Lesley Anne Robinson of Knit Graffiti has made a name for herself in the knitting world with her visually pleasing patterns, primarily using two-colour brioche. Her designs have been featured on the blog more than once, both in The Bucket List: Shawls and The Bucket List: Brioche posts, and every time a new design of her’s comes out I never cease to be amazed at the wonderful things she can create! Her designs are a big part of the reason I learned to knit two-colour brioche over a year ago! Of course, I was beyond pleased when Lesley agreed to this interview, and in our emailing back and forth, I could feel her positivity and passion for what she does shine through. This interview is full of gems of creativity and inspiration, and make sure to read till the end to enter the giveaway, with a grand prize of a Feel Good Yarn Co. kit of Silverspun Sock yarn with Lesley’s latest pattern release – Organic Angles!
Don’t be surprised if you feel compelled to learn brioche after reading!
How long has knitting been a part of your life?
Knitting has been a part of my life on and off since I was a child, when I knit my first blanket for my doll. It was pink (what a surprise) and garter stitch and I loved it! I didn’t really touch yarn or needles again until I went away to college and was introduced to the Fiber Arts. I attended the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, Michigan, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Interior Design in 2006, and a Minor in Fiber Design. CCS is a very craft-heavy school, and I was required to take a fibers class for my Interiors degree. Little did I know we would actually be MAKING the fibers, learning all the different techniques used to create the fabric I was specifying and using in my designs! It was a very basic course, we learned how to knit, weave, sew, crochet, dye, and felt. But it was enough of an introduction for me to know that I wanted more! I enrolled in the Fibers minor program and was immediately hooked. I actually did a lot more weaving in college, and only a small amount of knitting. When I graduated, I started knitting a lot more, following patterns and creating some of my own. So…the short answer is about 11 years, but obsessively for the past 3 years!
What are your favorite hobbies when you’re not knitting?
When I’m not knitting or working on the administrative end of my business, I am also an Interior Designer! I’m not sure that counts as a hobby, but I also do freelance design work for the interior design firm where I worked for many years in NYC. We also just purchased our first home last year, so I have made it a hobby to work on fixing it up in my spare time. Our house was built in the late 70’s, and was NEVER updated in that time! So you can imagine, we have our work cut out for us. But it’s so much fun, and I enjoy daydreaming and planning all the creative ways we can make this house our home. I also love cooking, taking care of plants, playing board games with my family, and I’ve recently started sewing my own clothes, which is kind of addicting. If only I had more time to do it! I guess that’s why they call it slow fashion, right?
What led you to first make the leap in designing knitwear?
I would have to say, brioche knitting!! When I first found brioche, I became deeply obsessed, and it hasn’t really gone away. I wanted to knit myself a one-color squishy brioche hat for the cold Michigan winters, but I didn’t really find any patterns that I loved, or that fit the vision in my head. So, with a little push from my knitting friends, and with the help from Nancy Marchant’s book, Knitting Fresh Brioche, I designed my first pattern, Pink Graffiti!
So many of your designs feature beautiful brioche! How did you learn this challenging technique? Any advice for other knitters wanting to learn brioche?
Yes, as I said above, brioche is what got me into designing! I was utterly fascinated with it, and it’s quite a funny story how I found out about it. I have long been knitting for my family, and my husband (who is a philosopher, and is always challenging me to think in new and different ways) asked if there was such a thing as vertical striping! I was immediately intrigued (and was still a little new to the knitting scene), and started researching. Not long after I started my research, I stumbled upon two-color brioche, and some projects created by Purl Soho. Their use of neutrals and neons just grabbed me, and I knew I needed to learn this amazing technique. I downloaded Stephen West’s free pattern, Ferocious Briocheous, and cast on with some stash yarn. This was such a great first project, because it’s miles of one-color brioche, and really helped me to develop the muscle memory. Not long after I started this project, I received Knitting Fresh Brioche as a Christmas present! The book had just been published, and Nancy was hosting a Willow shawl KAL, I was in!! And I never looked back, it has taken me on a journey that has challenged me to think outside the box, and has also inspired me beyond my wildest dreams.
I believe that knitters of all levels can learn brioche, and love it. One-color brioche is a great place to start, because you don’t have to think about two different yarns, yet your hands will still learn the movements of brioche. Two-color brioche is definitely easier to see the anatomy of the stitches, but takes a little getting used to sliding your work back and forth. I am so accustomed to brioche knitting that when I’m NOT knitting brioche, I will randomly throw in a yarn over, or just slide my work to the other end of my needle! And then I’ll realize that I’m not briocheing, haha. There are some fantastic resources out there, Craftsy classes, www.briochestitch.com, and also be sure to check out The Unapologetic Knitter’s website and blog for some great video tutorials. I am also working on a few things for the future of brioche knitting and teaching, so stay tuned!! I can’t quite share them with you yet.
That is so exciting to hear about – I know I would love to see more brioche tutorials out there! So, where does the inspiration for your patterns come from?
Each project is completely different!! Sometimes I’m inspired by the yarn itself: the colors, the texture, the speckles. Sometimes I’m inspired by a pattern that I’ve seen: in nature, in fabric, or even a stitch pattern. Or sometimes they’re inspired by something completely in the moment, like my Rebel shawl and Carrie Fisher, which was inspired by her memory as Princess Leia.
My favorite kind of inspiration is when I am collaborating with another designer or yarn dyer, and we come up with an idea together. That’s when the true magic happens. My Dandelion Fields shawl design was inspired by the yarn dyer, Peepaloo Fields, who told me that to her, brioche always resembles dandelions opening up to seed.
What do you struggle with most as a knitwear designer?
Finding the time to knit all the things I dream about!!! Isn’t that what we all struggle with, though? I am very grateful that I have so many ideas, and that I have found my true passion. Right now, I am what you would call a Work-At-Home-Mom, taking care of our two small children as well as working from home. It’s quite amazing that we have been able to do this, and is another thing I am so grateful for. My oldest son will be starting Kindergarten this fall, and I sort of feel like it’s going to be a game changer! And with my husband’s flexible schedule (he’s a Philosophy Professor, so has a lot of time off), I do get ample time to work. But why doesn’t it feel like enough sometimes?? Well, it’s all about finding the perfect balance between working, playing, and resting. I’m still trying to find it.
What do you love the most about knitting?
Knitting for me is a total release. It is how I cope with the world around me, whether I’m exhausted, grieving, extremely happy, or frustrated. It is so relaxing, and design makes it also exciting. There are endless options with knitting, so many millions of ways to manipulate a piece of yarn with two needles, it is so fascinating. I like to imagine the people who invented knitting, and be a fly on the wall while they were coming up with the basic stitches to create the clothing they needed to wear every day. Can you imagine?
If you could knit anywhere in the world, where would you knit?
Ooooh if I could choose one place right at this very moment, it would be Paris, France. I have never seen that glorious city, but my heart has been there. The romance, the art, the lights, the air. It all just seems like it would be the most perfect place to create something unforgettable. I also long to visit the quaint yarn shop, La Bien Aimée, and see all of their amazing yarn in person and sit and drink tea and speak French. Sigh, c’est la vie.
That does sound amazing! Do you have any advice for knitwear designers trying to break into the field?
My advice is, just go for it!! If you have an idea that you love, or something important you want to say through your art, start creating and see where it takes you! Designing has been such a great learning experience for me, and I am still learning new things every day. It’s a way to broaden your horizons, burst out of your comfort bubble, and share your ideas with the world. Find your niche, what do you love the most? Is there a certain stitch pattern that you’re drawn to again and again? Colors that you love, and reflect who you are inside? Use them!! Use them all together to create a wearable piece of art that you will never want to take off! The design field can seem intimidating at first, there are so many designers, and so many designs out there. But I say, there is room for all of us!! Especially with this growing world and social media, enabling us to communicate with people across the globe.
Designing knitwear is a way to broaden your horizons, burst out of your comfort bubble and share your ideas with the world
– Lesley Anne Robinson of Knit Graffiti
What’s next? Any exciting upcoming projects, collaborations, etc. that you’d like to share with us?
I have some pretty exciting projects coming up for this Fall / Winter!! I have a new garment in testing, using Primrose Yarn Co‘s gorgeous yarns. And another exciting collaboration with House of A La Mode yarn and Kitterly, coming this holiday season!!
Thank you so much for this inspiring interview, Lesley! Lesley has also very generously offered to give away one free pattern of her newly released Organic Angles brioche hat to readers of the blog, and thanks to the generosity of the Feel Good Yarn Co., one grand prize of a Silverspun Sock Yarn Kit to knit the pattern! Read on for the details of how to enter.