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!
Whenever I travel, I am reminded of a few things.
- People who splatter their urine all over public restrooms: I hate thee.
- People who do not flush the urine splattered toilet left behind them: I hate thee
- Hotels usually suck, but not always—Holiday Inn Express: I love thee
- If you’ve been traveling for a few hours and decide to eat, you’re suddenly in the middle of nowhere. Brigadoon restaurants, I hate thee.
- If you can persuade your parents to visit a yarn store, this suddenly becomes irrelevant: Dyed In The Wool yarn store? I love thee.
The distance between Alison, PA and my bit of West Virginia isn’t that big; maybe 3 hours traveling time. I sneakily typed the address of a yarn store into our GPS. Dyed In The Wool yarn store is a little store, nestled into the green, green land of PA—probably not too far from Amish folk, but far enough away from the farms that I didn’t have to enjoy the pungency of a large dairy farm.
Look, I’ve been into Amish country. I’ve seen the little girls in black on bicycles, the 80 year woman pulling groceries in a wagon up a 90 degree slope and enjoy the nostalgia, blah, blah. But I hate the farm smell. I’ve milked cows, fed chickens, chased a cow, ridden a bucking horse, blah, blah, OK? Still hate the way that a working farm smells. I envied my friend with the horse (even though it did try to buck us off) but I didn’t want the smell.
Wow, from yarn stores to Amish farm smells. Cough. Back to the yarn. It didn’t take too long to find the store.
Walking into the store, as it is with any yarn store, is sensory overload. I want to instantly touch, know, feel, name every yarn in the store. Carol owns the store, a slight, friendly woman with a touch of an accent—she told my sister she comes from Scotland—and Linda, who immeaditely told me to ask if I needed any help at all. I nodded, a little numb already from the overload.
Carol (on the left) and Linda (on the right) caught unawares!
Remember how I said that I fell in love with Seascape, the lace wrap from this summer issue of Knitty? With that pattern in mind, I started to poke through their laceweight, wavering between Lacy Lamb (wrong weight, but so soft!) some beautiful lace boucle and others.
There was plenty to distract me. I dithered between the yarn, as my younger sister learned I-Cord from Linda and my brother confided that he knit a little, too. (He’s 12, and working on a garter stitch scarf)
Yarn, yarn, & more yarn.
I love the shawl that this manikan is wearing, it looks so subtle and graceful.
The overwhelming feel that came from this shop was creativity. Shawls everywhere, sweaters, a sock here, a scarf on the needles, and a half-finished sock lay on the counter. It made my fingers itch. Again, I dithered. Carol shared their shop philosophy: they like to focus on smaller operations run by a few people, and I love that. I love that kind of intimate feeling when you pick up a skein of yarn and know that if you buy it, it goes to the same person that dyed and wound it. Dad fell asleep in the car. Like a bird, circling back to its nest, I kept coming back to same yarn over and over again.
Subtle greys call out to me like siren calls. Two skeins of Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace somehow hopped into my hands.
My Seascape shawl will be a gray sea. This yarn is absolutely incredible. With 70% alpaca and 30% silk, you might think that the alpaca might have that slightly hairy itch that it sometimes does. This doesn’t. The alpaca just gives it a delicate halo that it is lovely. When I finally, reluctantly, tore myself away from the store, I put one of the skeins into my Dad’s hands.
”Wow,” he said, “This really is soft.”
There’s 460 yards per skein, so I will have enough left over for a scarf. For $20, I’m getting enough yarn for an alpaca-silk shawl and a scarf. All the way home today, I kept fondling the soft fibers. Tomorrow, I’m going to my local yarn store for Knit in Public day.
I’m considering bringing in this yarn, to start Seascape, but I’m a little shy. I can’t work on any projects that are from the store, because I’ve misplaced my straight size 6 needle, and the only other project that I have is my sweater, still in pieces. I wouldn’t want to bother LeAnne by asking her to help me when we’re all having fun celebrating, but I may just have to—every time I look at all those pieces, I start to cry inside.
In all events, we’re going to have a blast—and there will be cookies, and I am bringing cupcakes. Food & other porn will appear on this blog in the near future—have a great weekend knitting in public, and come back Monday!