Designer Spotlight: Natasja Hornby

Nyx shawl Natasja Hornby
Nyx © Natasja Hornby (try it in CaMaRose Yaku 4/16)

In today’s Designer Spotlight we have Natasja Hornby of Moonstruck Knits. Natasja was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and her parents moved to Texel (a beautiful little island in the north-west of the Netherlands) when she was 4 years old. When she was 17, she moved to Amsterdam to go to college to study textiles and design, where she has been living ever since. I know you’ll enjoy learning more about her and her beautiful designs, today.

Loopy: Hi Natasja – thanks for being in our Designer Spotlight today. How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?

Natasja: Hi Loopy! Great to have this conversation with you. Even as a very young child I was always making things, and my mom and dad are both avid makers as well. My mom taught me how to knit when I was five years old, and I’d knitted my first sweater by the age of eight. I’m 52 now, so I’ve known how to knit for 47 years now. That does not mean that I’ve been an active knitter all that time. I stopped knitting when I went to high school, since it was a totally uncool thing to do, especially for a teenager with green hair and a preference for punk rock music. I picked it up again in my mid-forties, and since then, there haven’t been many days without.

Tycho Natasja Hornby
Tycho © Natasja Hornby (try it in Magpie Swanky DK)

Loopy: I think maybe you could have knit up some really cool things to go with your green hair! But I do understand that maybe knitting wasn’t the in thing at that time. What is your favorite type of item to knit?

Natasja: Garments and shawls. I do not particularly enjoy knitting small circumferences in the round, so I have never knitted a sock in my life. But that may also be due to the fact that I like to show off my knits, and since I wear boots a lot, socks just feel like a waste of beautiful knitting.

When I started designing I saw myself as a sweater knitter first and foremost. Lacking all natural elegance to drape a piece of flat, knitted fabric around myself in a remotely attractive manner, I really didn’t see the appeal of shawls.

When I started thinking about designing, I thought about sweaters. But, after a few super challenging and immensely satisfying sweater designs, I was yearning for all kinds of crazy stuff like big scale colorwork and giant over the top stitch patterns. Being quite a minimalist in my approach when designing a sweater, a lot of these ideas would not transfer to that. So I gave the shawl a go.
And I must say, the process of designing a shawl, writing a pattern and knitting it, brings me just as much joy as a sweater does. For me the shawls are a super creative outlet, a canvas for my more adventurous knitting ideas. I don’t have to think about fit so much, but can concentrate on merging textures and colors in a way that appeals to me. I still don’t like fussy or precious or dainty, so all my shawls are almost like a garment; big and bold and present.

Lunae Natasja Hornby
Lunae © Natasja Hornby (try it in Wollmeise Pure)

Loopy: That’s a good way to look at shawls – as a canvas for trying some of the more adventurous design and color ideas. I like that. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?

Natasja: In 2017 Prada had a few sweaters in their catwalk collection in a colorful shell-like stitch pattern that fascinated quite a large group of knitters. I was one of the knitters that tried to reverse engineer this stitch pattern and when I succeeded, I could not leave it like that, so I knitted a hat and a sweater using that pattern. Especially the sweater was an epic challenge, but also very satisfying. It never became a pattern, because to me, it felt too much like a blatant Prada copy. I did revisit that stitch pattern for the design of my Miu sweater, using it in in a way that made it more accessible (and gradable!) and more of a Natasja Hornby then a Muccia Prada.

Miu
Miu © Natasja Hornby (try it in Cascade Superwash Sport)

Loopy: I like that you took the texture of that stitch and then made it your own in your own design. Inspiration comes from all places! When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?

Natasja: When I picked up knitting again, about 8 years ago, I started out as I was used to, since I had never knit from a pattern before. That means I knitted 4 pieces of fabric, sewed them together and called it a sweater. When that was finished, I thought it would be fun to browse the interwebs for knitting, to see if I could find something. Well, then I discovered Ravelry, which was a true revelation. Knitters! Designers! Patterns! I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.

So, I bought a pattern, and taught myself the English knitting lingo (to this day, I cannot write a pattern in Dutch to save my life!). Already with my first pattern, I started heavy modifications. Because I’m formally educated in the textiles and design field, I knew a thing or two about developing patterns for clothes, which of course helped tremendously.

After I knitted a few sweaters from patterns, I thought ‘Well, I think I would be able to do this myself’, so I designed and knitted a sweater which I proposed to Knitty, the online knitting magazine. To my astonishment, they accepted the design and published it. And after that, I just couldn’t stop. It’s just too much fun!

Dione
Dione © Natasja Hornby (try it in Sandnes Garn Peer Gynt)

Loopy: Your background is perfect for your designing career and I can easily understand how you transitioned from knitting patterns by other people into designing your own. Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?

Natasja: Well, that would be my last one. My skills and outlook on things develop and change, and to me it is always the last design that reflects that development best. So at the moment it is my Yara shawl and my Fenne sweater.

Yara Natasja Hornby
Yara © Natasja Hornby (try it in Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper)

Loopy: I like that with each pattern you challenge yourself to learn and grow, which means you’re always evolving. What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?

Natasja: My very favorite part is when it all comes together.

Designing can be a challenging and sometimes excruciating process, for me at least. I sketch, and I swatch. Rewind and repeat, again, and again, and again. Sometimes it’s easy, most of the time the magic only happens when you fight for it. Hard.

And even if you think you’ve got it, knitting the piece at true scale can prove you wrong. Too much, not enough, not what you’ve imagined or waned.

And you just start over. But when the magic does happen though, it’s like unicorns dancing in your brain.

My not so favorite part is not really related to designing, but comes with the fact that designing has grown from a (passionate) hobby into a business, with business related things to take care of, like taxes and bookkeeping. I would gladly swap 1 hour of bookkeeping for a whole day of fighting (or playing) with an idea for a design.

Rhya Natasja Hornby
Rhya © Natasja Hornby (try it in Blue Sky Fibers Skyland)

Loopy: There are definitely downsides to making a hobby a career. (And I agree about the bookkeeping!) Also, I’m totally going to come up with a yarn color called “Unicorns Dancing in Your Brain”. That’s awesome! Do you do this business full-time, or on the side?  And is that hard? Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?

Natasja: At the moment I have a full time job as a researcher and teacher at a college and a university. I am also working on my PhD. I’m a MSc in psychology and my field is social science, with a focus on multi-problem families. And yes, it is a challenge to combine, especially the last two years, when my working week averaged 70 hours or so. That is why I decided to cut back on the day job in September, when the new academic year starts. Hopefully that will help to balance work and play in a more healthy and sustainable manner.

Trickle
Trickle © Natasja Hornby (try it in Primrose Roan DK)

Loopy: It sounds like the designing is a good creative outlet for your brain, after all of the academic work. I’m glad you’ll be able to work on a balance that suits you better this fall (and that means more patterns for us knitters, right?) Does anyone else in your family knit?

Natasja: Only my mom and she is a far better and more skilled knitter then I am. I’m quite an erratic (or, if you value the truth, sloppy) knitter by nature, and I never thought I would think about perfect left leaning decreases. I was far more interested in form, texture and fit to spend time practicing getting better at the craft.

But because I knit all my samples myself, I’ve learned that it does matter if your stitches are uneven, your short rows holey and your finishing quick & dirty. So I’m getting there, but I’m quite certain I will never reach mom’s perfection.

Anthe Natasja Hornby
Anthe © Natasja Hornby (try it in Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper)

Loopy: I’m sure she is so proud of your design work, and as a knitter, she can truly appreciate all that you do. Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?

Natasja: Art, architecture, photography, eating great food and drinking a good glass of wine.

Neruda Natasja Hornby
Neruda © Natasja Hornby (try it in Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool)

Loopy: Knowing that, what would be your favorite way to spend a day off?

Natasja: Sleep in late, hop on my bike to visit an art exhibition or two, have a late, copious lunch in the best of company on a sunny terrace of a restaurant that works with fresh, organic produce, followed by a stroll (or, to make it even more perfect, a boat ride) through my beautiful city.

Evo His
Evo His © Natasja Hornby (try it in Uncommon Thread Merino DK)

Loopy: I think I want to come over and spend a day off with you. That sounds wonderful! Last question: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors?

Natasja: My brain is definitely at its best in the morning, so mornings are for tasks that need a lot of focus and concentration, like grading, pattern writing or working on my theses, all fueled by strong coffee. Afternoons are reserved for more repetitive tasks or things that do not need as much focus, like lecturing, or swatching and sketching, accompanied by big glasses of herb tea. Evenings are for relaxing and manual tasks like sample knitting and yarn winding. So, I don’t think I’m a typical morning or night person, to me every part of the day has its own charms and challenges.

And I do love me a good, unprocessed solid 😉

Mare Natasja Hornby
Mare © Natasja Hornby (try it in Wollmeise Pure)

Loopy: I like that you know best just how to fill your day most productively. Thanks again for joining us today, Natasja!

Natasja is offering 20% off one of her patterns through her Ravelry Pattern shop. The code is: NATASJA&LOOPY20 and is valid July 30 – August 6, 2021.

Have a great weekend!

Sheri

Designer Spotlight: Megan Nodecker

Today we have Megan from Pip and Pin in our Designer Spotlight. Her beautiful designs and earthy colors make me want to pick a sweater pattern and get right into fall knitting! Megan lives in British Columbia, and I know you’ll enjoy getting to know her. (All pattern links go to Ravelry, all yarn links go to The Loopy Ewe.)

Persica Sweater by Megan Nodecker
Persica © Megan Nodecker (try it in Magpie Swanky DK)


Loopy: Hi Megan! Thanks for being in our Spotlight today. How long have you been a knitter, and who taught you to knit?

Megan: Hi Loopy! I’ve been knitting since I was probably seven or eight, so about 25 years, and my grandma taught me. She tried to teach all her grandkids at one time or another, but I think I was the only one that stuck! 

Aurea by Megan Nodecker
Aurea © Megan Nodecker (try it in Uncommon Posh Fingering)

Loopy: It’s always fun when knitting has been passed down in the family. I’m sure she was really happy that you loved it and kept up with it. What is your favorite type of item to knit?

Megan: That’s a toughie! I love knitting sweaters because I love wearing sweaters, but I also love smaller projects like socks and hats for some instant gratification. And if I need to zone out a bit and give my brain a break, a shawl with lots of garter or stockinette stitch is always nice.

Ironwood by Megan Nodecker
Ironwood © Megan Nodecker (try it in Malabrigo Rios)


Loopy: Handknit sweaters are the best, and your patterns definitely have me thinking about fall sweater weather. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?

Megan: My wedding dress. I knit the top half of it and used a Shetland Lace wedding dress pattern. I was just starting to really “Knit with a capital K,” so learning how to shape double-sided lace with minimal experience, a magazine-concise pattern, with the most expensive yarn I’d ever bought, to finish a dress I’d already cut the top off of, was quite intimidating, to say the least! But, it ended up exactly how I had imagined and fit perfectly! 

Less Travelled Wrap by Megan Nodecker
Less Travelled Wrap © Megan Nodecker (try it in Uncommon Thread Merino DK)


Loopy: Oh my word. That is the best “most challenging” answer we have ever had. I’m intimidated just thinking about it!! But what a cool thing to do for your wedding. I love that. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?

Megan: I started designing about ten years ago. My sister and I used to knit hats and scarves to sell, and when we were vending at the very first Knit City (a yarn festival in Vancouver), we were placed next to none other than Alexa Lundman of Tin Can Knits. Before that, I didn’t even really know what a knitting pattern was! We were able to chat with her all weekend, I went home with the Pop Blanket pattern, and the rest is history! 

Catbells Cardigan © Megan Nodecker (try it in Madelinetosh Vintage)


Loopy: That was a lucky placement, wasn’t it? 🙂 Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?

Megan: I don’t think I can pick just one, but the one that I wear the most at the moment is the Catbells Cardigan. I like designing very “everyday” pieces, and in the fall/winter/spring months, I really do wear that sweater every day. But, I think I am most proud of my Quesnel Cardigan. That was the pattern that made me feel like a “real” designer, so it’s always had a special place in my heart! 

Quesnel
Quesnel © Megan Nodecker (try it in Primrose Roan DK)


Loopy: Those are both gorgeous! And very wearable. What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?

Megan: It may sound a little silly, but I love making the spreadsheets for grading! I really like math, and once I start doing the numbers, that’s when it really starts to come alive for me. Also, when I’m well into knitting and can start to see how the design is coming along. My not-so-favourite part would be the very end bits, like photography and formatting, which is great because my sister Katie, the other half of Pip & Pin, does that part!

Bear Mountain by Megan Nodecker
Bear Mountain © Megan Nodecker (try it in Wollmeise Twin)


Loopy: Team effort – that’s always best! Do you do this business full-time, or on the side?  And is that hard? Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?

Megan: I feel extremely privileged to call this my full-time job, alongside being a stay-at-home mom to my daughter, Georgia. 

Nightshade Hat by Megan Nodecker
Nightshade Hat © Megan Nodecker (try it in Uncommon Thread Lush Worsted)


Loopy: And the stay at home mom part is also a full time job! Does anyone else in your family knit?

Megan: All the women on my mother’s side knit. My grandma was proficient, and my mom and aunt have knit some of my patterns. Years ago, my sister and I even used to sell our knitted hats, cowls and scarves at markets.

Porteau
Porteau © Megan Nodecker (try it in Malabrigo Arroyo)


Loopy: They must love that you are designing and they can knit your patterns. Fun to have a whole side of knitters in the family. Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?

Megan: I enjoy reading, cross-stitching and dabble a little bit in watercolours. I also love being outside in nature. Where I live is a beautiful rainforest, so there are so many places to explore! I love going to thrift stores to find neat old stuff and also read a bit of tarot. 

Caron by Megan Nodecker
Carson © Megan Nodecker (try it in Uncommon Thread Mer DK)


Loopy: It sounds like you have a lot of things to inspire you and motivate you creatively. I think we should all be doing something creative every day! What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?

Megan: I’d want to go somewhere quiet in nature with my family, some good food, a french press, a book, and something crafty to work on. 

Fossil & Flint
Fossil & Flint © Megan Nodecker (try it in Malabrigo Rasta)


Loopy: That sounds pretty perfect! Last questions: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors?

Megan: Night, Coffee, English, Solids

Loopy: Thanks again for being with us today!

Megan is offering 20% off a pattern of your choice in her Ravelry Pattern shop. The code is: LOOPYEWE and this is valid July 23-20, 2021.

Have a great weekend, all!

Sheri

August Camp Loopy Challenge!

It’s time to share our August challenge for Loopy Circus Camp! Remember, this is a virtual camp, so all are welcome and no traveling involved. Even if you didn’t participate in June or July, you’re still welcome to join Camp Loopy in August.

August Challenge:

This month we are celebrating the Main Event. The Act to top all Acts. The Best Act of the evening. The Showstopper! So pick something that is worthy of being showcased in the main ring. It could be something that challenges your skills, or something that wows with color. It could be something that incorporates multiple stitches, or something that is simple but mighty. What says Showstopper to you? Your August project must use 800 or more yards, single knit.

Camp Store Week:

We are offering a 15% discount on the yarn you are using for your August project, between July 12-19, 2021.

You will need to leave us an order comment telling us which specific yarn will be used for your project. If there isn’t a note, then we won’t be able to apply the discount.

Also, please note that you are welcome to use Loopy credit OR the discount. We aren’t able to add both. If we see that you’ve used Loopy credit, we’ll not add in a discount on top of that.

To receive Camp Points for your project, please make sure you check these boxes:
  1. Yarn for the project must be purchased from The Loopy Ewe July 12, 2021, or later.
  2. Project must use at least 800 yards, worked single (or 1600, if held double).
  3. Project must not be started before August 1, and must be completed by August 30.
  4. A photo of the completed project must be emailed to us by September 1. (support@theloopyewe.com)

Need ideas? Color opinions? Project encouragement? Join us on Ravelry in the Loopy Groupies, or on Facebook in our Loopy Ewe Knitting Circle. We all love brainstorming and seeing what everyone is working on!

Loopy Groupie Rav Groups for July (these will go up August 1):
The Ringleaders (those of you with birthdays in: December, July, April, March)
The Ticketmasters (those of you with birthdays in: November, August, June, January)
The Concessionaires (those of you with birthdays in: October, September, May, February)

Happy pattern perusing, and we’re looking forward to seeing what you choose!

Sheri and The Loopy Ewe Crew

Designer Spotlight: Irmian Design

Today we have Irina from Irmian Design in our Designer Spotlight. Irina designs many different types of projects, but I found myself most drawn to her beautiful sweaters. And with Fall around the corner, now seems like a good time to pick out a new project! (Pattern links go to Raverly, yarn links go to The Loopy Ewe.)

Irmian Design Irina
Irina of Irmian Design © Irina Anikeeva

Loopy: Hi Irina! Thanks for being in our Spotlight today. So, how long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?

Irina: Hi Loopy! I was 6 or 7 years old when my mom showed me how to knit. She was a very accomplished crafter (like all my family) and I wanted to learn everything from her! I remember her teaching me the Long-tail Cast On first and pretty soon I felt like I got really good at all this knitting, right until I tried to work the first row! 

Aviara Pullover Irmian Design
Aviara Pullover © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Walcot Opus)


Loopy: Ha – so you were good at the cast on and then realized that wasn’t knitting yet? Funny. What is your favorite type of item to knit?

Irina: Well, I am definitely a sweater gal, but nothing gives anybody as much instant gratification as a good cabled beanie!

Brumal Hat and Cowl
Brumal Hat and Cowl © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Dream in Color City)


Loopy: You have some beautiful cabled hat designs in your portfolio. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?

Irina: Probably my Tombo Wrap. It was a bit of a challenge because of the number of stitches needed to be cast on (over 400) and the attention you need to pay, working on the mosaic pattern. But the sheer amount of happiness with this project was well worth it.

Tombo Wrap Irmian Design
Tombo Wrap © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Wollmeise Pure)

Loopy: The dragonfly design on top of another design in the middle of a third designs is amazing. And a bit mind boggling. I can see why that would be really challenging. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?

Irina: I started to sew before I really took on knitting, so the concept of pattern and schematics helped me a lot to figure out that I can knit pretty much anything I want, knowing the gauge and measurements. The discovery of Ravelry in 2013 gave me the idea that I can actually make patterns that other people will probably find useful and got my first pattern, Grey Dolman Cardigan, published in 2014.

Gray Dolman Cardigan
Gray Dolman Cardigan © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Cascade 220)


Loopy: That looks like the perfect sweater to curl up in on a cold winter’s day. Such a cozy wrap-around. Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?

Irina: How could anyone choose? Every one of my designs is special to me, otherwise, they would not make the final cut. Well, if I must choose one, it will probably be the Nelson Pullover, just because I like a good men’s pullover.

Pelorus Irmian Design
Pelorus © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool)


Loopy: I like the cable detailing along the shoulders on that one. What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?

Irina: The thrill I feel when all the details (fit, shape, pattern) fall into place and seem to be working well with each other is my favorite feeling. Although I love all the aspects of putting the pattern together. I don’t mind math, I like the process of writing the pattern, making the sample, and working with testers. I do love my job!

Cross and Diamond Cowl
Cross and Diamond Cowl © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Magpie Swanky DK)


Loopy: It sounds like you do! Do you do this business full-time, or on the side?  And is that hard?

Irina: I am a full-time knitwear designer. As a self-employed person, you need to learn a lot, from bookkeeping to web design, but I happen to like it all.

Balboa Park Irmian Design
Balboa Park © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Uncommon Thread Merino DK)


Loopy: You wear a lot of hats when you own your own business. Does anyone else in your family knit?

Irina: I was born in Russia and all women in our family were fond of their own crafts. Sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery of all kinds – as the first (and the only) granddaughter I had no chance to escape their wisdom. 

Air Dance Top
Air Dance Top © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Fibre Co Road to China Light)


Loopy: I bet they loved having you to teach! Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?

Irina: Since knitting graduated from hobby to occupation in my life, I had to find a new hobby and took up drawing. Over the course of 2020, I got addicted to online drawing and painting classes and I feel like it helped me to keep my sanity.

Aliso Creek Top Irmian Design
Aliso Creek Top © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Knerd String Sport)


Loopy: It was really a blessing during the pandemic that we had the internet and so many ways to continue learning. What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?

Irina: Meeting with my wonderful friends! We would be having a nice lunch in the park and knitting and chatting for hours!

Montgolfier Hat
Montgolfier Hat © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Malabrigo Rios)

Loopy: I hope we can all get together more often in the months to come. Your day off sounds perfect. Last questions: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors? 🙂

Irina: Definitely Morning person; both coffee or tea makes me happy, but recently I feel like gravitating towards coffee a bit more. Usually continental, but love working on my stranded knitting, holding the yarn with both hands. Can I say tonal? 

Irvine Tank Top Irmian Design
Irvine Tank Top © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Sandnes Garn Peer Gynt)


Loopy: You can say tonal! Anything else you’d like to add?

Irina: I strongly believe that there is a knitting designer in any knitter. If you ever chose a different yarn or color than the pattern calls for – you have been designing. If you have ever modified your sweater – that’s the designer’s work. If you took the shape of one garment or accessory but decided to use a different stitch pattern – you are a designer. And there is a lot of inspiration around!

Cesaria Top Irmian Design
Cesaria Top © Irina Anikeeva (try it in Cascade Superwash Sport)

Loopy: I think all knitters have a touch of design creativity inside. Thank you for the inspiration today, Irina!

Irina is offering a 20% off discount on all of her self-published patterns on Ravelry. The code is LOOPY and is valid July 9 – 16, 2021. Click here for her patterns.

Happy weekend!

Sheri