Debra Gerhard Spruce Lane Designs, Indie Design Gift A-Long 2019 Interview

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.

Vite Hat by Debra Gerhard
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Vite Hat by Debra Gerhard

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.

Checks Mix Cowl by Debra Gerhard
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Checks Mix Cowl by Debra Gerhard

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.

Bye Bye Birdies by Debra Gerhard
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Bye Bye Birdies by Debra Gerhard

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. 

Gradient Geometry by Debra Gerhard
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Gradient Geometry by Debra Gerhard

 

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. 

Gradients A Deux by Debra Gerhard
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Gradients A Deux by Debra Gerhard

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.

Ephemeris by Debra Gerhard © Laura Morsman
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Ephemeris by Debra Gerhard © Laura Morsman

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. 

Once Again by Debra Gerhard
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Once Again by Debra Gerhard

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.

Sinistram by Debra Gerhard
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Sinistram by Debra Gerhard

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?

Facebook:  Spruce Lane Designs  Find me here on Facebook.
Ravelry pattern store: https://www.ravelry.com/designers/debra-gerhard
Instagram: Sprucelanedesigns  Find me here on Instagram.
Pinterest: Spruce Lane Designs  Find me here on Pinterest.

 

 

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