Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Kitterly

From left to right: Kitterly co-founders Elizabeth Rowen and and Mari Bower.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I often like to get creative by pairing yarns and patterns, and putting colors together, but sometimes it can be much easier to leave it to the professionals: the dyers, designers and the folks at Kitterly. The Los Angeles company, launched by Elizabeth Rowen and Mari Bower in 2015, works with several indie businesses to put together knitting and crochet kits. Indie Untangled regulars they work with include the designers Casapinka and Anne Hanson and dyers Spun Right Round and The Uncommon Thread.

I spoke to Liz and Mari to learn more about their operation:

How and when did Kitterly get started?

Mari was a customer of Liz’s store in Los Angeles, Knit Culture Studio. We came together in 2015 to combine Mari’s background in digital media, tech and ecommerce, and Liz’s experience in the fiber community as owner of Knit Culture Studio and create Kitterly as you see it today. We launched in January 2015, and we have been building our community of amazing designers, dyers and makers, one kit a time!

How do you decide on which designs to offer kits for?

We like to create a broad mix of styles and skill levels to ensure that we have a perfect selection for our customers to find their next perfect project. We are always coming the Ravelry design charts to find what’s new, but we also find that there is an amazing catalog of perennial favorites to choose from. You will find anything from Andrea Mowry’s latest Fade, to gorgeous classics like Melanie Berg’s Ashburn shawl.

It’s been really fun to find something that may have been designed in a yarn that is just no longer available, and revisit it in a new fiber.

Casapinka Koi Pond Kit

How do you pair up the yarn, including colors, and patterns?

We spend a lot of time researching designs to ensure that we can either offer it in the original yarn (down to the colors if we can), or find the perfect substitute. When we launch a collection with a designer or dyer, there was a considerable amount of time spent on pulling it together to ensure we have the right mix of new, classic and skill level. Once we settle on the collection, we then collectively will select color palettes that we review and even vote on at times. It’s a really fun process, and everyone gets involved!

Can you talk about any new dyers or designers you’re planning to work with?

Yes! We’re super excited to be adding Anthony Casalena, Carol Feller, Miriam Felton, Asa Tricosa, Christopher Salas, Berangere Cailliau/lilofil, Hanna Maciejewska/Hada Knits, Yellow Cosmo, Lesley Anne Robinson/Knit Graffiti and Bristol Ivy to name a “few”!

New dyers coming on board are Stolen Stitches (Carol Feller’s yarn), YarnLove, Hue Loco, Spun Right Round and we hope to begin working with Uschtitia in early 2018.

We’re always on the hunt for new dyers and designers!

ANKESTRICK Walk Along Kit

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Liz: my grandmother taught me to knit, crochet and sew when I was 7.

Mari: I learned around 10 years ago, when my mother-in-law gave me a cute knitting kit set for Christmas. I taught myself how to crochet when I was around 8, since my mom couldn’t figure out how to show me since I’m left handed.

Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Liz: crochet, sewing, quilting, rubber stamping and card making, needlepoint, embroidery. Unfortunately since starting Kitterly I’ve only had time to knit and crochet but I have a fabulous collection of rubber stamps waiting for me!

Mari: I’m a serial crafter! I’ve been sewing since I was a small child, and I love to make pretty much anything! I love to cook and bake, and I can my own jam/pickles every summer. I also design jewelry (wire wrapping, beading, even some silversmithing), and I have been known to do some serious home DIY (I installed my own hardwood floors in a previous house). I’ve even done some welding, thanks to high school metal shop!

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Liz: My spiderweb lace shawl in Jade Sapphire Lacey Lamb — but I’m afraid to wear it. But my two favorites are Andrea Mowry’s FYFHaha and Casapinka’s Sari not Sari!

Mari: My Om Shawl by Andrea Mowry. I fell in love with the pattern and had to make it! It was quite the endeavor, as it’s a rather large piece, but it turned out magnificent. Thankfully Fall weather is coming soon, so I can show it off!

What to stash this week: Happy fall, ya’ll!

Since many of us are in a cooler, crisper frame of mind, Sheila of BigFootFibers has debuted some new colorways that are her interpretations of fall, which we all know is the best time of the year. Her latest works of art include self-striping yarns and coordinating mini skeins. She’s also sourced some scrumptious new bases, including a Merino/silk/yak DK shown above with her equally yummy Sugar Skull colorway.

Debra’s latest design, Singular Sensation, is the perfect pattern for those OOAK single skeins you just couldn’t resist (such as the Mountains and Valleys Knitting Our National Parks colorway from Pigeonroof Studios that will be shipping out next week!). This crescent-shaped shawl can be knit with either 400 yards of fingering weight or 540 yards of worsted, but is easily adjustable.

Snag some of the gorgeous new colors from ModeKnit Yarns and MJ Yarns that are part of the Bijou Basin Ranch Indie Dyer Series. There are five new speckled colorways and three new hand-painted variegated colors, with more on the way. There’s also a new fingering-weight base: Himalayan Summit is a 50/50 blend of yak and Merino.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Knitting Outside the Box with Bristol Ivy

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Pom Pom Quarterly is one of my favorite knitting magazines, if not my very favorite. Aside from publishing four magazines a year, the team there also partners with some very talented designers to publish pattern books. The latest is Bristol Ivy’s Knitting Outside the Box, which just became available to preorder this week. If you’re going to Rhinebeck, you can also preorder it to pick up from the Merritt Bookstore booth.

The book originates from Bristol’s Knitting Outside the Box workshops and provides an insight into her design process as well as 15 garment and accessory patterns using plenty of hand-dyed yarns. I asked Bristol to tell me a bit more about it.

What inspires the designs in Knitting Outside the Box?

The designs in Knitting Outside the Box were all inspired by wanting to push boundaries. With each, I wanted to explore certain techniques and see what that method of manipulating stitches could do to create a garment that made knitters think about knitting in a new way. Whether that was starting from a different direction, combining techniques to get the result I wanted, or asking a simple “what if?” s I wanted to make sure that the way the garments worked would open new doors of exploration and thought. I also wanted to make sure that they did this while maintaining wearability and knitting interest. I hoped the garments would feel like things that I would want to knit, AND want to wear!

What makes this book different from other pattern collections?

I spend a lot of time in the book going into not just the “how” of the knitting patterns, but the “why.” Why have I chosen to use this stitch pattern? Why did I use this increase rate here, and a different one there? I talk through the process of how I use what technique where, and I hope by doing so I give other knitters the license to experiment and play with the structure of their knitting.

Which special techniques did you use and why?

The book is divided into three different sections, one of which explores exercises to help you jump-start your creativity, one of which goes through a series of ways to manipulate your fabric to get the end result that you want, and one that talks you through the design process from start to finish. Within this, I concentrated on three big areas of manipulating your fabric: increases and decreases, short rows, and stitch patterns that can change your gauge. I think each of these has so many possibilities for restructuring how we think about knitted fabric, and I really wanted to highlight them. That way, we can see how even these simple techniques that we know and have used for our entire knitting careers can make something entirely new.

Do you have any tips for knitters who are intimidated by certain techniques?

Just go for it! I think one of the best things about knitting is that it can be undone and you can start again. There’s no risk factor—at the end of the day, if what you tried didn’t work, you still have the same materials you started with, PLUS a wealth of new knowledge on what works and what doesn’t. So there’s no risk at all in trying something new, or trying something that you thought would be intimidating. Give it a go!

Why did you chose the dyers and producers that you did?

I am lucky enough to know some amazingly talented yarn dyers and producers, and it was a definite struggle narrowing down the list to just the ones used in the book! (I have my fingers crossed that someday I’ll write another book just so I can use the yarns I didn’t get to use in this one.) We had a very specific color palette that we were working with, and that dictated a bit whose yarn would work for the book. I also wanted a healthy mix of nationalities represented, since the audience for PomPom is so international. And I also chose yarn that I was just plain excited about working with! I love every garment in this book to bits and a good portion of that is that they’re all knit in AMAZING yarn.

Do you have a favorite pattern from the collection and, if so, why is it your favorite?

It changes daily! The Lillemor Shawl, the Pina Cardigan and the Arbus Pullover are always high on the list, but there’s also the Wislawa Cowl, the Carr Shawl, the Yayoi Pullover, the Mailou Mitts… it took me a long time to put together the list of designs for this book because I wanted to make sure none of them felt like throwaways or filler. I wanted each one to be significant in and of itself, and to feel true and authentic to how I feel about fabric and design. And I also wanted them to feel like something I would want to wear and never take off! My only hope is that other people will feel the same. 🙂

What to stash this week: Falling for color

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers has created a few kits for Speckle and Pop, Stephen West’s mystery KAL, which launches Sept. 29. The shawl calls for a speckled fade of three colors, along with five mini “pop” skeins. One of the kits is already sold out, so grab yours if you want Stephen to take you on a colorful journey.

Julia of Pandia’s Jewels, based in the Hudson Valley — which is gorgeous year round, but particularly in the fall — has launched her Fall into Halloween Collection. It includes some old and new seasonal colors, both speckled and tonal, as well as some OOAK dye jobs.

We of course consider hand-dyed yarn works of art, but here’s yarn that is truly art inspired. Lisa The Knitting Artist has started dyeing up gorgeous hand-painted and tonal yarns to match her equally gorgeous knitting-inspired paintings. The hand-painted yarn comes with a card printed with the image that inspired the colorway.

You have through the end of the day today to preorder La Bien Aimée’s Automne à Rhinebeck, Asylum Fibers’ Rhinebeck’s All the Craze and Eloise Narrigan-designed tote bags for pickup at the the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show on Oct. 20.

There are still a few skeins left of The Woolen Rabbit Silky Biffle BFL/silk sport in Corn Husk, which would be perfect for a fall shawl, hat or mitts. Use the code YAYRHINEBECK for 20% off through Oct. 1, or until the yarn is sold out.

What to stash this week: Game of Yarns

At 9 a.m. Pacific time today, Laura of Slipped Stitch Studios is updating her shop with the extras from the popular Game of Thrones Bag of the Month preorders. The items, which include Mother of Dragons and Night’s Watch oath bags, will be available until they’re sold out and will not be made again. Kind of like what we hope happens to that army of blue-eyed zombies…

Switch is a new shawl pattern from Spruce Lane Designs named for a few different things, including the alternating stitch patterns that switch between the body and the border and the ability to switch to different yarn weights. The samples were knit in fingering and DK from Rhinebeck Trunk Show vendor Magpie Fibers.

IU newcomer Robynn of Studio Miranda has introduced Wraparoche, an easy introduction to two-color brioche. The pattern includes instructions for fingering or sport weight, along with a worksheet to help you work out the math for other gauges, making this an easy stash-busting project.

IU newcomer Samantha of Lavender Lune Yarn Co. has started a fun new yarn club, with her husband a creating mood board based on a movie that will inspire her colors. Additionally, through this morning, Samantha will be listing a surprise colorway, and 50% of the proceeds from sales of it will go to the SPCA of Texas to help pets displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

There are still a few skeins left of The Woolen Rabbit Silky Biffle BFL/silk sport and just one lone skein of Airy single fingering. Use the code YAYRHINEBECK for 20% off through Oct. 1 or until they’re all gone.

If you’re planning to go to Rhinebeck, you have just one more week to preorder La Bien Aimée’s Automne à Rhinebeck, Asylum Fibers’ Rhinebeck’s All the Craze and Eloise Narrigan-designed tote bags to pick up at the the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show on Oct. 20, and avoid the frenzy in the Indie Untangled booth.

My Mama Knits has started a KAL for her Stitch Up Mitts pattern, which is a free download on Ravelry.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: One More Row Press

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Alice O’Reilly, the dyer behind Backyard Fiberworks, and I have an ongoing text conversation, and a few months ago she shared news with me about an exciting project: she and Manhattan-based designer Kathleen Dames were collaborating on a series of books on knitting around the world, starting with my home of New York.

I’ve admired Kathleen’s elegant designs for a while (her Sotherton pullover has been in my favorites ever since I saw a sample a couple of Rhinebecks ago at the Spirit Trail booth) and I’ve long been a fan of Alice’s yarn. They’ve put together an amazing collection of designers for the book and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy when it’s published next year. I recently asked them to tell me more about the project:

How did the idea for I Knit New York come about?

When Kathleen started designing a mini collection for Backyard Fiberworks, she made the mistake of telling Alice that she had always wanted to do a collection inspired by New York City. Alice picked the idea up and spun it around. Then it started to grow. “What if it were bigger? What if there were more designers? What if we did more of them?” So, now we are One More Row Press with plans to visit cities around the globe.

Aside from designs, what will the book include?

We will have profiles of our New York designers, our favorite places in the city to find yarn and notions, and where to knit, plus all the inspiration that New York City has to offer.

Which designers do you have lined up for the book?

Brittney Bailey, Kathleen Dames, Kirsten Kapur, Xandy Peters and Lars Rains, plus an introduction by Kay Gardiner [of Rhinebeck Trunk Show sponsor Mason Dixon Knitting, with all the yarns from Backyard Fiberworks.

Will the designs themselves be inspired by New York City?

Yes! We were inspired by Washington Square, Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the phenomenon of Manhattanhenge and more.

Which other cities or places will you be including in your series?

Our flights of fancy so far have inspired thoughts of Paris, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and more New York. Of course, we are open to suggestions.

Backyard Fiberworks Sock in Walnut.

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Alice: I don’t remember learning how to knit. I could always knit, just like I could always read.

Kathleen: My maternal grandmother taught me when I was young, but she lived far away, so it wasn’t until 2003 that I relearned with a friend from my publishing days, and we would knit at lunch. From the very beginning I was making changes to patterns to create the knits I wanted, so I was always on track to be a designer (being on the creative side of publishing as an art director helped, too).

What is your most memorable FOs?

Kathleen: An Aran for Frederick from the first issue of Jane Austen Knits (2011) — Inspired by Frederick Wentworth, Anne Elliot’s love interest in Persuasion (my favorite Austen novel), it’s a pullover that tells a story through cable patterns (Ensign’s Braid, Twin Waves, XOXO, Celtic Flourish), and the construction (seamless, in the round, from the bottom up, EZ hybrid yoke) makes it exciting to knit. I call it “knitting Sudoku” because you have to keep all these cables going *while* working the shaping that forms the yoke — it really keeps you on your toes.

Kathleen, where’s your favorite place to knit in New York City?

I can’t just say, “On my couch, with my cat George,” can I? On the subway (when I can get a seat), sitting on a park bench in Morningside or Riverside Parks, at my LYS Knitty City (shout out for their summer knitting lessons in Bryant Park — a fabulous place to knit). But most of the time when I am off my couch, I’m taking in the wonders of New York City because I’m not a native — I’m #tenyearsanewyorker, so I still find everything pretty fabulous: Grand Central Terminal, Patience and Fortitude (the lions guarding the NYPL), the Costume Institute at the Met, the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. And that’s the tip of the iceberg! I try to share my knitting and New York adventures on social media because I still find it all so exciting — the people, the architecture, the history, the geography. New York is a special place, so Alice and I are very excited to share it with I Knit New York.

What to stash this week: A knitting bag to dye for

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Sue, the awesome mom of Asylum Fibers’ Stephanie, has sewn up limited edition project bags to celebrate the company’s six month-iversary. The bags are made with fabric in a blood splatter print by Robert Kaufman, reminiscent of the Asylum Fibers logo, which is displayed on the inside pocket. The bags include a unique feature that I haven’t seen on any other project bag for sale — a metal bar encased along the edge of the zipper, which holds the bag open to act as a yarn bowl. Stephanie notes that they’re roomy enough to hold her short-sleeved sweater WIP!

Also, if you live in or near NYC, come check out Stephanie’s yarn in person at the new Brooklyn yarn shop String Thing Studio, which is hosting an Asylum Fibers trunk show today and Saturday.

I need to make some room for a whole bunch of trunk show deliveries, so I’m offering a discount on my remaining stock of The Woolen Rabbit. Use the code YAYRHINEBECK for 20% off Airy single fingering and Silky Biffle BFL/silk sportweight yarn now through Oct. 1. 

There’s still some time to preorder La Bien Aimée’s Automne à Rhinebeck, Asylum Fibers’ Rhinebeck’s All the Craze and Eloise Narrigan-designed tote bags to pick up at the Rhinebeck Trunk Show on Oct. 20, and avoid the frenzy in the Indie Untangled booth.

Seneca Siren, the newest pattern from The Mouse House Fiber Co., is now available to download on Ravelry.

Pre-Rhinbeck Untangling: Pam Maher of FiberCrafty

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I decided to create Indie Untangled a few years ago after hearing from dyer and maker friends about how it was getting more and more difficult to stand out online. My initial idea was for a handmade marketplace just for yarn and fiber, but I was daunted by what it would take to launch such a site without having any programming skills whatsoever.

Well, Pam Maher had that same initial idea and ended up running with it, working with a developer and launching her site, FiberCrafty, this past May. FiberCrafty is a marketplace specifically for yarn, fiber and knitting-related accessories. Similar to other handmade marketplaces, like Etsy, FiberCrafty lets indie dyers and small farms list products to purchase and, in return for providing a platform, takes a small percentage of sales.

After she launched, I had a nice conversation with Pam about her goals for the site and she agreed to be a sponsor of this year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show. Recently, I asked her about the process of launching FiberCrafty and her background as a knitter:

Tell me about what inspired you to start FiberCrafty?

I was in software sales for about 20 years and didn’t want to continue for the next 20 years. I began trying to figure out a way to have a career in the fiber crafting industry and loved the idea of using my software and sales experience in the fiber community. I noticed that as I shopped indie businesses on existing platforms, I was frustrated because I wasn’t able to shop the way I wanted to, using “fiber” language. Having a platform that spoke our language made sense to me and as I talked to others, it made sense to them also.

Yarn from Luce Knots on FiberCrafty.

What are some of the features that set FiberCrafty apart from other handmade marketplaces?

None of the existing marketplaces are designed for a specific craft. They are all very general and broad in their offerings and some are so bloated it is hard to find what you want. We mirror a lot of the categories and attributes that are on Ravelry so they are familiar and meaningful. If shoppers are looking for something specific, they can use the filters to help narrow down their search.

FiberCrafty is a small business, owned by one person, just like most of the indie business in this industry. Not only can I relate to many other business owners, I am also able to be flexible in site enhancements that we make going forward. My goal is to evolve FiberCrafty based on community feedback.

As a small business owner and fiber crafter, I want other small businesses to succeed, especially in the fiber crafting space. I have tried to make our fee structure extremely fair and sustainable. I don’t have special interests or investors that I have to please.

What have been your biggest challenges in developing the site?

It was a very expensive project and my husband and I have taken a big risk, but one that we believe in. It’s a little scary sometimes! I had to make some very careful assumptions about what would be most helpful to a business owner, and also what would be most helpful to shoppers. I worked with a developer, but there were still a lot of pieces of the site that I had to learn along the way, like payment processing and shipping. Because the site is so complex, tweaking one thing affected something else so we had to be diligent while making decisions and look at the site on the whole, rather than just that one part.

Fiber from Shari Arts on FiberCrafty.

What are some of your favorite yarns or products on the site?

Oh, that isn’t a fair question! There are so many different items! I don’t process fleeces but I have really enjoyed seeing all the farm shops opening and learning about the different fibers and breeds. As a knitter and spinner, I am a sucker for beautifully dyed braids of fiber and yarns. Of course, there are also some really cute bags and stitch markers. It’s not hard to find favorites!

When and how did you learn to knit?

I have always been crafty and started cross stitching when I was very young. I also made jewelry and dabbled in other crafts. At some point, my brother gave me a Coats & Clark booklet that included a “How to knit” section and I found it intriguing. I was about 22 and decided to try it so I went to an LYS, bought two skeins of yarn, needles and a short-sleeve top pattern. I taught myself with the booklet and never looked back. I didn’t have enough money to buy all the yarn so I never finished the top. Thanks to Ravelry I was able to find three more skeins in the same dye lot 20 years later!

Stitch markers from Distracted Knits.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I do! I occasionally crochet and also have a Lendrum spinning wheel. I usually default to knitting because it is so portable and flexible in terms of the level of complexity. I also enjoy cooking, sewing (mostly straight lines) and once in a while will attempt a random Pinterest craft project. I would love to learn how to weave but am resisting for now.

What are your favorite projects to knit?

I really love knitting shawls and cowls but I have so many! Hats are fun because they are quick but I also enjoy sweaters. I have never made gloves and am getting ready to make my first pair.

What is your most memorable FO?

I can think of two projects that I especially love. I made four Christmas stockings for my family and think they are so pretty. It is special to get them out every year. They turned out quite large so I struggle a little to fill them! I also crocheted a giraffe for my daughter, which was a fun project. I gave her a color wheel, showed her how to use it and asked her to choose four colors, then I dyed all the yarn for it. It presented a nice challenge and it turned out beautifully.

What to stash this week: I love Rhinebeck in the fall

I’m thrilled to debut Automne à Rhinebeck, an Indie Untangled exclusive by Paris-based indie dyer La Bien Aimée. Preorders of the yarn, to be picked up at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show on Oct. 20, are now open. You can also purchase Asylum Fibers’ coordinating colorway, Rhinebeck’s All the Craze, and event tote bags, and avoid the frenzy in the Indie Untangled booth.

PLEASE NOTE: I know you’re as crazy about this colorway as I am, but preorders are for pickup at the trunk show only. Any orders that are not picked up at the show, by you or a friend, will be refunded. The yarn will be available for sale via the Indie Untangled website after Rhinebeck. Thank you for your patience and understanding!

I love the idea of mystery KALs, but I’m generally hesitant to spend my time knitting a design I’m not sure I’ll like. Casapinka’s Moroccan Magique is the perfect solution to this conundrum! One clue for this rectangular wrap will be released per week over six weeks. The KAL will include prizes, even for those of us who are slow knitters.

With Pointed Sticks is all ready for fall and, after a summer hiatus, Susan has stocked her shop with autumn- and Halloween-inspired hues. Many of the colors are non-repeatables, so grab them while you can.

Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock… project bags and yarn! An epic indie collaboration debuting today includes project bags and accessories from Slipped Stitch Studios, with fabric by Insomniac Designs, along with yarn from Pandia’s Jewels… all inspired by the hit TV show The Big Bang Theory! The sale goes live at 9 a.m. Pacific time.

Melanie of Baad Mom Yarns has changed her shop update schedule to every week, and she has some beautiful autumn colorways in stock. She’s also teaming up with nine other dyers to offer mini-skein kits! Click the pic to learn more.

Bijou Basin Ranch is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love (we can pretend it was all about the love of yarn) with a sale! Get 20% off all in-stock yarns from the Master Color Series with the coupon code FAROUTMAN.

Just in time for Back to School is Lara Smoot’s Easy A shawl.

Untangling Mindy Wilkes

When designer Mindy Wilkes first posted to my site in January of 2016, I was thrilled. I of course knew Mindy from her Holden shawlette, which was one of the first shawls I considered knitting (it’s still in my Ravelry favorites to knit… someday).

I was also thrilled when Mindy agreed to be one of the four designers for the 2017 Where We Knit yarn club. I decided to pair her with Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns, and I knew she would make Victoria’s soft colors sing. Her design for the club, The Magic Hour, is now available for sale. I still have to block mine, but it is the perfect spring/summer shawlette, and would look great in either a subtle color or a bold semisolid yarn. I recently spoke with Mindy about how she became a designer and what inspires her elegant accessories:

Your first design, Holden, was actually recommended to me by an LYS owner when I first started knitting! Can you tell me how the design came about and how it took off?

I designed Holden because I wanted to knit a shawl that was mostly stockinette with a wavy edge at the bottom. I searched Ravelry for almost a year thinking that someone had designed something like what I wanted, but I couldn’t find it. I ran across an online class called “Design Your Own Shawl” that was taught by Stephanie Japel, and Holden was the result of that class. I had no idea the pattern would become as popular as it did and that it would result in me working as a designer. I’m still kind of in shock now, almost seven years later, that the pattern took off like it did.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I taught myself how to knit from Debbie Stoller’s Stitch n’ Bitch book back in 2004. I had an odd work schedule with days off in the middle of the week, and I was looking for something to fill my time during those days and ran across the book one afternoon at a bookstore. I initially passed it by, but the next week I ended up buying the book. I had some old acrylic yarn and needles tucked away on a shelf already so I just started following the instructions in the book. I learned to knit and purl by knitting endless swatches. Swatch after swatch after swatch. I wouldn’t let myself start an actual project until I felt like I had “perfected” everything so I knit garter stitch swatches, stockinette swatches, ribbed swatches, moss stitch swatches, and on and on for several months.

What did you do before becoming a knitwear designer and how does that inform your work?

After graduate school, I worked as a microbiologist in a consumer product testing laboratory for five years. When my son was born, we decided that I would stay at home instead of working at an outside job. I designed Holden when my son was not quite 3 years old. Writing a pattern is a lot like scientific writing. It’s all a form of technical writing, and I use those technical writing skills every time I write a pattern.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

It depends. Inspiration can come from a color or a picture. It can come from a TV show. Sometimes it comes from a stitch pattern in a stitch dictionary; one that I might have passed by a hundred times becomes just right the very next time I see it. Everything I do always has some draws from where I’m from. I’m originally from the Huntington, West Virginia, area, and I’m really inspired by and connected to Appalachia. There’s a very unique culture and tradition of handcrafts in Appalachia, and I’m exploring that more and more in my work.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

I usually start with the charts. Sometimes it’s as easy as charting the pattern and casting on. More often than not though, I play around with the charts, switching up stitch patterns, altering shaping, until I think it will work. I might jot down a few notes on construction, yarn choices, and colors as I go, but charts almost always come first.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

My favorite colors for knitting are always changing. When I first started designing, I loved deep jewel tones. I remember a short phase where I was really into dark greens. Right now, I can’t get enough pastels — light pinks, peaches, mint green. I like almost all colors, though. There are a few shades of yellow and orange that aren’t my favorite, but I’ll work with anything as long as it works for the design.

Do you have any plans to design sweaters or other garments, or do you prefer to stick with accessories?

I’m not much of a sweater knitter. I never have been. Accessory knitting has always been my preference so I’ll probably only do accessories. However, there is a sweater quantity of Green Mountain Spinnery Alpaca Elegance sitting next to me on my desk, and there’s a sweater idea that’s been hanging out in my head for a while. So never say never.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

I usually knit in the evening on the couch while I’m watching Netflix. That’s my everyday reality. My favorite place to knit is on the front (or back) porch, with a cup of tea, visiting my family at home. At my mom’s house, I try to knit on the back porch where you can hear the coal trains coming and going. I’d give anything to knit on my Grandma’s front porch in the evening, totally surrounded by the hills.