Hi, all! Today’s post is going to be pretty awesome, and here’s why: (1) I’m going to be sharing a gorgeous new knitting book with you; AND (2) you’re going to have a chance to win your very own copy!
Melissa and her serious design talent (with training from the Fashion Institute of Technology and an industry career in knitwear design to boot) have been a force in the knitting world for years. I first became a fan of hers through such gorgeous knitting designs as the Carnaby Street Pullover (all 1960’s mod style) and the Wallis Cardigan (look at that attention to detail! The sleeves! The waist!) So I knew that her first book would be equally detailed and thoughtful.
Inspired by the urban environment of NYC, Melissa designed three collections for the book that speak to each of the unique areas of the city: Heart of the City (think midtown sleekness), Urban Bohemia (with all of its downtown cool edge), and City Gardens (to reflect the calm that can be found in the city’s green spaces). What are some of my favorite designs?
–The Bleecker Street Cardigan: I love the “Sunday brunch” feel of this cozy cardigan, and we all know how famous NYC is for Sunday brunch! With the textured sleeve pattern and patch pockets, Melissa gives the traditional cardigan an updated spin. And what better layer to have on hand to see you through a NYC winter?
–The Union Square Cowl: Look at those cables! We all know how I feel about plush and chunky cables. And I also enjoy the smidge of lace inserted between the cables to open up the fabric. I can easily picture myself wearing this while shopping for fall produce at the Union Square Greenmarket and sipping on hot apple cider. Not that I’ve thought about this in too much detail or anything…
–The Carriage House Cardigan: Not only is this piece easy to wear and eminently wearable for a variety of body types, but it’s also got a great design feature in the back: a cinched cord that can gather the fabric. It’s this type of attention to fun and unusual details that I think Melissa is (deservedly) well known for. (Also, yes, of course this piece is knit in Madelinetosh. I’m like a moth to the flame.)
–And last, but not least, the Courtyard Pullover. When my mom and I were flipping through the book together, we both agreed that this pullover is just beautiful. Enough lace to keep the knitting interesting and plenty of feminine, classic style to go with so many pieces already in your wardrobe.
Throughout the book, what also struck me as especially nice was the readability of each of the patterns. As I do more designs and write more patterns, I find myself increasingly aware of pattern layout, flow, and general “user-friendliness.” Melissa’s designs are clearly laid out with detailed instructions and great schematics, and the book also includes an extensive glossary that would be very useful when it comes to trying out any new techniques (like tubular bind-offs, anybody?)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and happily recommend it, as there are garment and accessory projects for knitters of every skill level to tackle. I also enjoyed the insight that Melissa shared about her inspiration for each design and her helpful hints along the way. With that being said, wouldn’t you like to hear from Melissa herself about the book? I knew you would, and that’s why I had a little interview with her. 😉
(1) With New York City being the inspiration and driving force behind the book, I’d love to know what first brought you to the city. Was it a career in fashion?
MW: I moved to the city to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology to study Fashion Design. It was quite a change from where I grew up, a small community in South Jersey! It took a little bit of getting used to, I have to admit there were a few tears over the first couple of weeks. This August, I will have lived here for 15 years and it’s just incredible. I am so blessed to have been given the chance to live in such an energetic, creative place.
(2) Why knitwear? What about this discipline/craft speaks to you?
MW: At FIT, the Fashion Design program is split into two year sections. In my second year, we were given the chance to explore different specialties such as lingerie, knitwear, and active wear. After taking the knitwear classes, I was hooked and knew this is what I wanted to specialized in for my last two years. At this point, hand knitting hadn’t reemerged into my life yet, but it was certainly the reason I picked back up the needles.
The most interesting thing about knitwear was the ability to start the design process completely from scratch. I was in control of creating the fabric from the start. Selecting the perfect yarn in a fantastic color, adding stitches and texture, and deciding the tension/drape were all factors that couldn’t be controlled as easily in the woven world.
(3) Could you share a bit of your design process when creating new designs? Do you swatch out ideas first, or sketch out garments first, or maybe neither!
MW: Typically, the silhouette of the garment comes first. Then I choose a yarn that will work best with the shape making sure that the drape and hand will provide me with the construction that I am looking for. If the design has a stitch pattern, I pore over a few choices then I begin swatching to make sure that the yarn choice works with the final pattern. Usually everything works out, but for some reason, lace patterns give me a bit of trouble sometimes. For example, the lace pattern used in the Museum Sweater (shown below) was not my first choice. Sometimes a little trial and error is involved in the process.
(4) Do you find yourself ever getting “designer’s block”? How do you overcome that and seek out new inspiration?
MW: I don’t like to think of it as designers block, I prefer to think of it as working in a cycle. I have extremely creative periods were I sketch tons and tons of sweaters and times when I’m not so inspired. During the not so inspired periods, I revisit my sketch book and pull interesting ideas that I’d like to develop further or use it as a jumping off point for a magazine call. Typically designs aren’t completely thought out until this stage anyway, so I try not to worry too much about the process. Everyone has their own cycle and I find respecting the downtime is just as important as the creative period. If I feel like I just need a rest, I take it and don’t push myself too much until I’m ready to begin creating once more.
(5) How would you recommend a beginning knitter approach your book? Which project or projects would you recommend to start with and why?
MW: I feel the standard answer would be to explore the accessories first and work up to a sweater, but who says a beginner knitter can’t start with a sweater? There are several sweaters in the book that I would recommend for a beginner hesitant to cast on for their first sweater. The Cobblestone Hoodie (shown below) is a great beginner’s sweater. The simple color changes keep the knitting interesting, the shaping is simple, and they will learn some new skills such as tubular hems. The Washington Square Cardigan and Hat (also shown below) are also good choices for a beginner. The hat could be considered a practice run since you will become familiar with the stitch pattern for the sweater. Both projects knit up quickly and skills learned will included how to knit a buttonhole, how to read a chart, plus a tubular BO. The Skyline Tunic would also be a good project as well.
For the adventurous beginner, my advice is pick something you love! If you get stuck, your LYS, knitting videos, or the many forums on the net are all great resources to get the help you need and keep the project moving along.
(6) Do you have a favorite finishing tip or technique? Which garment uses it?
MW: I really love clean tubular hems. The Cobblestone Hoodie and the Le Cirque Cowlneck sweater (shown below) both use this detail on the hem and sleeve cuffs.
(7) As a one-time NYC dweller myself, we all have our favorite haunts in the city. If you had to play tour guide, what are your must-see spots?
MW: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park (especially the Rambles), and the High Line are my absolute favorite spots in the city. Also, exploring some of my favorite restaurants in Astoria, Queens is a must such as Queens Kickshaw (fancy grilled cheese!). I think any trip to NYC isn’t complete without exploring a few neighborhoods in either Queens or Brooklyn.
(8) And last, but not least, a lightning round question: do you prefer texture or lace? Quick answer!
MW: Definitely lace!
Ok, you can admit it: you’re itching to get a copy. Luckily for you, the book is now available direct from the publishers, Interweave/F+W Media, and is also available from retailers such as Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
Even more luckily for you, Interweave has generously offered to send one winner in the continental USA a copy of Melissa’s new book! Just leave a comment on this post by midnight EDT on Saturday, July 27th and I’ll pick the winner by a random draw the next day!
A big thank you to Interweave/F+W Media for sharing this beauty with us, and also to Melissa, for sharing her knitting vision and enthusiasm with all of us!
Happy Saturday, xoxo Danielle