Monday, December 15, 2014

Designer Profile: Lotta Groeger

As part of the 2014 Gift-A-Long on Ravelry, I am having fun interviewing several other indie designers. My second interview is Lotta Groeger, whose user name is Atalante on Ravelry. She has published in a number of places, including Knitty:

You can see all Gift-A-Long patterns and designers and goings-on at the Gift-A-Long group on

Here is Lotta's Tron shawl.

(If you don't have a Ravelry account, sign up. It's free and easy!)

Book lovers will love Lotta's Reading Mitten. (See the books?)

Lotta is from Germany, which gives me a special affinity for her since one of my late grandmothers was from there. Her designs have a strong graphic quality, which I absolutely love! 

One of my favorite designs from her is one that I already shared on Facebook, Das Wauldhaus, which is available cuff down or my obviously favorite way, toe up!

I love the free-form scribbles. (This pattern is part of a terrific collection.)

Now that you are properly inspired, let's talk to her!

Let’s start at the beginning. When did you begin knitting—and why? What captivated you about it?
I did learn to knit as a child, but only ever the knit stitch. I never got the hang of it, and it took me years to finish a garter-stitch scarf. I relearned in my second semester at the university. There were several reasons I started. I needed something I could carry around and work on between lectures or while commuting. The I found the Coraline cardigan from Ysolda  Teague online. My mother can knit but her English is not good enough to work from an English pattern. And it was the beginning of autumn, so there was a lot of knit items around.
So I went to a store, bought some 4mm DPNs and cotton yarn--at least I skipped acrylic!--and went online to learn.
As people get better at what they do, they learn more and more with practice. Your designs are wonderfully creative! What have you done over the years to get better at designing? 
Oh a lot. When I look back at my first version of my first pattern--ouch! I have changed the layout at least twice since the beginning; now I'm happy with the look. I started using a charting program, something I didn't even know existed when starting. I now have a tech editor and use test knitters, and the best compliment is that I have returning testers! I even sometimes use a professional model who for example stars in a cinema commercial here in Berlin. It's great to have friends with cool jobs!
A relatively new thing for me is grading garments. I just finished the pattern for my first sweater; for that I took a class on grading.
How do you go about coming up with ideas for your work?
I get a lot of my ideas from just talking to my knitting friends. I have a great knit meeting, and the girls are really supportive of my designing. If you look at my shawl Juliane, that design started when the lace queen of my knit meeting asked for a Faroese style shawl with cables, beads and lace. 
Another great inspiration for me are comic books and fairy tales. I'm a major geek when it comes to comic books, and after bouncing some ideas with a friend on twitter I now have enough design ideas in my little note book to fill two collections. 
What kinds of knitters do you envision knitting your designs?
I have to say, nearly all my designs aren't for the beginner knitter. I like technique and patterns that keep me entertained even when I have made more then enough swatches and drawn the chart. 
I hope that my designs are geeky enough for people like me, but still "normal" enough for knitters who aren't obsessed with superheros or Doctor Who. I design with me and my knit meeting in mind. 
I would assume that it’s true for everyone that one’s environment helps one create with their creative vision. You live in Germany. What is around you, and what kind of influence does that have on your work?
Well the two fairy tale collections I did where influenced by the brothers Grimm books and my favorite tales. 
The winters, with temperatures down to -20°C, are one of the reasons I design a lot of fingerless mittens. Ok maybe fingerless is not the best option with -20°C, but I still have to be able to knit on the U- and S-Bahn here.
And with Berlin being a street-fashion hot spot, I get a lot of great ideas while just walking the streets. You see a knitted item and want to incorporate that one interesting stitch pattern into something different, or a really cool commercial stocking I have to just make into a hand-knitted knee high.
If you could pick one or two favorites from your work, what would they be and why?
Cruel question! Because it's getting cold outside, I carry my Das Waldhaus Mitten around everywhere; they are warm and they bring a nice burst of color to my outfit.
And I love my Juliane shawl
I made it from one of the first yarns I spun on my spindle. Lace, cables and beads: As I mentioned above, I'm a technique freak when knitting, and still it's a pattern that just flew from the needles. And keeps me warm outside!
Thank you for such a feast of color and pattern, Lotta! We will all keep watching for new things from you!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Interview: Stephannie Tallent

As part of the 2014 Gift-A-Long on Ravelry, I am having fun interviewing several other indie designers. Up first is Stephannie Tallent, who lives waaaaay across the country from me in California.

You've probably heard of Stephannie (StephCat on Ravelry), as she has published many, many patterns. You can see them all at this link to her Ravelry page. If not, you're in for a real treat.

Until November 21, she has selected twenty of her patterns at 25% off on her Gift-A-Long page. (I would post a few of them here, but I suggest that instead you should just click on the link and go see them all!)

This year's Gift-A-Long will run Thursday, November 13th at 8 pm (US-EST) through Wednesday December 31st at midnight (US-EST). Those dates are for prize eligibility. The sale period will run until Friday November 21 at 11:59 pm (US-EST). Discount will be 25% off. When you check out after having bought a Gift-A-Long pattern, use to code giftalong2014 to get your discount.You can see all Gift-A-Long patterns and designers and goings-on at the Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry. (If you don't have a Ravelry account, sign up. It's free and easy!)

When gifting time is over, do be sure to look at a few of Stephannie's other patterns that might take you a little longer to make. I must say that I particularly love the book of patterns she edited, Hitch: Patterns Inspired by the Films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Stephannie, I am a total marshmallow, and I admit it. Perhaps someday I'll be brave enough to actually watch a Hitchcock movie or ride the Tower of Terror at Disney--but in the meantime, I will have to queue the Exacta Hat:

And since I love birds so much, I also must fuss over her Ravens in the Snow mittens.

And I will never get over her Peacock Cowl from the stunning book, California Revival Knits.

Inspired by Stephannie? I thought so. Let's have a conversation, shall we?

Let’s start at the beginning. When did you begin knitting—and why? What captivated you about it, and what has kept you going?

I started knitting around junior high (um, a very long time ago!). I’ve always like making things. I also learned to crochet around the same time. I think the more important question is why I knit now. I still love creating things, of course. I don’t think you ever lose that. I do love the tactile and visual aspects of knitting – forming stitches and fabrics, watching the interplay of colors and textures. I love working with natural fibers and reveling in the differences, not only between plant and animal based fibers, but between different species of animals and even different breeds.

As people get better at what they do, they learn more and more with practice. Your designs are wonderfully creative! What have you done over the years to get better at designing?
I’m a big fan of frogging [laughs]. It never hurts to try something new. Short of working with super sticky mohair, you can always frog. I love learning new techniques, different options or ways of doing something, and so on. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of new things to learn.

What kinds of knitters do you envision knitting your designs?
Although I have a few beginner-friendly patterns, most of my designs are for adventuresome advanced beginners or intermediate knitters.

Having said that, I do have patterns that are specifically designed to be good for learning and practicing a technique:

Quatrefoil Mitts for stranding:

Lagniappe for beading:

Achillea for Aran Lace:

 and Carex for twisted stitches:

I prefer to list required skills rather than a skill level on my patterns. Just because someone’s a whiz at lace doesn’t mean they know how to strand, for example. I list the skills not to say you have to be able to do a particular skill before doing a particular pattern, but so that you know what you may need to learn if you don’t know how to do that skill already.

I would assume that it’s true for everyone that one’s environment helps one create with their creative vision. You live in California. What is around you, and what kind of influence does that have on your work?
I’m lucky to live near the beach. I’m also lucky in that I’ve been able to travel to some really gorgeous places in California. I live in a little Spanish revival bungalow, and love old (relatively speaking) houses.

Architecture and nature and two huge influences on my work; I’ll create, use or create motifs with ties to architectural details, or aspects of animals, geology, or plants.

I also love going through stitch dictionaries and vintage lace patterns; often I’ll find a stitch pattern that drives the design.

If you could pick one or two favorites from your work, what would they be and why?
Ravens in Snow fingerless mitts & Cactus Wren cami.I love how the stranded motifs (all different for palm, thumb gusset & back of hand) work together and are set off by the lace cuff in Ravens in Snow.


Plus the Corvidae family of birds includes some of my favorite birds: Ravens, Crows, and Jays (Scrub, Blue, & Green).

Cactus Wren is something I actually get to wear here in Southern California.

You can wear it as a vest, but I usually just wear it over a cotton camisole. I love the yarn (Dance rustic silk from Dragonfly Fibers) and the lace. I used some vintage buttons for the front, and that makes me happy, to have that touch of old with the new. I feel it’s comfortable, flattering, and pretty without being too frou frou.\

Thanks, Stephannie, for so much inspiration! (I want to start talking about your gorgeous Tonkinese cats now, but I think I'll stop here since that could go on for too many more pages!)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"New" Patterns

I love being able to design my own things. I can make things I want that others haven't made. I can make the instructions say what I want them to say. And I can make the look what I want it to be.

A year ago, I became a color consultant for Color Me Beautiful. When I learned that I was an "autumn," I realized quickly that I had knit many of my favorite patterns in colors that were less than flattering to my coloring. I immediately wanted to reknit many of them.

So I am doing that, and I am using that opportunity to reshoot some of the photos for my patterns--changing the look. As it happens, Misty, who is often my model, has coloring similar to mine. So I've been revamping the photos for my patterns, and I think Misty looks better in them too! What do you think?

Before: Alice Bee

And after: Alice Bee

Before: Lindsay's Perfect Mitts

And after: Lindsay's Perfect Mitts

Before: Miyuki Cowl

And after: Miyuki Cowl

Before: Linen-Stitch Scarf

And after (thanks to Eleanor, actually!): Linen-Stitch Scarf

That's a nice start! There are more new pictures in the works--and maybe soon a few new patterns, too! Fall is upon us, and it's knitting season!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Modular (No Sew!) Baby Sweater

A few months ago, Made in America Yarns and I had a little chat about designing some patterns. They particularly needed some baby things. They sent me yarn, and for some reason, their American Lamb in pink and purple variegated screamed to me, "Baby Sweater!"

So I set to work. I don't know how I thought of making this sweater, to tell you the truth, but sometimes ideas just pop into my head, and I work with them. This particular idea was to make a modular sweater. I started out wanting it to be stockinette, but the math just wasn't working and the pieces didn't fit together smoothly. Rip, rip, rip. I switched to good old garter stitch.

The sweater was a ball to knit. I designed it during a vacation to Disney World, and I have to say that the pink and purple yarn just seemed at home with all the princesses that were walking past.

To make it, you start out by making a center front and then a center back panel. Then you pick up stitches along the sides, using slipped stitches as a finishing edge (just as you do for my log-cabin blanket pattern), and you knit toward the side seams.

When you get to the width desired, you put the stitches on a holder. You pick up for the shoulder seams, and use a 3-needle-bindoff to join them.

Then you take the sleeve stitches off the holder and knit the sleeves out. (They are knit extra-long so that the cuffs turn up. I envisioned it both ways, and I couldn't get past the idea of turned-up cuffs.)

When that's done, you pick up the stitches under the arms, you put the side stitches back on the needle, and then you do one, big 3-needle bindoff under the arms and down the sides--and voila! Your sweater is finished!

(By the way, the pattern has a typo. The baby sweater takes 2 skeins of American Lamb, not one. I blame Yarn-Fumes for this oversight on my part.) 

I loved working with Made in America's American Lamb yarn! On top of feeling great, it looks great! The variegation was super-cute for this project, turning into mini stripes.

It was a happy knitting day when I saw my work up on their website. You will find the free pattern on their website here. Or you can get to it via Ravelry.

Thanks for inspiring me, Made in America!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Teegan, Continued

Teegan seems to be captivating people! I'm having fun watching this pattern do well on a "Nerd Wars" board on Ravelry. If you are on Ravelry (a site that is like a Facebook for knitters, for you nonknitters out there), follow this link to watch the action:

Ravelry Nerd Wars: Scroll down the page, and look for madamezola’s hat called Bert and Ernie. That is actually Teegan.

If you are not on Ravelry, then I will update you. As of this writing, Teegan has gathered 98 votes in a 5-way race of knitting projects. The next vote-getting project is at 84 votes. The voting for this round ends at the end of the month.

So that has been fun to watch. (Feel free to go there still to add your vote!)

The other fun thing about Teegan this month happened when Anne walked in the other day:

She had made multiple Teegans for her son's family and brought them in to show me. Mom and Dad and baby are each getting a Teegan. And Anne, having a great deal of foresight, also made the baby a larger Teegan for when he is bigger. She has promised me upon a stack of yarn that she will show me photos of everyone in their hats.

So I want to thank everyone for voting on Teegan and for making Teegan. It has been exciting to watch! 

I am going to start a class called "Really Clear Year" at Stitch Your Art Out. It will be a monthly class, and we will do only my patterns. We are going to vote on the Really Clear patterns to make--for all but the first class. For that one, we're going to start with Teegan. Fair Isle is always fun and always exciting to see, but on this project, trust me that you will particularly love making the earflaps. I hope you can join the class! Call the shop between 10 and 5:30 to enroll!

Monday, December 10, 2012


The photographer who takes my photos wanted an earflap hat for a prop. I started designing one. I took it to her, and she fell in love with it--so much so that it turned into her own hat.

I hadn't planned on anything further, but as soon as she put it on, I decided it needed to be a pattern.

So I made her pose for the pattern photo.

I first wrote the pattern back in August, but it took this long to get it through testing and revision. It is ready now, and is available on Ravelry, and will also be on paper at Stitch Your Art Out by Tuesday or Wednesday. It uses Dale of Norway's Falk, one of my favorite yarns. You can make one for everyone in the family--the sizing runs from baby to large adult. The ear flaps are particularly fun to make, if I do say so myself. (Can you tell what I did by looking at them?)

The best part about Teegan, however, is that as you work, the colors of yarn will dance in your hands. There is nothing more satisfying or addicting than a little bit of Fair-Isle!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Make a Million

Shawls have always bugged me a little. I like them, but I have never liked the way they fit. When they are made straight across (as most of them are), the neck always sticks out or rolls down. But once I figured out that if you make more increases, the shawl curves around the neck, I started working on a pattern.

Writing the pattern took much testing. I tried out many different types of increases and had many modifications along the way. I can't even tell you what I did anymore. But I do remember that I made the first version out of Harrisville Highland, one of my favorite yarns:
When I am an old woman, I shall wear purp...  


The next version I made was this one:

It's made out of yarns from about four different companies. Here, I was fiddling with adding yarn-overs, beads, a ruffle, and working the back increase to make it as pretty as possible. (If you look at the shawl from the back, you'll see 3 or 4 different types of increases.)

As I worked on these shawls, I really enjoyed them. I thought it would be good to make one out of the gorgeous, natural wool we have from Underhill Farms, a local farm that's an hour away from us. This is actually my favorite version, even though it's not quite so flashy:

(I'm looking up at little birdies in the trees here, in case you were wondering.)

And then I thought, what if I used our really cool silk yarn from Himalaya Yarns as fringe on our really cool bulky yarn from Noro? This is what happened:


By now, Kim had caught on to my enthusiasm and started making her own shawls. (I had them out on loan for a day for photos.) She wanted one that had varying shades of orange-toned pinks, with purples. She got this:

Then she wanted greens, greens, greens!

I think she might be working on another, but I'm not sure. She has a lot of knitting projects going at the moment, and I've lost track.

I was thinking I'd be tired of this shawl at this point, despite its name. Honestly, I'm not.

I'm not tired of it. Not at all. I want to make more! more! more! It really does live up to its name. And it is so great for travel knitting. It's easy and fun.

I'm working on two more right now. One is in Kauni:

I'm thinking about adding some Artyarns Mohair Splash toward the edge to dress it up a bit. Hmmmm....

And the other is in stash yarn that I happen to have in "Hello Kitty" colors!

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I think I don't have enough pink in my life. So I have more yarn set aside for an all-pink one in many textures of just pink. Rumor has it that it may also contain sequins.

I'll be teaching this class at Stitch Your Art Out this coming Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. I hope you'll join us; it is inspirational to see what others are making! Give the store a call at 814-238-4151 to sign up.