JF: Hello, Joji! Welcome and thanks for joining me this morning from Argentina!
JL: Hello Jared, it is an honor, thank you for having me!
JF: This was my first time working with you and it’s been such a pleasure. You started self-publishing knitting patterns in 2008 and have been quite active as a designer on Ravelry since then. Can you tell us a little bit about your history with knitting and designing?
JL: I got really hooked with knitting when I was in my mid-twenties… At that time I was improvising my projects with the help of my mother, trying to copy things that I had seen in magazines or movies. Being an Argentine knitter, we did not have access to beautiful pattern books, or special yarns, so we were making the best with what we had, until the internet arrived and knitting blogs and groups became popular here too.
I think that in a way, learning to knit like that helped me to be free. I was never afraid of working with a different gauge, or type of yarn, or to modify patterns to my taste.
However, publishing my own patterns was something that I would have never dreamt of doing. I think it was quite unexpected. My first published pattern was a tiny cardigan I made for one of my boys while I was pregnant. I published it just for the fun of it, but I never thought people would actually knit it! I guess that’s when I learned what a big world of knitters we really are.
Since then, all I can say is that I have been having more fun than I could ever have imagined.
JF: I notice that trend over and over in our industry – many now-established designers started off on the fringes of knitting, either not having access to patterns, or proper instructional materials, but making it work for themselves only to find later that they had gained invaluable skills later on. For me, it was similar – when I started knitting I couldn’t find any mens patterns that I really wanted to make, so I just started figuring out how to carve my own way.
I think for a lot of designers, once they get the taste for that creative independence, it’s hard to go back to following someone else’s instructions.
JL: Absolutely! But it is always a good thing to go back to someone else’s pattern every now and then. It helps you see things from different perspectives…
JF: Your design work seems to favor clean and simple silhouettes with a modern feel. How would you explain your personal design aesthetic?
JL: Thank you! I think I am still trying to find a personal aesthetic. I struggle with two different trends when I design: On one hand I love minimalism and classic lines. I don’t think there’s anything more chic than an elegant woman dressed in the simplest clothes.
On the other hand, the fun about knitting is showing off your skills and techniques. So things are always more exciting when you work with a beautiful yarn that has a story to tell (a striking color or texture), when you add an edgy stitch pattern, or a cool construction.
I guess that my designs still reflect a mix between these two: the minimalist chic woman and the always curious crafter.
JF: Seacoast is a great example of your clean, minimal leanings – where did your inspiration and ideas for this design come from?
JL: When I closed my eyes and tried to find inspiration for a design for this collection, all the images that came to my mind were about a girl walking on the beach. The breeze moving the tips of her hair, bare feet, relaxed… I imagined her reaching for her dearest clothes before going out: some comfortable trousers and her favorite basic sweater.
I wanted to create a pullover that was very simple, but that still had a few secrets in its construction.
JF: Can you tell us a little bit about how the garment is put together?
JL: Seacoast is a classic sweater with a circular yoke, but new stitches are added to the yoke as you work, creating a series of vertical columns of slipped stitches. As I was working on it, I couldn’t help notice that these lines reminded me of those found in little shells in the sand. I guess it was all about the beach and the sea after all…
JF: The sweater is worked from the top down as well. What made you decide to work the garment in this direction?
JL: I think there is a big part of the knitting community who have opted to work their sweaters always this way, and I think I have been very influenced by this preference. I enjoy any kind of construction: bottom-up, top-down, seamed and seamless. They all have their pros and cons.
But the great thing about top-down construction is the possibility of trying on the garment as you work on it from the very first stages. You can decide whether you like the fit, whether the size you chose is the right one for you. In this particular design, with its relaxed fit, I think it’s great that you can choose to make longer/shorter body or sleeves just by knitting to the desired length, without any alterations of the pattern.
JF: You said you started with a visual of a woman on the seashore. Do you use these types of visual stories a lot at the beginning of your design process?
JL: Yes, almost every time. I didn’t notice I worked this way at first, so it was rather unintentional. Now I try to always make a visual image of who is wearing the garment, what other clothes he/she is wearing, where he/she is… I find that the designs I love the most are the ones where the garment really is the way I pictured in this first image.
JF: It’s always so interesting hearing how different people work through the process of design. Thanks for sharing a little bit about your method of working with us today, Joji!
JL: Thank you so much, Jared, for this lovely interview! It’s been an honor to be part of Wool People for the first time.