A few months ago I participated in the #initiateknitdesign challenge organized by Francoise Danoy from Aroha Knits. During this 10 day challenge, aspiring knitwear designers and fiber enthusiast learn the methods used by Francoise Danoy used in knitwear designs.
Being part of Aroha Knits "fibre muse sanctuary facebook group" has given the opportunity to learn, connect and admire new knitwear designers. Today, I want you to meet the talented and lovely Amanda Leah, knitwear designer of daisy chain knits who was also part of the #initiateknitdesign challenge.
- Hi Amanda, could you please tells us a bit about you? How long have you been knitting?
When I was a kid, I had big dreams that changed boldly and frequently. My career aspirations were scattered across professions and industries. The things that lit me up were things that helped others grow and explore themselves, or explore something that they felt they couldn't or shouldn't learn. It’s so rewarding to see the light bulb of understanding in someone’s eyes when a new concept clicks for the first time. I love helping them discover the spark of adventure in learning, encouraging them to connect with a piece of their purpose and express a little bit more of their unique and beautiful view of the world.
My purpose is to share my journey as a knitter in the hopes of inspiring others to discover their knitting adventure and empowering them to embark on quests to explore their knitting potential. I create self-contained knitting patterns and resource suites to help encourage and support knitters. These challenges help push knitters out of their comfort zone and reward their triumphs. We owe it to ourselves to pursue our dreams. I want to help others learn how to build their skills, and develop the confidence to take action. Pushing through and proving to yourself that you can is the most liberating feeling of achievement.
My family is very crafty. My grandma quilts, sews, crochets, and knits. My grandma and I are left-handed but she was forced to be right-handed as a child. When I was young, she was able to teach me the knitting and crochet basics leftie-style. I twisted my stitches for a long time, because I wrapped my purls the wrong way. One day I came across a ktbl (knit through the back loop) and was very confused, because I already knit through the back loop. That led me to research why, and then I realized that there’s a whole technical side to knitting that I hadn’t known existed before. That’s when my love for knitting became a full-on obsession.
I believe that knitting is science, art, and a touch of heart woven together. Knitting is best when it’s personal and when your stitches tell your story. It is both comforting and a fulfilling adventure. Knitting connects us with our ancestors, allows us to focus on the present in a meditative way, and allows us to connect with our self-trust, self-worth, and who we want to be in the future.
- What made you decide to take that next step and start designing knitting patterns?
I like to color outside the lines a bit. When I started knitting, if there was something I found odd or that lacked flow in a pattern, I would modify it so that it was to my liking. I enjoyed knitting, and I wanted to scout out a new path by designing my own patterns. I designed knitted packaging for gift cards which added a nice homemade touch to them. They were such a hit with the people I gave them to, I decided to publish the designs on Ravelry. I published the designs for free because I built them mostly for myself, but I wanted other people to benefit from them as well.
I recently made the shift to knitwear design full-time and changed my brand name to daisy chain knits, since it is easier for people to remember and pronounce. When I was a child, my family used to travel up to Manistee, Michigan to visit my great-great aunt. There was this otherworldly forest behind her house. I have fond memories of making chains out of daisies, wearing them as crowns, and feeling like a woodland elf scout while traipsing through the forest. "Daisy chain" has warm memories tied to it, and also embodies the spirit of adventure and freedom that I want to bring to knitters through my patterns, challenges, and resources. My Woodland Passage collection, which includes the Terra Firma set, is also inspired by those visits. I want knitters to escape the everyday knitting routine when they knit a daisy chain knits pattern. Knitters are able to explore new skills while savoring their creative journey and making beautiful things.
- What is your design process? Do you look at the yarn first and then think about the pattern? How do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes from memories, experiences, and connecting with the world around me. I usually come up with a theme and a feel for a collection, and use that as inspiration for the pieces. For example, the in-progress Woodland Passage collection is inspired by my adventures in the forest as a child and embodies the warmth and nostalgia of happy memories. I am inspired by the different layers of the forest and the different personalities and textures between the forest floor, the understory, the canopy, and the emergent layer. Terra Firma was inspired by moss, pinecones, and leaves that you see on the ground while running through the forest, and the diamonds symbolize the interconnected path of how our past leads us to the present.
I sketch multiple concepts, select stitch patterns to match or create ones to fit, and do some initial math and swatching to see if it will work. This process will include different materials, plies, weights, and colors of yarn. I usually build the pattern while knitting the sample, and incorporate solutions for any issues that come up along the way. I keep in mind the knitters' experience through this, since I want every pattern I put out to be a worry-free experience for the knitter. I know how frustrating it is second-guessing yourself and then realizing the issue you're having is a mistake in the pattern. I want to avoid that, which is why I have all of my patterns tech edited and tested.
Test knitting is so valuable and I greatly appreciate the knitters that test knit my designs. They go through and knit the pattern and let me know any confusing areas, unclear areas, and areas that need to be improved to make sure that the knitters that buy the pattern have the best experience possible. This includes everything from the actual knitting, to the pattern layout and flow. I take their feedback and questions seriously because if they have a question, I know other knitters will have that thought or question too. These designs would not be what they are without the test knitting process and feedback.
Something new I'm doing is also recording video resources for tricky areas in the patterns. For example, the Terra Firma scarf pattern coming out starts in the lengthwise center of the scarf with Judy's Magic Cast On. If a knitter is feeling ambitious, I'm including a video for how to drop down and redo some of the stitches to be purls instead of knits on the second half of the scarf. This makes the seed stitch texture flow better between halves and prevents the small two-row knit 'seam' between the first half and second half of the scarf.
- What is Knitventure?
Knitventures are knitting experiences for brave or want-to-be brave knitters who are ready to explore their potential in the knitting world. I'm building a pattern and challenge library that is designed to be a fun, progressive, and exploratory way to master new techniques, with resources and a support system to help break through the intimidating details.
Knitventures are a way to escape from your everyday reality and take a mental vacation. While I'm knitting, I love to think about the story behind the pattern and daydream. With Terra Firma, I can reminisce about the rush of running through the forest and the energy in the air as scattered light dances around.
Knitventurers join me on a journey outside their comfort zone where they can escape the everyday knitting routine. With quests and rewards, it becomes a motivational and meaningful hobby rather than just a way to pass the time. Mastering new techniques brings a rewarding cycle of achievement. The more new skills a knitter learns, the more they reinforce that they can conquer any knitting technique. This serves as a catalyst for knitters to embrace their potential and master their abilities. This momentum carries over into their real-world lives by encouraging them to overcome their fears and self-doubt and embark on new adventures.
- Where can people find you?
You can find Amanda and daisy chain knits in the following places:
Knitventure Society Newsletter & Facebook Group: bit.ly/KnitventureSociety
Ravelry Group: bit.ly/daisychainknitsravelry
Facebook Page: bit.ly/daisychainknitsfacebook
I hope you enjoyed learning about Amanda and her design process as much as I did. The terra cowl design is just gorgeous and a must have. Happy Knitting!