There is only one stitch pattern (so far*) that I've used more than once in my designs, and it is the "Seaweed" pattern from Barbara Walker's 2nd Treasury of Knitting Patterns. It is by no means the most striking stitch pattern I've seen, but it is unusual, and it has a quiet elegance that I find very attractive.
I first used it in the Seaside Gloves pattern, originally published in Magknits and now available here. The stitch pattern is both a texture and a rib pattern, which works well for gloves, giving them a nice fit as well surface interest (and I also added beads). But in looking at photos of the gloves, I realized that I like them best when they are not being worn: the Seaweed pattern is really at its best unstretched, accentuating the subtle wavy ribs and background texture.
That is why I really like the way the Seaweed Vest was photographed forBrave New Knits: it is worn with several inches of ease and accessorized with a belt, which allows the fabric to contract slightly and emphazise the narrow wavy ribs.
I wish I had thought of that when I took a few photos of the vest before sending it off to the book editors! Also, the belt provides additional waist shaping, and since the only shaping is provided by the stretch of the ribbing (there is no side waist shaping), this is nice if the wearer wants to accentuate her waist. (I wonder what the vest would look like if it was left unblocked....)
In keeping with the narrow ribs, I decided to use an attached I-cord to trim the neck edge and armholes, and allow the Seaweed pattern itself to form the bottom edge. The front neckline is quite deep, and the back neckline more shallow (but the vest can also be worn with the shallow neckline in front, as seen in the last photo). This pattern is quite simply constructed compared to many of my designs, and probably suited for a careful novice knitter (because on certain rows, it does take a bit of concentration to keep track of where you are in the stitch pattern).
*There are other stitch patterns that I've used in a design and would happily use again (just haven't gotten around to it yet!). I love Hearts of Oak (Selva Skirt), Chinese Lace (Chinese Lace pullover), Four Sisters (Sorelle pullover), and the stitch pattern showcased in the Plaited Tam, and I do not feel I've exhausted the design possibilities of any of these.
Julie Turjoman interviewed 26 knitwear designer/bloggers for Brave New Knits, as well as collecting unique patterns from each one, for a wide-ranging look at the personalities and design preferences of many of today's popular knitwear designers. Well-established or recently started; self-publishing or frequently featured in mainstream publications; focused on hats, socks, sweaters, shawls (or all of the above)-- these designers run the gamut in every conceivable way!
BUT they don't include Julie herself, even though she designs knitwear and has her own blog. So when I interviewed her for this post, I made sure to ask about her own background and how it shaped her design sensibility, as well as about her concept for Brave New Knits and how it came together.
(Pictured--some of my own favorite projects from the book-- all photos byJared Flood.)
1) I've really enjoyed reading through your interviews of knitbloggers/ designers in Brave New Knits, but one interview is missing-- yours! You yourself are a knitwear designer, with designs inInterweave Knits,Twist Collective, and on your own blog. Can you tell me a little about your own design process, and what kinds of patterns you like to design?
I love to design, but it can be a challenge to find time for both designing and writing. My eye is very much influenced by fashion, even by clothes I would never consider wearing. A specific detail such as an asymmetrical hem or an unusually placed ruffle will capture my fancy and I’ll sketch different ways those details could be incorporated into a knitwear design. Usually, the end result bears absolutely no resemblance to the original source of my inspiration! When I have a drawing that really excites me, I’ll start swatching. I also make an effort to write the entire pattern before I actually knit the sample garment. For me, working through that process is a kind of “insurance” that the pattern will be knittable. Although I have notebooks full of accessory patterns and ideas, my true design love is the sweater, with all its versatility and possibility.
2) Your blog bio states that you are an East Coast native; where did you grow up, and how did you find your way to the West Coast?
I grew up in a suburb of New York City, and spent most of my life on the east coast until we relocated to the Bay area. My husband was transferred for his job, for what we thought would be a two- to three-year, fun but temporary experiment in California living. Ten years later, we’re still here – and my daughter, who was in elementary school when we arrived in 2000, thinks of herself as a true California girl.
3) What was your day job before you turned knitwear designer/book author?
For many years I was an interior designer, and now find that all the training I had in color, proportion, and texture really comes in handy in knitwear design!
4) Besides the fascinating interviews, Brave New Knits contains a wonderful and diverse selection of patterns, among them sweaters, scarves, socks, and hats, and featuring lace, cables, texture stitches, Fair Isle, and slipped stitches. After I agreed to contribute a pattern to the book, you emailed me, "If there is a specific type of pattern you would like to contribute (i.e. socks, a shawl, etc.) that request will be honored whenever possible." Did you have a goal of a certain mix of patterns for the book from the beginning, or did you allow the design proposals from all of the blogger/designers to dictate the final pattern mix?
It was always my goal for Brave New Knits to include a 50/50 mix of garments and accessories. Knitters are such a diverse community, with such individual tastes and passions, that I applied my personal rule of thumb to the pattern line-up; that is, when I browse through a knitting book to decide whether to add it to my library, I reach for my wallet only if I want to knit at least half of the book’s projects. I hope BNK is that kind of book for everyone who skims through it. However – and this is a big however – this is also an extremely personality-driven book. I wanted the designers’ interviews to be just as compelling as the projects, and for each designer’s personality to come through in both the interview and in the project he or she contributed. So I definitely took designers’ pattern preferences into consideration, because different designers have different specialties; for example, Woollywormhead is known for her wonderful and unusual hats, and Chrissy Gardiner seems to have an endless cache of fabulous socks in her imagination.
5) How did you make the yarn choices for each pattern? Did designers suggest yarns they wanted to use?
Many designers did suggest yarns they wanted to use, and I approached a wide range of yarn companies about providing support for the book’s projects. Again, achieving a balance between mainstream, large yarn companies and small indie dyers was a goal. The response was great; yarn company owners were unanimously generous and helpful. We agreed it was important that the yarn selections be readily available to knitters who purchase the book, because many will want to knit the projects exactly as they are shown. As the yarn selections were being finalized I tried to go with newer additions to each company’s collection (and thus were less likely to be discontinued by the time the book came out).
6) What was the average number of ideas that each designer submitted to you? Was it difficult to choose among them?
Many designers were kind enough to offer me two or more design ideas from which to choose. This made it both a pleasure and a challenge to narrow down the options. Knowing I wanted a balance of projects with cables, lace, stitch texture, and more, I eventually created a spreadsheet that allowed me to track the variety – not that this tool made it any easier to narrow down all those fabulous ideas!
7) What was your favorite part about writing Brave New Knits?
My favorite part was definitely getting to know so many talented designers. Technology makes it so easy to have face-to-face conversations with people all over the world, so when I couldn’t physically travel to meet some of the designers, we were often able to Skype. That’s how I did the interviews with Ysolda Teague in Scotland and Mari Muinonen in Finland, for example. I traveled within the U.S. as much as possible in order to see the designers in their studios, and to get a real-time sense of their design process. For instance, Shannon Okey was just setting up her new design studio and classroom when we met in Ohio, Norah Gaughan gave me a tour of Berroco Yarn’s headquarters in Massachusetts, and when we met at his apartment for coffee, Jared Flood gave me a sneak preview of the projects in his not-yet-published Made In Brooklyn pattern book for Classic Elite Yarns. It was fascinating to see how the blog personalities matched up with the real people.
8) Your least favorite?
As much as I enjoyed working with my editor at Rodale on finalizing the interviews text, the technical editing was difficult. My math skills are mediocre at best, and so I always hire an outside tech editor to work on my personal patterns before I release them. Having to review 26 patterns at least 4 different times throughout the process of creating the book (I hired an independent tech editor, and then Rodale brought in both another tech editor and a technical illustrator to spiff up the final version of the patterns) was enough to give me nightmares of giant numbers invading my house and demanding that I recite the multiplication tables.
9) Any plans for a sequel?
I have some ideas for a follow-up, but nothing I can talk about yet!