Tell us about how you came to work with Louet North America to create this pattern collection.
We were introduced by Julia Grunau of Patternfish. I met with Dave and Pam Van Stralen for lunch in Montreal. We discussed the Gems yarn line and where they would like to take it design-wise. I prepared some sketches and design concepts that would work well both as a collection and as individual pieces. I have been a freelance designer for about ten years now, so my experience working with many different yarns gives me the knowledge of what will or won’t work with a particular yarn, how to design for a specific yarn, using its own particular qualities to bring out the best in the garments.
What is your design process?
I design with several things in mind. I think knit designs have to be wearable and currently fashionable. I spend a lot of time looking at runway shows, colour and trend reports, and magazine editorials. While it’s true that knitwear tends to be a bit more classic and conservative when compared to sewn or tailored garments, it is important to be aware of the current cuts and trends that women are interested in wearing. If you think of the classic Aran sweater, for example, the stitch patterns and motifs used really haven’t changed over time. However, if you consider the shape of an Aran sweater that was popular 20 years ago (very oversized, drop-shouldered, tight waist ribbing), compared with the silhouette that is popular today (quite fitted in the shoulder, waist shaping, relaxed hem), it is easy to see that while the actual knitting hasn’t changed that much, what people want to wear has changed quite a bit, and will continue to evolve. Knitters want to see fresh ideas each season: new combinations of favourite stitches, colours that are in keeping with what is being shown in magazines and shops, and fashionable accessories. We want to make things that will fit in with the rest of our wardrobes, things that are fun to create and that will make us feel and look good or that will make great gifts.
It is important for the designs to be engaging to work on, but not overwhelmingly difficult to follow or hard to keep track of if it is worked on in small increments. It is often harder to design something simple than it is to design something difficult. The ideal pattern is simple but clever, pared down to what works best together, looks good, and is fun to make. If it feels like “work,” it is more likely that people will get bored and not want to finish their projects. If it’s fun, if the difficult bits are balanced by parts you can just cruise over, if it’s something you can’t wait to wear with your other clothes, you are more likely to finish and then enjoy your project, right?
What was the inspiration behind each piece? Can you tell us a little bit more about the names you used for each pattern?
I am inspired a lot by the textures I see around me, and a lot of what I happen to look at are plants and rocks and skies and things like that. I ground myself by spending time outdoors, walking or rollerblading in the greenbelt near my home, usually. I work at home so it can get a bit boring with no one to talk to all day but the cats or the UPS driver, so I try to get out for at least a while. Even with all that there is to read and think about online, it’s nice to see the actual world, think about nature and science, and what is real.
I talked about the names of the patterns in my blog post about the collection. It is my preference to use botanical names, though I do stray from that on occasion. I think botanical names sound nice and are usually neutral with regard to associated meanings – by this, I mean that every time you think of the pattern name it is not going to make you think of a specific person or event. It’s also a good idea to do a search to make sure there is not another meaning that wasn’t considered.
There is not usually one single inspiration behind any piece of mine, they are a product of who I am and my experiences, and what I think is interesting and beautiful, something I saw or thought I saw. It could be anything from a nut to a couture dress, and more likely it is both and everything in between.
Robin Melanson is the author of Knitting New Mittens & Gloves (STC Craft, 2008), and is a production assistant with Twist Collective. She is a freelance knitwear designer and technical editor living in Montreal, Quebec. Robin’s designs have been published in Twist Collective, Interweave Knits, Vogue Knitting, Knit.1, Knit Simple, Knitter’s Magazine, Knitscene, and Verena as well as by numerous yarn companies.
Robin has created custom knitwear for several stage productions, including Rock of Ages (Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto) and Mary Poppins (New Amsterdam Theatre, New York). Her designs also appear in My Grandmother’s Knitting (STC Craft, 2011), Handknit Holidays (STC Craft, 2005), Color Style (Interweave Press, 2008), Folk Style (Interweave Press, 2007), and Wrap Style (Interweave Press, 2005).
Visit her blog at www.robinmelanson.com/blog