Hello everyone and happy weekend! You made it! As many of you know, I recently knit up the Manning Park Hat and then, quickly on its heels as a test-knit, the Blackberries and Cream Hat. Both designs come from Laura Dear of Black Crow Knits; and I am so happy to feature her on the blog this weekend. I love Laura’s accessory designs–such subtle colorwork and clear instructions. If you need a quick travel knit that will result in a warm, soft, and pretty accessory–Laura is your lady! [All images are used with permission of Laura Dear of Black Crow Knits]
How did you get started in knitwear design?
I learned to knit when I was a teenager (don’t ask me when that was!), and then got back into it in earnest 12 years ago when my then 10 year old son was learning how to knit at school. He asked me to show him how to cast-on, and I basically haven’t put down my needles since. A few years later I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, and had to leave my long-time career as a manager with the federal government. That was hard! But knitting became my solace. I literally knit everyday. I knit through my grief and my frustration and, eventually, I came out the other side and found that not only did I love knitting, but that I had become pretty good at it.
Fast forward to a few years later, by which time I had knit everyone enough sweaters, socks, scarves, mitts, etc, so I started selling my knitting at local craft fairs. And then, I decided to try my hand at design. I set a goal for myself – release one pattern in 2016. I released four! All of them were free, and all of them are probably full of errors, but I was hooked on design. In late 2016 I decided I was ready to “up my game,” and start charging for my designs. That is when the Manning Park Collection was born.
That was such a big new step for me, becoming a designer who charges for her patterns. A big part of this was mental: believing I could actually do it. Once I started to believe, I just opened myself up to the process. And once I opened myself up to the process, the designs started to flow. The best part has been connecting with other knitters and designers all over the world through social media. I am having so much fun!
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. I have an ongoing obsession with the turned contrast picot hem, so I just put that in virtually all of my designs. Believe it or not, I also found inspiration in the fact that I didn’t like doing colourwork! I taught myself two-handed stranded colourwork knitting, and fell in love with it. Now many of my designs have stranded colourwork. Another source of inspiration is my son, who challenged me to design something with one of the stitch patterns from the book he gave me for Christmas (“750 Knitting Stitches. The Ultimate Knit Stitch Bible”), so I designed the hat that Melissa test knit for me (the “Blackberries and Cream Hat”). Inspiration is everywhere.
For my sweater designs (two of which I am working on right now), I was inspired because I could not find what I was looking for on ravelry. I wanted something that was flattering for my shape and that had interesting construction elements that would keep an intermediate knitter engaged. Another source of inspiration for me is my ongoing efforts to find sleeves that fit me well. Unfortunately, raglan sleeves don’t flatter me. Contiguous sleeve construction is better, but the sleeves lack structure. Seamed set-in-sleeves are better, but I hate seaming! So, in my sweater designs, I incorporate seamless set-in-sleeves using short-row construction, because that is the method that suits me the best. I guess my sweater design inspiration process is a bit selfish – I wanted to sweaters that fit me!
The Manning Park Collection is trending on Ravelry . . . what’s that like?
When my Manning Park Hat was trending at number one for a day on ravelry, I was totally humbled; it was so unexpected! I basically knit the hat with some yarn leftover from the sweater I made for my son for Christmas. When I wrote up the pattern and launched it just before Christmas I could not believe when it started trending. I was so inspired by how well received the hat pattern was that I quickly knit up and then released the Manning Park Cowl and the Manning Park Mittens patterns, right after. The Manning Park Socks are currently being test-knit, and will be released soon, too. I learned so much about design, launching patterns, and I met so many amazing knitters online; the whole experience was really wonderful.
What kind of advice would you give to knitters who are new to colorwork?
My advice on colourwork is to first of all, practice, practice, practice! I learned how to do two-handed stranded colourwork, so that was helpful. I learned how important it is to maintain an even tension, and that one of the ways to help with this is to switch to larger needles when doing colourwork. Also, start with easier motifs, ones that repeat over fewer stitches, to help you get the hang of carrying floats. I have also taught myself how to steek (knit a stranded colourwork cardigan in the round, and then cut it open down the middle later), as a way of avoiding doing colourwork on the purl rows. Sometimes, we learn new techniques to avoid other ones.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I am releasing a new hat pattern, the “Braids and Berries Hat,” this weekend! It comes in two options. One has – of course! – a turned picot hem! I’m also putting the finishing touches on a pattern for a women’s sweater that I am quite excited about. For that pattern I had to learn how to grade patterns to add different sizes, which has forced me to get past my math anxiety. I am soon to put out a call for test knitters for that one, so stay tuned! I also have a couple of sweaters in mind for fall that build on the Manning Park Collection theme, and a Manning Park Hat for kids just needs to be written up, too. Oh, and I have two sock patterns that I am working on. As you can see, I love the actual design part of the process, but have fallen a bit behind in my pattern writing…
Where can folks find your patterns?
All of my patterns are available on ravelry under my designer name, “Black Crow Knits.”
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Thanks so much Laura!
I love meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are an indie dyer, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)