Make & Hue

Hundreds of Sweaters

Feature Photo Caption: The time I spend writing a clear and correct instruction helps my knitting collaborator. 

As a knitwear designer with decades of experience, I have shared my most rewarding work with fellow knitters. Together we have made hundreds of one-of-a-kind sweaters in the process of creating patterns and samples for the craft industry and my books. Although several of my collaborators live nearby, others have lived thousands of miles away from my little studio in Providence, RI. I have worked with knitters, long-distance, in Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Colorado.

Collaboration with other knitters has been rewarding both professionally and personally. Each knitter brings something special to my design work. Equally rewarding are the rich friendships I have developed. My admiration for the depth of my friends’ lives and interests has always been part of this collaboration.

Getting started

In the late 80s, as a budding knitwear designer, I had more ideas than I had time to knit. It was a super-busy marketplace, and I designed knitted projects for yarn companies, and craft and general interest magazines. I needed help!

By switching my focus away from knitting everything myself, to sharing work with collaborators, I had to learn new skills. Together my knitters and I had to be skillful and accurate. For magazine work, deadlines are very short, often only two and a half to three weeks to make a sweater!

I developed this system which works amazingly well, and I never varied from it, still using it today:

1.  I visualize my designs ahead of completion, by working detailed swatches. A good swatch tells the story of the sweater to come!

2. I write complete instructions, based on my design swatches as well as gauge swatches from my knitter.

3. I complete schematic drawings, patterns and charts, and written directions for sweater pieces for my knitter to follow.

4.  My knitter checks the completed pattern as she knits.

 

I work detailed swatches when planning my sweaters.

Why do we knit together?

My knitters enjoy knitting for me for a variety of reasons. Sure, the love of knitting is paramount. But many want to try new things, and my wide variety of designs help with that.  Many like an opportunity to work with new and unfamiliar yarns! Many knitters tire of knitting for themselves and just want to knit for pleasure, contributing to the success of a design. Often knitting has been a way for women with young children to stay at home and earn while doing something they love.

Preferences come into play too. Some prefer lace, others love cables! Some groan at the thought of stranded colourwork and intarsia while other knitters love these colour challenges. I always try match a project with what a knitter prefers.

 

Tricks of the Trade

Over the years, we learned valuable tricks that work, to create one successful design after another:

1. My knitter swatches to get the best gauge in the patterns of the project: my pattern is based on this work.

2. We ALWAYS check gauge for a second time by knitting the sleeve of a garment first— saves time and we avoid ripping!

3. After my collaborator knits the pieces, I do all the finishing! I can re-visit the design concept and make final decisions about detail.

 

My longtime collaborator Barbara Khouri (left) is a talented tech person, designer and friend.

Who are they?

It is impossible to pay homage to all the wonderful knitters who have shared work with me. Here I share a few words about three knitters unique in their skills and lifestyles. All live near me, which contributes to the ease of us working together.

My first collaborator ever was Barbara Khouri. We connected via a newspaper ad, long before the days of the internet. Barbara has knit many garment pieces for me over the years. Her technical skills were strong, so I encouraged her to move into the yarn/craft industry. She has worked for many years as a technical editor and contributed to all the books I have worked on. In many ways, Barbara and I have grown up together, sharing and learning together.

Barbara is a talented designer, too, but confines that work to her own needs — a beach cover-up for each winter’s trip to Aruba or projects for her nieces and grand-nieces. Her wonderful butterfly afghan is a testament to her skill in charting, knitting intarsia, and working with colour!

Fran Scullin is a long-time collaborator of mine, whom I came to know through my fellow designer Norah Gaughan. Fran has perhaps the most beautiful hand to her knitting of all the knitters I have worked with, exquisitely supple and soft! Fran has a strong “math-mind” and excels at complex cable work and lace. A world traveller, Fran has often taken our shared knitting with her on the road. Recently, Fran traded knitting needles for hiking poles to walk across the width of northern Spain, on a traditional pilgrimage leading to Santiago de Compostela. I am a fan of her knitting, but she also inspires me with her courage and stamina!

Fran Scullin is a world-traveler and one of the best knitters I have ever had the pleasure of sharing work with!

For 10 years, I have shared projects with the expert knitter, Christine Lima, who teaches science courses at the college level. Christine has a wide variety of skills and thrives on challenges — this often makes designing more complex projects possible for me. She is a fast knitter with a bright sense of humour. She often works on multiple projects at a time. An animal lover like myself, it was easy to find a bond with her. She raises a trio of mohair sheep, a variety of chickens, several dogs, and she competes in dressage events with her handsome horse.

Always wearing a beautiful sweater she has made, Christine Lima is a frequent visitor to my place to check out the details of a project.

 

Rich Work

Knitting has brought me together with many wonderful people over the years, sharing our love for yarn and needles.  I can’t imagine doing my work without these talented knitters and their unique skills. Friendship has been a rich by-product, and each day I am grateful for the collaborations that enhance not only my work but my daily life, as well. &

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