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.

July 13, 2010


Joan McGowan-Michael came to knitwear design from a different angle from many. Right after she graduated from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising she got a job designing for Frederick's of Hollywood. Although it was not exactly what she was taught to do, she says, it launched her career as a designer who understands a woman's body and wants every woman to look sexy, romantic, and beautiful. Joan's experience in lingerie and bridal design made a huge impact on her style when she transitioned to knitwear design. She manages to bring elements of a vintage look combined with an impeccable fit to her contemporary designs. Joan is the author of Knitting Lingerie Style

and her pattern line White Lies Designs is well-known. She has many publications, so watch for her wonderful designs and visit her website for more. So, here she is.

1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
My mother taught me at about age 7. Unfortunately, she only taught me to cast on and knit which led to some weird attempts at finishing.

2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
I think my first design was published in 1996 by the kit company I was working for at the time. Then I went on to have a couple of designs published in Interweave Knits. I got the Summer and Fall covers of 1998.

3. What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
I enjoy lace the most because I like the light look of it, even in heavier yarns.

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 like to collect the elements of design. I have a sketchbook that is full of different sleeves, pockets, collars, neckline shapes, silhouettes, etc. I combine them in different ways until I get something I like. Sort of the Mr. Potato Head approach to knitwear design.

5. What does your studio look like?
If you were to ask my husband he would say the whole house looks like a studio, with yarn everywhere and baskets of work in progress by all the comfortable places to sit. I do however, have dedicated work stations; one with my computer and all the business paperwork around, the other with my knitting and sewing machines set up and yarn and fabrics in bins stacked close by.

6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
My current nest is on the futon in our family room. Very comfortable, good light, out of the way of family traffic. Other than that, I have an Adirondack chair in the backyard that is quite comfortable as well.

7. Do you spin your own yarn?
No. That would cut into my knitting time and could be a disaster.

8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
I see knitting as my job and when I am off the clock I don't really want to socialize knitting too.

9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
Yes, I communicate with many other designers as well as knitters threough Ravelry or just by email.

10. Where can we see your published designs?
On my website White Lies Designs.

11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
Yes, I teach wherever knitters want me to go; guilds and yarnshops, cruises, other fiber related trips. Here's my workshop syllabus.

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?
I'm told that my patterns are well written and easy to follow and even I am surprised by some of the finished sweaters I see on Ravelry that were made by relatively inexperienced knitters. I love how fearless many newbie knitters are and I would ask what does anyone really have to lose by trying out something that seems a little advanced? It's all about pushing forward and polishing your skills.

13. What are your plans in the near future?
I'll be going to Scotland in August for the UK Knitcamp and Ravelry weekend to teach! Very exciting!

14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
Carmella is one of my new designs made in Cascade's new Ultra Pima. I'm liking 3/4 length sleeves right now; they seem fresh.

Olivia is also new for Spring. I like empire styles in knitting much better than sewn versions, simply because the fabfic drapes closer to the body eliminating the dreaded "pregnancy pouf" that those styles can be notorious for.

I also have designs coming up in the 25th anniversary issue of Cast On magazine and a few books by other authors.
15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?
I don't design anything for White Lies Designs or publications that I don't personally love. A trip through my website is a peek into my brain. I see myself as my very first customer and if I wouldn't buy it, spend my precious free time knitting it and then love it to bits, how in the world would I expect that anyone else would?
I am also very careful to present something for everyone, no matter what their size. Petite to plus, all sizes of bodies are beautiful and I want to give knitters permission to express their beauty through what they make and wear. It makes me sad when larger ladies say that they only knit for other people, but it's a great thrill when one of these same women tells me that the very first garment they've ever made for themselves was one I designed and that they love it. That, my friend, is my definition of success!

FG: Joan, what a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for sharing with us your lovely designs. I am looking forward to seeing many more of them.

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