Today’s interview guest in my “GAL 2016 – Designer Interview Series” is Kirsten McTeer. Come join as and find out why she loves to knit both socks and shawls.
Hello Kirsten, thank you to agree being interviewed and answer all my curious questions. Let’s start. How and why did you start writing and publishing knitting patterns?
Kirsten: I started writing and publishing designs in June 2014, quite by accident really. It wasn’t something I’d even considered by that point. If anything I was somewhat in awe of people who wrote patterns as I thought I wouldn’t have a clue where to start to do it myself. Then one morning on a weekend in June 2014 I woke up with a picture in my head of a small shawl that would be perfect for some yarn I had in my stash. I also knew that I didn’t want to look for a pattern like it, I wanted to make it up myself but didn’t really know where to start. Regardless of that, I got out of bed, got some knitting needles and some waste yarn, cast on, knitted a bit, ripped it out, tried again, ripped it out again, and soon worked out what I needed to do to make what I could see in my mind. Over that weekend my Yarnshine shawlette was born. I decided if I was going to go to all that trouble I would try putting a pattern together so I wrote down what I was doing, asked some questions on Ravelry and put my first pattern together. Having done one and found it well received, I thought I’d try another, which was my Speedy Snail baby sunhat. I enjoyed the whole process so much and was hooked from then on!
The pattern description for your Yarnshine shawlette says it is a wonderful pattern for multi-colored yarns. Looking at the shawls picture I do agree. And it is an asymmetric triangle, a shape I do like a lot.
So you got your first idea in your dreams and started swatching and frogging until you loved your result. What part of your design work is the most fun for you?
Kirsten: The most fun part for me is knitting up the sample! I have to be strict with myself and make sure I write the pattern up properly as soon as possible, as I knit from notes and sketched charts, and if I let myself do so I’d have a basket full of finished samples with no proper patterns to go along with them!
I know this feeling. And do you have any plans for 2017 yet? Or are some of your samples already scheduled to be released in the new year?
Kirsten: I have some sock patterns in the last stages of testing which will be released in the early part of 2017, and I have a couple of large shawls coming along as well. I’m also hoping to get my first garment pattern published. I have a poncho pattern in testing right now, and I’m in the process of writing a ladies’ summer vest pattern too. My main design focus is accessories still, but I would like to include more bigger projects in 2017
That sounds like a lot of fun patterns. Looking at today, what projects do you knit during the GAL2016?
Kirsten: During the GAL I have a small amount of gift knitting to do – I’m working on Badlands hat by Kathryn Folkerth at the moment and also intend to knit Fiddleback Hat and Cowl by Heather Storta. After that I plan to make some things for myself! On my list are Fathom Five Shipwreck Cowl by Raven Knits Design, one or more of Jo Torr’s sock patterns, Tanja Luescher’s Cowl of the Sirens, and maybe a sweater if I haven’t completely worn out by then!
Wow there are lots of cowls in your knitting plans. What type of projects do you prefer to design and why?
Kirsten: Can I pick two categories?
Kirsten: I love to design socks, and shawls. Socks because they are portable and relatively quick to knit, and because you can be more adventurous with them. I wouldn’t dream of wearing a sweater with bright patterning all over it but I’ll happily wear socks as loud and colourful as I can make them! Shawls because they are elegant to wear and a great way to show off a beautiful yarn or stitch pattern.
I see. And looking back at your plans for 2016, how do you balance being a designer with your work and family life?
Kirsten: I work part-time outside the home and have two small boys, and my designing has to fit around that. Most of my design work is done on the weekends and in the evenings after the children are in bed. Luckily I have a very supportive husband who shares running our home and who will take the children out and about so that I can have some peace if I’m trying to do maths for a sock pattern in four sizes simultaneously or chart tricky lace! Also, I prefer to self-publish my patterns so that I can work to my own deadlines. That way, if something does crop up with my day job or my family, I can put my designs down and they will wait until I get back to them.
Hooray for your lovely husband. My dear readers, choose your partner wisely and you will have more time to design. 😉 I am sure not everyone is as happy as you to have such a supportive partner. Maybe you can talk about your biggest pitfall and how did you solve it, so we others can learn from you?
Kirsten: Good question. I think my biggest pitfall so far has been getting over my reluctance to frog things that aren’t working. I’ve always been one to fudge rather than frog but you can’t really do that so much for design samples. Mistakes will show up in the photography, if something doesn’t fit the model (usually me!) it’s no good saying “Never mind, I’ll give it to my sister/my friend/my mother in law” because then I’m without my pattern sample. I’ve had to learn to be OK with ripping out and reknitting until it’s just right. The summer vest I mentioned earlier? That got ripped and reknitted so much I pretty much knitted the entire thing twice to get one vest, but I’m pleased with the outcome now, whereas the original not-quite-rights would have been given away.
Browsing through your pattern cataloge I fall in love with Armona. Would you mind telling me and my readers how you found the idea for this pattern? Maybe there is a story behind the pattern, or the yarn or both?
Kirsten: Armona was mainly inspired by the yarn itself. For my 40th birthday we took a family trip to Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm in Germany so I could visit the Wollmeise shop. I’ve enjoyed knitting with Wollmeise yarn for a few years so it was a treat to shop there in person rather than online. I spent some time there browsing the Nobody is Perfect shelves – their “seconds”, some because they have knots in the skeins or the colour bleeds but mainly because the colourway just didn’t come out right at all. Some are not far from the intended colourway – some are miles from where they should be. On those shelves I found a ‘second’ of my favourite colourway, Wichtelwalzer, which was much darker than the regular colourway should be, and I fell in love with the skein. I had had an idea for a two-colour shawl. I already had my Pertaining to Foliage, which is a big triple-triangle two-colour shawl in Wollmeise Pure, and I wanted to design something else along those lines. I picked out the dark brown (Ebenholz) to go along with it. Rather than the triple-triangle I decided to go with a crescent for this one, and I wanted to give the multi-coloured yarn a chance to really shine. I decided to alternate plain knit bands of the multi with bands of lace stitches, couldn’t decide which lace stitch pattern to use so picked out several, and the design just developed from there. For the name, I wanted a girl’s name, something meaning dark haired or similar, because of the dark brown yarn, so I searched a baby name website. One of the suggestions was Armona, a Hebrew name meaning chestnut brown, and it just seemed to fit!
Kirsten, thank you very much for your time answering my questions. I wish you the very best for your plans and looking forward to see your new shawl collection in 2017.
Find Kirsten McTeer online
Interested in reading more about Armona? GAL 2016 – Pattern Review – Armona by Kirsten McTeer