We are delighted to feature kits for the new Tulip Festival Sweater by our good friend Amy Spahr of Spahrkle Knits.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting and knowing Amy, we are pleased to introduce you to her through this Designer Spotlight.
What was your source of inspiration for the Tulip Festival Sweater?
The yarn! I purchased a beautiful 3-skein kit. The yarn was so amazing I decided it had to be a sweater for me. I struggled to find a pattern that used approximately equal amounts of three skeins of yarn and showed off all three colors. One morning the idea of a color block sweater popped into my head. Originally this design was going to be a V-neck, but when I could not decide what color I liked best for the front, I changed it to a boat neck. Either color can be worn in the front. I think it is surprising and fun! The bell sleeves compliment the silhouette of the sweater, and the stripes highlight the beautiful yarn colors.
When did you first learn to knit and who taught you?
I taught myself to knit using The Knit Stitch book by Sally Melville. About 20 years ago, my mom and I went to a small yarn shop in Ann Arbor, MI. After years of cross-stitch, some drawing/painting and crocheting blankets, I was ready for a new craft. The idea of being able to knit a sweater was appealing. My mom encouraged me to buy the Miss Pam’s Raise the Bar Scarf kit. It was novelty yarns, knit lengthwise in garter stitch stripes. At the end, the tails were knotted together to create fringe. No weaving in ends! Perfect for a beginner. I was immediately hooked on knitting. My second project was the Einstein Coat from Sally’s book. I still have and wear that coat.
As you were learning to knit, what was your biggest challenge?
I did not want to make mistakes. I have since learned that mistakes are part of the process. Learning to fix them has made me a much better knitter. Getting over the fear has made me more adventurous and creative.
How and when did you decide to design patterns?
I am not sure it was a conscious decision. I have been modifying sweater patterns almost since I started knitting sweaters. I wear my sweaters all the time, so a good fit is important to me. I usually tweak a pattern due to gauge issues and to get the fit I like.
What are your sources of creative inspiration?
Yarn and color. Colors that are bright and cheerful or remind me of flowers or spring or being outdoors are my favorites. Pinks, blues, yellows, greens. Along with the finished object, the sensory experience of the color and feel of the yarn is what brings me joy and fuels my love of knitting.
I also gain inspiration from the incredibly talented women in my knitting group. They are always pushing themselves creatively. I want to do the same, in my own way.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
The ideas in my sketch book are born of desire for a garment and not easily finding the right pattern. One that uses the amount of yarn I have, or yarn weight I want, or highlights the yarn in a way I want it to be highlighted. I have discovered I am not afraid to try making what I want and hopefully others like it too!
Do you have a “secret” knitting tip you are willing to share?
I have two.
My first tip is block along the way for a good fit. I swatch, following all the proper swatch “rules.” Yet the blocked swatch rarely matches the blocked project. I think of the swatch as a guideline and block at least once along the way. I compare the blocked piece to a similar fitting garment in my closet. If it is not working, I make notes about changes I need to make and I start over.
Leading to my second tip, if in your gut you are unhappy with your project, it is not likely to get better by knitting more. Do not be afraid to rip it out and start over. It is only knitting!
What do you enjoy doing when you are not knitting and designing?
I like to be outdoors walking, hiking and cross-country skiing with my husband. I enjoy traveling. I love food, but unfortunately have food sensitivities. I spend a lot of time cooking and make almost everything from scratch. Baking for family and friends bring me joy. I have lots of casual interests, but due to limited time, most of my free time is spent knitting. For me, there are never enough hours for knitting.