Knitting designer series: I invited a few of my favourite knitwear designers to discuss their design process and inspiration and to share some tips and ideas too.
I asked Karen a few questions about her design process and her knitwear designs for children.
You love designing for children – and your designs are so wearable, but with delightful details, can you discuss a little about your designs for children?
I really love the garter stitch, especially on kids’ garment, it is stretchy and classic and never goes out of fashion, so I try to integrate this stitch in most of my patterns. And knowing that my two girls are wearing their sweaters at school, I don’t feel comfortable knitting them with an expensive yarn, that’s why Cascade 220 is by far my favourite choice (yardage and colour choice for the price are unbeatable), and I would stress less if they come home with a tear in the cardigan.
To be honest I would love to knit for myself, and most of the ideas of design that are in my sketchbook are for adults – the thing is, I gained a lot of weight and I don’t feel comfortable knitting what I have in mind for the silhouette I have. That’s why my two girls (6 and 10) are the ones who benefit from my ideas.
In 2011 I was very fortunate to be contacted by a French publisher to write a knitting book for beginners – one of the patterns is a baby tunic with flowers, and when my youngest daughter asked for the same I took the opportunity to use the same flower motif but put it on a cardigan, that’s how Little Buds was born.
When I have an idea for designing a children’s garment I often start with a few sketches on paper, then I knit a swatch and start knitting for one of my daughters – I take notes as I go – and it’s only if I have requests for a pattern that I do the maths for multiple sizes – I consider myself a beginner in designing knitting patterns and my way of doing it may evolve in the future…
Tell us more about your book and the designs within.
My book was published a year ago (only in French) tricot mes secrets de fabrication. It is about MY way of knitting – I love using top down technique, magic loop and simple designs – but because it is intended for the beginner knitter it was not an easy task to put myself in the place of a beginner who doesn’t know how to knit. The book starts with the basic skills all knitters need to know, with some drawings (cast on, knit and purl row, increases/decreases etc..), I knit all the projects and I had almost all the freedom for the designs (except that I had to keep in mind the beginner level i.e no cables or more specific techniques) – it took me 3 months to knit and design all 17 projects.
At the beginning of the book the projects are simple and easy with some accessories (cowl, hat, baby blanket) and gradually they grow into more advanced (but still easy level) patterns (socks, children and women’s cardigan, shawl). A favourite design for the book is “debardeur“, a baby vest, I wanted something unisex, easy and quick to knit – a little vest was my favourite item when my girls where babies – easy to slip over pyjamas to keep the baby warm, not too bulky so they can move. Of course I started with the top-down technique and I suggested my readers to transform it with different stitches, colours and why not a few increases to make it into a little dress. For each project I give a few tips, so that the knitter can add her personal touch – I often change a few things when I knit other designer’s patterns and I wanted other knitters to feel free to do the same – in 3 words: dare to try.
Your Bulle sweater dress has been a popular design – knitters are saying that they love the shape and the modern line of this design, you also have an adult version – will you be designing more in this style? Tell us about your design concept, process and inspiration.
I barely did anything on this one ;o) – it all started with a tiny tunic for a Blythe doll that I made few years ago (with garter stitch on the yoke and a balloon effect on the body and the sleeves) and my oldest daughter always asked for the same in her size. She explained to me what she wanted based on the doll’s dress, and I have just knitted as close to her ideas as possible. Basically she designed it, and I did it. I love the coloured pockets but I regret that you don’t really see the colour touch, so when people asked me to design the adult version I decided to change a bit the pockets to make them more visible.
Thanks so much Karen – can’t wait to see what you design next!