Designer Spotlight: Jenise Hope Knits

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.

Twigs Stole by Jenise Hope
by Jenise Hope Twigs Stole © Jenise Hope (try it in Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering)

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.

The Sparrow
The Sparrow © Jenise Hope (try it in Cascade Heritage Silk)

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!)

July Tee by Jenise Hope
July Tee © Jenise Hope (Try it in JulieSpins Cashmere Silk Lace)

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.

Indian Nights
Indian Nights © Jenise Hope (try it in Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper)

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…

Super Collar Sweater by Jenise Hope
Super Collar Sweater © Jenise Hope (try it in Primrose Roan DK)

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.

Flutter Mittens by Jenise Hope
Flutter Mittens © Jenise Hope (try it in Cascade 220)

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.

Rosy Mittens by Jenise Hope
Rosy Mittens © Jenise Hope (try it in Wollmeise Pure)

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! 

January Pullover by Jenise Hope
January Pullover © Jenise Hope (try it in Magpie Swanky Sock)

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!


Designer Spotlight: Wood House Knits

Today we have Jennifer from Wood House Knits in our Designer Spotlight. Jennifer and her family live in Knoxville, TN and she might just be the Cable Queen. One thing in particular that I love about her patterns is that they are equally beautiful on the front and the back. (Pattern links go to Ravelry, yarn links go to The Loopy Ewe.)

Clove by Wood House Knits
Clove © Jennifer Wood (try it in Uncommon Thread Merino DK)

Loopy: Hi Jennifer – thanks for being with us today! How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?

Jennifer: For about 17 years. Well I have my daughter to thank for my learning to knit. When she was in middle school, she read The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The descriptions of colonial women knitting captivated her,
and she begged me to teach her how to knit. So I bought a book, some needles and yarn. And we
learned how to knit. I fell in love! Something about this age old craft captured me immediately
and I have hardly put the needles down.

Caro © Jennifer Wood (try it in Cascade Heritage Sock or Silk)

Loopy: I haven’t thought about that book in ages! But I also remember reading it in school – maybe around the time I started knitting. That’s fun that she was your inspiration to learn. What is your favorite type of item to knit?

Jennifer: I would have to say sweaters. And I go back and forth between cardigans and pullovers. I like that
with pullovers there is very little finishing and you do not have to pick out buttons. I always have
the hardest time picking out buttons. Cardigans are such a fun canvas to work with because there
are so many different things you can do with the two front edges.

Mia by Wood House Knits
Mia © Jennifer Wood (try it in Malabrigo Arroyo)

Loopy: You know, I agree with you on buttons. I don’t like that process, either! What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?

Jennifer: Murron. It was the first time that I worked with Japanese stitches and the first time I
designed something that complicated. It was so worth all the work! I absolutely love the
cardigan and learned so much in the process of designing it!

Murron © Jennifer Wood (try it in Wollmeise Pure)

Loopy: It’s such a beautiful pattern – and the detailing on the back is stunning. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?

Jennifer: I started to designing in 2009. I did not know how to knit sweaters at that time so I was doing
mostly scarves and hats. Then I learned how to do sweaters by reading books and playing with
designs for them. It was a learn by trail and error process. Little did I know at that time how
much I would enjoy designing. I love to get an idea and then figure out how to make it work. It
fascinates me.

River Wrap by Wood House Knits
River Wrap © Jennifer Wood (try it in Magpie Swanky DK)

Loopy: You sound kind of like a knitting engineer. That should be an official thing! Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?

Jennifer: Murron, for reasons stated above

Isabelle © Jennifer Wood (try it in Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering)

Loopy: What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?

Jennifer: I love all the actual designing process. From getting an idea to swatching and figuring out
how to implement the idea. I also like grading, I think because it is part of figuring out
how to make the work process. And of course I love the knitting part. It is always so fun to
watch the sweater come together. My not so favorite part is cleaning up the pattern before
it goes to the editor and then after the testing. That is the kind of detail I do not care for.

Evelyn by Wood House Knits
Evelyn © Jennifer Wood (try it in Cascade Superwash Aran)

Loopy: It seems like you’d have to like Math to enjoy the grading aspect. To me, that always seems like one of the hardest parts in making garment patterns. Do you do this business full-time, or on the side?  And is that hard? Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?

Jennifer: This is my full time job. It is hard from the stand point that there is little return for the
amount of work. You really have to love it. But I am very thankful to be able to work from
home and set my own schedule. I have a big family so although very fun it can take some time.

Allie © Jennifer Wood (try it in Dream in Color Smooshy Cashmere)

Loopy: It’s nice that you can do something you love so much, full time. And we’re all glad you do! Does anyone else in your family knit?

Jennifer: My daughter mentioned above does occasionally. I have lots of grand children that I will
be teaching to knit so surely one of them will take to it!

Sophie by Wood House Knits
Sophie © Jennifer Wood (try it in Primrose Roan DK)

Loopy: I think it’s always really wonderful when you can pass down the love of a craft to future generations. Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?

Jennifer: I love playing in my flower garden and enjoy embroidery and needlepoint when I need a
break from knitting.

Clara © Jennifer Wood (try it in Knerd String Sport)

Loopy: What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?

Jennifer: Sitting outside among my flowers reading.

Kitra Cowl by Wood House Knits
Kitra Cowl © Jennifer Wood (try it in Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool)

Loopy: That sounds like a lovely setting for some reading time! Last question – Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors?

Jennifer: Neither, I do not like to stay up late or get up early!
Coffee, the stronger the better!
I mostly do Continental but I have learned English so I can do colorwork with two hands.
Solids most of the time, they work better for all the cables and lace that I like to do.

Tate © Jennifer Wood (try it in Malabrigo Rios)

Loopy: Sounds good. Anything else you’d like to add?

Jennifer: One of my favorite things that has come from the this job is watching and helping knitters
get out of their comfort zone and try new techniques in knitting. It is so exciting to see
them complete a project they did not think that they could knit. It gives them such a sense
of accomplishment and inspires them to keep challenging themselves. So I just encourage
everyone to be adventurous in their knitting and enjoy the process of expanding their

Mika by Wood House Knits
Mika © Jennifer Wood (try it in Uncommon Thread Merino DK)

Loopy: That’s great advice, and a great way to end. Thanks again for being with us today, Jennifer!

Jennifer is offering 20% off one of her patterns of your choice via her Ravelry Pattern Shop. The code is: Loopy20 and is valid October 1 – 8, 2021.

Have a good weekend, all!


Designer Spotlight: Jessica McDonald Designs

Today we have Jessica from Jessica McDonald Designs in our Designer Spotlight! Jennifer lives in Idaho, and she says it’s a small town in the mountains. Sounds like the perfect spot for designing and knitting.

Wyethia Jessica McDonald Designs
Wyethia © Jessica McDonald (try it in Uncommon Thread Everyday Singles)

Loopy: Hi Jessica! And Happy Birthday to you! Thanks for being with us today. How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?

Jessica: Hi Loopy! My mom taught me how to knit twelve years ago when I was newly-married. She got me set up
with a baby blanket knit out of yellow acrylic-blend yarn. It was a simple rectangle with only knits and purls, but I managed to completely mess up the patterning and it took me about three years to finish. But I had been bitten by the knitting bug and have been knitting ever since.

Pines @ Jessica McDonald (try it in Malabrigo Rios)

Loopy: Well you deserve congratulations for sticking with it and finishing it – that’s great. What is your favorite type of item to knit

Jessica: Without a doubt, my favorite thing to knit is sweaters. I knit them so exclusively that I (a knitter!) had to purchase a knit beanie this last winter. Yes, it is a shocking admission. I will try to knit myself a hat this year, but my list of sweaters to knit simply will not stop growing.

Desert Spring Jessica McDonald Designs
Desert Spring © Jessica McDonald (try it in Wollmeise Pure)

Loopy: That’s funny! You need a knitting friend who can make beanies for you. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?

Jessica: So far, my most challenging knit has been Cinder. It is a striking colorwork yoke that requires many rounds of three color colorwork knitting. Before I knit Cinder, I had only knit with three colors a few times so my skills were not yet well-practiced. There were some days when I could only manage to knit a single round on the yoke because I was so slow. However, by the end of the yoke, I was moving pretty quickly and even went on to design a children’s version, Little Cinder.

Cinder © Jessica McDonald (try it in Primrose Roan DK)

Loopy: That’s a beautiful pattern. And I would imagine that it gave you a lot of practice in three color knitting. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?

Jessica: Eight years ago, my first daughter’s first Christmas was rapidly approaching. I was determined to knit her a special outfit for the occasion, and had some lovely green stashed MadelineTosh I wanted to use. After spending hours scrolling through Ravelry and not finding anything that I liked, I decided to just make up my own. I had a stitch dictionary and understood the basics of how knit garments were made so I decided to just go for it. That first design was the Wildflower Tunic. It was not completed in time for Christmas, but it gave me a love for designing and I just
could not stop after that.

Wildflower Tunic Jessica McDonald Designs
Wildflower Tunic © Jessica McDonald (try it in Cascade Superwash Sport)

Loopy: That was a Christmas gift that really keeps on giving, right? What a lovely start to your design business. Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?

Jessica: Ruska is one of my favorites. From original inspiration to final sweater took about three years, but only about three weeks of that time was the actual knitting. It is my most-fun pattern to knit; I found it to be highly addicting and could not put it down. My Ruska is only a year old, and already one of my most worn sweaters. I just love how I feel when I wear it.

Ruska © Jessica McDonald (try it in Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool)

Loopy: It sounds like you need to make a second one! I love sweaters that are so wearable that you reach for them all of the time. What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?

Jessica: My favorite part of designing is coming up with a new idea and bringing it to life. The mental challenge of coming up with a way to effectively communicate my design to other knitters never fails to give me a thrill. The sense of satisfaction I feel publishing a clearly written, beautiful pattern helps me persevere when things get difficult. My least favorite part is the admin. Please don’t ask how long it’s been since I did any bookkeeping!

Ridgeline Jessica McDonald Designs
Ridgeline © Jessica McDonald (try it in Cascade 220 Superwash)

Loopy: Yes, totally understand about the bookkeeping. I don’t know many people who love that part! Do you do this business full-time, or on the side?  And is that hard? Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?

Jessica: I run this business on the side. My main occupation is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to four little kids. It can get incredibly difficult at times to do both, but I am passionate about both and have decided to do both giving myself no room for excuses. That being said, managing both roles requires an incredible amount of organization and self-discipline and is often exhausting.

Eirene Cowl
Eirene Cowl © Jessica McDonald (try it in Uncommon Thread Lush Worsted)

Loopy: That is a lot of irons in the fire. But I imagine that it does help you to stay organized (because you have to – no choice with so much going on!) Does anyone else in your family knit?

Jessica: My maternal line back as far as we know all knitted. I have some heirloom pieces that were knitted by my great-grandmother and grandmother, and they are some of my most precious treasures. I love to look at the stitches and think about all the love knitted into them. My mom and my sisters knit. My mom is currently knitting one of my soon-to-be-released sweater designs. There are some advantages to being related to a knitting pattern designer!

Little Treeline Jessica McDonald Designs
Little Treeline © Jessica McDonald (try it in Cascade 220)

Loopy: That is so wonderful that you have handknit pieces from your great grandmother and grandmother. What a treasure! It sounds like you come from a long and dedicated line of knitters. Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?

Jessica: All of my other hobbies revolve around spending time outdoors. I have an enormous garden, and as a family, we love to go the mountains to camp and hike.

Little Isla
Little Isla © Jesica McDonald (try it in Uncommon Thread Merino DK)

Loopy: What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?

Jessica: I would love to go to the mountains, sit somewhere quiet and peaceful with no cell service, and knit while my children run around and play.

Abloom Jessica McDonald Designs
Abloom © Jessica McDonald (try it in Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering)

Loopy: I think the “with no cell service” part is a good call! Last questions: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors? 🙂

Jessica: Neither – I am at my best between 8 am and 8 pm, tea, continental, solids.

Fletching Jessica McDonald Designs
Fletching © Jessica McDonald (try it in Knerd String Sport)

Loopy: Thanks for being with us today, and I hope you have a fun birthday day today! Anything else you’d like to add?

Jessica: For those who do not use Ravelry, the discount code will also work in my pattern store on my

The discount code that Jessica has set up is: LOOPYEWE and it will be valid September 24 – October 1, 2021.

Have a great weekend!


Designer Spotlight: Yamagara

Today we have Yamagara designs in our Designer Spotlight. Her designs are beautiful, classic, and timeless. Bernice lives in Singapore in Southeast Asia, and I hope you enjoy getting to know more about her! (Pattern links go to Ravelry, yarn links go to The Loopy Ewe.)

Rail Travel Yamagara
Rail Travel © yamagara (try it in Malabrigo Sock)

Loopy: Hello and thank you for being with us today! How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit? 

Yamagara: I was a crocheter before I became a knitter. My journey with yarns began when I taught myself crochet at the age of 6. I spent a big part of my carefree childhood in my maternal grandmother’s multi-generation house surrounded by farms and greenery. One day I discovered a Japanese doily crochet pattern book, a ball of yarn and a crochet hook in the house. It looked like an abandoned hobby by someone in the house. Being a curious and self-entertaining child, I figured out that there were diagrams that matched the photographs of doilies featured in the book, and that by following the symbols in the diagrams, I would be able to create the doilies. The beauty of Japanese crochet books is that diagrams speak a thousand words. Without knowing a word of Japanese I was making one doily after another. 

I did not get to find out who owned the crochet book. No one else in the family did crochet and knitting was unheard of, but the early fascination with crochet was etched on my heart and continued to shape me as I grew up. I was always drawing, making with my hands, sewing something or designing fashion items for my paper dolls.

When I became a teenager, I was fascinated by a knitting book in the public library showing beautiful mohair pullovers. The idea of using two sticks to create fabric was too mysterious to me. I thought I needed lessons but I could not afford lessons nor yarns. It was only 12 years ago, with Youtube as a game changer, that I finally came across a knitting demo. Out of excitement after watching it, I made my first swatch — garter stitches with the back of 2 paint brushes and some acrylic yarn in my art studio (I was then already an art teacher working from my home studio). Quickly I went on to make my first project, a garter stitch scarf with mohair, the most unsuitable yarn, both for a beginner as well as the climate here. Besides Youtube, I relied heavily on Purlbee, before Purl Soho came about, for its beautifully photographed knitting instructions. After I learned the techniques, I moved on to Japanese knitting books and rediscovered the joy I had when I was 6. The books opened a world of knitting for me as I understood it in terms of geometry, construction and aesthetic sensibilities.

Lariat © yamagara (try it in Wollmeise Pure)

Loopy: Isn’t it interesting that you had a connection with yarn and making things at such an early age? And then went on to find ways to teach yourself crochet, and later knitting. It seems like a natural and lifelong attraction that you have realized in your work. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?

Yamagara: Many of the designs that I came across in the books, especially those by designer Michiyo, had interesting ways of construction. Reading the diagrams and knitting from them, I learned much about garment construction. Often I substituted yarns because I did not have the yarns specified for the designs. Instructions were usually created for one size, so sometimes I found it necessary to adjust some dimensions. In doing these, I had to calculate stitches and rows and make modifications, which essentially was the beginning of designing. Ravelry did not influence my knitting as much as for some knitters, because I could not find many designs that I liked. Some of the sizes were not suitable for my petite body, and the yarns specified were not practical for my climate. I had in my stash mostly lace weight and summer yarns from Japan. One day as I was swatching with one of the yarns, an idea struck for a design I wished to wear. Having enough understanding of gauge and garment construction for my purpose, I did not have much problem knitting the idea in my mind. I shared some pictures of the layering garment on Instagram and was encouraged by comments to create a pattern for it. The pattern, Tokonatsu, became one of my best selling designs. Call it beginner’s luck, if you will. The support I got spurred me on to create more designs with yarns that I love, in the style that I like, and with attention to details in ways that I think make good designs. 

Loopy: That is such a beautiful pattern with a soft drape. I can see knitting that up in many colors as a wardrobe staple. What is your favorite type of item to knit?

Yamagara: I love knitting garments. It has not ceased to amaze me with endless possibilities from casting on to binding off.

Batavia © yamagara (try it in JulieSpins Cashmere Silk Lace)

Loopy: Yes, so true! It’s amazing how many different sizes and shapes can be made with two sticks and a string. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?

Yamagara: It has to be my first knitting project– the mohair garter stitch scarf! It was a disaster. I didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t unravel and it was too warm and itchy for me to keep it around my neck. 

Loopy: That’s a tough yarn for a first knit – so sticky. Good for you for seeing it through, though! Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?

Yamagara: It’s hard to pick one. I created each one with different design goals and there are things that I like about each of them.

Souffle Camisole
Soufflé Camisole © yamagara (try it in Magpie Swanky DK)

Loopy: What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?

Yamagara: There isn’t one particular part that I like the most. I enjoy the whole process. I love it from when the yarns reach my hands and I touch and admire them. Swatching and getting to know yarns, dreaming of ideas for them, working on construction and fit, and getting excited when design details and numbers work in harmony are addictive. I enjoy writing patterns. I like to work on layouts and organise clear and logical flows. I get feedback that my patterns are easy to understand and follow. My not-so-favourite part of designing is coming to know, after all my enthusiasm, time and hard work, that my designs are being sold in pirate markets or distributed without my permission. It is hard enough to create an income with knitwear designs.

TanTan  Yamagara
TanTan © yamagara (try it in Uncommon Thread Posh Fingering)

Loopy: I can’t imagine how disappointing and frustrating that must be – to see your work taken by others. It does seem like there is an army of knitters and crocheters who find and report such things, to that’s good. Do you do this business full-time, or on the side?  And is that hard? Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?

Yamagara: Besides knitwear designing since 2017, I’ve been running an art studio at home since 2004, teaching art mainly to children and teenagers. As I remember how much I enjoyed working with yarns and thread when I was a child, I include crochet, sewing and embroidery in the curriculum for students who are excited to learn. I’m also a slow-producing potter. You can follow my pottery work @mossypotssy on Instagram. I’m always busy with one or another. I find that these 3 jobs balance one another well and fulfill different creative needs.

Tin Roof  Yamagara
Tin Roof © yamagara (try it in Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper)

Loopy: I love your pottery pieces! I wish you lived closer so I could see them in person. So beautiful. I imagine this all keeps you very busy, but are there other hobbies that you enjoy as well?

Yamagara: I’m always drawing and painting as part of my job so I hardly do it as a hobby anymore. I still consider knitting and pottery my hobbies. At times I’m drawn to crochet, my first love.  Besides these, I enjoy taking care of my houseplants. I am quite obsessed with hoyas. I like cooking and presenting food on my handmade tableware for my family to enjoy. I love (and miss) traveling. 

Sonetto © yamagara (try it in Magpie Swanky Sock)

Loopy: Oh my goodness – same. I am so looking forward to traveling again. And your comment about Hoya plants reminded me of my favorite plant from my college days – a Rope Hoya. Now I’m on the lookout to buy one for my office, so thank you for that fun memory! With all that you do, what would be your favorite way to spend a day off?

Yamagara: Cycling or walking with my husband, visiting cafes and art exhibitions with my daughter, bringing my mum out for food and coffee, and taking an afternoon nap that feels like I’ve rested for hours.

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

Yamagara: I’m the happiest in the morning but the most at peace and productive at night. I like stretching myself late into the night and going to bed exhausted and satisfied with a day of hard work. I usually keep to one coffee in the morning, and tea, my homemade kombucha or water for the rest of the day. English. With this style, my tension is consistent on the right side and the wrong side. I learned continental knitting to be able to do colourwork with two hands. Undyed, solids and solids of the indie-dyer’s world. I don’t use them much in my designs but I have a soft spot for pretty speckled yarns. 

Haname © yamagara (try it in Uncommon Thread Merino DK)

Loopy: Thank you again for being with us today! Anything else you’d like to add?

Yamagara: Knitting can be enjoyable in the tropics and in summer if you use the right yarn and pattern. It is true that the warm and humid climate in Singapore is not the most conducive for wearing wool. People are surprised that I knit so much. Over the years I have discovered good summer yarns and light-weight yarns that are comfortable to wear. If you want ideas, have a look at my designs and check out some of the yarns that I used. If you have come across any yarns for warm weather that you enjoy wearing, please leave a comment or send me a message in Ravelry to let me know. 

Yamagara is offering 20% off the pattern of your choice from her Ravelry Patterns. The code is: loopyewe-20-yamagara and is valid August 27 – 9/3, 2021.