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.

August 22, 2013


Joan Forgione is a wonderful designer whose designs can be found in Vogue Knitting, Interweave Knits, Knit Simple and some other magazines. Her classic and feminine style is something that many knitters are looking for. Most of Joan's designs are well-fitted garments that are sweet and light in appearance. At the same time, some of the Vogue designs are very bold and edgy. 

Joan is a science teacher by day and I am sure that it helps her in the designing process. If you are interested to see more of Joan Forgione's designs, you can visit her Ravelry design page and her blog Paper Moon Knits.

Here are Joan's answers for DS interview. Enjoy.

1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
I learned to knit on my own, mostly from books.  My maternal grandmother was a great knitter (I have the artifacts to prove it), but unfortunately she died when I was only 3.  My mother didn't know how to knit at all, but she did know how to do a simple cast-on.  When I was starting college, there was a local knitting store in the neighborhood.  I walked in, took a look around, and proceeded to tell the shop owner that I wanted to knit a sweater.  I didn't tell her I didn't know how to knit and she didn't ask.  She handed me a binder and told me to choose a pattern I liked, so I picked out a cable cardigan.  Once that was done, she asked me to pick out yarn and I chose a lavender cotton.  (I wasn't intimidated and I wasn't getting any help!).  Since the internet didn't exist, I took a how-to book out of my local library and proceeded to knit the sweater.  Looking back, the finished product wasn't terrific, but it also wasn't a disaster.  I went back to the shop to choose my next project a few months later. I guess at 18, I had no sense of failure because this one was an abstract intarsia sweater with a base color and 6 other yarns with different textures.  I spent a fortune on the yarn and was very pleased with the finished product until I put it on and it began to unravel.  No one told me I needed to twist the yarns and weave in ends! 

Today I still believe that the best way to learn techniques (and I'm still learning) is by plunging in and giving it a try.  I'm a big believer in education.  No matter how intimidating a technique is to me, I keep in the back of my mind that people have been knitting for hundreds of years, and both the people and the craft have survived the experience, so I will too.

2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
I began publishing my designs in 2005 with the encouragement of Shirley Paden, a wonderful designer who is now my dear friend and mentor. My journey began in the spring of 2004, when I took a design class with Shirley.  It was an intensive workshop consisting of 24 hours of instruction over 6 weeks.  Our class project was to envision, plan and design (schematic and written pattern) a garment.  I chose a pleated coat with shawl collar.  I was so excited about the process and the fact that I was actually writing a pattern, that before the course was over I had not only designed the sweater, but had finished knitting it as well.  At the end of the class, Shirley, who is extremely generous with both her time and talent, encouraged all of us to keep designing and to keep in touch.  I did both.  Shirley prodded me to submit my designs to Soho Publishing, which publishes Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple and, at the time, Knit.1, which I also did.  Knit Simple chose two pullovers for their Winter 2005 issue and those were my first published designs.

3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique? 
I love lace knitting.  What I think I find most appealing about it is that the negative space is creating the "image" and that the image emerges row upon row, just like in fair isle.   I also find the delicate-ness and femininity of lace really appealing. 

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'm passionate about history, and many of my pieces are inspired by certain eras in history.  In examining the history of clothing, I've come to realize that there really are no new designs.  Modern clothing is just tweaking old ideas that worked well, and it seems to be cyclical.  Of course, there are always new construction ideas for garments, and I do find construction techniques fascinating, particularly the construction ideas of Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara Walker.  I also love knitting jackets and cardigans because they're so wearable.   

Some examples of designs I've done that are historically inspired the pieces for The Sanguine Gryphon.  Lizabeth Scott and Yvonne de Carlo were both inspired by fashion of the 1940s.  This is an era I love because women were feminine, but were beginning to find out just how competent they really were.  I also designed Norfolk for them.  This was inspired by Elizabethan fashion of the late 16th century.  I like this jacket because it can be worn by women of all sizes.   

5. What does your studio look like? 
I wish I had my own studio!  What I have is a living room with ceiling to floor bookshelves which is shared by the rest of my family.  Along with the large selection of knitting books, boxes of swatches and cedar chest full of yarn is a  small desk, my computer, sketch pad, and art supplies.  (Now that I'm writing it, it sounds like I've kind of taken over the space!)  I'd eventually like to carve out a small space for myself in a spare bedroom, but that would mean that my children will have to move out, and they're a little too young for that yet.

6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)? 
Again, it's my living room.  It happens to not be an ordinary living room as it's on a floor by itself, apart from the other rooms in the house.  There are very few distractions, good lighting and a huge, comfy chair.  I like to listen to audio books on my iPod when I'm knitting.  I'd love to say its the beach or my yard, but I find that when I knit outside, there's always something I've forgotten to take with me -- cable needle, stitch markers, counter -- which involves a trip back to the house. 

7. Do you spin your own yarn? 
 No.  I have little enough time to do what I love -- knit and design.

8. Do you belong to a knitting group? 
In December 2011, a Ravelry member, Lee, contacted me surprised that I lived so close to her.  I had wanted to start a knitting group locally and I asked her if she was interested.  She was, so we put out a call through the Long Island group on Ravelry and now have about 5 regulars, although there can be as many as 10 on some nights.  We meet at a local coffee shop on Friday nights.  I wish I could say we get a lot of knitting done, and we do knit (and crochet), but what we mostly do is laugh.  It's a great group of women.  We had a first anniversary party around the holidays, so I'd say we're a pretty stable group.  We're planning on doing a MKAL in the coming month.

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.  Thanks again to Shirley, there's a band of Paden protege who have been published, and who keep in touch.  When Shirley was doing her book Knitting Design Workshop, she asked a few of her former students-turned-designers to help in the editing process, since we had heard and read this book as class notes before it was formally published.  I was privileged to be asked to be one of those.  The group of us reconnected through email and conference calls.  It was a wonderful.  The book is a timeless gem that I think should be on every knitters' bookshelf, not only because I'm so fond of Shirley and believe her work is classic and impeccable, but also because even if you don't design, you get an insight into why garments are constructed in certain ways and how you can adjust designs you're knitting for a better fit.

I also have one very good knitting designer friend, Sima Brason.  She and I took our first design class together with Shirley and have remained friends through these many years.  She is my go-to sounding board for all things design, a great listener, and an all-around terrific friend.  We're collaborating on an ebook of 6 patterns which should be released sometime in late 2013 under the title Ethelrose Designs.  The name comes from our maternal grandmothers.  We like to think we're channeling those women of a past era who created extraordinarily beautiful garments and accessories, but believed it was a very ordinary thing.

10. Where can we see your published designs?
You can view all my designs on Ravelry at joanforgione.  My designs have been published in the magazines, Vogue Knitting, Knit Simple, Interweave Knits, Knit (UK), Knit Now (UK), Knit.1, Knit It!, in the book Knit.101 and by the yarn companies The Sanguine Gryphon, Artyarns and Vijay Fibers.  I also self-publish my patterns under the name "Paper Moon Knits". 

Vogue Fall 2010



Knit Simple

Knit 1

Knit 1
Knit 1
Knit it!
Knit it!
60 More Quick Baby Knits

11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach? 
I do dabble and have taught knitting classes locally.  I'm scheduled to teach this summer at my favorite local knitting shop, The Village Knitter in Babylon.  I'm an elementary school teacher and I do love teaching.  But in addition to designing and my full-time job, I'm also the mother of three teenagers.  This doesn't leave a lot of extra time in my schedule for teaching knit or design classes.

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? 
As I've said before about my own learning curve, I feel the best way to learn is to dive in and give it a go.   I love to learn new techniques.  The worst thing that can happen is that you make some mistakes and learn in the process.  The best thing that can happen is that you realize you're better than you thought you were, learn something to take away with you for the next time and have a wonderful finished product.  But I do feel that the reason knitters knit is not only about the product, it's also about the process.  I feel like the craft is growing because of the need for people to be creative in a low-tech way and the product is not what's creative, it's the process.  That's why I love to design.  I feel like every time I do it, I learn something else about the process, both for my own designs and when knitting others' designs.  The universal thing about being creative is that everyone feels good when they make something themselves. 

13. What are your plans in the near future?
The big thing for me this year is EthelRose Designs.  It's a collection of 3 accessories and 3 garments.  It's been a long time coming.  We're learning as we go.  Sima and I have some interesting marketing ideas we'd like to try out.  Paper Moon Knits is a company I started for my self-published designs.  I'd like to continue to develop this company to market to local knitting shops.  I worked with a graphic designer to create a pattern template and am in the process of  standardizing all the patterns.  I also toy with the idea of limiting myself to designing only those types of garments/accessories I love, i.e., just shawls, or shawls and sweaters.  The problem always seems to be about time -- not enough of it.  

14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs? (Off the record: I mean published or selfpublished that you can talk about)
I've just had a shawl design published in Interweave and three patterns with Vijay Fibers, a high-end silk yarn company.  Right now, I'm working on a cardigan for Ethelrose and a shawl for Vijay Fibers.  
Interweave Spring 2012

Sky Hat Vijay Fibers

Ausable Cowl Vijay Fibers

15. Would you like to add anything else about yourself?
I live near New York City, and one of the best things about being so close is that I get to visit great -- the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of City of New York City are two that come to mind -- with my husband and children.  Math and art are two of my favorite things.  I know this is why I love the design process.  Brain researchers report that math and art originate in different parts of your brain, but equally true, I think, is that great art has a mathematical truth to it.  I feel very blessed that I get to use my brain in both ways doing something I love!

Self published designs 
Protege Socks Paper Moon Knits
Nissequogue Paper Moon Knits

Spectacle Lake Paper Moon Knits
Paper Moon Knits

Quogue Paper Moon Knits
FG: Thank you Joan for taking time to answer these questions. I am sure we will see  many more of your lovely designs.

February 12, 2012


Jill Wolcott has a great combination of knowledge of the technical side of fashion design, pattern construction, body fitting, and creativity that we see in her stylish and urban designs. She shares her experience and expertise at her day job, teaching at Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco, doing some online classes (I am one of her students), and for the past 10 years as part of Y2Knit Events and Retreats. Jill has dozens of designs, and has begun doing more focused collections for Jill Wolcott Knits, her new business. She also has done work with Skacel Collection Inc. Here is one of them (copyright of Skacel).

Her designs are always stylish and impeccable with a great sense of color.

 Here is Jill herself, answering questions for DS.

1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
I learned to knit when I was 6 as a tag-along with my sister Susan’s Brownie troop.  My mother was the leader and arranged for the Brownies to learn at the local yarn shop, The Knit Wit Shop.  I was brought along because there was no sitter available.  The owners looked at my hands and proclaimed me qualified.  I did not like it at all.  The yarn chosen was blue (not a color I like) and the rib slippers seemed incredibly difficult.  When finished they were too large for my father’s foot!  Lessons in gauge would come later.

2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
My first design was published in a magazine in 1995.  It was a machine knit piece.  It wasn’t until 1997 that I started doing hand knits.

3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
I really like whatever I am currently working on—I am a generalist.  I do love vintage lace and finding ways to use the stitch patterns that are fresh and new.  I don’t love intarsia and stranded knitting so do those in small amounts, but everything else is on my list of favorites.

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 trained as a fashion designer so everything comes through fashion.  Ideas come from yarn, from stitch pattern, from silhouette, from art, from anything I see or am thinking about.

5. What does your studio look like?
My studio looks more like an office than a studio.  Kind of a messy office, overfilled with things in progress.  I always have lots of paper—the pattern writing part of my business, work in progress, swatches, yarns, inspirations, plus all the stuff related to computers and programs and running a business.  In reality, it is a bedroom!
Here are pictures of my desk, 

 the wall from my side of the office,

 and the wall from my assistant’s side of the office 

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

My end of the couch in our living room!  That is where I am most evenings.

Surprisingly, I rarely knit during the day.  I almost always have a bit of knitting in my purse although I rarely get a chance to pull it out.  There are no cosy rockers in my life!  I like to listen to books while I knit, or we watch TV.  My husband and I bought a coffee table that has huge leather boxes underneath one side of it with my side being a project box.  Turns out he doesn’t really love having knitting projects lying around the living room.  I have supplies, paper, yarn for experimenting, unfinished projects, etc. in there for easy reach.

7. Do you spin your own yarn?
I am happy to leave spinning to others.

8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
I have had a small group that I knit with once a month in the past.  The past couple of years haven’t left me with much time for that sort of knitting.

9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
I have designer friends.  I love talking to them because we understand the challenges we each face without first having to explain what the heck it is we do!

I work with one knitter who I communicate with directly through email and phone calls.  She is fabulous and keeps my feet to the fire even when she could easily figure out the problem, she knows it is important that I get it solved as-we-go so that it is properly written into the pattern.

I have other knitters I work with, generally through a wonderful knitter who I pay to manage my knitting projects.  I sometimes have six to eight knitters working on projects, so all communication comes through Robin.  This helps me stay focused, and simple questions can be answered without my help so I spend less time on that and more on the big picture which is what I do best.

10. Where can we see your published designs?
Except for a few things that are not available right now, my work can be seen on Ravelry  and on the Y2Knit site.  I have a new site called  Jill Wolcott Knits.

11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
I have mostly taught at Y2Knit Events and Retreats for the past 10 years.  I also do online classes (primarily geared to knitwear designers) and hope to have knitting courses online in the future.  As I quit doing Y2Knit Events I may have time to do LYS or guild classes.

I teach 42 weeks of the year at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco.  I teach technical design and portfolio classes.  One type of class is very technical and the other is very creative.

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?
My patterns seem complicated because they are long:  average pages for a garment is 12 to 16 pages.  In reality I’ve done all the work for you, so you can enjoy the knitting!

I provide charts, schematics and complete written instructions, set out in a way that allows you to just follow along without having to do a lot of interpreting or calculating.  I provide instructions for shaping and all finishing and other maneuvers I might call for in the pattern, as well as having an online database of technique descriptions for any technique I use.  Due to constraints of time and space I do not always provide shaping charts.

I attempt to make every project so that as much as possible can be done “on the needles.”  I think getting pieces put together is the biggest challenge for most of us because we love to knit, but find the sewing and other details less appealing.  I give you complete instructions for everything, but you may find that parts of any pattern a bit of a challenge, requiring practice or concentration.  This is a wonderful opportunity to for you to gain knowledge as you move through a project.

I am a huge proponent of doing a gauge swatch, and I like to add a shaped half-neckline (small) to my swatch.  This allows me to practice picking up for trims and doing other finishing that I may need to perfect before doing the final piece.

13. What are your plans in the near future?
My future plans involve a lot of change.  After 10 years of being a partnership I am striking out on my own.  I plan to have a much more comprehensive techniques database on my new site, more instruction, blog entries on patterns and what goes on behind the scenes, and more design collections.  I will continue writing the Style Guide for Creative Knitting and am working on a book.

14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
The most recent collection I have designed is the Powder River Collection

15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
What I love about designing knits is that I get to create both the fabric and the silhouette.  I’ve been designing as long as I can remember, and I don’t think there is much of my time that I am not thinking about design.  I want knitters to be proud of what they knit—whether a scarf or a complicated garment—and to enjoy the process as much as the product.

Knitting is so awesome because it is basically simple but can be as complicated as you like it to be.  Like every knitter, I have lots of projects going to satisfy my varying desire for complexity.  I love that there are always new things to be learned, and also rediscovery of old favorites.  I think garter stitch is a revelation:  in the beginning it seems so ordinary, and later on it becomes incredibly sophisticated.  I am fortunate to be able to do something I love and am really good at.  Thankfully my husband sees that I am clothed, fed and housed because every penny I earn goes into my business!

FG: Jill, thank you so much for taking your time to answer my questions. It is always great to know how other designers work. Besides your amazing design line you are an example to many of us how to  do this business right. I am looking forward to all your changes and good luck with your book.