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Interview: Rich Ensor


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.



Which is your most under-appreciated design?

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!

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