I worked with Lisa when my designs were published in both of these magazines and I have to tell you that I was so thrilled to see how efficient, knowledgeable and logical she is. I even had to write and ask her (she probably laughed) how can she take a not very simple pattern written by a designer and shrink it to fit the place allowed in the magazine and... not miss a step in that pattern. Lisa wrote me a nice explanation of the process she takes to do this. Since she is working with many designers for each issue, she is very busy. Yet, when you communicate with her, you feel like you are the only one with whom she works. This takes some patience and professionalism.
Lisa also blogs for Knitting Daily , the online magazine. Today we are talking about Lisa Shroyer, the designer. Yes, she finds the time to do that too. Her designs range from very traditional to very modern and spontaneous. She works with many different types of yarn and designs for a good range of sizes including plus sizes. And here are her answers for this interview.
1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
I started knitting around age 8. My mom, a lifelong knitter, taught me
to knit; she had, in turn, been taught by her mother. Having an expert
teacher at my elbow every night on the family room couch made it easy
for me to pick up the craft, and around age 14, I started knitting
sweaters obsessively. Fair Isle pullovers on little needles; big epic
Starmore Arans—I didn't know enough to know these were intimidating
2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
I started working for Interweave Press in early 2005. Participating in
the Interweave Knits staff project led me to my first published design
that year; since then, I've contributed lots of staff projects and
other patterns to Knitscene, Interweave Knits, and books.
3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
I love figuring out color combinations for stranded colorwork. For
large expanses of knitting, cables and texturework are really
fulfilling for me. BUT, my single most loved technique is mattress
stitch! I love seaming—the mechanics of it, the way well-planned
selvedges come together, the neatness you can achieve. And it means
the sweater is almost done.
4. When 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?
I'm writing a book right now, on plus-size sweaters for Interweave. I
spend all my free time brainstorming new designs, swatching, and
knitting these designs. My idea starts with a silhouette and a
construction, like "set-in sleeve with tunic length, mostly in
stockinette, but I want a graphic focal point." From that basic idea,
I turn to choosing yarns, then swatching the life out of the yarn
until a stitch pattern or combination of patterns strikes me. I find
inspiration in fashion and big-girl blogs, traditional knitting, and
my own lifelong obsession with sportswear—granpa cardigans, casual menswear, big collars, toggles, ribbing, sweaters as true outerwear.
5. What does your studio look like?
Right now, a mess. I work from home, so my studio is really my home office first, then a knitting studio. Big sliding glass doors look out on a stucco courtyard, where we grow vegetables in the summer. There's a lot of storage, and the yarn is pretty well tucked away, but I do have a large stash. I have a big desk with hutches overhead, and a vintage bookcase filled to the brim with magazines—copies of Interweave knits, Interweave Crochet, and Knitscene that I've worked on.
6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
In my living room, a big round chair that spins 360 degrees and has a huge seat width. I can sit with my legs crossed and knit with plenty of room for my flying elbows—I'm a thrower and the movement is fairly dramatic! I can't knit on chairs with armrests.
7. Do you spin your own yarn?
8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
No. I have in the past, but honestly, knitting is a solitary habit for me. It's the time I get to spend alone, concentrating on technical issues, watching TV, listening to music, zoning out. And I'm around knitting and knitters all day long with my job, so getting together to socialize about knitting is overload. I turn to other interests for social interactions.
9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
As project manager for Interweave Knits, I correspond with designers all day long. We work out yarns, deadlines, pattern elements, and technical issues. I get to see a wealth of knitting. When we're planning photo shoots and all the garments are laid out, it's so inspiring to see, at a glance, 25 knits that 25 different designers labored over.
10. Where can we see your published designs?
You can see my work in past issues of Knitscene and Interweave Knits—check out interweavestore.com and do a search on my name. My book will be released in Fall 2010, and will offer something very different for the plus-sized knitter. I have 13 designs in the book, and the rest have been contributed by some of my favorite designers.
11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
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?
You can knit anything. Start with the most complex pattern if that's what inspires you—obsession with pattern, stitch, and final product are what will propel you through tough patches. Enjoy ripping out. Practice finishing. Fall in love with all the aspects of knitting, not just the knitting itself. If you can find a good teacher, set up regular and frequent personal lessons, because in the beginning you don't know what you don't know, and a teacher's experience is invaluable.
13. What are your plans in the near future?
Once I finish working on this book, I'm going on vacation—maybe Santa Fe; stay in a little adobe casita with a fireplace, a few bottles of wine, a hot tub…spend my time antique shopping, relaxing by the fire, eating New Mexican cuisine. Yes, that's my plan! If I knit anything, it will be totally for fun—maybe some intricately patterned tams, I've been wishing I had the time to make a few hats.
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
I can't reveal any of the book designs, I'm sorry.
15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
I am senior editor of Interweave Knits magazine and editor of the special issue Knitscene. I work from my home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I live with my partner Laurie, who's pursuing her PhD at the University of North Carolina. I'm an editor first, then a designer. Designing takes a lot of time for me—I often knit a sweater several times, ripping it out each time, before I'm happy. When a knitter sees a finished design, it looks so effortless—the patterns, the construction working together to such great effect. Believe me, good design rests on the ashes of unsuccessful design. Nothing is effortless about designing, knitting, and then writing, grading, and editing the pattern. But if it looks that way, the designer has done her job well.
FG: Lisa, thank you very much for this great interview. It is so interesting for me to know the behind the scenes work on a magazine and how different designers work on their creations. Good luck with your book. We all will be looking forward to see it.
To our reader: Thank you all for visiting the studio. As usually, you can use your chance to ask questions and do not forget to mention this project to your friends. Here are some other Lisa's designs: