5 minutes with Elizabeth Smith
This week, Elizabeth Smith chatted to us about inspiration, design, and creativity.
When did you learn to knit, and why?
My mom taught me to crochet when I was a teenager, but I didn’t attempt to learn to knit until I was about 23, when I had moved across the U.S from Connecticut to California (funny that I got the urge to learn to knit after moving to sunny, no-wool-anyway southern California!). There weren’t any local yarn shops in my neighborhood, and it was before the days of YouTube (around 2002/2003), so I went to one of the big box craft stores and bought a book whose name was something like “I can’t believe I’m knitting!”. I vividly remember how the outside of it said it had “extra easy instructions” so I thought, what could go wrong!
Well, I couldn’t believe I was knitting because I wasn’t, haha. Trying to learn on my own with just illustrations turned out to not be a great way for my brain to learn – I’m a pretty visual learner so no surprise there. I did eventually find some other books that had photographs that were easier for me to interpret and when I would fly home to visit my parents my mom would help me when I got stuck or had questions. Over time I just worked and worked at it (plus I moved to Maine, a very fiber-friendly community!) and eventually got over the learning curve and haven’t stopped since. My first “official” project was a scarf (with very uneven edges!), and then I moved on to a poncho. The poncho came out ok, but gave me my first lesson in how 100% wool is not machine washable 🙂
Looking for some super quick accessories to knit up this holiday season? My “Last Minute Lucy” collection includes 3 different patterns that use bulky-weight yarn held double on a big needle – you can whip these up in just a night or two! I used @quinceandco Puffin and @malabrigoyarn Chunky and a size 19 needle. #thebrownstitch #knittersofinstagram #chunkyknits #quincepuffin #malabrigochunky
I think most knitters have an experience or two with less-than-helpful knitting books. After you mastered the basics, when did you start to design, and why?
I first started to design 7 – 8 years ago. I got into it because I loved the combination of creativity and math – I’m kind of an Excel nerd, so when I first started designing, I found that I really enjoyed that analytic side of things just as much as the creative side. I also really enjoy writing instructions and finding ways to design modern and fashion-forward garments that are still easy and relaxing to knit. It’s been quite a journey from knitter to designer with a lot of learning along the way.
My very first design was Little Coffee Bean, a seamless baby cardigan. I was really happy with how it turned out and it continues to be a fairly popular pattern. My first attempt at an adult design has never seen the light day though. It was a woman’s vest that buttoned on the sides – cool idea but not so good execution! I think I still have a picture of it somewhere but it really was awful. I learned a lot a lot from it though, especially about fit and yarn choice.
Even though sometimes designs don’t work out the way we want them to, what is your favorite thing to design?
I love to design women’s garments and accessories. I especially like designing vests or similar layering accessories because I personally love to layer (good thing I live in a cold climate like Maine!). I also love that knitters can use more luxurious yarns for these garments but still not break the bank (since they take less yardage than a full cardigan or pullover).
Another new pattern release this week! “Gulf of Maine” is a long infinity cowl that is soft and squishy, knit out of @berrocodesign new yarn Artisan. Pattern link in profile. #thebrownstitch #berrocoartisan #knitting #knittersofinstagram #berroco
A photo posted by Elizabeth Smith (@thebrownstitch) on
If you have any time to knit for yourself, what would you make?
I tend to always be knitting design work, but sometimes I hold onto the sample for myself – my latest design “Ponchetta” is one I may need to hold onto because I think I’ll get a lot of use out of it as we transition into spring weather. I also really need to knit my husband a hat – he often feels like it’s a case of the “cobblers family have no shoes” since he has no hand knit sweaters or accessories but I’m constantly knitting! But every time I see him put on a store-bought, acrylic hat it bothers me (that’s just not right!) so it’s on my list this winter for sure.
If you were a yarn, what would you be?
Hmm, such an interesting question! I’m thinking I would be a blend, perhaps a wool/alpaca blend since I feel like my style aesthetic is very much a blend of rustic and modish. I would definitely be a very natural shade, like a heathered brown (my pattern line is named “The Brown Stitch” after all, so it has to be brown!).
Thank you for talking to us today! If you want to see all designs by Elizabeth Smith, click here – and make sure to follow her on Instagram @TheBrownStitch!
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Last updated: February 25th, 2016.