aka Thea Colman - I'm sure you knew that already though!

We love Thea's work, and have collborated on a number of projects now, so I thought it'd be really nice to celebrate this with a gallery of Thea/ECY projects and a chat to her about her work. It comes at a time when she's just released Pimms Cup on Ravelry as a single pattern - this was part of the Drift Collection which we released in September 2015. On top of that I've got print copies of Dubonnet and Cardamom Rose which I'm putting together into kits.

"V: How did you get into knitting and designing knitwear?

TC: Really, by accident!  I worked in advertising for about 10 years before I had my children, and since my husband did the same thing as me, we couldn't both keep the travel schedules and hours that our jobs demanded, so I was the one to stay home.

I was already knitting and I found a knitting group on Sunday afternoons, when I could leave the baby with my husband and some football and get away for a bit.  Honestly, I had never been good at following directions and always changed my knits around from the original pattern or worked from intuition and I really didn't even know I was starting to "design" my projects until the women in my group kind of informed me."

I think we started with Cardamom Rose - I knew of Thea as I'd made a Vodka Lemonade a couple of years prior and already had most of her patterns queued. So working together to create something was a real honour for me.

Here's my Vodka Lemonade:

Over the years I've seen many Vodka Lemonades in the wild at shows (it's like with cars or clothes - you buy what you think is a relatively unusual colour then suddenly see it everywhere) and they always look great on.

"V: What was the first garment you designed, and what challenges did that bring that you'd maybe not tackled before?

TC: Hmm.  I did a few simple hats and a wrap, and then a cardigan called Golden Vintage.  I think the biggest challenge was just figuring it all out as I went - not only how to write the patterns, but how to put them out there for people to see.  There were not a lot of people self publishing in those days, and my only resources were knitting magazines and the internet.  Knitty existed, and blogs were big, but Ravelry was still a baby.

There was less of a framework for how to get your work out there if you were not able to get something into Knitty or Interweave. I submitted a few things, but it didn't work and I kind of liked the control of doing it myself, even if that was a little harder.  I think of it as a lot of tiny baby steps and I remember it took a ton of patience. I kind of celebrated every single sale and every single FO - and there were not a lot of them."

Cardamom Rose is a gorgeous, textured, squishy cowl made in aran. Thea chose Langdale Aran which is the non-superwash pure merino. I don't really dye it any more but I do dye lots of Langdale Superwash Aran which as you might imagine is the superwash version. It's still buttery soft and deliciously squidgy, and ideally I'd say don't machine wash it. You can do and it won't ruin it, but it's nicer if you can just handwash - lay flat to dry as well so that you retain that lovely bouncy squidginess (you must know what I mean?!).

Thea's cowl is here:

She used Driftwood for the colourway, which I've always thought of as beige but most people describe it as a light pink! Elisemrn on Ravelry also used Driftwood for her cosy cowl:

"V: You use texture a lot in your work; what attracts you or what do you look for in stitch patterns for your work?

TC: It's funny - I think I love anything that looks complex but when you get into it, is not as hard as it looks.  Texture almost always makes me happy for that reason. I think I like things that make distinct "lines".  You can see the pattern in your work and you usually know the moment you miss a stitch, so you can fix it right then.  Also,  I love cable and lace motifs that become intuitive in that way.  I love something with a rhythm to it."

We at ECY went a bit grey-mad with our (beautifully textured) Cardamom Rose cowls.. So here's mine in Charcoal:

And here's Jo aka Shinybees' one also in Charcoal and looking really good with the red coat:

And finally here's another one I made using just one skein (it was a test of baby alpaca/silk aran which I didn't end up stocking but did have this skein to knit up!): 

"V: Designing is your full time job isn't it? What are the challenges and positive payoffs of this for you? There are many people who aspire to do this too - do you have any tips for them?

TC: Yep.  By the time my kids were a little bigger, this seemed more feasible than trying to work part time in advertising.  The biggest payoff is that I love what I do and I love who I get to do this with. I have the freedom to work on projects that excite me and to promote other businesses that I really believe in.  I can be as flexible as is needed for my family.  I'm also pretty fond of the cocktail angle.  

I guess I have a few tips.  First, have a second source of income.  Second, be patient.  Then just keep putting yourself out there and be sure to invest and take the time to be professional about it.  Remember, there's no rush to put out something you are not happy with, and there is never a reason to skip the tech editing or the details that need to be handled."

The next thing we worked on was Dubonnet - this is a cardigan with a gorgeous and cleverly placed lace panel, and... POCKETS! Admittedly I didn't put pockets in mine but that was by accident. Here's Thea's:

She used Oakworth DK for this, with Coppice as the main colour and X for the pocket colour - that only uses 50 yards so you could use a nice little bit of leftover stash for it. The yarn's crispness works really nicely with this design.

Here's mine - I used Oak, and I made my cardi longer (I usually do):

There are some seriously gorgeous Dubbonets on Ravelry too. On the left is Glennae's cardigan in colourway Rambling Rose, and on the right is KidRio's in colourway Steel.

"V: Do you have a particular process for pairing yarns and design ideas? 
Trial and error!
 Have you had any that you've been convinced would work and just didn't?? 
Oh yes, see that "error" above.  I have three sweaters right now in my office that are in timeouts.  They may get frogged and rethought or they may eventually go to a bin in the basement.  Sometimes you just can't tell from a swatch. 
Or any surprises that have worked out amazingly well?
Hmm, yes.  Chocolate Stout was supposed to be something entirely different but when I started working that cable repeat, I just could not stop! "

Thea must have liked Oakworth DK, as she also made her beautiful Olivette sweater/tunic in it. It's published in Pom Pom Quarterly - I do recommend this lovely magazine (it's more of a small book than mag). Here are the original sample pics:

Did you spot it... the tunic version has.. A POCKET! There are loads of really lovely Olivette projects on Ravelry too - here are some of them (these all use Oakworth DK):

So they are: top left - KnittyVickin's top in colourway Driftwood; top-centre - Glennae's top in colourway Briar Rose; right - jarmeblue's top in colourway Fen; bottom-left - alib00's top in colourway Rust; bottom-centre - Becceaknits' top in colourway Apricot Tulip.

"V: Why Baby Cocktails??

TC: It was supposed to be a funny name for a business I was starting with a friend.  We were part of a bunch of women who used to get together in the late afternoons when our babies were little.  It was that time of the day when the day had gotten long and we needed a little pick me up, and we used to call those drinks "babycocktails".  The business never did take off, but I had started blogging under the name and realized it was actually a word I could own.  When you Google BabyCocktails, I'm the only thing that comes up!  There used to be a porn star named Thea Coleman, so I kind of stayed away from using my name.  :)"

I did mention Pimms Cup earlier - well that's Thea's latest release that we've worked on together. The pattern was part of our Drift Collection from September 2015, but the designers all got their pattern rights back after 12 months and so they've been re-releasing the patterns on Ravelry as a result. We do still have Drift books in production - it's a lovely and quite large tome with lots of lovely photography as well as being packed with beautiful patterns. Anyway, Pimms Cup was a really welcome part of this collection, and Thea chose Whitfell DK in Dogwood for it - the red does look good for this pattern. Also, this hat - I swear it suits and fits everyone! It uses Whitfell DK..

There are some really gorgeous Pimms Cup hats on Ravelry - and by the way I did later find out that on the bottle it's actually labelled Pimm's Cup, but since we'd already published it as Pimms and I thought it looked weird with the apostrophe, we left it.

Anyway, from left to right these are (all in Whitfell DK): Ellipsissy's hat in Charcoal; GardeningWitch's hat in Fuchsia; ringarosie's hat in Ebony; and SerenaKate's hat in Laburnum.

I almost forgot that I did also make one in Oakworth DK in Tarn, which has such a heavy bobble on that it drapes more than the Whitfell DK ones do (but it's worth it because BOBBLE!).

(that photo was taken during one of the storms in the Yorkshire Dales in December 2015. I was totally and utterly drenched, despite wearing full waterproofs and snow boots)

"V: Finally, what have you got in the pipeline just now? Any big plans for 2017?

TC: I'm working on a few things I'm excited about.  An ongoing project with a bigger yarn company and a collection with a smaller yarn company right now.  My biggest plan is to save enough money to pay my daughter's college tuition - she was accepted yesterday!! "

HUGE congratulations Thea, that's really good news!

I'll finish with a huge thankyou to Thea, and also to all the lovely knitters who have given me permission to use their images on here, and all your lovely comments in response to my asking for photo permission. I hope it's been an interesting and inspiring post for you.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published