To find out more about the book, the designers who contributed to it and the inspiration behind it follow the blog tour which will visit many of the designers blogs and interview them personally. As you can see, my tour date is 24th Feb, but of course being in the UK, that's today. I have never been part of a blog tour before, its exciting and I enjoyed visiting the first few people on the list.
See my interview at the bottom of this post with the editor Kara Gott.
who by the way, is running a contest on her website to win a free copy of the book.
2/21- Sarah Wilson: www.fashioknitsa.com
2/22- Jennifer Tallapaneni: www.pieknits.com
2/23- Erika Flory: www.itsabouttheknitting.blogspot.com
2/24- Erssie Major: www.erssieknits.com
2/25- - Ann Squire: www.annie-o.typepad.com
2/26- Faina Goberstein: www.fainasknittingmode.blogspot.com
2/27- Celeste Pinhiero: www.2stix.blogspot.com
2/28- Kara Gott Warner: www.sheknitsintheloop.com
3/1- Joanne Seiff: www.joanneseiff.blogspot.com
3/2- Cindy Moore: www.fitterknitter.livejournal.com
3/3- Sean Higgins: www.boyforpele13.blogspot.com
The following is an interview between myself and the editor of Tops & Toes: A Whimsical Collection to Delight Hat & Sock Knitters, Kara Gott.
Kara: Erssie, you designed several projects for Tops & Toes, too many to talk about in depth here but which is your favourite of these?
Erssie: I think the most fun to make were the Itty Bitty Buggy Preemie Caps;
Three little caps for tiny newborn babies in the style of a Bumblebee a Ladybug and a Butterfly.
Kara: What is it about these you enjoyed designing so much?
Erssie: I love to see things in sets with a theme. I often have ideas that start from one basic prototype, and then I am off from the jumping point into designing other knits that match or fit with that theme.
Kara: What inspired you to make such colorful caps in these bright yarns? Normally you see pastels or muted shades for premature babies don’t you?
Erssie: I am well known for including dark shades and even black with my babywear. I did a little survey of premature baby knitwear and along the way was told that in a lot of cultures white or cream is actually a funereal color associated with mourning and so it is distasteful to certain people to dress a small infant whose life is in the balance in those colours. Also, after being dressed in white all the time in hospital when the parents take their infants home, they want something that is uplifting and not institutionalised so they tend to go for the brighter shades of clothing and whimsical themes.
And it is important to know that there are a certain number of babies who are not premature but are just very small but perfectly formed (I was one of those babies at just under 4 pounds!) so these caps can fit those infants straight away. Normally these infants have to wear dolls hats often in scratchy acrylic yarns, so these caps are a wonderful luxurious but thrifty alternative. You can also see bright shades in my other children’s’ design for Tops & Toes, e.g. the Pixie Stocking Cap & Booties.
Kara: What about the brightly coloured yarn for the bug caps, how did you come about choosing this 100% merino? Doesn’t that mean hand wash only?
Erssie: The yarn is Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran a merino yarn which is soft bouncy and totally non- scratchy, and of course the most important thing is that it is super wash so it is machine washable on the wool cycle. Parents, with a newborn that might have health problems, would really appreciate something they can throw in the machine. Debbie Bliss is well known for her knitwear design for kids and she nearly always has a bright but classic palette to choose from. I knew straight away when I saw the beetle coloured ebony yarn, and the rich yellow gold shade that it just had to be a bee hat and the rest of the yarns matched my ideas too.
Kara: We noticed that to get a vertical black stripe you did intarsia in the round; well intarsia is not normally achievable in the round, so how did you get round that Erssie?
Erssie: Ah, well I had thought about carrying yarns but it seemed silly to do that just for spots on the wings when I could be duplicate stitching, and then I thought, if yarns can be stranded over a few stitches forwards then why not strand them backwards? And this is what I did and it works for a few stitches. There is a vertical column of stitches in two of these beanies that separates the ‘wings’ and I just dropped the yarn bobbin when I finished a couple of stitches carried on as normal and then when I reached the other side, where there is no bobbin to pick up, I just picked it up from the other side and stranded it backwards. Not exactly
Kara: Well that was an in depth discussion about your inspiration behind the Itty Bitty Beanie Caps, just briefly though can you let people out there know what other designs you have in Tops & Toes (you can see them dotted around this page).
Erssie: Yes, I also have a woman’s colour stranded hat in an easy
I had these socks made up for my other half, and he had them road tested. He thoroughly recommends this yarn! It survived a whole weekend on the track and camping outdoors in winter. Here he is above on his bike taking a bend wearing the socks shown below. What better recommendation for a pair of men's socks than that? Test knitted for me by Joeli Caparco.
Noblin Knits test knitted the blues/greys pair that feature in Tops & Toes.
Lastly I designed the Pixie Stocking Cap & Booties above, and the idea behind that was to use a sock yarn for a hat with a loose hem that stretches as the child grows. Also, it takes advantage of all the lovely self striping sock yarns out there, and I just loved working with this Colinette Cadenza that you chose for me Kara. I hope the secret little jingle bell hidden inside the hat amused you at the photoshoot, a little musical extra for knitters to put into the project that you can't hear in the book!
Kara: So, do you often write knitting patterns Erssie, what else have you contributed to?
Erssie: I have written knitting and crochet patterns for various websites, magazines and books, (mainly compilations) as well as having a line of single self published patterns. I have always chosen published projects not for the money earned, but for their worth and enjoyment. I have to want to design them or know they are going to be used for a good cause. Since around 2004 when I first had published designs (hats for a children’s charity) I’ve worked for several print knitting magazines, a few print books, several online magazines and websites but of late I have been building up my self published pattern store (available on Ravelry). I have also worked as a tech editor, project manager under a production editor of stitch libraries and I have been designing since I was 4 years old, so that is about ?yrs (I am not about to give away my age here!)
Kara: How do you approach designing? I know designers have many methods to organising their ideas.
Erssie: Due to disability (Behcet's Disease), I like simple classic designs that are achievable by my hands, and I feel if I can do it then the able bodied beginner or intermediate knitter can too. I will pare it down to the very essence to give a flavour of the theme. I have the knowledge and experience to knit and design more complicated projects but I get most enjoyment out of adding tips and tricks to simple designs to make them accessible. That could be using unusual colour, or a simple charted motif, or texture. I really enjoy designing colour work charts for knitting (and crochet) as well, and that normally is done straight onto an Excel sheet.
I tend to get floods of ideas floating around in my head all the time. The drugs I take for my condition can cause a bombardment of thoughts all at once (however, this is what makes me feel creative too so I can’t complain) so when ideas come thick and fast, I keep a very important book around with me, my moleskine design journal.
I jot down ideas (which tend to come in the middle of the night or on a shopping trip) and then ideas that develop into knitwear get sketched as a fully labelled and coloured diagram. Often I submit these diagrams and although they are amusing cartoons, they tell the story more easily than I ever could in words. Not all designs get made, as I am slow at knitting due to hand problems but they lay dormant for future revival. Like the bug hats which I actually designed a while ago, and kept hidden away as I was waiting for the right person who would allow me to do the whole set, rather than just pick one out.
I am interested in patterns; I mean patterns on tiles, motifs on clothing, patterned carpets and wallpaper or carved into stone as well as cultural influences I also collect images of folk art and cultural artefacts all of which give me ideas to jot down in the journal. Strangely, I am not a knitter who normally starts with the yarn. Although swatching is important to me, sometimes I will swatch with no garment idea in mind, just to see what a combination of yarns might do to fit a theme.
Only after sketching patterns or garments do I become involved with actual material choices for swatching and then on to the final project, and perhaps will find a yarn that makes me go off at a tangent, or perhaps has something that adds to the story.
I love themes too. You can see I really ran with a theme of Dia de Los Muertos in the Anticraft Day of the Dead issue and came up with lots of ideas based on Mexican folk art around this festival.
Another example is when I designed a collection of easy to knit slouchy beanies, but decided they were going to have an apple theme. So we have Rubinette, Starr, Pearmain, Pippin which are all old varieties of apple, and it helped me to choose textured patterns and shades appropriate to those apple varieties. Silly really, but I just love a good story and a collection of patterns has to have a thread connecting them.
Kara:And what are your plans for the rest of 2009 Erssie?
Erssie: I am working on a top secret project that came about by co-incidence and a meeting of minds. I have worked many times on designs included in an online magazine the Anticraft and I fit right into their house style. The editor of that magazine, Zabet Stewart and I simultaneously had ideas that merged into a project and we said ‘Let’s do it!’. Knitters will be able to get hold of the item, with us as published co-authors, by the end of 2009. We hope that our idea will run into a series…..I have enough ideas and themes to go for many books! Sorry to be mysterious on content, titles and themes, but I can’t say more than that…..
I am also working on a couple of themed booklets of my own to self publish. Plus I always have personal knitting to do and I am hoping to do more for charitable causes in connection with greyhound or lurcher rescue organisations.
I also want to learn the Adobe CS3 suite, find out more about layout design and photography for web or print and lots more crafting skills with colour. And of course I have my greyhounds to look after, other greyhounds to find a home for and my own health problems to conquer as I have a chronic disease that prevents me from working full-time. However, knitting and designing is therapeutic so I continue the work even in my 'rest' time or in waiting rooms and hospitals and I am never bored.