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.
April 07, 2011
There is no doubt that we will see many more of Simona's designs over the years to come. I am inviting you to read her answers below and admire her work.
1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
I started knitting when I was about 6 or 7 years old. My Grandmother taught me. She was an avid knitter who knitted and “designed” out of necessity for the whole family; she was very creative and loved the craft. My sister and I “had to” knit while she was knitting her projects and that’s how we improved our knitting at a very young age. Growing up in the communist Czech Republic, we did not have access to many patterns, so I had started designing without even realizing it when I was a child: making sweaters for my dolls, and recreating sweaters and tops I saw in fashion magazines.
2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
I had knitted on and off since I was a child and took a long brake from my late teens until I’d had my first child. Having a girl, I wanted to dress her fashionably. But I became a stay-at-home mom and was on a budget, so I started to design outfits and hats for her and that’s when knitting and crocheting became my escape and passion. In 2005 I had sent my first proposals to a publisher and got 2 out of 4 accepted! And I have not stopped since.
3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
My favorite knitting technique is combination of St st and rev St st. – it’s simple but it offers endless possibilities! But I like all textures created by knitting like lace and cables. My favorite is to knit and crochet in seamless constructions.
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?
I am greatly inspired by what’s going on in fashion, by art, home magazines, shoes, rugs, and places. Since I love fashion, I try to create something that people will love to make and wear. What gets my creativity going is when a publisher/yarn company offers some topics and/ or techniques they are looking for. This narrows it down for me, and I can explore the technique(s) into a wearable design. I have so many things I’d like to design, so that’s really helpful since there’s just not enough time for all my ideas!
I mostly like clean and simple designs where the stitch pattern plays “the main role” forming the silhouette of the garment.
5. What does your studio look like?
For longest time, my “studio” was my living room table and floor under the coffee table. When my yarn and reference books stash grew, I stored it in boxes on the floor in a messy home office. I was constantly looking for something! Finally, last year, I had bought some IKEA furniture (love IKEA!) and got organized. I have a 25-cube Expedite organizer where I store my books, most of the yarn (yes, my stash is still growing!) and office files. I have a large desk where I can spread all my stitch dictionaries, fashion magazines, and other things that inspire me! I also have TV and an extra computer, so my kids can do homework there and hang out with me while I work. Now I love to spending time in my office/studio.
6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
I love to knit on the sofa in the living room watching the news and movies. That’s my favorite time of my job!
7. Do you spin your own yarn?
I do not spin my own yarn, but I would love to learn how to do it. Last year I took a class on dyeing yarn and loved it. Though, spinning sounds like another time-consuming hobby to me that I will need to put on hold for the time being – there’s just not enough time in a day. I know I could get hooked.
8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
I do not belong to a knitting group. Unfortunately, I do not have the time. But I constantly knit or crochet everywhere I go.
9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
I am in touch with other designers, definitely. I love seeing what others are doing and love to connect with them. Knitwear and crochet designing is a very solitary job. For the first 3 years I only communicated with publishers via e-mails, people I have never met. Couple years ago I went to visit TNNA and there I finally met with many designers face to face and formed some nice friendships and business relationships. It helps to have friends among designers; they are great and fun people!
In this photo left to right: Ellen Gormley, Linda Permann, Kristin Omdahl, Marly Bird, and Simona Merchant-Dest. All of them are crochet designers. TNNA 2010 Ohio, Bijou Basin Ranch booth.
Faina Goberstein, Stefanie Japel, Simona Merchant-Dest at TNNA in Long Beach. 2010
10. Where can we see your published designs?
You can see my designs in most national knit and crochet magazines and books. I also design for yarn companies designer’s lines and booklets.
Magazines: Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple, Knit.1, Knitter’s magazine, Knit ‘N Style
Books: Mission Falls Silhouette (2010), Circular Knitting Redefined (2010), Mission Falls Weekend! (2010), Mission Falls Duets (2009), Mission Falls Accents (2009), Mission Falls Dreamer (2008), Vogue Knitting on the Go: Felted Crochet (2008), Vogue Knitting on the Go: Cables—Mittens, Hats & Scarves (2008), Stitch Style: Socks (2007), Vogue Knitting on the Go: Crochet Baby Blankets (2007).
Yarn companies: Mission Falls, Bijou Basin Ranch, Classic Elite Yarns, Imperial Yarns, Cascade Yarns, and Skacel Collection.
11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
I do not teach classes as of right now. I am planning on creating on-line classes for busy people so they can learn and improve their knitting and crochet techniques in the comfort of their home.
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?
You can learn any technique you are unfamiliar with in your LYS. But you can always try by yourself, and if it does not work out the first time, you can unravel and try again and again until you get it right. You can experiment, and you will be surprised how you will reveal your own potential in what you can do. Just keep trying.
13. What are your plans in the near future?
I am working on launching my own website. The website is still work-in-progress, since it is quite tedious work and quite time consuming. I am striving to complete it soon, though. As of designs, I am working on book proposals, work with yarn companies, submitting to magazines, and expanding my own pattern line.
14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
My latest designs were featured in Vogue Knitting Holiday 2010 issue, the Neck Bow Cardigan and Vine Lace Scarf. I have 6 designs in Mission Falls Silhoutte book released in Fall 2010.
I have several crochet projects coming out in Spring: one is in the spring issue of Interweave Crochet Hialeah Bag
15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
I love to read; though, I do not have as much time as I’d like; so I only read books recommended by friends as must-reads.
I am a fitness junkie – I go to the gym 4 to 5 times a week to break a sweat – I am a runner and lift weights. I am interested in healthy lifestyle.
I am passionate about preserving my Czech culture and language for my kids here in the USA. My Czech friends and I had started a Czech and Slovak school in our area for the kids, and it’s been going strong.
I love singing, music and dancing. I’d grown up a folklore dancer and traveled through Europe with our dancing group. Now I teach children dancing and singing in our Czech and Slovak school’s folklore group.
Simona with her daughters and grandmother.
FG: Simona, thank you very much. It was very interesting. I know that I cannot possibly put all the photos of your wonderful designs here, so I think our readers will be looking at your Ravelry page for more. Good luck with your plans and we will be watching for your new publications.