Robynn Weldon, Indie Design Gift A-Long 2019 Interview

Today we’re chatting to a good friend of mine, Robynn Weldon, whose designs range from cute and simple baby accessories to elaborate lace and brioche.

How did you get into knitting/crochet and who taught you? What made you want to start designing?

Everyone in my family does needlecrafts (even my dad had a knitting and sewing phase), so it was something I more or less just absorbed through osmosis. But it was only in high school that I got completely hooked, using it to stave off the boredom of boarding school. At the time I didn’t have much access to good patterns, and in any case improvising our own designs was exactly how the rest of the family did it, so it never really occurred to me to knit or crochet any other way.

From the time knitting started going online I was keen on putting my designs out there, but between work (including running an online yarn shop!) and babies, it was a long time before I actually got around to making it happen.

Elfbaby hat by Robynn Weldon.  Photo © Lorna Lynch
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Elfbaby hat by Robynn Weldon. Photo © Lorna Lynch

What’s you favourite part of the design process?

Pretty much every part other than modelling photos? Of course I enjoy the knitting but I also get great satisfaction from wrangling spreadsheets to figure out all the shaping details, and I really love writing and laying out the pattern. My professional background is in publishing so it’s a lot of fun to apply those skills to my hobby. I also sometimes work with other designers on their romance text or layout, which again is very satisfying.
 

What inspires you?

Is it pretentious to say “everything”? I think many knitters share that feeling of constantly seeing textures or colour combinations that just beg to be rendered in yarn form. And of course I get plenty of ideas from other knitwear. But most of my actual designs start with the yarn, or at least, a combination of yarn and a nagging sense of wanting to explore a particular shape or construction.
 
For instance, I have a shop-bought cardigan that’s literally just a long rectangle with two sleeves stuck in. I wanted to do a version of that, but using lace-weight (for the best drape and minimum bulk) meant I had to find some more interesting treatment than the original’s plain stocking stitch, or I’d be bored stupid. That’s how Pavonis came along.
Pavonis by Robynn Weldon
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Pavonis by Robynn Weldon

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

Very much part-time. I’ve found I don’t have a structured enough approach to deliver patterns at the rate necessary to make a living at this (to say nothing of the marketing and other skills needed). I have huge respect for those who manage it! My output (never very fast) has slowed down a lot over the past year, thanks to work pressures, and I’m so glad that I don’t need to stress over what that means for the family budget. I’ve found that creatively speaking, I don’t perform well under pressure.

Do you have a favourite thing to design and why?

Good question! I tend to think in garments, but I haven’t actually designed many of them. I do a lot of cowls and scarves. Looking ahead, I definitely want to do more garments; I have so many ideas and sketches. Having recently given myself permission to design purely for fun, without trying to fit into a release schedule or grand marketing plan, there’s honestly no reason not to do garments. I want to further explore the sideways constructions I used for Pavonis and Kadigan, for instance. And since my brioche scarves (Pravigan and Frail) have been my most successful designs, I’ll definitely be playing with more brioche. And more mini-skein designs – I have so many ideas for colour play and yet I’ve hardly done any so far.
Frail scarf by Robynn Weldon
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Frail scarf by Robynn Weldon

Do you have much time to make things for yourself or for gifting?

I always knit a bunch of small things in the Gift-a-Long but otherwise, for years I was really only knitting for design purposes. I’ve made a point of changing that this year, making a few shawls for myself and for friends. (One was improvised, two were from fantastic patterns by Emily K Williams – Stoer and Toscaig.) I absolutely love designing but I think I’m happiest when there’s a better balance. Otherwise my hobby becomes just another thing to judge myself on: am I being productive enough, am I being “successful” enough? I think that’s a pretty common trap.
Kadigan by Robynn Weldon
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Kadigan by Robynn Weldon

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

Probably toys! There are so many ridiculously cute designs out there (like this sloth https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/baby-sloth-2) but I hate making toys – so fiddly. Or socks, for a similar reason. They’re so lovely to wear but I’m pretty bored by knitting socks.

Do you have a favourite yarn and why?

Often whatever I’m using right now is my favourite. But I think the Knitting Goddess’s BFL/Masham blend is right up there – it’s an amazing balance of softness and resilience, with a beautiful lively, fluffy spin. I used it for Kadigan and there was a lot of ripping as I figured out the shape, but the yarn held up so well, without pilling.
Pravigan by Robynn Weldon
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Pravigan by Robynn Weldon

What’s your favourite of your own designs and what do you love about it?

I love ALL my children! (Ok no, not true, some of the early kids’ knits were very pedestrian.) But I think Twist Again is the one I’d most like to re-knit, it’s very satisfying. I think it’s the most underappreciated of my designs. On the opposite end of the scale, Elfbaby is steadily popular and seeing new versions pop up is a constant delight.
Twist Again by Robynn Weldon
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Twist Again by Robynn Weldon

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

My last design, Games Night, is a super fun spiral construction; I’m working on my fourth right now (since I didn’t keep the samples but my kids are mad keen on it) and it’s not boring yet. The way the yarns are magically tidied away as you go makes me feel super clever. Although the colour blocks are a big part of the design, I’m curious to see a version in just one, variegated colourway. You’d just have to use stitch markers to keep track of the blocks, instead of colour changes.
I’d also like to mention Mokita, which I released in April – this was a very emotional design for me. I originally knit the aran version for my mother, and then the lace-weight version became a way of grieving for her and working through some very complicated feelings. I donate all proceeds from this shawl to the mental health charity Mind. You can read about why on my blog. http://www.studio-miranda.com/blog/2018/12/the-truth-that…

Games Night by Robynn Weldon.  Photo © Miss Babs 2019
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Games Night by Robynn Weldon. Photo © Miss Babs 2019

What’s your favourite colour?

I tend to love colours in combination, more than singly, but I wear more teal than anything else. Teal with chocolate brown, with red, with grey, with green and purple… teal is my personal neutral!

Kissable mittens by Robynn Weldon
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Kissable mittens by Robynn Weldon

Have you been a participating designer in the Indie Gift Along before and what do you love most about it?

I’ve been participating since 2014 and would never miss it! It’s always so much fun to explore what other designers have been doing, and stuff my queue. I love having the excuse to knit other people’s patterns, rather than working it all out myself. Some years I make quite a few things, this year I might only finish one by year-end (Claire Slade’s Woodland Loafers), but there will definitely be more showing up in the after-party.
Wraparoche by Robynn Weldon
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Wraparoche by Robynn Weldon

Which Gift Along 2019 designers inspire you and why?

What a tough question! There are so many hugely talented designers in the GAL. Sarah Schira’s endlessly charming gnomes blow me away (and make me reconsider my anti-toy-knitting stance). I love Paola Albergamo’s unexpected colourwork and high-energy photos. And I’m in awe of my friend Emily K Williams, who creates such consistently strong (and well-written), original patterns with a very coherent aesthetic.

How do people get in touch with you or see more of your work?

 

Christmas Tea Cozies 3 sizes, 4 characters, ebook

 

Aline Modular Cardigan ladies knitting pattern is released

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

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