I am so happy to have Nicola Susen in the Designer Spotlight today. Her designs always always catch my eye. Not only do I love the classic and beautiful styles, but the photos are eye-catching, too! And her maximum freedom patterns are amazing. I know you will enjoy getting to know her.
Loopy: Hi Nicola! Thanks for being in our Designer Spotlight today. Tell us, who taught you to knit?
Nicola: Hi Loopy! My mother taught me the basics in crocheting and knitting. That was in the early 80’s. I was 6, 7, 8 years old. Crochet was easier for me in the beginning. And so I crocheted sweaters and pants for my stuffed animals – freestyle, without instructions. Later I also knitted, but the internet didn’t exist yet and also my mother didn’t know many of the techniques we use today and so there was no passion for really big projects yet. In the 90’s knitting was not the trend and I only knitted socks in secret every now and then (I was 20, coolness was very important). In the 2000’s I picked up knitting again and learned to read charts with knitting Viking Patterns by Elsebeth Lavold. In 2009 I discovered Ravelry and was very impressed by the variety of techniques and possibilities. Suddenly the passion was there.
Loopy: You’ve had a long road of knitting experiences! What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Nicola: Sweaters, scarves, shawls, socks. Whatever – I like everything.
Loopy: What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Nicola: I challenged myself last year to avoid long purl rows in stockinette and learned to knit backwards. The personal challenge was a success – now I just knit the whole piece on the right side and don’t turn the work anymore. At the end of the row I take the working yarn into the other hand and knit back from left to right (like a left-handed person).
Loopy: I have heard of backward knitting (in fact, someone tried to teach me once). But I’m fascinated that you now knit that way all the time! That is really great. And I would think time-saving once you’re good at it. Now let’s move on to your designing. When did you start doing that, and what spurred your interest?
Nicola: As soon as I discovered new techniques, I realized my own ideas. A friend suggested to me to submit a pattern to knitty.com and they accepted my pattern, Longitudinal Socks. After that, I just never stopped writing down my ideas.
Loopy: Way back in 2012, it looks like! Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Nicola: Oh, I can’t decide, I like them all. In everyday life I wear Big Hug most often. And the socks, no matter which.
Loopy: Big Hug looks cozy. What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not so favorite part?
Nicola: When I have a new idea, I love the moment when I see in Excel that a construction can actually work. I always want to start right away, but usually am still knitting another pattern that has to be finished first. So I am disciplined, but terribly impatient (which I don’t like that much).
Loopy: Well, it’s good to have an idea for the next thing, because that motivates you to finish what you’re working on in order to be able to get to the next one! Do you do this business full time or part time? And do you have another job outside of the designing?
Nicola: I am a full-time knitwear designer (95%) and a part-time graphic designer (5%). If one day I cannot earn a living with knitwear design anymore, I’ll simply do more graphic design again. I love both activities, I am flexible. 😉
Loopy: Does anyone else in your family knit?
Nicole: Unfortunately not. My mother stopped knitting sometime in the late 80’s. No knitting grandmas, no knitting aunts. But a lot of knitting friends, and friends are like family too, right?
Loopy: Absolutely right! And the internet makes it possible for us to keep up with all of those knitting friends around the world. Are there other hobbies you enjoy?
Nicola: Photography. This passion is even older than knitting. At the age of 15, I carried all my savings to the photo store and bought my first reflex camera. We just went on vacation and I took almost 2500 photos. I will have to sort through them all, it will take awhile. 🙂
Loopy: That is a lot of pictures! What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Nicola: I love sitting at the top of a mountain and looking down into the valley. The places down there are so small and it’s like to look at hidden objects. In between taking pictures, knitting a few rows and enjoying the silence, there is something to discover in every corner. And the clouds change so fast.
Loopy: That sounds so peaceful and refreshing. Perfect day! Lastly: morning or night person? Coffee or tea? English or continental? Solids or multicolors?
Nicola: I am very grumpy in the morning. That’s why I’ve taken so many photos of sunsets and none of sunrises. In the morning it’s coffee first. Later I like to drink tea as well. I knit continental style. And for sweaters I prefer semi-solid, but I like multicolor very much for shawls in garter stitch.
Loopy: Sounds good! Anything else you’d like to add?
Nicola: I’m a bit stubborn and don’t like to do something if I don’t see any sense in it. So it always bothered me that knitting instructions are written for a specified gauge. I usually want to use a different yarn and I have enough of that in my closet! That was the reason why I invented “maximum freedom”. All patterns with this stamp can be knitted with any yarn and any gauge.
Loopy: I think that is one of the coolest things about those patterns – so much flexibility. It’s brilliant.
Have a great weekend!