Allison Janocha, Indie Design Gift ALong 2019 InterviewToday we’re chatting to knitwear designer Allison Janocha who is also a Mod for the Indie Gift Along, tell us a little about yourself please Allison.
How did you get into knitting/crochet and who taught you?
My mom taught me the basics when I was 8 years old. We were planning to make scarves in 2×2 rib. She was making them for my younger sisters, and I was going to make my own. She cast on for me, and then I worked on the rest. This was the start of my lifetime of not finishing scarves; I don’t think I made it past the first 6” or so!
My next-door neighbor was a crocheter, and she taught me the very basics of crochet when I was 13. Not long after, I was working a garage sale with my Girl Scout troop, and I came across a copy of Learn How Book: Knitting, Crocheting, Tatting, Embroidery from Coats and Clark for 50 cents. I bought it, and thus began the rest of my learn-to-knit-and-crochet journey. Since then, I find I usually learn best from books and online videos.
What made you want to start designing?
It wasn’t until many years later that I actually started designing, and I can say that now that I am designing, I still don’t sell FOs! In honor of my teenaged self, I do specifically state that people can sell FOs from my patterns, for countries where permission is needed.
What’s you favourite part of the design process?
I think I have two favorite parts. One is working out a new or interesting technique, playing around, seeing if it will work. The second is seeing how other people interpret my patterns once I send them out into the world. There is such creativity in yarn choice and pattern modifications, and I love seeing them all!
What inspires you?
My inspiration varies. I use a lot of hand-dyed/hand-painted yarns, so I’m often inspired by the yarns themselves. Other times, it’s looking through my stitch dictionaries and thinking of ways to use the stitch patterns that I fall in love with. On rare occasions, I come up with a pattern name first, then figure out what sort of thing would match the name. Since naming is the hardest part, I really enjoy those ideas that come name first!
Are you a full-time or part-time designer and how does that fit into your life?
I am part-time. I have a full-time job in a biomedical research lab, so my designing has to fit around that. It can be challenging, since my job varies between being very mentally engaging and very routine. During the times I’m working out new protocols, reading up on the latest research, or assisting my boss with grant preparations, I don’t have the mental energy to design as much as I’d like, so my design output is limited to when things are slow or routine at work. Oftentimes, I’ll go months without anything new, then release several designs that have been in progress for months all at once.
Do you have a favourite thing to design and why?
Yes and no. I tend to go in phases. When I first started out, I was doing a lot of sock patterns, with the occasional shawl. When I joined the Indie Design Gift-a-Long, I decided to start focusing on some quicker knits as well and started designing hats. This was a big surprise to me, because I look horrible in most hats and don’t like wearing them! Now, I’m inspired to design some neck things—cowls, shawls, maybe even something scarf-like?
Do you have much time to make things for yourself or for gifting?
For my smaller designs, I like to make multiple projects to test the pattern before sending it to my tech editor and testers, especially because some of my patterns include multiple versions (either different stitch patterns, or both toe up and cuff down instructions for socks). I often keep these samples for myself or gift them to family and friends. Just this past summer, I was working on developing larger sizes for my River Ness socks (larger sizes should be coming out early next year) See above for photo and link to pattern. I often knit at baseball games, and have become friends with the husband and wife who sit behind me. One day, I was knitting the sample, and the wife looked over and said “nice color!” I responded, “Do you want them?” and sent her the finished socks after I had finished knitting and photographing them!
If someone knitted or crocheted a gift item for you, what would you love the most?
I think I would want something I can’t make myself—an amigurumi or stuffed animal (I’m horrible with faces!), something with intarsia, or something with really elaborate colorwork. Or a scarf, because I don’t have the patience!
Do you have a favourite yarn and why?
I love all yarn, but I especially love wool.
What’s your favourite of your own designs and what do you love about it?
Isn’t this like asking someone to pick their favorite child?!? But if I had to choose, I think it would be Coronal. It has everything I love in a hat—looks complicated and has a dramatic crown—but is deceptively simple to knit.
Is there anything new you can tell us about or a recent design you’d like to chat about?
My most recent design is the Becoming Shawl, released this December. I designed and knit it in the months leading up to my 40th birthday (December 11th!). It follows the life cycle of a flower, but to me, it is a mediation on life’s stages and changes, how each stage has its own beauty and potential, and how each stage must give way to what comes next.
What’s your favourite colour?
I like all colors, except certain spring greens/yellow-greens/green-yellows.
Have you been a participating designer in the Indie Gift Along before and what do you love most about it?
I have participated every year. My first few years, I faded away quickly, not really sure how to approach chat or the alongs. For the past few years, I’ve been very active, both as one of the chattiest chatters and as a moderator. I love so many things about the event: the people and the friendships made, my fellow moderators, and all the inspiring projects! The only real downside is how much of a workout my PayPal account gets!
Which Gift Along 2019 designers inspire you and why?
This is so hard to pick! There are so many amazing designers in 2019 that I feel bad about having to pick just a few.
In the design category:
Nim Teasdale: I love her shawl designs, especially their versatility, and her photography.
Paola Albergamo: I love the bold graphical nature of her designs, how well they fit the urban landscape she photographs them in, and her dancing videos.
Amy van der Laar: I’d probably adore her designs if all she did was more Beeswax, but she has so many great designs, with fantastic stitch patterns and crisp yarns that highlight them perfectly.
In addition to their lovely designs, I also admire these designers for their Indie design advocacy:
Mary E Rose, for her cheerleading and the amount of time she has given to helping other indie designers.
Rachy Newin, for her efforts to elevate the perception of crochet in the indie design/indie yarn worlds.
Yvonne Poon, a fellow baseball fan, who is trying to find ways to encourage more people to try out patterns from less-well-known indie designers.
And, of course, the entire mod team: no better group of people to spend the end of the year with!
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