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A litblog dedicated to book reviews/recommendations, as well as literary and publishing news. Now enhanced with knitting designs.

Interview: Holli Yeoh


Today’s second interview is with Canadian designer Holli Yeoh; you can find her website here.

Holli Yeoh

Holli Yeoh

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?
When I was 5 years old, my Mum taught me how to crochet and then how to knit. She taught me in the summer and I remember carrying my project (a baby pink scarf) around the neighbourhood and working on it while I was playing with my friends. Some of those rows were pretty grubby from my dirty hands! I would count my stitches at the end of each row and run home for some help if my stitch count was wrong.

How did you get started designing?
I’ve always designed, whether it was sewing doll clothes when I was a child or jewellery after I graduated from art college. It was natural that I would come to designing knitwear at some point. When we decided to start a family I knew didn’t want to be exposed to the toxins that are prevalent in the jewellery studio, so I turned to my knitting passion that was already consuming all of my evenings. My early designs were all baby sweaters but as my baby grew I began branching out, designing for everyone.

What inspires your designs?
My inspiration comes from many different places. Sometimes it’s the wake behind the ferry boat, sometimes it’s a stitch pattern on a garment I see in a store, sometimes it’s a costume on a period drama I’m watching on TV, and sometimes a complete stranger walks past me on the street and his or her outfit catches my eye.

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
My early designs using self-patterning sock yarn were definitely inspired by the yarn. But really, for me designs can come from anywhere: the yarn, a concept, a stitch pattern, a stranger on the street. When I’m deep in design mode everything I look at translates into stitches and knitting.

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
I design for function and I like classic styles that will last. I’ve heard my designs termed “investment knitting,” meaning that it’s something you’ll want to use or wear for years to come and if it takes a long time to knit, it’s well worth the time investment. Of course, many of my designs are also quick knits.

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love to design, knit and wear sweaters.

Tell me about “Tempest”, what is the story behind this collection?
Tempest is a book collaboration I did with Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia Yarns. I wanted to work on a cohesive collection with one dyer’s yarns. After pitching probably 30 designs, we narrowed it down to a handful and then I continued to design more pieces along the theme that began to develop around one of the recurring stitch patterns. It was a pattern I had seen on a garment in a store. I had played with that pattern by stretching it, condensing it, pulling it and distorting it. The stitch pattern reminded me of waves and wasn’t one I had seen in stitch dictionaries so I named it Procella, which is Latin for wave. Another translation of Procella is tempest. I found tempest such a wonderful word that evoked all sorts of imagery for me. We centred on it as a theme and built the collection around both the Procella stitch pattern and handknits you might want to surround yourself with when walking on the beach on a blustery day or hunkered down inside by the fire with a raging storm outside.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?
I’ve been doing a lot of freelance work lately, which means that my indie releases go on the back burner. I do have an idea for another collection of patterns and I’m in the beginning stages of fleshing out the designs and conversing with an indie dyer.

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
I think Jamie often gets overlooked. It’s a really fun design because it’s knit modularly and there are no seams. The finishing is minimal. It’s knit in strips, each one joining to the one beside it. The last strip closes the body. The shoulders are joined with a three needle bind off and the sleeves are picked up around the armholes and worked down, in the round. There’s a little edging around the neck and the hem and then it’s just a matter of sewing in a few ends. I used self-patterning sock yarn because the construction plays with the width and depth of the stripes.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to rip back to fix a mistake, if that’s what’s needed. If the mistake bothers you, then you’ll be much happier with the finished piece if you’ve fixed the mistake. It’s a shame to knit a whole sweater and have it live at the back of your drawer because you don’t like wearing because of a mistake. You know, most of us knit for enjoyment, so look at it this way. You’re getting more enjoyment out of the project because there was a little more knitting when you reworked a section of it.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t usually make resolutions, at least not in the New Year. I would like to create a self-publishing schedule and give it equal standing with the freelance work that I do.

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
Really, every knitwear designer would be a fascinating dinner companion. I love sharing information and learning from how another designer approaches the business or a design. I’m very intrigued with Ysolda’s rise in the knitting world and would greatly enjoy getting to know her and her approach.

View all of Holli’s patterns here. Jamie photo copyright Art of Light and Wake photo copyright Alexa Ludeman. All remaining photos copyright Rob Yeoh. All images used by permission.

You can find Holli 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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