Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Meet SHELTER & PRAIRIE BLISS Designer Elizabeth Cobbe

Hey Y'all,
The HCW Prairie Bliss pattern collection-- a follow up to the super awesome SHELTER collection-- is currently being released, pattern by pattern. Designer Elizabeth Cobbe has beautiful designs in both collections. For the SHELTER collection, she created Sarah Rose, pictured here. Her two new patterns for the Prairie Bliss collection are:

Vineyard Rows
A gorgeous short sleeve pullover worked in Alchemy Kozmos and Alchemy Silken Straw
Rockabilly Soft
A sweet cardigan worked in four different shades from The Fibre Company Road to China Light.

The new patterns haven't been released yet, but they will be soon. For now you can get sneak peeks at them over in our Online Look Book.

Elizabeth Cobbe
Meanwhile, while you wait to get your needles on a copy of the patterns, here's an interview with Elizabeth Cobbe:

HCW: How long have you been knitting?
EC: Since 2001

HCW: Why do you love knitting?
EC: Aside from being a counterbalance to various mental instabilities... I'm also a writer, and I appreciate very much that knitting is so much more reliable than writing in terms of predicting the output. Now, before anybody protests, yes, I too have encountered the devastation of the Swatch That Lies. But dude: at least in knitting you CAN swatch. If someone can tell me how to swatch a play or novel, I'm all ears. Of course, there are many parallels between the writing process and the design process. You learn though experience how to use your tools and your material, and then it's a series of problem solving. How do I make my cable go sideways? How do I create a villain who is sympathetic? Then, at that point, it's just getting your butt in the chair to carry through - miles of stockinette, or the chapter you just have to get down on paper somehow if you're ever going to get to the next one.

HCW: How did you come to be part of this project?
EC: Dumb luck? In fact, Suzanne saw pictures of my very first sweater design (Meryton) on Ravelry, and she kept me in mind when the idea arose for the Shelter design project. To say that I'm flattered and honored to be in such talented and more experienced company is an understatement.

HCW: How'd you name your pattern Sarah Rose?
EC: Originally, I called it South Congress, but when I realized they'd be sold outside of Austin, where the phrase "South Congress" means pretty much nothing, I switched it to something that I hope is evocative of simple yet feminine, contemporary yet rooted.

HCW: What inspired your design?
EC: The yarn. Shelter is a very "grounded" sort of yarn, with moderate colors and a tweedy texture. In some ways, it's quite masculine. Also, it's wool, which to a Texan means that layers are wise. From there, the design is a balancing act. Tweedy jackets aren't usually shapely and feminine, so I created a jacket with curved lines and a lace edging. I'm also a fan of bloused sleeves, which are far easier to make then you'd think. The herringbone band at the waist is there to give it a hint of the kind of boxy structure one typically associates with a tailored jacket. I was aiming for something that encapsulates what I love best about Austin fashion: the ability to take something that in other contexts can be pretty dull, and add just enough frill to give that no-nonsense version of femininity that Austin women exude: "Sure, I'm a pretty girl, but these boots can kick your ass."

HCW: What obstacles did you encounter?
EC: Nearly blew a fuse trying to figure out those curved front corners - my studio is littered with silly-looking swatches of bizarre shapes from when I was testing out techniques. Also, figuring out the numbers for different sizes is enough to challenge a rocket scientist, which I most definitely am not. I'm so grateful to our excellent tech editor Elizabeth Sullivan for her invaluable assistance with sizing.

HCW: How do you like SHELTER?
EC: ADORE. First of all, you'd think it might be scratchy, but it is not. I am guilty of wearing my sample for one evening before I had to turn it over to HCW, and it bothered me precisely not one bit - and my neck and face are quite sensitive to even high-quality wools. Secondly, the yarn held up to multiple frog-and-restarts. (Not that I'd know about that, because I am a perfect designer who always gets the results she plans for.) I ripped out one section in particular about three times, and it was like the yarn turned around and said, "Oh please. Honey, I'm just gettin' started." Oddly enough, however, the yarn didn't spit-splice well at all.

HCW: If you could design any project, and actually have time to knit it, what would it be?
EC: I have this blanket idea. It's all mathematical and stuff. You'd love it, you really would.

HCW: How long did it take you to knit the prototype for your design?
EC: I crammed that thing into a single month, plus a few extra days to frog and restart the collar. I'm not a fast knitter at all; it nearly broke me.

HCW: What else would you like to tell us?
EC: I have more designs in my head than I have time to construct. Just think what the world is missing out on by forcing me to have a day job. (Stupid mortgage.)

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