Before we get started collecting supplies for the Snoqualmie Cardigan knitalong, I wanted to talk the designer, Michelle Wang. I’m a big fan of her blog and basically everything she’s ever designed, so it felt appropriate to chat with her about this big knit undertaking.
Even before I really got back into knitting, I always gravitated towards the patterns you designed for Brooklyn Tweed. How did you start designing knitting patterns? Do you design for any other publication or companies?
I started designing knitting patterns after sample knitting. An editor at Vogue Knitting encouraged me to submit my own design and it’s been history ever since. Since I’m technically a freelancer, I do try to squeeze in work for other companies and publications including Interweave, Woolfolk, Quince & Co. and The Plucky Knitter. It’s always exciting to try out new yarns and come up with designs with such different fabrics.
Like a lot of people, I fell in love with the Snoqualmie cardigan at first sight. What inspired the design?
The idea for the Winter 16 collection was “basics”. My two other designs for the collection were a bit more literal and then I wanted to design something that had a basic or traditional silhouette, but a more interesting fabric. From there I went with an allover cable to keep it “simple” instead of cabled panels which would look more traditional and aran-influenced. Since it’s part of the Winter collection, I also wanted something the knitter could knit up fairly quickly in the bulky weight. And Quarry in Gypsum just screamed squishy, smooshy cables to me!
Cabling can be perceived as scary and intimidating for novice knitters; what do you recommend for people starting a cabled project for the first time?
First, I would mention that cables are simply stitches worked out of order. That’s it. I particularly love cables because they look so much more difficult to create than they are. I would also encourage knitters to swatch, not only to make sure their gauge is correct, but to practice. Personally, I get a little confused when knitting a lot of cables. My eyes start to play tricks on me after staring at a cable chart. So, I like swatching for a few repeats to make sure it’s clear in my mind.
What other skills should we be brushing up on or practicing as we prepare to start Snoqualmie?
I would say finishing. But what’s exciting is sewers are generally less intimidated by finishing than knitters. When knitters hear words like sew and seam, they freeze. But things like picking up and knitting for the button band and collar may be new to some. I would take a peek at tutorials on that if they’re unfamiliar.
What’s your favourite thing to listen to or watch while knitting?
I usually can’t listen to or watch anything while I’m knitting. I can barely knit in public. I’m THAT person – I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. I really need to focus, and I like taking that time to sit in silence and enjoy the quiet.
What are your secret knitting weapons? Do you have any particular tools or needles you like working with?
My preferred needles are Addi Rockets. I love the finish and the tips are pointed, but not too pointed. The joins are smooth and the cables are flexible – a must! I also use coil-less safety pins to mark and count rows. This is something I learned from Catherine Lowe. It’s a great simple tool. But my favorite thing is probably my spin dryer. After soaking pieces to prepare them for blocking, I gently wring them out and then throw them into the spin dryer to remove excess water. The pieces come out 90% dry and shaves hours off of blocking time. It’s been a life saver when I’ve had to meet a deadline.
Once we master this pattern, what other patterns do you suggest for newbie knitters looking to up their game?
Bartlett is a design created from Arlo, which is for children. It’s similar to Snoqualmie in that it’s an allover cabled shawl-collared cardigan, but in worsted weight. So it’s a bit more knitting. But for those looking for a cabling challenge there’s Rowe and Ondawa. And for those looking for a more straightforward knit, and would like some finishing practice there’s Corvina and Lowe.
Funny that Michelle recommends Ondawa and Rowe; my aunt has spent the last year working on Rowe for me (I cannot WAIT for that beauty to arrive) and Ondawa is on the top of my must-make list; I suspect it will feel a lot more approachable after finishing Snoqualmie.
If you’d like to keep tabs on Michelle in a totally non-creepy way, you can follow her blog here; she’s also on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter. The knitalong will chug forward Thursday where I’ll break down the supplies and wool we’ll need to get started!