Today we have Jenise from Jenise Hope Knits in our Designer Spotlight. Jenise lives in Canada, on the beautiful west coast by Vancouver, which is a couple hours north of Seattle, and she says the cities could be twins! Jenise is the designer of the famous Persian Dreams pattern, as well as so many other beauties. I know you’ll have fun learning more about her today. (Pattern links go to Ravelry, yarn links go to The Loopy Ewe.)
Loopy: Hi Jenise! Thanks for being in our Designer Spotlight today. How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Jenise: I’ve been knitting for 13 years now! I am mostly self taught, thanks to our local library. I had learned the knit stitch when I was a kid by my aunt, but that never went anywhere.
Loopy: I’m glad we all have things like libraries, YouTube, and the like for learning when there is no one nearby to teach us. What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Jenise: I like to have both a “boring” vanilla project, like a stockinette stitch sweater, and also something really complex on the needles, Usually either a complex lace or fine gauge colorwork! Either totally mindless, or so consuming that a couple more rounds feels like an accomplishment.
Loopy: That’s a perfect mix. You never know what you’re going to feel like working on (or how much energy you will have) from day to day! What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Jenise: Either my 8 stitches=1 inch, lace weight, pure silk July Tee, or my massive colorwork Indian Nights. I prefer to use steel needles, and working with skinny silk on slippery needles is its own special challenge! It takes a little while for your fingers to adjust so it feels natural again, and then the pattern includes some short rows and other little tricks mixed into the stockinette; and silk is relatively unforgiving about flubs. It was worth every hour of knitting, though, the top turned out gorgeous and the silk feels so good to wear! When I made Indian Nights, I had a team of knitters helping get it finished on a reasonable timeline, so I only did a fraction of the actual knitting. However, an error in the pattern itself resulted in the steek being located in the wrong spot on one of the long strips. The only option was to discard the entire unit, or to drop a section, then pick up and knit it with the steek on the other side of the chart. Given the size of that piece, it would be much faster to do the knitting surgery, and I did. Dropping and picking up a section of 3 or 4 stitches can be a challenge, but once you have much more than 5 dropped, you need to fuss a bit with the yarn tension to use up exactly the amount of yarn you have! I have more about the actual knitting of those two projects on their project pages in my notebook on Ravelry (links above there!)
Loopy: Ok – fixing a mistake in lace is not fun, but doing what you had to do sounds like a nightmare! I bet you were so glad when it all worked out. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Jenise: I don’t know if I have ever knit something from a pattern, following the pattern exactly, so in a way I have been designing from the very start. Even when I was learning to knit I would do reckless things like decide to use a totally different gauge than the pattern and adjust on the fly as I worked, or change the stitch pattern. When I am knitting for fun now (not for a pattern sample) I typically just choose a yarn, pick a needle size that seems right, and make it up as I go. Sometimes this turns out terribly, but more often it all works out in the end. I feel compelled by my sense of curiosity about “but what would happen if I did THIS next time???” and designing as an occupation gives me the freedom to do so much more of that than I otherwise would.
Loopy: That’s very adventuresome, to just jump in with needles and yarn. But very freeing to the creativity, too. It actually sounds fun! Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Jenise: That’s hard! I think my Aviary blanket is probably the favorite blanket, and the Windbreak sweater might be my favorite garment.I am always torn between very dramatic and bright items, and very simple and neutral ones. I had this great plan to redecorate my living room, and made two plans I could choose between; one to paint the walls cream and find a bunch of great black and cream prints for accessories and go modern and neutral, and the other plan to keep the buttery yellow walls and add in some vibrant purples and/or greens. It has been months and nothing has happened because I change my mind daily on which I want to do…
Loopy: That’s funny – two totally different looks. But both would be fun to pull together, I think. What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?
Jenise: I like it all. I love to design, to knit swatches and make charts and stare at columns of numbers for each size, then the actual knitting and stitching and blocking, and the photoshoots and editing. I like the backend side of the business too, doing the bookkeeping and planning. I think the hardest part is to have to make the editing decisions about what NOT to do. There are always too many ideas/projects and not enough time.
Loopy: I think you are the first person I have ever interviewed who likes it all. What a perfect job for you, then! And it gives you ways to use both sides of your brain, which is a bonus. Do you do this business full-time, or on the side? And is that hard? Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?
Jenise: I did it full time for, I think, 6 years. I worked long days and weeks to learn the ropes and build up my collection of patterns (204 of them now!), and I honestly never got bored of it. in 2015 I was married, 2016 we had our first child, followed by two others about 2 and a half years apart, and my time available for designing shrinks by the year right now! I’d love to be designing with a full time focus again, but for now we have decided to build a family, and I have chosen to make that the priority for my time, which means I’m working something like 6 hours a month. I really hate not being able to reply to emails within 24 hrs and not keeping up like I used to, but that just is what it is. I look forward to one day having bigger kids and longer/more regular periods of time to work. I am the type of person who would gladly spend a week doing one task, and then a different focus the next week. I don’t notice time pass when I’m working. With little ones in the house, my whole life is shattered into tiny bits of time and repetitive tasks, which is a completely different life than spending a full day writing out directions for a sweater, and this is the big challenge.
Loopy: You know, as someone who has adult children, I can say that time goes so fast and you will never regret spending it on your family. Soon enough you’ll have plenty of time to be doing hours and hours of design work again! It’s all good. Does anyone else in your family knit? And would you like to tell us about your family?
Jenise: My oldest daughter (5 years) is trying to learn to knit, and I am trying to teach her. It’s a challenge for both of us. Having learned to knit mostly as an adult who had done other fine work with her hands, learning as a young child is something I can’t really relate to!
About my family…My husband is, in many ways, exactly opposite of me. He is much more outgoing and relational, and thrives in sales and interpersonal work, where I would be fully content to work 5 days straight and come out once on the weekend to talk to people. He wants to know “just the important part” and I want to know EVERYTHING, to the most complex details. It would make for a rough relationship, besides that we each really respect and value each others strengths, and neither of us is the sort to be tempted to try to micromanage the other. In some ways, I think we are becoming more like the other over time. The thing we have in common is that we are both self-motivated and have turned our hobbies/interests into our work, he in the financial field and I in my crafts microcosm. That sense of vibrant interest in the world and eagerness to do things is a lot of what attracted us to each other, we both tend very entrepreneurial. Having been married as long as we have, I now appreciate his patience and calm, rational, commitment to our values and priorities. Some things are not visible till you have been through some stuff. He doesn’t knit (I laugh just imagining him sitting down and doing something quiet for long enough to knit anything!), He would much rather be out playing football or soccer or brewing coffee.
We have 3 children, a 5 year old girl, 2 year old boy, a newborn girl, and no plans to stop yet! Our oldest is very emotionally perceptive, and takes after her mom in wanting to be doing things with her hands. She loves pink and girly things and commonly is “getting ready for the ball with the princesses”. Our boy is a classic rough and tumble boy, he plays along with the princess games forced upon him, and when he gets bored of it, will jump onto his sister and hold her to the floor. Somehow he hates sitting still or sleeping, but will take a good hour to sit and look at a book full of pictures. Hard to tell much about baby, but in the past month we’ve been getting to know her, she is a very happy and laid back little one, and I am very thankful for that!
Loopy: What a great mix and balance in your family. It sounds like a life full of interesting people and experiences, and I bet your baby is enthralled by all of the things going on around her! Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Jenise: This year, for the first time, we have a garden, and it has been immensely satisfying to eat my own tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries and peas from my own garden, or to pick our own flowers for the house. I hadn’t ever really wanted a garden, but I spend a fair amount of time outside with the kids and gardening fits nicely into that time. I studied flat pattern drafting for sewing before I learned to knit, and made a lot of my wardrobe. I still do sew when I have a chance. I have a pinterest full of embroidery and “one day when I have time” (code for never) I have lots of plans of things to embroider, I am ok at it, but would love to actually become GOOD at it.I also really enjoy cooking and baking, which I have plenty of opportunity to practice. Cooking a good meal is delightful all the ways, you get to make it, then you eat and enjoy it.
One day I want to try leatherworking – the hand stitching methods and the way you can mould leather fascinate me. I want to make shoes too – I have plans for that. I think the big challenge with shoemaking is just sourcing all the supplies and tools. 10 years ago it was extremely hard to find anything, but there has been a bit of a trend and I am slowly collecting the information and sources I need to design and make a pair of shoes. I have shoes that live in my head, nothing crazy, just basic shoes, and I cannot find them in a store or online anywhere and I would love to be able to just make exactly what I want.
Loopy: I have a friend who made shoes a couple of years ago. I had never heard of kits/supplies to be able to do that, but it sounded cool! With all of those extras that you love to do, what would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Jenise: Beach! We go to the beaches around here and hang out for hours! Often on weekends my husband takes the kids out on a “kids date” and it is an amazing opportunity to sew something or just clean like a crazy person.
Loopy: Kids Date sounds like a great tradition – for you, for your husband, and for your kids. Ok – last questions: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors? 🙂
Jenise: Night. I try to do active, mindless stuff in the morning till my brain finally warms up by afternoon and I don’t even attempt math-heavy tasks till after dinner.My husband will brew a beautifully aromatic and sweet cup of single origin, light roast, chemex coffee for me and that’s my first choice. I don’t drink “regular” coffee, my second choice would be a smooth black tea, or Rooibos, and I generally drink all of them black, no milk or sugar. Since I am self taught to knit, I knit weird. I keep trying to make my fingers learn to purl continental because it would make it possible to knit faster, but so far my scrambly weird method is what usually happens.I want to wear solids, but knit with multi colors. This is an ongoing problem and I have no solution to it.
Loopy: I don’t think you have to solve anything there! Anything else you’d like to add?
Jenise: Most of my patterns are geared for advanced knitters, and they can look really intimidating. I learned to knit different techniques just because I wanted the end result, and so many knitters have told me they learned colorwork making one of my blankets, or one of my sweaters was their first garment! If you find a pattern that really has that magic spark for you, just DO it! Youtube and the Ravelry forums will help you through the scary parts you don’t know how to do, and you’ll be an expert knitter in no time!
Loopy: Great advice. And thank you again for being with us today, Jenise!
Jenise is offering you a 20% discount on one of her patterns from her Ravelry Pattern Shop. The code is: loopy and this will be active October 15 – 22, 2021. (Note – she turns her pattern shop off on Sundays, so please shop the other days of the week.)
Have a great weekend!