I’m working on sweater designs lately, which I prefer in sport weight or worsted, which is a nice switch from the lighter yarns.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I tend to be drawn to developing concepts which flow along but tend to have a little dramatic flare here and there. I’m not likely to fill an area of a shawl with an ‘all-over’ stitch pattern, for example. I tend to want to have a highlight of sorts whether it be a striking edging or a recognizable motif in the lace pattern. Something the eye will pick up on. I also tend to hopefully mingle a combination of traditional elements in a modern format, but also have a relatively timeless quality in my pieces. I like to knit things with those sorts of elements, myself (when I actually get around to personal knitting, which isn’t often – currently I’m working on STRÅLE, by Bristol Ivy, between designing and dyeing and weaving projects, which I find to be a brilliant design all around and something I can wear a for a good number of years, or perhaps I should say ‘for years once I am finally finished’. LOL – my track record for finishing personal knitting projects is fairly pathetic. I have a lot of UFOs). So when I put together a design I hope the knitter will feel it’s still fun to wear years after it’s completed.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I tend to lean towards shawls and smaller items (although I find cowls much trickier to put together than one would imagine), scarves, mitts, socks. For the last few years I’ve been on a bit of a shawl bender. But, I also really like to plunk all the elements for a sweater design into the spreadsheet and spend an afternoon tackling all the details, making sure the measurements and numbers jive and working out decrease schedules and fitting in stitch pattern requirements for different sizes (I have wondered if there is some sort of name for this, if it’s a bit of an affliction LOL). I find this surprising because I’m not really a ‘math’ person, but I like what math can do in terms of having all the required blocks click into place. I like being able to trust the formulas to give me the required numbers. I do a fair amount of tech editing for other designers because I enjoy the numbers process (I should get around to posting a tech editing section on my website, but I never seem to get it posted). I honestly don’t think I would enjoy designing as much as I do if there were not spreadsheets included in the process. I always have several on the go on my desktop.

Tell me about “Creissants”, what is the story behind this collection?
Creissants started several years ago as a way to motivate my working strategy. I hadn’t really lost my mojo, so to speak, but I was struggling with a lot of things and I needed a way to focus which would also motivate. So I settled on crescent-shaped shawls, which was a new element for me to work in at the time. It’s taken a lot longer to complete the collection than I anticipated it would, with other designs popping up as well, but I’m nearing the finish line on the final design – about 6 more rows to go. I’ve really enjoyed putting together a collection. I set it up so I would have boundaries to work in, because sometimes, when I’m at loose ends as I was back then, I tend to get distracted easily and flounder around trying this and that which can be therapeutic but not all that productive. I wanted to be productive. It has helped to get me publishing more regularly than I was for a while.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have aspired to the work of so many great knitters over the years. I came across Starmore early (in the ’90s) but have never knit one of her designs. There have been a lot of different works I’ve been inspired by or sighed over, especially as more and more historical and current knitting have become available on the Internet. For years I was influenced by whatever I found in knitting books at the library or by knitting magazines. The intricate traditions which today’s knitting builds on push us to try new techniques and keep us growing as knitters and designers. I don’t really have a particular knit in mind when I think about an aspirational knit, so to speak, but I do have the Haapsalu Shawl book and someday I would like to knit Greta Garbo out of that book in Estonian laceweight wool (which I have here waiting patiently for me). The question is, always, ‘when’? Someday. :)

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Well, as I mentioned, I am nearing the finish line on the last design of Creissants (which I am really excited about, it’s going to be a bit of a showpiece to finish off the collection). That will be published before the end of the year. I’m looking at a re-release of a new version of Oyster Bay, which was my first shawl design, because Oceanwind Knits is 10 this year (as of November 2015). I have a sock design nearly finished up. And, I’m working on several sweater designs which I hope to have available over the winter. I’m also thinking for my next ‘collection’ of designs, I might work on a series of infinity cowls.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That is a TOUGH question. So long as it wasn’t scratchy and was either wool or silk or a combo of one or the other, I’d probably be ok. But if someone came and took all the fingering weight merino out of my house right now, I would be pretty lost, even with the other yarns that would be left.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Cintamani Socks. Strangely. (Or not?). I’m not sure why, but it’s not nearly as popular as my other sock designs or any of my designs.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
If you come across something you don’t know how to do and wish you knew how to do, learn how to do it. The resources to learn new techniques out there today are stellar, unprecedented.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My main goal every year is to keep going forward, to be creative, productive and progressive. (And, possibly, I will tackle some of those UFOs :D).

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I met Kaffe Fassett years ago, sometime around 1995. I was actually working on a vest design of his at the time. It was a brief meeting, he was in a booth at what is now the Creative Live (?) show in Toronto, I forget what it was called back then. I just love his use of colour, how brazen it is. It wasn’t all that busy (it was mostly booths for quilters back then, not too many knitters were about) so we got to talking. He said the reason people get so frustrated with knitting, especially intarsia, is because people are so resentful about finishing and darning in their ends; they forget to enjoy the process which is the whole reason for bothering to knit something in the first place, that knitters seriously need to relax; just pull out a length of yarn instead of fussing with bobbins, knit as long as you can with it, pull out another length of yarn…. and he showed me how to knit in my ends as I worked. I’ve never forgotten that meeting, I’ve heard his words in my head often over the years. I would love to meet him again sometime.

View all of Lori’s patterns here. All photos copyright Lori Law, except for Knothole, which is credited to Twist Collective/Chrissy Jarvis. All images used by permission.

You can find Lori 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: Carolyn Macpherson

December7

Today’s second interview is with Canadian designer Carolyn Macpherson of The Next Beautiful Thing.

Carolyn Macpherson

Carolyn Macpherson

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My Nana taught me when I was quite young – maybe 6 years old or so? She would have me down to her cottage for tea and then pull out old knitting pins (kind of like dpn’s I suppose). She would wrap one end of each with elastic bands so my stitches wouldn’t fall off and then patiently talk me through many garter stitch doll scarves and blankets.

How did you get started designing?
A few years ago, my husband (the man) looked at me after I had thrown another wip down in exasperation and said, “You change those patterns up so much, why wouldn’t you just make your own?” Something with that kind of clicked in my head and I had to think about it for awhile… like a year awhile. Then, slowly, after a whole lot of reading and research, I started to work my confidence up enough to start putting original patterns out into the world.

What inspires your designs?
Oh geez. Everything and anything! It could be something I hear or see or dream. I could be out for a walk and see a tree with really nifty bark and *snap* a picture goes into my phone for future mulling over. My phone is almost out of memory because of all the photos on it! Though truthfully, for it to realize from an idea into an actual pattern, it’s usually got to be something that has strong emotions for me. A feeling of a place. The mood of a storm. Loss of someone or something. Hope…. Oh and the beautiful spaces around me. I love this province (Ontario) and how diverse and gorgeous it is.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I would LOVE to be able to say it was inspiration first. I have so many notebooks full of sketches and ideas that i often buy yarn for and then the feeling has passed and I’m already on to something else (lol, I’m very much a “hey, how’re you doing… SQUIRREL” kind of gal). Most of the time, I’ll buy yarn that catches my eye for some reason and I have to let it sit out where I can see it for however long it needs to tell me what it is supposed to be. The last yarn sat there for about 5 weeks and suddenly one evening it came to me how perfect it would be as a slouchy tam. I had the pattern drafted, swatched, sample knitted, frogged and knitted again, within 24 hours. Now, comes the tricky part of getting the icky computer work done.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Hopefully bits and pieces of my personality. Hints of things that I love. People, places, stuff around me. Some are just fun with perhaps a nod to popular culture, like the “Rainbows! In Space!” wrap was an attempt at teasing my youngest son, Ewan, about Nyan Cat. Other things, I try to incorporate an essence of times, places. For instance, I have a shawl in testing that is quite literal in this way, called “Silent, Soft, Slow” and the lace patterning reminds of bare tree limbs and snowy winds. Another item that is in development is more suggestive rather than literal with a mood of those hazy winter mornings where the sun shines yellow and almost watery through grey cloud cover.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Hats seem to come easiest to me, but I really enjoy working lace. Shawls are a bigger canvas for lace and I’m just getting started into more shawl design. I just wish I could wear them more often!

Tell me about “The Ghost Hunter’s Cloche”, what is the story behind this design?
Oh that’s a long story, lol. The short version is this… My eldest son who is Autistic (both are unfortunately), Aidan, is a ginormous fan of the tv show “Ghost Hunters” and it is one of the very few shows that the entire family will watch together. Early last fall, someone on the TAPS team did an amazing thing to brighten Aidan’s life and sent him some TAPS swag. It simply was incredible. The next episode we watched, one of the men was wearing the exact same t-shirt as one of the ones Aidan had got, while one of the female investigators was wearing a kind of amazing felted tweed hat. Around that same time, I was also doing quite a bit of urban exploration and the people I was with would always joke about what would happen if we ran into ghosts. Somehow these two things kind of mashed up and I had dreams of a vintage heroine off ghost hunting in mysterious country manors. I imagined that she would be wearing something like “The Ghost Hunter’s Cloche”. If only I could find my own haunted mansion to explore!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
As a designer? Geeeeez, man, how I’d love to learn how to grade sweaters properly! More research is needed on this! As a knitter? I so want to get my colour work chops up. There are so, so many gorgeous stranded colour work items out there and I would absolutely loooooove to make myself a bohus style yoked sweater.

Silent, Soft, Slow

Silent, Soft, Slow

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Here is where I bounce excitedly! I have several projects getting ready to go and I’m hoping to release quite a few things (4 hats, 3 shawls, 2 cowls, 1 pair of slippers… and a partridge in a pear tree) before the end of December. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been procrastiknitting quite a bit this year. I also am so thrilled to say that I’ve been talking, plotting and hatching plans with another designer friend for an awesome project which should be ready to premiere Fall 2016! Be sure to stay tuned!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Wow… that’s like asking me to pick a favourite colour! LOL I don’t know if I can pick just one. Excuse me while I walk over to my stash (currently living in my living room… our basement flooded) and fondle some lovelies to see if I can decide. Yep. Nope. Can’t do it, man. How do I choose? Dyeing method? Fibre content? LOL I’m actually stressing about this… I suppose, if I absolutely had to have only one kind of yarn I’d want depth of colour and “glazing” like you’d get from madelinetosh or Yarn Indulgences on a base of Kate Davies’ Buachaille…with maybe a bit of alpaca thrown in…Geez Louise, lol, I’m such a freaking yarn whore. Seriously. I can be sweet talked in to just about anything if yarn is involved.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Easily, it’s “My Watch” cap. Every single time I wear mine, I get so many random compliments from strangers. It’s got a double thick brim, to keep ears warm, and worked in a twisted broken rib which turns into geometric pillars and then into garter stitch which neatly hides the crown decreases. It’s a fun knit, quickly worked in DK weight. I’ve made it myself a few times for my kids and brothers last year as gifts.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Be excellent to each other. I really, really mean it. There is so much misery and ugliness out there in the world. Knitters are creators! We make and treasure beautiful things! We support one another and help each other grow. We shouldn’t shame someone because they use acrylic yarn, or are struggling to learn basic stitches or speak a different language in a different country. We do all have our challenges and more than plenty of differences. But I have this theory that knitters are nurturers. The patience and care we put into our work, if we could just try to apply that out there in that great big world, I think slowly, stitch by stitch, we would start seeing a global community coming together for the better of so many things.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Hahahahahahaaaaa, yeah…I’m supposed to be going a yarn diet. The challenge has been put to me to at least make it 6 months without purchasing any new yarn and work through some of this stash. Although, as I said, I’m easily bribed, swayed, induced, and/or sweetened with any and all kinds of wooly, fibre-y, beautiful cakes, skeins or hanks. *big exaggerated wink*

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Another hard question! I have several designer “heroes” that I truly look up to; Carol Feller, Romi Hill and Melissa Leapman. And I would absolutely be over the moon to meet any of them! Buuuut, I think, I need an amazing one-of-a-kind, full of laughter kinda night out and I can’t think of anyone more fun, random and brilliant than Stephen West. He’s one non-repeatable colourway of a designer who isn’t afraid to be himself and in embracing that has become one of the most easily recognizable faces of knitting. I think it would be a total blast, even if all we did was knit and bitch.

View all of Carolyn’s patterns here. All photos copyright The Next Beautiful Thing. 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!

Interview: Jenny Faifel

December7

This morning’s interview is with Canadian designer Jenny Faifel of Cloud 7 Knits.

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My grandmother taught me how to knit at age 7.

How did you get started designing?
I have always preferred to knit things out of my own head so to speak. Not to say that I have never knitted from a pattern(I have!) but for me it was less scary to follow my own calculations and ideas.

What inspires your designs?
I like simplicity and wearability, not too much fuss or too many distracting patterns and details. I guess one could say I am a bit of a minimalist.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Both? haha

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
For accessories, my preference is reversibility so I don’t have to spend extra time arranging it. And for sweaters I really prefer top down seamless construction, if possible.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Stoles – really large rectangular accessories. I also really love convertible garments such as my Sleeveless in Vancouver.

Tell me about “trigonometry shawl”, what is the story behind this piece?
I really love math and i really like knitting top down triangular shawls but I tend to not wear them, so Trigonometry is a way to combine all this into an accessory that I would actually wear!

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Not really. It is not so much as feeling ready as having the time. I have way too many ideas I’d like to implement but the main obstacle is the lack of time.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have several exciting things! Hopefully another MKAL sooner than later as well as some garments and of course, a stole!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Colour Adventures Merino Light – I love he base and Elena’s colors are to die for!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I think it’s Spine – which is too bad because it was so much fun to knit!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Knit what you want now, don’t wait until you’re ready, don’t be afraid to experiment or make mistakes and don’t forget to swatch and measure yourself!

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Normally, I would say I don’t do New Year resolutions but this year my resolution will be to stop buying yarn until I have knit at least 5 things from my stash. There, I have said it, so now I have to do it!

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Zimmermann, because she brought knitting to the masses and encouraged people to just knit and not be afraid or intimidated.

View all of Jenny’s patterns here. All photos copyright Jenny Faifel, except for Spine photo, copyright Anadiomena. All images used by permission.

You can find Jenny on the following social media sites:

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

Interview: Aurelie Colas

December6

Today’s second interview is with Scottish designer Aurelie Colas of The Auld (Wooly) Alliance.

Aurelie Colas

Aurelie Colas

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
Like many people, I learnt the knit stitch thanks to my granny. I was 7 or 8. She would cast on a few stitches, knit a few rows to get me started, and I would knit a few rows before moving on to another activity.

Fast forward fifteen years, I have immigrated to Scotland to live with my partner. He was working long hours, I was searching for a job during day time (when the Internet cafe was open), and was at home on my own with no Internet, no phone, no TV until late at night. What does one do in this situation? I was cooking and baking. A lot. Until one day I realised that it was not sustainable: I had baked 75 muffins the day before, we knew no one in the city… For our own health, it was better if I could find another hobby.

The following morning, I woke up with my hands doing some motion. It took me a few minutes to understand that this motion was that of me mimicking the ‘needle in, yarn round, bring the stitch out’ motion. It was like a shock: I remembered how to do the knit stitch.

That day, I went to the book store, bought a beginner’s book to learn how to knit, bought some cheap yarn and needles. And I haven’t had the opportunity to bake 75 muffins ever since…

[Here is a link to a blog post I wrote this spring about how I learnt to knit.]

How did you get started designing?
I am not too sure… I don’t think I ever managed to follow a pattern without changing something. Not always for the best, mind you, I have made lots of errors when adapting jumpers, etc (and I still do). With each mistake and each project, I understand a little better how knitting works, how increases and decreases shape the fabric, how to play with drape, texture, cables, etc. And naturally, I want to build on this knowledge to make something else.

Slowly, I went from adapting things, to making my own things from scratch. The jump to actually writing the patterns came later, along with a desire to share an idea or a technique for instance.

What inspires your designs?
Mostly, I get inspired with texture or objects, with stories, and places. For instance, in the Castle Fraser throughout the year collection, based on a dear to me local Scottish castle, some designs are inspired by the texture of the roof or the shape of the windows, a little woodcarving, or the wallpaper of the library. I also like to add some humour to my knitting, like when I designed Puddle, Puddle, Splash! socks, which tell the story of a hiker or a dog walker in Scotland.

Sometimes, the magic happens and the design imposes itself in my head, like with Hobby Horse for Little Knights. But more often than not, a design idea starts with a ‘what if…?’ question. What if… the sock started at the heel? All Aboard! Puff puff puff… What if… the yoke of a cardi was worked side-ways and shaped with short-rows? Romane and Roman…What if…there was a hidden code in the sock? Date with Ada…What if… a sock was entirely knit inside out? Inside-Out Hypnosis

And yet, sometimes, the yarn tells me what it wants to be, like when I designed Christmas Scot-ing. It is one of the few designs I created where the yarn came first.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Most often, the inspiration comes first, and the yarn second. More precisely, I often start with a constraint, or a set of constraints, which I create myself. It could be a technique I want to use, an unusual construction, a very precise theme, or a combination of these.

I find having constraints stimulating, almost freeing, in fact. It is an interesting paradox that, when confronted to some constraints, creativity seems to bubble, and the brain comes with all sorts of ideas to challenge these constraints.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Socks are an interesting object to design, because of the three-dimensional aspect. Also, there are two socks in a pair: they could match, they may not. It gives some freedom. However, all socks have to have some toe and heel, and a leg and a foot portion, and fit over a standard foot… which gives some interesting constraints in terms of shape, stretch of the fabric, etc.

Tell me about “British inventors and scientists”, what is the story behind this collection?
I have a background in science: mathematics, computer science and bioinformatics. A bit of theoretical chemistry too, but I have forgotten it all. I also did some engineering, and have now lived in Scotland long enough to call it home. So it was only natural that I would use this as a theme for a collection.

I selected 6 inventors or scientists, most of whom have a direct connection to my former life. This gave me 6 sets of constraints to work with, trying to create socks that would represent each of them, or part of their work, in a unique and distinctive way. For each pattern, I write a couple paragraph on the inspiration behind the design. In some cases, it sparked interesting discussions: on the work and fate of Rosalind Franklin when I published And there was Photo 51 for instance; similarly with Ada Lovelace and her contribution to computer science and algorithms after Date with Ada was released.

I have been working on this collection for almost a year now, and there is one last design to be published. A few months back, there was a little Guess the Scientist game in my ravelry group. But at this point, no one has guessed who the last inventor/scientist is…

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Do you mean using patterns from other designers? There are lots of interesting patterns I would like to knit some day. I like to buy patterns to understand a technique or a construction. None of them are left on the “to-knit” list because of their complexity. It is mostly for lack of time that they don’t end up on the needles. For instance, I would like to learn more about traditional knits, like Estonian lace, Latvian fine knitting, Andean colourwork, etc. Or special techniques, like the many ways to create a neckline, or to fit a shoulder.

If only I had a time turner…

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
In theory, socks and a blanket. But I also have a couple items for little people on the list which could jump the queue. And a couple accessories planned too.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Shetland wool in fingering weight, probably. It is quite versatile, would work nicely for colourwork, jumpers, hats, mitts… I could cut into it if necessary without even having to reinforce the steek. It may not work as well for socks, but maybe I could add twist to it to fit this purpose (I mean, if I am on a desert island with nothing to do, I can always take the time to make a spindle and re-twist my yarn, right?). It comes in a million colours (dyed and undyed). And even better: it becomes softer and better as time passes. So, if I am to be stranded (haha) on a desert island, it better be with a yarn that ages nicely…

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I don’t think I have much success with my bags designs. But that’s okay. I understand that knitting bags probably appeals to a minority of knitters. Even more so when double knitting is involved! Still, I don’t regret spending the time to design and create them. They were a fun challenge.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Be daring. Don’t stick to what you know and do well: try new techniques, fail a lot and learn even more.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Oh dear. I am so bad at resolutions… I have a few designs at different levels of completion. I should really complete some of them before succumbing to the “oh! shiny new idea!” issue. So I guess this could be a resolution?

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Elizabeth Zimmermann. I came across Knitting without Tears one day as I was browsing the bookshelves in a lovely yarn shop. I read the first couple pages, took it home and read it cover to cover that night. I believe it changed my comprehension of knitting as a craft, as a tool to create fabric and garments the way I chose. It was such a freeing and empowering read. I would have loved to have the opportunity to listen to her. And simply to thank her.

View all of Aurelie’s patterns here. All photos copyright Aurelie Colas except for Inside-Out Hypnosis, copyright Jenny Rose Photography. All images used by permission.

You can find Aurelie 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: Cynthia Levy

December6

This morning’s interview is with Canadian designer Cynthia Levy of Redtigerdesigns. Cynthia is from the North West Territories, a part of Canada I’m eager to visit.

Cynthia Levy

Cynthia Levy

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My paternal grandmother taught me the basics of knitting, crochet and embroidery when I was very young. I promptly found a fair isle yoke pullover in one of her pattern books and announced that I would make it to match one of my figure skating dresses. Fortunately, my mother was quite accustomed to my habit of skipping any learning curve and diving straight into a complicated project, so she willingly supplied the yarn and left me to it.

How did you get started designing?
I grew up wearing hand-knit socks produced in great quantity by my grandmother, and after she passed away, realized that I would just have to make my own. To avoid the monotony of knitting plain socks, I started designing fancier patterns that gave me more enjoyment in the sock production process. I later discovered that, in keeping with her nurturing and hoarding character, my grandmother had left behind a huge stash of completed socks for everyone!

What inspires your designs?
My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Stitch dictionaries and yarn content often provide my starting point. The landscape and scenery around Yellowknife also provide inspiration. Tundra Trails Socks were designed during an autumn camping trip on the tundra north of Yellowknife.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I’d have to say that the yarn usually comes first. I often receive yarn support from indie dyers or yarn clubs and am tasked with finding the inspiration to design a pattern specifically for the supplied yarn. Given that there are no yarn shops within visiting distance of my community, my stash generally dictates my design options.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Symmetry and continuity are important to me. I try to ensure that each element of a design flows smoothly into and out of the next element. In my cabled sock and fingerless glove patterns, the cables grow out of the ribbing and fade away into ribbing or stockinette.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Socks and fingerless mitts are my favorites. Since they usually require just one skein of yarn, it’s easy to find the perfect yarn for any deign in my stash. Living so far from yarn shops forces me to work with the materials that I have on hand unless I can find the patience to order yarn and wait for delivery.

Tell me about designing socks, why do you find these compelling/interesting to design?
Socks are fun to design because they provide a small canvas on which to feature interesting stitches and patterns. Cables, lace and colorwork are all suitable for socks, so the design possibilities are endless.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I’m always ready for a challenging or complicated project but there just aren’t enough hours in the day! One of my hibernating projects is Viticetum Coat. It’s a very complex allover colorwork pattern that is absolutely gorgeous, but unless you’re tall and thin, it needs some daunting alterations.


?
What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
My next release will be Midas Touch Scarf: a pretty little project suitable for a single skein of luxurious laceweight yarn. Look for it as a new release during the Indie Gift-a-Long on Ravelry (ed. note – the pattern is now available)). I also have a few sock and fingerless mitt patterns in various stages of completion and slated for release through indie dyers, sock clubs and self-publishing.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
It would depend on the location of the desert island! If it’s in the north where I live, I’d need a warm yarn to survive, so I’d choose qiviuk. If it’s a tropical island, I’d opt for a cotton or linen blend.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Stoloniferous Fingerless Mitts seem under-appreciated for a new release. It’s a quick project and perfect for gift knitting, and they’re both simple and cute, so I’m not sure why they seem to be lacking in love.

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

Trust the designer! Much time and effort goes into creating a design and writing a pattern. While an instruction may seem counter to a knitter’s experience, the designer likely has a valid reason for it, so give it a fair chance.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My goal for the upcoming year is to dedicate more effort to my website and blog. I have ideas but struggle to find the time to execute them. I’m going to experiment with scheduled posts, starting with “ToolBox Tuesday”, which will feature my favorite knitting and designing gadgets and trinkets.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I’d love to sit down to dinner with my online friend Jennifer Wood of Wood House Knits. She designs the most amazing cable and lace sweaters with incredible attention to detail and fit. It would be fun to meet her in person and chat about knitting.

View all of Cynthia’s patterns here. All photos copyright Cynthia Levy. All images used by permission.

You can find Cynthia 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: Eszter Sarkadi Nagy

December5

Today’s second interview is with Hungarian designer Eszter Sarkadi Nagy of Wondrlanding.

Eszter Sarkadi Nagy

Eszter Sarkadi Nagy

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was about 10, when my grandmother taught me how to cast on, knit and purl, since then I train myself from books and the internet, or just experiment. But I have only been knitting madly since I have had my kids.

How did you get started designing?
Creating and design was always part of my life, only the medium changes from time to time: painting, weaving, sewing, then graphics, architecture and now knitwear. A friend asked me once why I don’t design knitwear and it was the right question, since it applies pieces from all the things I was doing before.

What inspires your designs?
In my opinion anything could be inspiring around us, so an open eye and creative mood is a good start. Ideas sometimes hit me after a long day, when I lay in bed and stare at the darkness – this time the bits of things I have met recently build up the image. Other times ordinary things turn into something interesting, for example the lines I see in the water falling down from the tap.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually inspiration comes first, then the idea will find its suitable form and material.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like to pair simple lines with interesting detail. I think these elements have to have their space, and for that stockinette stitch provides an excellent canvas. Furthermore, I prefer to design seamless items, I love, that these structures apply different techniques.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Until now I haven’t thought about favorites, I love accessories and garments, too.

Tell me about “Fold”, what is the story behind this design?
A knit item is not merely functional, it has an effect on the senses, has to be touched, so texture is elemental. I wanted to create a three dimensional, creased effect over Fold that plays with scales, too. I came up with this gathered panel, sort of a magnified stockinette row.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
An adult sweater-dress with some interesting detail. I am super excited about it, and hope to release it very soon.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Hard question, I love yarns that combine animal fibers with plant fibers.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Citta skirt, that has an asymmetrical, draping front overlay. Maybe because it requires sewing a lining, but I think the extra effort turns this item more special.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Experiment. It is a great fun to find a technical solution, the right stitch, the right technique.

View all of Eszter’s patterns here. All photos copyright Eszter Sarkadi Nagy. All images used by permission.

You can find Eszter 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: Rich Ensor

December5

The first interview today is with male designer Rich Ensor of That Bald Guy Knits.

Rich Ensor

Rich Ensor

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I am entirely self taught. About 8 years ago, I had a very stressful job, so much so that it was interfering with my sleep. I knew I needed to find a hobby that would allow me to quiet the drama that I was bringing home with me from the office. At the same time, I was pet sitting for a friend, and found a stitch dictionary sitting on her coffee table. I was completely fascinated by the charts and the abbreviations, so I purchased a copy of Knitting for Dummies, some acrylic yarn and straight needles. I would spend about an hour each evening reading through the book and swatching whichever stitch pattern was covered in the challenge. It didn’t take long for me to realize that just making these swatches cleared my head and allowed me to relax, so knitting became my respite.

How did you get started designing?
I stumbled into designing completely by accident. I had been knitting for a few years, and I usually knit socks exclusively during the summer months. I like knitting really interesting sock patterns, but found that many sock patterns are not written for a size that will fit. I had become rather adept at resizing socks either by adding a repeat, or altering a chart. My LYS was hosting a Sock Design class by Anne Hanson, which sounded like it would be fun. I had no intention of becoming a designer. I was thinking that the class would help me unleash some creativity for personal use. As part of the class, every participant was working on their own creation. My LYS owner saw my sock-in-progress at the end of the day, and offered to buy the pattern for their website. I found that I really enjoyed the process of writing the pattern, and thus, a designer was born.

Do you find it challenging to be a “man who knits”?
I think the only challenge I’ve every found as a male knitter is finding a pattern that I like that will also fit. This really isn’t that much of a challenge because there are so many resources out there to help a knitter figure out how to resize a pattern.

What inspires your designs?
The best answer I can give is that designing is like playing to me. I like to play with stitches and swatches until I find something that is visually appealing. I don’t really have a set process that I follow. Sometimes, I’ll start with a stitch pattern. Other times, I’ll doodle for a while until the scribbles look like something I’d want to knit.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Sometimes it’s the yarn, and sometimes it’s the inspiration. I’ve designed some socks for clubs, so in those cases it’s always the yarn that comes first. There are other times when I have a chart scribbled down, and I rummage through my stash looking for the right yarn for that chart.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Twisted stitches and cables tend to be a recurring theme in my designs. I have started branching out into other areas. Cordon is a color work pattern, which was a lot of fun to design. Shaking with Mirth is a lace pattern, which was a huge learning experience for me.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Socks – it’s a small canvas with so much potential.

Tell me about “On the Edge of a Maelstorm“, what is the story behind this design?
On the Edge of a Maelstrom was commissioned for the Barking Dog Yarns sock club. This was the first time I was working with Suzan, and I wanted to do something that felt special. I like the idea of having a cabled sock where the cables were interrupted by a band that traveled around the leg. This pattern is a really good example of playing with some stitch patterns to get an interesting result.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
The short answer is probably anything that isn’t a sock. Time is really my biggest challenge when it comes to designing. I have this day job that gets in the way, which is why I stick with socks because they just make sense to me. When I have a little bit more time on my hands, I hope to branch out and design some other garments.

Do you think that being a male designer helps set you apart/differentiates you as a designer?
The only quantitative example of how my gender may set me apart is that I do get occasional feedback from knitters that they like the fact that many of my sock patterns are something a man would wear. That’s most likely because most of the sock patterns that I’ve written are socks that I would wear. Other than that, I don’t think that my gender differentiates me from other designers, and honestly, I don’t want it to. I want people to want to knit my designs because there is something appealing about the pattern itself.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have two completed samples that I am woefully behind on getting the patterns written. I hope to have one of them ready for publication in early January. The other will probably be ready in the February/March timeframe.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Cephalopod Yarns Skinny Bugga! – which is sadly discontinued.

Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg“>Gatlinburg

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Gatlinburg

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Everything gets easier with practice, so keep at it.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I’m planning a move next year, so I’m giving myself some low expectations for knitting and designing to keep myself from getting too stressed out. I think my only resolutions are to keep knitting, and keep it fun.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Probably Cookie A because she’s the reigning Queen of Socks, and I think I would learn much from her.

View all of Rich’s patterns here. All photos copyright Rich Ensor. All images used by permission.

You can find Rich 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!

Cartouche Cowl

December4

Cartouche cowl glamour shot

When I first started designing I spent a lot of time paging through Japanese stitch dictionaries (and still do!) and found the main pattern used in this cowl. It reminded me of an Egyptian cartouche and I visualized it in a deeper vibrant red. That design, Cartouche Shawl, was published in Knitty, Winter 2011. I’ve since used these stitch patterns in the Cartouche Slouchy Beret and the Cartouche Stole; however, I still wasn’t done with this design and knew that I wanted to do a cowl and fingerless gloves to complete the set.

Cartouche cowl stitch pattern detail

And here is the result, the penultimate piece in the Cartouche series – the Cartouche Cowl.

Interview: Olga Wedbjer

December4

Today’s second interview is with Swedish designer Olga Wedbjer of O-knit.

Olga Wedbjer

Olga

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I started off with crochet at the age of 9 or 10. During my summer vacations spent at my grandmother’s, I had free access to small hooks, fine cotton yarn, and instructions for small tablecloths in a weekly magazine. Then I moved on to fantasy animals. Knitting came a few years later. I made my first sweater in my early teens, still supported by my granny.

How did you get started designing?
Mainly because I couldn’t find a pattern that resembled the idea I had my head. But it took a while before I actually started writing patterns.

I used to be a product knitter, anxious to finish the garment. Nowadays, I’m more into the process. I love to see how ideas transform from an abstract notion to a concrete piece. To explore ideas and see how they work. Being patient and enjoying the process make it easier. And a lot more fun!

What inspires your designs?
Usually, I have a vision of how the finished piece should look and feel. For instance, a light and airy sweater. Then I work from there and incorporate other design elements to enhance the look and feel I’m aiming for. This could involve accentuating certain body parts – and pay less attention to other parts.

I can also be inspired by a special era, like the 70’s (Pitch), or a particular garment, such as the riding jacket (Prominence). A stitch pattern or a technique can also be inspiring, or the combination of the two, as in Wave me closer. In most cases, the inspiration is a feel and look that I want to transform into a knitted garment.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
I would say inspiration, but if I find a fabulous yarn I need to find a way to use it.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
This is an interesting question. For garments, fitting and drape are important factors for the look and feel. For instance, I’m not fond of too much extra fabric around the waist. I always incorporate waist shaping in my sweater and cardigans, which accentuates the female figure and helps creating a nice fall, but I usually leave some positive ease around the waist, because, at the same time, tummy hugging garments makes me too body conscious and can be less comfortable over jeans with a belt. I also prefer set-in sleeves for a more tailored look.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
At the moment, sweaters and cardigans. I have ideas for shawls and hats, but they have been put aside for the garments.

Tell me about “Accents in Black and White”, what is the story behind this collection?
I had a vacation in mind, with a set of garments covering different needs: A more casual but stylish tee to wear during the day, a long-sleeved sweater to wear next to skin suitable for lazy evenings, and a figure flattering jacket as a second layer for late dinner out.

Body parts are a central theme in the collection as well. After designing Frontier, I wanted to continue to explore how to use colour for highlighting certain part of the body, such as shoulders and neck, and thus playing down other parts.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Fair isle with steeks. Some day, yes, tomorrow, no.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a sweater in fingering weight yarn almost ready for tech editing, and next in line is a black cardigan with large cables. I know cables in black are considered a no-no. However, I felt a need for a black cardigan, but wanted something more elaborate.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Tough question! Merino in sport or fingering weight, maybe with some added silk.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Maybe my tweed shawls (Rusticity and Romanticized) with lace edges.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
At the risk of sounding like a commercial: Just do it! You cannot improve or expand your skills without practicing. Oh, I must add: learn to enjoy re-knitting.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Not really. Keep enjoying my work.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
To choose just one is impossible. I admire a variety of established designers as well as indie designers, and I would like to gather them all for a dinner party!

View all of Olga’s patterns here. All photos copyright Olga Wedbjer except for the headshot of Olga and Emphasite which are copyright Torbjörn R. 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: Yuliya Tkacheva

December4

Today’s first interview is with crochet designer Yuliya Tkacheva of Ms Weaver’s Deisgns and A Cup of Stitches.

Tri cowl

Yuliya modeling Tri

Who taught you to crochet/How did you learn to crochet?
I learned to knit from a book and with some help from my grandmother what feels like a million years ago, but haven’t really practiced knitting in the past couple of decades. Crochet is my much more recent infatuation, since back then, when I was already a confident knitter, I could not for the life of me get crochet. Its non-linear nature could not fit in any of my mind’s drawers. A few years ago I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials and something just clicked somewhere and it suddenly made complete sense. I guess I just needed to forget knitting to be able to understand crochet!

How did you get started designing?
Probably like the majority of us, being rubbish at following patterns! I also seem to constantly have an urgent need to make something which I cannot find a pattern for.

What inspires your designs?
This question is always the hardest to answer! I think there are so many things at play at the same time, that I don’t really have a clue! This is why I find writing pattern intros so difficult: I feel like I should mention the source of my inspiration, but can’t always put my finger on it.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
The idea! With yarn, we are not a married couple, only lovers. I don’t even own any yarn stash (gasp!) except leftovers from previous projects and gifts.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Texture, uniformity and rhythm. I like stability and predictability, and I think that comes through in my designs.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I’ve always liked to design shawls and scarves since those seem like a perfect canvas for showing off interesting stitch pattern combinations (and I love to play with those!). I often get carried away with garment ideas, although those designs, unfortunately, are not always the best business decisions, at least not in crochet.

Tell me about “Linen Letters”, what is the story behind this collection?
This is actually a very special little collection! A few years ago I received a surprise package with three skein of lovely LitYarn linen from my friend and business partner Lena Fedotova. I have already mentioned that I do not start with yarn, and all those years this linen was waiting quietly for its perfect match. “Letters” seemed like an appropriate name for the collection made with the yarn received from someone living miles away and whom I never met in person.

Do you have an aspirational crochet – a complicated/challenging design that you want to crochet “some day” when you feel ready?
At the risk of sounding arrogant, I don’t think there is anything profoundly complex or challenging in crochet. Crochet can be time-consuming and there are plenty of techniques I don’t know or haven’t tried, or haven’t even been invented yet, but ever since my “big crochet revelation”, I know I am ready for just about anything. Bring it on!

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I cannot tell you how excited I am about 2016! Lena and I are brewing two themed joint collections, which we plan to release in early spring and then in autumn. This is a completely new stage in our designing careers, since so far we have worked pretty much “solo”. It is also a big challenge for both of us, as we will need to bring our designs, colour choices, photography and pattern presentation together into one harmonious whole. We cannot wait to start on those!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
It would be Malabrigo! There is something about that yarn (luscious squishiness? stunning palette?) that makes me go back to it again and again.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
This would be my all of my garments. I wish clothing were more popular with crocheters!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other crocheters?
Be adventurous! Learn a new technique, try thinner yarn, make yourself a sweater, get out of your crochet comfort zone! (Although this might sound “rich” coming from someone who likes stability and predictability!)

Any crocheting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Get more people to make crochet clothing!

Of Sails and Waves

Of Sails and Waves

View all of Yuliya’s patterns here. All photos copyright Yuliya Tkacheva. All images used by permission.

You can find Yuliya 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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Audrey II



Angular Path Scarf



Cartouche Stole



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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
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