A Conversation with Gudrun Johnston
Posted by Jonathan on
Over the next two weeks, we'll be presenting a series of designer interviews here on the blog that I have conducted with 6 selected designers from the Wool People 6 collection. I'll chat with them a bit about their newest designs for BT, as well as what it is that gets their creative juices flowing. Today we start with long-time friend of BT, Gudrun Johnston. I hope you enjoy! –Jared ... ... JF: Good morning, Gudrun! I'm always glad to be able to chat with you about knitting – can you tell the readers where you are joining us from today? GJ: Great to talk to you Jared! I am joining you from my home in the woods of Western Massachusetts! JF: We've had the pleasure of working with you several times in the last two years that we've been publishing Wool People – you seem to have a knack for designing things with real wool that knitters love. Can you tell us a little bit about where you get your general design inspiration? GJ: I find that ideas can strike from many directions but it is true that I often look to my Shetland roots first and foremost for inspiration. ... ... JF: You live in Western Mass but are a native of the Shetland Islands in Scotland, one of the world's great knitting "meccas". How did your childhood in Shetland shape who you are as a designer? GJ: Although I was born in Shetland I spent the majority of my childhood living elsewhere in Scotland. It has really been in the last decade that I have re-connected with Shetland, since my parents retired there. During that time I have had lots of opportunity to explore not only the physical beauty of Shetland but to also educate myself about the wooly traditions! As you already know my mother also designed knitwear in Shetland in the 1970's. My siblings and I were clothed in her designs when we were very little. I even have a photo of myself as a baby in a traditional Shetland Hap (shawl)! So the connection to the rich knitting heritage was formed early on. My great grandfather was a Shetlander and I like to think some knitting mojo got passed on in the blood! It was only natural then for me to look to my Shetland background when I started to get into designing. JF: When we first started talking about design ideas for Wool People 6, you had just finished knitting your son a beautiful prototype of Little Wave. How did the sweater come to be (before I begged for you to let us include it in the collection)? GJ: Well it came to be because Sage (my son) was feeling a little put out that I hadn't designed anything that he could wear! His sister ends up getting to wear a lot more of my work seeing as most of my designs are female oriented. So I promised him I would come up with something made especially for him! He LOVES it and looks very sophisticated when wearing it! [We've included photos below!] I ended up liking it a lot too so I'm glad that there will be another sample for me to wear. It also looks like I might have to knit one for David (my husband) too! ... ... JF: David just might require one - I wore the men's sample all throughout our September shoot (it was a foggy, chilly weekend - perfect for a shawl collar) and I have to say I got attached quite quickly! GJ: Well it's true that David is also well overdue for a handknit garment from me, so yes, I think I will have to get one on the needles for him too! Although I have also been eyeing up your Timberline from the BT Men collection! JF: You opted to design the sweater as a unisex garment, including graded sizes for both men and women. What kind of differences can knitters expect to find between the two? GJ: The differences are fairly subtle to the overall design but I included a little waist shaping and adapted some of the measurements for a more feminine look. ... ... JF: There are a lot of special details included in the sweater – it is one of those patterns that takes you on a bit of a journey. I know most knitters will learn at least 1 or 2 things as they are walked through. Can you elaborate on a couple of the details that might not be immediately apparent to people who have only seen a few images of the garment in the look book? GJ: Well one of the first things knitters will encounter are the twisted stitches that are used to form that overall stitch pattern. I enjoy using textured stitch patterns that are worked a little differently from the norm but that aren't necessarily complex to knit. The other detail that might not be obvious to many knitters is the construction of the yoke. I see it as part raglan, part set in sleeve and part saddle shoulder, but essentially it is Elizabeth Zimmerman's Seamless Hybrid Method. I think this was my favourite part to knit! Watching all the parts come together is truly like magic and extremely satisfying! JF: I also have to interject that I love the knitted garter stitch "elbow patches". They are a nice touch! GJ: Thanks! Glad you like them! Of course they can easily be left out for those who prefer a simpler sleeve! ... ... JF: What kind of design work are you plugging away on at the moment? Anything you can share that we can look forward to? GJ: Actually the current piece I'm working on will be for Wool People 7! After that the plan is to get going on a Shetland Trader Book 2 which I am very excited about! JF: Great news for all of us – I look forward to seeing another self-produced book of knits by you! Well Gudrun, it's been a pleasure – thanks for allowing me to bend your ear a bit this morning. Take care and thanks again for contributing this beautiful garment to our 6th installment of Wool People! GJ: My pleasure! It was fun to chat!