Designer Conversations: Hannah Fettig
Posted by Jared Flood on
Happy Sunday! Today I'm conducting our penultimate Designer Interview for Wool People 8 with Hannah Fettig from Portland, Maine. Read on for more about Hannah's design process for Gable, and news about her new app for knitters. . . Hi Hannah! It’s great to have you back in Wool People with your Gable pullover—we worked with you for Wool People 3, and your Walpole cardigan was one of the most popular garments in that collection. What are your favorite elements of your new design and how did it come into being? I'm not just saying this - Walpole is one of my favorite designs. I wear it all the time! When I first put together my submission for Wool People 8, I said to Bristol "Can I just design Walpole again?!" I was concerned if I stuck with a cardigan I would in fact have a hard time breaking away from that original design, so a pullover seemed like a good idea. I do love the stitch definition of the twisted rib in Walpole, so I thought it would be interesting to use that as a recurring design element here. Also, I wanted the sweater to read like a sweatshirt: comfortable. At first, with sporty in mind, I considered sticking with my go-to raglan yoke, but once the twisted rib design and the short-row-shaped hemline were in place, a round yoke made more sense to me. (No complaints there – round yokes are one of my favorite things to knit!) In the end, I think all the elements complement one another rather than fighting for attention. (A funny side note, at the time I designed Gable I was sharing an office with Pam Allen. I think we were sharing at least part of a brain; without knowing it we were both designing short row shaped hemline pieces. Her finished design is Togue Pond, which I love.) . . I really like your clean aesthetic. Your designs are simple and wearable; you never overdo it with too much texture or fussy detail, and the result is always a garment knitters know they’ll be able to for many seasons to come. Can you tell us about your design process? Starting with the Whisper Cardigan, which is the design that got me on the map, my foremost consideration has always been wearability. I'm the same way with ready-to-wear. When I shop for my own closet it needs to be a piece that fits in with other things I have and that can be worn comfortably on a regular basis. As a result, most of my designs are fields of Stockinette Stitch. Rocky Coast Cardigan is the only exception, but since that cable pattern is worked at quite a loose gauge it has a calming effect, it almost reads flat to me. I'm always editing myself. Early on in my design work I'd second guess myself on this front, like, can I really get away with designing something so basic? I've learned to trust my instincts, basics are what I'm all about and my audience seems to be okay with that. I will still follow trends, for instance my most recent design for Knitbot is a Moto Jacket. But I tried to execute it in a way that it could fit into a knitters closet for years to come; it's not too trendy. . . How did you get started as a knitter and designer? I've knit on and off since I was a teenager. My grandmother was a huge crafter and of all the crafts she did knitting was the one that rubbed off on me. When knitting started getting really popular again 10 years ago, I totally jumped on the wave. I started working at our local yarn shop and was knitting everything I could get my hands on. Somewhere in there I started designing my own sweaters, in fact I did a design for The Fibre Company in their early days. Their original warehouse was on the waterfront here in Portland, Maine. The turning point was when—last minute—they asked me to attend TNNA with them to assist in their booth. I went, and they had my sweater on display. A book editor saw it and asked if I had considered writing a book which I laughed off. I had never considered that, and did not feel qualified! She followed up with me several times after that, and just like that I had a book contract and was designing 30 pieces for it. That seems like another lifetime; I've come a long was as a designer since Closely Knit was published, but it did serve as a major stepping stone in my career. When Eunny Jang, then editor of Interweave Knits, reached out to me to design for the magazine, I had been playing with knitting lace weight yarn at a loose gauge in Stockinette Stitch, trying to mimic jersey. And so came Whisper, and then Featherweight which remains my most popular pattern to date. I was fortunate enough to be launching my career in the early days of Ravelry, I do feel that it would be different if I were trying to do so now, with so many great designers self publishing. . . You’ve got an interesting knitting-related but non-woolly project on the front burner now, too: your new StashBot app. It’s been fascinating to see how technology has sparked such rapid change in the knitting world, and how savvy knitters have been about embracing it. What inspired you to build this tool for knitters, and what’s exciting about seeing it out in the wild now? In a market so saturated with knitting patterns I wanted to try something new. Pam (Allen) and I talked about focusing more on education, but neither of us are in a position to travel. So we started the knit.fm podcast. The overwhelming response from knitters to our humble podcast verified that people are hungry for help! That gave me the idea to create a "stash buying” guide. You're in a yarn store and find a yarn you can't live without, but you don't have a pattern in front of you. How much should you buy? I wanted the guide to be as specific as possible and then provide a general yardage and meter estimate. And I wanted the estimates to be based on something real, not made up or overestimated. So taking actual body measurements plus 2" of ease for sweaters, and a 10% pad for all garment types we came up with yardage and meter estimates for a wide range of sizes. I created charts and made a print booklet (this was something within my realm of skills since I self publish patterns for print regularly). But the question was then, what is the best way to present this data digitally? An interactive app seemed like a fantastic idea! My husband, Abe, is a software developer. We were able to collaborate on this project together which was a lot of fun. It took us 9 months from start to finish to get it just right, and we're both really proud of the results. When you're publishing digital goods, you never know what's going to happen in terms of sales. Within the first week we sold as many apps as we had hoped to maybe sell ever! Knitters sent messages like: 'StashBot fills a real need', 'This is a game changer', and so on. So we are certainly on to something here. The next steps are to develop StashBot for Android, and to work on future updates. Knitters have sent many suggestions for things the app could also do, and some of them are really good, like, why didn't we think of that? It's all very exciting, and really what I had dreamed about. While I love designing patterns, and I always will do it, I was ready to work on something new and here I have it! That’s wonderful—I look forward to giving the app a more in-depth try myself, aside from the preliminary trial I got from you last summer before the app went live. Thanks so much for dropping by today Hannah and I wish you all the best as you continue with your work! Thank you, Jared, for the opportunity to be part of Wool People again! It's an honor. . . _________ Curious to read more about this design or get your hands on the pattern? Visit Gable's pattern page for details. This has been Part 5 of a 6-part Designer Conversations series with selected creatives from our new Wool People 8 collection. Stay tuned here for more; two interviews will be posted each week!