Monthly Archives: December 2014

An Interview With … Vikki Bird

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My final GAL designer interview is with the talented Vikki Bird (VikkiBirdDesigns) – again, apologies must go to Vikki for my tardiness in posting this. So, without further ado, let us begin …

K: How did your first design come about?

V: My first published design (Christmas pudding hat) was designed in a bit of a whirlwind. For some reason I decided that my toddler son needed a Christmas pudding hat, but I didn’t like any of the patterns that were already available – I felt that the sauce on other designs just wasn’t drippy enough – so I designed my own, knitting the prototype in a couple of evenings. It took me a few days to get the pattern written up and iron out all the numbers (I knitted the sauce bit numerous times), and I was so excited and nervous when I posted it to Ravelry, what if no one liked it? I actually did a little dance when the first person actually bought the pattern!

K: Did you find that you had ‘overnight’ success, or did it take some time to begin to make a name for yourself?

V: I’m still not totally sure I am a success! My designs are very distinctive, but niche and any success I have had certainly didn’t come overnight. But I’ve persevered – if I wasn’t publishing my designs I’d still be designing and knitting them, so it seems a pity not to make them available for other knitters . I have started receiving emails from people who love specific designs and there are people that favourite all of my new patterns, so I guess I have a bit of a following now. I’m hugely thankful to the team at Knit Now magazine who’ve published a lot of my work and made it visible to a wider audience.

K: Where do you find your inspiration for new projects?

V: Most of my designs are intended as presents, whether for my two children, or for friend’s babies, so a lot of the inspiration is from people I know, their loves and characteristics. But I’m, inspired all the time by all sorts of things. My Nature’s Way blanket is a collection of all sorts of images that have been with me over many years: weather symbols from 1980s weather forecasts on TV; a smiley snail that I used to doodle on my folders at school; the characteristic cartoon daisy that appears in the Mr Men books, etc.

K: What are you working on at the moment?

V: I’m currently working on bringing up two small children, so design work has taken a bit of a break. I am knitting a stocking that I’ve designed for a friend’s daughter though, which I’m really enjoying. I haven’t yet decided whether the pattern will be published, but if it is I know it won’t be until next Autumn, so I’m enjoying the lack of deadlines!

I’ve also been working from other people’s patterns: I’m crocheting a blanket, knitting some mitts and a couple of baby cardigans. Sometimes it’s nice to step back and be inspired by other people’s designs – it’s also nice knowing that the maths will work before you cast on!

K: Which of your published patterns is your favourite?

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V: My absolute favourite of my designs is my Fluffy White Clouds blanket. It was originally published in Knit Now magazine, but I’ve just added it to my Ravelry store, and it’s had a lot of positive feedback. I love that it’s so simple, yet so striking.

K: What’s your favourite type of pattern to design, and is there anything that you’ve not yet designed that you’d like to have a go at?

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V: I love designing baby blankets. I like the freedom of having blank canvas and not having to worry too much about the maths. The make excellent presents too!

I’d love to have a go at designing a full sized adult garment, but it terrifies me! What if you get to the end and realise you’ve got the maths wrong and it doesn’t fit?!

K: Which other designers do you admire?

V: My current favourite designer is Lisa Chemery, her childrenswear designs are beautiful and so stylish. I’ve knitted Entrechat three times now and I’m sure I’ll make many more!

Zoe Mellor’s books were a huge inspiration to me when I was learning to knit. I wanted to be able to knit like her, her designs are so bright and colourful.

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Vikki, thank you so much for answering my questions, it’s been a pleasure to interview you (and the other designers that I’ve been lucky enough to be able to speak to).

Please note, all images in this post are copyright Vikki Bird.

An Interview With … Allison Britt

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Firstly, I must apologise profusely to Allison for the delay in posting this – life has unfortunately managed to run away with me over the last few weeks and I’m behind on everything I had planned (it’s now New Year’s Eve and I haven’t yet managed to get my pre-Christmas finished – see, I’m really behind).

Allison, known as Spartz on Ravely, has some fabulous designs in her portfolio.  Read on and find out more!

K:  How did your first design come about?

A:  Pre Ravelry: My first design was a yellow turtleneck jumper with a blue flower border along the hem. It came about because I loved the colours together, wanted a jumper for my then two-year old daughter and had bought a knitting magazine with a special article about borders. A happy combination and I’d like to publish it some day because it ended up being very cute.

Post Ravelry: I don’t remember how Rainbow Ridge Beanie came about but I strongly suspect I was looking at scraps and wondering what to do with them! It’s a terrific scrap buster and it’s free 🙂

K:  Did you find that you had ‘overnight’ success, or did it take some time to begin to make a name for yourself?

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A:  Definitely not. My first patterns made barely a ripple even though I had terrific feedback from my testers. My first real successes were Farm Beanie and Sideways Dude, which made the front page of Hot Right Now. What a shock! Then I was suggested for a KAL on the Budding Designers Downunder forum which further boosted my profile and then after a few more successful publications I felt I had “made it” enough to start my own group SparrowPlay.

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K:  Where do you find your inspiration for new projects?

A:  Definitely my daughters. What do they need next? What yarn would I like to knit with (cotton, wool?). What colour do I want to use? What stitch and/or colour combination do I want to try? My design process starts off very whimsically and organically, and then I get very technical.

K:  What are you working on at the moment?

A:  Breezy Tee, a gorgeous cotton tee-shirt that I am tempted to try and upsize for adults because I want one!

K:  Which of your published patterns is your favourite?

A:  Probably Zephyr. It’s so practical and so pretty. It’s one of my best sellers too so I guess I’m not the only one who thinks that!

K:  What’s your favourite type of pattern to design?

A:  Practical. It’s got to have a purpose. And I really like patterns that have “segments” – I’m a bit impatient and I like instant gratification so “segments” help me feel like I am making progress.

K:  Which other designers do you admire?

A:  Georgie Hallam (a.k.a. Tikki) can take the credit for me designing even though she wouldn’t know it. Also, Elena Nodel (a.k.a. Anadiomena) showed me how it was done, though she wouldn’t know that either. I try to emulate both these ladies for their sense of style and professionalism.

K:  Can you tell me a bit more about your lack of self control in yarn shops?

A:  Lol. Before Ravelry I didn’t know what a stash was. Now, well, my stash would be up there with the best of them. I’m always trying to design using something from the stash but I never have what I need and it’s back to the yarn shop and somehow I seem to have picked up three or four balls of yarn to “try”…

I blame Ravelry and all the enablers that hang out here. Life will never be the same again… and that’s a good thing.

Thank you, Allison – that was a very refreshing insight into the mind of a design genius!

Please note, all photographs in this post are copyright Allison Britt.

New Pattern Release: Andrea – A Quick Gift Knit!

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Today I’ve released my latest pattern, Andrea – a smallish shawl/scarf knit in superbulky yarn.  For my prototype I used Patons Fab Big Colour – this is an 100% acrylic yarn, and I don’t usually use acrylics – but the colour of this yarn spoke to me when I spied it sitting proudly amongst the other yarns at John Lewis’, and I had to have it.  Originally it was going to be a cowl, but I suspected that the yarn would be just too stiff to be drapey in cowl form.

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For gift knitting in the run up to Christmas, this is the perfect pattern!  Although I’d knit most of my prototype, I had to rip it all out because I suspected I would run out of yarn (I was right!), but when I restarted, I actually knit the whole thing in a matter of hours – so this makes Andrea perfect for a last minute gift.  The yarn I used for my prototype was very budget-friendly, but the pattern would work really well in a yarn made of natural fibres, which although likely to be slightly more expensive, will also stretch more during blocking, making a slightly bigger shawl.

Although this is a bit too small to wear as a proper shawl, it makes a fantastic accessory indoors draped around your shoulders to ward off chills, or worn scarf-like.  I’m planning an order of Drops Andes to make several more in different colours!

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Here I am looking moody, wearing my Andrea in a more scarf-like fashion!

So, if you need a last minute gift idea, head over to my Ravelry store now!

An Interview With … Janelle Martin

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It’s been a tad quiet here on my blog for the past few weeks, apologies.  I’ve been busy putting the final touches to my preparations for a big conference that I help organise every year, going to the conference and having a few days to recover from the hustle and bustle of this time of year.

As part of the Indie Design GAL, I’m delighted to have been asked to interview a number of very talented designers – and I’m excited to kick my mini-series of interviews off with an interview with the incredibly talented Janelle Martin – Antheras on Ravelry.

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K:  How did your first design come about?

J:  I started designing just to see if I could do it. A number of people had suggested that I should design but I had never really thought of myself as creative. I took a class with Joan Kass (joanknits on Ravelry) on charting lace and I was inspired by one of her stitch patterns. That lace pattern was the “jumping off point” for my Amplification Stole.

K:  Did you find that you had ‘overnight’ success, or did it take some time to begin to make a name for yourself?

J:  I’m slowly building a reputation but I certainly wouldn’t say I have success yet. I was lucky early on to have a piece published in Knitty – my Cartouche Shawl. That brought attention to my work. But since then I’ve been publishing a piece at a time and working to raise my profile. The Gift-A-Long is helping new knitters discover my work which makes me very happy!

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K:  I’ve read elsewhere that you have a great interest in Japanese stitch patterns – what is it about them that you find so appealing?

J:  I’m drawn to their complexity. Japanese stitch dictionaries show stitches that are combinations of smaller elements joined together and there is such beauty and complexity in their presentations. These stitch dictionaries approach knitting with a different eye and that is what I’m drawn to. I tend to combine patterns that share elements and can build cohesive designs out of these stitch patterns. An example of this is my Flower Bell Stole. The cohesive element in this design is the raised flower bud. It appears in the attached edging, the bottom border, two different sizes in the left/right borders and in large form in the centre panel. The use of this element in various sizes creates cohesiveness of design. Of course, these stitch patterns “eat” yarn just like cables do and so I had to work through several iterations of this design before I found a final version I liked that didn’t require excessive amounts of yarn.

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K:  Where do you find your inspiration for new projects?

J:  I spend a lot of time looking through stitch dictionaries. I’ll see one and something about it will remind me of a stitch pattern I’ve seen before and I’ll start charting them together. More recently I’ve found a lot of inspiration in landscape and geometric patterns. After a recent trip to Newfoundland I went into a bit of a designing marathon.

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K:  What are you working on at the moment?

J:  Currently I’m working on a sizable collection of accessories to be released in late August 2015. The collection is inspired by the arctic/coastal landscapes of Newfoundland, Iceland and Ireland. Just over half the collection will be in the natural fibres of Bare Naked Wools and the rest will be in yarns from Indie Dyers, most of them in Indigodragonfly yarns.

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K:  Which of your published patterns is your favourite?

J:  Each new design that I release becomes a favourite at the time, but I feel special love for individual pieces. I keep coming back to the stitch patterns most recently used in the Cartouche Stole (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cartouche-stole) and I have two other designs in the works that utilize elements from the stole. Obviously I’m not done with these stitch patterns yet!

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K:  What’s your favourite type of pattern to design?

J:  My favourite item to designs is shawls/stoles. I like the large amount of space which I can use to incorporate multiple stitch patterns.

K:  Which other designers do you admire?

J:  Anne Hanson and Hunter Hammersen, because they all have very organic design esthetics – what I strive for in my designs.

Thank you, Janelle, for giving us an insight into your designs!

You can find Janelle’s website here:  Eclectic Closet

Janelle’s design portfolio is on Ravelry here

All pictures in this post are copyright Janelle Martin and used with her permission.