5 minutes with Michele Wang
Designer of all things chic and accessible, Michele Wang is known for her signature classy chic style and versatile knitwear patterns.
Hello, Michele! We love your simple chic knitwear designs – can you tell us how you got started designing?
I started knitting almost 10 years ago in July of 2006. I remember it so clearly. I was talking with a friend about how I wanted to pick up a new hobby and he suggested knitting, knowing I always had an interest in fashion design, textiles and working with my hands. I was getting ready to leave for a long July 4th weekend, and I bought some chunky yarn, huge plastic needles and a DVD on how to learn to knit.
I suspect like most, I couldn’t put down my needles! I finished knitting the tightest, bulkiest, garter stitch scarf that long weekend. I was immediately obsessed and fixated on knitting. I loved creating stitches, watching the yarn pull through the loops one at a time and I started scouring the internet and learning as much as I could from all the blogs and videos that were popping up.
I remember coming across a KAL that a blogger was hosting. I loved the pattern, so I bought some yarn and dove in. It was not the best pattern for a beginner. There was a lot of finishing, and eventually I frogged the project for many reasons – one of which was that my gauge was off. But I met two fantastic people through that KAL and they’re good friends to this day. Anyway, I also started taking some classes and met a wonderful designer who introduced me to sample knitting. It’s been an interesting windy road, but eventually I began to design myself.
Above: A shot from Michele’s Instagram
What does a typical day look like for you?
Since I started working for myself from my home, I’ve been trying to create a schedule and routine. It’s been difficult because once you work for yourself you wear so many hats. But in a fairly typical day, the first thing I do is sit down and go through e-mail. Some days I answer immediately, and some days I need some breathing room and reply to emails later. When I have a lot of designs in the works, I’ll be communicating with yarn companies or editors quite a bit regarding yarn choices, design elements and timelines. Most design work is done on the computer, so I spent the majority of my days charting out stitch patterns, creating schematics and proofing patterns. When I do have a spare moment, I love to sit down and swatch with some new yarn – swatching has become an indulgence. It’s a necessary step when coming up with a design, but I don’t get to do it as often as I like.
Interestingly enough, now that I work from home and work much longer hours than I did when I had a corporate job, I have to remind myself to get up, walk around and stay active. So I try to exercise midday before lunch, or in the evenings which forces me to end my workday.
In an average day, what inspires you most?
My inspiration has always been a combination of the knitter and the yarn. I like to look at the yarn and imagine what type of knitter would be attracted to that yarn, and go from there. And when I say yarn, I not only mean the physical yarn, but also the yarn company and what they have projected themselves to be. Every company has a personality which flows through the yarn and it attracts a certain person. I’m inspired by what I can imagine that person to be and what they’d like to knit and wear.
Do you ever have time to knit for yourself amongst all of your designing?
I do wish I had more time to knit for myself. But when I am able to cast-on for some selfish knitting, I tend to go for simple seamed pullovers. I find I would wear those the most, and because I’m a terrible in-public knitter, I need something simple. I can’t even watch television or listen to an audiobook when I knit. But if I’m knitting some stockinette, I can bring it along on trips, or when I knit with friends – which is one of the reasons I like seamed sweaters; the pieces are much more portable.
If you were a yarn, what would you be?
Ha – this is a great question! I would be a Yak yarn. I’m incredibly fond of yak fiber. When I started spinning, I fell in love with it. I feel like it’s very misunderstood. I think people assume it’s going to be a very coarse fiber, but it’s the opposite. It’s very fine, soft and incredibly warm. Not to say I feel misunderstood, but I do like the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.”
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Last updated: April 7th, 2016.