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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.

Vision Realised

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Here she is in all her glory, my Nell. I am so pleased with how she’s turned out – 50″ from tip to tip and 22″ in depth down the centre spine.

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We had a beautifully warm and sunny day here today, and I was lucky enough to be able to get a few pictures. Unfortunately, I was home alone and so couldn’t get any modelled shots, but I have plans to rectify that at some point during the week. The pattern is almost ready for publication – it’s been tech edited, and I’m just waiting for my fantastic test knitters to complete their shawls before I go live.

I’m going to look at starting my own Ravelry group this week – I’ve decided to run a KAL for Nell starting later this month. I spent a couple of hours earlier today remaking my logo – I decided to go for a complete change. I made it in Inkscape though, and my Inkscape skills aren’t really up to much as yet … we’ll see whether it translates across at a high enough quality into my patterns.

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That brings me to my next project … I’ve started swatching for an idea I had last night for a light and airy tunic in two colours. The yarn I have in mind is recommended for use with 4 mm needles, but I’m swatching with 8 mm. I’m not sure this will work, but I’m going to try and figure it out anyway!

Rewind …

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So in my last blog post I wrote about casting on for another shawl – I’d already swatched it and had decided on an easier way of constructing it.  Or so I thought!  I played around with it, and I didn’t like it – it didn’t work how I wanted to.  So I ripped, and started again.  I knit the whole of the body and sat and looked at it for ages … and ages … and ages.  Nope, too small.  So I ripped and started again after a lot of thought about how many stitches I needed for the edging and how I was going to get the sums right, with more increases in each row, and that was much better.  I knit the whole of the body again (I’d had to change the look of it to get the maths right, but still).  Then I started the edging, and I realised I’d forgotten that I needed multiples of my stitch count, plus one stitch for the edging to sit right.  Gggrrr.  So tonight I’ve ripped it out and restarted yet again … but on the plus side, I’ve been able to change the look of it back to how I’d envisaged it originally.  I’m still not convinced about the stitch count for the edging though …

Anyway, when I’ve finally stopped ripping and restarting, it promises to be a really pretty shawl, very elegant and understated.  I’m knitting my sample in DK-weight yarn, but I’m hoping to write the final pattern in a variety of sizes to take advantage of several different weights of yarn – I’m thinking definitely laceweight and fingering plus the DK at the very least.  I’m not sure that it would work so well in aran/worsted weight, but I’ll definitely be swatching at that weight to see what happens.  Construction-wise, the body is knit first, and then the edging is knit on afterwards to the live stitches, but overall the pattern is very simple.  I like clean and simple lines, and that will hopefully come across in my designs. 

Also as I mentioned last time, Phyllis has now been test knit, and tech edited.  I’m pondering running a KAL at some point in the near future – all opinions about this are welcomed!  Unfortunately, I’ve only got as far as pondering, as life has been even more hectic than usual recently.  Work has been completely relentless, the phone has rung off the hook all day every day, and there have been challenges galore to deal with.  Oh, and I’ve been covering for one of my staff and my manager for the last week, which hasn’t helped my productivity (despite working extra hours last week).  I could’ve done with going to work on Friday (Good Friday here in the UK is a bank holiday so no work!), and just spending a few hours trying to clear some of my typing backlog, but I decided that catching up on a bit of sleep was probably a bit more important.  It’s hard to be productive during the working day when exhaustion wants to be your best friend.

Things have been hectic at home too.  M has come to live with us now (hooray!!!), and we’re still in that getting used to the changes phase – for me that means a 20 mile round trip to pick him up from work each night (he’s learning to drive) and to take him on the days when he doesn’t start until after I get home, getting into the habit of cooking a proper dinner so that there’s some for him when he comes home (instead of my usual ‘can’t be bothered, let’s just have omelette or beans on toast’); and more bloody ironing!  But I am definitely not complaining, even though I am going to have to bite the bullet and have a major declutter (yes, another one) over the next few weeks in order to make some more room for his meagre possessions (well, compared to all the crap I have, anyway …) 

See … this is why I am definitely not complaining at having to make any adjustments whatsoever to my routines and life … he’s just handed me my iPad, and shown me that he’s just sourced me a copy of the full instruction manual for a new program that I need to learn to use (without being asked).  It would no doubt have taken me forever to track a copy down, but he has this knack for producing the goods in double quick time.  AND he’s sent me the link to a billion and one webcasts showing how to use the program.  AND made me about 100 cups of coffee today.  Me?  Spoilt?  Yep!

Right, time for a few more rows of shawl-incarnation-no7634 before bed … back in a few days (hopefully) with a sneaky peek for you!