We have long been fans of Romi Hill and her amazing design work, particularly when it comes to lace. One of Romi's earliest designs using The Fibre Co. yarns is Merope's Cowl in Road to China Light from 7 Small Shawls to Knit; Year 1: The Pleiades. Published in 2011, it has long been a fan favorite.
Courtney had a moment to sit down with Romi and talk about her work, her journey as a craftswoman and designer, and her future.
Courtney: For those who aren't familiar with your work, let's start at the beginning. I know you began as a jewelry maker, specializing in shawl pins. Were you actively knitting at that time? How did your knitwear design work evolve out of that process?
Romi: I've actually been knitting since I was 9 years old and I begged my mother incessantly to teach me! She was a crocheter, as was my grandmother, so it went down hard for her. But I've always loved the way knitted fabric looks. I knit on and off throughout school, college, jobs, marriage, etc. Then I discovered lace knitting after joining the Knitting Beyond the Hebrides listserve. It tickled my geeky fancy, but I am too active to keep shawl around my shoulders, so I made a few pins to fasten them. I was showing the pins off at my LYS [local yarn store] and the owner promptly ordered a bunch of them! That's when a wee light bulb went off. After I put up my website and was selling the pins, I had a decision to make: Do I add more jewelry along with the pins and be more of a metal worker/jewelry designer (also always a love of mine) or do I go more fiber-centric? I toyed with both, but the fiber won out. I started designing as a way to show off my pins a little more. It wasn't a great leap, since I've never met a pattern I didn't tweak in some way! When I was in college, I used to go grab whatever out of the sale bin and make up sweaters for that amount of yarn. I totally winged it and - since I didn't know I wasn't supposed to do it - it worked out perfectly. Same when I started designing. I just went ahead and did it as a sort of support to my pins, not realizing it would become bigger in the end!
C: You've done a number of designs in The Fibre Co. yarns over the years: Chilkat Cowl, Buttonwillow Wrap, and Terryknits Twist, to name a few, and all in Road to China Light! What draws you to that yarn, and what makes it a perfect fit for your design style?
R: Oh, how I love Road to China Light!!! It is the perfect weight: neither too heavy nor too light, and it has a halo to make it warmer than you might suppose. It has an incredible drape to it, but you can also make it a little stiffer if you need to, by knitting it up in a tighter gauge. The feel of it moving through my hands while knitting is just an incredible experience. And the colors! It satisfies all of my cravings. YUM!
C: Your new book with Interweave, New Lace Knitting, is just stunning, which I'm sure you know! I'll share the intro here with our readers:
A fresh, modern take on classic lace knitting!
When it comes to stunning lace knitting, there are few names more synonymous with the craft than Romi Hill. Her designs have made by thousands of knitters and her latest creations in New Lace Knitting will have you racing for your needles and skeins of yarn to cast on beautiful, artful, sophisticated pieces.
R: Thank you!!
C: I think the line referring to your lace work as craft really rings true, in a true crafts(wo)manship sense. Do you approach your lace work with a similar mindset that you would approach your jewelry and metalwork?
R: Yes and no. Everything inspires me in whatever craft or art I am doing at the moment. I listen to, touch, and look at everything in my surroundings constantly and it is all a source of inspiration. So in that way - yes. I also think about how the finished item will look when worn. I am all about designing flattering pieces that look good on people and frame their faces. That definitely goes for both! But when I design my knitting paterns, I also think a lot about the process. In the end, it's a hobby and should be enjoyable. This is something I learned when I used to knit with wire. Not that many people love knitting with wire (I'm an exception; metal always fascinates and draws me!), and I came to the conclusion that it's a tactile issue. Wire doesn't feel good in your hands; fiber most definitely does! So I began to think more and more about the process of creating the garment, and how to enjoy that process. Up until then, I'd been way more of a goal-oriented knitter/sewer/jewelry maker/crafter. I made myself sort of step back. Strangely enough, I began to be more productive and finish more items when I thought more about enjoying how it was coming together. So, all that is to say: Knitting clothing is both process and goal, and I now approach it in that way. The end product needs to be flattering and beautiful, and stay in your closet for long enough to make you feel good about spending the time on it. But the process needs to be enjoyable as well. More and more, I work on finding the simplest and most intuitive method to achieve a certain look, and to explain it to other knitters. In that way, my knit design differs from my jewelry design in that I am the only one who needs to put up with myself when I do a piece of jewelry. For my knit designs, there are people out there who use their precious free time and resources to knit up one of my patterns, and I want my patterns to be worthy of their trust!
C: Well said! Where do you see your design work taking you next? What journey in the world of craft, knitting or otherwise, do you have yet to embark upon?
R: I am so loving the whole making movement! I grew up having a mother who sewed my clothes by necessity, so I never really appreciated having hand made. I'm realizing now how lucky I was to have that, and to learn how to sew, cook from scratch, crochet, knit, make jewelry, and repair things at a young age. I've been examining my wardrobe more and more with an eye to creating wearable classic pieces that I love. My New Lace Knitting book was a first step towards that - flattering clothing with updated but classic shapes. And that's what I'm working towards. Designing pieces that are enjoyable to knit, that feel great and can be worn every day. I tend towards wearing simpler pieces that can look different, depending on outfit and mood, and can stay a part of my wardrobe forever. I want to bring that to my designs. Hopefully, others will feel the same way I do!
C: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today!
You can see all of Romi's amazing work on Ravelry, and be sure to follow her on Facebook and Instagram. Have you knit one of Romi's amazing lace pieces? Share your story in the comments!