In 2017 we ran a survey of Stitchmastery users and one response particularly caught our imagination – someone told us they would like to hear from other Stitchmastery users and how they make use of the software. We’re delighted to bring you a series of interviews with designers, tech editors, magazine editors and teachers – we hope you enjoy reading them!
Interviewee – Luise O’Neill
1) When did you start designing? Could you give us a potted history of your knitty and designing background?
Many, many years ago, my maternal grandmother taught me how to knit. I was just a wee lass. 6 or 7 I think. It was an enriching gift that really influenced my life. My career path took me into adult education and technical writing and in 2008 all of those things came together. Two things happened that year – I discovered Ravelry and I had decided that I wanted to knit a Celtic knot sweater and couldn’t find a pattern for what I had envisioned. So I created it! 250+ patterns later, my love of cables and knitting is still strong.
2) Do you have any recurring sources of inspiration or unusual muses?
I love scouring my collection of stitch dictionaries for inspiration — my most inspiring ones are those created by Annie Maloney. She has an amazing talent for creating interesting and unusual cables – just my cup of tea. When I browse through any of my resources, the cables seem to have a mind of their own and tell me what they would like to be – sounds a bit odd when I write it down, but that’s how it seems to work for me. The other thing is music – I listen to music when I design and so often the tunes, especially traditional tunes, are such a perfect match for the intertwining cables that I love. And so, many of my design names have their root in traditional tunes, especially Celtic ones, or folk songs – how can one resist “The Jolly Ploughboy”, “Yesterday’s Dreams” or “Nine Points of Roguery”.
3) When you have an idea, do you always work to a set workflow (eg swatch-knit-chart / chart first then knit) or does your approach change with each design?
It’s developed over the years but I’ve found what works best for me now is starting out with a sketch based on a cable pattern combination that has caught my eye. Step 2 is charting the cables in Stitchmastery. Charting the cables right at the beginning, and incorporating the extra stitches required to avoid cable splay, helps me figure out my stitch counts that will create a fabric that lies flat. Then I swatch to work out my gauges, create a spreadsheet with all the calculations and write the pattern. Lastly I knit the pattern to make sure it works and tweak anything that’s necessary.
4) What made you choose to use Stitchmastery? Is there a particular feature you use most regularly or couldn’t do without? And is there anything you wish Stitchmastery could do?
When Stitchmastery first came out I jumped at the chance to be one of the beta testers. The software I had been using was rather restrictive, wasn’t being maintained and had bugs that were not being fixed. Stitchmastery was so easy to use and packed with features that it was love at first try!
Oh how to choose just a couple of features I couldn’t do without… One of the best features is the Repeat option, being able to designate repeats – and multiple repeats at that – in the chart and having that reflected in the written directions is stellar. Also the ability to mirror and flip design elements in the chart is a real time saver – I have a slight obsession with symmetry.
Something that would be really great to have would be a more intuitive interface for tweaking the program defaults. Everyone is really good about helping out but making this area less ‘programmer-like’ would be on my wish-list.
I do have to mention one other thing that sets this software above and beyond and that is the customer service – I really can’t say enough good things about how responsive and helpful everyone has been over the years. Really the very best!
5) Please tell us about your latest publication or next exciting project!
It’s been a marvellous year for cable knitting! Three of my recent patterns – Rose of Inverness, Calums Road Socks and Irish Lullaby – are chock full of, you guessed it, cables! The first is a generous circular blanket with a variety of complementary cables, the second features Bavarian twisted-stitch cables and the last has a Celtic heart centrepiece that is really special. My current project is a Mystery Knit-along that we’re running in our Ravelry group for A Celtic Quilt 3 – so no spoiler pictures for that one – but it’s ever so exciting to see so many knitters so passionate about cable knitting!