Designer of November 2011 - Cassie Castillo

Cassie Castillo by the courtesy of herself

It's time for this month's designer interview! While I sometimes interview designers I haven't knitted anything from yet, this month's designer made the Argyle Cabled Beret pattern which I knitted (and loved). I really like her other designs too, they're so usable but all with that "little twist"!


Without further ado, I want to present Cassie Castillo to you all fine readers of :)


Cassie Castillo is a knitwear designer from sunny Southern California. She is a designer by day and mad crafter at night. Along with knitting, she enjoys spinning, weaving, crocheting, sewing and dyeing. You can visit her blog at


So, let's get started!


WK (WorstedKnitt): What got you into designing in the first place?
CC (Cassie Castillo): I have loved fashion since I was a little girl. My mom used to make most of my clothes and I had lots of fun picking out the sewing patterns and the fabric.


When I was ten I learned how to knit and was given a Crayola Fashion Design Kit. I guess you could say that the was the beginning of the end! I spent countless hours making fashion sketches, sewing funny looking dresses for my Barbie dolls, and knitting little squares that turned into doll blankets.


Eventually I went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and got a degree in Fashion Design. I worked in the clothing industry for 8 years, and it was during that time that I started seriously knitting. I wasn't happy with the designs that I saw in magazines and books and decided to start making my own.


WK: Wow, a real fashion designer! That must give you a really good foundation for knitwear design. What are your favourite things to design?
CC: I love designing cable patterns and lace motifs. It's like a geometric puzzle to get all the stitches to work out into a pretty design. I love designing and making hats; they can be functional, artful and quick to knit all at the same time. I have really short hair so my hats are well used in the colder months. Entrelac is also a technique I love that seems to be a bit daunting and misunderstood by some knitters. There are patterns out there for pure entrelac scarfs and stoles but few that use it as a design element. I have a few designs in my head that incorporate entrelac panels and I'm hoping to release them sometime this winter.


WK: Looking forward to that! What are your favourite materials to work with?
CC: I almost exclusively work with animal fibers. I was commissioned to do one design with cotton yarn and I found that cotton is not my friend. I ended up with terrible wrist pain and numb fingers, probably from the lack of elasticty in the cotton. Wool is my number one favorite, it is warm and really versitile with different stitch patterns. Alpaca comes in at a close second, it is just so incredibly soft I'd like to wrap myself up in it.


WK: Who or what was your earliest inspiration that started you on your way to being the designer you are today?
CC: It is hard to pick just one inspiration, I feel like I've had several people help me get on my way to designing. The first would by my mom. Even though she doesn't knit, she made me lots of clothes and bought me endless craft kits when I was growing up and encouraged my creativity.
I was one of those kids that had to be constantly busy, I hardly ever just sat on the sofa watching tv.


My next inspirations would have to be my grandmother and great-grandmother. They both knit sweaters and blankets for me and gave me knitting needles that I still use today.


I'd also have to say the receptionist at my first fashion industry job inspired me to design as well. She came in to work with beauitful crocheted scarves that she made and I decided to make some for myself. I remembered how much fun knitting was and that was when I came back to knitting and started experimenting with designing.


WK: How lovely! You think she knew what an inspiration she was? Makes me think I could inspire someone unknowingly, too. I like that thought! How do you usually design – how would you describe your designing process?
CC: Ideas for designs usually come to me at inopportune moments. I'll be driving or in the shower and suddenly an idea will pop in my head and then I have to try to keep it in my head until I can get to a notepad. I have lots of designs scribbled on random bits of scratch paper in various places around my house and in my purse.


When I sit down to work on designs for a magazine hardly anything will come into my head. I guess I just can't force creativity!


After I come up with the idea, the next step is bringing it to life. I have learned (the hard way) to really think about the aspects of my design before I jump into making a pattern. Some details are easy to make in one size but just don't grade well into other sizes. Then I knit a swatch and measure my gauge, then work out the measurements for my finished garment. I have a dress form that is roughly my size, so when I'm working out the measurements for a sweater I usually get out my measuring tape and start measuring various places on my dress form, usually neckline width, body length, etc.


Sometimes I go into my closet and find a silhouette similar to what I'm working on and take measurements off of that. I try to write as much of the pattern as I can before I begin working on the project, but I know I will make changes on the way. My design notebook that contains my first drafts of patterns is full of post-its and taped on bits of paper with extra notes and changes.


After the sample is knit up then I make a spreadsheet with the sizes I want to include in my pattern and work out all the stitch counts and various calculations that I need for the pattern. Sometimes grading can be a real drag, but I like math and I get a certain delight when I crunch numbers on my calculator.


Then I type up my pattern and send it off to either my tech editor, if I'm self publishing, or to the editor if it is for a magazine. If I'm self publishing then I take the photos as well, which usually involves me, my tripod, and some pretty bushes and trees.


WK: That sounds like a very professional approach. How does your “typical day” when designing look like?
CC: Well, I don't know if there is a 'typical' day! It seems like every day is different because there was so many different aspects to work on. If there is a call for submissions from a magazine, then I study the themes, come up with a few ideas and start swatching. Putting together design proposals can be very time comsuming so I usually work on those after lunch, when I have lots of brain fuel.


I sometimes have a hard time coming up with a description of my design, I know what I want to make but sometimes it is hard to find the right words. I usually end up typing a few sentences then pace around my living room wondering if what I wrote sounded good or really dumb.


When I'm working on a self-published designs, then I usually spend the morning hours knitting. I usually have more than one project going on, so I spend the afternoon working on pattern adjustments and corrections with a tech editor and pattern testers, so there are lots of balls to juggle. When I have a design ready for photographing I wake up extra early in the morning and hope for a cloudy sky so I can get good lighting.


WK: Where do you get your inspiration?
CC: When I don't have ideas just popping into my head, I look at vintage knitting magazines and clothing websites. I love vintage clothes, so sometimes I'll be inspired by clothes Lucille Ball wore in I Love Lucy or by the costumes in old movies. For more modern designs, I look at clothes on,,,, and and see what the new trends are. I don't like to create designs that are super trendy; after all that hard work I wouldn't want a design to be obsolete in a year.


WK: Where do you do your best design work?
CC: At home, which is pretty much where ALL my design work is done! I have a dog, who is my little assistant. I joke with my husband that our dog is guardian of the yarn. I tend to get in 'the zone' when I'm working, so he forces me to take breaks every couple hours when I notice that he is sitting at my feet giving me the 'must go outside NOW!' look. I think that even just a few minutes outside and away from the desk helps my brain recover so I can keep going.


WK: Your little assistant, how adorable! How do you nurture your creative spirit?
CC: I always have some projects going that are non-knitting related. I think it is important to create just for the sake of creating and not always as a design project. I weave, spin, sew and currently am learning to quilt. I also read lots of knitting books and look at new and popular designs on Ravelry.


I think some designers don't look at other people's work for fear that they might be accused of 'copying' but I think it is important to see what is going on in the world of knitting. There is a big difference between being inspired by a design and flat out copying it.


WK: I so agree with that last sentence. What do you think is your "that one thing" that makes you a great designer?
CC: Haha, I don't know that I could call myself a 'great designer'! Not yet, at least. Last June I decided to take my designing from part-time to full-time and I've been spending that time trying to build a pattern library. I hope one day that I could call myself great!


WK: You're all so shy, you designers :) What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
CC: There is a wealth of information on the internet and in knitting reference books, so read as much as you can. "Sweater Design in Plain English" by Maggie Righetti, "Designing Knitwear" by Deborah Newton and "The Knitgrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design" by Shannon Okey have been invaluable resources.


Study patterns to learn the knitting language and how to grade various sizes. Join the Designers group on Ravelry and read all the posts and VIP pages, there is tons of information there for new designers.


Most of all just go for it, if a design doesn't work out just frog it and try again!


WK: Thanks so much for the interview, Cassie!


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