We got a chance to sit down with Elizabeth Felgate – a prolific Knotions designer (she designed this month’s Golden Ratio wrap) and eBook writer (ShawlStar and HatStar among others)! Read on to learn a bit more about her style, her likes and, well, just her!
Tell us a bit more about yourself. Where do you live? How did you end up there? Where are you from originally?
I live in a small hamlet in Wiltshire, which is in a region of England known as the Cotswolds, known for its quaint prettiness.
My home is an old stone cottage with roses round the windows; quite an English cliché.
I ended up moving to the West Country from the home counties when I got a job after university and I lived then in Bristol and Bath.
We moved out to the country when we had small children to give them more space to run around – my husband’s family are farmers and he wanted the children to have some of the freedom he had.
I was always a keen gardener, so no surprise I’m a total convert to rural life and have an ever-growing flock of chickens, a large vegetable patch and perpetually muddy wellies.
What are your favorite things:
- Yarn weights
- Types of objects (e.g., shawls, hats, etc.)
I particularly like colours that defy exact classification – indigo (blue or purple?) green/blues and of course every shade of grey. But I also love blue and green.
I tend to gravitate towards the heavier weights of yarn, being an impatient person and very much driven by the pleasure of the end product. Good tough rustic wool is my favourite fibre: I think hand knitting just looks better in a yarn that blooms after blocking and evens out all your stitches.
I love to design hats; they are my design comfort zone. But I love to own warm sweaters because I live in an old, cold house, so even though they take much longer, because of course, I’m always looking and inventing new ways to make them I do make those too.
Shawls are the other main area I design – I find it relaxing sometimes not to be worrying about exact fit, but just to play with stitch and construction methods.
What else do you like to do creatively
I like to cook and garden. I make most of our food from scratch. I bake all the bread, make all the pastry and cakes. I even incubate my own yoghurt these days.
The garden supplies the kitchen in the spring, summer and autumn. We don’t manage to grow all our own fruit and veg, but we are self-sufficient in a few things. I haven’t bought a clove of garlic in 10 years and we are all sick of cooking apples by the time the store runs out in about the end of January, having eaten them non-stop since August. I know a lot of apple recipes (Dorset apple cake, anyone?).
I love William Morris. One day I might convert some of his patterns to colourwork.
Some of my favourite knitting designers are Nim Teasdale for shawls, Woolly Wormhead for hats. A new designer to me is Irina Heeman, who has some really interestingly constructed pieces.
I think a mix of the two is perfect.
When I write ebooks, I do learn a lot myself, or at least crystalize things in my mind that I sort of knew but have never had to clearly articulate. Writing out your knowledge in a form that can impart it clearly to others makes you think harder about how you apply it, and how you can use it to better effect yourself.
Designing patterns is a different process; the writing is a bit more formulaic and the learning tends to come more from the practical experimentation on the sample.
Can you tell us about your process when you design? I’m curious about your inspiration and how you bring that to life?
My process is not very defined; I tend to grope towards a solution actually rather than have a blinding flash of inspiration whilst gazing on the beauties of nature. Although as I go, certain words, ideas and visual images do nudge me in certain directions. The starting point is often the thought about the function of an item (I need a warmer hat) and then I’ll start thinking about how that need translates into certain requirements like a certain weight of yarn or a design feature like a turned brim.
I usually have a real or envisioned recipient (sometimes a fictional character!) to think about: and what they would like is important. That’s the more prosaic side of my designing.
The crazier stuff is driven when I stumble across a technique or a construction and I just turn it this way and that in my hand until I can see how it can be worked or folded to make something new. Some of those type of designs fail spectacularly and never make it to publication, but those that do make it are often among my most popular.
Designing sweater yokes! I never just follow a “good enough” model for yokes (like increasing 4 sts every other row in every size). Sweater fit has to be right and so it seems to need to be complicated to make sure the grading is smooth across range of sizes.
What does a typical Liz-day entail?
I start by feeding the kids and beasts and getting the former to the bus for school.
I work as a freelance marketing manager, so I often start the working day with client work, writing copy, doing social media scheduling, etc.
Knitting is my second business and gets attended to after that, in my own time, so to speak.
At some point I put on my running shoes and run for half an hour or so, and when I get back collect eggs from the chickens and bring in firewood (or water the greenhouse depending on the season).
Then I work until the children come home and generally cook, clean and run them about until I collapse on the sofa with my knitting project.
Do you have a stash? Or if you buy it you make it up pretty quickly?
I have one small underbed box of yarn. And a lot of that is left over skeins or partial skeins from larger projects.
I try hard not to consume too many planetary resources these days and so I no longer buy yarn unless I have a specific purpose in mind.
It’s getting harder to view excess consumerism as a benign pastime. Sometimes, I admit, I do change my plans once I’ve bought yarn and it stays in stash for a while (years sometimes).