We have the talented Liz Abinante in our Designer Spotlight today! Her Traveling Woman shawl was, I think, my second ever shawl to knit. Still new to lace knitting, it was a perfect project for me at the time, and it’s one that I will probably make again sometime! Read a little more about Liz here, and then be sure to check the bottom of the post for a special offer.
Loopy: Hi Liz! Thanks for being in our Spotlight today. We’re glad to have you! So how long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Liz: Hi Loopy! I’ve been knitting for about 7 years now. When I graduated from college, I fell in love with a cabled hat a friend had, but I only knew how to crochet (and not very well), so I taught myself. Well, the internet taught me. Between videos and my complete inability to admit defeat, I figured it out… but purled wrong for the first year, so all of my stitches were twisted. Haha, whoops! It worked out well in the end! The best part about being self-taught is that I get to discover things at my own pace. I recently discovered German short rows. Oh my god! They’re so much better than wrapping and turning!
Loopy: I did the same thing with purling my first year! So frustrating to have to unlearn and re-learn again. Now I will have to check out German short rows. What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Liz: I have a big soft spot for mindless knitting and anything that can be knit in the round. I love garter stitch so much, especially when it’s paired with unique or emphasized lace. I’ve recently gotten really into short rows and garter stitch, so I’ve been casting on all the short row shawls in my queue. This is also why I love knitting sweaters in the round and short stitch repeats: give me simple, repetitive knitting, I don’t care what kind it is!
Loopy: There are some fun garter-stitch patterns out there. I think a lot of people like those. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Liz: Colorwork of any kind is my weakness. I am an English lever knitter (it helps with my carpal tunnel a lot), so it’s really difficult to work fair isle patterns without dropping yarn and changing colors manually. I absolutely love fair isle but I am so slow at it, it’s maddening! But, that didn’t stop me from knitting my Fiddlehead mittens. I had a kit for them for six years – almost as long as I’ve been knitting! – and I finally finished them last December.
Loopy: I have always like that mitten pattern. Congratulations on finishging them! When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Liz: Being self taught using the internet meant I had to learn not only the mechanical ability, but the ability to read patterns. To be honest, I still struggle with reading patterns, especially things that are written in very large chunks of never ending instructions. Instead of knitting the actual pattern, I would knit what I *thought* was the pattern and it would come out completely different. So I started knitting my own designs! I worked a lot with stitch dictionaries in the beginning, modifying stitches to match what I saw in my mind, and I always tried to model my designs after a piece I had seen in the real world somewhere. I was never a fashionista or anything, but I absolutely love putting together outfits and having the perfect accessory makes it much more fun! Especially when it’s something that you designed and knit yourself 🙂
Loopy: That’s true. With knitting, you get to pick the perfect design and perfect color for yourself instead of choosing from what’s available at the store. Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Liz: Oh absolutely – no doubt about it. I only recently released the pattern, but I’ve knit about a dozen copies of the Very PDX hat. It’s dead simple, but I cannot get enough of the contrast brim! I recently knit one with a fabulously funfetti yarn and a neon green contrast interior. It’s so happy!
Loopy: I like that it calls for Aran weight yarn. Fast! What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?
Liz: My favorite part is the act of publishing – sharing things with people. Even if something I release isn’t super popular and even if no one ever knits it, I love sharing my work with people.
My least favorite part is correcting errors… but it’s not the labor of correcting errors, it’s the fact that I put something out there that wasn’t perfect, that caused someone frustration or ruined their evening. I always feel so bad!
Loopy: Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?
Liz: I do! I work full time as a software engineer building web applications. I love the creative aspect of it! I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my code, and when it comes to knitwear design – not a coincidence 🙂 !
Loopy: I think perfectionism is a good trait for both software engineers and knitting designers! Do you do this business full-time, or on the side? And is that hard?
Liz: About a year after I started designing, I was doing it full time during graduate school. Designing full time was incredibly difficult: I had to manage contracts with sample knitters and tech editors, I had to keep everything meticulously organized, and I had to create workflows to maximize my productivity. Now, I do it part time. I spend anywhere from 1-10 hours a week on my design and design-related work. It’s my hobby again, it’s about sharing my creativity with others, so it’s a lot more rewarding now and I somehow always find a way to make time!
Loopy: Does anyone else in your family knit?
Liz: Surprisingly they don’t! All of the women in my mom’s family crochet, and I grew up crocheting as well. The women in my family also do woodworking, beadwork, sewing, and gardening… we’ve got quite the eclectic collection of hobbies and we’re all super creative.
Loopy: Great to have such inspirational people in your life! Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Liz: I am a hobby junkie, but most of my non-knitting hobby time is occupied with hacking. My big coding project right now is artcraftcode.com, which provides knitters with the ability to customize various patterns. I’m learning a new programming language so I can start writing iPhone apps, too! I also needle felt, crochet, and tend to our garden of edibles. I write a bit about diversity in the software industry and I do lots of speaking at technical conferences. Not content with this massive number of hobbies, I occasionally teach beginning programming courses. I do not know how I have enough hours in the day to do all of these things, but I do.
Loopy: I don’t know how you do all of that, either. Your list makes me tired! What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Liz: A warm summer day with an iced coffee and my adorable dog, Kiwi, and husband on our front porch. I love sitting in the swing on our front porch (we live across the street from a park with a beautiful garden) and reading, knitting, or hacking away. When I’m not dealing with the chores required to keep my home habitable, that’s pretty much what I’m doing 🙂
Loopy: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors? 🙂
Liz: I tend to be most creative in the early evenings during the week, and I love waking up early on the weekends! So both, I guess? I also love coffee *and* tea (I live in Portland, Oregon – loving coffee is basically a requirement for residency)! I’m an English lever knitter and I’ve got it down to muscle memory, so I spend more of my time knitting without looking. It makes for a nice surprise when I finally look down! I love multi-tonal solids and anything that is self-striping or self-patterning. I will buy ALL the self-striping yarn!!
Loopy: And there are some fun ones out there! Ok – anything else you’d like to add?
Liz: My first true love was salty snacks. When I found out I couldn’t marry food, I married my husband. I think it worked out well in the end 🙂
Loopy: Ha ha – sounds like it!
Liz is offering all of our Loopy Blog Readers a 20% discount off of one pattern of your choice, using the code: theloopyewe This code will be valid from today, through April 24th. Pop over to her Ravelry pattern store and pick something fun!
Great interview! Love her pieces! I knit the Travelling Woman either last CampI Loopy or the one before that- can’t remember! Either way, it turned out so nicely! I would definitely consider making another. It’s good to see Liz A designing again- I saw on her Ravelry last year that she had stopped for awhile. I really want to try one of her new pieces from the artcodecraft so this is the perfect opportunity! Thanks!!!
I didn’t realize all of her artcodecraft patterns are free- that is exceptional! Now on to find another pattern of hers to purchase! And Sherri- I think there are Traveling Woman socks too!!!!!!!