Thursday, June 7, 2007

A wee bit more background and my approach to design

As I wait excitedly for my first designed to be published in Knitty's summer issue I thought I would add some information to my blog in regards to my knitting background and approach to design.

I was clothed in plenty of knitwear as a child what with my mother designing Shetland knitwear in the 70's (see History of Shetland Trader) and had a brief spell of learning the basics as a teen (I have a vague memory of a disgusting pale green vest top). However it all began in earnest a few years ago in Western Massachusetts (they really love their knitting there. 600 people turned out for Stephanie Pearl McPhee's recent visit). After walking past Northampton wools (in Northampton of course) and spotting a poncho in the window I wandered in and bought the pattern and materials and that poncho became my daughter's replacement for the security blanket she had lost during our recent relocation to the states.It is still treasured and slept with every night, several years later. After that first stop into the yarn store I pretty much became a knitting addict immediately!

I began with buying books and patterns and mostly taught myself from these books as I went along. I quickly found that I would adapt patterns to suit me and more often than not would be using a yarn different than the one specified. Knitting felt natural to me and I wonder If my Shetland blood had some knitting skills stored, just waiting to come out. After many, many knitted projects most of which I gave away as presents I attended a class at WEBS in Northampton Massachusetts. One of the teachers of this class was Cirilia Rose who has a great blog and has appeared as a model for Lexie Barnes and Webs (where she works). This class used Barbara Walker’s ‘Knitting From the Top’ and we each designed a top down raglan sweater/cardigan. This really changed the way I knit and I loved working primarily in the round and being able to try the project on as I knit and check the sizing. It was extremely liberating to be free from following a particular pattern and to know what was possible with some measurements and gauge. I then began doing my own designing and made several things for friends and relatives using Barbara Walker’s method with great success. I tried to keep track of the pattern as I made garments and gradually got more careful about writing them out. This has given me the confidence to start sending out submissions of my designs to publications and the first one I sent was accepted!

Due to my easy access to Jamieson’s Mill (My parents live down the road from it in Shetland and bring me suitcases of it when they come and visit) I have made many projects using their yarns. Primarily I have used the Shetland Double knitting weight for sweaters and the Shetland chunky for some knit/felted bags. I plan to design more using Jamieson’s yarns but having just relocated to California where the daily temp is around 90 degrees and up I’m feeling a little more drawn to cooler non-wool yarns at the moment!
I am however often inspired to incorporate Shetland knitting techniques, be it Fair Isle or lace, into my designs.

I’m particularly drawn to knitting with hemp, bamboo, organic cotton and other ecological/sustainable fibers and plan to use them a lot in my designs especially for hotter weather garments and to do my part in promoting greener living.

As I prefer to knit in the round whenever possible I approach my designs with this in mind. I try to think out of the box about how to construct the garment and tend to avoid too much seaming (I'm not so hot at the whole sewing thing). I love the freedom that knitting and constructing garments in the round, top-down, offers. I'm constantly trying things on as I knit them and this really allows me to make the changes I need as I go along rather than being faced with a garment that needs ripping out.

Some (and I really do mean some) of the designers I especially like are Kat Coyle (love her gorgeous skirt in Knitcafe and eagerly anticipating her own book Boho Baby coming in the Fall), Eunny Jang ( especially what she does with Fair Isle), Norah Gaughan (very inspiring for unusual construction), Stephanie Japel (I really identify with how she designs-top down), Teva Durham and Veronik name a few!

Right now I’m feeling very inspired and full of ideas. It's so exciting to be knitting and designing at a time when yarn choice is at an optimum and when we have so many great designers coming up with new approaches to knitting and fusing the old with the new.

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