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: Natalie Servant

November27

The second interview today is with another Canadian designer, Natalie Servant of Natalie Servant Designs.

Natalie Servant

Natalie

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was taught to knit as a Brownie by someone who lamented that I was a leftie. I let the skill lapse for many years, but I had a strong desire for sweaters as a university student. You’ll laugh, but I thought it would be cheaper to knit them myself. I taught myself to knit from a book and spent hours learning to make my swatches look like the stitch patterns in the book. Then I got hooked on knitting lace.

How did you get started designing?
It started off with modifying designs as I knit them. Then I started coming up with my own ideas. It was slow and painful at the beginning, as with anything new. I learned a lot from great teachers in person, online, and through books. I’m always looking for the technique that’s going to turn my currently-impossible idea into something I can knit.

What inspires your designs?
My most common inspiration is architecture, but I’m always looking for ideas. Sometimes it’s from nature, colour combinations I see, or a texture I want to play with.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually (but not always) the inspiration comes first. Sometimes yarn lives in my stash for years before I come up with an idea. I love having my stash in Ravelry so that when I’ve got an idea I can search for a compatible yarn.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I strive for unique designs and I frequently come up with my own stitch patterns. I try to make things as simple as I can while achieving the look that I want.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I still love designing lace the most. Any time I’m working out a new idea or a new technique, I’m having fun. I love coming up with different ways to make things reversible.

Tell me about “Canadian Art Deco designs”, what is the story behind this collection?
I had been looking for an area of inspiration to really sink my teeth into and develop a collection. I’d done a few Art Deco designs when it occurred to me to see if I could find Art Deco inspirations closer to home. A quick search on the Internet told me that there was plenty of beautiful material across Canada.

I’ve spent almost 3 years doing research, traveling to see buildings, sketching, swatching, and knitting. I managed to include some of my favourite techniques: lace, stranded colourwork, and double knitting. My goal with each design was to capture the spirit of what attracted me to that part of the building. Sometimes that meant simplifying things. Sometimes I had to come up with a different way to approach a design.

After a great deal of thought I decided to release the patterns as an e-book with a new pattern coming each month through 2015. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I also work at a day job. The schedule has kept me focused, but it hasn’t been unreasonable. I am itching to release the final pattern because I think it’s the one that’s the most fun and whimsical.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
One day I might design sweaters. I had a sweater idea recently that I felt strongly enough about to draw in my sketchbook. I think it would be fun, but I need to knit more sweaters from other designers before I feel comfortable creating my own.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I’ve got designs that I put on hold while I was sticking to my release schedule. As much as I tried to stay focused, other ideas popped up and begged to be started. I’ve got a half-finished shawl and a nearly-finished blanket. That’s what’s on for the next month or two. And then I’ve got two ideas for smallish collections, around 3-5 items. I’ve got all the yarn chosen for one collection and no swatches knit, and 3 swatches knit for the other collection and no yarn chosen. It’ll be interesting to see which one wins my attention first!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
It’s got to be wool. Nothing beats the warmth of wool moving through my fingers as I knit.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Ooooh, tough question. The one that I love the most that hasn’t really caught on is my Hockey Scarf. I don’t think you can fully appreciate it from pictures. You need to feel it in person to understand how thick and lush the fabric is. Plus I love reversibility in a scarf. It’s a relatively simple pattern and it’d be perfect for just about anyone to wear. I’m extra happy with it because the time between the prototype and the release gave me an idea for a better way of expressing the pattern.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
It’s knitting. You can always take it out and start again if you have to and it won’t kill you.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
After a year of strict self-imposed deadlines, I’m giving myself permission to take it easy for a while and work on whatever I feel up to doing. I’ve got lots of ideas, but I may need a bit of a break.

View all of Natalie’s patterns here. All photos copyright Natalie Servant except for Aldred Mitts, copyright Zoé Servant. All images used by permission.

You can find Natlie 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: Katy Carroll

November27

Today’s first interview is with Katy H. Carroll of Katinka Designs.

Katy modeling Interwoven Mitts

Katy modeling Interwoven Mitts

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I taught myself, from “Knitting for Dummies”. (I really wish I had thought of looking for videos on the Internet, but I didn’t!) Several online friends from a book forum were knitters, and I was intrigued by the pictures they were posting of this mysterious stuff called “Malabrigo”…I believe references to the softness of baby kittens were made. My first project was a unintentionally holey rectangle in brightly variegated kitchen cotton.

I’ve always had fiber/textile hobbies, though – I crocheted as a youngster, and sewed and did counted cross-stitch for a few decades. Knitting’s overtaken them all, though! There is just so much you can do, and so much you can make.

How did you get started designing?
In the summer of 2014, I was developing classes for “adventurous beginners” that I would begin teaching at my LYS later that fall. I was already discovering that it was easier to write up my own instructions and simple designs, rather than find patterns from which to teach. I’d improvised some things for myself prior to that, too, but it had always seemed like too much work to put together an actual pattern. Then that August, my best friend and knitting buddy, Jill, passed away unexpectedly. It was a horrible reminder that life can change in an instant, and it pushed me to tackle my fears and actually ATTEMPT the things I had been putting off for ages out of laziness and/or caution. It’s mildly terrifying to put yourself “OUT THERE”, but I’m glad I’ve made myself to do it. It’s a hobby business for now, but I do try to treat it as professionally as possible.

What inspires your designs?
The interplay of texture and color and pattern! I do like lace, but it’s cables that have my knitter’s heart. My clothes are pretty boring – usually a black shirt and jeans – so I love to use vibrant colors in my knit accessories. In its most succinct form, I think my design aesthetic is, “Stuff I Want to Make and Wear Myself”. 😉 I’ve got four kids in age from preschool to 9th, and a husband with a busy job, so I’ve jokingly said that I design patterns that will keep me awake, but won’t break my brain.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
It vacillates between the two! Sometimes I like the challenge of looking at a set amount of yarn and wondering, “What could you become?” Other times, as with my Leandra Scarf pattern, I have a set idea in mind (“big ol’ cabled scarf”) that I want to achieve.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I do always try to have some sort of special detail, whether it be in the shaping, or in a finishing technique, or in the way the patterns align just so. The trifecta I aim for is 1) fun to make, 2) pretty to look at, and 3) easy to wear. We all have those knits that look impressive, but rarely get worn because they’re too fussy or fiddly for one reason or another. I would hope that my designs could become “standbys” – those knits you always reach for as you’re racing out the door.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I really do design the kinds of things that I like to make and wear myself – cowls, scarves, fingerless mitts, and I’m coming around to hats. (I love making sweaters, too, but I’m not quite ready for that challenge yet!) I like to aim for a design that could be an achievable challenge for an adventurous beginner, but still an engaging knit for someone more experienced.

Tell me about “The Virescent Collection”, what is the story behind this collection?
Before I ever saw the cable that started it all, I had been mulling over the state of my knits. After ten years of knitting, I had a great collection of accessories, but…most of it didn’t really go together. So I was starting to be drawn to the idea of making things that actually coordinated.

Then, I fell in love with the large cable motif that runs throughout the collection. I loved the large scale (17 stitches) and the organic, atypical look of it. I started to wonder how it would work when applied to all kinds of different pieces, and in different weights, even. Then people could pick and choose which ones they liked, and make their own “set”. They could even choose their favorite colorway from a preferred dyer and work within that dyer’s bases. (I must be terribly literal, because I could only imagine the collection in green!) The original concept was five to six designs, and then it somehow ended up as nine when I wasn’t looking. I still get ideas for additional pieces and I have to yell at myself, “No, nine is PLENTY!!”

I really didn’t think that ANYONE would buy the full collection, but I’m so grateful for the knitters who have. I’m grateful as well to the yarn folks who took a chance on a relative newbie – Marianated Yarns, The Plucky Knitter, Anzula, Malabrigo Yarns, and Intrepid Tulips. I’m also so, so happy with the photography we’ve done so far for the collection. My awesome sister is my photographer – I owe her huge thanks for that! She won’t let me pay her, so I try to slip fabric (her vice of choice) in her bag when she’s not looking. So far, six patterns have been released, the seventh is in testing, and I’m writing up the pattern for the eighth. The ninth should be out in January.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I don’t know that I would design this myself, but someday I want to make a fingering weight, stranded colorwork sweater. Either that, or a fisherman’s sweater covered in a million complex cables.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Beyond the remaining Virescent Collection patterns, I’ve got a worsted weight cowl design (both short and loop verisons) in Marianated Yarns coming out in early December, and then several accessory patterns in yarns from The Plucky Knitter. I’ve also got some gorgeous Targhee/silk yarn from Blue Savannah (Etsy) staring at me. I’m really excited about some “summer vacation” projects that Marian (of Marianated Yarns) and I are dreaming up for next fall – a poncho design in a fingering weight wool/mohair (baby steps towards garment design!), and a Mystery Cowl KAL using one of her lovely gradient sets.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That is really, really hard, as my head is easily turned. I would probably say Madelinetosh Vintage.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
That would probably be my Carver Scarf. The timing wasn’t ideal – it was a wool scarf released in June – but I was excited that my LYS had started carrying the yarn, and I also needed to build my portfolio. So, no regrets.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Cast-on something that scares you a little, whether it’s your own design or someone else’s. Try to make peace with ripping back.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
To take time away from designing to make myself a few more sweaters. To learn more about shawl shaping. To get over my irrational fear of provisional cast-ons.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Bonne Marie Burns of ChicKnits, even though I’ve already had dinner with her! (I attended a retreat at Imperial Stock Ranch where she taught.) I love her aesthetic and design philosophy, I admire the way she manages her business and her brand, and I also think she’s a sweetheart. I would wear her sweaters ALL THE TIME.

View all of Katy’s patterns here. All photos copyright E. Cummings. All images used by permission.

You can find Katy 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: Dana Gervais

November26

Today’s second interview is with Canadian designer Dana Gervais of Dana Gervais Designs.

Dana Gervais

Dana Gervais

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I was taught to knit by my Grandmother. She was a constant knitter. She made the most beautiful garments and accessories. She is still my knitting inspiration.

How did you get started designing?
Designing was an evolution. It started with slightly tweaking patterns to suit my taste and preferred fit, which evolved into heavily modifying patterns, then I started knitting my own designs for myself, family and friends, which evolved into writing patterns, grading them, having them tested and tech edited and releasing them into the world. It has, over time, become what I do.

What inspires your designs?
Anything and everything. I can find inspiration in yarn, colour, texture, a stitch pattern, a geometric design, architecture, a book, a movie – literally anything and everything.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Both. Sometimes I love a yarn so much, that I am inspired to design something for it and sometimes I have an idea for a design so I find the right yarn for my vision.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I like simple construction. I also like patterns that will work whether they are knit top-down or bottom-up since I design a lot of socks and many sock knitters want to be able to reverse the stitch pattern to suit their preferred technique. Since, as a knitter, I appreciate stitch patterns that are easy to memorize I consider that whenever possible. I also aim for gender neutrality a lot of the time.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Definitely socks! I love socks. I have been knitting them since I was a teenager. They are gorgeous, useful, easy to customize, portable, not a huge time commitment and can be knit on any budget as you can usually make a pair with less than 100g of yarn. Also, after all these years, I still feel slightly magical when I turn a heel or Kitchener stitch a toe.

Tell me about “Heart & Sole”, what is the story behind this design?
I love mosaic knitting and I really wanted to design a mosaic sock pattern. Valentine’s Day was coming and I was sitting on this really bright pink and purple sock yarn that I was itching to use, so those factors all came together as “Heart & Sole”. I am hoping to release 3 more mosaic sock designs over the next year; it is definitely my favourite colourwork technique.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
One day when I am feeling really brave and strong I might steek something, but today is not that day.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have two sock designs on the needles right now which will hopefully be self-published in the next couple of months. I am also knitting up a design for the April issue of I Like Knitting magazine as well as getting ready to start a design for the Fall 2016 issue of Knitscene. I am in the beginning stages of collaborating with a couple of other crafters about putting together some limited edition sock kits in 2016. Lots of exciting things!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
This is tough. I think I would still be a happy knitter if the only yarn I ever had access to again was either Indigodragonfly or Sweet Georgia. It took me a really long time to come up with that answer – there are so many beautiful yarns available.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
It’s hard to say. I am lucky that all of my designs have been warmly received by knitters. That being said, I am surprised that Lazy Daisy has not been more popular – It’s one of my favourites. I wear it all the time.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
There is no right or wrong in knitting. It doesn’t matter what other knitters do or how they do it, if you are happy with your finished projects, that’s all that matters.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
My wardrobe is in serious need of some hand knit sweaters. I have so many beautiful sweater patterns in my queue and I am hoping to make time to knit some of them in 2016.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
This is another tough question. There are so many knitting designers who I admire and consider mentors even though I have never met them. I’m going to say Cookie A. Her sock designs are beautiful and I admire the business she has built.

View all of Dana’s patterns here. All photos copyright Dana Gervais. All images used by permission.

You can find Dana 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: Mona Lykaina

November26

Today’s interview is with designer Mona Lykaina, originally from the Western Isles of Scotland and now living in Germany. Her blog in Gaelic can be found here.

Mona modeling Calanas

Mona modeling Calanas

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I learned to knit as a very young child from my grandmother and other people in my family. I knit quite a lot during my primary school years, including sweaters for myself. However, a lot of what I do in knitting today has been self-taught since I picked it up again a few years ago.

How did you get started designing?
In a way, designing has always been an essential part of knitting for me. When I was a child, no one around me used patterns. I remember my grandmother measuring me and doing mysterious calculations on the margin of an old newspaper, and then she would tell me how many stitches to cast on. When I came back to knitting in 2009, and more specifically to Ravelry, I was surprised at the ubiquity of patterns, and at the scarcity of more systematic information. My reason for picking up knitting again was to knit sweaters for myself, and I had very specific ideas about them, I knew what I wanted them to look like. So, I did not want patterns, I wanted to understand how a sweater is constructed. I did knit a few ones from patterns, but I was always trying to understand the concepts behind them. And as soon as I felt confident about that, I started to knit more and more from my own sketches and calculations. So, it was a logical transition. And then people started to ask me about my designs, and I made several attempts at writing patterns. I was rather naive at first, and it did not really work well. However, I also started to teach workshops about sweater construction, how to measure yourself, etc at local fibre events, so I got a lot more input and feedback about the whole topic. Then I made another, more serious attempt at pattern publishing earlier this year, in February, and this time it seems to be going better.

What inspires your designs?
All my designs are garments that I want to wear. I have always been interested in fashion and textiles, but in a rather geeky way and often stubbornly out of tune with fast-moving trends. It was one of the persistent frustrations of my teenage years that I was always imagining myself in clothes that would look really cool on me, and then I could never find such things in shops. In a way I am still like that, but now I know that when something does not exist in local high street shops, it may exist somewhere on the internet, or I can knit or sew it. I think I just subconsciously inhale visual ideas of clothes all the time and mix and mess them around in my head, so that it is difficult to tell where exactly I got certain ideas from. Sometimes they are little everyday things. For example, sometimes a garment in a shop window catches my eye from afar, and I immediately get an idea for a knit design, then I walk closer and the item turns out to very different from what I saw at first sight, but it does not matter because I have my design idea in my head. I’ve also been known to stare at random strangers because their sweater has an interesting detail.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Usually the inspiration. I have a sketchbook full of sweater ideas, and I’d need nine lives to knit them all. Many fellow knitters are surprised that I am quite averse to yarn stashing. I prefer to buy yarn for specific projects, and it can sometimes take me a long time to decide on the perfect yarn for a design. I want to support small yarn businesses, traditional sheep breeders, fair trade companies, so the yarns I use tend to be expensive, and I need to calculate how much I need for a specific design before I can commit to buying it.

On the other hand, I’ve started to spin and use a lot of my handspun yarn for sweater projects, too. There it is usually the other way round, I start with the yarn and just figure out what it wants to become.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I don’t think I deliberately try to incorporate anything. My designs usually evolve from a vague idea of a certain shape or style, then I add the details. I like clean lines and functional elements, but I also enjoy playing around with texture. I prefer certain constructions and shaping methods that I know will result in a good fit, like set-in sleeves or a yoke/raglan hybrid, and front and back darts for waist shaping. My garment patterns always include lots of modification advice, because I would like to help every knitter achieve that perfect fit that I’m aiming for in my projects.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Definitely sweaters and tops.

You use a lot of complex cables in your designs, what is the story behind this?
Well, I suppose I just like them. They have a long history in some parts of Europe, and a lot of people think of them as “traditional”, but they are essentially timeless. The funny thing is that I’ve never thought of them as complex, just pretty. A bit tedious to knit, sometimes, but as I’m so focused on the look of the finished object I don’t mind that. I remember I was knitting the heel of my Gyvatė sock on a longer train trip, and it took me about 2 hours. That was a bit of a nuisance but I did not think much of it. Later I gave this pattern to a dozen friends for testing, and almost everybody gave up or changed the heel to a simpler version.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make the instructions for these cable patterns clear and accessible. I usually knit from wonky hand-drawn charts myself, and I find it easy to memorize a pattern after a few repeats. When you cable on the wrong side, you just have to think about how it is supposed to look on the right side. But many people have told me this is challenging for them, so I’ve put a lot of effort into providing clear charts and instructions, and I’m still working on that.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
I have several ideas for sweaters with interesting allover stranded colourwork, but I am really slow at knitting that because I don’t have a good two-handed technique. So I keep postponing those sweaters.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
Hopefully I’ll publish two more garment patterns this year (or early next year): Bean-Sìdhe is a silk top with a gauge of 8 stitches per inch, so probably no one wants to knit that 😉 But I do think there is a lack of patterns for this type of garment, even if you can’t really wear it in public. The other one, Cascadian is a cardigan that I am very much in love with at the moment. The original is made with a handspun yarn, and it was my first time using beads.

A bit further down the line are several sexy summer tops, as well as a small series of sweaters inspired by medieval women (I’ll give you their names: Alienor, Melkorka and Merofled… now you can guess what that might mean ;))

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Shetland wool. (Not for sexy summer tops, though ;))

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
My accessories patterns feel very under-appreciated 😉 Well, I suppose I’ll just have to accept the fact that people see me as a sweater designer.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
If you want to knit sweaters that fit, please have yourself measured thoroughly. It makes all the difference! The best way to do this is to get together with a good friend and measure each other.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t really do those :) My big plan is that I want to write a book about sweater construction and how to knit sweaters that fit, in German. I have a fairly extensive script from all the classes I’ve been teaching on the topic, and I get a lot of positive feedback about that. I am just very undisciplined when it comes to working systematically on a larger project.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
That’s a tough one. I think what I would really like to do is to invite two dozen German designers to dinner and encourage us all to learn a bit of networking from our North American colleagues. We need something like Twist Collective in German, we need something like the Indie GAL, we need more fibre events with high quality classes and workshops from local people. Some of the larger events have started to invite English-speaking “star” designers and I think that sends the wrong message to the German knitting community. It excludes a lot of people who are not confident in the English language, and I also think it is more important to support local teachers and designers and develop this part of our community. We have a lot of knowledgeable people here.

View all of Mona’s patterns here. All photos copyright Mona Lykaina. All images used by permission.

You can find Mona 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: Nancy Whitman

November25

Today’s second interview is with Nancy Whitma,n knitting designer and owner of online yarn shop WhitKnits.com. You can find her blog here.

Nancy modeling A New Slant

Nancy modeling A New Slant

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
My paternal grandmother taught me to knit and crochet when I was 7 or 8 years old. I dabbled a bit with both until high school when I became serious about knitting.

How did you get started designing?
I probably spent about three decades doing lots of knitting, but rarely following a pattern. Even when I did use a pattern, I modified it quite a lot. I never thought of myself as a designer, just a knitter. When Ravelry came on the scene and I saw what other indie designers were doing, I realized I could as well.

What inspires your designs?
Everything and anything. It’s hard to know what will be inspirational. I have been inspired by art, architecture, a stitch pattern or a color. Just recently, I was inspired by a fellow Raveller’s avatar.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
For me it is always the inspiration. Without it, I don’t create anything. No matter how much I love a yarn, the design inspiration must precede it.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
It changes over time. When I first started to publish patterns, I was doing more with lace. Recently I have been working with color blocking using modular garter stitch. I am always willing to try an interesting stitch pattern or fabric manipulating technique like I used in Rushmore Hat and Cowl or Ganz.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
This too changes over time. First it was socks because I was really into them at the time. For a long time I have been taken with shawls and the possibilities that open up with simple shaping.

Eden Prairie

Eden Prairie

Tell me about your designs inspired by stained glass, what is the story behind this inspiration?
Years ago, I studied stained glass. Once I was introduced to modular knitting, it seemed like the perfect construction method for knitted stained glass. I was googling stained glass images and came across this picture which gave birth to Eden Prairie:

Inspiration for Eden Prairie

Inspiration for Eden Prairie

Using some of the design elements of Eden Prairie, I came up with High Street Shawl. Whitman Sampler was an opportunity to use up leftovers while playing with the outlines of color-blocked shapes on a cowl. Piet on Point is inspired by the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. So it’s not stained glass inspired, but the look is the same as is the modular construction.

Mind Over Miter evolved out of the stained glass designs. It uses modular construction and borders surrounding different elements, but it uses stripes instead of color blocking and miters to move the stripes in a different way.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Yes, I do. It’s a color-blocked shawl with an art deco feel. The color blocking is unlike anything I have done to date and it is posing a challenge in terms of construction and shaping of the color blocks. I think if it marinates for a while, I will figure out a solutions.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I have a design that is almost ready to be tested, but apart from that, there is no release queue. I am not a disciplined designer and don’t plan out my releases. I design what I am inspired to knit and so my process, which might not work for others, is pretty haphazard.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Epic Lattice Socks. I really thought it would be a hit. That’s probably because I loved them so much and wore them all the time. It just goes to show how hard it is to predict what will appeal to others. That is one of the reasons I design what I like and hope others like it as well.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Push the envelope in terms of skills. I have come across many knitters who stay within a narrow comfort zone, knitting one thing over and over, assuming they are not ready to move on. I led a sock knit along where the bulk of the knitters had only knitted stockinette socks. They thought the pattern for the knit along, socks with a repeat pattern, was too advanced for them. I promised that I would do whatever it took to get each of them to make the pair. It was really amazing to see their confidence grow and the designs they took on after completing their knit along socks. Nowadays there is so much support to be had just by going online. It seems a shame not to even try something new.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
Not a one! Remember that I am not a disciplined designer so even if I made a resolution, I probably wouldn’t keep it.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Herbert Niebling, an amazing lace designer. It’s said that he could transfer say a floral image directly to a chart and have the design done at the same time. This is a pretty amazing skill. I would love the chance to speak with someone whose mind works that way.

View all of Nancy’s patterns here. All photos copyright Nancy Whitman. All images used by permission.

You can find Nancy 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: Linda Marveng

November25

Today’s interview is with Linda Marveng from Oslo, Norway. You can find her blog here.

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Linda Marveng

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
I learnt to knit at school but needed my mum’s patience to help me out every time I got stuck.

How did you get started designing?
I always had to modify patterns to make them fit me better, and reached a point where I thought that I should have a go designing myself. It was not long after I had started designing, that I was approached by a Norwegian publisher; Cappelen Damm asking if I wanted to make a knitting book – they had heard that I had worked for both Rowan Yarns and Loop in London – and I certainly did. It was the ultimate challenge for me. My knitting book was published in 2012, but it has unfortunately only been translated into Finnish.

What inspires your designs?
Fashion forward, elegant and feminine garments that can be worn together with both casual and party outfits. I also love garments that can be worn in different ways depending on your mood and the weather.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Most of the time it is the inspiration that comes first, but not always. The color or fiber of a specific yarn or the combination of the two, can also kick start the design process.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I tend to choose a set-in sleeve since it fits best with my style of garments. I prefer double button-bands and hems for a more professional look. I do love tucks and use them at the bottom of a sleeve or as a divider between the main pattern and the collar.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
Jackets or cardigans if you like. I prefer to call them jackets because I try to make them more formal than an everyday cardigan. A lot of the time I also want to make a matching cowl to go with it. The cowl must be large enough to be worn around the hips too since it is essential to keep me warm when the temperature drops in my native Oslo.

Tell me about designs like “Atika” and “Shawl Sleeves”, you have a fashion-forward aesthetic to your designs.
I had found a reversible stitch pattern and ideal yarn mix by combining a tweed yarn and a mélange alpaca yarn, I called the design – or rather the beginning of it – Atika, for the meeting with the editor of the Norwegian magazine Made by Me, shoe designer Monica Stålvang and dress designer Judith Bech to plan our “Nordic Vintage” series. Judith had a felted wool dress without sleeves in the same color, and I thought it would look fabulous with a cowl across the shoulders and long loose sleeves that looked attached but were not.

I found the idea for the Shawl Sleeves in a fashion magazine, a picture of a jacket with loose fronts, and immediately thought that I could make my own version of it, by merely continuing each sleeve into a shawl. The Norwegian magazine Familien had commissioned a series of 6 designs in strong colors, and wanted me to use the dancer Francesca Golfetto as the model. With her dark colors I thought a deep yellow tweed would be ideal, but I could not find the right one so I had to mix two yarns to achieve my goal. It has been fun to discover new ways of wearing them using a set of shawl pins.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?
Yes, I do what to design a knitted dress in a fine yarn. I have several ideas on the shape of it – they cannot be combined so I need to choose one – but no stitch pattern nor specific yarn in mind yet.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I am working on completing 9 patterns that were professionally photographed recently, 4 of which will be published in the special issue Familien Håndarbeid (Handcrafts) in March. I am also eagerly awaiting the photos of my first design for the Interweave knit.purl magazine for Spring/Summer 2016.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
That is a difficult question, since I do like to vary both the type of fiber, its structure and thickness. At the moment, I would pick SweetGeorgia Yarns Superwash DK because of its magnificent stitch definition and the beautiful hand-dyed color range.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
Jacket in Cross, from my book, in my opinion. It is one of my favorite designs but very time consuming to knit. One of the Norwegian editors agreed and wanted to include it in the “Nordic Vintage” series so it was professionally photographed for a second time, and re-published in the special issue of Familien Trend.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Learn to enjoy finishing. I think that seams support and shape a garment into perfection. All finishing requires, is that you do it stitch by stitch, just as you knit. It is like the icing on the cake, to me.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
It will be the same as last year’s, to send off more design submissions to International magazines.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I have already been so fortunate to have shared several breakfasts with Norah Gaughan at the Danish island of Bornholm for the Strik Bornholm event last year, and would like to have dinner with her too, to learn more about her approach to cables as well as her innovative garment construction methods.

View all of Linda’s patterns here. Shawl Sleeves photos by Kim Müller. Atika, Jacket in Cross and Saga photos by Eivind Røhne. Linda’s portrait by Michael Marveng-Puckett. All images used by permission.

You can find Linda 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 Wiebe

November24

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

Jenny Wiebe

Jenny, modeling After the Ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find Jenny on the following social media sites:

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

Interview: Triona Murphy

November24

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

Triona Murphy

Triona modeling Land Under Wave Hat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find Triona on the following social media sites:

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

Interview: Vicky Chan

November23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find Vicky on the following social media sites:

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

Interview: Jennie Santopietro

November23

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

Jennie Santopietro

Jennie in Lady Wren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find Jennie on the following social media sites:

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

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