Here at ECY Shedquarters we are so lucky to have a wonderful range of designers from all over the world who regularly work with our yarns. We just love seeing the fantastic creations they come up with and it really helps to feed back into the creativity of dyeing. One of our absolute favourites is Liz Corke and as we reflected on the sheer volume of designs and the quality of all of them we knew we had to have a chat with her! This is a fascinating read and really gives you an insight into Liz and her design process.
1. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to become a designer?
I became a crocheter, then a knitter, then very rapidly became a designer in 2012 when I was working as an Assistant Engineer in the oil industry. It was just about as far as you could get from my day job (monitoring corrosion rates on oil rigs) and very quickly took over every waking moment! I started designing when I was taking part in the Harry Potter House Cup Challange on Ravelry - I couldn't find a pattern to match the criteria of the class I wanted to do, so I designed my own pattern to fit (that was Flying Without Wings). From there the ideas just kept coming so I kept knitting them up and sharing them with the world!
2. What’s your favourite garment or accessory to design and why?
Socks and fingerless mitts are my favourites! I love that you have a limited number of stitches to work with, and it's sometimes a challenge to make what I want to do fit into the stitches I have available, but that adds to the fun. They're also pretty quick to write up as a pattern which is always an advantage and quick to knit so I can make more of them!
3. Where do you go to for inspiration? How does this influence what you decide to create within a design?
I get inspiration everywhere! Sometimes I'll see a little detail and have an idea of how I can use it my own way. Sometimes the yarn will inspire me, especially if it has a nature theme. I also have a list of potential pattern names on my pinboard - the word "Tuil-Bheum" meaning a rushing torrent of water was my inspiration for that pattern - a column of flowing rushing lace down one side of a sock! A lot of my patterns have a nature theme too like my Four Seasons of Socks collection which was inspired by the way trees change throughout the year - blossoms in spring, leaves in summer, falling leaves in autumn and the green fir trees for winter. Stitch dictionaries are another source of inspiration for me. Sometimes I fall in love with a pattern and I build a pattern around it, or I'll have a swatch that doesn't work out for one pattern, but I like it too much to give it up, so I stick it on my pinboard until the right pattern for it comes along! And sometimes an idea just pops fully formed in my mind all at once, then later I have to figure out how to make it a reality.
4. Can you tell us about your process when you design a new piece?
I like to start with a sketch of what I want to make. Then I'll make notes on how I think the construction is going to work - which direction I'll knit it in, what shape it's going to be, what stitch to use for the edges, what sort of fibre or yarn weight I want to use, that sort of thing. The next step is choosing the yarn - sometimes I already have the perfect yarn and it's been the inspiration, or I'll look in my stash, or buy something new. Then it's time to choose the stitch pattern. Sometimes I'll look through my books until I find a stitch that matches the vision I have for my design. Sometimes I'll design the pattern from scratch, like the lace I used for Shattered Stars or the cables for Tuinn Bheaga. The next part is charting it out. I start on paper and once I'm sure I've got it right and I'm happy with how it looks I'll make the charts on my computer - this way I can save the image to my phone and always have it with me! The complexity of this varies depending on what I'm making - shawls can take a lot of tinkering to make the lace pattern fit the shape I want while socks are usually fairly easy and just need a nice way to lead from the toe to the lace and then the cuff.
The next step is swatching - I like to use leftovers for my swatching wherever possible, so I look in my scrap basket for any yarn that matches the fibre I'm going to use for the final piece. I'll swatch the various parts I need. With fingerless mitts, I often make a small prototype with a short cuff, the whole thumb gusset and a few rows past that which will let me try it on and make sure the pattern sits on the hand the way I want it to, or with shawls, I'll work a swatch for the body (unless it's plain stockinette) and another swatch for the border pattern. Now I'll start writing the pattern, I'll make notes of the cast on numbers, where the increases go and how many rows I need to do, or any important stitch counts.
Finally, it's time to start knitting! I weigh my yarn before I start so I know what I'm working with. I always leave a 10% yarn allowance in my patterns, so that means when I'm knitting a pattern for one skein of yarn, my sample can only use 90g instead of 100g. It's something I like to keep an eye on, especially when I'm making a shawl. I wind up the yarn and start knitting following the rough pattern I've made and making notes on any changes I make. Sometimes this step goes more smoothly than others! I stop a lot to take photos as I knit so that I'll have them ready for social media posts in the run up to the pattern launch. Once the knitting and blocking is done, I use my notes to write up the pattern and send it off to be tech edited. I fix any errors and put the pattern into testing, then I'll get the photoshoot done. The week before the pattern is released I'll put photos into the pattern, and fix any problems my testers found, then send it off for a final edit before it's released!
5. Who are your favourite designers?
I have so many favourites! Jaya of Apoorva Designs always has the most beautiful shawls and she designs things that just wouldn't occur to me! Woolly Wormhead is always the first place I look for hat patterns. Kavitha Raman and Nidhi of knidhiknits also have beautiful designs and Nidhi's Instagram is just gorgeous to look at! Keri Blumer designs gorgeous sweaters and I've learnt a lot from the patterns of her's that I've knit and I've got a couple of patterns from Jimenez Joseph that I'm really hoping to find the time to knit this year!
7. What’s your nemesis? Are there any techniques that give you the shivers?!
Steeking! I've never tried it, but the thought of deliberately cutting through my knitting is terrifying!
8. How did you first discover Eden Cottage Yarns?
I found Eden Cottage Yarns all the way back in 2012! It's been so long that I don't remember how I found Victoria but it was probably through Ravelry or Google!
9. Does the yarn selection influence what you decide to design? If the answer is yes, in what way?
Yes, absolutely! If I have a yarn with lots of drape like Titus 4ply I want to make use of that so I'll use it for shawls or cowls with lots of lace. Hayton 4ply I almost always make into fingerless mitts because it's so cosy and soft I just want to feel it all the time. For socks I lean towards yarns with nylon in, and for cables, I like something a little plumper like 100% merino or Bluefaced Leicester (which is a huge favourite of mine). Single-ply yarns I mostly use for cowls or shawls - things that won't stress them spoil the yarn.
10. If you had to pick just one ECY yarn and colourway, what would it be and why?
This is such a hard question! Colourway would probably be Tide because I have a super soft spot for blue and it's such a beautiful shade. Yarn would be Hayton 4ply - with that super soft cashmere for everything it would be like living in a cloud!
A huge thank you to Liz for spending the time answering our nosey questions; I hope you've found this as informative and interesting as we did! If you would like to know more about Liz and her work, head over to her website: www.lizcorke.com
You can also find Liz on social media: @lizcorkeknits for facebook and @lizcorke.knits on instagram.