Oops, look how far June is already! Time for the Designer of the Month post. This time I interviewed the talented Alexis Winslow, who lives in Brooklyn, NY and works as a printed textile designer for children's bedding. You can catch up with her on her blog, knitdarling.com, where she writes, and video blogs about all her knitting adventures.
Ok, let's start!
WorstedKnitt (WK): What got you into designing in the first place?
Alexis Winslow (AW): I’ve been making up my own designs ever since I learned how to knit about 12 years ago. I was already creating my own sewing patterns at that point, things like designing my prom own dresses, and I was still a teenager so I had no fear!
At first it was all very free-form. I would make design decisions as I was knitting. At some point I began keeping notes so I could reproduce, or share my designs with my friends. I wrote down my first pattern to self publish on the web about 2 1/2 years ago after being encouraged by a lot of fans on Ravelry to share my designs.
WK: I love your note of having no fear - a quality believe we should try to hold on to even after our teenage years! Today, what are your favourite things to design?
AW: I LOVE designing cardigans. There are so many challenges and opportunities to do something interesting. I also love doing anything with color-work or stripes. There’s something so fun and motivating about changing colors.
WK: What are your favourite materials to work with?
AW: I love working with wool or alpaca yarn the most. The squishier the better.
WK: I hear you on that! Who or what was your earliest inspiration that started you on your way to being the designer you are today?
AW: I taught myself to knit off of the Internet when I was about 16 (before YouTube and Google, mind you). One of my mother’s co-workers (the only active knitter I actually knew) gave me a big bag of old yarn with a stack of 10 year old magazines, and I was just in heaven. This bag was my first knitting epiphany.
Most importantly, among the magazines was a copy of Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman. It took me a while to crack this book, which must have seemed quite dull to my teen-aged sensibilities, but when I finally did, it was like seeing for the first time! It was that book that really empowered me to make my first designs.
WK: I hear that a lot - Ms. Zimmermann has really made a difference in the knitting world! Tell me, how do you usually design – how would you describe your designing process?
AW: All encompassing! I’ve always got a dozen designs brewing in the back of my mind, but when I commit to developing a particular design, I can hardly concentrate on anything else. I have to fight the feeling of injustice that I get when doing any other task. I have a very understanding husband.
WK: I bet that's pretty important! How do you conceptualize your designs?
AW: I do a lot of drawing before I ever pick up my needles. My hand drawing skills are very strong and I really rely on this step in my process. I try to explore all the options on paper, drawing out each piece and looking at it from every angle. Lately I’ve also been using computer programs to do more technical drawings, especially for things like charts and stripes, to help me visualize color and design combinations.
WK: That's really interesting, actually. Pretty much like fashion design with fabric, I would say. But how does your “typical day” when designing look like?
AW: First, I must have a cup of coffee. I’ll have an array of things surrounding me; an over-sized calculator (most important), something to draw with, and my laptop so I can type up the pattern as I go. I’ll alternate between stretches of deep concentration in silence, and knitting which I like to do while watching movies or TV.
WK: Where do you get your inspiration?
AW: Living in Brooklyn, and working in Manhattan I get to see so many unique fashions that inspire me. I’m inspired to knit pieces that I want in my own wardrobe. I’m always thinking about what skirt or shirt will go with my newest idea. If I can’t think of how I could wear a piece, it usually dies after the initial sketch.
WK: Where do you do your best design work?
AW: I’ve had a lot of my best ideas while riding on the subway during rush hour. It’s an awkward cramped experience where no one makes eye contact, with a total void of conversation so there’s not much to do but stare into space and think. If I can manage to grab a seat, I’ll often sketch out a new idea, or use that time to knit a new swatch.
WK: That sounds wonderful! I usually read or think during my commute, too. How do you nurture your creative spirit?
AW: That’s such a great question! I am always amazed how going to see live music can get my creative juices flowing. If I feel like I’ve got some sort of creative block, I love going to see a concert, because I’ll always leave feeling ready to make something.
WK: What do you think is your "that one thing" that makes you a great designer?
AW: Oh god, how can I take something that I am so incredibly passionate about and boil it down to one thing?! I guess “that one thing” could be that I am just that passionate. I try to get everyone around me excited about knitting and design, because that’s the kind of world I want to live in! Every single one of my designs is something that I’ve used as a tool to teach myself something, and I want to share that experience with every knitter.
WK: Passion can really change the world - I really like that answer :) Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring designers?
AW: Well, I still feel something like an aspiring designer, so this question tickles me. What I feel every creative person has to do to succeed is a combination of hard work and gumption. You have got to put in the hours. Work extremely hard and stick your neck out there every once in a while. You’ve got take the initiative and show the world who you are to make things happen for yourself.
WK: Thanks so much for the interview, Alexis! I have to say, many of your statements could have come from my mouth, too :) All the best for your designing career!