Romi Hill has long been a design idol of mine. Her Waves of Grain wrap, from Knitty 2008, is the first lace project I knit. She is who I want to be when I grow up, as a designer!
So, when I had the opportunity to interview her, on the occasion of the publication of her newest book, I jumped at it.
1. What led you to publish this book?
I wanted to spread my love of lace as far and wide as I could, and enable potential lace knitters! I've done quite a few electronically delivered patterns, both eBooks and single patterns, and I know that I am missing a huge group of people who aren't necessarily online as much as I am. Also, there are still tons of people out there who are online a lot, but still love holding paper in their hands and putting it on their bookshelves. I'm one of those people, actually. I have my collection of favorite knitting books, and I wanted to create something that could sit happily on that special shelf, in hopes that others would feel the same way. I set out to create a collection of classic wearable designs, worthy of being kept and knitted season after season.
2. How would you describe your style?
Hmmmmmm. I guess I'd say classic, with a twist. I love classic construction and tailoring, but I also really enjoy mixing up that classic look with my own details. I love to put an extra little something special into each design. What's really funny to me is that people say they can recognize my designs, but I don't necessarily see it!
3. What makes a design work?
You won't let me get away with “I just know it when I see it,” right? Ha! But seriously.... I think a clothing design needs to be wearable and aesthetically appealing. When you put it on, you should look in the mirror and feel great. It should emphasize what you feel are your strong points and de-emphasize what you feel are your weak points. The elements comprising the design need to play well together and create synergy, and the finishing details need to create a polished overall look. It can be an amazing design, but if it is finished poorly, that's all I can ever see. Last, clothing designs need to look great on a 3-dimensional body, instead of just looking great when laid flat.
4. What is your process like; i.e. what steps do you follow to create a design?
This is the toughest question that I am ever asked; it really varies! Though it always starts with an inspiration. Often a special yarn will tell me what it wants to be. Sometimes I will see an amazing sunset and think the clouds create a gorgeous pattern. Sometimes I will see a building, painting or artwork and it inspires me. Sometimes I see a piece of commercial clothing and find myself picking it apart into elements I think work and ones I think don't work, and before I know it, I have redesigned the whole thing. Sometimes I am looking through my stitch dictionaries and imagine the stitches coming together to create a piece.
After that initial inspiration, I set about sketching on paper and engineering in my head. I make notes about the structure of the piece, and work on making the design pleasurable to knit. I think knitwear occupies an interesting space. It is fashion, but it is also a hobby. Because of this, each piece must satisfy the two important tests of looking great and being pleasurable to create. There are actually a lot of designs I don't pursue because I think they are needlessly difficult or confusing to knit compared to the end result. I try to look at each piece in a holistic way. I ask myself if the yarn will be wonderful to work with, and if the piece will be wearable for many seasons. If I am designing a garment (sweater, skirt), I work on making it a flattering shape for the body, and a yarn that will stand up to wear and still look great.
And I swatch and block, swatch and block! I let my swatches sit around for days and sometimes even hang them up with weights so I can tell how a larger piece might act after being worn.
5. How do you know when a design will be successful, or do you ever know?
To be honest, I never really know. I am often surprised at the pieces that become very successful. It used to lead to many sessions trying to puzzle out what the magic was! In the end, I have just decided to please myself. Sometimes the design becomes successful and sometimes not, but at least I know I've done my best and am happy with the result.
6. Which are some of your favorite designs - ones you're just in love with?
This sounds like cheerleading, but I'm really happy with the designs in my new book! I'm in love with Talus, Williwaw, and Salt Grass. I get a geeky joy out of the fact that Salt Grass is basically a top down lace gansey; I even blocked it on a woolly board! I also really love the Virginia City Cloche and Cowl. Other pieces I love (not in the book): Red Freckles, Miswis, Madroña, and Fuchsia Nouveau Petite shawls. And my Leyfi sweater. The one I wear most often, though, is Trieste. It's a mohair and silk triangle that is almost always with me when it's chilly out. I keep it balled up in my bag.
7. Finally, what are you working on right now that has you excited?
I'm working on an eBook subscription: 7 Small Shawls, Year 5. The theme this year is asymmetry and I am having SO much fun delving into all the ways something can be asymmetrical. Beyond the obvious, there are actually even some stitch patterns that look symmetrical but are really asymmetrical in the way the pattern is created, like Frost Flowers. The possibilities are endless! I'm also working on some pieces for Bare Naked Wools that I'm really excited about.
Thank you so much for having me as a guest!
Romi, it was great getting to know you better!
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This is a review of Rosemary Hill's new book called New Lace Knitting - Designs for Wide Open Spaces.
Rosemary has created a book of cohesive lace designs that incorporate some common lace motifs, but use them in new and unexpected ways. Romi starts her book with a few basic rules. These include information on making and using a swatch, making sure to use good yarn and needles, keeping your cast-ons and bind-offs loose, ways to track your lace repeats, reading charts, reading your knitting, and blocking your piece when it's done.
Romi is famous for her gorgeous Lace shawls, however, in this book she also includes sweaters and other accessories. As a master of lace design, Rosemary does not disappoint.
A few of my favorite designs that stand out - Talus Cardigan, a two color design using feather and fan; Manzanita Tee (the cover photo) - a pretty top, with a flattering lace yoke; and Fallen Leaf, an interesting shell with a graceful cowl neck. The skirt called Hope Valley, surprised me, as I usually don't like knitted skirts; this one in a denim yarn looks wearable and elegant. I also like the Aspen Gold Scarf and the Crystal Bay shawl.. The Chinquapin wrap is worked in worsted weight yarn, with an interesting fringe treatment.
You can win this pattern collection! Comment here on the blog saying which of the patterns is your favorite, in order to enter a giveaway for the book.
Please be sure that you sign up for my newsletter, if you haven’t already done so, in order to be eligible to win (you can sign up in the upper right hand corner of this blog). Make sure you give me an email address or Ravelry ID, so I can reach you if you win, and confirm you're signed up for the newsletter. The drawing will be on Nov. 7.
See you next time!