An Interview With: Dianna Walla of Paper Tiger

Dianna Walla, the designer behind Paper Tiger, recently published The Chalet Collection in conjunction with Montréal based yarn shop Espace Tricot. The 5-piece collection features two designs in Kelbourne Woolens Scout: Le Massif Scarf and Stoneham Poncho. In conjunction with the release of the collection and the knit along beginning January 1st, I thought it would be fun to interview her about the collection, her design inspiration, and plans for the future. Enjoy!

Berit  from Quince and Co.

Berit from Quince and Co.

Kate: Congrats on the new designs! Looking at your pattern portfolio, you do a lot of colorwork and your aesthetic is very Scandinavian. Can you talk a little bit about why you're so inspired by this specific knitting tradition and style and how it affects your approach to design? 

Dianna: Thank you! I have always been drawn to the Scandinavian aesthetic, and Norwegian knitwear in particular, in a way that's hard to explain. I just love the look, and I find that type of stranded colorwork very engaging to knit, as well. I've spent enough time studying Norwegian knitting history at this point to be very familiar with some of the most classic and well-known designs, and they certainly influence my work, but I always try to give my designs a stamp of my own too. I've spent a lot of time in Norway now, so the better I get to know the language, the country, and the living knitting community there today, the stronger those ties feel.  

Images from Norway by Dianna Walla

Kate: You have moved quite a bit in the last few years, from Seattle to Norway to attend graduate school, and now you're in Montreal. Have your tastes and interests changed along with your moves? 

Dianna: The Scandinavian influence is always a common thread. In Seattle it was easy to find traces of that – I see signs of the Scandinavian immigrant population everywhere I go in Seattle, because I know what to look for. I also found the Pacific Northwest to be a really wool-friendly climate, since the winters were chilly and wet. In Norway I got to spend time getting to know different Norwegian wool yarns, produced in Norway from domestic wool. I felt very close to the roots of Norwegian knitting tradition while living in there. And in Montreal, I'm living with the toughest winter climate I've faced (even tougher than above the Arctic Circle in northern Norway!). It's a place where you have to really embrace winter to make it through those months, and the Quebecois share a love of winter sports and cabin culture with the Norwegians. I like looking for those common threads in a place that's very different from Norway on the surface in so many other ways.

Stoneham Poncho and Le Massif Scarf from The Chalet Collection

Kate: The Chalet Collection you designed in conjunction with Espace Tricot is very much in line with their aesthetic, but also looks very much like "you". From watching their podcast (videocast?), it seems like the design process was very collaborative. Can you talk a little bit about how this collaboration came to be? Were there aspects about it that were easier (or more difficult) than you originally thought?

Dianna: I spent a big chunk of this year working in the shop at Espace Tricot, and that's when I really got to know the owners, Lisa and Melissa. They're both designers themselves, and they've both started to explore more colorwork in their own knitting, but I think they didn't necessarily want to start designing their own colorwork yet at this point. They'd made the decision to bring in some more non-superwash wool yarns, and they reached out about doing a collection of colorwork patterns to showcase them. Scout was one of those yarns, alongside a few Norwegian wool yarns from Rauma Garn, a company I'm very familiar with. They had a vision for what the collection would be like as a whole, and I worked to come up with pieces that would bring that vision to life. I've had others describe my colorwork designs as fresh and modern, even when I'm working with rather traditional motifs, and "fresh" and "modern" are perfect descriptors for the Espace Tricot aesthetic as well. A lot of that can come down to color choice, and that part of the process was very collaborative. On the whole, it was a pleasure to work together on the collection, but the biggest challenge was definitely that everything took longer than we thought it would. I was very open and responsive to feedback and suggestions from Lisa and Melissa, and I think some of their tweaks and modifications to what I came up with really strengthened the designs. It can be tough when the two parties both have very strong aesthetic preferences and ideas, but I think we knew going in that our styles would mesh well and we'd come up with something everyone was happy with. We're all thrilled with the end result!

Le Massif Scarf, Tremblant Toque, and Bromont Mitts, all in the Setesdal style

Le Massif Scarf, Tremblant Toque, and Bromont Mitts, all in the Setesdal style

Kate: Setesdal knitting, like the motifs seen in the Chalet Collection are some of my favorites - they really remind me of weaving motifs, and they're very fun to knit and play around with. Why did you decide to use the Setesdal motifs for this collection?

Dianna: The lusekofte (or "lice sweater") is so recognizably Norwegian, so I feel very at home using that motif. But there was a practical reason for using it as well – we wanted these patterns to be really beginner-friendly for newcomers to colorwork, and the simple repeating motif is easy to memorize, easy to work since the floats aren't too long, and you get to work plain stockinette rounds in between, which makes it go faster than most allover colorwork. That was really important to me on a piece like the Le Massif Scarf, because a scarf knit in the round is a big commitment. So we went for more dynamic motifs at either end of the scarf, but the majority of it is just that lice pattern. It makes for excellent colorwork practice.


Kate: Lets talk about Scout! While it isn't traditionally a Scandinavian yarn, it is (if you don't mind me saying!) great for colorwork. Why did you choose to use it for the poncho and scarf in the collection?

Dianna: I completely agree! I adore Scout and I think it's very well-suited for colorwork. Non-superash wools like the Rauma yarns are a new product for Espace Tricot, which has focused on super soft luxury yarns in the past. If you're used to the softness of superwash merino, it can be a big jump to the yarns that Rauma makes. I think Scout makes an excellent bridge of sorts between the two – it's non-superwash and takes to colorwork beautifully, but I also find it quite soft to the touch, and definitely friendlier to wear next-to-skin on the neck (important for a scarf or a high-necked poncho!). We really wanted to think about the use of each piece, and how it would be worn, when we chose each yarn for the collection.

Stoneham Poncho by Dianna Walla

Kate: What is next for Dianna and Paper Tiger?

Dianna: I'm continuing to work on new patterns, of course! And I'm very excited to be heading to Edinburgh Yarn Festival again in March – just as a festival-goer, which is always great fun. And I think I'm looking at another big move again later in 2019 – never a dull moment in the life of a serial expat!

Thanks, Dianna! The aforementioned knit along begins on January 1st. Be sure to join in the Ravelry Group and share your projects and progress. You are welcome to share your progress on Instagram too - use the hashtag #ChaletCollectionKAL to connect with other KAL-ers and tag @espacetricot and @cakeandvikings!