Today I’m happy to introduce you to Elizabeth from E Elliott Knits in Canada. When I look at her designs, I think “beauty plus comfort”, and I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about her. (Pattern links got to Ravelry, yarn links go to The Loopy Ewe.)
Loopy: Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for being in our spotlight today. Tell us, how long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Elizabeth: Thanks for having me as part of your Designer Spotlight series! My grandmother taught me to knit when I was little: I think I was about 8. We spent summers with her–she lived by the beach a couple of hours north of Toronto–and she was always knitting something, so she eventually showed me how. I felt so grown up, sitting beside her and knitting with her, watching the news in the evening. My mother has also taught me a lot about knitting and about design over the years: Mum’s the one who encouraged me to start designing.
Loopy: I always love hearing about people who are carrying on a knitting tradition in their families, like you. So special. What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Elizabeth: I like to have a couple of different types of projects on the go: something fairly easy to work on while reading or watching something that requires attention, and something a bit more complicated, like stranded colourwork, for when I just want to immerse myself in a project. What I’m drawn to right now–especially after this past year–is projects that look more complicated than they are: fairly straightforward knitting, but with great details. I don’t really have a favourite item: I love shawls for their potential for great fabric design; cowls for the quick gratification of a short project; sweaters for the challenge of getting the fit and the details just right.
Loopy: That is the ultimate perfect pattern – easy, stress-free knitting, but looks interesting, too. Especially right now. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Elizabeth: I think that would be my first (and so far only) fleece-to-sweater project. I bought a fleece at Maryland Sheep and Wool (with the guidance of their super-helpful and knowledgeable fleece barn volunteers), processed and spun it over the course of a year, then designed and knit a sweater from the yarn. The whole thing took me about a year and a half to finish, and I still need to tweak the sweater a bit: I’m going to add a mock-turtleneck from the edge of the current v-neck, as it’s a bit too open for a bulky, cold-weather sweater. I learned a *lot* from the process, including the importance of taking good notes throughout and then going back and actually reading those notes. I’ve got another fleece all scoured and ready to go for the next one.
Loopy: That has to be really satisfying, seeing it go from fleece to yarn to sweater. What a great accomplishment! (And – “going back and actually reading those notes” – probably a good idea!) When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Elizabeth: I started designing in 2010, after getting back into knitting for the first time in a while. I was helping my husband care for his mother, who had dementia, which meant that I didn’t leave the house much. Knitting was something that I could pick up and put down as needed, and it helped ground me through a difficult time. My mother gave me a bunch of books on knitting and designing, including Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Without Tears, and I started to get into the possibilities of knitting from my own ideas rather than from a pattern: being the boss of my knitting, as EZ would say.
Loopy: That Elizabeth Zimmermann has inspired so many people, hasn’t she? She was amazing. Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Elizabeth: I think my favourite so far is Strange Weather. I wear the prototype a lot–indeed, I’ve just about worn it out–so I’m thinking of making another one for myself. I love the drape and fit, and the unusual construction. I also love Rapport: I wore it just yesterday to run errands in, and it was deliciously soft and warm, just the right extra layer on a cool day.
Loopy: That Strange Weather sweater was one I was immediately drawn to. It looks cozy and the construction sounds interesting. I added it to my list! What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?
Elizabeth: My favourite part is when an idea hits, whether it’s from a swatching session or just something that pops into my head, and I sit down and figure it out–get the fabric just right, see how the yarn likes to be worked, figure out the details that make it just so–and turn the idea into a real thing. My not-so-favourite part is probably naming the designs. I don’t know why I always find that so difficult, but I really do.
Loopy: Oh that’s interesting on the naming – no one has said that before, but I totally get it! Do you do this business full-time, or on the side? And is that hard? Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?
Elizabeth: I design full time, though I had hoped to start teaching more with our move to BC; obviously that’s not happening right now. When we’re able to gather in groups again, I look forward to teaching knitting classes as well as designing.
Loopy: I think teaching is good for designers to do, because it gives insight into how knitters think and learn. That’s always good for pattern writing. Does anyone else in your family knit?
Elizabeth: My sister knits: mostly easier projects to relax with, as she has a very demanding job. My mother mostly machine knits these days–she’s more into spinning, weaving, and painting. My other sister doesn’t knit much, though she knows how and appreciates the work involved, which makes her a great recipient for hand knit gifts.
Loopy: They all sound very knit-worthy, which is nice! Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Elizabeth: I love going for walks in the woods: Alabama had some beautiful parks, and now that I’m back in BC, I’ve been exploring the parks around our town. I also really enjoy cooking and bread-baking: after a big or involved design project, I like to cook something that requires a lot of attention, like curry or risotto or a slow-rising bread, as a sort of meditative palate-cleanser for my brain. I like playing big, open world videogames, though since a session in the world can take hours, I don’t get to do that as much as I’d like.
Loopy: Your cooking choices sound delicious and I like your routine after pattern designing. What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Elizabeth: Sleep in. Putter around for a bit, curl up with a book and my cats, then go for a long walk, maybe by the sea, and have lunch somewhere. Come home and pull out my spinning wheel, some fleece, and the hand cards, and spin while watching a mystery or good science fiction show while Jon makes dinner. Keep spinning until the wee small hours, or maybe play a video game. (I’m currently working my slow, ambling way through Red Dead Redemption 2.)
Loopy: I like the part where you keep spinning while Jon makes dinner. 🙂 Ok, last set: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors?
Elizabeth: Night, definitely. Tea, mostly. English, usually, though over the holidays I worked on a sweater for myself knitting Continental style, to see if I’d like to switch. Solids, generally, though I do love the look of thin multicolour stripes on a solid background.
Loopy: Perfect. Thanks again for chatting with us today, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth has set up a code for you to receive 20% off a pattern from her Ravelry pattern shop. The code is: EElliottKnits+LoopyEwe and is valid 1/22/21 – 1/29/21. Enjoy!