Modeled after the famous TV program called Inside the Actor's Studio, The Designer's Studio is the place where you will meet a well-known designer and read about her/his designing style, philosophy, most favorite techniques, publications, and many other interesting details of the creative world of knitwear designers. Our guests will be answering a set of 15 questions (the same for every guest) and you will have the opportunity to leave the comment or your question after the interview is posted. We will try to keep up with your questions. This is a very exciting project and I hope you will visit here often and will not miss any of the interviews posted here.

Faina Goberstein.

November 28, 2009


When I first saw very fresh, stylish, innovative and elegant designs of Olga Buraya-Kefelian I immediately became a big fan. Later I learned that she was born in Belarus. My both parents were from that place and I visited there a few times. That made me also proud and happy for Olga. I love to see people from my old country succeed professionally here in the US. Olga's designs are frequently published by Interweave Knits. Two of her designs are on the cover of two books and many others are in books, leaflets, and her own line of patterns called Knit Creations of a Curious Mind. I am sure there will be many more beautiful and fashionable designs by Olga Buraya-Kefelian in the future, so if you were not familiar with her work by now, I highly recommend to keep an eye on her publications. So, here is Olga herself answering our 15 questions.

1. When did you start knitting and who taught you?
I have been taught first by my mother at the tender age of 4. I remember it was cool weather outside and where I come from it’s a tradition for mothers to pass on the knowledge of the craft. Memory of the rust orange yarn and metal needles and wonky garter stitches. It was just a try out. When I was 7 my grandma taught me how to crochet and it stuck through my teenage years. I made my first sweater during my freshman year in Lyceum (High School equivalent).

2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
It was around 2006 when I have started blogging that I have been encouraged to share my designs with the rest of the knitting community. I have started contributing to various projects as well as self-publishing on my blog. Nowadays, thanks to, managing self-publishing has become so much easier and accessible to wider public.

3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
I would say provisional cast on method (with a crochet hook) and tubular cast on.

4. When are you thinking about some new design, what inspires you the most? Is it different every time? Could you give us some examples on inspiration for some of your designs?
Being fond of fashion I look through magazines and the current trends, but not all of them are wearable or can be easily transformed into everyday wear. I enjoy architectural publications and blogs. That is certainly a great inspirational source for me.

But every time it’s different, essence of color and natural surroundings are very easy and plentiful to work with. I think visiting new places and change of scenery plays an important role. The details that I have never noticed before may trigger brain sequence for an idea to be formed. I carry a sketchbook with me all the time, so if there are some unexpected ideas I come to ponder over I try to doodle it on the paper, so I can come back to it later and work it through into a design.

For Example, there is a top in Ori Ami Knits that has these draped vents and that was inspired by fish… just an anatomical part of it – gills. Process of creativity can’t be controlled, it just happens. I have way many ideas and not enough time for knitting them all, but I do my best though sometimes it is so obsessive that I can skip on sleep.
5. What does your studio look like?
I have turned my den into my studio. There is a desk, a comfortable chair, a good lamp, a bookcase, a huge tub of yarn, a dress form and a big window. I enjoy having a good flow of natural light when I work.

6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
I would say my Ikea Poang chair. It was referred once that I “live” in that chair.

7. Do you spin your own yarn?
No I don't spin my own yarn, I tried designing once with some handspun and it is a challenge for me as I prefer more solid colors and base my designs on the cut and texture rather than the beautiful yarn on its own. I do own couple handspun skeins, but they are more for admiration. They were gifts from friends!

8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
I do actually belong to a group that is meeting in a local yarn shop every Wednesday night and I am going to miss them dearly due to my upcoming move. But I must say I have already got in touch with couple of knitters in a new place and they are eager to start a new knitting group there!

9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
Email, Twitter, Skype, Google chat are my mostly used methods of communication with the other designers. We try to meet up when they are in the area. As for the knitters making my designs I get lots of messages via Ravelry and regular email as well and it always makes me smile when people leave comments on my blog!

10. Where can we see your published designs?
My self-published designs you can find on my website, there right on the sidebar, they are also available through Ravelry.

I have a design in Sensual Knits and Pure Knits have my designs on the covers. There are also couple designs in Pints and Purls book and I have published designs in Interweave Knits and Crochet magazines. I collaborate with yarn companies, some of the designs you can see from Blue Sky Alpacas, Spud & Chloe and Shibui Knits.

11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
I did teach classes in the area. First, I was teaching for Knit a go-go company that covered majority of Metro DC area and then at Knit Happens, a local yarn shop here in Alexandria, VA. I have been also conducting numerous private classes as well. Once moved, I hope to teach again in Japan.

12. What would you like to tell knitters who are timid and do not believe they are skilful enough to knit some of your designs?
My biggest advice to knitters is to believe they can do it and keep improving their skills by knitting more projects. The more various techniques you explore the wider range you create for yourself. At the same time, never be arrogant in your knowledge, there is always so much more to learn. Stay open to suggestions when others give you tips on knitting. Knitting is like a language; every person gives it their own interpretation, its voice and accent. I would never tell anyone that they are holding their needles or knitting/purling wrong. It’s personal to everyone.

13. What are your plans in the near future?
You never know what future holds for you, but currently I am planning to continue designing and publishing my designs on my website as well as collaborating with other wonderful people in the industry. Teach more knitting workshops and share what I know and passionate about.

14. Can you share with us what your latest design is?

Absolutely, but it would be a bit of a challenge as is not just a design, it is a range of designs that I have created for my book in collaboration with a great photographer Vanessa Yap-Einbund, ORI AMI KNITS: Fiber Geometry. Ori from Japanese means Fold or Weave, Ami is from Amimono, which means to knit. The garments were conceived with geometrical detail or structure in mind while exploring amazing fibers of present market. It’s all about versatility of the garments, cool cuts and interesting details, but at the same time all of them are suitable for an intermediate knitter. You can read more about it here.

15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
I come from eastern European country of Belarus, where winters are Minnesota like.. very long and cold..
I was born to a family of a seamstress and my dad was in the USSR Army. Thanks to that, as a child I got to travel and live in Cuba for two years, which was very hot, exotic and memorable. Traveling became a passion later on and with the iron curtain fall we have gotten to travel around Europe and visit USA for the first time. Currently, I am in process of moving to Japan along with my military spouse, as you can see passion for travel and exploration is still here and we are going to be stationed there for the next 3 years. I am a linguist by education, so I hope to teach both English and Knitting/Crochet when I am there. I am thrilled for a chance to get acquainted with a new culture face to face and learn what I can.

FG: Thank you, Olga, for giving us a chance to get to know. I am very thankful for your time before your big move to Japan. Good luck to you and I am sure we will see some fabulous designs influenced by your surroundings there. Since you were modest about showing your designs here, I will choose a few myself.

Thank you so much, Faina, for hosting me here and giving such an amazing opportunity to speak to your readers! Wishing all the best with your knitting endeavors!

To the reader:
Please leave your comments for Olga below, if you have any questions for her.

November 13, 2009


If you are connected with the knitting world in some way you most likely know who Shannon Okey is. It is not an easy task to find one word to describe what Shannon does. Let me try to list the things I know about her: she is an author of many craft books, a designer, the former editor of the UK-based knitting magazine called Yarn Forward, a knitter, a spinner, the owner of Knitgrrl Sudio, the founder of designer-owned Stitch Cooperative, a publisher, and a media consultant. Shannon's articles can be found on and her videos on U-tube. I am sure I have missed something here. One thing that can be said about Shannon is that she has such a contagious and exhilarating passion about fiber arts and crafts that you want to follow her work. Here is what she told us herself.

1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?

I got a relatively late start (in my 20s) and though my favorite aunt taught me the basics, Lucy Lee at Mind's Eye Yarns in Cambridge, MA is the one who really taught me. I'd been working on the same scarf for about 4 years -- its ball of yarn is still in my stash! -- and was so incredibly bored with it, I can't even tell you. So I walked into Lucy's shop, said, "ok, I've been knitting this same scarf for ages, I hate scarves, I want to knit a cardigan." And she said, "what color?" This is why she's so amazing. She doesn't do the typical "no, you can't even finish a scarf, forget a cardigan" routine. A month later -- pow! cardigan. Lucy also taught me to spin in 5 minutes. She is a miracle worker, and her hand-dyed yarn is amazing, too.

2. When did you begin publishing your designs?

In my first book, Knitgrrl (2005). I gave away a lot of one-off designs before I started to actually write them down!

3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?

Provisional cast ons used for felting -- it's one of my signature "tricks," you can use it in many different ways.

4. When you are thinking about some new design, what inspires you the most? Is it different every time? Could you give us some examples on inspiration for some of your designs?

Color is a big factor -- Maize came about because although I'd bought the yellow yarn to re-knit another design of mine that wasn't working in its current incarnation, I sat down with the needles and just said...ok, wow, this wants to be something corn-like! Whether I'm reading a book, in my studio or driving around, Cleveland (where I live) is an awfully colorful place if you know where to look. For example: this image which I recently published on my site:
I was waiting for some Thai takeout, and decided to take a drive around that neighborhood, which is close to downtown. It's very industrial, and some of the city views are like no other -- when you're located on a lake, the only other way to look at downtown is from the water! Check out some of these colors, from graffiti to leaves to rotting painted tanks. How could those colors NOT inspire you?

The recycled wool scarves I make, and wet felted scarves, owe a lot to the colors I see around me.

5. What does your studio look like?

I recently did a virtual studio tour -- you can see a Flickr set of images here. But this is the executive summary:

You can also see a short video here. In addition, I often work at home, and then I'm curled up on the couch, for the most part!

6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?

Hands down, the couch. I just recovered all its pillows in Amy Butler "Primrose" fabric and plumped them up with extra stuffing. I sit down and am suddenly surrounded by beasts (my 2 cats and dachshund).

7. Do you spin your own yarn?

Yes, I have three wheels and who knows how many spindles at last count -- and as a Louet Yarns dealer, I teach a lot of other people to spin, too!

8. Do you belong to a knitting group?

Technically, yes (SnB Cleveland) but I'm often too busy to go, which is sad.

9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?

Constantly, and in a variety of mediums -- I'm very active in social media, so Twitter, Ravelry, Facebook and my own website are the major ways I reach people. In addition, Stitch Cooperative, the designer-managed pattern coop I founded, has an active internal mailing list, so I talk to them almost every day!

10. Where can we see your published designs?

On Ravelry, and on my own website.

11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?

Yes, at Knitgrrl Studio and all around North America (there, that includes the Canadians, yes?)!

12. What would you like to tell knitters who are timid and do not believe they are skillful enough to knit some of your designs?

Listen, if I can knit it, you can knit it. I'm very much of the opinion that people limit themselves -- you are smart! If you can do knit and purl, trust me, you can knit anything I can. If you're having a difficult time with a technique, you just haven't found the right way to learn it yet. Some people learn very well from photos, some do best with oral instructions, some need to physically have someone help them make the stitch motions in order to understand what's happening. Find a different way to learn whatever is giving you problems. I taught knitting in a booth at Maker Faire in San Francisco a few years ago and had everyone you could think of stopping to try -- I think the men and children had the easiest time because they had no preconceived notions that "knitting is hard." There are enough roadblocks in life, you don't need to make more for yourseld!

13. What are your plans in the near future?

I've revived my publishing company, and have several new titles on the way from both myself and other authors. The first book we put out, in 2007, was by Jonelle Raffino of South West Trading Company. I'm planning a digital reissue of that, too!
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?

Metis, Ennis Ulrike, and Piri, are the newest to hit the block -- but I have an entire booklet of patterns I've been working on this year called Knitgrrl CSA: Farm Fresh Knits. I'm hoping to have it out before year's end.

15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?

Can I have a nap now?

FG: Thank you, Shannon, for taking the time from your very busy schedule (I even feel bad a little bit now that I asked you to do this:) but I do hope you had fun answering these questions.
Yes, you can have your nap now :):):)

I know I am speaking for our readers saying that it was great to get a glimpse of how Shannon works and what inspires her as a designer and an author. I also wanted to add that she publishes her designs in other publications like magazines. Here are the two examples: the left photo is Mosaic from
Yarn Forward Magazine No. 18, October 2009 and the photo on the right is

Thank you for visiting The Designer's Studio. You can leave your questions and comments for Shannon, if you wish. Tell your friends to come over and read the interviews posted here. There are many more coming.