Friday before last, I showed off some beautiful grey laceweight yarn that I bought for the Seascape wrap. I’ve never knitted so much lace before, but it seemed like a good time to start. Meanwhile, I moodled around a bit, looking at the other patterns by Kieran Foley, the designer.
Finally, I decided that I needed to know more about this mysterious designer of lace. So I shot off a quick message to Mr. Foley, asking if he wouldn’t mind doing a little interview for my blog. (I’ll confess, I was trembling a little; I don’t usually talk to a Real Live Designer.) Fortunately, this real life designer was extremely obliging, and so you get to read the first ever interview on the Lumpy Sweater.
(enter: Kieran Foley, designer of the Seascape Wrap. He lives in Dublin, Ireland, and has been knitting since before his interviewer, Barbara, was born!)
Barbara: Before I delve into questions about your designs, I’d love to know a little bit more about your background in knitting. Did you teach yourself to knit or did someone else?
Kieran: I learned to knit from my mother when I was 8 or 9. She used to knit and sew clothes for us. At the time I made an egg-cosy, and did some stranded work as well.
Barbara: Following up that question, what prompted you to take up knitting?
Kieran: A couple of years ago I decided to make myself a hat, looked around for a pattern, and discovered the virtual world of knitting.
Barbara: Have you ever experienced odd reactions from people because you are a man who knits? Many people still consider the province of lace and knitting to be strictly female occupation.
Kieran: No – but I don’t kip! [Knit in Public, gentle readers!]
Barbara: Seascape, your lace wrap design that was just released in the Summer issue of Knitty, has attracted a lot of attention from the knitting community. What is different about Seascape, in your mind, that sets it apart from the many other lace shawl patterns?
Kieran: I haven’t thought about this before…..I didn’t approach the design from that angle. It has a big repeat and quite a lot of plain knitting. You could say it is more linear than textural.
Barbara: For someone who is very much new to knitting lace, the idea of designing lace is even more intimidating—and fascinating! From concept to finished shawl, how long did it take to design Seascape?
Kieran: “Arctic Lace” by Donna Druchunas introduced me to the basic stitches and techniques, and the concept of charting. Seascape started out as something very different – it was going to be called Sensibility Stole and look like something that a Jane Austen character might wear. It had a much more complicated border which I knit and frogged a couple of times, and eventually gave up on as the Knitty deadline. The current wave pattern is an exaggerated version of part of that original design. It probably took a month from start to finish.
Barbara: Were you inspired by a paticular character or book by Austen?
Kieran: I was thinking in general (and without much concern for historical accuracy) about the kind of embroidered shawls that were imported from India around that time, with richly decorated borders at each end, and a central medallion on a plain ground.
Barbara: A knit-a-long for the wrap has already been created on Ravelry.com. How has Ravelry affected your ability as a designer to communicate with people knitting your design? How does it affect your ability to see how people are interpreting your design?
Kieran: It was very exciting to see the reaction on when Knitty was published and the knit-a-long started. It’s very interesting to see the yarn choices, and to watch the projects develop.
Barbara: One of my personal favorites is the woman who is knitting a red-hot Seascape out of fingering weight yarn, rather than lace weight.
Kieran: I love that one too.
Barbara: With all the buzz surrounding Seascape, does that make you even more enthusiastic about your next design project?
Kieran: The buzz is very much a Knitty buzz. Designs introduced on my own website get less fanfare.
Barbara: I’ve browsed your website, kieranfoley.com, and noticed some lovely Fair Isle charts and designs of yours. Also, you mentioned in your Knitty biography that you love Scandinavian mittens. Any chance that we might be seeing something along those lines in the future?
Kieran: Yes, my current design projects are stranded. In the future I’d like to do a stranded sock.
With that tantalizing statement, I’m sure that there are plenty of us that will be keeping our eye on Mr. Foley’s future designs!
Meanwhile, I’m working my fingers over my own Seascape wrap, which I’ve rather predictably dubbed, “Grey Sea,” and which has been (at least for my limited lace skills) a trial in patience. The adamant advice of friends, (LIFE-LINE, YOU FOOLS! PUT IN A LIFE-LINE! IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR YOUR SORRY SOUL!) has helped a lot.
The redeeming factor, as it usually is with my more difficult projects, is the yarn. The Silky Alpaca feels very light and soft. You might think that the silk would make it difficult to knit with, but the alpaca adds a nice grabbiness to the yarn that makes it less prone to slip.
Yet, somehow, this makes no difference when I have ripped out the same 8 rows over and over and over and over and…yes. I have the stupids.
But when I smooth out the few, soft inches, it somehow…
makes me a heck of a lot glad that I’ve got a darn lifeline in it!
Sometimes, you just have rotton days. And then a bundle of nice stuff happens all at once.
Since I didn’t have all the money that I needed for the yarn for my Nothing But A T-Shirt, I bought 3 balls and LeAnne, my darling yarn-pusher, stuck the rest in a bag and has patiently waited for me to come back for the rest. With a recent windfall (not telling!) I will be able to
- buy the rest of the yarn sometime this week or early next week
- have enough left over for a few skeins of something!
I also got in touch with Kate, of YarnLove and she says that the skein of sportweight sock merino that I won (from a Ravelry party that I hosted) should reach me this week! She specially dyed it with young knitters in mind, and there are pictures here, here and here.
ALSO, I have my fingers crossed that a trade that I am hoping to go through will happen—I offered to swap my slightly used copy of Poems of Color for two skeins of Socks that Rock. I have fallen in love with the Raven clan, and the two colors that I want are Grawk and Thraven. I have a specific purpose in mind, and these two seem to suit them the best. OK, I’ll fess up. After the inspiring example at Jesh’s blog and at the multi-talented Anushka’s blog, I am timidly considering designing something myself. Now, I have a really cool idea, but I’m not sure if I can pull it off. We’ll see.
The nicest thing about all these nice things is that they happened when I was feeling slightly discouraged about my knitting. I see blogs that post picture after picture of perfect (and completed!) projects. I know that I’ve not even been knitting for a year but the inferiority complex still insists on cropping up.
So, I’m in a pleasant glow, and feeling much better from my horrid cold. In fact, I will end this post with a poem by Robert Browning. A poem that I have always hated (come on, morning is NOT at seven!) but seems to sum up my feelings anyway
The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his heaven–
All’s right with the world!