knitwear designer

Portrait of a knitwear designer: Marie Greene of Olive Knits

I've been getting to know more of my fellow knitwear designers lately, and I am fascinated by the person who exists behind the designs. People have such diverse motivations, personal circumstances, backgrounds, stories, insights! Knitwear designers are definitely an interesting and thoughtful bunch. So I've decided to do a little interview series of my favorite people!

First up: Marie from Olive Knits and her wonderfully sleek, super wearable yet sophisticated designs:

Marie wearing her Southwell Cardigan

Marie wearing her Southwell Cardigan

  • What are 5 random things people might not know about you?

-My kitchen is my zen space. I love to cook - it's a great way to unwind after a long day. 

-I like to binge-watch moody Scandinavian crime shows while I work. 

-I love secondhand and vintage shops. 

-I am an early riser to the extreme (this morning it was 3:30 AM), but it also means that I go to bed ridiculously early most nights. My friends tease me if I'm up past 9:30 PM because they know I'm dying inside. 

-When I was first married I worked as a contract seamstress for the Navy Reserve. 

  • What is your style in a nutshell?

My style continues to evolve. In my early days I was still finding my footing as a designer, still trying to tap into the ideas that resonated with the style story I wanted to tell, but I feel like I'm reaching that place a little more each day. My goal is effortless, beautiful design that is as fun to knit as it is to wear. I hate to use the word 'practical,' but in reality - that really has a huge influence on my work. I want to create pieces that people want in their closets. 

  • What is your favorite technique?

Goodness, it's hard to pick a favorite. I don't know if I can pick just one, but two of my favorites are Japanese Short Rows and the Horizontal Stitch, and you can see both of those demonstrated here

  • What is/are your go-to yarn(s)?

Ooh, another tough one. I love yarns that lean toward the more natural style, and often the "crunchy" yarns really call to me - Sherwood Yarn, The Fibre Company and Rauma Finnulgarn rank high on my list. I also love supporting the work of Sincere Sheep for her commitment to sourcing and her use of natural dyes, and The Farmer's Daughter Fibers because I not only love her gorgeous colorways, but really connect with the way she draws upon her heritage and homeland for inspiration. When I need something with crisp, brilliant color, I go for Knitted Wit; I especially love her rich solids and her personal commitment to supporting meaningful causes through her business. 

  • Do you have a favorite designer? Or any particular design you think is genius.

I have a couple of favorites that span opposite directions, but the one that comes to mind first is Norah Gaughan. She's been one of my design heroes for years. It's funny because my design style is nothing like Norah's, but her designs remind me to think outside the box. I've met her a couple of times and she's genuine and gracious - a true professional. 

  • What is the most important thing you've learned since becoming a designer?

Compassion. Becoming a designer has really opened my eyes to the immense amount of work, love, time and resources that go into the pattern design process. Those insights have translated into a deeper appreciation for the work of my peers, and for the work of small business owners across creative genres; I'm more keenly aware of the person behind the screen/email/storefront who's hustling to make the magic happen.

Behind the scenes!

Behind the scenes!

  • What is your best-selling pattern? Why do you think that is?

Gosh, I had to go look at the numbers. I have two best sellers that are almost tied for first place: Brookings and BeckettI think these pieces are both incredibly versatile and wearable, and flatter a range of body types

  • What is the design you are the most proud of? Why?

Eek, another hard one. I'm really proud of most of them, to be honest, but I think River Light Tee is one I was especially proud of because I challenged my usual construction process, and I think the stitch transition to the lower hem was beautifully strategic. 

River Light Tee by Olive Knits

River Light Tee by Olive Knits

  • What is your favorite quote or saying?
My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night. But, ah, my foes, and oh, my friends, it lends a lovely light.
— Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my very nosy questions with such thoughtful answers Marie! I wish you the very best on your designing journey! You can find Marie's designs on her website (be sure to check out her blog!) as well as Ravelry. She is @oliveknits on Instagram.

Are you curious about what it takes to be a knitwear designer? What the daily routine might look like? Would you like to get to know your favorite designer? Please let me know in the comments if you'd like me to reach out to anybody in particular, and whether you'd like to me to ask any specific questions!

Designer Interview: Littletheorem

I often get blank stares when I tell people what I do. I don't think many people understand what being a knitwear designer means (or that there is such a thing!), and I'd wager that most people definitely don't understand the skill set that is required in order to be a successful one. Let's remedy this!  Over the next few weeks, I will present mini interviews with a few fellow knitwear designers in order to shed some light on this odd occupation :) To kick things off, here is a Q&A session with Dot of LittleTheorem Knits (littletheorem on Ravelry), the designer behind this lovely cardigan:

  • Tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m a 29 year old Maths teacher living and working in Glasgow in Scotland. I love living in the city but I’m a country kid at heart and love nature. Every inch of my balcony is used for growing vegetables! I love the outdoors and spend a lot of my time climbing mountains in the Scottish Highlands, and have a particular interest in Alpine plants. I’m a qualified Mountain Leader and take kids out camping and hiking as part of our school’s Duke of Edinburgh scheme- this absolutely has to be one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I have a real difficulty with sitting still and not being busy so knitting is the perfect hobby for my spare time. I need something to keep me occupied!

  • How and why did you become a knitting designer?

I started knitting when I was doing my PhD as a bit of stress relief, research in Maths can be a pretty frantic and it was good to have something calming and meditative in my life. I’m very fussy and don’t think I’ve ever actually followed a pattern exactly as it was written, I like to tweak little details. This soon lead to me making up my own designs. I think my background in geometry really helped, as I could easily picture how shapes could come together to make a garment, and there’s a lot of Maths in pattern design. It was a very natural path for me to follow!

  • Can you describe your design style?

I like simple, unfussy garments with a bit of a twist to them. I love classic, fitted sweaters with a little detailing to make them special, like a little bit of lace or texture. Nothing over the top though, I’m not into super-girly things really. I try to make understated knits that are a bit luxurious, I love knitting with exotic fibres like baby camel or cashmere. I do a lot of spinning as well, so a lot of my patterns are designed with handspun yarn in mind.

  • What is the most rewarding thing about being a knitting designer? What is the most frustrating part? What have you discovered along the way?

Having a vision in your head of a garment you’d love to wear and making it a reality. And being really, really warm in the Winter! The most frustrating thing for me is having so many ideas and not enough time to knit them all. I must literally have dozens of unfinished objects in my flat. Coming from a Maths background and having done a bit of programming in my time, I think I initially wrote knitting patterns more like computer programmes. I think one of the main things I’ve learned is that people aren’t knitting machines! I’d like to think that my patterns are much more “user friendly” now.

  • Which one of your designs are you the most proud of and why?

I really love my Asphodel Shawl as a design. I love the way that the different bands of lace fit together.

I think the knitted item that I’ve worn most though is my Moseley Cardigan, it goes with absolutely everything and is super flattering.

  • What is on your needles now?

So many things! I have two sweaters with lace detailing on the go, one in dk and one in fingering weight yarn; multiple lace shawls and scarves that may or may not ever get finished; and of course some Christmas presents! I have a few quick fair isle items that will be under the tree in a month or so.

  • Who’s your favorite designer?

I think we’re really lucky as knitwear designers to live in an age where we can access so many other patterns for inspiration, Ravelry is just an amazing resource for anyone interested in pattern design. I think as a community we learn a lot from each other and everyone benefits from that. If I had to pick one absolute favourite though, it would be Isabell Kraemer. Her sweaters are so stylish and pretty without being too girly.

  • What can we expect to see from you design-wise in 2015?

The two sweaters that are currently on the needles should hopefully turn into patterns early in 2015.I have a pattern for a little cropped cardigan and for a cabled mens sweater that will be getting test knitted in the near future too. I’m going through a big fair-isle kick at the moment so there will most likely be a few colourwork pieces appearing before too long as well. Busy busy!

Thank you so very much for these thoughtful answers Dot! Can't wait to see what you come up with next. Best of luck to you!

Follow littletheorem's adventures on her blog, on Twitter or on Facebook. And be sure to check out her Ravelry or her Etsy store.