Designer interview: Elizabeth Felgate

Next up in the GAL2014 event, I am pleased to share this delightful interview with knitting designer Elizabeth Felgate. Liz can be found around the web: lizjuk on Ravelry, Elizabeth Felgate Designs on Ravelry, and her blog. She lives in beautiful Bath, Wiltshire, United Kingdom, which explains the wonderful spelling of things like favourite instead of favorite, and colourwork instead of colorwork. If she had her druthers, she’d knit everything in gray, which makes her lovely Verdant Shawl all the more special to people like me who revel in color—besides, it’s a wonderful rich green, which is one of my all time favorites. Please read on to meet Liz.

Verdant Shawl

Verdant Shawl

How did you get started designing?

Liz: I started designing almost as soon as I started knitting because I stumbled across Elizabeth Zimmerman books, and began making her percentage sweaters, which give you the tools to make custom sizes and design elements. My first properly published, paid-for design came about when I made a big and complicated lace shawl for a friend that I designed from scratch. I’d needed to make up all the charts for my own purposes, so I thought why not write it up? And then I just kept going…

When you want to learn something, do you look it up in a book, on U-tube, or seek a real person to teach you?

Liz: All three! Books are the place I turn to browse for pattern stitches or to learn a subject in depth. I find the internet/u-tube invaluable for learning specific techniques. And for the “what do you think of this?” type questions you need a person.

What are some of your favorite materials, including yarns, knitting tools, books…?

Liz: I love my interchangeable circular needles. I do almost everything with them. Yarns are hard—I love them all—and every yarn has its place. That said, I love good rustic pure wool for sweaters and alpaca and silk mixes for lace work. And I absolutely love using the work of independent dyers when I can. When it comes to books my favourites are those that free the knitter by teaching you how to create or adapt designs, teach techniques—something I really try to do in my own designs by offering lots of possible variations and ways to adapt a given design to get people thinking. I’ve already mentioned Elizabeth Zimmerman (I’m a big fan), but I also love books by Ann Budd —everyone should own “The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns” because it gives you basic templates for almost everything you would want to make at multiple sizes and gauges just ready to put your own stamp on. Another one that I refer to constantly is Leslie Ann Bestor’s “Cast On, Bind Off”—it is a brilliant compilation of different ways to start and end knitting.

Does anything intimidate you in knitting?

Liz: There’s nothing I won’t try. I’ll admit to feeling trepidation when I cut my first steek! I suppose I must relish a bit of knitting adrenalin, because I just love inventing new constructions—and that does carry the inherent risk of failure (and I have consigned a few to the frog pond)—but it has produced some of my most popular designs, like the Artisan sweater, which is knit flat but then completely knit together so that there are no seams at all to sew.

Artisan pullover

Artisan pullover

As a relatively new designer, what do you find the most challenging aspect of designing?

Liz: For me it is probably trying to think about each project as part of a portfolio of work rather than just one piece on its own. For example, I would probably happily have knit every one of my designs in grey (for which I have a decided penchant)—but that might well limit my appeal to a wider audience. And in fact there is at least one of my designs that I should not have knit all in grey (the Subtle Hat) because it just cries out to be knit in stripes so that people can appreciate the construction. And of course you have to think about your work in terms not only of your own portfolio, but of the entire portfolio of designs out there. The real challenge is coming up with designs that stand out enough to get you noticed.

The Subtle Hat

The Subtle Hat

Do you get to do any “selfish knitting”?

Liz: I don’t really see any knitting as selfish. I need clothes as much as the next person :).

Will you have any new releases during the GAL 2014 period? If so, please tell us about them.

Liz: I released Candy buttons (a fun hat for children with colourwork “buttons”) just two days before the GAL and I’ve three more coming in December. The first is another hat which is likely to be called “The Brother” and which has been designed to be slightly more interesting to knit and look at than the average man hat (but still a simply enough look that it will be worn)—this will be the first of a series of family themed hats. I’m also releasing a simple tunic sweater for girls in a textured stitch (see gamine tunic in my projects) and the first of series of shawls based on Charlotte Bronte characters. This one is a very large shawl called Caroline Helstone and it has lots of techniques to make it an exciting knit (again photos in my projects).

Huge thanks to Liz for taking the time to talk with us. Be sure to visit her design page on Ravelry, and to participate in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long, so that you have the opportunity to win one of the hundreds of prizes offered, including ten prizes from yours truly.