The internet is a funny place. A few days ago, Jen at Grainline posted her fall knitting dream list. Jen always seems to be working on beautiful sweaters and I bemoaned in the comments section that as much as I love the *idea* of knitting, it's just not something I've ever been able to stick with (I am still only 20% done the last sweater I started. Ahem. Two years ago. I was mad to use fingering weight for a gigantic drapey sweater).
Well, whatya know, an hour later I get an email from Veronik Avery, a designer for the (incredible, drool worthy, inspiring) knitting company Brooklyn Tweed, encouraging me to give knitting another chance. Veronik is a fellow Montrealer, and as we chit chatted back and forth about the many idiosyncratic knitting store owners in our city (seriously, one of them is so overbearing and aggressive I'm scared to go into his store), it occurred to me that this was a great opportunity to talk to a fellow designer about her process. Veronik designs beautiful, wearable knitting patterns; classic silhouettes with a modern point of view. Check out this gorgeousness:
I used to sew for hire - anything from costumes to curtains. And I sewed pretty much all the time; when my daughter Oona was born, I sewed anytime she was sleeping. Eventually, she slept less and less but I had to keep my hands busy so I took up knitting. I had fantasized about designing sewing patterns but couldn't quite wrap my head about how to go about it on a limited budget (this was in 2000), but once I saw knitting patterns I knew this was something I could do.
How does your design process work? When you're working with someone like Brooklyn Tweed, do they handle the testing process or do you deliver a fully finished product to them?
I have a fine arts background, so everything starts with a sketch. With BT, we start with mood boards that are distributed to each design team members (we are 4 in-house designers; guest designers submit ideas for the 'Wool People' collections). We then meet to choose which designs will end up in any given collection - there are many B sides!
The process for knitting patterns isn't the same as it is for sewing patterns. Once the pattern has been written, the designer or a sample knitter will knit the sample. In my case, I might ask that a sample knitter knit the pieces so that I can do any finishing. The sample knitter is remunerated and knows to look for any potential errors or whether clarifications are required.
Once done, the senior tech editor will go over the pattern with a fine tooth comb before handing over the pattern to the counter tech editor. Then, it's on to layout where more sets of eyes will go over the pattern.
How long does it take to design a knitting pattern?
It depends on how indecisive I am. I could be less than a day while others will require many, many swatches before I'm satisfied.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I read books and magazines, watch movies, go to museums. I try to internalize all these things in order to make things my own, as much as can be.
What is your preferred yarn and needle size to work with?
Pure wool and 3 mm needles. No superwash!
Where are your favourite places to buy yarn?
Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool, hands down.
What's your ideal "I'm going to knit for the next few hours" routine? Do you watch movies? Listen to podcasts? Enjoy the sweet sounds of nature?
TV shows and movies. We're Criterion collection fans around here.
Do you have any recommendations or suggestions for people new to knitting? Tips they should know or methods or tools that might make the process a little easier?
First, realize that any project is a collection of techniques and do not need to be learned all at once. Anyone who sews has an advantage as they are used to following directions. Pick wool for an early project as it is more forgiving - dk (double knitting) to worsted is best. Read the label and find a wool that knits up at about 4 to 5 stitches per inch.
As far as patterns are concerned, I'm obviously biased towards Brooklyn Tweed and Quince patterns. Raglan and yoke sweaters are a little more forgiving of the fit being a little off. Garments do take a while, so I'd recommend having some accessories on the needles at the same time to prevent discouragement.
You can follow Veronik on her blog here, or her instagram here.
It was all sorts of fascinating to get a glimpse into a different world of designing, and Veronik has inspired me to try to knit another sweater this year (if I can take her up on her offer to learn Continental knitting the next time I have a friendly craft Sunday at the studio).
Anyone else planning knit projects for the fall? What knitting patterns are you obsessed with right now?