Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Ravelry Giftalong

This year's Indie Designer Giftalong is well underway now on Ravelry, you can get involved in the forums here. We catch up with a few of the designers involved, Julie Gilliver of Three Foot Warrior and Annie Blayney of AnnieBeeKnits.

Julie Gilliver designs gorgeous kids knits, we ask her a few questions about her work:

 How long have you been designing knitting patterns for? What made you start?

Designing began for me in 2010.  After having my second little boy I decided I really wanted to knit some classic styled v neck vests.  I could not find anything available that was knit top down, that would allow me to play yardage chicken with the precious yarns I had, and if need be add contrast bands at the end.  A friend who had been designing for a little while encouraged me to try writing a pattern for it myself and offered me fabulous support.  So after a bit of hard work Explorer Vest ( was born.

What is your favourite thing to knit?

I would have to say that items featuring lace tend to grab my interest a lot.  I am a bit of a tomboy and have a houseful of boys, so tend to be very neutral with most things that I knit, but a do have a wee side of me that loves to be able to add subtle lace into some of the things I wear or into gifts for wee girls. 

Which of your designs do you love the most and why?

Choosing one that I love most would be an extremely hard thing to do as they all feel like an achievement.  Also lovely new projects being posted on Ravelry have a tendency to sway me between patterns one day to the next.
My favourite at the moment would have to be my latest release 'Hidden Garden'  I love the little details that make it feel special, especially the lace panels up the side. 

Do you have any patterns in the pipeline for 2015 that you can tell us about?

LOL, my list of ideas for next year is constantly growing.  I do have a couple new ones set for release in the next month, Sunburst - a girls open front cardigan  sunburst and Fox Trail - a unisex cardigan featuring cabled sleeves.  Both other these will be available in multiple weights in sizes newborn to 10 years.
I am also extremely excited about a new girls tunic pattern that is going to go into testing at the start of the New Year. 


What would you say is the best thing about being a knitting designer? And what is most frustrating?

Being able to create something new and turn the ideas in my head into actual garments that other people can create is an amazing things to me.  Having been a sewer for years creating has always been something I enjoyed but working out how to write so that other people can understand (instead of just my random notes that half the time I cant even understand ;P) and seeing other peoples creations from these patterns come to life.

The most frustrating would have to be the lack of time.  Trying to balance my time between my family, the things I want to be able to knit and finding the time for design work.  I love to be able to knit new things for me especially since my boys need a lot less woollies these days, but there is never enough time.  I also find it hard to find the quiet time to work on the tricky parts of pattern writing with the noise my household tends to create.

Tell us a bit about your life outside of knitting

I am currently a SAHM  to 3 very energetic boys who are 7, 5 and 3.  I have 2 boys at school and the youngest has just started afternoon Kindergarten, so a reasonable amount of my time includes playing chauffeur and caretaker to my little monkey's, but is one of the most rewarding things i have done (even when it is frustrating).  We live in a rural town of New Zealand, where you can go slightly down the road and there are paddocks with cows and sheep right next to the houses.  We also have the advantage of living right under a mountain range and have ready access to bush walks and lots of natural beauty.  It is something I am pleased we are able to share with our children. 
I have a crazy obsession with foxes, I love them and some of my friends just laugh at me now when i start mentioning anything about them :)  It is not uncommon referred to as the 'Man' of the house as my wonderful husband is a computer geek and doesn't tend to want to get his hands dirty so  I am the one who is usually fixing and building things, and generally working on renovating our 1930's house.

You can find Julie Gilliver on Ravelry, on her blog and on Facebook

AnnieBee also gives us her views about pattern design....

How long have you been designing knitting patterns for? What made you start?

The first pattern I ever really designed was, by lucky chance, also my first professional publication -- the Chawton Mittens that were published in Interweave's inaugural issue of Jane Austen Knits back in 2011. (I've finally gotten around to re-releasing the pattern under my own branding, just in time for the GAL, actually.) I saw the call for submissions, and the mittens sprang to mind very clearly; it was just a question of whether I had the technical skill to realize the vision. I submitted the idea and swatch on a whim, with encouragement from friends -- I  didn't actually think it would be accepted, but I thought maybe I'd work up the design and publish it myself anyway. When I heard that they actually wanted to publish it, I was absolutely stunned. I was so flattered, and excited, and also more than a little scared of what the process would entail! In the end, though, a charted mitten pattern is a lot of charting but not a lot of instruction writing, so in lots of ways it was an ideal introduction to pattern writing, and it was tremendously helpful to have the team at Interweave guiding me through the process. That has stood me in good stead for the patterns I've since designed and published on my own! 

What is your favourite thing to knit?

I knit a lot of shawlettes. Ironically, my interest in shawls started with finely patterned lace, and has since veered more towards structure and texture, in heavier yarns. That's definitely where my designs have gone -- I am really passionate about colour and texture, and shawls seem to be a great way of playing with those things. I absolutely love supporting indie dyers, but I'm not a sock knitter (I have health issues that affect my feet, making handknit socks problematic), and shawlettes are perfect for using those fingering-weight yarns that so many dyers produce. Plus, a skein or two of special yarn goes a long way in a shawl, whereas my budget can't stretch to sweater quantities of hand-dyed yarn as often. 

Which of your designs do you love the most and why?

Which do I love most? Which of my toes do I love most? Which of my eyes do I love better? I have no way to answer this. Each of my designs has stretched me in a different way. They all seem to stem from an idea for a structure or technique, whether it's the continuous cables that frame the cameos in the Chawton Mittens, or the single-row stripes in Brightness and Contrast that address colour stacking and muddiness. They may seem to be very disparate designs, on the surface, but the unifying thread is definitely that technical element. Any design that successfully solves a problem or tackles a technique is a success in my book, and I'm proud of them all! 

Do you have any knitting patterns in the pipeline for 2015 that you can tell us about?

Well, speaking of technique and structure, I have a pair of mittens that's been percolating in my brain for the better part of a year now, with what I *think* is a unique structure. The palm is knit flat, first, and then stitches are picked up around the sides and top, and worked with some shaping wizardry to wrap around the hand. The stitches are finally grafted together in the middle of the back of the hand, and then the thumb and cuff are worked. I just received some gorgeous yarn as pattern support, so as soon as my Christmas knitting is done, I will be working up the final version of those mittens. They're definitely the most complicated, writing-intensive pattern I've designed, and they'll be a challenge for my technical editor, but the result is going to be sooooooper neat. 

What would you say is the best thing about being a knitting designer? And what is most frustrating?

The best thing about being a knitting designer has to be seeing finished projects that people have made with the pattern that came out of your head. I have a huge soft spot for spin-off projects, too, where people take my design ideas and run with them in their own direction. There's one knitter who made a sweater using Kate Davies' Paper Dolls pattern, but instead of the paper doll yoke, she knit cameos inspired by my Chawton Mittens. That sweater has to be just about the coolest thing I've ever seen, and I'm so thrilled to have been even a small part of the process. 

The most challenging thing about being a knitting designer? Well, not to get overly political, but I'd have to say that achieving any kind of living wage from design seems like an impossible feat, from where I'm standing. I consider a pattern a success if it makes enough to cover my costs of production (including yarn costs, hiring the technical editor, and so on), which is not a very high bar. I'm grateful that I have a day job that allows me the yarn budget and the leisure time to devote to knitting, and to cover the initial outlay of costs for designing. Anyone who can actually make a career out of this is, frankly, my hero.

Tell us a bit about your life outside knitting

The day job I mentioned? I'm a conference coordinator at a thinktank, so I spend my days booking travel and catering and things like that. It's great work, but event planning is always one of those jobs on the 'most stressful occupations' lists, despite the fact that it's far from life-or-death. Knitting is definitely my means of relaxation and my creative outlet! I live outside of Toronto, in a city called Kitchener -- a great name for a city with a fantastic knitting community! -- with my husband and my extraordinarily ridiculous dog. I'm part of a really fantastic knitting group called the Uptown Knit Mob, which is a tremendous source of friendship and inspiration. (We just had an exhibit at the gallery space at our LYS, showing the blankets we've made for each other. The blankets have their own blog, because, of course they do.) 

You can find AnnieBee on Ravelry, on her blog and follow her on twitter as @anniebeeknits

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