Debra Gerhard Spruce Lane Designs Interview Gift A-long 2019
Today we’re chatting to a good friend of mine, Debra Gerhard aka Spruce Lane Designs. Deb, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an environmental engineer turned knitting addict. (I’m still trying to figure out how to knit in my sleep.) I love designing creative, colorful knits to fuel knitters’ imaginations. I fall asleep at night dreaming of different shawl constructions or warm, cozy sweaters with colorful motifs. On the rare occasion that I put down my needles, you may find me playing the piano, baking or cooking, tending my garden or escaping to the coast of Maine.
How did you get into knitting/crochet and who taught you?
My Mom taught me how to knit when I was ten years old. My Mom knits Continental style; which suited me fine as I am left handed. My first knits were a garter stitch scarf and seamed hat which lead to more hats and a few mittens. I didn’t knit much during junior high and high school, but in college I picked it up again and knitted the “boyfriend” sweater. I started to seriously knit in my late twenties after getting married, and I haven’t stopped since that time.
What made you want to start designing?
I was never one to follow a pattern exactly as written. I would usually use the pattern as a “guide” and then add my own shaping, motifs, edgings or other personal touches. A number of years ago after I left engineering to be home with my son, I started sample knitting for a few yarn companies which subsequently lead to technical editing of patterns. Around this same time, I took a few knitwear design classes at the Rhode Island School of Design. I released my first design, Checks Mix Cowl which was based on a swatch I had done for one of my classes. However, I didn’t release anything else for about two years after this initial design and instead spent my time doing more technical editing for a number of designers and yarn companies. I finally made the leap to mostly designing around 2017 and now I find myself struggling at times to turn out all the ideas I have in my head. I love the process, and I especially enjoy seeing knitters’ interpretations of my patterns and their use of color combinations and various yarn bases.
What’s you favourite part of the design process?
I have two favorite design phases: Ironically, I love swatching and watching how an idea takes shape based on the yarn, stitch pattern(s) and color(s). (Yet prior to designing, when I used to just knit a garment for myself, I shamefully admit that I didn’t always swatch.) My second love is knitting up the actual garment or accessory once all the calculations and pattern writing have been completed.
What inspires you?
I take my inspiration from a variety of sources: an architectural detail; a colorful sunset; a spider web I may spy when out for a hike; bark on a tree; nature; found objects; textile books, and many other sources. I have been known to tell my hubby to “pull over” while driving so that I can take a picture of something that inspires me. I am drawn to color and patterns. I like to create colorful knits that fuel the imagination of each knitter and hopefully inspires them make my pattern their own.
Are you a full-time or part-time designer and how does that fit into your life?
I am currently giving full-time designing a try. I like the flexibility it offers, but I do sometimes find it challenging to find a work/life balance.
Do you have a favourite thing to design and why?
I tend to waiver between mostly sweaters and shawls. I like shawls because there are usually only one or two sizes at most that need to be developed, and I feel like shawls can be a “snap shot” of a design in my mind. It is sometimes easier to express a whimsical design or insert a small portion of a challenging design into a shawl than into a sweater. However, conversely, I also love sweaters as I feel they offer a larger “canvas” for incorporating stitch designs, tailored shaping and whimsical details.
Do you have much time to make things for yourself or for gifting?
I do tend to wear the patterns I have designed – does that count as knitting for me? As far as gifting, I will usually try to sneak in a sweater or accessory for family members, but I do find that most of my knitting time is spent as a work-related process.
If someone knitted or crocheted a gift item for you, what would you love the most?
I think that it wouldn’t really matter what genre of item was gifted to me. I feel that the time and love that is put into each stitch during the making process is what I would cherish and love most.
Do you have a favourite yarn and why?
Hmm…that’s a tough question….Although I have mostly designed in superwash yarn, I also love the feel, texture and organic components of non-superwash. So I guess I don’t truly have a favorite.
What’s your favourite of your own designs and what do you love about it?
I liken this question to asking who my favorite child is (although in my case, I only have one). I think a few that I have enjoyed the design process on are Gradient Geometry and Gradients A Deux. I like these patterns since I feel they are a bit out-of-the-box. I enjoy trying different constructions or details that look complicated, but are actually fairly basic when followed step-by-step.
I’m also a bit partial to Ephemeris as it was my first published design.
Is there anything new you can tell us about or a recent design you’d like to chat about?
It’s not a very recent design, but I’d love to chat a little about my Once Again sweater pattern. This has been one of my most successful designs to-date, which is somewhat ironic as the design process was a series of “starts and re-starts” for me. I initially knit up a swatch in a stitch pattern that I had in my head, and I found that the pattern was not amenable to DK weight yarn. I then ripped out and swatched for a shawl, thinking that a nice, comfy shawl would be great for the winter months. I got about one-third of the way through knitting the shawl and realized that between the stitch pattern I chose and the DK weight yarn, I was heading toward a “shlanket” design (a shawl that is so heavy, it feels like a blanket, hence shlanket). So, once again (cue in the pattern name), I found myself frogging and starting over. The third time was a charm, and I was finally pleased with the result. I think it is also a testament to Marianated Yarns’ Playtime DK base that it was knit up and frogged three times, and it still looked like new.
What’s your favourite colour?
My favorite color is purple, but I tend not to do too many designs in it as I find that it is a temperamental shade to photograph, at times. I also love deep reds, moody teals and other rich, saturated gem-tone colors.
Have you been a participating designer in the Indie Gift Along before and what do you love most about it?
This is only my second year as a participating designer. I love the camaraderie and community associated with the GAL. I also like that it is a chance for me to see designs by fellow designers. This year has been extremely busy for me, but I am hoping to finish up a hat and slippers, at least by the end of the year.
Which Gift Along 2019 designers inspire you and why?
I am truly inspired and humbled by all of the Indie GAL designers. I feel that when you publish a design you are putting a piece of yourself out there, and I think it takes a smidge of bravery each time you hit that “publish” button. That being said, here are a few patterns that have caught my eye:
Until We Meet Again by Heather Anderson
Crisp Apple Strudel by Katinka Designs
4-Ever in Blue Jeans by Monster Knits
Dissent by Andrea Rangel
Mine by Ukee Knits
Las-Mananitas-de-Blanca by Cecelia Losada
How do people get in touch with you or see more of your work?
Quick links to our shop
Austermann Yarns, Baby Yarns, Debbie Bliss Yarns, Lanas Stop Yarns, Araucania Yarns, Schoeller & Stahl Yarns, Felting Yarns, Noro Yarns, DK Yarns, 4ply Yarns, Aran Yarns, Fur Yarns, James C Brett Yarns, Lion Brand Yarns