|Kirsten Johnstone in her Asamoya|
If you aren't familiar with Kirsten's work, then treat yourself to a leisurely browse through her Ravelry pattern store. Her sev[en]circle has an incredible 1385 projects to date, and other stunning designs include (featured in the images below) Amime, Aisance, Gake, Sankai Man Woman and Boy, Go Hat and Tekko.
We count ourselves very fortunate to have been able to catch up with Kirsten on a beautiful sunny winters' afternoon in Manly, Sydney. We met at the very cool Hugo's amidst the to and fro of ferrys, tourists milling, beautiful food and of course, a table covered in swatches!
Kirsten is very well known in the US these days. More even than in her home country it would seem, but every day that recognition is growing as she is in demand to speak to different audiences and even to use her architectural skills to redesign iconic haberdashery stores. She is an incredibly talented designer who is constantly on the look out for inspiration. As we sit eating and chatting over lunch she notices the folds on the back of a waitresses apron and it's apparent that she has stored that particular image safely in her memory as for fodder for a future pattern.
I took the opportunity to ask Kirsten a few questions . . .
What do you look for in a yarn in order to achieve the elements that run through all your designs (ease, fluency and fluidity)?
I suppose it depends on what I’m planning to design but I prefer yarns that are solid or semi-solid in colour. I seek yarns with excellent stitch definition and because I want longevity of the knitted garment, I want the yarn to wear well without pilling, if possible. That said, I am always pleased to discover new yarns and explore their particular tactility and inherent properties.
Unusually, I have a number of new pieces lined up to ready for release. These include 2 cardigans, a new sweater, 2 new colorwork cowls, two fabulous new scarves and super slouchy hat. I am gearing up for my classes at The Craft Sessions, a craft retreat held in the Yarra Valley near where I live in Victoria.
Tekko mittens and the Go Hat
What tips do you have for a young/new designer trying to launch on Ravelry?
Wow. It’s a steep learning curve and I have definitely learnt a lot since my first pattern release! I primarily focus on integrity and excellence, to stay true to my own aesthetic and professional ethics. I don’t especially look at trends or other designers. I know what I like and I continually seek to refine that style with ingenuity and originality rather than compromise. So, on that note, I recommend making a commitment to integrity and excellence – in your original knitwear designs, in your pattern writing/editing/testing, in your photography. Don’t make do with second best; integrity and excellence always stands the test of time.
The Sankai Boy, Man and Woman
We know how you got into knitting… but does anyone else in your family knit? Have you tried to teach your children and has it been successful? Do you see knitting being passed down to the next generation quite like it was to this one?
I am having a quiet laugh on the inside as I know you know who else knits in my family! Yes, it is true - my husband can knit. I didn’t teach him but he can knit a row or two in a pinch! In answer to the second part of your question, yes, I have taught both my children to knit. My daughter is very keen and my son not so much. I have also taught friends’ girls how to knit and I have discovered that 9 or 10 year olds have developed the dexterity to wrangle the yarn and those needles much more successfully!
I believe the next generation with continue with knitting. I see so many people out there on instagram and the like knitting things for their kids and a natural interest and curiosity is then piqued in their children. It is definitely something I am attempting to nurture in my own children, whether it be knitting or sewing or drawing or some other form of making. I want them to appreciate and understand the joy of creating and, thankfully, both my children love it.
sev[en]circle - Kirsten's hugely popular free pattern available on Ravelry
Tell us something that most people don't know about you???!!!
I am a distant relative of William Wordsworth - how’s that for random? My paternal grandmother’s mother was a Wordsworth though sadly, none of his poetic sensibilities appear to have been passed on down!
It was funny, as we were chatting I asked her how she knew about MillaMia and she said, one minute she had just heard of the name and the next she was seeing it everywhere. We are lucky to have had her attention and are hopeful you will see collaborations in the not too distant future . . . fingers crossed, we should be so lucky!