Archive for the ‘Designer Chat’ Category

Sock Knitting Queen

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

Island living certainly has its perks and for Pat De Clark, a resident of Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands), she was quick to realize that the secret to living in a community full of fishermen, loggers, and outdoor buffs starts with keeping all those feet warm and dry.  In an oceanic climate where the average rainfall amount is second only to the tropics, wool socks are in constant demand and are preferred over cotton for their ability to wick away moisture and retain elasticity, not to mention they offer a nice layer of padding inside boots or shoes.  Pat arrived in the Village of Queen Charlotte off the coast of B.C. in 1983 on a six week stint as an x-ray technician and never left.  “It’s quite lovely knowing and being known by everyone in town.” says Pat of Charlotte Island Knitting, who began knitting socks more than thirty years ago initially by hand and then on a double-bed machine, and has since made a cottage industry out of it.

Let’s get to know our sock knitting queen-

Pat In Her Studio

Pat De Clark In Her Home Studio

MM:  Hi Pat, thank you for stopping by today to chat with us.  Would you like a tea or coffee before we get started?

PDC:  Yes, I’m a tea drinker, thank you.

MM:  There is something so magical about gifting someone with a pair of knitted wool socks, and watching the reaction as they slip them on their feet.  Your socks are all quite beautiful.  Are these made on a machine?

PDC:  The ones that you are looking at are all made on an old home knitting machine.  It’s a double-bed Superba, and some of your senior readers may recognize it.  Machine knitting became popular in Europe after WWII and later spread to this continent.  It was a very popular hobby and also a means of extra income.  Machine knitting lasted until about the mid-nineties when it suddenly lost popularity and the manufacturers and support structure disappeared from the economy.  There are very few of us left now.

Fortissima Mexiko Peru Color by Schoeller & Stahl

Fortissima Mexiko Peru Color by Schoeller & Stahl

MM:  Have you always been a knitter and can you tell us how you got started in this business?

PDC:  Well…… my lovely English grandmother taught me how to knit when I was five, and I started to knit socks when I was about seventeen.  I’ve just never quit!  A friend bought me an old knitting machine at an auction and instantly I was hooked.  It soon became apparent that I could make much more knitwear that I could ever use so I started selling at Christmas craft fairs and it just morphed from there.  During the eighties and nineties, most of my production was for men.  That has all changed now…it’s about half and half.  It became obvious that I could sell more socks that I could ever possibly make, so now I just focus on the annual Christmas craft fair and a few special orders in between.

Supersocke 4 ply by On Line

Supersocke 4 ply by On Line

MM:  Do you have a set schedule that you follow… for instance, how many pairs of socks can you knit in a week?

PDC:  Yes.  I do set my goals for each season, divide them into months and weeks, consult my yarn supply and start knitting.  My current goal is ten pairs of socks per week.

MM:  Wow!  That is quite a lot for the rest of us sock knitters to aspire to.  What are some of the responses you have had from those who wear your socks?

PDC:  People like the fact that they are wool…..we live in a rain forest and are primarily outdoor enthusiasts, whether it is for work or play.  Wool keeps the feet warm even if they get wet.  There is no elastic in the ribbing to constrict, yet the ribbing I make is firm and stays up.  This is especially good for diabetics.  My socks are seamless, comfortable and last well, I have had customers who have been buying them from me for thirty years, and I have others who say their mothers bought them from me.  I seem to have become an Island tradition.

Sock Stockpile Growing

Sock Stockpile Growing

MM:  Yes….and I hear you are now taking to the open seas, to teach sock knitting on cruise ships.  How did this come about? 

PDC:   Oh quite by accident actually.  While on a cruise to Hawaii, part of the daily routine was a knit ‘n’ stitch get-together each morning.  I took my sock knitting along and it went from there.  I met some lovely women and had a really great time and still get emails on a regular basis from these women, many of them showing their latest achievements.  Very rewarding.  There is a big interest in sock knitting as I’m sure you know, there also seems to be a myth about how difficult it is.  My job is to demystify it.

MM:  What three little tips would you like to pass on to brand new sock knitters?

PDC:  1. Use only a good wool sock yarn such as On Line or Fortissima.  2. Two circular needles are easier to handle than four double pointed ones, and I prefer bamboo.  3. Relax and have fun!

Pat's Island View

Pat’s Island View

 

A Chat With Susan Gibbs of Juniper Moon Farm

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Can reading a book really change your direction in life?  Just ask vivaciously-spirited Susan Gibbs, a former producer for CBS news who on a whim picked up a beginner’s guide to raising sheep and found her true calling by the time she turned the final page.  A year later, Susan had exchanged her corporate attire for a pair of jeans and rubber boots to go along with her brand new job title- shepherd, a proud profession dating back well over six thousand years.  From her modest beginnings, and first flock of five sheep, she has grown her passion into a successful CSA (community supported agriculture) business, Juniper Moon Farm which allows members to take part in the entire rural experience from naming the lambs to harvesting the fleece through pre-purchased shares.  Along with the day-to day running of the farm, Susan has launched her own commercial line of natural fibre yarns, from lace to chunky weight in exquisitely alluring hues with eco-friendly dyes, all creatively blended down on the farm.

Diamond Yarn introduces the exclusive line up of wools from Juniper Moon Farm to Canadian knitters this fall, complimented by a full selection of pattern booklets featuring pullovers, cardigans, vests, shawls, and fashionable accessories.

 

Susan Gibbs-Founder of Juniper Moon Farm

Susan Gibbs-Founder of Juniper Moon Farm

Let’s chat with Susan Gibbs of Juniper Moon Farm and find out more about her switch from city to country life-

MM:  Hi Susan, and a warm welcome to Canada where your yarns are selling like hotcakes.  Before we chat about your farm and the beautiful wools that you produce, would you like a cup of tea or coffee?

SG:  Green tea please!  I’m trying to kick a hardcore diet soda habit and green tea is the only thing that keeps me sane and awake.

MM:  I understand that your background is in news media, so what inspired you to pull on your ‘wellies’ and become a shepherd?

SG:  Working in news was incredibly rewarding for a long time, but after ten years I was completely burned out.  Additionally, my work left me feeling unfulfilled at the end of the day.  I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life and to have something to show for my work at the end of the day.  While on vacation I sort of stumbled across a book about raising sheep and instantly I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

MM:  Where is Juniper Moon Farm located and does it operate similar to a co-op? 

SG:  Juniper Moon Farm is in Central Virginia, just outside Charlottesville. Our flock is run as a CSA, meaning that our customers purchase a share of the wool clip while it’s still growing on the animals. It allows the shareholders to participate in the lives of the animals who grow their yarn, to get to know the personalities of the flock and to learn about all the hard work that goes into raising sheep for wool.  

MM:  Can you estimate how many goats and sheep are in residence on the farm?

SG:  Currently we are down to about 70 sheep and goats.  

MM:  What breeds are you raising at the moment and is there one breed that you would say has been easier to raise or that you personally prefer?

SG:  We primarily raise Cormo sheep, but we have a few other breeds as well. Cormos fleece is super-fine and has lovely crimp- personally, I don’t think there is a finer fleece on any breed of sheep.  Cormos are not, however, easy keepers. We have a handful of Southdowns as well and they are sturdy, healthy little tanks, but their fleeces are not so great. We have actually experimented with cross breeding the two– we call the new breed Mo’Downs.  In addition to the Cormo flock, we have a flock of colored sheep.

Juniper Moon Farm Lambs

Juniper Moon Kids on the Farm

MM:  Do you raise other animals too?

SG:  OMG… yes!  We have a million chickens, pigs, goats and lots of dogs. 

Findley Dappled Pullover

Findley Dappled Pullover

MM:  Can you give us a timeline as to how often the sheep shearing occurs, and the journey that the fibre takes before it reaches our knitting needles?

SG:  We shear our Cormo flock once a year and the colored flock twice a year.  The yarn is sent to a mill in Canada where it takes about four months for it to be scoured, carded and spun into yarn.  When the yarn returns to the farm, it is dyed and sent out to our shareholders. 

Moonshine by Juniper Moon Farm

Moonshine by Juniper Moon Farm

MM:  All of your yarn qualities look luxurious and as tempting as a tray full of sweets, you must have a difficult time choosing which one to knit with first?

SG:  True confession time! Just as the shoe maker’s children has no shoes, the yarn maker has no time to knit. Honestly, it has been about a year since I sat down to knit. Which doesn’t mean I don’t spend a lot of time admiring yarn. And I have a house full of sweaters because all the samples we have knit for our collection usually end up in my wardrobe. 

Egbertine Cowl and Cap Set Knit in Herriot

Egbertine Cowl and Cap Set Knit in Herriot

MM:  What three things have you learned in your life on the farm that would inspire someone else to follow your lead from the corporate world to the country?    

SG:  Number One- Chickens don’t just crow in the morning, it’s an all day thing……. and you do get used to it.  Number Two- Watching a lamb be born and get on to it’s feet is the closest thing to magic that I’ve ever seen.  Number Three- There is no better feeling than falling asleep at the end of the day after a long day of working sheep.

Designer Chat With Claudia Wersing

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Setting down a sewing needle to pick up knitting needles is no easy transition, yet German designer, Claudia Wersing has crossed the great divide almost seamlessly.  Initially trained as a dressmaker, Claudia completed a number of fashion collections for German designers, continuing on to achieve a Master’s Certificate as a clothing technician and merging her experience in all aspects of fabric construction with the more fluid nature of knitwear.  Now working as an independent designer, her crisp, clean style is frequently showcased in European publications, Burda, and Verena, as well as the latest Fall/Winter Collection for Mirasol.

 

Claudia Wersing

 

MM:  Hi Claudia, thank you so much for stopping by to share your views on design with us.  Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?

CW:  Yes…..I would like a Latte, please.

MM:  So, where exactly is your home base, and do you have a studio where you do all your work?

CW:  Throughout my life, I have moved around a lot.  I worked abroad for awhile, but now I live in Northern Germany in a comfortable old farmhouse in the country where my design studio is located.  I am very fortunate because I can see the lake from my desk, which I find to be very soothing and inspiring.  A few metres away, is an old farmstead building that I have converted into my wool shop.  This is where I work also, whether it’s selling wool or giving workshops.

Claudia's Studio

 

MM:  What a beautiful setting for a home and studio.  I understand you started your career in dressmaking, what led you to branch out into knitwear design?

CW:  Knitting played an important role in my childhood, and I have always had a passion for traditional handicraft techniques.  I don’t really separate knitting and sewing, as both crafts involve use of the hands.  They are just used differently.  During my work in the clothing industry, the collections always included knitwear and there is not much difference between creating a pattern for a piece of knitted fabric that must be sewn together, and creating one for a hand knitted item of clothing.  What’s important to understand is how to build comfort into the piece….. and of course, where the seams should go.  I like seams!

So in both my professional and personal life, I have always mixed sewing and knitting, and I find that both disciplines benefit from each other, they complete each other.  This gives me freedom in my work.  Anyway, when you are knitting the ability to sew becomes a great advantage.

MM:  Can you remember your very first knitted creation and what it looked like?    

CW:  Yes, I can remember it exactly!  My first knitted creation was a dress for my Barbie doll.  It was sort of a potholder belted with a woollen string.  It looked like a wraparound dress, but of course on Barbie everything looks stylish.  Later on, in the eighties, I knitted a lot of raglan pullovers and those big motif styles which are now very fashionable.  You must remember those??

MM:  Yes, I do and your designs look amazing…. very cutting edge.  I have seen several in Burda, Verena, and now in the Fall/Winter Mirasol Collection.  Do you still dabble in fabric design?

CW:  Thank you for the compliment, I appreciate it.   At the moment I am working exclusively in knitting design, I rarely work with fabric anymore.  This is a natural development, knitting has become more important during the past few years as more and more people discover the soothing and balancing effect of working with their hands.  That is why the demand for modern, wearable knitting designs has risen significantly.  Knitting is such an attractive counter balance to our increasingly technology-driven lifestyle and it suits people’s desire for ‘homeyness’.

Ushya by Claudia Wersing

 

MM:  Being trained as an apparel technician must bring incredible focus on detail to all aspects of your work, can you describe some of the intricacies that are your signature in knitwear?

CW:  Yes, I have to laugh….but you are right.  As a technician, a lot of value is placed on careful detail and you learn how to organise something ‘big’ into many little steps.  I laugh because my designer’s heart doesn’t like the technician in me, and always takes my inner designer to task and forces her to work carefully, testing everything for both feasibility and usefulness.  It demands precise work on the pattern and exceptional accuracy, but it is essential for a good fit.  That is exactly my signature; well thought-out patterns, pure straightforward designs that are both wearable and fit well with a clean silhouette.

MM:  Lucky you, to be able to work with yarns from Mirasol.  Ushya, Miski, and Sulka are all equally irresistible.  Where did you draw inspiration from for this lovely collection of knitwear in the latest book of designs for Fall/Winter 2012?  

CW:  Thank you again!  And yes…….it was a great privilege to be able to work with all these beautiful yarns.  I enjoyed it a lot.  I love alpaca and the Mirasol yarns have fantastic colouring and are exceptionally high quality.  These designs were developed during my stay by the sea, a place not far from my home.

Miski by Claudia Wersing

 

MM:  I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but if you had to choose….is there one favorite yarn that you really enjoyed working with?

CW:  Gosh… that is really hard to say, I have a great number of favorite yarns, as it is not only dependent on the season, but also on my mood.  I like to be able to work with different yarns for different occasions.  Sometimes, something cosy is needed, because you want comfort.  Then again, sometimes something a bit more exciting is needed for a glamorous occasion.  Therefore….. no, I have no favorites.  What I favor is constant motion and ever-changing.

Sulka by Claudia Wersing

 

MM:  Right now in Canada, ruffle scarves and lace shawls are very popular, and cowls for the winter season.  What seems to be the current trend that you see in Germany? 

CW:  That depends on the level of knitting ability.  Beginners like to knit hats and what we call ‘loops’ and those who want to try a bigger project usually choose a knit jacket.  The classic knit jacket is very popular and also a versatile item of clothing.

MM:  What’s ‘on your needles’ at the moment Claudia?

CW:  At the moment, I am preparing for a new workshop which deals with knitting Christmas ornaments, and I am knitting a size XXL ‘Fun Bauble’ with size 15 needles.

Inside Claudia's Studio

 

MM:  That sounds like a lot of fun!  Thanks for letting us take a peek inside your studio!

(images courtesy of Claudia Wersing)

(Video) For a behind-the-scenes look at the photo shoot for Mirasol’s F/W Collection 2012 by Claudia Wersing.

Designer Chat With Joji Locatelli

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Ask any knitter what his or her fantasy job might be and watch how quickly their face illuminates with sheer delight.  Joji Locatelli is a designer living that dream, after trading in a white coat for the multi-coloured sweaters she now knits, and discovering her creative talents in a virtual candyland emporium where the knitting yarns are the ultimate treats.  Joji’s lively demeanor and refreshing enthusiasm catch on like wildfire, as she drops by to chat about designing life and her passion for knitting.     

Joji Locatelli

MM:  Hi Joji, and thanks so much for stopping by today to share a bit about your work and design.  What would you like to drink?

JL:  I’ll have a latte, thank you!

MM:  Has knitwear design always been your chosen career?

JL:  Well as a matter of fact….No!  I studied first to be a physician, and I was a great student back then!  After I received my degree and license, I worked as a doctor until my first son was born.  But I didn’t enjoy my career well enough to continue at it, and dreamt of knitting all the time…so I did whatever I could to leave that profession behind and began looking for a job that was related to knitting.  I found my dream job at a local yarn shop (Milana) where I met some incredibly generous people who have helped me to develop in this business.  At Milana, I get to play with colour, knit samples, and design lines of yarn.  Whatever needs to be done, I am in for it!  Designing knitwear just came my way a year ago…I didn’t really expect any of my designs to be popular, but people really liked them, which has encouraged me to keep doing it.  

Milana

MM:  Working with such wildy colourful and exotic yarns from Manos Artesanas must be like playing in a candy store all day long.  Is it the design idea that you develop first or does the yarn speak to you?

JL:  With Manos Artesanas, the yarn does the trick, it doesn’t speak to me, it shouts at me!  I try to keep the designs simple with this line, because the beauty and the colours in the yarn are so incredible, a more intricate pattern just wouldn’t allow the yarn to glow.  Yes, working here is unbelievable, all the yarn you can imagine, and at the reach of your hand…

Manos Artesanas

MM:  There are so many luxurious soft blends of yarn these days, you must have one special pet fibre that you adore working with?

JL:  Well, I haven’t been blessed with the opportunity yet to work with every blend available…but I know I love merino, in any shape.  For me, there is nothing like a great soft wool.

MM:  What is the knitting ‘vibe’ like in your hometown of Buenos Aires and at your LYS?

JL:  Buenos Aires is a wonderful city to live in.  I am truly in love with my hometown!  But the knitting vibe is very different here from the rest of the world.  I am not talking about the knitters that you find in online communities, those are a minority in Buenos Aires, and yes they do have similar knitting styles to others.  I am talking about the knitters we see every day at the shop.  Argentine knitters love FAST PROJECTS!  Big needles!  Lots of colour, texture…and loads of embellishments!  Lace is not popular here for that reason.  Hahaha.  Even though we don’t have harsh winters, knitters here choose thick yarns, novelty, and chunky blends.  I really love how knitting ‘vibes’ can be so totally different.

MM:  I see you belong to a knitting group, how often do you meet, and what source of inspiration do you draw from your fellow knitters?

JL:  Yes, I am very lucky to have really good knitting friends.  We met in an online community almost four years ago, and they have now become some of my most cherished friends.  We share the same passion for yarn and get together for knitting every Saturday.  My knitting friends are very supportive of what I do, and usually test my patterns for me (a big thank you!)  They even look for new ideas for me to work with.

Veronica, Joji, Federica, Alejandra, Andrea

MM:  You refer to your mom as a ‘Sleeve Master’…. there must be a story behind that special nickname??

JL:  Hahaha, you heard that??  Yes, she is the best!  Well, you know how knitters hate to knit sleeves, right?  You are almost done with a sweater, all the shaping is complete, you have passed through the hardest parts of the design, you try it on, it fits…. everything is perfect!  Not quite.  You still have to make two boring tubes to cover your arms!  But my mom loves to work on them (or at least she tells me so) because they are so mindless… and she can watch tv at the same time.

MM:  Yay!  Teamwork!!

JL:  I know, how great is that!  After I work out some directions for her, she usually knits all the sleeves for me.  The only time I knit them myself is when she is already knitting up the sleeves for another one of my samples.   

MM:  What’s ‘on your needles’ at the moment Joji? 

JL:  Well… I am working on two sweater designs right now.  One of them is a collared cardigan with ties, and flowers, and leaves on the back.  I recently designed a child’s version and it was very popular.  I hope the adult version will do the original justice.  The other design, I just started it today actually, is a cabled hoodie in a chunky yarn that will be knit in multiple directions…. I hope I can make that work!!

MM:  Best of luck with that one, I am sure it will look great.  Is there something that you recall as especially inspiring on your travels? 

JL:  I haven’t had the opportunity to travel very much…so no…but I think travelling must be so inspiring!  As a matter of fact, we are going away on a family trip to Europe next April, and I am already thinking of all the ideas I will bring back home. 

Joji has designed this Big Warm Cowl in Copitos, a super soft thick and thin wool from Manos Artesanas.  Its a free pattern to download and knits up with just two skeins on 19 mm needles. 

Copitos Cowl by Joji

(images courtesy of Joji Locatelli) 

Designer Chat with Jenny Watson

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Striking a smooth balance between contemporary style and technical aptitude, British knitwear designer, Jenny Watson casts a keen eye on both sides of the pond.  With easy confidence, and down to earth sensibilities, Jenny injects youthful energy and an organic vibe into her designs for companies such as- Noro, Araucania, Mirasol, and Ester Bitran.  

Her design statement is simple- let the yarn speak volumes!

Jenny Watson

When the pressure is on- Jenny skips to the beat, always up for the next challenge.  Today we find her in the middle of a chaotic workday, yet completely unruffled as she takes time to chat with us about her intrinsic approach to design and the creative process.

MM:  Your name is featured on many of the newest pattern books this season.  Is it something you envisioned, working as a designer for Noro, Araucania, Mirasol, and Ester Bitran (I hope I didn’t miss any) and being able to surround yourself with some of the most highly coveted yarns?   

 

Noro Flowers Two by Jenny Watson

JW:  No, not really….one always wonders how it might feel to be able to work with quality brands and be free to explore my vision on both design and book layout.  Fortunately, I have this opportunity to show my abilities, for which I am very grateful.  I also do other work for both the U.S. and UK markets.

MM:  What sort of deadlines do you have when working on a new collection?

JW:  I normally work on a three to four month deadline depending on how complex the project might be.  Occasionally, I can achieve it in less time, but that brings lots of added pressure to an already highly pressurised job.  But I do love it more than ever when it all comes together.

MM:  Would you say you are super organized when designing or work best under this kind of pressure?

JW:  You really have no choice but to be well organized, especially when producing the amount that I do- although sometimes when the pressing is on, it feels like an extra challenge that I enjoy rising to.

MM:  Your ‘Mini Knits’ series of books are great incentives for knitters, particularly those with limited time on their hands.  How did this book idea come about?

JW:  ‘Mini Knits’ was an idea that Designer Yarns came up with and I followed it through thinking of designs that could be easily knit or use as little as one hank of yarn.  The concept was one that any yarn retailer or consumer could use with any odd balls they may have left over, as well as encouraging the novice knitter to give it a go.

Mirasol Designer Mini Knits by Jenny Watson

MM:  For you, what is that special quality that makes a yarn really stand out and make you say ‘wow’………you know, the ones that keep us knitting feverishly into the middle of the night?

JW:  Quality or unusual yarns, as I’m sure you can see from most of my collections.  I like things to look clean and edgy.  I suppose this has become my style signature, but I do love working with natural yarns- merino wool, cottons, etc, as they show great stitch definition and good garment shapes, equally as well as the yarns that are a little different.

MM:  Can you tell us, ‘what’s on your needles’ at the moment?   

JW:  That’s easy………. baby garments.  I am super busy and have run short of knitters, so its all hands on deck at the moment.  I am knitting a baby garment which is due to be photographed in a couple of weeks.  Other than knitting samples, I very rarely knit as I just do not have the time.  Either I am designing, compiling, doing photography, or looking at book layouts, so I can art direct.  I find the whole project from start to finish really fun- although hard work.

MM:  Knitted shawls, cowls, capes, all those cosy cover ups have been very popular over here this past season.  Are there any hot knitting trends that you currently spy around England?

JW:  Very much the same as yourselves.  It is great to see the ready-made market and couture designers really pushing knitwear, which in turn encourages hand knitting.  The larger cosy knits with lots of stitch detail to tiny knitted basques, leggings and skirts, some of which will be featured in my forthcoming book for Noro titled, ‘Fashion’, due out this summer.

Noro Flowers Two- Taiyo Vest by Jenny Watson

MM:  With your ultra busy work schedule, are there any plans to visit Canada in the future for lectures or workshops?

JW:  Funny you should mention a visit to Canada……..when I first met Ted and Peter at Diamond nearly three years ago, this was something we touched upon, but at that time I was so new to Canada and America and therefore didn’t know what kind of response I would have.  Fortunately, it has been a very good one and I have since spoken with Dino, and hope to visit Canada sometime in October.

MM:  That’s great news!  Canada in Autumn with the leaves at their peak, thats the best time to visit.  Your many fans will be delighted, and speaking of seasons, which one is your favorite?

JW:  Oh! that’s an easy one…. Autumn/Winter- because I love the chunky knits, very rich in colour and the garment shapes.  Although, everything is front to back, as we speak I am just starting work on my Autumn/Winter Collection.  The odd thing is that when it comes to photography it will actually be our summer and the models will be feeling the heat in the heavy knits.  The same thing will be happening with my Spring/Summer Collection, it will be photographed in the winter- its all a little front to back, I know, but I like a challenge.

Designer Chat With Michelle Porter

Friday, February 4th, 2011

As Canadian as figgy duff, maple syrup, and nanaimo bars, Michelle Porter is a homegrown talent who remains true to her roots, successfully merging her East Coast heritage into the ever-changing world of design.  With an intuitive flair for wearable fashion, and a practical approach to pared-down style, Michelle draws from her training and experience in all areas of the yarn industry.  Currently, she resides north of  Toronto and works as a knitwear designer for the Diamond Luxury Collection, as well as her own company, Fondle Patterns.  

Michelle Porter

Michelle shares her design philosophy with us and a glimpse at whats ‘on the needles’ for Fall 2011.

MM:  Hi Michelle, thanks for taking some time from your designing schedule to stop by and chat today.  Can I offer you something warm to drink, maybe a cup of hot chocolate?

MP:  Coffee please………. black, in the biggest cup you have, and if you don’t mind, I’ll have the rest of the pot!

MM:  What initially sparked your choice of career in the yarn industry?

MP:  As a child growing up in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, it was my grandmother who taught me the knitting basics.  I was able to follow complicated Barbie doll patterns as soon as I could read.  She also taught me how to make all the traditional cold weather accessories from memory.  As she was knitting for my sister and I, there I was alongside her, knitting for my dolls.  Now at ninety-three, I am knitting for her.  

Knitting For Barbie

I didn’t choose a career in the yarn industry, it just sort of happened.  Instead, I started out studying to be a medical lab technician, but after getting the worst strep throat of my life, and realizing I was way too sloppy for such precise work, I quit and went to art school, and later switched to visual merchandising.  It was while I was working for a window display company in P.E.I. that I helped the owner start up a yarn store as a side business.   This is where I taught my first knitting lessons and developed custom designs.

MM:  Since then, you moved to Toronto and really went full circle, from working in a yarn store, to taking over the reins and making it your own.  Having that daily interaction with customers and helping them in choosing the right pattern styles, did that further your interest in design?

MP:  When you are running a yarn store, there is so much to consider in regards to buying stock and selling to customers.  You can always pick the best quality yarn in the most attractive colours, but yarn can be knit into almost anything.  The most important aspect is the pattern.  Very few customers can knit without a pattern.  Most folks walked into the yarn shop with something specific in mind.  Imagine my despair when no such pattern existed.  Sometimes you can show customers two dozen patterns, all for the same style of garment, but none of them are just right.  Almost each and every time all they wanted was a basic, simple pattern, easy to follow and quick to knit.  Often, I had to write one up on the spot. 

Another issue that kept coming up, especially with my students, was the confusing pattern instructions, ambiguous wording, and inconsistent use of abbreviations.  I wish we could all follow the same format when writing patterns.  Customers also requested a full range of pattern sizes, mostly leaning towards larger sizes.

MM:  As a Canadian designer, do you feel we have our own signature style?

MP:  A signature Canadian style??  Well, the traditional items for sure, toques, mittens, socks, and sweater coats (2010 Winter Olympics come to mind).  Most of us Canadian knitters have these patterns or recipes passed down from our grandmothers.  Sometimes its hard to find a copy of any of these patterns available commercially, or even in print.  Its often surprising when we designers re-interpret these items, only to find that they are still so popular!  As far as my personal take on Canadian style- we have four seasons to dress for, so layering pieces are key, like cardigans, twinsets, wraps, and vests.  Simply put, items that can be worn to work, not just on the weekend. 

Diamond Luxury Collection #1407

MM:  So true…….and some of your latest designs for the Diamond Luxury Collection make use of bold cables as elements in shaping a garment.  Is this something we might see more of in the future?

MP:  I have always admired clever internal shaping.  Good shaping is important to keep the garment ‘slimming’.  It also helps to fuel the high fashion impression (handmade vs homemade).  I love how cables can change the tension, the direction and thickness of a fabric.  Darts are good too, but cables are more interesting.  I haven’t exhausted my cabling as shaping yet, but am looking forward to more lace effects in my next collection.

Diamond Luxury Collection #1406

Back Image of #1406

MM:  Which season are you designing for at the moment, and any hints at what we might be seeing?

MP:  Right now…….I’m designing for Fall 2011.  There will be lots of rich colours and equally rich fibres.  I am exploring some simple lace and textured patterns for sweaters (huge fan of four row repeats).  Also, I am trying out some alternative directional knitting, one piece sideways, top down, etc., and I really feel an accessory moment coming on.  The slouch hat has paved the way for cloches and turban styles.  Most of my ideas are still in the ’swatch’ stage, but here’s a peek-

Mulberry Merino by Diamond Luxury Collection

Fine Merino Superwash DK by Diamond Luxury Collection

Baby Alpaca Sport by Diamond Luxury Collection

MM:  All equally gorgeous!  In the Diamond Luxury Collection, knitters have the creme de la creme of natural fibres to pick from.  If you had to choose just one, is there a special yarn that you really love to work with?

MP:  Mmh……My all-time favorite in the collection would be Baby Alpaca Sport because of its soft, seductive feel and huge colour choice.  Still, near the top of my list is Merino Bamboo for its spongy texture and slight sheen.  It gives good stitch definition, and a super even tension.  There are not as many colour options, but those twelve shades are all fantastic!

MM:   So, when you are on vacation, do you take your needles and yarn along, or prefer to turn off the switch?

MP:  Vacation……….um, see for yourself…..

Sun, Sand, and Socks

The worst thing I can remember happening was during a deep woods camping trip.  I had just finished my project, but hadn’t packed another one!  Now, I spend a full week planning projects beforehand.

MM:  Where is your ideal spot for finding inspiration for new designs?

MP:  My ‘ideal’ spot is not my reality spot.  Ideal is a lounge chair on a tropical beach, with a margarita in my left hand, and my sketch pad in my right.  There are baskets of beautiful yarns all around me….but in reality, most of my design ideas come to me in the early morning hours as I lay in bed.  The details that I work out then surprise me, I guess its the absence of distractions, so a stream of thought can properly develop.  Other than that, my home office is a good place to sit with a whole wall of yarn stuffed in hanging bins and the opposite wall as an inspiration wall filled with magazine clippings.  I also get ideas while working in the garden.  Flowers are fantastic when you look really close, with ruffled edges, folds and puckers.  Inspiration can come really anywhere, so I keep a pocket sketch pad handy. 

MM:  As a knitting instructor and designer, what’s the one thing you want every new knitter to learn?

MP:  PLEASE, please, learn to love the tension swatch!  Always do your tension first, make it larger than the standard four inches, make several of them, each with different size needles.  Wash and block your swatch.  This is the single most important thing you can do to guarantee happiness with your finished project.  Learn the stitch pattern while making the swatch too, if you don’t like it here, you surely will not like it on the whole garment!

(images courtesy of Michelle Porter)

 

 

 

Designer Chat With Hannah Thiessen

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Just back from a whirlwind adventure in Uruguay, Hannah Thiessen stops by to tell us about her summertime experience as an intern for Malabrigo, the country’s leading yarn producer.  A freelance knitwear designer from the States with a fine arts degree, Hannah made the trip to Uruguay for a firsthand look at how some of our favorite yarns are made.  Her journey took her to the bustling capital- Montevideo, a city rich in architectural and cultural heritage, and home to the Malabrigo headquarters where she wore a multitude of hats- Product Development, Creative Director, In-House Designer, Blog Writer and Customer Service.  Hannah also spent time touring through the lush countryside to Paysandu, to visit the Malabrigo sheep ranches and see where it all begins.

Malabrigo- literally means ‘poorly dressed’, the company is named after a small town where the weather is so cold, people knit to keep themselves warm.  

Hannah Thiessen

Hannah sits down to share a behind the scenes look at Malabrigo and the spirit of the yarns we all love to knit.

MM:  Thanks so much for dropping in to share your summer story with us, would you like some tea or coffee? 

HT:  I would love a mocha, actually!  I used to work as a barista so I am pretty partial to espresso.

MM:  Working as a Malabrigo intern this summer in Montevideo, Uruguay, wow!  Now that is a dream job.  How did it all come about?

HT:  I used to be an administrator for the group Malabrigo Junkies on Ravelry.  During my time administrating the group I was able to talk with Antonio, he is the head dyer for Malabrigo.  Sometimes members would ask me questions about what colourways they had in their stashes, due to missing tags, etc. and I was really good at identifying and remembering even the slightest differences between colourways.  One day, Antonio commented that it was too bad I didn’t live in Uruguay.  At the time, I was in school in the States, and we needed to organize summer internships ourselves, so I asked and they accepted!  The entire process was set up eighteen months in advance.

MM:  Knitters everywhere adore Malabrigo, but few of us are familiar with the story behind the yarn.  Can you share a bit of what you have learned about the company history?

HT:  Malabrigo was started because the folks in Uruguay saw a need.  So much wool (merino and corriedale) is exported from their country, yet not enough of it is turned into yarn there, some of it goes to other countries for processing and dyeing.  Antonio wanted to introduce something new to the market after seeing some lovely kettle-dyed wool, always in small batches and sold at the local street markets, not incredibly lucrative or high quality, just pretty.  So he began to dye wool in his kitchen, in a big pot on the stove and it all kind of developed right from there.  Previously Antonio worked as an architect, and now he runs the factory with his two brothers-in-law, Marcos and Tobias.  All added up, they employ about forty people to make our favorite yarns.

Inside the Malabrigo factory in Montevideo

MM:  So….. what  fun projects have you been working on during your stay in Uruguay?

HT:  Well……..a few of them are secrets!  But I can let you know that I was able to do a lot of work on Malabrigo Book 3.  As Creative Director, I assisted with the photo shoots, choosing the models, and styling the outfits, generally directing everything to give it that complete look.  I was also able to introduce a new color to the Twist and Silky lines- Manzanillo Olive!

MM:  Thats sounds like a delicious new colour, can’t wait to see it!  We know that Merino Worsted has a huge admiration society amongst knitters with over one hundred dreamy colours, and often described as melted butter on the needles.  We would love to know a bit more about the production process, and what you were able to discover while at the factory.

HT:  Basically the wool from the sheep is really carefully chosen, either merino or corriedale.  It comes only from Uruguay, and the country itself has very high standards for sheep treatment and management.  The sheep graze free-range through the hills and are herded by actual old style shepherds.  After the sheep are sheared, the wool is cleaned with very little water wasted and sent to a nearby EcoTex spinning mill.  Malabrigo chooses how the yarn will be spun to create some of our favorite yarns, next the wool is brought to the mill for hand dyeing by the workers.  The colourways are all dreamed up by Antonio and the chemist-in-residence.

MM:  Do you have an all-time favorite design in Merino Worsted?

HT:  Hard question!  I think I really love designs that show off the yarn while acknowledging its weaknesses.  I feel the best patterns for Merino Worsted are usually accessory items, things to wear on your head or hands that don’t get too much friction and will remain beautiful for a long time. 

MM:  Uruguay is a country with so much beauty and spirit, but there is much hardship as well.  Which charity projects does Malabrigo participate in?

HT:  Malabrigo just recently provided yarn for the International Knit In Public Day held in Montevideo.  The company gave away chunky yarns (Aquarella, Gruesa, Rasta) for knitters to use to make garments for orphanages and charities in the country.  They also donated some of the more luxurious yarns as incentive prizes.  Knitters get together in huge groups, knitting away, and during this past year alone, over nine hundred garments were donated!

MM:  That’s great to hear.  When you had a day off from your busy summer schedule, what was your favorite place to sit and knit and enjoy the local culture?

HT:  When I was in Uruguay this summer, I spent quite a bit of time knitting in my room.  It was wintertime there, so cuddling up with a big blanket, having music to listen to and knitting was really comfortable to me.  If the weather had been better, I might have spent more time outside on the back porch- the house where I was staying had a gorgeous back patio with a tiled bench.

My visit to the Malabrigo Sheep Ranch in Paysandu

MM:  Now that your internship has come to an end, and you have all these great memories to carry back home with you, can you share one that you will always cherish?

HT:  I think it was therapeutic for me to visit the sheep farms in Paysandu.  While I enjoyed the city, and the architecture there was fantastic, and most of my work was done there, the long trip by night bus to Paysandu was really precious to me.  The land in the centre of the country is so green and lush- lovely, rocky ground dotted with freshly-sheared sheep and small lambs.  I think that any knitter should visit a sheep farm at least once in their lives, its important to know where our materials come from.  Visiting the people who help make it all happen really brings the famial and heritage aspects of the needlecraft full-circle for me.  I love that knitting is a hobby with a heart.

(images courtesy of:  Hannah Thiessen)

Designer Chat With Debbie Bliss

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

A fair-haired icon in the world of knitting, Debbie Bliss continues to impress us with her down-to-earth signature style.  Living a busy life in London, with her husband, two children and a bouncy beagle named Monty, Debbie works mainly in her home-based studio designing classic knitwear with a modern edge, patterns which has been published in more than fifty books.  Twice a year, she visits Italy to source out new fibres for her own line of exclusive yarns, and regularly travels to North America to teach workshops and seminars.  Just last year, she added Editor in Chief to her long list of accomplishments.

Debbie Bliss

Debbie takes time out from writing and designing for the next issue of her magazine to fill us in on her design background and inspiration.

MM:  Hi Debbie, thanks for taking a break from your work to chat.  Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?

DB:  Tea please!

MM:  What a phenomenal journey your career has taken you on, did it all begin right after college with a knitted collection of plants and flowers?

DB:  Yes, it really did.  I was on a fine art based Fashion and Textiles course, which meant I had great fun making cardboard coats and hats from crisp packets, but when I left art school, I was virtually unemployable!  At the time there was a trend for making everyday objects such as a cake or a plate of bacon and eggs out of fabric, rather like the funky knitted pieces you see today.  I started to make knitted plants which I was able to sell to stores such as Liberty of London.

Lacy Shawl in Eco Baby

 MM:  From the start, your baby and children’s patterns have been a breath of fresh air.  Did you draw inspiration from your own two children, and as they grew your designs grew along with them?

DB:  Thank you!  I think the practical element became important after my first child, Billy.  Before then, I would definitely have been just interested in style over comfort but he was a very colicky baby who did not like to be dressed or undressed so I soon learnt that wide necks, button shoulder fastenings and cardigans rather than sweaters were easier to get off and on.  As my second child Nell grew older, and I mean three years rather than thirteen, she had very definite ideas about what she wanted to wear and my designs didn’t get a look at anymore.

Sleeveless Smock Dress

MM:  Looking back on that very first published design, what do you remember about it?

DB:  As far as I can remember, my first published designs were in a book called Wild Knitting, in which I contributed a knitted garden- a child’s raincoat knitted out of cling film (saran wrap) wrapped around beads, mad ties, and knitted insects.

MM:  Wow, that would be quite a feat, knitting with plastic wrap, but a brilliant idea.  The launch of a knitting magazine was also a brilliant idea.  Not only does it open doors to a brand new generation of knitters, it also presents a fabulous lifestyle.  How did this project come about?

DB:  I am a magazine junkie so was very thrilled when Soho Publishing (Vogue Knitting) approached me with the idea of collaborating on one. 

Boat Neck Top

MM:  In the Spring/Summer issue, you describe being a part of the Vogue Knitting Cruise to Mexico and Belize.  What did you enjoy most about your time at sea with a group of knitters?

DB:  It was a really enjoyable experience, my husband and daughter came along too, and it was wonderful to catch up with Nicky Epstein and Carla Scott, the other teachers and their families.  It was a great chance to meet up with all the knitters and share their enthusiasm for the craft.

MM:  Are there any design moments that you look back on now with a smile, and say, “what was I thinking?”

DB:  There are so many, its difficult to pinpoint just one!  I think proportion is so essential to a style, so it might be that when something comes back from a knitter, I wish I had made it longer, narrower, etc.  The knitted fabric can sometimes have a life of its own, and the completed garment can look rather different from the one I had in my head.

MM:  Your upcoming Fall/Winter Collection looks especially enticing, with the striking contrast in texture between Glen- a merino/alpaca tweed and Andes- a mulberry silk blended with baby alpaca.  Where did the inspiration come from in choosing these new yarns?

DB:  Andes, the mulberry silk is just so beautiful that as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted it in my collection.  I have always loved this particular blend with the softness of the alpaca combining with the sheen of the silk.  I do prefer smooth yarns that show off the stitch as a lot of my work includes stitch texture.  I have intended to avoid fancy or multi coloured yarns as they are not compatible with my style of designing.  Glen, however, is the perfect compromise, a tweedy style that has subtle tonal shadings in each ball to make the garment shade from dark to light and back again.  It makes a really unique fabric.  Although its a chunky weight yarn, it is soft and surprisingly lightweight, to make even the most generous jackets and coats really wearable.

MM:  What is your idea of a ‘blissful’ Sunday?

DB:  Aha, this is an easy one!  Sunday morning reading the papers, then a huge traditional Sunday roast with my family and friends around the table, the more the merrier, followed by a light snooze on the sofa with the beagle, waking up in time to watch the original version of Pride and Prejudice on TV.

A Line Cardigan in Amalfi

(images courtesy of Debbie Bliss)

Designer Chat With Louisa Harding

Saturday, February 27th, 2010
Well-known for elegance in knitwear, Louisa Harding is a designer with an exquisite eye for detail.  With a background in Fashion and a remarkable career that spans more than twenty years across two continents working with some of the top yarn companies, Louisa now concentrates her energy on her own line of  luxury yarns and stunning collections twice a year.  Today she stops in to chat with us, to share a few of her thoughts on the creative process, where she finds inspiration, and preview some of her latest designs for Spring.
 

Louisa Harding

 
MM:  Hi Louisa, thanks for taking a break from your workday to stop in and chat.  Lets sit down with a cup of tea or coffee, whichever you prefer?

LH:  I start my day with a large cup of super strong Italian Espresso coffee, then spend the rest of the day sipping peppermint tea.  Very zingy ‘get up and go’ on one hand, very creative and artsy on the other….  

Hunang knit in Aimee

MM:  In the world of  design, your name is synonymous with luxury yarns and feminine knitwear.  Where did it all begin?

LH:  Ever since I was little, I have always made clothing and had a strong interest in fashion.  Growing up in the centre of London, I had access to all the wonderful museums, and spent my school holidays doing costume and fashion workshops.  I studied Art and Dress at school, learning to cut and grade patterns then went on to take a degree at Brighton University in Textiles and Fashion.  This was in the mid 80′s when all the ‘ready to wear’ designers were showing handknits on the catwalk.  As a result, we had projects sponsored by yarn manufacturers.  I became very interested in hand knitting, loved the discipline.  Unlike any other garment construction,  this is the only one where you can control the shape of a garment by the stitches you choose.  During my third year at University, I spent a three month placement at Rowan Yarns, and had two of my earliest designs published in Rowan Magazine 6.  After completing my degree, I spent three months working for an American designer in Montreal and then returned to England, and worked with Rowan Yarns for eleven years.  I just seemed to be in the right place at the right time. 

MM:  Wow!  What a whirlwind.  Any idea where you might be today, if you had not chosen this path into the world of knitwear design?

LH:  Now, that is a very interesting question, and one that I have just begun to contemplate myself.  My career has been sort of a whirlwind, not much space in between each stage to take a breather, so I have never taken any other avenues.  However, there are a couple of paths that sometimes I dream of taking.  I would have loved to be a travel writer, as I do love to travel, but am not very good at written prose.  I would also love to have a shop, a little boutique selling lots of lovely things.  Ideally, it wouldn’t have to be commercial, more an extension of my wardrobe and home, full of exquisite garments, accessories and furnishings, all beautifully designed or vintage pieces each with a hidden story.  Despite the dreaming, I am always drawn back to knitwear design, an idea starts to take shape and my fingers begin to ‘itch’, and the needles and yarn come together.  I think the path chose me.

MM:  Are you a ‘doodler’ or a ‘swatcher’ first, when you begin a new knitwear design?

LH:  Both- sometimes its the yarn, sometimes its the stitch, so then I swatch, sometimes its the garment shape, so then I draw.  I start designing my collections by taking ideas from an inspiration source.  It is integral to my creative process, to have a starting point to which the collection refers, whether it be a visit to Venice or a classic children’s story such as Alice In Wonderland  

Cuckoo knit in Mulberry Silk

MM:  Canadian knitters are naturally drawn towards the British influence in knitwear.  Is there one thing you feel sets Canadian knitters apart from British knitters?

LH:  I think probably all knitters are similar, if you were to sit a group of knitters together in a room, gathered from all around the globe, their similarities would far outweigh their differences.  Knitters are creative souls who understand the gift of time, how important and amazing it feels to create something from a ball of yarn with two needles.  To have it appreciated, and appreciate the creative talents and skills of others is priceless.  It is a similarity that is for the most part unspoken.   

Citrine knit in Jasmine

MM:  In your latest Spring Collection, the knitwear styles embody a genuine lightness and free spirit, in a shade range of deep, stunning jewel tones.  Where did the inspiration come from for this current collection?

LH:  My newest collection is inspired by the East, entitled, Chinoiserie.  Having a design theme ties all the creative elements together from the sourcing of the yarns, selecting of the colours, the stitches used in the patterns, the shape of the garments, to the look and feel of the photography and printed publications.  I am incredibly lucky to be able to oversee all these elements, ensuring that my vision is as true to my original inspiration as possible.  While researching ideas for the collection, I looked at Chinese proverbs, my favorite- “Patience and the Mulberry leaf can become a silk purse”.  I think this is so apt to the art of hand knitting.

MM:  Now can you give us a hint of what is to come for next season?

LH:  I am just beginning to work on the Autumn Winter 2010/11 Collection and my main intention is to have fun.  At the moment, I am really inspired by the idea of the artist- creative mind and spirit.  I have two new yarns that I am so excited to be working with.  I am always drawn to the lace patterns which I am sure I will continue to experiment with, yet challenge a bit more the proportions and traditional garment construction.

MM:  What is inspiring you today as you gaze outside your window?

LH:  Well……we have snow again.  We have had snow almost continually on the ground now for over two months, which is highly unusual for UK.  As I gaze outside my window, there is a blanket of white, gleaming and pure, reflecting light and lifting the dark winter mood.  I can’t see them yet, but I know just under the snowy surface, the snowdrops are waiting to burst into bloom, so today I am inspired by the idea of new life, light and…… Spring.

(images courtesy of Louisa Harding)

Designer Chat With Jane Ellison

Thursday, January 14th, 2010
British designer, Jane Ellison speaks the universal language of knitters.  With a background in fashion and textile, her straightforward approach to knitwear design and talent for writing very sensible, concise patterns has garnered her work with leading yarn companies, Noro, Mirasol, Queensland Collection, and Araucania.  Today we sit down and chat with Jane as she nears the end of a very hectic work schedule, completing designs for seven brand new collections due out later this season.  She also offers us a sneak peek at some of her soon to be released designs.

Jane Ellison

MM:  Thanks Jane, for stopping by to chat today.  It must be difficult to catch your breath right now with all your deadlines.  Lets sit down, and have a cup of coffee or tea.
 
JE:  I drink coffee.  I used to drink tea, many cups of tea.  But now I drink  many, many cups of coffee!  I can’t do without my cup of coffee to wake me up in the morning.
 
MM:  Its evident in all your work, that you have a true love of knitting and design.  Is there a special someone who inspired you in your chosen career?
 
JE:  I do love knitting.  I was just thinking about this the other day.  At the moment  I have horrible deadlines, and am knitting 24/7.  Even through this I am doing something I love.  I don’t know if I was inspired by someone- my Grandmother was always unravelling old jumpers and re-knitting them.  It  was so exciting to  see what they would become.  My mother made all our clothes, beautiful smocks, lace cardigans, and my teddy bears and dolls were handmade with love.

The Little Book Of Nuna (new for Spring)

MM:  It must be many years since your very first sweater design, can you describe it?
 
JE: My first knitted item, was a striped scarf for Snoopy (I still have it), its a bit blurry on my first hand knitted sweater design.  I knitted loads but I can’t remember!  My very first machine knit sweater was a plain green crew neck pullover in stocking stitch with ribbing at the edges, which I wore and wore until it got a hole and unravelled.  We also did machine knitted garments at college in the first year, my design was a pale blue dress with fine metal wire worked through the yarn so that it could be pulled into interesting shapes.  The yarn was a fine viscose that looked like silk, which gave the dress a light and delicate look but the metal gave it strength that made the dress appear like it was floating around the wearer.
 
MM:  Your work with the Mirasol Project has been so well regarded, giving knitters everywhere an opportunity to participate in the building of a community.  Its a wonderful story of caring and sharing.  What has been your greatest reward from this experience? 
 
JE:  I love the Mirasol Project which was set up in 2006.  It embodies everything I believe in.  I was tremendously excited when I first heard about the project, even more excited when I was asked to become involved.  There are many, many people who make the project what it is.  I find it difficult to put it all into words, but I really hope this is just the beginning.  I’ve only visited the Mallkini Ranch (where the Mirasol Project is based) in Peru once, but I did learn a great deal, even though I cannot speak the language, being there gives me such a feeling of joy and peace.  I don’t know what my one greatest reward has been really, as I said its difficult to single one thing out.  I love working with the yarn, its so soft and beautiful, but also because I know its been made carefully and thoughtfully, every stage is created with the care of people, the environment and the animals in mind.

The Little Book Of Nuna (new for Spring)

MM:  I recently read on your blog, that you once worked in a knitting shop and enjoyed helping customers choose yarns and patterns for projects.  Do you think one day after many more books and designs, you might like to have a shop of your own?
 
JE:  Yes! I really enjoy chatting with knitters and sharing their experiences.  I also like helping people who say they would love to knit but they can’t.  Usually they can, and its great to see how proud they are of their first piece of garter stitch.  Right now, I can’t even plan a week ahead, all I can plan is how much work I have to do by the end of the day!!  Yes, I would love my own shop, I get excited thinking about the array of shades and qualities as well as lots of lovely accessories.

The Little Book Of Hap'i (new for Spring)

MM:  Knitting is really on an upswing here in Canada, what is the knitting scene like in UK at the moment?
 
JE:  For the past few months I have been designing, knitting, and writing patterns so I haven’t been out into the big wide world.  But when I do speak to non-knitters about what I do, they all seem to have a knitting story, one person told me it was a surprise to see a group of knitters in the local pub.  Even though there are not many knitting shops, it seems cafes, book shops, and pubs are all great venues for knitters who are organizing themselves and getting together.  I feel this is so exciting and hope it keeps growing.
 
MM:  When you are at home in Yorkshire, is there a favorite place where you sit and knit?
 
JE:  I don’t have a favorite place as such, generally I sit in front of the TV in my lounge watching dvds.
 
MM:  Knitters quite often say they knit for everyone else first, how many of your own creations would you say are in your closet?
 
JE:  Yes, I knit on sweaters everyday yet they don’t manage to get into my own closet.  I do have ‘Chambers’, a design from my first book- Simply Noro, and ‘Tumi’ from Mirasol Book 1, and ‘Ima Suti’ from Mirasol Book 3.  I also have a huge list of things I want to knit for myself from my collection of books.  My mom usually knits from each of my books either for herself or my Dad and my two year old niece has a sweater from each children’s book I have done.
 
MM:  Can you tell us ‘whats on your needles’ at the moment and any hints of whats to come  for Spring?
 
JE:  What is on my needles at the moment……well, I am finishing off almost all the garments for the next books I am doing.  For Mirasol, we are changing the format, instead of one big book, there will now be five little books, each one dedicated to one yarn.  At the moment, I am just putting together the Hap’i and Nuna books.  For the last two days I have been picking up around necklines, armhole edges, sewing on buttons and seaming up eight knitted garments.  There are still another twelve more awaiting my attention!  For Araucania, I am knitting with a beautiful silk, the texture of the yarn is incredible which means I have fun playing with the stitch techniques.  There is also a cashmere I am working with for a simple shawl pattern.  Its perfect for a beginner who may be a little afraid of lace knitting, but can see the basic principles with my design and still have a luxurious soft shawl floating around her shoulders.  This is all for the new Spring pattern books.  I work by myself so there is no one to help with the finishing touches.  I have the best knitters in the world, they have been great, so supportive with my tight deadlines.  Thats more than I can ask for. 

The Little Book Of Hap'i (new for Spring)

(images courtesy of Jane Ellison)