Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Meet the Designer: Karie Westermann

 Karie Westermann in a lovely Big Wool cowl

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in crochet and knitwear design? Do you come from a crafty family?

I was taught to knit by my great-grandmother when I was five or six years old. I grew up in rural Denmark – mine was the local arty family. Everybody was creative in one way or another. We never had much money, but there was a steady supply of handmade garments, knitted jumpers and interesting paintings. Of course my family still obsessed over football results and pop music, but there was a definite sense of self-expression and creative exploration. I learned to knit, crochet and sew as a very young girl and I have never really stopped wanting to make stuff. 

I got into designing when I worked for a yarn company and they needed a quick project to sell some leftover beads. My pattern did really, really well for them. Then in 2011 an indie dyer friend was launching a new yarn line at a prestigious London event and pressured me into doing my first self-published design. And that pattern did really well too. I began thinking that maybe I should look at doing more design work and now I'm a full-time self-employed knitting designer. It's amazing.  

2. What is your favourite part of the designing process?

I am a process designer as much as I am a process knitter, so this is a tough question! I really love pattern writing. I have a background in technical writing and I think that has helped me a great deal. But you know what I love best of all? When I look at something that looks exactly like the idea I had in my head and somebody else is wearing it. It's an amazing feeling.

 
Karie's Picycle Shawl can be found in Rowan Bespoke

3. Do you have a favourite type of yarn or fibre to work with?

This may be the best question ever! I like working with all sorts of different fibres but I love wool above all else. I have been working a lot with rustic yarns recently - yarns where you can still sense that the wool's come from a sheep and it hasn't been processed beyond recognition.On the other hand, Rowan Kidsilk Haze is as far from rustic as you can get. It is such a versatile yarn that makes even the simplest design shine. I also love how many colours you can get with KSH – you can either knit it on its own or combine shades to get new combinations. I have been working a lot with Rowan Felted Tweed DK recently and it's amazingly versatile as well. So, in short, every yarn has its right time and place (apart from fun fur). As long as I'm working with natural fibres, I am happy.

Juniper hat from The Knit Generation
made with Kidsilk Haze and Felted Tweed DK

4. What’s the best thing you've ever knitted or crocheted? And the worst?

My latest design is always my favourite. I always say that! But there are designs that have huge personal significance for me because I remember where I were when I came up with the idea or when I knitted the sample. Right now I'm really proud of the Vedbaek Shawl which has resonated with knitters around the world since the moment I released it. As for worst.. my very first garment was a crochet jumper I made out of my mum's cotton scraps. It was yellow, orange, pink and lime green. A hideous thing, really, with granny squares stretching across my bosom and strips of colours down the bottom. I was 17 or thereabouts. I was really proud of it and wore it around town. I am very thankful that no photos exist.  

5. Where is your favourite place to knit or crochet?

Living in Scotland, I don't get to sit outside and knit all that often but I love when the weather cooperates. I live close to the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow, so I love sitting there during the summer. I also have a weird love for knitting on the train! I travel a lot for work, so maybe that's why I love knitting on long train journeys.  

6. What is the best knitting tip you’ve picked up over the years?

"Always keep a safety pin with you". It sounds strange but a safety pin is amazingly versatile. It can function as a stitch holder, secure drop stitches, stand in for a stitch marker or help you during the sewing up process. As a result I have tonnes of safety pins scattered around my home and in all my bags!

 
Safety pins: don't leave home without one

7. How many projects do you have on the go at the minute?

I try to keep to three things at any one time. If I have more than three things, I get really stressed. I try to have an easy project for knit nights and late night knitting; a project that'll keep my brain challenged; and a big project that'll keep me entertained for months. Right now I have a pair of socks on the needles, an accessory design, and a garment. It's a nice mix. 

8. Could you please teach us an important knitting-related phrase in Danish?

Strikkepind! That means "knitting pin" in Danish. "Strik" meaning knitting and "pind" means .. well, *pin*! So, strikkepind. Go ahead and use that one all the time.