Happy Friday! Today we have Elizabeth from Blue Bee Studio in our spotlight and I know you will love getting to know her. Her Dillon pattern is on my fall knitting list, as well as several other sweaters that she has designed. I love the style of her designs.
Loopy: Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for being in our spotlight today. Tell us – who taught you to knit?
Elizabeth: Hi Loopy! I started knitting a few years after art school while living in Brooklyn. I had been sewing for a long time, making a lot of my own wardrobe, and knitting seemed like a logical extension of that. One day I walked into a local yarn shop and took a class. I wish I knew the name of that wonderful shop owner who launched me on this path!
Loopy: I bet she would be delighted to hear it! What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Elizabeth: Sweaters, sweaters, sweaters, and hats.
Loopy: I can tell that by your design portfolio! Your sweater designs are such classics. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Elizabeth: I love learning new techniques, and I am always willing to take a chance and give something a try. After all, what’s to lose? You can always rip out. So it’s not really the technical aspects of knitting that I find challenging. It’s more the limitations on my understanding of the craft that have tripped me up. Early on in my knitting life I made a stranded colorwork baby sweater out of cotton yarn. And knit it flat. It was an absolute misery, but through the experience I learned that ‘stickier’ wool yarns are better for colorwork, and that I always want to do stranded knitting in the round!
Loopy: Agreed on the stickier wool and stranded in the round. But that was a good learning experience. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Elizabeth: When I started knitting, I really never used patterns. Because of my sewing background, I knew the shapes I needed to make to fit myself, so I just made things up. At first, I would print out graph paper that matched my stitch and row gauge and plot out all the stitches. It was a very 2-D way of working – reminiscent of sewing patterns. Later I just made notes to myself about the dimensions I needed, and the stitch counts, and worked fairly organically.
When I became aware of the online knitting world, I found that there was a wealth of interesting patterns out there, and began knitting other people’s designs. Having made garments my own way for so long though, I was not very good at following the designer’s instructions, and invariably deviated from the pattern.
In 2011 I answered a call for submissions from the online knitting magazine Twist Collective, and had a design accepted! Twist published several of my designs, as did Quince and Co, and Brooklyn Tweed. These days, I mostly self-publish, and my training as a graphic designer helps a lot, but working with these publications taught me a lot about structuring and writing patterns.
Loopy: You built a lot of great connections and experience in the industry as you grew. That’s a great way to develop and grow. Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Elizabeth: Whatever I’m currently working on seems to be my favorite. Right now I am over the moon about my new cardigan design, Bowen. It’s a return to the top down set-in sleeve for me, after spending a lot of time exploring modern drop-shoulder construction. Bowen has an asymmetrically shaped armhole that makes for a fantastic fit. That said, I do love Elorie. And Clio. And I’d love to have time to knit myself another Donner … and I could knit Tiny Boats a hundred times and still find it fun!
Loopy: That has to be a hard part of being a designer – designing something you love and would like in all different colors, but the next design is already calling to you. (Note to readers – Elizabeth’s Bowen was released 9/30 and there is a separate discount code for it: HELLOBOWEN, which gives you 30% off through Monday, 10/5.)
What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?
Elizabeth: Swatching for new designs is super fun. It is a process that captures all of the excitement of a cast-on while exploring new shapes, textures, colors, and so on. I really like all parts of the design process, and even find grading a pattern to be very satisfying. I love creating a comprehensive spreadsheet in Excel and seeing how all of the elements are going to work across the full range of sizes.
Loopy: You may be the only designer I have ever interviewed who mentioned they do like grading the pattern! 🙂 Do you do this business full-time or on the side? And is that hard?
Elizabeth: I design full-time … maybe more than full time. Since I work from home it’s hard to find the off switch, but I am trying to get better about life-work balance.
Loopy: That really is hard when you work at home. But being aware of the balance is the first step! Does anyone else in your family knit?
Elizabeth: My great-grandmother was a knitter. She specialized almost exclusively in mittens, and is said to have knit them for everyone in her small town. I never got to meet her, but I do have a pair of her amazing mittens. They are incredibly fine, knit on #000 or #0000 steel needles.
Loopy: Wow – that’s wonderful! Wouldn’t it have been fun to have been able to sit and knit with her? I’m so glad you have a pair of her mittens. And I bet she would love knowing that her great granddaughter became such a wonderful knitting designer.
Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Elizabeth: I love to sew – garments of course!
Loopy: Of course garments! What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Elizabeth: I love road biking, hiking, and kayaking. Each of those activities is meditative in its own way, helping to quiet the constant hum of my mind – but also giving me time for mental knitting, where I am often able to solve design issues.
Loopy: Mental knitting – I haven’t heard that term but I like it and it makes complete sense. Ok, last question: Morning or night person? Coffee or tea? English or Continental? Solids or multicolors?
Elizabeth: Morning, definitely. Tea, most of the time. Continental, always – unless we are talking about breakfast? Then it’s the full English! Semi-solid hand-dyes and heathered woolen-spun yarns that show off stitches to good advantage.
Loopy: Well, I was talking about knitting, but now you have put me in the mood for a full English breakfast – maybe this weekend! Thanks for being with us today, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth has set up a special bundle just for us. If you click on this link: Blue Bee Studio you will receive 20% off of your choice of one of the patterns on that page with the code: loopyewe This code will be valid October 2-9, 2020.
Then pop back over to Loopy to pick out beautiful yarn to go with your new pattern!
Have a great weekend all –