An Interview with: Miriam Felton

Miriam Felton is a designer who has been working independently and publishing in magazines both in print and online since 2006. Her most recent design collection, the Chevron Collection, features a gorgeous sweater designed using Savannah DK in a new color, Denim. In honor of the release of the collection, we thought we would take a few minutes to ask her some questions about her knitting, design process and plans for the future.

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Kelbourne Woolens: Let’s start in the beginning. On your website, you mention learning how to knit after finding yourself limited by what crochet had to offer, and once you knew how, designing followed soon after. What about knitting made you want to design?

Miriam Felton: Back in the olden days, before Ravelry's amazing pattern search feature, I felt really limited by what I found in knitting books from the 80's and the random smattering of free patterns I could find online. When I found a simple worsted weight sock pattern that could be adapted I started playing around with swapping cables for the ribbing and doing knit/purl patterns on the cuffs. Once I found some lace (thanks to Interweave Knits), I really took off in that direction. Variations on a theme work really well for me.

furrowsshawl4 Furrows Shawl, Chevron Collection {rav link}

KW: From your portfolio, it is clear you love to design shawls and wraps and you don’t limit yourself to one particular shape or construction. What about this accessory appeals to you, and which “type” do you prefer best?

MF: I love how versatile a shawl can be. You don't have to know your bust size to knit yourself a shawl. You can wear it as a scarf, you can wear it as a wrap, you can wear it with jeans, or you can wear it with an evening gown. You can knit one for your friend or your mother without having to take measurements. It's sort of a universal garment.

As to my favorite type, it really varies, but right now I'm madly in love with the crescent shape. I did a couple variations on a crescent shape in the Chevron Collection (Rill and the Furrows Shawl) and I'm quite pleased with how they hang on the shoulders.

icarus1

Icarus Shawl, Interweave Knits Summer 2006 {rav link}

KW: Recently, you have been publishing designs in collections – each with a cohesive theme, inspiration and/or color story. What motivated you to switch to this method of publishing?

MF: After working on the projects in Twist & Knit {rav link}, I realized how well I worked with a bit of focus. Having a theme to what I was designing helped me be really productive and it was very fulfilling.  With that in mind, I'd been watching a lot of Project Runway and I thought "Why can't a knitting design business be run more like a fashion design business?" So I came up with a color story and a theme for the Chevron Collection {rav link} and started sourcing yarns. It's really nice because I don't have that moment of "What do I knit next?" By the time I'm done with one collection I've already started thinking about the next one.

chevronmosaic1 Chevron Collection L to R: Tributary Gloves, Rill Scarf, Gully Socks / Rivel Cardigan, Furrows Shawl, Furrows Cowl

KW: How do you feel the experience of publishing in a collection differs from that of publishing individual patterns?

MF:It's been an adjustment, for sure. I was popping out a pattern every month before, which kept interest high and blog traffic up, and now I feel like I lose some of the momentum only releasing twice a year. With that in mind, I've decided that next year I'll do 3 smaller collections instead of 2 big ones, just to space it out a bit more.

It's hard sending everything out at once, and going through layout for 6 patterns at a time instead of 1. I have to be extra vigilant for mistakes, but it's also nice to be able to give each design a little distance before it's final going over.  When I was doing one pattern at a time, I'd finish the pattern, proof it, send it for tech editing, then give it a final once over and send it out, but now I usually have a few months between when I finish a pattern and when I give it a final going over. I find myself more in love with the patterns as a result.

rillscarf6 Rill Scarf, Chevron Collection {rav link}

KW:Do you have a design that you are particularly proud of? Which one and why?

MF:I tend to love my designs intensely, and then move on to the next thing.  So right now I really love Rivel {rav link} and Rill {rav link} from the new collection. They are the pieces I would wear everyday if it weren't so blastedly hot. I'm actually planning to knit myself a Rivel in a handspun 3 ply yarn I spun from a fleece I bought a few years ago. It's the #1 priority on my Bucket List - to spin, design, and knit a sweater for myself. Some of my older designs still have a special place in my heart though. Nefertiti {rav link} still boggles my mind every time I look at it, and I can't re-block my Icarus Shawl {rav link} without a swell of pride every time.

rivelcardi2 Rivel Cardigan, The Chevron Collection, featuring Savannah DK. {rav link}

KW: With The Chevron Collection, you created 6 original designs that explore the creation of chevrons in knitted fabric. The collection includes a sweater, the Rivel Cardigan, knit out of Savannah. The Rivel cardigan is your first published sweater design but it is clear you are very experienced with knitted sweater construction from the many details incorporated into the design. What caused you to expand your portfolio to include sweaters and what do you see as the most exciting part of designing garments (versus a shawl or other accessory)?

MF: Honestly, I've been wanting to design sweaters for YEARS, but I've been scared. I was frightened by size grading and nervous about the customer service emails that I would get about people not getting the fit they wanted.  But I think we've reached a critical mass of "how to fit your sweater" knowledge that I couldn't really put it off anymore. Most knitters I come across nowadays are savvy enough to say "oh, this sweater is 15" from hem to armhole I would much prefer a 17" sweater, so I'm going to lengthen the body" and have enough experience with sweater construction to do that.

Also, most of the details you're referring to in Rivel came more from historical fashion and costuming design than from any experience designing sweaters. There's a lot of crossover between a well tailored shirt and a well tailored sweater in terms of the details. I spent a lot of time researching sleeve cap construction and sweater proportions before I really sat down to write Rivel.

rivelcardi5

Rivel Cardigan (back)

KW: What is next for Miriam Felton and Mimknits?

MF: I'm working on a new collection that explores clustering techniques, like Bramble Stitch and smocking. This collection will have two sized garments in it, one vest-type garment and a more traditional sweater, a pair of socks, fingerless mitts, a shawl, and legwarmers. I'm also thinking about another book, but that's still in the very early stages. For now I'm enjoying collections.

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In conjunction with Miriam, we're delighted to offer a great giveaway for you! one lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Miriam's book, Twist & Knit, and a coupon code to download the .pdfs in the Chevron Collection as well as enough yarn to knit the Rivel Cardigan out of Savannah in one of the color choices shown below.

savannahcolors

To win, just leave a comment on this post answering the following question {one comment per person please!}:

What inspires your next knitting project - are you most motivated by shape, color, construction technique, type, or something entirely different?

The contest will be open from today, August 8th until Midnight, EST, Monday August 15th. A random winner will be chosen from the comments and we will choose a winner on Tuesday August 16th. Good luck!

*The contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered. We will be announcing the winner shortly!*

*All photographs courtesy of and © Miriam Felton and used with permission.