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Interview: Holly Stevens


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

Holly modeling Diana

Holly, modeling Call Me, Diana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find Holly on the following social media sites:

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