Today’s Knit Designer Interview: Jessi Carson is very dear to me. Jessi Carson is the designer behind Olive & Pearl Knits. Jessi was a loyal customer of mine when I operated my brick and mortar yarn shop, The Fiber Closet. I watched her children grow into young adults. Her children were always so patient while Jessi shopped for just the right yarn. In my last Saturday Greetings, I featured Jessi’s hat pattern, Traveling Cross Country.
Knit Designer Interview: Jessi Carson
Tell us a bit about yourself, how you got into knitting, and designing knitwear?
My name is Jessi Carson. I am a beautifully broken Christian, a wife, a mother, an animal lover, a book reader, a word writer, and of course, a knitter. Around 2008, I started knitting when I saw the Dead Fish hat from Knitty and just knew I was going to knit it. I started knitting after 30 years of crocheting and no one to turn to at the time for help.
I used as many resources online as I could, mainly www.knittinghelp.com. Roughly two years or so after figuring out the basics of knitting, I found a Local Yarn Shop in Rockville, and that’s when I met Cheryl. Cheryl was a great help to me when it came to finding yarns, patterns, and even how to do simple things like Magic Loop. After a few more years of knitting, I started swaying from the exact pattern instructions in front of me and creating my little differences. From there, I created my first hat pattern. I never wrote my pattern instructions down, though. I would just knit what felt right and would see how it came out. Two years ago, I decided to write down my patterns so they could be repeated. And, that’s when I created my first knitwear pattern, Quinary.
From there, I have written or charted dozens of knitting patterns, though I have released only about 13 of them so far. I am a firm believer in testing my designs myself and then having others test them for me before I release them on Ravelry and LoveCrafts.
How long does it take to put together a pattern, and what goes into it?
The time it takes to put together a pattern can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to even a few months. Most of my designs are hats and have only taken a couple of weeks from start to finish. However, I have a shawl pattern that I have been working on for months and still have a lot more work to do on it. When I start a design, it is because I have found inspiration somewhere, whether it be from a pattern I have recently knitted and liked a particular knit stitch, to seeing a design someone is wearing and falling for it. Some patterns like my Little Sister’s Braids collection, the inspiration comes from the story behind the design. Once I have a clear idea in my mind of what I want the design to look like, I attempt to draw it out or graph it out in little sketches, then I grab the needles and yarn and start knitting. I write the pattern as I am knitting the prototype. I have filled pages and pages of notebooks with notes and jots and scribbles, which I then have to decipher in the end to type up the pattern on the computer or iPad. From there, I photograph the prototypes to add to the pattern. Then, I start looking for test knitters to test the pattern for accuracy and grammatical errors. Once the testing phase is complete, I adjust the pattern as needed and then determine when I will release it. I’m a very impatient person, so I go right into uploading the pattern to Ravelry.
What skills (besides knitting and math) are essential to knitwear design?
Besides knitting and math, computer knowledge is essential, as well as proper grammar, knowing knitting abbreviations, or where to find them to make sure they are accurate in the pattern. I’m impatient by nature, but patience is definitely virtuous when it comes to designing.
Who has influenced your work, and why?
Lately, my most significant influence has been my sister. My sister and I are very close. I haven’t seen her for three years because she is in the USAF across the world. Because of this, I have taken our story and memories and turned them into my Little Sister’s Braids Collection. Currently, there are two patterns, Jules and Traveling Cross Country, with another one on the way hopefully before the end of the year. But I also am influenced by other knitters, other designs, and other designers. I grow my knowledge of knitwear designs by knitting other designers’ patterns. Different designers can influence a knitter and designer so much with new stitches, construction, and even the thought process behind the design.
How would you describe your design style?
My design style is simplicity. I Like my patterns to be simple enough for the beginning knitter, but eye-catching enough to keep the long-term knitter satisfied.
What is your favorite thing to design?
My favorite thing to design thus far is hats. Hats are a staple in everyday life for almost everyone. Winter is always going on somewhere across the globe, so hats are almost always in need. Many people like to knit for charity, and the homeless, and hats tend to fall into that category more often than not. However, I do not want to stop at just hats. I have one cowl and one headwrap available now, and a shawl in the works. But I take it day by day and will see where this journey takes me.
Describe your workday?
My workday is never the same.
If I have a pattern in testing, it starts with checking chat and emails from my testers. Then I look over the pattern to see what the issues are – it could be as simple as I didn’t double space my lines to as complicated as my math doesn’t add up. I fix errors and work in suggestions as they come.
If I do not have anything being tested, then it starts with my own knitting and looking over my patterns I have worked up at the moment to see if something jumps out at me that needs changing or clarified. Even if I do have my own patterns to work on, I always find time to knit other projects. It is nothing for me to have three or four WIPs going at a time. Right now, I have a bag, a raglan sweater, a headwrap, and a summer sweater as works in progress. These are along with my shawl that I continually work on to perfect the pattern. By the end of the day, I have checked my emails, worked in Pages on my Mac, tested my math and grammar, and been in touch with testers or other knitters.
If I don’t have a test going on, I have checked my patterns on Ravelry and have jotted down any influences or inspirations I have had throughout the day.
What advice can you give new knitters/designers?
I am not a design guru by any means, I am still a novice in my eyes, but something I would recommend is never to stop believing you can design. It might sound like a lot of work, and trust me, it is, but it is so worth it. Just a little bit each day is all it takes.
Write down your thoughts and feelings and turn those notes into stitches. Work your story — research how to produce a pattern online. There are so many resources available to the knitter, crocheter, and aspiring designer. Don’t let fear stop you. It’s so easy just to say’ nope, not right now’ that we give up. But don’t. Push those fears into stitches and see what you can design.
As a knitwear designer, what lessons did you learn that you wish somebody had shared with you?
The lessons I learned are the same lessons I share for other knitters, designers. Don’t give up! Keep pushing forward. You don’t have to be unique, just be yourself. And by all means, just hit submit on the uploaded pattern.
Where are your favorite places to go for tutorials and guides for your knitting? Do you have a tutorial you would recommend?
My favorite places to go to for tutorials is www.knittinghelp.com and YouTube. My favorite YouTuber is Very Pink Knits. She shares clean, clear, and precise tutorials of stitches and patterns on her website and YouTube.
What are your design goals for the upcoming year?
My goal this year is to finish my shawl pattern. It is a simple shawl, but the math and shawl shape itself has baffled me many times. Now, I believe I am where I want to be with it, and I only need to knit it up. But, I too, like most designers, have that fear and question “what if?” I just need to take my own advice and just do it and see how it turns out. When finished, it will be the third installment in my Little SIster’s Braids collection.
What is your best-selling pattern?
I designed it during the beginning of winter for my youngest son, who wanted a simple ribbed beanie. But the other patterns I had tried just weren’t adding up to what I was wanting, so I created my own. It’s a simple 1×1 rib beanie with the new-age look of the pointier top if you don’t block it, or the well-rounded top if blocked. (I recommend always blocking!)
The design you are the proudest of is _______? Why?
I have not seen another pattern that even resembles it in the slightest, so I’m proud of the uniqueness. But I am also beyond proud of it turning out even better than I had imagined with the clean, precise cut lines bordering the cable. The only inspiration for that hat was the story behind it, which I share on my Ravelry pattern page.