MY DESIGN INSPIRATION: NICOLE BOTHUM AKA MISKUNN

© miskunn

I remember watching Lady and the Tramp when I was very young and seeing Darling knit those sweet pink baby booties in her rocking chair - It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to learn how to knit. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn for many, many years later, but I always remembered how lovely I thought that scene was and how one day I wanted to know how to do it myself.

Now I don’t often make baby booties, but the joy of knitting is just as real as I had hoped it would be all those years ago. Creating something with your own two hands is such a satisfying thing. How much more so when what you’re working with is just string? It’s so crazy when you really think about it!

 

© miskunn

When I first started knitting I wasn’t concerned about the quality of my work. I just wanted to make something for the sake of making it. The last six months or so though, I have grown to care and take pride in the designs I create. I don’t mind putting in the extra work to create something I am truly pleased with. I find the whole process of creating new designs so rewarding now. Experimenting with different stitches and textures until I find something I am really happy with has become one of my favorite parts of the process.

 

© miskunn

I think the biggest joy and relief has come from learning what I personally enjoy creating. For so long I created pieces I felt like I was supposed to make based on what was popular among others in the community. It left me discouraged and unhappy with my work, many times it made me want to stop knitting all together, thinking it must be knitting that I actually didn’t enjoy. When I learned that I don’t have to use the yarn everyone else is using, or the same three stitches, or make the same types of hats, etc. I felt so free. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of me. Realizing that I was the only one holding myself back made all the difference for my work.

 

© miskunn

Now I want to be ever improving in my skills, challenging myself with each new project, and ultimately, creating designs that showcase all the things I have learned along the way. What an amazing thing that you never really stop learning! I find that to be one of the most beautiful things about knitting - That you never really will come to the end of knowledge. There will always be more to learn, new stitches to discover, new designs to create. What a beautiful reality that is.

Website: www.miskunn.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/miskunn/

 

December 12, 2016 by Guest Blogger

MY DESIGN INSPIRATION: OLGA BURAYA-KEFLIAN

© Olgajazzy

 

When did you learn to knit?

When I was 4 years old my seamstress mother was getting frustrated with me trying to get into all of her sewing notions and making a mess of things, and in order to keep me occupied she taught me how to knit. I distinctly remember using rusty orange color wool yarn and a pair of needles and it was garter stitch. I must say from what I remember it kept me busy for couple of days, but as any child my attention got switched to a next thing. Later in my late teen years she taught me how to calculate gauge and shared general idea about constructions. I was making myself some grunge looking cables and dropped stitch sweaters that were frowned upon by my mother, but they looked cool to me and I wore something no one else had.

 

© Olgajazzy

 

When did you decide that you wanted to design? 

Designing didn't really come to me as a matter of choice, I had to design if I wanted to make something. I grew up without access to much variety of yarns, needle sizes or patterns even! We had a tiny book of stitch patterns which I still have and my home ec book had some information about knitting in it. There was one magazine from Germany that was available in our town's library and it had a very long waiting list, so when the time was running out on using it or making something out of it one would have to hand write the remaining instructions before turning it in. So designing really was more freeing in that sense.

 

© Olgajazzy

 

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

When I started designing first and then later it was because I was trying to dress myself, to make something that no one else would have and in a way to be part of self-expression of my style and taste. To describe it, I prefer simpler easy silhouettes with intelligent construction and designs featuring unique stitch patterns that also turn the experience of making something from my pattern into a teaching moment for someone who wishes to learn more new techniques but also entertaining for those you like to think and enjoy the mathematics of the design. As well as have an accessory that makes a statement and uplifts otherwise a very minimalistic wardrobe. I imagine knitters who knit and wear my designs living from urban streets of a metropolis to a serene living of the countryside. I always strive for balance in my body of work while still realizing the ideas that make me excited the most.

 

© Olgajazzy

 

What things spark ideas and inspire your designs?

But being naturally a very observant person anything around me is inspiration Tiles, industrial design, architecture, geometry of the nature, textures on the most mundane everyday object that we might not normally notice. I like to think that inspiration source is not only a source, but it's that tiny trigger that sparks one imagination so far and wide that the eventual thought process wouldn't have anything reminiscent of the source. I feel that staying open to the ideas of the world and trying to see everything as shrewd as possible what makes that inspiration well ever flowing. 

After having lived in Japan for 4 years it, people watching is absolutely fascinating to me. Different cultures and various cities carry so much within an individual style. Even though early on I have had great fascination with fashion, these days I find it harder to relate as how commercialized it has become. It's harder to identify as it is more trends driven than style. So I like to look at fashions for some details and ideas for construction. Being a maker, a knitter, I believe in the longevity of a certain clothing item and its value because you have created it yourself. When you create you share a part of your soul while making it, that mood you have been in the certain moment in time but if it also helps to express your taste and style.

 

© Olgajazzy

 

What is your favorite part of the design process?

I don't think I can isolate just one part, but at least 2. I absolutely love the adrenaline rush that possibilities of a new design and right yarn choice present during the "blueprint" stage. I do my best to visualize the finished product while working out the correct specifications, fit and details. The agony and anticipation of casting on to knit it are quite high because this stage can't be rushed or you end up with needing to rip and rework. Finishing would be my other favorite part of the design process. Because when all knitting is finished, your knitting product "blob" is still in a stage of ugly duckling until you have given it proper care with washing and blocking, and of course seaming. This process of transforming the knit fabric into what it's intended to become is by far the most revealing. As once it dries and steamed again you get to see the result of what was in your head and you hope that others who make it would love it as much as you do.

Website: http://olgajazzy.com/

Ravelry Page: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/olga-buraya-kefelian

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/olgajazzyknits/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/olgajazzyknits/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/olgajazzyknits/

 

November 28, 2016 by Guest Blogger

My Design Inspiration: Jana Huck

For me, knitting is a way of life. A way to be creative, productive and mindful. I enjoy playing with fibres, colours, and ideas and to come up with new designs. Knitting is a world of endless possibilities, it is impossible to run out of ideas. And when knitting is always on the back of your mind, everything can be the source of inspiration. You might see interesting architecture, or a curiously shaped vegetable and feel like it wants to be transformed into a knitting pattern. Also, yarns themselves are always poking at my imagination. It can feel like they ask me to be knit into a specific design. And then my many stitch pattern encyclopedias are a resource I rely upon when pondering new projects.

Also, I enjoy the process of knitting itself very much. It's fun to choose colours and to see them interact with one another as the piece gets knit up. Creating shapes and textures with my needles while feeling the yarn running through my fingers is extremely satisfying. Knitting will calm me down when I am upset and enhance an already good mood.

I like to create timeless pieces that knitters will hopefully enjoy to knit as much as I do.

Jana Huck

Streetscape (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/streetscape), for example, is a triangular shawl that has a story that I especially like and that makes it into a true statement piece. The shawl features garter stripes reminiscent of the German Autobahn and a quirky zig-zag element. Its twists and turns are a reminder that your life's journey, wherever it leads you, will have some obstacles – and you'll make it through.

Jana Huck

Another recent design is Verum (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/verum), which I made in collaboration with Frida Fuchs for the Wollfest in Hamburg, Germany, this year. I am very fond of the stripes and colours of this piece. It is a pleasant garter stitch knit that will never get boring! Colour changes, stripes, and the occasional eyelet-row will keep you happy and entertained. Plus, it's a unisex design, so you can also make it for your significant other!

Jana Huck

Kouki-Hearts (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/kouki-hearts) was born from my fondness of the sumptuous ITO fibres. I love to play with the different fibre qualities they provide. The Kouki-Hearts shawl is worked in Kouki, a cellulose-silk blend of the finest quality. My goal was to use the sheen of the yarn for effect. Knit and purl stitches reflect light differently, so I decided to work knits and purls into a heart pattern. The hearts sparkle and shine when light hits them at an angle. The result is a stunning piece that is easy to work and uses the yarn's qualities to great effect. By the way, you can get the shawl as a kit here at Knit Purl (https://www.knit-purl.com/collections/kits/products/kouki-hearts-wrap-kit).

Jana Huck

I also sometimes dabble in garment design. My latest piece is Lenja (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/lenja), a sweater featuring stripes and a wide adjustable neckline. Again I used the fabulous ITO fibres, combining Sensai and Urugami, definitely my favourite combination for their many bases. It adds Urugami's sturdiness to the softness and halo of Sensai. Perfection.

I am immensely grateful to the great community of knitters worldwide that I can be a part of through the miracles of the world wide web, namely Ravelry and inspiring websites like Knit Purl.

Website: http://www.janukke.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/janukke/

Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/jana-huck

November 14, 2016 by Guest Blogger

My Design Inspiration: Jessica Carey, AKA The Hook Nook

© The Hook Nook/Jessica Carey

Crafting has always been an interest of mine. I remember being very young, about 7 years old, and going over to my nana’s house often. We’d paint ceramic houses ALL the time. Sometimes we’d do those fun sand art creations, bake yummy cinnamon twist treats, or even just color in coloring books. I’ve always loved creating for as long as I can remember.

©The Hook Nook/Jessica Carey

When my oldest was about 8 months old, I decided I needed to find a hobby, something that I could do just for myself. Being a mom and wife was so amazing, but I seemed to have started to lose bits of “Jessica”. With my daughter being so young, I wanted to be able to create her fun beanies and blankets that she could keep as she grew up. I went to JoAnn’s Craft Store and purchased some crochet hooks and yarn, went home and took to YouTube to try and figure out how to crochet.


The first beanie that I made was awful. So terrible. BUT, the pride and confidence I felt in creating SOMETHING was such a thrill and excitement and I knew that I wanted to keep going, to keep learning. I tried every free pattern I could find to just get more practice. My edges were uneven, my tension varied throughout each piece, and my seams were so jagged. I think it took me a good six months to really understand those basic stitches and how to read patterns. But I LOVED creating each new item. To know that *I* made something was so unbelievably motivating for me.

©The Hook Nook/Jessica Carey

 

In my early stages of crocheting, I loved making baby items. I would create beanies, burp rags, blankets, newborn photography props, everything. As orders came in, it encouraged me to do better and better and offer items with higher quality. But after my order list never ceased to grow and feeling absolutely burnt out, I decided to halt custom orders and really focus on items I wanted to make, instead of items others wanted me to make. I found that I enjoyed many patterns from other designers, but I would always change a few aspects of each pattern to make it more my style. So, I began creating my own cowl designs, scarves, beanies.. I loved making items specifically for women. Items that *I* would want to wear.

 

©The Hook Nook/Jessica Carey

I wrote patterns for awhile but never really had an “it” pattern. I would still create many Puff Stitch Beanies for orders once in awhile and those always did really well with customers and online reviews. I had many other crocheters ask me to write up the pattern. The day I finally released it was the day I knew that being a crochet designer was something I definitely had a passion for. It sold like hot cakes and I absolutely bawled at the response. I mean, what an amazing feeling to have one of your designs so well received and that others were willing to pay to learn how to make it! Absolutely incredible. I kept pushing forward with more designs and learned so much as I continued to find ways to streamline my writing, detail out certain aspects of more difficult sections, etc. I LOVED it.


Writing has always been a passion of mine as well. Through middle and high school, I loved words, grammar, spelling, creative writing, etc. I had the opportunity to complete college level courses through high school with the intent to become a professional journalist. Clearly that never panned out, but I’m truly glad that it didn’t. Crochet designing and pattern writing fills my soul. As I mentioned before, creating things makes me feel so proud of myself. I had a relatively difficult childhood and teen years and finding ways to feel proud of myself were far and few between. But gosh, the pride I feel about what I’ve accomplished so far has been such a light for me. I’m at a stage in life where I get to share that passion, drive and confidence with my children and help them learn what motivates them in those same ways. How amazing is that?!


Having the opportunity for my children watch my husband (who is a phenomenal tattoo artist who now owns his own tattoo shop) and I do what we love and go against the grain in terms of career choices, allows them to see that they really are fully capable of creating the kind of future that they want. Whether they want to be a creative, a doctor, or anything in between, they CAN do it. All they need is drive and motivation and self confidence. This is something I am so grateful for as a parent.


I love to find inspiration for new designs everywhere I go. I was on an airplane once and saw a woman with a beautiful (commercially made) bag and quickly sketched out my version of a similar stitch work but for a cowl instead. For my Brixton Sweater design, that was solely inspired by the fact that I LOVE oversized sweaters, kangaroo pockets and longer fitting sleeves.



The ability of walking into a yarn store and touching, feeling, petting the different fibers elates me like no other. Baby alpaca, superwash merino, pima cotton, bamboo.. Man. Each hank I get to hold provides so many ideas for so many new designs. I don’t know about you, but fresh yarn in its packaging holds so much opportunity for something amazing. Yarn itself can really offer immense creativity. Just holding it, it can “speak” to what it wants to be. A sweater? A scarf? A shawl?



I know in my heart that being a crochet designer is what I was meant to do. It makes me so happy and it never feels like “work”. I’ll always be on the lookout for inspiration everywhere I go, with everyone I meet, and with every hank I get to play with. Cheers to fiber life!


What a dream come true to be featured here with Knit Purl. Thank you so much for reading my story!

©The Hook Nook/Jessica Carey


Jessica Carey
The Hook Nook

Instagram: @the.hook.nook
Facebook: /thehooknook
Etsy: thehooknook12.etsy.com
Email: thehooknook@ymail.com

October 31, 2016 by Guest Blogger

My Design Inspiration: Marie Greene

© Marie Greene

It's hard to remember my life before knitting. My grandmother taught me when I was about ten, providing me with scribbled notes of stitch counts for Barbie outfits and baby booties, a few pattern books from the 1940's and double point needles in the smallest sizes. I remember that when she first showed me English style knitting, I said to her, "I don't see why I can't hold the yarn in my left hand — it's a lot faster." I became a continental-esque knitter out of sheer stubbornness and youthful ignorance, and went on designing my own Barbie clothes and small things throughout my teen years. The great thing about learning the way I did was that I didn't know there was anything I should be wary of, so I went ahead knitting things that were a bit ahead of myself, but I didn't know the difference. I think the best gift we can give another knitter is permission to be fearless.

My foray into design came much later, and was — in part — a result of peer pressure. I was working in a yarn shop and wearing pieces I had designed for myself, when customers and friends started asking for the patterns. It's one thing to be able to write something for yourself, and quite another to write it for someone else. There was a learning curve, to be sure, and I refined my style and pattern writing as I observed the way my designs fit on real people in all shapes and sizes (having a large pool of test knitters really helped). It wasn't long before I was able to leave my day job and design full time — something I feel incredibly lucky to do.

© Marie Greene

Many of my design ideas come from structures made of wood, stone and steel — it's all about line and texture for me. You can see the way I used small textural details in minimal designs like Eavesdrop and Beckett. I usually start with a source of inspiration (a steel truss, for example) and translate it into a textural component within my design. Being able to knit on the go is also an important part of what I do, so keeping a design portable is always in the back of my mind.

© Marie Greene

I have a tendency to steer clear of color (my favorite is grey, if that tells you anything), except when bringing in a bright pop of something like this bright apple green in Bentley or the mustard yellow in Ellery — colors so punchy and bold that they work almost like neutrals, matching everything in my grey-black-white-navy closet. I don't get very brave with color, but when I do, I go big or go home, apparently.

I am an advocate of slow fashion, connecting to the land, and understanding my role in the fiber ecosystem. I think there is so much more to what we do as knitters than simply forming stitches and creating fabric. I love being part of an industry that supports the handmade process and empowers creative people to play a meaningful role in their own fashion.

© Marie Greene

 

Knit Purl was my first favorite yarn shop when I moved to Oregon, and – in fact — was where I bought the yarn that later became the French Oak Scarf. I love being part of the fiber community in the Pacific Northwest (so many wonderfully creative, generous and kind-hearted people!). Thank you for inviting me to share my design story and be part of the Knit Purl family!


Marie Greene

Website: http://www.oliveknits.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/oliveknits/

Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/marie-greene
October 17, 2016 by Guest Blogger

My Design Inspiration: Caitlin Hunter

© boylandknitworks

I believe that have always been a designer, but my career in knit design is something that happened a bit by accident. For as long as I can remember I have loved the challenge of making something new and functional out of raw material, and as a very small child I used to sit alongside my mom as she was sewing, using her discarded scraps to make clothing for my dolls. I started sewing my own clothing around the age of 8, and as a teenager I would often have my friends over before a school dance to sew us all dresses to wear that same night. I also learned to knit when I was in high school, teaching myself from a dusty old book of my mom’s I’d found buried in our basement. I absolutely loved knitting, but in those pre-Ravelry days and without a community of other knitters to learn from and be inspired by, my passion for the craft fizzled out after a year or so.

A little later on, for lack of any better ideas, I decided to make a career out of my love of design. I earned my degree in apparel design, which was followed by a couple of years working as a designer for a menswear company. While I enjoyed my education and career, it never really felt like a great fit for me because I was passionate about sustainability and slow-living- philosophies that aren’t really compatible with the traditional garment industry. I temporarily gave up my career to start a family, with the thought that I would probably pursue a different path when the time came.

Fast forward a few years to this past winter, and I was looking toward the coming year when my youngest would enter kindergarten, thinking about the possibility of working again. Around this time, I was gifted my first ever skein of luxury yarn by my mother, a beautiful grey fingering weight wool, and I was inspired to find a pattern that would do it justice. I was aware of Ravelry but hadn’t had much opportunity to use it since before my twins were born back in 2009. I was completely blown away by the number of patterns available there, and the community that had grown since I had last visited the site. I went on a bit of a rampage, ogling patterns and project pages, filling up my queue with everything from cardigans to fair isle pants (oh, yeah!). I also visited my very first LYS, and that was all it took to make my transformation into a fully obsessive knitter complete.

© boylandknitworks

After knitting my first couple of projects, I started feeling the creative itch. I wasn’t finding patterns that were exactly what I wanted, so I decided to design my own. My Rock Creek sweater is the first knitting pattern I designed, and it was born from my desire for a perfect modern and simple pullover with a few special details that I just couldn’t find in any of my searches.

After that first pattern the designs just started flowing and things really took off from there. At some point I realized that even though the medium and platform were different, the skills I had learned in my previous career actually translated perfectly and I could turn my love of knitting into a career. Hand knitting is the antidote to all of the things that had given me pause in the traditional world of apparel design. I love that wool is a sustainable fiber, that it is warm and comfortable and beautiful. When I touch a skein of artisan yarn it is easy to imagine the sheep grazing on a lovely pasture somewhere, the farmers who raised them and the dyers who lovingly and thoughtfully transform it into a work of art.


© boylandknitworks

I imagine the rich history of women spinning their own yarn and knitting for their families out of love and necessity. I love that knitting is such a slow process, and when you look at a hand-knitted item you can feel the love and care that went into every stitch. I love creating a well-written pattern that knitters put their own touch on when they select their colors and make personal modifications that I might never have thought of. The fact that knitters are willing to invest their time (the most precious resource we have, in my opinion) into knitting something I designed is the highest compliment I can imagine, and I am humbled every time I think about it.

Thank you, Knit Purl for inviting me to share my design story and love of knitting with your readers!

Cheers!

Caitlin

Website: http://boylandknitworks.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/boylandknitworks/

Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/caitlin-hunter

October 03, 2016 by Guest Blogger

My Design Inspiration: Andrea Mowry

© Andrea Mowry

Ah, the design process. I think some designers thrive on organization, plans, and spreadsheets. I have to admit - that I am not one of them. Typically, an idea pops into my head, and I have to drop everything to either grab yarn from my stash (ideally), or find the perfect yarn at my LYS or online - ASAP. For me, once that idea flame is lit, I have to add fuel to the fire. I can think of nothing else, and it's almost like my body is just the design's translator - getting it to the world with my needles and pen. Okay, that probably sounds a little nutty, but I find this is how my best pieces have come to be.

When I set out to do a collaboration, such as my Wanderlust Collection with Knit Purl and North Light Fibers, I find I have to flex an entirely different set of muscles. In the beginning, I can feel myself fighting it. I try too hard to come up with ideas and end up staring at a blank page.

Thankfully, after a few deep breaths, I begin sketching. Slowly, but surely, that other side of my creativity that I don't use as often (let's call it "purposeful creativity") begins to stir and spark, and designs that otherwise may not have been born, get to see the light of day. I really love balancing my work by doing a little of each!

As the discussion for the Wanderlust Collection began, I just happened to be traveling to Portland and Seattle. My time in the Pacific Northwest left me feeling inspired (and itching to move!) I loved being surrounded by the giant trees and mountains. My sketches mirrored these feelings and I began to see textures repeating, namely, peaks, triangles, and chevrons. Which happen to be some of my trusty favorites.

© Andrea Mowry

I knew I wanted to offer a range of difficulty levels and focuses on different techniques. The Take Flight mitts are the easiest, and appropriate even for a new knitter. What I love most about them is their simplicity. I find that simple knits with a focus on modern texture, fit best into a real-world wardrobe. The Drift hat came to life on graph paper. I had mountains on my mind and their changing landscapes from base to peak. I wanted the peaks to grow right out from the brim, and finishing it off with a final point at the tip of 4 strong lines. The Ramble shawl is for the more adventurous knitter. Utilizing a beautiful brioche herringbone pattern created by the brioche queen, Nancy Marchant, and asymmetrical construction, this shawl is addicting to knit and fabulous to wear! As I worked on these patterns, I could easily imagine wearing them on my next trip to the West Coast, or on any of my future travels! Knit out of Water Street, they are luxuriously soft and warm, without being too heavy. As with all of my patterns, they fit easily into a modern wardrobe, and hopefully you will learn a new technique or two while knitting them up!!

© Andrea Mowry

Thank you, Knit Purl, for sparking my creativity and for letting me share a little bit of my design process!

Cheers!

Andrea

Instagram: dreareneeknits
Ravelry: dreareneeknits
Pinterest: dreareneeknits
Twitter: dreareneeknits
September 05, 2016 by Guest Blogger

My Design Inspiration: Janina Kallio

Being from Scandinavia, minimalism and simplicity are in my backbone, and also the North Star of my knitwear design. In an industry traditionally defined by heavy Aran sweaters, wildly colored Fair Isle, and intricately romantic Estonian lace, I want to offer calmness and lightness with a refined contemporary aesthetic for today’s knitters.

I’ve been knitting since childhood, but my love affair with knitting didn’t start until I bought my first luxury yarns from a local yarn store in Helsinki (and never went back to market yarns!). My customers share my love of quality yarns with soul, and value designs that showcase their finesse. Yarn is the beginning, middle and end of my design process.

I start with a sketch, followed by lots of math and illegible scribbles, but the design always takes its final shape in the knitting process. Very rarely do my designs end up exactly like I had planned and sketched them. I feel like the design process is a collaboration between me and the yarn. Sometimes she has ideas of her own and it’s best if I’m the one to give in and let her have her way.

I always design with knitting instructions in mind, and if it’s starting to look like you’d need a map to read the instructions, I know it’s time to simplify. Keeping things simple is not as easy as it sounds, and often requires a lot of discipline. Hello shiny object syndrome!

Some of my most loved patterns are the ones that were the easiest to make, where the design practically created itself. Antarktis and Rosewater are designs that I just started knitting without any clear plan and simply enjoyed the ride while seeing the design take shape on my needles.

For my new design for Knit Purl’s Month of Lace, I had initially a completely different design sketched and swatched with stripes, eyelets and bias construction. But as I was knitting the final shawl it just didn’t feel right. And so I was back to the drawing board with more simpler and classic design in mind, and Starlight was born.

For me, knitting is most of all a way to relax (and let’s face it, an excuse to buy more yarn!), and I want to keep my patterns simple, straightforward and relaxing, while at the same time resulting in a gorgeous, contemporary accessory. I love the idea of combining this wonderful age old tradition of knitting to today’s aesthetic and lifestyle.

Website: www.janinakalliodesign.com
Ravelry: Janina Kallio
Instagram: @janinakalliodesign

All images © Janina Kallio.
August 08, 2016 by Guest Blogger

My Design Inspiration: Kate Fisher

Like many knitters, my history with the craft began early in my life. I was seven years old when my friend’s mother was teaching her how to knit. I asked her to teach me, too. I knit a shawl for my doll. I remember that by the time I was done it was dirty, twisted and triangular due to my sweaty little hands, hard work and unintentional tension changes. This was the beginning, and from that point on I was determined, and definitely hooked.

Using raw materials and simple tools to make things that are beautiful and functional has always intrigued me. Creating an object “one stitch at a time” is a powerful experience. As an art therapist, I have sometimes used knitting with my clients. I am pleased that I have passed this magical craft onto hundreds of others, mostly adolescent girls and boys. Knitting has so much to offer, encouraging relaxation, community building, and metaphorical lessons. It is possible to make a mistake, undo it and redo in a better way.

I have always loved any stitched craft. As a mixed media artist I have used my skills to combine materials, colors and textures. In November 1985, I created a large hand bound book and started to document my knitting. This documentation has continued to the present.

I am inspired by beautiful yarn. The fibers, textures and colors of Shibui yarn all draw me in. I love the flexibility that “mixing” the weights of their yarn give to me in my designing process.

My garden, my walks around my neighborhood and my knitting group are all sources of inspiration. My knitted pieces are named after the streets of my city, where I frequently take my walks, collecting sights and found objects.

 

I have been a member of a “tight knit” knitting group for nine years. We share projects, life stories of all kinds, and of course, food. The members of my group have been so supportive of my design work.

Here is a picture of part of the knitting group (Teresa, Phyllis, Ann and me) at the launch party for Black Bird Knits.


When designing for children I consider sweaters that will be comfortable and handsome on my own grandchildren.

I also spend a good deal of my time at The Genesee Center for the Arts working on my fine artwork. Spending time working with a community of artists is of great value to me. This is where I work on my Black Bird prints and my current stitched figure/print work.

I have been designing my knitwear for almost as long as I have been knitting. In recent years I decided to launch Black Bird Knits to see if others would be interested in my designs and related prints. It has been a huge learning process and very satisfying on so many levels, both interpersonally and professionally.

To see more of Kate’s work, visit her website at blackbirdknits.com.

July 25, 2016 by Guest Blogger

My Design Inspiration: Thien-Kieu Lam

 

During the time I lived in Japan, I discovered the work of artist, poet, and calligrapher Mitsuo Aida. He has a very unique style of calligraphy, which breaks from tradition but has a grace and balance of its own. One of my favorite pieces simply states isshô benkyô isshô seishun (一生勉強一生青春), literally “a lifetime of study, a lifetime of youth.” It means that to fully embrace life, such as youth does, the heart and the mind must remain flexible, must be able to continue to learn and grow.


I strongly believe in lifelong learning, and as I am a very curious person, there is always motivation to learn. After Japan, I moved to Washington, D.C., and during my four years there, I was often taking one class or another. Japanese language classes to retain the competency I had worked so hard for. A Korean class, because I fancy myself a pseudo-linguist. Creative nonfiction writing. Piano lessons. And the last class I took there was a beginner’s knitting class. I learned one method of cast on and bind off and how to make knit and purl stitches. Very basic.

Probably like many people, my first project was a garter stitch scarf. It was for my nephew, a baby at the time, and thus small and quick. I was hooked and since then have steadily explored the world of knitting. Being a knitter in this technological age is fantastic – I have continued to acquire new skills and techniques with the help of online videos and tutorials, and by choosing knitting projects that challenge me. 

I have been a maker and an artist all my life, and the evolution from knitter to knitwear designer came naturally – I can’t help but experiment and tinker! I often compare knitting to language. The different types of stitches and techniques are like parts of speech, units that can be rearranged into infinite expressions. Knitting is a type of visual communication, and it fascinates me.

I was asked to discuss my inspiration as a designer, and it’s certainly a word I have used freely and frequently, but upon deeper reflection, I realized that inspiration is too intangible as a concept and a practice. My designs stem from curiosity, something much more concrete and attainable than inspiration. I really love charts (of all kinds – not just knitting!), and sometimes I’ll sit down with graph paper and a pencil and just start drafting. Then I’ll knit a swatch because I want to know how the chart translates into actual fabric. Sometimes I have a good idea of what to expect, and other times I’m in for a surprise. I’ll look at the swatch and ask myself: What do I like about this texture or motif or shape? If I change this one thing, what will happen then? And then I make another swatch.

I do this with existing stitch patterns too. I love stitch dictionaries, and if a pattern really grabs my attention, I’ll swatch it. Then I’ll study it for possible ways of modification. There is a lot of swatching that happens in my design process! In my art practice, I refer to this as prototyping. Modify, create, evaluate. Repeat. And then repeat again.

 

 

Sometimes, there is a particular shape, image, or aesthetic that I want to achieve. In these cases, it’s more like reverse engineering. I have a visual in my head, and I want the piece to have certain qualities. The questions then become: How do I do that? What kind of construction is necessary? What combination of stitches will deliver that effect?


I think what most people think of as “inspiration,” I consider “data collection.” The play of shadows on the ground, the landscape, architectural elements, even a beautifully phrased thought or an intriguing concept or discipline (literary neuroscience, anyone?) – these are all filed away in the conscious and subconscious, and some of them will become the basis for curiosity and exploration. And sometimes, that exploration becomes the basis for creative work.

To quote Elizabeth Gilbert: “For me, a lifetime devoted to creativity is nothing but a scavenger hunt – where each successive clue is another tiny little hit of curiosity. Pick each one up, unfold it, see where it leads you next.” 

I design because I enjoy the process, and I design things that bring me joy. I love making things by hand, and it is deeply satisfying to create things that are both functional and beautiful. Knitting definitely hits all the sweet spots. And I hope that my designs bring others joy too, both in the knitting and the wearing.

Visit Kieu’s website at http://www.thienkieulam.com, where she muses about art, books, and of course, knitting.

 

June 27, 2016 by Guest Blogger