I learned to knit from my aunt when I was about 7 years old. I was visiting her and my uncle (who live out of state) for a week one summer, and one day we sat down with some aluminum straight needles and some orange acrylic yarn. I still remember that first piece of knitting -- it was completely uneven and had holes where I'd accidentally done a yarnover, but I was insanely proud of it.
Knitting didn't really click for me, though, until I was in grad school in Philadelphia and living about a block from Rosie's Yarn Cellar (a fantastic little LYS in the basement of some row houses). They introduced me to "fancy" yarns and more advanced techniques, and I taught myself a lot through the Internet. I'd say I became truly obsessed about the time I started my blog in 2005.
At what point did you really start feeling like a knitting designer?
I think it was when my shawl pattern Gaskell really took off (it was published in February 2012). I had started knitting the sample for myself, just to see if I could work out what was in my head, but I got so much attention for it that I decided to publish it. I'm still astounded by how much love a garter stitch shawl has gotten in the past three years!
Although it tends not to be as popular, I really like stranded colorwork. I love the mix of color and pattern, and I really like the extra squishy fabric you get from using two strands. I know a lot of people tend to be intimidated by it, but really the hardest part is keeping your tension even. It's really all about practice (and blocking helps a lot, too!).
Do you have a favorite type of item to design?
I'd have to say shawls are my favorite. I think it's because there's a lot of flexibility in shawls -- they don't have to fit, so gauge isn't as critical, and most shawls don't require all that much yarn, so they can be an economical knit as well. I think they're also a good in-between type of project in that they don't knit up super fast but they also aren't as huge a time commitment as sweaters or other larger projects.
It might sound cliched, but I'd have to say the world around me. I'm always seeing patterns and textures in nature, in architecture, in interesting industrial design, etc. For example, there's a thing I always pass on my way home that was put into the sidewalk where a ramp was placed. I don't know exactly what it's called, but it has a really interesting texture to it, and I keep meaning to sketch it to see if it would work in a colorwork pattern.
Which of your designs is your favorite? (if you had to choose...)
Well, if I really have to choose, I'd have to say Leventry, which coincidentally has been my most popular pattern to date. I think it's my favorite because it was the first time I had a very clear vision of a design and actually got the knitted piece to come out exactly as it was in my head. Most of the time, there's a lot of tweaking in the knitting process, and the sample is never quite exactly as I originally pictured the design, so I really think there was a lot of kismet in this particular pattern.
I have a bit of a designer crush on Bristol Ivy. I find her designs really inventive but not overly complicated or elaborate. I also really admire Julia Trice, who has beautiful designs but also is wonderfully generous with her time and knowledge on Ravelry.
Any upcoming projects you can give us a hint about?
Well, I released a new shawl pattern yesterday and I have a cowl version of the Leventry shawl in testing (hoping to release it at the beginning of May). I'm also working on the sample for a new sock pattern. And of course there are always more design ideas than I have time to play with, so there are lists and sketches tucked all over the place.