Maker Spotlight: Gift of Knitting (and a Pattern Giveaway!)

Alina of Gift of Knitting has been one of my main sources of inspiration ever since I discovered her beautifully crafted blog over a year ago. She is incredibly skilled in the art of knitting, and has published a number of beautiful designs that are on my to-knit list, such as the Journey Sweater  and the Choice Cardigan.  

Her most recent release is the Heritage Sweater: a beautiful sweater pattern that is knit from the top-down, with the yoke shaped as a compound raglan. It features two eye-catching traveling cables that flow down the middle portion of the sweater from either side, approaching each other at the hem.

Alina has generously offered a free pattern to giveaway to one of my readers! Read to the end of the post for details 🙂 

Alina’s blog is full of knitting inspiration and lovely photography, and a particular favorite of mine is her World Crafters series. Each crafter that she interviews is so wonderfully innovative and unique, and it is so inspiring hearing how they were able to get started and follow their dreams. Alina interviews a wonderfully diverse bunch of World Crafters from around the world, such as La Reserve Design from Montreal  and Apollinariya of Slovenia. I guess it’s not surprising that that I enjoy her blog so much, given our common love of knitting and travel! 

Of course I was extremely pleased when Alina agreed to an interview with me – so without further ado, here goes!

Tell me the story of how you first learned to knit.

It was probably the worst year of my life. I graduated from the university and wasn’t sure if I wanted to do what I was trained for, at least in the existing system; I got problems with my health and ended up in the hospital; I was having difficult time with my family… Anyway, after months of grey and gloomy days that all seemed the same, I woke up one morning and all of a sudden remembered I could crochet. I called my Granny and we went to my very first yarn shop. It was the tiniest place with lots of acrylic cheap yarn on the shelves, but for some reason I felt happy there. It was such a weird feeling… Since then I became obsessed – was crocheting every single free minute of my day, was waking up early to catch up on my projects, bought innumerable issues of Vogue Knitting and learned how to knit…  Now I am so incredible grateful for this year in my life, because if not for that maybe I would never pick up knitting, which is such an important part of my life right now that brings me so much joy!

You have such a natural ability to design beautiful patterns! How long did you knit for before starting to design patterns, and what made you decide to get into knitwear design?

Thank you so much! It’s funny that you mention this word – “natural”, because I definitely don’t consider myself natural at writing patterns, I would say it is just a combination of my love (read: obsession) with knitwear, practice, lots of work and support and encouragement of the knitting community.

I started knitting right after graduation from the university, and always loved experimenting more than following patterns step-by-step; I never kept any notes and was always designing on the needles, “on the go”. I’ve been doing just hobby knitting for several years. But when I started the blog and began sharing my projects, I got so many emails from people asking if they could get a pattern for this or that project. I always tried to help them as much as I could to recreate some of my pieces. The initial idea for the blog was just inspiration – I really wanted people to enjoy the content on the blog and feel inspired to work with yarn, but at some point I realized that it would be great to give further life to my projects, not just in form of inspiration, but the actual instructions that people can use to recreate things that I loved working on. So, I decided to do it “officially”, with proper instructions, test knitting and professional editing.

Many knitwear designers and bloggers design knitwear on the side, whilst keeping up a full-time job. Are you one of those people? How do you find a balance between work life and designing knitwear?

I have a teaching degree and have been working as a teacher all my life. But this year I am doing something completely different and out of my comfort zone – there is a new company in town that is working with amazing fashion/textile designers from all over the world. I am helping them with the website and the content. Knitting has also taken over my life in an unexpected way and to be honest it is hard to say which one is my “day job” right now – I work every single day, from morning till night and I forgot when I had a proper full day off. My workaholic self is quite happy about that :), but I also realize that I will have to figure out the way how to actually live a life and have at least one day off a week. Hopefully I will be able to find the balance soon.

Where would be your ultimate knitting destination?

I’ve been thinking about it and, you know, I realized that I don’t want to have the “ultimate” goal/destination in knitting. I am so driven by knitwear, fiber and this community that my ultimate goal is not to lose this drive and love for what I do, ever. It’s such an important part of my life and I want to have this “anchor” for many many years to come. And all the rest is not that important – life is so unpredictable, you never know where it will take you.

Describe your idea of a perfect day.

I love the weekend routine. Wake up at dawn, 5 – 5:30; light up the candle and stretch for 10 minutes, it’s such a great way to start a day! Knit for a couple of hours, write a blog post, have breakfast in town, walk, meet with friends; come back home, read, lots of knitting and blogs browsing for inspiration with great music on, go to the gym to clear my head and a little bit more knitting/reading before going to bed. Simple little things make me really happy.

Are you a selfish knitter or do you prefer to knit for others? Who are your favorite people to knit for?

I guess both. I love building my own knitwear wardrobe, but it is always such a joy to present your handknits to your dear ones. My favorite people to knit for are my “girls”: Granny Lidia, Granny Eugenia and my Mom. I live so far from them, so when I am making something, it feels like the distance between us gets smaller.

I love that you also know machine knitting! Tell us more. What kind of a knitting machine do you have, how did you come to own one, and do you plan on releasing any machine knitting patterns in the future?

I have a very simple knitting machine – LK150 by Silver Reed. Once I met a woman who was doing machine knitting almost all her life, she didn’t make anything super fancy and elaborated, just simple oversize sweaters in lightweight cotton yarn, but I fell in love with her work and was really inspired to get into machine knitting. I did a very thorough research before buying one, because it is not the cheapest tool to have, so I wanted to be 100% sure that this is something I’d enjoy doing. Quite a lot of people are asking me about machine knitting patterns for the projects I’ve made; unfortunately I don’t really have time for it right now, but I promise to do my best and release at least one machine knitting pattern as soon as I can. 🙂

Are there any knitting techniques that are on your bucket list to learn?

All of them, haha 🙂  I want to explore as much as I can in hand knitting, machine knitting, crochet… Right now I am more interested in exploring construction methods.

What do you do while you knit? (i.e. listen to audiobooks, podcasts, t.v. shows …)

It depends on what I knit. If it’s a pattern, I need the silence, or very subtle piano music, otherwise I get distracted. If I knit on the knitting machine, then I love listening to music loudly. And if it’s just a relaxing knitting time, then I either listen to a podcast or audiobooks, or watch movies/shows…

How long does the average pattern take you to finish?

It depends on the pattern, of course. I am very, very critical about all my ideas. So, the preparation process takes a while – I can swatch literally for weeks, before I catch this “aha” moment. It never took me less than 2 months to finish the pattern.

Do you have any favorites podcasts / t.v. shows / etc. you listen to while knitting that you’d recommend?

Podcasts – I love Woolful a lot; t.v. shows – I tend to watch old shows that have been over for many years, for example, recently I finished watching “ER”. I also enjoy watching rhythmic gymnastics competitions 🙂 I know it might be weird, but I just love the combination of music, dancing and sport mastery of gymnasts. My music taste is very diverse – I listen everything from Bach to Shakira, depends on my mood. My recent find is the last album by LP, her voice is just mesmerizing!

What would be your best advice for knitting bloggers and knitwear designers trying to break into the field?

I am afraid I won’t be original – you have to really, really love what you do and work hard for any dreams/goals you have. There will always be moments when it feels like nothing is happening, no matter how hard you work, but you just keep swimming and sooner or later it will all fall in its own place. At least this is what I believe.

Thank you so much Alina for sharing your passion for knitting and insightt, and letting us have a peek into your life as a knitwear designer. It sounds like there will be many exciting things for us to look forward to from you!

Gift of Knitting Pattern Giveaway Details:

As I mentioned above, Alina has offered one free pattern to giveaway to readers of this post as well another pattern in a separate giveaway on Instagram! To enter, here is what you have to do:

  • Leave a comment on this post that includes your Ravelry username and your favorite pattern from the Gift of Knitting that you would love to knit up!
  • Entries must be entered by Wednesday May 17 8:59pm PST / 11:59pm EST

Winner will be announced on Thursday, May 18 at 7am PST / 10am EST!

All photos copyright of the Gift of Knitting.