A few months back I got a mail from StephCat , a knitwear designer who had seen my Designer of the Month series and wondered if she could participate.
Although I was not familiar with her work before, one look at her work convinced me that this is a great designer to interview - just look at the gorgeous Beachcomber vest for example!
So StephCat - Stephannie Tallent - agreed to be July's designer! For a little background info, Stephannie lives in Hermosa Beach with husband Dave, dog Rigel, and Tonkinese cats (and knitwear models!) Obi, Cali and Megs. She's been designing and tech editing (now for Knitcircus magazine!) since early 2010, and is currently at work on a book she fully intends to get to the publisher in September to be published in winter 2011 (Quote:"agh!"). She blogs at www.sunsetcat.com
Worsted Knitt (WK): What got you into designing in the first place?
Stephannie Tallent (ST): A combination of things, really. I started designing late 2009. Vet work had slowed down for me, so I decided to knit everyone Christmas presents. I decided I wanted to design some of those, beginning with some worsted weight house socks.
I totally threw myself into designing at that point.
On that note, I consider myself a laidback Type A, so it’s hard for me to schedule time off. There’s always something that needs to be done, whether it’s actual work on a design, or any of the myriad of things associated with the business of designing.
WK: Wow, you're a vet! It's amazing what different backgrounds designers have. Now, what are your favourite things to design?
ST: Sweaters, absolutely. Cabled or Bavarian twisted stitch sweaters. I like fingerless mitts, too. They’re faster, closer to instant gratification, but you can still play with a lot of techniques.
I’m starting to get more into lace. Also colorwork. And beading.
WK: What are your favourite materials to work with?
ST: Unfortunately (since I live in Southern California!), wool. (And even worse – alpaca!) I really love exploring different wools from different sheep breeds. I’ve recently worked with a BFL/silk blend from Stricken Smitten that I loved.
WK: That yarn looks lovely! Who or what was your earliest inspiration that started you on your way to being the designer you are today?
ST: I totally fell in love with Alice Starmore’s work. I’ve yet to finish a Starmore -- I do have a St Brigid WIP that I changed to top down and to which I’ve added shaping. Too busy with my own designs now.
WK: I know that feeling! How do you usually design – how would you describe your designing process?
ST: For self-published designs, it varies. Often the patterns are technique or stitch pattern driven – I want to do something with cables, for example, in a certain way.
This year I’ve started work in collections, so I’ve been working on my own themes and mood boards, which is a lot of fun. (Mood boards are colletions of images, phrases, etc that evoke a style, feeling, etc.)
I start with a sketch and desired ease, waist shaping if it’s a sweater, etc. I have a couple Excel spreadsheets set up to help with grading, stitch counts and so on.
If I have a motif that requires charting, I’ll do the charts, then modify them as necessary to fit in with the desired sizes & stitch numbers. Swatching is part of that, both to get gauge and to see if I even like how it’s coming along. If it’s a motif that doesn’t require charting, I’ll just swatch.
I try to have a rough pattern already written before I start knitting the design, with the knowledge that I’ll probably tweak it as I go along.
WK: That's really interesting. How does your “typical day” when designing look like?
ST: Since I both design and tech edit, I try to do tech edits, blog, reviews, various paperwork & emails etc in the morning, and design-specific stuff in the afternoon and evening (swatching, charting, pattern writing, knitting).
WK: Sounds like my kind of day, too! Where do you do your best design work?
ST: On the couch! I wish I had room for a studio. I work either at the desktop, with the laptop in the dining room or with the laptop on the couch. I like having music in the background – it bugs me if it’s too quiet.
WK: What do you think is your "that one thing" that makes you a great designer?
ST: Gosh, I aspire to be a great designer. But good? Attention to detail, whether it’s paired decreases (and decreases chosen for a specific reason) to how one part of a pattern flows into another, or keeping a design (stitch patterns and motifs) proportionate across a range of sizes.
WK: What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
ST: Read Shannon Okey’s book. All of it. Read through all the old posts on the Designer group board on Ravelry. Network. Keep learning. Use a tech editor.
WK: Thanks so much for the interview and the valuable advice, Stephannie!