Dec 17, 2018

Interview with a Designer: Alison Makin (KnitsandWords)

I love to learn things about fellow designers, their approach to designing process and what inspires them.
As always it was my pleasure to interview another participating GAL designer. Here is the interview with  Alison Makin  (KnitsandWords)

I have to admit, I am not a sock knitter, but I would love to try her Flexuous sock pattern.

photo by Alison

1. What inspires you to design? 

Quite simply, I love to create. Being able to take yarn and needles and turn it into something useful is wonderful. 

I learnt to knit as an adult while sitting in a textile design studio, so I was surrounded by creativity. I was spending hours there most days and the studio artist offered to teach me to knit, amongst other things. I never looked back. Knitting basic items soon became knitting more complicated things, I took on test knitting and editing and then I decided I wanted to create my own designs- so I did.

2. If you could knit one thing - anything in the world what would that be?

I actually purchased a kit earlier this year for a colourwork vest- it was a gift to myself on my 40th birthday. It is something I haven’t attempted before and I really want to do something to challenge myself in a different direction. Besides, steeks sound scary so I need to do them so I can prove to myself I can. 

photo by Alison

3. Describe your ideal day as a designer, what would you do and what would you prefer not to do? 

My ideal day as a designer... I actually sat down one day and typed this up, so I could reflect on it occasionally. I have no idea where that is now, so I’ll start again.

I would wake early and take our dog (Tess) for a walk, come home, cook breakfast and get ready for the day. Check in briefly with email and Ravelry (I usually have a test running there). Do any tech editing work for the day so that is done early while my brain is fresh. Take a break to do a bit of knitting and have lunch. After lunch I would do some pattern writing and more knitting. Do social media check-ins, etc and be finished for the day. More knitting after dinner, though.

Photographs are probably my least favourite part of the whole process and I know that is an area I need to spend more time on.

4. How do you start a project, with yarn, pattern, idea or what? 

I usually start with a stitch pattern and then think about how I can modify it so that it works for multiple sock sizes. Because I really have a thing for symmetry, I generally have to chart a slightly different stitch pattern for every size. This means I don’t go too much further until I work out how to modify it for every size as my goal is maintain the essence of the design across all sizes. After that I have to work out how all of the elements will flow- that means choosing ribbing and heel patterns that allow the pattern to transition smoothly. The next part is choosing the yarn that I think will work best with stitch pattern. I usually write the pattern before I start knitting so I can make notes on the pattern as I go, but I have been a bit lax with that lately and it does make me feel less organised.

I do start with the yarn occasionally, but that is pretty rare. I generally take that approach if I am working with a dyer and they have a specific colourway in mind.

Once I designed with a person in mind. She’s Got a Way was designed for my Mother in Law on our way home from her funeral and was named for one of the songs we played at the service.

photo by Alison

5. What inspires you to pick up needles and start on the project? 

I want to see how the design comes together, to make sure that the vision in my head and on paper will actually work.

6. What do you enjoy the most about the designing and what you dislike the most? 

The part I enjoy most is seeing other people knit my designs! That someone has spent so many hours of their time working on my design and is so proud that they want to share it with everyone makes me happy. 

My dislike is probably the nerves when I release a new pattern and I worry that no one is going to like it. 

Not yet, but when I learnt to knit I wasn’t told anything was difficult- “It’s all just knits and purls”. My first project was a cowl (that I had to graft), my second project was a full-length coat and I was knitting socks within a few months of learning to knit. 

That doesn’t mean I have done everything I want to, but I also know that I can find the instructions and learn. I used to be absolutely terrified of cables (goodness knows why, I just had this idea in my head), but found lace easy. I knew someone else who loved cables but was scared by lace. That was when I realised that I could learn anything I wanted.

photo by Alison

8. What is on your needles now? 

Two sock designs (one is in white, so it stays at home), and two GAL projects. One of those is El Unico, a shawl pattern, and the other is Flattery Bay, a sleeveless tank. Oh, and I also have a sweater that just needs the collar finished... and I’m positive that I have a couple of shawls stuffed in bags somewhere. And a sock project for my husband. And I just remembered the colourwork socks for me. Maybe I should stop thinking about the extra projects.

9. Do you work on multiple projects at the same time or single project? 

Always lots. I think you worked that out from my previous answer! I like to have different things to work on for different moods and places. Sometimes a project isn’t at a point where I can easily take it places with me, but I need something in my bag for those moments of waiting. For instance, I have spent lots of time in waiting rooms over the last couple of weeks and I really needed something small I could work on easily and put down at a moment’s notice.

photo by Alison

Where to find Alison Makin:

Ravelry Group: Alison Makin Design

Alison (Knits and Words) on Instagram

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