I'm so excited to present to you this month's Designer here on worsted-knitt.net - someone I look up to as a blogger (due to her creative and fun friting style, helpful blog and participation in the blogging community to name a few), and who is now starting to really show her talent as a designer as well! Can you guess who I am talking about? Oh, right, it's mentioned in the title! So let's forget the drumroll and get on with the interview with Eskimimi!
For those who don't know her, Mimi Hill aka Eskimimi is originally from the south of England, now accepted as a northerner (until she begins to speak - at least that's what she told me!). In increasing denial about her age (again - her words, not mine!), she enjoys animal-shaped hats, cheese on toast and lashing and lashings of ginger beer.
WK (Worsted Knitt): Thanks so much for doing this interview with me - I love your designs! What got you into designing in the first place?
MH (Mimi Hill): I’ve always designed items of jewellery, sculpture, etc and I work as a t-shirt designer. Knitting just happens to be one of my most recent interests with which to play. Once you understand the fundamentals of how to construct knitted fabric, how to produce various shapes and how those shapes fit together to form an object, designing items that you’d enjoy owning seems a natural progression.
WK: What are your favourite things to design?
MH: Small, accessory items. I enjoy finishing an item and wearing it, waiting to cast on the next one as soon as possible, so I don’t tend to enjoy knits that take a long time. I also very much enjoy collecting all manner of hats, scarves, mittens, handbags and the like, and can rarely walk past a fashion accessory store without popping in for an ogle. As they are my favourite thing to wear, they are also my favourite thing to knit, as then I end up with more of thm.
WK: I see what you mean! My absolute favourite of your designs are in fact the Flutter Mittens (pictured above), a very lovely accessory! Now, what are your favourite materials to work with?
MH: It changes from project to project. Yummy alpaca feels divine. Cool, high twist merino is comfortable, springy and oh-so-forgiving on the hands, but then I am very much of the belief that acrylic yarn has a place and is not only suitable for some projects but actually the best choice for items like frequent-use toys. For accessory knits I often choose wool for warmth and ease of blocking, but so many factors go into a finished object. Sometimes I start with the yarn and the properties of the fibre and the way the yarn is constructed lend themselves to a particular idea.
WK: That sounds great, sort of listening to what the yarn wants to become! Who or what was your earliest inspiration that started you on your way to being the designer you are today?
MH: I’d say that it stems from three factors. The encouragement I received from my granddad when I was a young girl to draw, use my imagination and be creative probably planted the seed. Always being crafty and inventive with my hands lead me to play and enjoy many different materials, and then being a new knitter surrounded by walls of yarn at the department store and coming home with various single skeins of whatever happened to catch my eye lead to me having to find a way to use those impulse purchases.
WK: How do you usually design – how would you describe your designing process?
MH: I almost always alight upon my ideas at aboave a flash of inspiration – either due to a particular yarn I have been looking at, an item that I’d like to wear or even a silly vision that springs to mind at midnight, when I lay down to go to bed. After that I will lay there and hone, shape and refine that idea. What starts out as a rough idea in my head will, by about 4am, have formed into a quite vivid and detailed image. I get quite excited about my ideas, so I suffer quite a few sleepless nights with flashes of mad scientist style inspiration. You could probably tell when I have had an idea by the sleepy look on my face the next day.
WK: That sounds like an inspired way of working! How do you then conceptualize your designs?
MH: Pretty much the whole design process takes part in my head. The vision of what I am going to make is usually so strong that I don’t feel the need to write it down as it starts to form on the needles. I sometimes use a pen and notepad to write down mathematical calculations on gauge, stitch count and pattern repeats, but apart from that the only notes I tend to write are the line-by line instructions that I jot down as I work, which later form the published pattern after they’ve been translated from my own rather magical shorthand into more standard knitting terminology.
WK: Magical shorthand sounds very interesting! How does your “typical day” when designing look like?
MH: Me, sitting on the bed, surrounded by yarn, my knitting needles, Giantmonk sitting by my side, Monkey on my knee and packets of chocolate biscuits placed all about.
WK: I can see it with my "inner eye" and that looks like a fun way to work! Where would you usually get your inspiration?
MH: Inspiration can strike from anywhere. Sometimes it will be limitations bought on by the yarn (I only have X metres, I have three skeins, but only in these colours, I only have alpaca) and I try and find an item which will both work within these limitations but also make best use of that yarn’s qualities. Other times, when I don’t have a particular yarn in mind, it might be as random as a piece of wordplay on the name of a classic book that suddenly strikes me one day (this pertains to my latest idea, one that I will have to put on the backburner until I can source the perfect yarn).
WK: Can't wait to see that new idea in action - hope the right yarn will appear soon! How do you nurture your creative spirit ?
MH: It comes and goes, and I let it. I find if I pressure myself I will still come up with an idea, but I will not be enthused about it, and will likely be disappointed with the result.
WK: What do you think is your "that one thing" that makes you a great designer?
MH: I make things that I want to own and wear. I don’t suppose that is a unique quality among people who publish patterns, but it helps me to be pleased with what I design.
WK: I guess that's the most important thing. As a good last, what advice would you give to aspiring designers?
MH: Spend some time simply thinking about your design, without sketching too much, or writing anything down. Putting pen to paper can sometimes finalise details prematurely. Sit and let the entire object form in your mind, so you can see the complete form and all of the details.
WK: Thanks so much Mimi, this was a lot of fun!