Friday, November 21, 2014

Sometimes Designs Come Along At Just The Right Moment

She's a sassy shawl, ain't she?
Happy Friday, everyone. With a week before U.S. Thanksgiving, it's been busy good at chez Voie de Vie.

As I wrote about here on Monday, I'm participating in Ravelry's Independent Designer Gift-a-long. (An aside: if you don't think this shebang has grown volumes since last year, think again: so far, there are over 5,000 participants in 8 different gift-making categories, and one can sign up and gift-a-long until the end of December. Folks, indie designers and their gift-making pals are on fire.) As part of my design purchases, I picked up fellow designer Gabriella Henry's Lucie Shawlette pattern.

I cannot quite explain what it is about this pattern, but I became absolutely enthralled with it. Maybe it's the perfect combination of gloriously wonderful garter stitch with an elegantly simple crochet edging; perhaps it's the no-thinking-required aspect of the pattern - I wound up not putting it down and completed it in about four days (record speed for me). 

Or maybe, just maybe, it's been the genuine respect shown me by a fellow designer half-way around the world, at a time when I sorely needed a show of professional respect, that's made this shawl such a breath of fresh air. I've recently experienced a doozie of a professional blow and I have remained rather silent about it. Nevertheless, I had been feeling a fair amount of anger and disappointment, but I continued forward with my plans because I believe in myself. That's cold comfort, though, when you're in the middle of it. 

And then, along came Gabes (tweeting @Sweetpknits) and her ditty of a shawl and turned my thinking right 'round. Like a perfectly stitched record, if you will. Along the way, she's been nothing but gracious and complimentary, and it's made All.The.Difference. This is the season of giving thanks, and so I sincerely thank her for her kindness and open appreciation. Far beyond the counting of dollars and cents is how we make each other feel; that's what we'll remember. So it brings me great joy to show off my version of Gabe's Lucie Shawlette:

Speaking of good things, it is rare to see Mt. Rainier in any horizon shot in the Pacific Northwest fall and winter, yet it made a guest appearance for this photo shoot (check out the above left background). It guilded the lily rather nicely: what a great pairing of pattern and fiber, don't you think?

Even though these two fibers are (I think) discontinued, they played well together: Laines du Nord Prancer for the main body of the shawl and Noro Cash Iroha for the edging. I worked this up on U.S. 10 1/2" circular needles (6.5 mm) and a U.S. H hook (5.00 mm) for the edging, which is smaller than called for in the pattern. I also made my shawlette more akin to a shawl by using about 147 grams of yarn for the body and approximately 44 grams on the edging, for a grand poobah total of 366 fibery yards.

I cannot tell you how much I love this shawl. It's super warm and the perfect thing to throw over the shoulders or double up around the neck. Make one for yourself, and you'll see exactly what I mean.

Now, in keeping with the spirit of design/er giving during this gift-along (which, again, runs straight through the end of the year), I've had the pleasure of interviewing and getting to know Ella Austin, a/k/a Bombella Knits. Here's a designer after my own color-filled heart - her claim to fame is stranded color work and she has a love of Karie Westermann shawl designs. Without further ado, I present:

The Artfully Voie de Vie Questionnaire
with knit designer Ella Austin

Ella Austin. Photo used with designer's kind permission.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background before you started to design knit garments and accessories?

Just before I started designing I was a stay at home mum and breastfeeding helper. Before that I worked in admin and IT for a charity in London and before that I studied sociology and classical studies at Reading University. But I’ve always loved art and design and I’ve always been an avid knitter -ever since I was a child.

When was the moment you knew you wanted to become a knit designer?

Although I’d knit for all my life I had never really tried to push myself as a knitter until I met the Reading-based Outcasts knitting group about seven years ago. Then soon after Ravelry came along and inspired me further. I started to have ideas for things I wanted to knit and so I started experimenting… and found that I loved it!

Please describe your personal knit design philosophy?

I love stranded colourwork so I tend to think in terms of colour, line and pattern. I mostly design small, colourful knits that I consider to be fun!

What is your greatest knit (or design) memory?

It’s hard to pick a single moment because knit design involves a lot of gradual development of ideas. I’m most proud of my knitting kits and I hope to continually improve and develop them. For a single moment memory, I was very excited when one of my early designs was commissioned by Knit Now magazine.

If you could have dinner with any three designers, dead or alive, who would they be, and why?

This is a hard question. Most of my old knitting group the Outcasts have done at least a design or two so I’d pick a bunch of them!

Throw or pick?

Throw. I’m a very slow knitter!

It’s your last object to design (or make). What is it, and what fiber do you use?

There’s so much I want to knit, it’s too sad to think of a last thing! One thing I’ve been wanting to do for ages but haven’t done yet is a small woodland creature in Skein Queen Blush 80% merino 20% cashmere.

What trait do you most admire in designers?

Diversity. I admire designers who can do all sorts of things with all different techniques. I also love a good cardigan so a designer that does a good cardigan has my respect!

What trait do you most detest in designers?

Detest is such a strong word! I don’t like snobbery in knitting whether it’s ‘I only use x yarn’ or ‘I’d never knit y type of object’.

You are recommending a design gift in response to a friend’s inquiry. Other than your own designs (which, as everyone knows, are quite beautiful!), what would you recommend?

Suzanne Stallard’s colourwork mitts (especially the Alfredos) or a Karie Westermann shawl.

All right everyone - now head on over to Andrea's at Wisdom Begins in Wonder to see how everyone else is interacting with the gift-a-long. As for me, I'm officially blogged out ... for the moment. 

Stay tuned ...


  1. Fabulous interview! I have really enjoyed going through all of the indie-designers patterns. I have only purchased a couple but did queue and favorite others for future use.

    I love how your shawl turned out. I really do love the mix of knit and crochet. Your photographs of the shawl and the background are stunning too.

    Happy Weekend!

  2. I love your shawlette! I really, really need to learn how to crochet - I always see so many beautiful things.
    Hope things are looking up for you soon. Good on you for staying strong; it is so hard to keep believing in yourself when you feel no one else does. All the best!

    1. Thanks so much! Things are definitely percolating along rather rapidly at the moment, so no complaints. I really need to get my turkey for our Thanksgiving here on Thursday. :)