Hello lovely yarn folk! I was browsing around YouTube, as one does, and came across a lovely podcast that I hadn’t seen before. The host spoke French in some episodes and English in others, and I found her style to be really welcoming and fun. Maybe some of you have already discovered Audrey Borrego (a.k.a YarnFlakes) on Ravelry and YouTube. Aside from hosting the bi-lingual YarnFlakes podcast, she is also a prolific designer who has a knack for creating knitted accessories and garments that are wearable, beautiful, and fun–that last part is key! If you check out her designs, you’ll see what I mean: there is always a little something interesting, a detail that pops and draws your attention in all the right ways. So, naturally, I struck up an email correspondence with Audrey (you all know me!) and she was kind enough to agree to an interview. Our questions and answers are below . . . but first, the images and the giveaway! Audrey send some gorgeous photos of her work and she’s generously donated two patterns for me to giveaway on the podcast! If you can’t wait for this week’s cast and the GIVEAWAY, you can head straight to Audrey’s Ravelry store and use the code STASH25 for a 25% discount until Oct 12th! I am pretty sure I’ll be downloading a sweater or two, myself!
KTS: How did you get started with design?
Audrey: I wish I had a lovely, straightforward story that makes perfect sense so it would look like fate or something! But the reality is just a mix of me being very bored on a long afternoon at work and the fact that I wanted to wear cute socks with an original cuff detail peeking out of shoes. I started doodling and ended up with the open cuff idea of the Cheeky Shy Socks (pictured above). It’s my first-ever pattern and is still there for free on Ravelry (it could use an update, I keep rolling my eyes at the sky every time I see one of my old patterns!).
I’ve always been very passionate about little technical details so I dug deep in the particularities of designing and pattern writing. I’ve learned a lot and every day I find something new that changes everything. Getting into knitwear design is constant work, there’s never an effortless design. Even the simplest ones always manage to bring something special to improve on!
KTS: Who are your biggest crafting influences/inspirations?
Audrey: That’s a hard one. I don’t know anyone who knits (or does any crafts for the matter), in real life. I’m in a little bubble so most of my interactions and influences come from online creators. I’m thinking of a few people I admire for various reasons, so here goes the name dropping:
Katie Greene (@katiegreenbean) is an artist and knitter who has the most beautiful podcast on Youtube. She shares her illustrations and knitting and both are so deep in a unique sense of peace. I absolutely love her illustrations and it’s very inspiring to me.
Françoise Danoy (@arohaknits) is a designer whose honesty and dedication to the community shows so much through her work. Whether it’s colourwork or textures she manages to have a personal feel in even the simplest design. As someone who is so much all over the place I can’t feel that I have a personal style so that sense of unity really appeals to me.
Marie-Amélie (@maremelade) is a French designer who has an amazing eye for texture and style. She always surprises me in the way she arranges her garment designs. She’s a person I really look up to in this industry.
Finally, I have a soft spot for Sylvia McFadden’s (@softsweater) photography. Her designs are stunning, but the whole universe created in each photograph just drags me in there instantly.
Bonus mention to the costume designer of Stranger Things. I pretty much want to reproduce all of Nancy’s outfits. In general I get a lot of inspiration from books, video games, shows or films. I’m very fond of fictions that showcase a particular aesthetic or style.
KTS: Your patterns are classic, easy to wear, and subtle. What is your favorite part of coming up with a new garment or accessory?
Audrey: First of all thank you I’m always amazed at the compliments I get on my designs because these adjectives come up a lot and that’s not at all the impression I have on this side of the creation!
If I’m honest, my favourite part is the test knitting process. It’s a very hard and time consuming part of the designer’s job. But there is that moment when the first tester shares a picture of her work, and it always amazes me. I guess until I see another maker recreate the idea, I just don’t feel that the pattern is working or any good.
It happens again when one shows a picture of the finished project. I always, always, need a second to realise what I’m looking at. My brain just goes: wait a minute, is that really made from my design? It feels very strange and a bit surreal. It probably comes from my imposter syndrome as I don’t seem to understand that: yes, it works; yes, sometimes it’s really beautiful; and yes, I did that.
I’m having a lot of that at the moment with the Apophenia sweater (pictured above) that we’re testing and that should be released in November. Especially since the motif looks so different depending on the chosen colours.
It also implies seeing knitters getting empowered to make modifications. I highly encourage those as I don’t see why we would knit if we wouldn’t do what we wanted. Seeing different people with different visions and needs make a design their own is not only a lot of fun: it’s also very valuable for me. My testers teach me a lot.
KTS: What are your strategies for matching yarns to design ideas?
Audrey: I’m very interested in fibers and yarn properties. I am very sad when I see that a lot of knitters always take the same yarn (superwash merino) by default, without thinking if that works with the project or if maybe there is something else they might like. Variety is essential, especially in knitting.
I want the yarn to look good in my design. Of course if it’s a collaboration that’s the point, but I actually buy most of my design yarn and if I bought it, it’s because I like it. So I better find the right thing for it!
There are lots of resources online and in books (like the well known Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook or the Knitter’s Book of Yarn that will tell you how different types of yarn works). Whether it’s in the fiber content or in the spinning and plying, a yarn behaves in a certain way. Some are ideal for colourwork because they bloom and make a uniform fabric. Some are very plump, smooth and make textures pop.
But the key is to realise that these categories are not so strict. Yes, rustic woolen spun yarns are great for colourwork. But it doesn’t mean that the other yarns will break your project or look awful. For me, knitting works a certain way, but there are no rules. It’s better to understand how it works so you can choose how to handle that in any way you want. Sometimes I want to make an accessory where the texture is a bit blurred, like my Vath mittens (pictured above). This type of motif looks so neat in a smooth yarn but I didn’t want this crisp definition. I used Tukuwool fingering, a rustic pure wool that made the leaf look very soft.
KTS: Any advice for folks who might want to start designing?
Audrey: The main thing is to just go for it! I had a lovely chat not so long ago with someone who told me they has designed a few things for themselves but didn’t dare to post them because they didn’t feel like they were legitimate enough. I think if anyone always feels legitimate and super confident in what they’re doing, they’re probably not really doing anything interesting. I mentioned it before: I think we all have that imposter syndrome. I constantly feel like someone is going to come at me to scream: this is not how you’re supposed to do this! This is too basic and not worth being published! It happens a lot when you’re self-taught. You have the impression everyone else has a real designer diploma and you don’t.
To design, it’s essential that you want to learn and improve: there is a lot of knowledge to build regarding art and fashion, anatomy and fit, communication . . . But if you have done that serious work, there is no reason to hold back sharing from your designs.
Most of the time we design because we don’t find what we want. So it’s always worth putting it out there for others who won’t have the time or resources to design. There is a serious need for diversity in the knitwear design industry. So every voice counts.
KTS: What do you love most about podcasting? What keeps you coming back to the camera?
Audrey: I started by saying I was in a bubble and I guess that’s it. I have no one to talk to about knitting and quite frankly I think my boyfriend is getting tired of nodding at my blabber. I want to share the things I love, the things I discover, the things I learn, and learn from others. It’s just amazing to chat with various people and get all of our experiences in a common space.
However since I really enjoy sharing the process being my designs, it goes a bit all over the place! I have to refrain from giving away too much information: sometimes I just go on and on, months before the pattern is even released. It wasn’t the first intention, as I podcasted a lot before designing but it is a great tool to spread the word about my work. For me showing my designs in the podcasts often end up in a detailed discussion about the techniques involved or the yarn. I hope people enjoy and get valuable information, whether or not they like the design itself.
The point is to exchange on our common interest. Sometimes we have discussions in the comments or in my DMs and the funny thing is it often starts with a viewer saying they don’t like the design I’m showing (whether it’s mine or someone else’s). But then they go on giving their point of view on the thoughts I shared on the project. It’s always very interesting and makes me really happy to have these little chats.
KTS: Where can folks find your patterns? or find out more about you?
I am on Instagram @yarnflakes and I record podcasts on Youtube where I share everything that I make: my own work but also other creators’. I’ve been enjoying test knitting for other designers at the moment so there’s quite a bit of that!
KTS: What’s new on the horizon for you?
Audrey: I have a lot of garments planned for the autumn-winter Especially a textured pink collection as I unintentionally gathered four sweater quantities in that same colour. So I’m pretending it was on purpose and the garments will start appearing one at a time in the middle of October.
And, like other designers before me, I am about to start sharing on Patreon. It’s launching on October 1st. I will be there as Yarnflakes and offering a few things. It’s important for me to maintain the more public place of discussion with the podcast, so Patreon will be different. Of course it will be a way for people who’d like to support me to get my patterns, but I want to have monthly chats about various topics: a technique, a yarn, vlogging a design in particular . . . These videos will be in French but I’m taking the time to subtitle them in English so everyone is welcome and will find their way!
Thanks so much, Audrey, for sharing your designs and a bit about your life with us! 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) Happy knitting! 🙂