Category Archive for: ‘Designers’

GAL 2015 Interview: Designer Tanja Luescher


We’re entering the last week of the Indie Design Gift-A-Long over on Ravelry (check it out here if you want to join in the fun!). One of the best things about the GAL for me is discovering new-to-me designers.

Tanja Luescher designs gorgeous lace shawls and accessories. She kindly answered a few questions for me, so without further ado, here’s the interview!


Tanja modeling her Marion’s Cowl design

Triona Murphy (TM): What inspired you to start designing?

Tanja Luescher (TL): I modified patterns or used recipes to create my own very soon. I’m very small, so I had to make changes to get something that fits me. After a course on shawl design by Renee Leverington I felt confident enough to publish my own patterns.

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Margrit’s Pi Shawl

TM: You have such gorgeous intricate lace designs! What is your design process like for these?

TL: In the beginning, I take out my huge collection of stitch dictionaries and see what I fall in love with this time. Sometimes I have an idea what I’m looking for, sometimes I just let the pictures inspire me. When I’ve found one or more stitch patterns, I change some details here and there to make them work for the item I have in mind, and after that begin to knit. In that phase, a lot can happen. A shawl might become a cowl, stitch patterns get added or removed. I have to see the knitting on my needles to know what the design really wants to be. I envy those who have a perfect plan and a pattern written out before they begin to knit. Maybe I’ll get there some day. :)

TM: Are you participating in the Gift-A-Long as a crafter as well as a designer? If so, what do you plan to make/have you made?

TL: I’ve cast on Vining Roses by Natalia Sha, Fairy Ring Socks by Kirsten McTeer, Pleach by Clare Devine and Sand Tracks Scarf by Tracey Lee. I love this opportunity to knit other people’s designs! :)

TM: Is there a design of yours that you love and would like to see more people make?

TL: Yes, Soraya’s Faroese Shawl, I’d love to see it get more attention.

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Soraya’s Faroese Shawl

TM: What are your design goals for the next year?

I want to have more than 30 patterns available and answer some submission calls. An idea I’ve already begun with is working with Caterpillargreenyarn’s Shawl Striping yarns and see what happens when you use them for other shapes than the triangles that they are meant for. It’s so much fun to experiment with the gorgeous colors!

Interview with Designer Gillian Grimm of Birch Hollow Cottage!


I have another fun interview with a fellow Indie Design Gift-A-Long designer today! Gillian has some adorable patterns in her Ravelry shop, and I’ve already seen several pop up in the KAL/CAL threads in the Gift-A-Long Ravelry group. I asked her a few questions about her design background and inspirations.


Triona Murphy: What inspired you to start designing?
Gillian Grimm: I’ve always been a tinkerer when it comes to patterns, in both sewing and knitting. I spent several years making adjustments to existing patterns to better suit my needs and that led to designing things from scratch. Once I started down that road there was no going back :)

TM: Your mitten patterns for kids are adorable! I especially like the Gnome Mittens and Little Hedgehog Mittens. What inspired you to start making them? Which one is your favorite?

piclab_copy_5_medium2 hedgehog_1_medium2

GG: Well thank you! My animal mittens were inspired both by the creatures that lived in the woods around us and also characters from children’s books. I was especially inspired by Jan Brett’s The Mitten and some of her other picture books for my first round of animal mittens and I have some new picture book inspired mittens in the works that I hope to release during the GAL! I also draw inspiration from my children and their friends. I’m always looking for ways to create items that they will wear and love and have fun with!

TM: The name Birch Hollow is very evocative. Do you really live near birch trees, or are they just favorites of yours?
GG: Birch Hollow Cottage is, indeed, a real place. Until this spring we lived high up in the mountains in Vermont in a house surrounded by birch and maple trees, plenty of wild animals and two creeks. It was the perfect place to curl up in front of the wood stove with piles of wool and knit and dream away. We’re now living in an old house in Portland, Oregon, which we also love, although I’m not sure anyplace will every compare to our time in the Birch Hollow. :)

TM: Are you planning to participate in the Gift-A-Long as a crafter as well as a designer? If so, what do you plan to make?
GG: Definitely! We try to make Christmas each year as much about handmade and homemade gifts as we can. I’ll be picking out some hat and scarf patterns to make as gifts but I’m also on the hunt for a great sweater pattern that I can make for myself in the new year.

TM: What are your design goals for the next year?
GG: I’ll be releasing most of my animal mittens in adult sizes as well as introducing some more animals into the group. I’ve also got some fun hat projects in the works, plus I’d like to branch out more in the shawl area. I’ve got lots of sketches and ideas and I can’t wait to get knitting.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Gillian as much as I did! As for my own GAL knitting, I finished a present for my son’s first Christmas. Stay tuned for that soon!

Interview with Designer Tabi Ferguson!


As part of the Gift-A-Long 2014 festivities (check out the Ravelry group if you haven’t already!), I got the chance to interview designer/spinner/yarnie Tabi Ferguson. See below to find out more about her designs and her yarns!

Triona Murphy: What inspired you to start designing?
Tabi Ferguson: With my first design, Link and Link Cowl. I wanted  a lace motif that included circles but there wasn’t anything in the stitch dictionaries that worked, so I decided to design my own. Now I try to create new motifs in every design I do based on a sketch. I also wanted to design based on the yarns I carry. Each yarn has different characteristics: elasticity (or not), bloom (or not), loft (or not), relative durability, etc. Some designs work better with some yarns.
TM: Besides being a designer, you’re also a spinner and an indie dyer. How do the three activities compare? Do you find one more difficult than the others?
TF: They all have their fun aspects and their challenges.  I’d say designing is the most challenging but it keeps the mind sharp. Sometimes it’s not the motif that’s the most challenging. I recently designed a sock pattern with a new cable/circle/texture motif that only took a day or so to get charted. The challenge was figuring out how to work it into a sock shape. Let’s just say I have even more respect for sweater designers now!
Spinning is meditation. If I go too long without spinning, I get a little cranky :-) I went almost immediately to spinning luxury fibres, so for the last year  I’ve been concentrating on spinning fleeces. Spinning silk is such perfection, that It’s been a fun change imagining the personalities of each individual sheep based on the characteristics of their locks and spinning to that.


Dyeing is relatively instant gratification. Though it takes longer to dye silk because of the extra time needed for soaking, when I’m standing over the dyepots I imagine all the cool things people will knit and spin with the outcome…. which is dry the next day! The challenge is you don’t always have full controll when you’re dyeing so sometimes you have to let go of the colour idea you had in mind and just let things flow. Colour is highly subjective and someone will love it. I also really enjoy seeing the colour combinations customers choose, it gives one fresh eyes!


TM: From your design catalogue, it looks like you gravitate toward fingering and laceweight yarns. Do you have any plans to work in other weights in the future, or have you found your sweet spot?
TF: I carry mostly lace and fingering yarns because luxury fibres are very fine and, unless they’re multiple plies, they work best in those weights. But….
It’s funny that you ask that! This fall I brought out a new 50/50 Silk/Yak 4ply and 100% Yak 3ply series in…..Sport/DK! specifically because I wanted to design something luxury for guys. Ok, my guy :-) I also wanted to see if the natural brown yak took the dye with the same intensity as the natural buffalo. The results are exactly what I wanted. Anyway, I threw together a double-sided Fair Isle scarf design from the natural yak and a handspun similar to the Silk/Yak but A) I’ve now worn it more than ‘the guy’ has (oops) and B) I’ve had a few requests for the pattern, so I’d better get knitting one for myself so I can figure out what I did! I did manage to get a neckwarmer version of my Ceylon Cowldone up in one skein of Silk/Yak for the Woodstock Fleece Festival.


TM: Are you planning to participate in the Gift-A-Long as a crafter as well as a designer? If so, what do you plan to make?
TF: I’m a little late starting my Holiday knitting, but a pair of fingerless gloves has been requested by mom and the guy really needs a toque, so I’ll be checking out the GAL for those designs!


TM: What are your design goals for the next year?
TF: I have a new side-to-side and triangular shawl design based on the design I did for the PLY Magazine Silk issue but using my new Multi-Ply Silk. I think another Fair Isle design similar to the Clouds of Luxury, mixing and matching different luxury yarns. The Ceylon Series or the Link series may get another addition. I enjoy exploring different interpretations and trying new shapes.
Thanks for being on the blog today, Tabi! If you want to check out her designs, they’re available on Ravelry here. There’s still plenty of time to knit up one of her designs as a gift or for yourself and be entered to win fabulous prizes in the Gift-A-Long!

Blog Week Day 6: Views of Others, Views of Yourself 5KCBWDAY6


Write about another knitter or crocheter that you admire.

After TNNA a few weeks ago, I was overflowing with admiration for my fellow knitting and crochet designers. Most have families, many have day jobs, and all have obligations, but they still manage to produce beautiful, quality patterns for others to enjoy. It takes a lot of dedication and love of the craft!

I was at the show exhibiting through my print pattern distributor, Stitch Sprouts, so I got to chat and hang out with several other Stitch Sprouts designers. Since I can’t pick just one, I’m going to show you my favorite designs from a few of them.

First up, Corrina Ferguson of PicnicKnits. She designs, among other things, stupendous lace shawls. I’m in awe of this one in particular, which I got to see in person at the show:

This is Biellese (Ravelry link):

BielleseNext there’s Katherine Vaughan. She has a great mix of accessories, baby knits, and garments in her portfolio. I got to see this lovely tank top design at the show before its official release (it’s since gone live on Ravelry–check out May Dance!):

May DanceHeather Zoppetti, the creative wizard behind Stitch Sprouts, is also highly talented designer (although I honestly don’t know how she finds any time to do it–I think maybe she’s figured out how to clone herself).

Here’s one of her new designs, Tulsi. I love the colorwork:

TulsiThe other cool thing is that this hat is knit in a brand-new yarn, Stitch Sprouts Yellowstone (DK weight, 80% wool, 20% silk). I got to fondle it at the show and let me tell you, it’s dreaaammmy. I may, without admitting anything, have picked up a few skeins for a colorwork hat/mitt design of my own.

Finally, there’s Mindy Wilkes. Mindy specializes in clever lace shawls, and I love that she doesn’t just stick to one weight of yarn. Harvest Moon, one of my favorites, is knit with a worsted weight yarn, Tosh Vintage (which, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know is probably my favorite yarn ever):

Harvest MoonIn the interest of space, I won’t gush about all of the Stitch Sprouts designers (although I will mention that Andrea Rangel, Stephannie Tallent, and Lindsey Stephens of Poetry in Yarn all have some awesome designs I got to ogle at the show too). But let me just say that I left the show feeling inspired (and frankly, a bit humbled) by all the talent.

Rhinebeck 2012 in Pictures


Rhinebeck was AWESOME. Completely amazing. I’ll be going again next year for sure!

Warning: very photo-heavy post ahead.


Barn of amazing vendors

Ravelry meetup

A shot of a small number of the people at the Ravelry meetup (it was huge!)

Mr. T the sheep

Mr. T the sheep

Rhinebeck dream sweater back

New sweater in action

Rhinebeck designers

Me with two lovely designers: Becky of Sugar Tree and Danielle of Makewise Designs

angora bunnies

Angora bunnies!

maple cotton candy

Delicious maple cotton candy next to undyed roving. Can you tell which is which?

Gavin face

Hubby clowning around in the sweater I knit him last year–we got so many compliments! Of course, it helps that he's adorable.

knitting in line

Knitting in the (very long) line for lunch


Another barn full of amazing vendors

Rhinebeck Chandail

(Pardon the lens flare) A sighting of Chandail in the wild!!! I was so excited! This lovely lady is Amy, who sought me out at the meetup! :-D

I spotted another Chandail just walking around, which made me stop in my tracks and squeal to my husband like a little girl. And I had several people tell me they had been following the progress of my new sweater on Ravelry and were excited to see it in person! I passed out loads of business cards and (of course) bought some delicious yarn.

More on that in a few days :-)

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Your Knitting Hero 3KCBWDAY3


long KCBW banner

Today’s topic requests that I blog about someone in the fiber arts who really inspires me. I knew right away that I’d want to talk about one of the designers I admire–after all, looking at them is what made me think, “Hey, I might be able to do this design thing!” in the first place.

But who to choose? There are so many talented and awesome designers out there right now, and thanks to Ravelry, I can stalk follow their every designing move. I especially love Ysolda Teague’s modern and simple style, Marnie MacLean’s romantic, textural designs and willingness to help upcoming designers, and Romy Hill’s beautiful shawls (if I actually, you know, KNIT shawls, I’d be all over that).

But the designer I decided to focus on today is Wendy Bernard, who blogs at She designs modern, figure-flattering garments that pretty much always appeal to me. And although she lives in southern California too, she doesn’t shy away from my beloved wool!

A look through my Ravelry projects tells me she was a good choice (these are all projects from before I started designing, of course).

Here’s Jordan (all pattern links go to Ravelry pages):


A striped Tomato in-progress (I did finish it, promise, but for some reason never got pics!):

Tomato I/P

And Dream Swatch Head Wrap:

Dream Swatch

Look at my short blond hair–yikes!

I’ve also made Sizzle, which was gifted to a friend before pictures could be taken, and Something Red, which turned out a little too small (totally user error) and then had to be frogged to make something else due to lack of yarn.

Now, five FOs from the same designer may not sound like much, but that’s BY FAR the most I’ve knit of anyone’s patterns in my almost 10 years of knitting. And even though I can’t really justify knitting anything that isn’t my own design right now, I still am dying to make these sweaters from Wendy’s wonderful Custom Knits book:

Slinky Ribs:

Slinky Ribs

Favorite Cardigan:

Favorite Cardigan

Also Opulent Raglan, which I actually BOUGHT YARN FOR right before I started designing and then ended up destashing so it would stop taunting me.

Opulent Raglan

I haven’t bought Custom Knits 2, because I have a feeling I’ll fall in love with sweaters in there too and it’ll just make me sad. But I will continue to admire Wendy’s design aesthetic and prolific output (Custom Knits: Accessories comes out next week!). I will also continue reading her blog, where she shares interesting and often moving stories about the business of designing, knitting, and life in general.

So thank you, Wendy, for being such an inspiration to this newbie designer :-)