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Interview with Mary E. Rose, Mary E Rose Designs

Today we’re chatting to Mary E. Rose of Mary E Rose Designs, aka marydear on Ravelry.com, on Instagram, on Facebook.

How did you get into knitting and who taught you?

I spent my early years in England, where knitting was still taught in school, and my mother knit.  I made my first “gift” knit when I was six or seven, a large garter stitch dish cloth for my grandmother.  (As an added bonus, my attention span was shorter than the rows of that cloth so I learned early about short rows and shaping!)

What made you want to start designing knitwear?

I think that every knitter, at some point finds that they can’t find a pattern for what they want to make and create their own. I started designing my own things in the dark ages before the internet made it so easy to find such a large variety of patterns.  As time went by I designed for my kids then more recently wrote up little patterns for them and my friends…but it was my friends that really pushed me to “publishing” designs. 

What’s you favourite part of the design process?

A lot of my designs start with a question…What if? Or How Could? Figuring out the answer is my favourite part of the process…well, that and actually sitting down with needles in hand knitting it!

Do you start with a chart or a swatch or do you have a fully formed item in mind first?

I usually know how the project ends before I know how it begins!  I’ll explain…When I am goal setting I ask “What does success look like? Where do I want to end up?” and I do the same thing with a lot of my designs.  I know how the piece will end, then work backwards to figure out what the steps are to get to that ending.  Then I chart, write and start knitting swatches.

What inspires you?

I would be hard pressed to say what doesn’t inspire me!  Everything can inspire an idea…the world outside that I see, the music that plays on the radio, colourways of yarn. I created a series of patterns playing with self striping yarns because I adore the colours, but get very bored knitting plain vanilla socks. (Although those plain socks do showcase a good self striping yarn!)

Are you a full-time or part-time designer and how does that fit into your life?

Full-time, part-time?…based on hours worked each week…Full Time.  I usually am actively working on some part of a design between 35 and 40 hours a week, but I have other jobs too! I think, as with many designers, while I would love for this to be my only job, in today’s economy that is not feasible.

Do you have a favourite thing to design and why?

I design the things I like to knit.  Shawls are one of my favorites and I wear them a lot, but I also love socks and cowls, hats and tops. (I adore knitting doilies, and have a box full of them to prove it, but haven’t ventured into actually designing one.  I do borrow from the techniques used to make them to create shawls though.)

Cowl Trick by Mary E Rose

Do you have much time to knit for yourself or for gifting?

A lot of my samples do end up getting worn or gifted, and I make a point of knitting for pleasure as well as for my designs.  There are a couple of ways that I make sure I get pleasure knitting time, one is to play along in the Indie Gift Along, another is to test knit for other designers and I have a pattern buying habit that is nearly a large as my yarn collecting habit!

If someone knitted or crocheted a gift item for you, what would you love the most?

I would adore anything that someone knitted or crocheted for me!  One of the crafters I met on Ravelry made me a collection of crocheted bookmarks that I use daily.  (Although I often say…I would really like to have a very fine weight, two by two ribbed, turtle neck pullover…but I do not have the patience to actually knit it for myself!)

Do you have a favourite yarn and why?

I am the worst kind of yarn snob.  I really believe that for every project, knitter (crocheter) and recipient there is a “right yarn”.  Sometimes that is a nice acrylic from a big box store, sometimes it is expensive hand dyed cashmere. Matching the project to the yarn really is key though.  

What’s your favourite design and what do you love about it?

Of  my own?  That’s a little like asking which one of my children is my favorite! My stock answer to that (for designs, not children) is the next one!  But of the most recent or newly upcoming…probably Aviarium, in Knotions.com,  where I played with mixing and matching shawl shapes to create a top down wedged half circle shawl with some pi- shawl shaping halfway through.  I really wasn’t sure, even having swatching a full third of it, how the pi-shaping would work out and the applied border edge (the ending that started the whole project) had to fit “just so”. You can buy Aviarium here

Avarian Shawl available at knotions.com
Avarian Shawl available at Knotions.com this week

Is there anything new you can tell us about or a recent design you’d like to chat about?

So many new things on the horizon…I have a couple of really small tutorial type projects coming this summer, a Shetland hybrid shawl later this year…and…shhhh…there might even be an eBook waiting in the wings.

What’s your favourite colour?

Do I have to pick just one?  That’s hard…I am not fond of orange and my more conservative jobs have me wearing a lot of neutral, so for daily wear I have a lot of beige, navy blue and black but, I love all the shades of blues, greens and teals (for me). That said, my children love red, green and purple, so I knit with a lot of colors!

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Shawlstar by Elizabeth Felgate

I was recently asked by the wonderful Jody at Knotions to review the new Shawlstar book by Elizabeth Felgate, many of you on Ravelry will know her designs. I love her Gaugeless range of sweaters and cardigans designed for any yarn weight.

Liz has an amazing eye for both colour and texture and whether you’re an experienced shawl knitter or a newbie, you’ll absolutely love this book. Liz is known for her attention to detail and this really shows in the book, there’s a great deal of thought gone into making it easier for the knitter and to ensure any instructions are well explained before you start. There are lots of gorgeous photos and plenty of hints, tips and advice to take you through your shawl project. There are more than 40 patterns in the book and I think it’s an absolute bargain at $19.95 (plus VAT if you’re in the EU). That’s less than $0.50 per pattern.

If you’re unfamiliar with Knotions, they’re an online publisher of knit and crochet patterns and their website is a virtual treasure trove of goodies including articles and some fabulous tutorials.

The book is being updated to add some gorgeous new shawl shapes on 23rd March and you can buy it here. (In the interests of transparency, this is an affiliate link and I’ll receive a small percentage from the sale of the book, it won’t affect the price you pay).

The ebook itself has over 60 pages of shawl design recipes you can customize to your yarn/gauge and get the size you want. There are over 40 shawl shapes for you to try and they’re clearly explained with examples so you understand easily how each one works. I love the new shapes which are being added on 23rd March and swatched a couple of them so you could have a quick preview. One of the things I liked is that each shawl shape included in the book has a list of pros and cons for that shape, I found that really helpful.

I love the layout of the book, nice and clean, easy to read fonts and well formatted. Of the new shawl shapes, Rainbow has a little bit of maths to do before you start, but they’ve included a brilliant spreadsheet to do the work for you (easily accessed online). How utterly cool is that?

How does all of this help someone who’s never knitted a shawl? Well, it means you can use any weight of yarn, you just type in the stitches and rows per inch, the intended size of your finished shawl and the calculator does the rest for you.

Flourish and Harpoon have a fill in the blanks option so you can easily record the number of rows, sts or repeats (depending on the design) and print them out whenever you need them. No need for scribbled notes all over your printed pattern every time you use it.

The shawl shapes included in the book are:

  • Triangles
  • Rectangles and Squares
  • Circles and Half Circles
  • Crescents
  • Hybrids
  • Unusual and new shapes added in this update
Rainbow Shawl shape from Shawlstar By Elizabeth Felgate, edited by Knotions.com
Rainbow Shawl shape from Shawlstar By Elizabeth Felgate, edited by Knotions.com

I picked up some 5mm needles and some aran weight Creative & Filz yarn in the Rainbow colourway for this shawl as I just couldn’t resist adding some bright, rich colours to this pretty shape. The shawl recipe in the book includes options for this version which is four segments, you could use six so the shawl crosses over at the front or eight segments for a circular version. The spreadsheet calculator worked perfectly and made it so easy to change the depth/height of the shawl and the width, very clever!

I quickly blocked the increases to nice points but you can leave yours with a straight edge or add a pretty lace border. If I had to be really picky, and this is my personal preference, I’d have added 1 more stitch – a K1 before the final YO increase on the increase row so that the right and left edges were identical, obviously for a circular version that extra stitch wouldn’t be needed. The shawl gives a comfortable neck shape and makes me want to fill those segments with a lace pattern 🙂

Next up is Flourish, this is such a beautiful, sweeping shape and the asymmetry called to me. Again I used the same yarn and needles and soon had this beauty. I can’t wait to play around with this shape and see how it works with a variety of yarns. Self striping yarns like this one, or stripes to bust some stash would really help show off the unusual shaping.

Flourish Shawl Shape recipe from Shawlstar by Elizabeth Felgate and edited by Knotions.com
Flourish Shawl Shape recipe from Shawlstar by Elizabeth Felgate and edited by Knotions.com

Those of you who know me, will know I’m not usually one to gush or rave about something. But, I do love the Shawlstar book, it’s full of clever ideas, inspirational shawl shapes and lots of helpful advice. Shawlstar makes me want to sneak off work and spend the rest of the year knitting shawls.

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Be as Water – New Shawl Pattern Release

I’m a big fan of Mindy Dykman, aka Ravenknits and love her intricate patterns, often inspired by nature or the works of JRR Tolkein. Her latest release is being published today (Pi day for those in the know) and is called Be as Water, which is part of a collection of patterns called Elements of Memory. The ebook of six patterns does represent a HUGE saving, but if you prefer there is a discount code for 20% off the individual pattern.

Save 20% off the price of Be As Water using the code BeAsWater in your Ravelry shopping cart.  Offer good until 11:59pm EST Tuesday March 19th.

I love the beading and lace details and knitted with fine yarn, it’ll be as light as a feather.

I asked Raven about her design inspiration, here’s what she had to say

“Growing up in the Fraser Delta of British Columbia, with parents who attended UBC, I remember spending many days in the Nitobe Memorial Gardens. These gardens on the UBC campus are considered to be amongst the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan itself. The deliberate plantings and symbolic statuary of the gardens are a huge part of the artistic sensibilities I have carried with me since childhood, and I wanted in some way to honour that debt of influence. It is for this reason that, when I started contemplating the shape with which to represent the traditional elements as a shawl series, I turned to the structure of the gorinto. Built in towers of five defining shapes, the gorinto represents elements of stability and of change, of permanence and impermanence, of the known and of the unknowable.

The spherical second level of the gorinto represents Water. Be As Water is a lace weight circular pi shawl worked from the center out. It is worked in concentric circles with a stocking stitch ring between each ring of lace motifs. The first two lace rings use the traditional Old Shale motif. The third and fifth lace rings use a stitch that represents the word “rain,” the return of water from sea to land. The fourth lace ring uses a Japanese stitch which is an interesting variation of the same concepts found in Old Shale, suggesting that like water, the ideas that are expressible within knitting stitches are similar around the world.”

Let’s have another look at this stunning shawl