Designer of December 2010 - Clare Doornbos

Clare Natty Knits Doornbos by courtesy of herself
Duck design by Natty Knits

It's time for the December Designer of the Month presentation / interview! This time I have a great and very specialized designer to present to you: Clare Doornbos aka Natty Knits designs exclusively knitted toys.


Natty Knits is an expat Brit stay at home Mum who likes to knit around corners (see more on this in the interview!). She learned to knit when she was 7 years old but started designing when she discovered short row shaping about 5 years ago. She calls herself Natty Knits because her real name is difficult to spell. More designs by Natty Knits are available on Ravelry and her blog


WK (Worsted Knitt): Thanks for agreeing to this interview! Let's get started: what got you into designing in the first place?
CD (Clare Doornbos): I woke up one morning with an uncontrollable urge to knit. In my defense, I was 5 months pregnant at the time which can give you a lot of strange ideas. I hadn't done any knitting since I was a child, but I could remember how to knit garter stitch from muscle memory. So I went to John Lewis on Oxford Street in London, bought some washable English wool DK, 4mm needles and Stitch n Bitch by Debbie Stoller. The book gave me a firm foundation and some good simple patterns to work on. I discovered that I liked patterns with interesting techniques including intarsia and short row shaping. I borrowed books from the library that helped me work on these aspects. Eventually I realized that I'd become quite a short rows expert and that I could see some amazing ways to use this technique to make proper 3D knitted toys. I am still thinking of new and interesting ways to make toys using more obscure techniques, the short rows are just the beginning.


WK: What are your favourite things to design?
CD: Toys. Especially something that no-one has thought of knitting before. My Spider pattern is one of my favorites, you don't find many knitted Spiders.


WK: Your Spider is really insipred (see it here). Now, what are your favourite materials to work with?
CD: A good DK wool with plenty of loft and size 3mm needles, you need a really tight gauge for toys.


WK: Who or what was your earliest inspiration that started you on your way to being the designer you are today?
CD: Definitely a short row corkscrew scarf from a book I borrowed from the library. Although I can't remember the name, the designer had gone to a lot of trouble to thoroughly explain the wrap and turn. Without those explanations I could never have developed my skills to understand short rows as well as I do now.


WK: What a lovely inspiration story! You just have to be grateful for the designers who've "walked the path before you", don't you! But now on to the next question: how do you usually design? How would you describe your designing process?
CD: I start with an initial concept which comes from my son, "mom can you knit me a shark?" or sometimes just from observing the world. I actually look at shapes and think "I know how to knit that and it would only need one seam". Then I pick up my trusty 3mm and knit straight from my imagination, I make a few notes until I have something I'm happy with. Then I try to knit it again, this time making more detailed notes. This is actually the hardest part of the process for me. I'm obviously guided by inspiration when I knit the first version, but then minor alterations become major pattern changers. This stage takes me a while. Then I turn those notes into pattern notation, take some photos and ask for testers on Ravelry. Then the testers tell me what needs more explanation or what's just plain wrong, I make those changes and then I'm done.


WK: I love how straightforward your process is and how your son is such a core part of it! How does your typical day when designing look like?
CD: It looks like any other day. I'm a stay at home Mom, so my day is pretty full, I actually only have around 2 hours per day in which I can work on my designs. This is why it takes me so long to get a pattern from concept to completion.


WK: I always say, it's not the quantity but the quality that matters. Where do you do your best design work?
CD: I design best in front of the TV it helps me to relax a little so that I can create more easily. I like the TV shows to be not too challenging or distracting like one of those sci fi series where all the wrongs are righted by the end of the episode.


WK: Wow, that's really something! Usually the TV just robs one of creativity - it's interesting to see a different view on that! What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
CD: Go to and see the wealth of amazing designs made by the incredible range of designers. Be inspired by their bio pages and know that you can do it too. Then look for holes in the pattern libraries and fill them with your own designs. Do something that no-one else has ever done in a way that it's never been done before.


WK: Thank you so much for your insipring story and the tips! It made me want to get to my designing work right at the spot!


Would you like to be featured as the Designer of the Month? Leave a comment or contact me through the form!

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