Thursday, November 19, 2009

Portrait in Yarn: the designer

Gina, aka Sleepy Eyes, is an emerging design talent whose Amanda Hat has inspired 1263 projects on Ravelry! She just completed her first book of patterns, and her book release party will be held at Fresh Purls.

How did you get started knitting?
I was pregnant with my younger son in 2002, and I wanted to make a blanket for him. At the time I only knew the basic knit and purl stitch, but after I finished the blanket I wanted to learn more. Also, I found that knitting was a very relaxing activity while the baby was sleeping.

I joined a knitting group. The other members were very advanced, and as a beginner I found that intimidating. However they were very encouraging. I saw some of the women knitting socks and thought I could never do that, but they suggested I take a sock class and that got me started making socks. Now I love making socks! (Ed: Gina has two patterns in the new book Joy of Sox which we carry in the store.)

We've got a lot of new knitters in the store, and some of them seem to be under the impression that experienced knitters never make mistakes...
The main thing about getting experience is that you do learn how to fix your mistakes, so the stakes are not so high. I took a class on how to fix mistakes -- the teacher made us drops stitches and pick them up again and we saw it was not such a big deal. Also, when I needed help I went to my knitting group or my local yarn store. Now I work at the store, so I'm helping others.

At the same time, mistakes can turn into something awesome! I've had some wonderful results that came about because of a mistake. I don't always "fix" mistakes, sometimes I let them take me in a new direction.

How did you start making your own designs?
At first, it was just making little modifications to patterns. I'd decide to make a different sleeve, or change the neck to a v-neck. You can start small: something as simple as deciding you don't like to do seed stitch, so you're going to do that section in garter.

I started making a few original patterns, and a yarn website called One Planet Yarn and Fiber asked me if I wanted to do designs for them. They gave me some yarn to fool around with and I worked up a couple of patterns, which they started distributing on their website.

Tell us about your book.
I just got the proof from the printers -- they're printing it now. I'm bringing the very first copies to Fresh Purls. The title of the book is DreamScape, and the book has an old-fashioned, Victorian-inspired look. I took 6 of my most popular patterns plus 6 brand new patterns and combined them in the book. My style is to take a luxurious yarn and design something very simple to show it off.

My husband and I did the photography and he manipulated all the images to give them a faded, sepia-toned look. I decided to make the book spiral-bound even though it goes against the rest of the design, because the pages open up all the way and lay flat, which is more practical to work from.

What's the plan for your visit to Fresh Purls?
I'll be bringing a trunk full of my samples, so people can see, touch and try things on. It's hard to really tell if you're going to like a pattern judging from a picture alone. I'll be signing copies of DreamScape and also Joy of Sox. On Saturday afternoon I'll be giving a class on how to make the Amanda Hat, and I hope people will sign up for that.

My sock patterns are designed for a handpainted yarn made by my friend and knitting buddy, Heather Spellman. She sells her yarn under the name Sereknity Yarn and Fiber. Karen is getting in a supply of Sereknity hand painted yarn in a bunch of colorways, so we'll have some really special yarn in the shop at the same time.

Gina will be in shop on Saturday, December 5 & Sunday, December 6. Please come by and meet this up-and-coming designer. Call the shop to reserve your place in the hat class -- it's filling up fast.


  1. Wonderful!!! Thanks for the interview!! I'm very excited to see everyone at the store in December ; )

  2. We can't wait - should be a fun weekend!!!