I have admired Woolly Wormheadâ€™s work for many years and watching her go from strength to strength in the beauty of her designs. In her latest book â€˜Twisted Woolly Toppersâ€™ she has produced a superb book with innovative, â€˜must-knitâ€™ designs. I love the clean lines, simple layout and huge range of sizes that makes her books a pleasure to work from. These days I donâ€™t seem to have a whole lot of time to knit other peopleâ€™s designs but there are several in this book that Iâ€™m just itching to cast on for!
I have had the good fortune to meet Woolly Wormhead several times in the past year (one of which she just happened to be passing my house!!) and it is always a pleasure to talk with her. In particular I really enjoy talking about the design process. Perhaps you would also like to hear a few answers from her about how that woolly brain of hers works!
In this interview I wanted to focus on just a couple of the designs, the two I have chosen â€˜Aeoniumâ€™ and â€˜Mediciâ€™. Both hats are beret style rather than snug fitting but are not overly slouchy. Both hats have delicate, subtle twisted stitches making either hat ideal for everyday use.
Woolly do you think in hats? When inspiration hits is it always in the shape of a hat?
Yes, I think I do think in Hats! I certainly think in 3D, so whenever an idea starts to develop it normally starts with a structure, a 3D form of some sort, and then before I even realise it I’m working out how to make it into a Hat.
Now back to the two hats in question, firstly let’s look at ‘Medici’. Did the idea for this hat come while you were playing around with the yarn or did you begin with a vision of those stitch arches?
This is one design that definitely came from the yarn. Medici is the 10th design, the last design I worked on for TWT and was going to be something else entirely but the yarn and design just weren’t getting along. After searching through my stash, I chanced across the skein of Wollmeise (worsted) and from there Medici quickly took shape.
‘Medici’ is fast becoming very popular, and already has several projects made from it. Do you ever have any idea what is going to end up most knit/popular from your books?
No, no idea at all, but then I think it is impossible to predict which designs will be popular. I usually have my own idea of which designs will be made the most, and I’m usually wrong ;)
I think I am very in love with your hat ‘Aeonium’. Did that wonderful crown work first time or was it trial and error?
It took locking myself away in a quiet room for several hours to get it right! I knew how I wanted it to look and had it pretty much charted out, yet tweaking took a few attempts. I was determined to have the lattice crossing right up until the very end; my partner bet me that I couldn’t do it which was his way of encouraging me!
How difficult is it to translate such a seemingly complex crown pattern into a multi-sized chart?
For designs like Aeonium, where the crown pattern appears quite complicated, I’ve developed a method of working whereby a single chart or repeat works for up to 3 or 4 sizes without additional grading. It would take quite a while to explain how it works technically but planned ahead with a fair bit of maths, it makes the grading for a Hat much, much easier.
How often does a hat turn out perfect first time?
Fewer and fewer designs get abandoned because they don’t work out, but how much work it takes to get it right varies. Some designs work straight off, from my initial idea right through to finishing, yet others take more experimenting to get the effect I’m after. I’ve noticed that the designs that are most likely to fail are those that I’m less passionate for or convinced about, so I tend to follow my instincts. More often than not I’ll have the construction mapped out in my head before I start, which helps with the success rate.
For either of these designs was the yarn the initial inspiration for the design?
The structure for Aeonium was the inspiration â€“ I wanted the challenge of working that crown, and chose the yarn to suit the design. It was completely the other way around for Medici.
I know that your preference is for wool yarn, do other fibers ever inspire you to knit with them?
Rarely do other fibres inspire me, although often a silk or alpaca blend will grab my attention. I love cotton as a fibre to wear but can’t bear to knit with it, likewise with other plant fibres. I’m afraid I am a bit of a fibre snob and tend to avoid man-made fibres as much as is humanly possible. I’ve studied the nature and manufacturing of textiles as well as the creative side, so you could blame that for my preferences ;)
Next week’s stop is at Knit With KT and the complete blog tour calendar is as follows: