Last year 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 – ELIZABETH ELLIOTT
1) When did you start designing? Could you give us a potted history of your knitty and designing background?
I learned to knit when I was very young: my sister and I spent summers with our grandmother, an avid knitter, and she passed the skill on to me (I suspect partly as a way to get me to sit still for more than five minutes). My mum loves the fibre arts, too – she teaches weaving in Ottawa and gave me my spinning wheel – so she’s been a steady source of knowledge and encouragement. Indeed, Mum got me started on designing back in 2010 – I’d gotten back into knitting in a serious way, and we’d talk about our projects and about the creative potential of making fabric by hand, and she suggested I try turning some of my ideas into patterns. Something about the way knitting design brings math and colour and texture and creativity together just clicked with me; I was hooked.
2) Do you have any recurring sources of inspiration or unusual muses?
Some of the designs I’m happiest with started with the yarn: I’ll see a yarn that just tugs at me, and play around with it to see what it likes to do. Often, through the swatching process, I’ll start to see what I want this yarn to become, whether it’s just the thing for something I sketched out earlier or something I hadn’t thought of until I started noodling with that yarn. A lot of my designs are also inspired by architecture: interesting brickwork, an eye-catching tile pattern; some striking wrought iron. I’d like to do a series based on the older buildings in Birmingham, AL: it’s a relatively new city, founded in 1871, and a lot of the buildings downtown are from the early 1900s. Those buildings have some incredible details, sometimes in the overall structure, and sometimes in a small flourish that you might not even see if you’re walking by in a hurry: it’s like the architects put a little secret there for you to notice if you look around.
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?
Though every design’s a bit different – some are more seat-of-the-pants than others – I generally like to work out the pattern before I start knitting. Once the idea’s pretty solid in my head and I’ve sketched it out, I’ll chart out the stitch pattern and make a nice, big swatch, updating the chart as I go. Then I measure the washed swatch and write the first draft of the pattern, referring to the dimensions I’ve put on the sketch. I’ll make the sample from that draft, correcting the instructions as I go. The pattern gets a lot more polishing through the editing process, but the basic bones are in place before I start making the thing.
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?
I tried a couple of different software programs before discovering Stitchmastery and wasn’t happy with the results: the image files were blurry and clunky-looking, or (in the case of Excel + a knitting font) the process was stupidly laborious and changing the chart – especially substituting colours or switching one stitch for another – could be a serious pain, and then I’d have to figure out the written instructions row by row. Stitchmastery was a revelation: I can export the files as PDFs (and now EPS! Hooray!) so they look nice and sharp in the pattern document and knitters can zoom in if they need to; I can mirror a stitch pattern and swap out stitches or colours easily; the software generates written instructions that I can trust to be accurate; I can customize stitches and save them to my library. All this for a price my tiny business can afford. I know this sounds like ad copy, but seriously, Stitchmastery took my patterns to a more professional level and speeded up my design process so much, I only wish I’d found it sooner. I’m excited by the possibilities of Knitmastery, too: I’ve noodled around in it (though I don’t get much time to knit from patterns, so I haven’t thoroughly put the app through its paces), and it seems incredibly useful, especially for heavily charted patterns.
5) Please tell us about your latest publication or next exciting project!
Well, I’m just starting to design garments, so my pattern production has slowed down quite a bit for now. I’m designing garments that I want to wear and that will look flattering on women like me (i.e., larger, bustier women), so the first version is in my size, which is definitely not that of the models (though I think it’d be fun to do photos of me in my sweater with the model in the sample, if I can get up to Connecticut where my photographer Gale Zucker is). That said, I’m pretty excited about some shawls I’m working on, riffing on the chevron spine idea in Velouria, and I have a couple of new patterns in the works based on the construction of the Last Minute Travel Slippers. I had so much fun making those; now I need a heavier pair for winter!