An Interview with: Amy Gunderson

Earlier this month we premiered our first crochet collection, featuring Canyon by Amy Gunderson. Her laid back camisole is the desert-vibe, hippie queen jewel of the collection that everyone at KW is itching to make. Amy’s designs (both knitting and crochet) are always fresh and appealing, so we wanted to have a chat with Amy to find out more about what makes her tick, her inspirations, and what’s happening with her now. Read to the end for a surprise giveaway! Enjoy!

Image by Linette Kielinski

Image by Linette Kielinski

Meghan Babin: Hi Amy! For those who haven’t had the chance to “meet” you and your designs yet, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? How did you end up there? How long have you been designing? What other handwork strikes your fancy? Aside from knitting and crochet, of course!

Amy Gunderson: As of just a few months ago, Reno is where I live! Yeah - the one with the casinos and stuff in Nevada. Before that, I lived in Charlotte, NC for about 7 years, where I worked as the creative director at Universal Yarn. And before that, my husband and I owned a small pizza place in Iowa. And even before that, I was a college dropout! That’s pretty much the entire story of my life, right there in a short paragraph.

Reno is beautiful. We’ve explored a bit of the mountainy goodness so far (also—hello, Tahoe!), and have also been enjoying the barcade here. Pounding on a pinball machine is a great way to blow off steam. We ride motorcycles and I look forward to doing some more exploring that way, too. There’s just nothing like the feeling like being out there in the world not all closed up in a car.

I learned to knit during the last couple of years we owned the pizza place, around age 30. (Fun fact: Our pizza place was called King Louie’s, named after my husband’s grandfather. Our motto was: “We may be cheap, but we don’t suck”.) Anyway, after learning to knit it was a natural progression to start coming up with my own stuff. I’m a rebel and have never been great at following the rules in most facets of life, so why would this be any different? I learned to crochet about 10 years before this, coincidentally, while working at a different pizza job. As a younger person, I could never have foreseen the role both pizza and yarn were going to play in my life. But when life takes a turn, sometimes it’s just best to turn with it (I guess?). I still love pizza, though I try not to do it at the same time as crocheting or knitting. 

Other fibery things I enjoy include sewing and weaving. I’m trying to force myself to set aside more time for sewing but I’ve been largely unsuccessful the last number of years. There are just too many things I want to knit and crochet!

Just a few of Amy’s designs—visit her designer page on Ravelry to see her prolific portfolio!

1 / Kikyo, Knitty Spring/Summer 2019
2 / Aprés Ski Poncho, IW Crochet Winter 2019
3 / Prairie Wind Cardigan, IW Knits Fall 2017

MB: What do you like about crochet, as a designer and maker, that differs from knitting? What does it allow to explore in your designs? 

AG: I love both crafts in some similar and some different ways. Crochet definitely has a tendency to want to be very clunky and wordy in written instruction which has always been a frustration for me. This is what drove me to start making my own crochet charts. Especially in shaping a neckline, armhole, or other pieces and even more so than in knitting, it just makes so much more sense to show what’s going on than to use half a page to try and describe it.

I’m so glad I learned crochet in the way that I did - back before I had internet and in a completely curious and adventurous way. I never really knew back then if I was doing things the “right way”, I was just making stitches in whatever way they made sense to me. I like that crochet stitches can be short, tall, bobbly, easily three dimensional - the list goes on. My favorite thing about crochet is lace, hands down. I can’t tell you how many doilies I made in my early 20s, not because I liked decorating with them, but because they were just so pretty and fun to make. I love applying those “doily” elements to garments in ways that add a little touch of femininity, but without (hopefully) feeling like we’re wearing a doily.

I also love using crochet edgings on stockinette garments. Even though there are stitches in crochet that can mimic knitted fabric, ultimately I love knitting for straight-up stockinette (and other things - don’t feel left out, knitting!). I love how the heft of crochet lace can really anchor a garment, and how it adds a richness that knitted lace can’t easily match. 

Image by Linette Kielinksi

Image by Linette Kielinksi

KW: We all love Canyon; in fact, Courtney Kelley and Somer Jordan are both making one right now! It’s the perfect summer camisole. What was your inspiration for Canyon? Tell us a bit about the design. 

AG: Aw, that makes me so happy to hear! I’m dying to make another one in either Mojave in slate gray or Prussian blue. Though I love my winter knit and crochet garments, plant fibers are hands down my favorite. I love that I can throw most of my summer projects in the washer (and dryer) for easy care. They also tend to work up more quickly since there are short sleeves or no sleeves, so they can be completed in a shorter amount of time.

Mojave is the best of both worlds - linen (my favorite fiber) tempered with cotton for softness - it was so wonderful to work with. With Canyon, I wanted to come up with an easy layering piece that was really just a vehicle in which to crochet up some beautiful lace. Kind of like the relationship between chips and guac, I love them both, but the chips are really just a way to get more guac into my belly.

I don’t like fussy garments, so I knew I wanted something I could just throw on over a plain colored tank and jeans. The main body of this tank is worked in a simple single crochet, chain 1 linen stitch pattern which I fall back on time and again for a nice solid fabric that drapes well. It’s a little more time consuming than straight-up solid single crochet, but adds a nice bit of interest and woven looking texture to the fabric. I liked the idea of adding the adjustable I-cord strap because 1) I hate it when I can’t find the exact right tank to wear underneath something, and thought this could provide some flexibility, and 2) I thought it looked cute!

Image by Linette Kielinkski

Image by Linette Kielinkski

MB: It’s our 5th annual Crochet Summer, and to celebrate we’re hosting a giveaway for Canyon (details below). Tell us what’s available at Jimmy Beans Wool for the KW Crochet Collection

AG: We have a kits section on the site to make it easy for folks to pick up the yarn and pattern together. I’m excited to say that all of the projects in the collection are available for kits! For project that use more than one color (like the adorable Sub Rosa tee & Summer Sunset wall hanging), we have alternate color combos put together, too!

MB: Thanks, Amy! It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today. We’re looking forward to more collaborations - knitting, crochet, and other crafty things - soon!

Giveaway Contest Details!

Simply comment below by answering the following question:

“Do you prefer crochet or knitting for summer garments? Tell us why!”

The winner receives Canyon and a Canyon camisole quantity of Mojave in any size and color! Woohoo!

Giveaway entry is open until 12:00 pm Sept 5. The winner will be announced on Sept 5 at 1:00 pm on our Instagram @kelbournewoolens.

Check out all the color and stockists of Mojave here to experience the summer delight that is Mojave + Crochet!


An Interview with: Shannon Cook (So Very Shannon)

Last month, Shannon Cook (@soveryshannon) launched Courage—a knit shawl design featuring our Germantown and Spincycle Yarns Dream State. It shot to the top of Ravelry’s “Hot RIght Now” list and caught the attention of knitters all over the world, including all of us at Kelbourne Woolens.

Image: Koyahni Photography

Image: Koyahni Photography

Shannon says Courage “is meant to soothe your soul. [It was] designed during a time in my life that I needed to have courage, it’s a project that you can get lost in, but also express your emotions and personality through. The mosaic knitting technique creates a gorgeous pattern while still letting your mind relax, so whether it’s knit during your happiest or most challenging time, Courage will bring you solace and joy. Choose colors that inspire you, and wear this shawl bravely as a symbol of your own personal journey.”

We’ve always been fond of Shannon’s designs and thought this was the perfect opportunity to find out more about her and her journey in the craft world. The following is an interview between Courtney Kelley and Shannon Cook. Enjoy!

Courtney Kelley (CK): I saw on your website that you started your design company in 2008. Kate and I started Kelbourne Woolens in 2008, too! What inspired you to start a craft business, and what led you down that path? In other words, give us your backstory!

Shannon Cook (SC): I love that we started the same year! Congrats to you both on 11 years!

After I had my first daughter (she’s now 12 - where has time gone? Ah!), I started a personal blog to document our lives and crafty projects (I had just learned to sew) for family and friends to read. Being a very social person it was a time in my life that I felt lonely. I was missing all the people I was used to chatting with on a daily basis. To my delight, other people started reading the blog; I quickly realized how much I loved the combination of writing and photography along with my passion for making. It was an easy decision from that point on to turn blogging it into a career and start designing which got me to where I am now.

I started with sewing and craft tutorials and was luckily able to monetize my blog from that point. At that time I was blogging full time which allowed me to work from home while I raised my girls. Once I started designing sewing patterns for sale I was hooked! I had put knitting aside (which I learned as a young girl) but picked it back up again when my second daughter was a baby and I couldn’t sew as easily. I started designing knitwear and haven’t looked back since! It’s been a dream come true and one I’m very thankful for.

CK: You are known for creating super fun and knittable patterns—designs that are about the process as much as they are about the final object. When you're designing, do you know what you want in the end, or do you let your needled dictate your journey as you go? 

SC: Thank you! It’s funny you should as that! This is something I have struggled with in the past. I was a process designer who thought that they should try to plan ahead more and do the knitting after all the rest is figured out but I’ve slowly come to realize that I’m just not built that way. It removed a ton of the joy for me from designing. I love the “letting my needles dictate the journey” process so much more and there’s nothing better to me than when I can just let the yarn speak to me and help tell my story. I find that it allows me to express my creativity more and my customers resonate with it.

Courage was one of those designs. It had been a while since I was able to just let loose and “let it be” so to speak. It truly was a creative experiment for me and one that was extremely therapeutic and freeing. It was emotional and also joyful. It felt so good to let all the “math and rules” go and to just - be me. I’ve always said that when I allow myself to design like this the yarn and needles become my paint and paint brush. I love to draw & make art and so I find this lends itself naturally to me to express myself with the texture and stitches. Those wooly bumps are more to me than just knits and purls, they are glimpses into the stories I want to share within that particular design. I find the melding of the process, the pattern and the photography such a rewarding experience. The photoshoots are a way for me to help evoke the emotional response from knitwear and enable the customer to really see/feel what the message is I want to relay with my knitwear. I truly love it and I hope my customers feel that.

CK: As a designer, I feel like Courage is asking the knitter to go big—to step out and try something new, maybe a new technique or a color way that is outside of one's comfort zone—and I LOVE THAT. As a designer, do you feel like you need to push yourself to set outside of the colors and techniques and fibers that you are naturally drawn too, or do you tend to want to stick with what you know works?

SC: Great question! In terms of color it wasn’t necessarily asking the knitter to go big but more of allowing the knitter to have courage to be true to themselves and to choose what represents them and what they love to wear. I also wanted them to trust the pattern and that they can have the confidence to explore and try new things and be successful at them. 

As for myself I love to learn new things, grow my skills and research all sorts of techniques, fibres etc. I’m a big time stitch library, knitting technique book loving kinda nerd. I’ll spend weeks just researching one technique—it’s just how I’m built. I don’t find myself sticking to what I know (colors, style, etc.), because I think we are always growing and changing, and I hope my designs reflect that philosophy. I design and knit what I love and what I want to make and wear. My personal motto has always been that and if I don’t love it to bits I won’t release the pattern. I do find that over the last few years I’ve found my aesthetic and what colors I truly love (and wear the most) and though I do try new things I do have a fondness for certain tones and fibres.

CK: (This may be a question that I just want to know!) You offer your patterns on multiple platforms, printed and digital—your website, Ravelry, Etsy, Kollabora, Love Knitting. Do you have a favorite platform, and how do you decide where to put your energy? Are you just hoping to reach as many people as possible, or do you just want to try new things? As a designer, managing all those platforms seems like it must take courage!

SC: I have a soft spot for Ravelry. That lonely stay at home mama has met and made so many wonderful life long friends via Ravelry. It allows me to support my family and to be part of a community. I do also enjoy Etsy from a business perspective and have been on there for a long time as well. I predominately sell sewing patterns mostly on Etsy. I find Kollabora is a place for me to find a different demographic that isn’t on Ravelry or Etsy. There are a lot of makers on there and I enjoy their site as well. Love Knitting is the site I’ve been on the shortest amount of time and I’m still learning and figuring my shop out on there. Overall, though I feel I have different customer demographics on each platform, and even though it takes time, I love being able to have my patterns accessible in more than one place for knitters and sewers alike.

CK: I just love that you used Germantown for your design. Selfishly, I want to know how you chose Germantown for this design. We feel like it is such a great yarn to pair with Spincycle's Dream State!

SC: I was so excited when I heard Germantown was being made. I think finding a good workhorse yarn that is 100% wool, that’s affordable and great to knit with is hard to find. I try to be aware of the cost involved with making my patterns - especially when using luxury yarns. I really appreciate the price point of Germantown and when I visited one of my favourite yarn stores, Tolt Yarn and Wool, last fall I had it at the top of my list to buy. I came home with some to swatch with and on that same trip was lucky enough to have had a personal tour of the Spincycle Yarns mill. It was fate. Once I put the two together I knew it was meant to be. I quickly ordered more Germantown from Tolt and got to designing Courage.

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! 

CK: Thank you, too!

In partnership with Spincycle Yarns, we’ve teamed up for a Courage KAL hosted on Spincycle’s instagram @spincycleyarns. Find all the colors of Germantown here for your shawl and the colors of Dream State here. Post your Courage tagging @kelbournewoolens, @spincycle_yarns and use the hashtag #couragekal.

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!