Last month, Ginger Twist Studio had the pleasure of featuring Karie Westermann as Designer of the Month. With all of the holidays and hullabaloo of December, the designer interview was delayed. I have just had the distinct disappointment of returning all her samples, which were on display in the shop all December. Can’t I just keep them all?! Okay, maybe not. So without further ado, here is a closer look at the swell Karie Westermann. Grab yourself a cuppa and read on.
GINGER TWIST STUDIO: I always find it interesting to hear of people’s very beginnings with the needles or hook. Please grab yourself a cuppa and share with us the tale of how you came to knit.
KARIE WESTERMANN: I was taught to knit by my great-grandmother when I was five or six years old. I don’t remember not being able to knit, actually! I grew up in rural Denmark – mine was the local arty family. Everybody was creative in one way or another. We never had much money, but there was a steady supply of handmade garments, knitted jumpers and interesting paintings. Of course my family still obsessed over football results and pop music, but there was a definite and pervasive sense of self-expression and creative exploration. I learned to knit, crochet and sew as a very young girl and I have never really stopped wanting to make stuff.
GTS: When and how did this turn from a hobby/cool new thing you learned into a career?
KW: It happened gradually. I got into designing when I worked for a yarn company and they needed a quick project to sell some leftover beads. My pattern did really, really well for them. Then in 2011 Lilith of Old Maiden Aunt Yarns (who’s a good friend) was launching a new yarn line at a prestigious London event and pressured me into doing my first self-published design. And that pattern did really well too. I began thinking that maybe I should look at doing more design work and now I’m a full-time self-employed knitting designer. It’s amazing.
GTS: Do you have a particular design you are especially proud of creating?
KW: I’m proud of them all, although my first self-published design (The Karise Shawl) is a favourite for obvious reasons. I’m also really, really proud of what I managed to do with the Doggerland collection. It is inspired by land art, psychogeography and Mesolithic archaeology which are hardly regular sources of inspiration for knitting, but I think I made it work.
GTS: You have recently come out with your first garment design. Could you tell us a wee bit about it?
KW: I designed the Scollay cardigan for Knit Now magazine. It is a bottom-up, seamless cardigan with a detailed yoke. I wanted to design a real wardrobe staple – a “go-to” cardigan – because I have a lot of knitted garments in my wardrobe that only work with one or two outfits (which is very frustrating). I named the cardigan after podcaster and friend Louise Scollay who loves go-to cardigans as much as me.
GTS: Wool and natural fibres are amazing. You appear to use natural fibres for all of your lovely designs. Why?
KW: I am a big fan of the Island Wool Company and Blacker yarns – both companies provide yarns that full of character and charm. I’m really drawn to yarns that are relatively underprocessed. I like yarns that feel ‘alive’ in my hands as I work with them and that help me tell a story.
GTS: Where do you look for inspiration?
KW: Inspiration is all around if you look. It’s possible to find inspiration in the most unlikely places. I really love a specific pedestrian footpath over the motorway here in Glasgow – its combination of colour and form is extraordinary. I also love Pinterest as I can create moodboards on all kinds of topics: colours, textures, themes. There is a definite Scandinavian aesthetic and it is hugely important to me both as a designer and as a crafter: it involves a controlled palette, it is fairly minimalist, and it is decidedly non-fussy. I’m a big fan of clean lines and I can spend a lot of time thinking about the right shade of off-white! Finally, I love art and find that museums/art galleries are rich sources of inspiration.
GTS: So what other things are you interested in (other than knitting of course!), and do you have any hidden talents you would like to share?
KW: I am a huge Eurovision Song Contest geek which always tends to surprise people! I am also a bit of a trivia nerd which makes me fiercely competitive at Trivial Pursuit and pub quizzing. Early 20th century arts and culture, all things New Zealand, and I really like painting.
GTS: Cats or dogs?
KW: Dogs! Although I am worried I’ve become allergic to both cats & dogs.
GTS: Tea or coffee?
KW: I’m an equal-opportunity beverage drinker. Coffee for waking me up and tea to keep me company throughout the day. I’m currently a bit addicted to licorice tea.
GTS: What is coming up next?! Any exciting plans for 2015 or beyond?
KW: Well, I’m currently doing research on my next big collection – it is still in the early stages and I’m trying to get a hold on what I’m doing and how. It’ll take a while. In the meantime I’m going to release a series of patterns loosely inspired by my favourite authors and artists. It was important for me that I got to do something that felt ‘looser’ and more playful in the run-up to the next collection. I also have some things in the pipeline that requires a lot of work behind the scene and some funding applications, so 2015 isn’t exactly quiet! I’ll be doing my customary teaching, writing, and commissions on top of all this.
But I’m just really looking for to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival right now. The vendor list is finally out and it looks like I get to spend time with a lot of good folks over the weekend. It’s going to be good!