January 19, 2010

The Fabulous Jane Richmond

I feel so lucky today to be able to share an interview with the fabulous Jane Richmond, knitwear designer extraordinaire, certainly one of the most popular designers featured in the Magpie Patterns shop.

A few of her patterns that I have trouble keeping in stock (they seem to sell the very day they arrive) include:

And you really should stop by her lovely blog where she shares knitting tales, new designs, and her experience living on the amazingly beautiful Vancouver Island in British Columbia (one of my favorite places on Earth...).

Who taught you to knit? How long have you been knitting?
My mother taught me to knit when I was 5 years old on a pair of wooden chopsticks and some scrap yarn. She bought me my first set of needles and I would make these tight little swatches. I lost interest and eventually relearned as a teenager on a pair of metal grilling skewers. 

How did you get started designing patterns and how long have you been doing it? 

I have been designing as long as I’ve been knitting, I just didn’t know I was doing it. When I wasn’t following a pattern I used to knit garments using a gauge swatch, a few rough numbers, and very minimal notes. It never occurred to me that I was designing. Ravelry opened up the knitting world to me, being able to explore the work of talented independent designers inspired me to write and self publish my designs.

What’s the general process you go through when designing a new pattern? 
I have an enormous catalogue of sketches that I dream of knitting. When choosing a new design project I begin with one of these sketches or ideas, I then choose the yarn and begin swatching. The swatching normally leads me way off course because I tend to allow the yarn to tell me which direction to go. I am very picky about the tension of the knit fabric, I am also very particular when it comes to stitch patterns. Once I am happy with my swatches I spend endless amounts of time writing and rewriting the pattern. I am fanatical about fit and may end up knitting a garment 3 or 4 times over by the time all of the knitting and ripping is over and done with. One thing I always bear in mind is the simplicity of the written pattern, if something is more complicated than it’s worth I look for an alternative. It is important to me that my patterns are enjoyable to knit. 
Where do you find inspiration – for patterns, designs, life... 

I like to people watch. Fashion is so inspiring, when the weather gets cold I love to see what everyone is wearing... bundling up can be a very creative thing.  

Designing is a bit of an addiction, I find my mind always wandering off to knitwear ideas. I find it really helpful to keep a sketch book to jot down ideas and sketches that would otherwise get away. 

What is your favorite yarn to work with? 
I’ve spent most of my knitting years buying Red Heart and other cheap acrylic yarns just so that I could afford to keep knitting. Only in the last few years have I had the great luxury of using higher quality fibres so I feel very new in my exploration. Can I share a yarn I dream of working with?... I am head over heals for Blue Sky Alpacas. I frequent the Button and Needle Work Boutique in Victoria just so that I can fondle there huge selection of yarns by Blue Sky Alpacas. The fibre is so lovely and soft to the touch and their colour ways are so appealing to me. It’s to die for. 

Are you solely a knitter, or do you dabble in other crafts too? 
If I dabbled in other crafts there would be less time to knit. I’m kidding, well sort of. Occasionally I will dust off my sewing machine but normally it’s just to mend or hem something. There are so many things I would love to learn to do if there were more time in each day. 

What advice would you give a beginning knitter, or someone who wants to learn?
The very basics I learned from my Mother but the rest I learned from books. I would encourage anyone who would like to learn to pick up a simple How-to-Knit book and just give it a try. Once you have mastered a scarf or a dishcloth choose a pattern that is just a little out of your reach, a pattern that will teach you something new, if it’s too complicated you might end up feeling really lost and totally defeated. If you choose something that is just a little beyond your capabilities there is a wealth of information on knitting techniques on the internet, and don’t forget YouTube, video tutorials can be a life saver!

Happy knitting everyone!

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