Saturday, November 22, 2014

Interview with GAL Designer, Emmy Petersson!

For funsies, some of the Indie Gift-A-Long designers are interviewing other designers, and I had the pleasure of talking to Emmy Petersson, a Swedish designer with the most delightful colorwork (and a cat shawl!!!) Without further ado...

When and how did you first learn to knit? 
My first knitting memory is from when I was about five years old. I remember sitting in the kitchen, moving stitches from one needle to another. I didn't understand why I had to pull the yarn through the stitch and it was so much easier to just move them. I imagine I learned to do it correctly shortly after that. It was my mom who taught me. The first project I can remember was a simple doll, made out of a knitted square. I have since always had some kind of crafty project going even if I never worked on them frequently in my teens. It could take years to finish. When I finished high school I studied music for two years, and that was a very creative environment, and I started to knit more and more. I finished my first sweater during these years (it came out way too big, and I never wore it...). Then I moved to a bigger city to start university, discovered knitting cafés, met other knitters and found knitting on the internet. And since then I'm hooked, or some people would say I'm obsessed.

Whoa, I totally thought that was how knitting worked when I was little too, haha! What made you first begin designing? 
My first design was Freja, and it happened quite as an accident. I was sketching a bit in my notebook during a lecture and I came up with a repeated heart pattern that I realized would be just perfect pattern for the palm of a mitten. So I started to sketch up a matching motif for the back of the hand too, and knitted my mittens. And then I sent the pattern to Knitty, totally expecting to get rejected. I thought everyone got rejected in the beginning. But I didn't, and I was so excited. And then I kept going, making more patterns. With a full time job I don't have nearly as much time for knitting as I would like, but I do make new patterns in the pace that I can manage.

Can you talk a bit about the knitting scene in Sweden? I am curious about how it compares to America.
Knitting has been growing in popularity in Sweden during the last ten years or so, and it has changed from something that you only do in your home to something people meet and do in cafés and when they commute and so on. I think there are many reasons why knitting has grown popular again. One thing I think is that it is some kind of protest against the wear and tear fashion and the increased environmental awareness, and is a part of the same trend where it is popular to bake sourdough breads and make your own sausage. I also think many people have a need to create something substantial with their hands, as so many of us don't do that in our day jobs anymore. Knitting has been popular before, but then it lasted for a few years and then lost popularity again. This time it just seems to keep growing in popularity, and I do think internet plays a big part in that. You can connect with other knitters even if you don't know anyone who knits where you live and you can buy yarn and patterns from the whole world.

I see that you are an engineering student- do you find that there are parallels between your engineering work and your designing? Do skills and ideas from one ever transfer over to the other? 
I see that I haven't updated my profile in Ravelry for a while, as I'm actually not a student anymore. But yes, I usually say that designing is the perfect mix of knitting and engineering. My engineering skills are invaluable in my design process, and they make all the technical aspects of designing quite easy. And I feel that the creative part of designing helps me in my work as an engineer too.

Do you have a favorite project that you have made, whether your design or not? What makes it stand out?
I think that would be the prototype of the Alvinda cardigan that I submitted to Twist Collective. That sweater is very much about my aesthetics - simplicity and elegance. I do like the cardigan I worked up for the magazine too, but the prototype was made for ME, and fits me so much better, both in size and color. It is also special to me in the way that it is my first (and so far only- I hope to change that in the near future) published garment design.

What is your favorite fiber to work with, and why?
Wool, without question. Wool is such a versatile material, and there are so many kinds of wool from different kinds of sheep, with very different properties. I am not a fan of superwash treated wools though, as I think it destroys many of the fantastic properties that wool has. It also makes a natural fiber very much less natural, and the treatments aren't environmentally friendly. I am a bit sad that it is so hard to come by nice untreated wool yarns these days, as almost all popular yarns are treated. And the fact that it doesn't say superwash on the label is no guarantee it is not.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of designing? 
I love when an idea strikes, and I can't get it out of my mind until I've tried it out. I also love the technical parts of designing. I'm happy when I get to dive into my spreadsheets and make my calculations for a design - I guess the engineering speaks a bit here. My very least favorite part of the process is to find a good name for the pattern, I can get stuck at this part for weeks. I do publish my patterns in both English and Swedish and I don't like patterns that have different names in different languages so I try to find names that are at least pronounceable in both languages. I do also have kind of a love/hate relationship with photographing my designs. I do love photography. But I very rarely have anyone to help me with either being the photographer or the model, so I have to do it all by myself. And I do feel that I have so much less control when I have to be in the front of the camera, using the remote, than when I can be behind it, taking care of all the settings.

Oh how I feel you on that last point! What is one thing that most knitters probably don't know about you?
That I am (or was, there are not much time for it anymore) an enthusiastic birdwatcher, and that I spent my teens trying to see as many species as I could.

And just for fun: what would be your absolute perfect day?
A perfect day would be a sunny spring or autumn day. Not too warm, not too cold, when I would be able to alternate long knitting sessions with walks in the forest. There would be no need to work or to do any household chores. It's too bad that those days happens so rarely.

Thanks Emmy!! The sale portion of the Gift-A-Long may be over, but the festivities have barely started! Please check out the group for tons of KALs/CALs, beautiful FOs to ogle, games and tons of prizes!! And you can see all Emmy's work on her designer page.

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