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Interview: Katherine Matthews, Purl Diving


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

Dulce - Scarf and Shawl

Dulce – Scarf and Shawl

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

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

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

Breakwater Shawl

Breakwater Shawl

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Dulce - Scarf and Shawl

Dulce – Scarf and Shawl

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

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?

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

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

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

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