Interview: Alexis Winslow, author of Graphic Knits

Posted on | October 14, 2014 | 1 Comment

Graphic Knits - jacket art

Today I have a special guest on the blog, Alexis Winslow, author of Graphic Knits: 20 Designs in Bold Beautiful Color. Alexis’ book demonstrates not only her superb knitting and design skills, but also her love of color and graphics. I first discovered Alexis when she published the Delancey Cardigan, which not only had strong graphic elements, but also was very cleverly constructed. It’s been interesting watching her come into her own as a knitwear designer these last few years and getting to know her as a friend. Welcome Alexis!

MW: Can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself and how you learned how to knit?

AW: I’m originally from Norman, Oklahoma and moved to New York City in 2007. Now I live in Brooklyn and have a wonderful day-job working as a printed textile designer. When I’m not at work I spend every possible spare moment designing knitting patterns and writing about it on my blog,

I taught myself to knit from some very crude directions I found on the Internet when I was about 16. I began creating my own knitwear designs about 10 seconds after that! At that point, I was already very into sewing, and created a lot of my own clothing, so knitting was just another interesting tool for expressing myself through fashion.

MW: Many of your previous designs have a bold graphic element to them. At the beginning of the book planning process, did you know this would be your focus?

AW: Well, no. I actually had no idea what the book’s focus would be until after my proposal was accepted! Basically, my idea was to create a well rounded book that any knitter could pick up and find something they were excited to make. So I tried to stay true to my own knitting desires and only included things I really wanted to knit– things that represented my own personal style. I worked with an acquisitions editor at Interweave who looked everything over, and came up with the working title “Graphic Knits,” which ended up sticking.

MW: I’m always interested in how other designers organize their design ideas in the book planning process. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to plan 20 designs for Graphic Knits? (For example, did yarn or sketches come first? How did you decide on a color pallet and yarns? Were all designs set from the beginning or did you add and change as you went? Were there any designs that were dropped because they just didn’t work?)

AW: I always begin with a sketch. Sketching new ideas is one of my very favorite parts of the process. I bet I did a hundred or more little quick sketches of design ideas for this book. After doing a few rough sketches of an idea, I’d make a nice drawing of a person wearing the garment to put into a proposal plate. The plates were basically a collage of info with supporting images of yarn, swatches, or possible colorways. I made at least 40 plates for the book, and picked the strongest 30 for my proposal.

Sketching is one of my strongest skills and I really rely on it to inform my design choices later in the process. I get a pretty good idea about how I want the fabric to behave from my sketches, which helps me decide about yarn. Though of course color is very important, it almost always comes last for me. I usually pick yarn first, then see what the best colors are in that line. Of course I also wanted variety in the book, so I thought about that too. I actually tried to start the book with a palette, but that quickly went out the window!

After I signed my contract, I had a year to write the patterns and knit all the samples. I didn’t order all my yarn at the beginning. Instead, I tried to think ahead a few designs, and ordered yarn along the way. This kept me excited about the book project as a whole, and also left room to add a few new designs along the way. My proposal had 30 designs, and I could pick 20 for the book. Somewhere in the middle, I had a few new ideas that I just had to include, the Danae mittens, the Trilogy Cardigan, and the Germander Shrug.

MW: Do you have a favorite project from the book?

AW: Maybe Laszlo or Trilogy. I also really love the Woodstar Hat and Mitts set. It’s too hard to pick!

Graphic Knits - Trilogy Cardigan beauty shot

Trilogy Cardigan

Graphic Knits - Laszlo Cardigan beauty shot

Laszlo Cardigan

Graphic Knits - Woodstar Beret beauty shot

Woodstar Beret + Mittens

MW: Color work can be rather intimidating to someone who has never tried it before. Are there any projects from the book that you could recommend to a color work newbie?

AW: I’m glad you asked about this, because it gives me the chance to talk about the design you knitted the sample for, the Sweetness Pullover. This pullover features a cute polka dot Fair Isle pattern around the shoulders. I think stranded color-work is easiest when it’s worked in large rounds, in memorizable repeating patterns. Sweetness has all those attributes.

I have a hard time relinquishing control of my sample knitting, but this pattern was straightforward enough that I had no worries. Of course you did a beautiful job, and also saved my butt, so I am eternally grateful!

Graphic Knits - Sweetness Pullover beauty shot

MW: If you could spend one hour with a well known knitter (past or present), who would it be and why?

AW: Elizabeth Zimmerman, because duh?! She’s the first famous designer I ever knew. For the first 10 years of my knitting life, her book, Knitting Without Tears, was like my bible. She was so innovative for her time. I’d be curious to know what she’d think about we modern knitters. Also, she seems like a fun lady to share a drink with!

Thanks Alexis!

For those of you going to Rhinebeck this upcoming weekend, Alexis will be signing copies of her book in Building B from 9-5 Saturday and 10-5 Sunday. Make sure you check out her book and say hi!

Graphic Knits - jacket art

Graphic Knits

By Alexis Winslow

Interweave/F+W; $24.99

A Fine Yarn Pop-up in Brooklyn

Posted on | October 6, 2014 | 1 Comment

photo 3

On Saturday night, I went to the opening party for Gauge x Tension, a fine yarn pop-up in Greenpoint. I had such a good time!

GxT is run by Michele and Melissa and will only be open on Saturday and Sunday right up until the week before Christmas. Except for the weekend of Rhinebeck. because well, Rhinebeck!

photo 2

Lots of pretty yarns!

The shop was cozy and well curated with unusual yarns that I haven’t seen on my usual travels. Some of the yarns include Tanis Fiber Arts, Western Sky Knits, Sleep Season Goods, and Jones and Vandermeer. Brooklyn Tweed and Quince were also well represented. It was nice to see Quince Owl in person, it’s not what I thought a wool/alpaca blend would look like at all.  And was lovely, of course.

GxT is also carrying a bit of roving and Catherine Lowe notions, of which I picked up a box of knitting pins. I am a knitting pin convert ever since taking Catherine’s class at VK Live last year.

photo 4

Stonecutter by Michele Wang

I found 7 skeins of BT Shelter in Fossil that wanted to come home with me to make Michele’s Ondawa. I can’t wait to get started, but have to finish Bedford first. Perhaps I will start swatching on my commute since Bedford is in that awkward, too big to carry around stage. It also happens to be in the “I’m Mad at It” stage. It’s my own stupid fault. I was too lazy to get up out of bed and grab two more stitch markers and ended up decreasing on the wrong stitch. It was on the back and I’m sure no one would ever notice, but I would know. That’s enough reason to rip for me. So rip, rip, rip back to the join it went and markers were added. Anywho.

photo 5

If you’re in the NYC area, I highly recommend checking Gauge + Tension out while it’s around. Unfortunately it won’t be around for long!

Gauge x Tension
110 Meserole Ave
Brooklyn, NY

Sat 11am – 7pm / Sun 11am – 6pm



Fall is for Knitting

Posted on | October 2, 2014 | 2 Comments

I’ve been knitting! Aren’t you proud of me?IMG_0196.JPG

It really has been forever since I’ve posted a sweater project here. I think the last one I finished was…….I can’t even remember the name! I think it was back in January.

I started working on Hane while I was in Florida and when I returned I immediately cast on for Bedford. Not only am I back to knitting, but I have TWO projects on the needles! Although I will admit that Hane has taken the back seat to the wonders that is Bedford in BT Shelter.

When Jared created this yarn, the man certainly knew what he was doing. I think I could happily knit with nothing else for the rest of my knitting days. Watch out cashmere.

Bedford is going by just quick enough to enjoy, but just slow enough to savor. While my fingers sometimes pine for something a little more advanced, I’m enjoying the ride here. I’m also enjoying knitting for myself without deadlines hanging over my head. It’s taken a long time to get to the point of even wanting to knit, it’s been a bit of a rough haul.

But enough about that! Fall is here and Rhinebeck is on the horizon. It’s a good time to be a knitter.


Weekend Reading 9/26

Posted on | September 26, 2014 | No Comments

It’s been a doozy of week, but it’s Friday! Here’s a few interesting links for the weekend.

– Wooly Wormhead wrote a very good post about the true cost of a knitting pattern and what goes into it to create one. I’ll give you a hint, it’s a lot of work!

Jean Paul Gaultier says good-bye to the RTW world with his last show tomorrow. My favorite quote from the article:

Maybe this is someone finally acting on the belief that what the cycle now demands from designers — to be creative and original about every two months — is not sustainable. Maybe it is someone making a choice, and just saying no.

– And we’re back again this week with another post from Into Mind. Four shopping fallacies and how to avoid them. Shopping smart is a win/win. Biggest one I have learned working in the industry is expensive does not equal quality. For example, the $195 70% Acrylic sweater I posted about on twitter this week.

– Last, but not least, I leave you with How to Hardwire a Light Fixture. This is just one of those life skills that is good to know along with changing your own oil and knowing how to change a flat tire!

My Own Personal Sloper

Posted on | September 23, 2014 | 6 Comments

When I was in design school, slopers were a way of life. I couldn’t go anywhere without them and they were updated every year to fit the dress form for each class.

I always wanted to make one to fit myself, but the method we used to draft them was a shortcut. It only really worked if you wanted it to fit a dress form. At one point I tried the Vogue Sloper, but I got frustrated with the fit and gave up.

Then came Craftsy and Suzy Furre’s skirt and bodice sloper classes. I picked them both up on sale a few months back and was fascinated with the amount of detail she went into, plus she is a fantastic teacher. I was so excited! I could finally draft my own sloper.

Of course, there was just one problem, I needed someone to help me measure myself first. A few weekends ago, I finally enlisted the help of my friend Kathryn to get a proper measurement session in.

Before I could get to the sloper, I first needed to draft a moulage. This is a very tight fitting bodice with no ease, it fits the body like a glove. Here was my first attempt.



Not bad by any means, but still needed a few adjustments. My back measurement was way too long and my side seam was a little high. I made the adjustments on my draft and cut out a second. Once I got my second moulage on, I realized very quickly something had gone wrong in the shoulder area. I had forgotten to add in 1/2″ to my front armhole. Whoops! So here is my third attempt.




Much better overall, especially on the back, but still had some pesky wrinkles in the armhole area. I removed 1/4″ from the shoulder and cross front to fix it up forgot to take a picture! Well, you get the idea!

After I was happy with the fit, next comes the drafting of the sloper. This is where a certain amount of ease is added to make a more comfortable fit. The neck is brought out and down, the shoulders out, and 1/4″ – 1/2″ is added to the side seam.


Here she is, immortalized in oak tag! I’ve already used her to help make some adjustments before cutting a muslin or two. I’ve also been reading up on pattern drafting. I’m so happy to finally have my own sloper! I don’t think I’ll ever need to buy RTW ever again!







Weekend Reading 9/19

Posted on | September 15, 2014 | No Comments

Here are a few links that I found enjoyable this week and hope you do too! I love that knitting is back in the mix again. With the weather getting cooler, I have once again found myself in my favorite chair knitting away after dinner.

– I’m having a Fall sale! In celebration of the Autumn Equinox, I’m offering 20% off all neoknits patterns (including collections) until Tuesday, September 23. No code needed, the discount will show up when you add them to your cart. Purchase from my site here or from Ravelry here.

– Speaking of Fall, here is a resource list for how to prep your wardrobe for Fall.

– Scruffy Badger shared a great info graphic on her blog this week about textile waste in fashion and how we as makers help to reduce waste. Every little bit helps! It’s in UK figures, but I think it’s still very relevant information.

– Have you seen Ysolda has a new pattern subscription available? Each pattern promises to be a great gift for all of your knitworthy people. By the way, Christmas is only 14 weeks away!

– Brooklyn Tweed released their Fall 14 collection last week and it’s gorgeous (as if it would be anything else!) I definitely need a few of these in my life, especially Ondawa!

– Gundrun of Shetland Trader has a new book of patterns available for pre-order. I particularly like Belmont and Nikka Vord.

Happy weekend and happy knitting!

Saltspring the Second

Posted on | September 3, 2014 | 2 Comments

Three weekends ago, when my friend graciously let me takeover her apartment and use her cutting table for the day, I had two things on my agenda. The first was to cut out my Bombshell, the second was to cut out my muslin for McCalls 6696.

I figured that while I was there, I might as well cut out my Betsey Johnson fabric for my second Saltspring.Saltspring

Since Bombshell was stitched up in record time, I moved onto my 6696 muslin. My muslin was stitched up in a night and fit really well (more on that later). So that just left my Betsey Johnson Saltspring and with summer coming to an end, it was now or never.

As with my maxi version, no fit corrections were needed. The only thing I did this time around was to eliminate the zipper. The zipper is nice to have on the maxi version, but since I could easily slip it over my head without opening the zip, I skipped it this time around.

Saltspring detail

Since there is no zipper, the back can be cut out on the fold. Of course, I forgot while cutting the back that I needed to take out the seam allowance. Whoops! At least I remembered by the time I got to the lining. Thankfully, the crinkle chiffon was so light that the extra eased right in along the neck and waist without a problem.

Saltspring back

I changed up the construction order a little bit since I didn’t have a back seam and finished everything up with french seams. That’s the one thing I skipped on the maxi version, I was very lax with my seam finishing and I’m paying for it. There are little whisps of polyester at the cut edges that annoy me to no end. Lesson learned. Laziness does not pay.


The bottom layer is all in one piece, instead of a free hanging lining. This made it a little easier to put in the pockets. The hem is finished in the same way as the first version, but I’m wondering if I should have finished it a little differently. I feel that it gives the edge a little too much body. My husband says I’m just being my usually picky self. Actually, doing it this way was kinda taking a gamble. Two layers being sewn together, one of them being crinkly chiffon? This could have gone wrong in so many ways! My careful cutting paid off and both edges matched up and were the same length. I’m lucky the thing falls correctly at all.

All in all, love the print, love the fabric, love the dress. It may only get worn two or three times this year, but it’s one less dress I need to make next summer!

The Cutest Three-toed Sloth…in a Poncho

Posted on | September 1, 2014 | No Comments

Today we have something totally different on this little old knitting blog of mine, actual knitting!

My co-worker loves sloths. Absolutely adores them.

It just so happens that she is also a few days away from having a little baby girl. So what does a knitter do? Well, knit a three-toed sloth in a poncho of course!


I used a variety of scrap yarns that were laying around the house, I believe there is some alpaca, cotton, and superwash wool in there. I weighed each leftover ball to make sure I would have enough for each section and thankfully I did not run out! I began this project on the train ride down on a recent trip to Delaware and had most of the pieces knit by the time I returned back to NYC.

The seaming can get a little dull with a project like this, so I was proactive about weaving in my ends as I went. I had forgotten how enjoyable knitting a small project can be. Instant gratification is a wonderful thing.

I forgot to pick up safety eyes when I grabbed the stuffing, so the eyes are little french knots. The nose and mouth are also embroidered onto the face after the knitting is all finished. I was a little worried the face wouldn’t have as much character with the french knot eyes, but it looks pretty adorable!


The sloth was gifted to the recipient last Thursday and she absolutely loved it. She refused to let anyone take it away to put it with the other presents and carried it around the office with her until it was time to say good-bye. It’s so nice when you know something you made with your own two hands will be well loved, isn’t it?

Oui, Oui! I Made Another Dress!

Posted on | August 28, 2014 | No Comments

For my trip to Florida, I decided that not only did I need a new swimsuit, but I needed to make a new dress for the occasion as well.

Robe Lucie

I found this amazing silk hibiscus print fabric at Mood back in May and had to have it. A nice, smaller scale Hawaiian print is hard to find and this color blue is amazing. I snagged 2 yards and called it a day.

I decided to pair the silk with the Lucie dress from Republique du Chiffon. If you couldn’t tell from the company name, it’s French. It just so happens the pattern is written all in French as well. Google Translator was a big help, particularly with things like, “this pattern does not include seam allowance.”

As far as fit modifications, since it’s big and loose, there wasn’t too much to do. I cut the exact size that corresponded to my measurements, but decided to bring the back neck drop up a little bit so it was bra friendly. I also added pockets. Apparently I can’t live without pockets in my dresses anymore, and why should I have to?

Robe Lucie

I went with the added piping option, which I think looks pretty awesome with the neon yellow. The original plan for the lining wasn’t contrast, I was going for black (so predictable, I know). The first lining I picked up from Paron was a little too heavy. They did carry black china silk, but I thought it was a little too sheer. When I headed back to Mood to find black china silk, to my surprise, they didn’t have any. How could this be?? Two cute little girls came to the rescue pointing me towards this bright chartreuse color. They were doing what little girls do while Mom was shopping for fabric for their flower girl dresses. Hiding in the racks, touching all the pretty fabric, and loving the velvet. To tell you the truth they really wanted me to buy the velvet, but the chartreuse was a close second.

Robe Lucie Back

Even with the translated instructions, I decided to go about the construction in my own way. The lining is separate from the body to avoid exposed seams and I used the burrito method to clean finish the upper body. Is there an actual term for this? Maybe, but burrito works for me.

The one thing about this  pattern is the skirt is self “drafted”. I put drafted in quotes because it’s not exactly hard, it’s just a big rectangle. It makes sense since the pattern is a PDF and why would you want to waste ink and paper printing out a rectangle? I guess what bothers me is the dimensions for the rectangle are the same for every size. So the smaller sizes are going to have a bit more gathering than the larger ones. I decided to get all fancy and do french seams on the skirt, and I ended up taking out about 2″ from the total circumference. Guess that isn’t too much, but it made me feel better about myself and that’s all that matters.

Once I finished, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of this dress. I haven’t worn this silhouette since the early 90s and it threw me off a little bit. Let’s face it, it’s not exactly the most flattering silhouette out there, but that’s OK, because it’s not supposed to be. Once I got over myself, I really like the dress and want to make more. It’s probably the most comfortable piece of clothing I’ve sewn so far. Maybe I’ll make a few more versions with sleeves, perhaps a button down front with a collar. Maybe even in a sunflower print? All hail the 90s!


Posted on | August 18, 2014 | 2 Comments

I made a new swimsuit! And I love it!Bombshell Swimsuit
The Bombshell really was a joy to sew. It went together pretty easily, fit modifications were simple, and it only took about 2 days to finish up. Also, I made the entire swimsuit on my sewing machine. Using a serger is optional!

I made a few small changes to the pattern. Personally, I’m not a girl who loves lots of gathers. I simply used the back lining piece to cut out my outer fabric for a smooth, gather-free back.

Bombshell Back

I also added swim cups. They aren’t really so much for support as they are for keeping things from getting a little too pointy. Adding the cups was covered in the sewalong here.

So what do you think? I really love it! Even though this is a full coverage suit, you can’t help but feel gorgeous and sexy in it. In fact, I’ve seen it made up by women with many different body types and Bombshell is really, really flattering on everyone.

Bombshell detail

Would I make this pattern again? Heck yeah!

Would I do anything different next time? Well, I would try not to be in such an excited rush when putting in my leg elastic. While it looks totally fine, the perfectionist in me would like it to be a little neater and more even on the inside. I know, I know, it doesn’t even really matter. I would also think about cutting up a size in the waist area only. I am between sizes on the chart and decided not to grade the pattern in the waist area since the fabric is super stretchy. It fits fine, but it would be nice to have it a tad less snug. Maybe once I get it in the water, I will change my mind. I also would watch how much shirring I’m placing in the under bust area. I have a smaller under bust and there seems to be a bit of extra fabric there. It looks fine, just feels a little loose.

I’m already planning which print I’d like to use for my trip next year. Maybe next time I’ll make a two-piece version. I may or may not have thought about moving to a warmer climate so I can wear swimsuits more often. They are addictive to make! I may have also thought about designing my own. The rabbit hole is opening………watch out!!

However, I am quickly realizing that instead of waxing poetic about swimsuits, I should be planning my wardrobe for Fall! While some of the things I’ve made so far will work in either season, it’s not quite enough to clothe me for the next few months. So far, I have a few jackets and plaid dresses planned. I’m also going to have to bite the bullet and sew up some jeans. Of course sweaters are a given! Lots to plan, lots to do!

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