knitting series

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. 

Solenn Couix-Loarer is a French designer who lives in Rennes (Brittany) with her husband and two little boys. She publishes knitting patterns in French and English (Ravelry link) and is working on the launch of a brand of knitting yarn made of locally sourced wool which will be available this autumn. You can follow her adventures on her blog (in French), de rerum natura.

Thank you Kathreen for this invitation!

I wanted to learn to knit a few years ago for the pleasure of touching beautiful materials and turn them into something. Something different and personal. Something that will last. Something sweet, sensual and simple. Something that gives me as much pleasure to conceive, make, wear or offer.

I remember very well when I discovered that with thread and needles I could virtually transform any simple sketch into a knitted object. On graph paper I drew a silhouette of a fish that I simply knitted by replacing each square by a stitch. An hour later, I was holding in my hands a small soft fish and a new world opened up to me! There is something magical about slowly seeing a thought transforming into an object and then seeing it coming to life in the hands of other knitters. What a joy to discover, on Ravelry, babies around the world wearing my little cardigan Korrigan!

When I imagine a model, I particularly like associating motifs, sometimes classic, to more innovative techniques to create clothing that is stimulating to knit and comfy to wear. This modern retro style
is very dear to me. For example, for the pullover Lancelot, I worked from a traditional cable pattern that I slightly redesigned to give more lightness and that I associated with ribs and short-rows for shaping the neckline. The raglan sleeves, the buttons on the shoulder and the seamless build give a much more sporty and modern look to the classic Irish pullover and turn boys into very cute little knights!

Sometimes it is the discovery of a new technique that creates the desire for a new project. For the cardigan Artichaut, the starting point was some tests to line a garter stitch border with slipped stitches. I realized that when I was associating this border with increases on the stockinnette part, a natural curve was created (which didn’t suit me at all for what I had planned to do!). Rather than trying to cover with blocking the gap between the border and the rest of the fabric, I tried instead to accentuate the curvature by doubling the increases. To my delight, I got a nice hemline very surprising to make since it gives the impression to create itself!

I then had fun highlighting these smooth and modern lines, imagining short sleeves shaping with twisted stitches and a bottom edge in one piece in order to preserve the curves. Associated with a very classic simple seed stitch, these techniques are actually quite simple and rather fun to make, and helped to create a little bolero that embodies exactly what I love designing and knitting.

While it is very exciting to draw for adults, I especially like to imagine models for children because knitting for them is for me a very special way to surround them with our love and preserve them from
global consumption. When my boy tells me very seriously that he prefers pullovers that I knit because they are softer, first my heart melts a little — and then I tell myself that this feeling of softness comes probably not only from the quality of the wool, but also from all the thoughts of kindness and comfort put into it while being slowly and tenderly knitted for him. The idea that my little boy grows up keeping this value of crafted things pleases me enormously.

And then (very objectively of course…), how beautiful they are in their little princes clothes!

So obviously, they grow too fast, they get dirty even faster and it is not difficult for acrylic sweaters made in China to be cheaper, but I think life is just too short not to enjoy these little joys!

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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.

Karen lives and knits in Canada – her day is not complete without knitting a few rows – you can follow her on her blog (in French only) and on her Pinterest.

robe tunique à feuilles

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.

Colorblock

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!

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Image from: Kate Gagnon Osborn - Kelbourne Woolens who will be here 16 October. Kate is just one of the 20 or so designers who will be sharing their stories, tips and design inspirations here over the coming weeks.

I am very excited over the next two months to be showcasing a series of my favourite knitting designers. These wonderful designers have been generous with their time to explain their design thoughts and process with us. Starting tomorrow and continuing over the next two months, whipup will be featuring two designers per week, who will discuss, ruminate and explore issues behind being a knitwear designer, designing for a manufacturer v’s for hand knitters, self publishing v’s traditional publishing and indie magazine publishing, as well as showcasing some lovely designs and explaining the process behind designing and publishing knitting patterns for sale.

It is going to be a fun and interesting series, I hope you stick around for the ride. Make sure to ask questions of the designers, visit their blogs and ravelry store and support independent knitters everywhere! Yay!

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