I’m very happy to be able to share with you a book by one of my favorite knitwear designers Alexis Winslow! I’ve knit quite a few of her patterns, including her Delancey Cardigan and Bergen Street Cardigan, and they never disappoint. When I saw the sneak peek of all of the patterns in the new Graphic Knits, I freaked! There is a ton of amazing sweaters in this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on all of them.
Alexis was kind enough to answer a few questions about her inspiration, and a few very pushy questions about her design aesthetic and how she creates such flattering, graphic garments! And enjoy the beautiful pictures of projects from the book I snagged from Interweave.
‘Graphic Knits’ is a very striking book full of modern sweaters with graphic shapes created by colorwork, texture, and yarn overs – what draws you to this aesthetic?
Alexis: I design things that I want to wear, so the silhouettes and color I choose are a reflection of my personal style. I’m also very interested in what makes something fun to knit. I believe there are certain design elements that make knitting more entertaining and satisfying, and I try to incorporate them into my patterns as much as possible. These elements are obvious things like stripes of color or texture and easily memorized patterning, but also less obvious things like rhythmic structure to the written instructions and minimizing finishing by designing out seams.
Another thing I love to do in my design work is explore unique shapes that are really only possible to achieve with hand-knitting. For instance, a lot of my designs have shaping in the middle as opposed to on the edge like a machine knitted garment.
Looking through all of your patterns, this graphic element is everywhere, especially colorwork prints. What inspires your prints?
Alexis: I’ve been interested in graphic patterning ever since I can remember. I think my aesthetic looks a little different because my influences come from the Southwest United States instead of a more traditional European knitting influence. I credit my parents for this because when I was growing up we took frequent road trips to New Mexico. They collected Navajo rugs and Pueblo pottery so our family vacations often involved visiting far-flung native art galleries. If you’ve never looked at Pueblo pottery, I suggest you do a quick image search. The intricate, high-contrast patterning is mesmerizing and the silhouettes of the vessels are incredibly light and beautiful. While I’m not exactly looking at pottery everyday to get ideas, the aesthetic is clearly something that has ingrained itself in my design vocabulary.
‘Graphic Knits’ focuses a lot on color placement on a large scale. What are some rules you follow to make color placement flattering?
Alexis: In addition to my knitting pattern design business, I am also a professional printed textile designer so I tend to think about color placement from a graphic designer’s perspective. It’s important to remember that color and pattern work together to direct the focus of the eye. I don’t have any hard rules that I follow, but I am always thinking about balance and rhythm. I love using a bold or heavy color paired with a neutral or soft pastel color. This creates visual interest that’s both contrasting and balanced. I also carefully consider which color to use for the edgings of my designs. I like to use a heavier color for the edge of cardigan to draw the eye up toward the face. On the other hand, if I have busy patterning on a garment, I like to use a soft or neutral color for the edging to create a place of calm for the eye to rest.
What would you say to a knitter nervous about making the jump from texture rich sweater knitting to colorwork sweater knitting?
Alexis: I would tell that nervous knitter that they’ve been missing out on a whole lot of knitting fun, and there’s no time to waste! If you can knit a cable or lace chart, you already have 99% of the skills necessary for Fair Isle knitting. With colorwork knitting, usually you work with only two colors of yarn in a stockinette fabric, so it’s just a matter of juggling the two strands, which is no big deal. Putting colors together is also a really fun way to express yourself. There are few things in knitting that delight me more than watching a rich geometric Fair Isle pattern fall from my needles.
You’ve put out a TON of patterns over the past two years, between last year’s Winsome Knits and now Graphic Knits, and even a few patterns in between. What’s next for you besides a big fat break?
Alexis: Haha! Yes I’ve been working very hard! Currently, I’m planning a bunch of book signing events and trunk shows for Graphic Knits, so I hope some of the Sweatshop of Love readers will come out and say hi. Beyond busting my butt to promote Graphic Knits, I don’t have any other long term plans. I’m always sketching out new designs, and I probably have enough for a whole other book already. Despite this, I pretty much decided that I would have to quit my day job before I could take on another large scale project like a book. So I guess we’ll see! At the moment, I’m pretty much burned out for deadline knitting, so you can expect to see my designs published mostly independently for while. I do have one new design in Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People 8 (coming out late fall 2014) that I am unbelievably excited about!
By Alexis Winslow
Interweave/F+W; $24.99Pin It