I first became aware of Linnea’s designs when Loopy customer Valerie submitted a gorgeous photo of her Bukett Shawl for Camp Loopy this summer. I was happy when she agreed to be featured in our Designer Spotlight this fall!
(Note: all links in this post will take you to Ravelry. You can also find her designs on her own website: Linnea Ornstein).
Loopy: Hi Linnea – thanks for being in our Spotlight today! Tell us, who taught you to knit and how long have you been knitting?
Linnea: Hi Loopy! I learned to knit in school when I was around 10. I’m left-handed and I asked my teacher if that made a difference in how I should knit. She said I could mirror knit if I wanted to but that I could learn the regular way too. I decided that it sounded much cooler to not knit like everyone else… which is pretty typical for me, I can’t do anything the way it’s supposed to be, haha. So that set me up for some life-long challenges, both as a knitter and as a designer!
Loopy: Oh wow – yes, that makes it a bit more difficult when writing patterns, I’m sure! But good for you for moving forward with your own style! What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Linnea: My original passion was Icelandic sweaters, but the past couple of years I’ve knit lots and lots of shawls. I used to hate garter stitch, but the past year and a half that’s basically all I’ve done. So my preference changes over time! Shawls are convenient in the sense that they mean a reasonable investment in time and yarn, so that I can move on to the next idea.
Loopy: I think that garter stitch can be relaxing, and it seems like we all need relaxing and de-stressing this year, doesn’t it? But when you don’t necessarily need stress-free knitting, what would be the most challenging thing you have knit to date?
Linnea: I think my first lace shawl and my first cable project were true challenges, mainly because I hadn’t figured out yet how to read charts and instructions as a mirror knitter. It took me quite some time before I got it sorted. There was a huge threshold before I even tried it out!
Loopy: I can see how that would be a puzzle to figure out! When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Linnea: I lived in Iceland for 6 months back in 2010, and that’s when I started knitting Icelandic sweaters. After my first sweater, I realised how easy it would be to just make my own charts and knit from them. So that’s what I did! I tend to prefer to do my own thing, I never knit the same thing twice and it’s been ages since I knit anything from someone else’s pattern although I do buy and learn from other designers’ patterns.
Loopy: Those Icelandic sweaters are always so gorgeous. And you have some beautiful patterns for them. Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Linnea: Because the process of designing is what makes me tick, not the finished item, I generally lose interest in my past projects and designs once I release them to the world. I love seeing how others make their own thing from my patterns and that really excites me, but they are like babies that have grown up and moved away from home. It makes me happy when someone else elevates the design by making their project even nicer than mine, and for that one of my favourites is my Silfri sweater pattern – I think my original sample was fairly dull, although I like the idea of it, but the projects made from it are just gorgeous! Another favourite is Aeria, it has been a really crazy journey since I released it and I’m so happy people enjoy knitting it!
Loopy: I bet that is fun – seeing so many different color combinations on your patterns. What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?
Linnea: As I mentioned, I love seeing the finished projects and having others elevate my idea to the next level! My least favourite part is the anxiety that there might be errors in the pattern even after careful proofreading. I really feel embarrassed when I have to re-publish because of silly mistakes.
Loopy: I know that designers try so hard to avoid those things. Most of us knitters completely understand! Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?
Linnea: My day job is as a legal officer at a government agency, I work with consumer rights and e-privacy issues. Very far from my designer business, but they play to different parts of my personality so it gives me a good balance! I’m also a show judge for Shetland ponies and I do the occasional photography assignment (usually weddings), so that’s another part of my side business.
Loopy: All of your other jobs sound interesting, but I have never known someone who judges Shetland ponies – that’s cool! So would you say you do this business full-time, or on the side? And is that hard?
Linnea: My designer business is on the side. The income has increased fairly quickly recently so technically I could probably work a little less at my day job if I wanted to, but at the same time it’s important for me to do things in the pace I want so I can still be creative. So I’m not sure I would want to do it full time even if I could. My designing process goes up and down – I can spend months just knitting and having lots of ideas all the time, then I spend months just writing the patterns and hardly knit at all. It needs to be this way – I can’t do it because I have to, it needs to be because I want to.
Loopy: I totally understand that. And it does sound like you have a good balance of right and left brain activities in your life! Does anyone else in your family knit?
Linnea: I’ve had partners or dates in the past who were knitters, and some who started knitting while we were dating. I always find it a little awkward, because then I have to relate to their knitting and I also kind of like to be able to have my own thing as well. But at the same time, it’s been really exciting being able to discuss yarn obsessions and patterns with them! My family doesn’t knit at all, and my mum is still a little amazed at how I ended up being so good at it. At the same time, both my sister and my mum sew and my mum used to make woven rugs when I was little, so I guess textile is in the family after all.
Loopy: Yes, it does sound like you have a textile-talented family! Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Linnea: I have lots of hobbies! I breed Shetland ponies at a small scale – had one foal this year and am expecting 2 or 3 next year. I’m currently the president of the Swedish Shetland pony society so I do a lot of NGO work, which I’ve done all my life. When there’s no pandemic I play dodge ball which I really LOVE. I enjoy trying out different kinds of textile techniques, so I’ve done some weaving, spinning, crochet, felting, needle felting, and more. I tend to get really nerdy about things, so I could probably tell you more than you need to know about Swedish sheep breeds and wool production for example. I always come back to knitting though!
Loopy: Well, especially now when the pandemic curtails some of our regular activities, it’s good to have options, and you have some fun ones. What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Linnea: I love going to farm shops and farm cafes, exploring locally produced food and veggies! This summer and fall I’ve been in a hunting-and-gathering phase, and my favourite activity is going to one of the Stockholm islets where they have the Nordic gene bank for apple trees. They have hundreds of different apple varieties and you’re free to pick as much as you like. I love going there to pick a bunch of different ones and having an apple tasting afterwards.
Loopy: That apple place sounds amazing. What a treasure to have so close to you! Ok – last question: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors?
Linnea: Morning person, I’m really bad at sleeping in the morning – I get really bored and there’s just too many things to explore in the world so I don’t have time to stay in bed! I only drink tea (and lots of it), no coffee. Continental knitter. Only solid colours, and I also tend to prefer the natural colours of the sheep.
Loopy: It’s such a blessing when you have a life that makes you want to get up and get at it every morning! Anything else you’d like to add?
Linnea: I really love the way the knitting community works, and how people support each other and us designers! I’m truly grateful for how the community has received me and my designs, and that I’m able to release my design babies to the world where they have their own lives and become something more than I intended when I first had the idea. Even though we make our own knits and purls, it really is a collaborative art.
Loopy: Thank you for putting your designs out there for all of us!
Linnea has set up a discount code for all of you, for 20% off of one pattern of your choice in her Ravelry shop. Click here for her patterns and use the code: LoopyEwe. This code will be valid from October 9-16, 2020.
And then don’t forget to check out our yarn choices for your new pattern! Here are our favorites for colorwork: Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper, Sandnes Garn Peer Gynt, Fiber Co Lore, Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool, and Cascade 220.
Have a great weekend, everyone!