Peacock Cowel, by Stephannie Tallent
I’m a huge fan of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and was excited when Stephannie Tallent asked if I would like to review her upcoming book, California Revival Knits! The patterns featured are inspired by “architectural details of the California Revival style of the 1920s & 1930s, specifically tiles and wrought iron.” If you follow this blog, you know I’m a sucker for textured, twisted stitches– techniques used in her series of Wrought patterns. California Revival Knits is due out before Christmas, but in the meantime, I want to thank Stephannie for taking the time to do this interview! I love all her responses and I know you will, too!
For those who don’t know you, please introduce yourself:
I’m Stephannie, StephCat on Ravelry. I blog at Sunsetcat.com. I’m a designer. I’m also a small animal veterinarian, a West Point grad and a former Military Intelligence officer. Most people wouldn’t guess those last couple things – I’m pretty quiet except with friends.
I do have a pretty bawdy sense of humor. I like funny zombie & horror movies (Shaun of the Dead, Slither, Snakes on a Plane). (I like other movies, too, but I tend to get really, um, animated when discussing slow vs fast zombies, for example. Sorry, bad pun.)
Wrought Mitts, by Stephannie Tallent
You have 45 gorgeous designs featured on Ravelry. At what point did you decide you were ready to go for the gold and publish a book?
Last year I decided I wanted to do some collections, instead of just single patterns. I was originally going to self publish, but then I submitted a book proposal to Shannon Okey of Cooperative Press. It snowballed from there!
What inspired the title, California Revival Knits?
The patterns are inspired by architectural details of the California Revival style of the 1920s & 1930s, specifically tiles and wrought iron. Think Hearst Castle (but on a not-so-grand scale). Malibu Potteries and the Adamson House in Malibu were both big inspirations. Lots of Spanish and Moroccan influences.
The patterns are a mix of texture (original twisted stitch patterns) and colorwork (both stranded & intarsia).
The Peacock mitts & cowl are probably the most literal of the patterns. The peacock motif was one I’d seen on tile murals from California Pottery and Tile Works.
How would you describe your design style? What knitting techniques do you find you use most in your patterns?
My goal is to design flattering garments incorporating old techniques. I naturally gravitate towards cables and twisted stitches, but I’m playing more with colorwork as well. I try to pay close attention to details – mirrored decreases and increases, waist shaping, shoulder shaping, and so on.
Wrought Iron Cardigan, by Stephannie Tallent
What’s the best part about being a knitwear designer? … And the most challenging?
I think the most challenging is allowing myself to take time off. I’m pretty much a type A personality, and working from home means that it’s hard for me to separate time from work and time off. I don’t really knit for fun; it’s work, work I enjoy, but work. There’s a lot of work involved in designing that isn’t knitting, too!
But… I love learning and applying new techniques while creating something I hope is beautiful. I hope that I’m providing a way for others to learn new things and to create beautiful objects. I can’t picture not designing.
What fibers and colorways do enjoy using most?
Sigh… wool. Living in southern California I don’t get to wear what I design all that often. I love alpaca too. I love soft fibers, of course – who doesn’t?! but I also like good crunchy wools that show awesome stitch definition. I’m very intrigued with breed specific wools (beyond Merino) – that ties in with my interests in small businesses, local sourcing, etc etc.
Colors? Give me a charcoal grey or rich chocolate brown & I’m so content. I also love red. To me, it’s a neutral. I love green (from warm apple green to darker greens) and blue (especially indigo) as well. The brightest color I’m drawn to is turquoise.
I’m definitely a semi-solid or heathered yarn sort of person, which makes sense when you look at my designs.
Stairsteps Tam, by Stephannie Tallent
I read on your Ravelry profile that you are also a veterinarian! How do you balance your time between treating animals and designing patterns?
I do relief, or locum tenens, veterinary work; that is, I fill in at different clinics as needed. Unfortunately, with the state of the economy, my vet work has slowed down tremendously.
Flip side? I have lots of time for designing and tech editing.
In a perfect world I’d be doing a couple days of vet work a week, or 10 or so per month, then the rest designing.
Since we’re on the topic, I would be very interested to know your take on charities asking for knitted sweaters for distressed animals (ie, knitted sweaters for chickens and penguins affected by the oil spill)
Wasn’t that picture of the penguins in sweaters cute? But I read that the original facility never requested the sweaters, so didn’t need them, and unfortunately now had to deal with them.
I think the big thing is, before knitting anything for charity, make sure the items are truly needed, then if so, follow all the guidelines (preferred fiber, etc).
When at home, describe where you knit? What about the space makes it yours?
I knit on the couch in our living room. It’s actually a great spot for knitting during the day, because we have a big window that the couch is against, then two windows on another wall, so it’s very bright. The couch has wooden arms that serve as end tables, so I can put my laptop there for easy reference, as well as all my knitting accoutrements and reference books. And a cup of tea or coffee.
The dog keeps me company. He likes his sheepskin.
I do wish I had a studio – what I can picture as my studio would be a light-filled room, big enough for a pool table (my husband would dearly love a pool table), with built in book cases around the perimeter, some with deep enough shelves for baskets of all my yarn and roving, and a nook at one end with two comfy leather chairs and a window seat. The opposite end of the room would have room for my loom and spinning wheel (both of which are sorely neglected right now). Wooden floors, some Persian rugs. Cream plaster walls, with dark wooden molding. Seriously, I’m telling you this from a sharp mental picture.
Any words of wisdom for storing one’s yarn stash?
Stay organized, so you know what you have and where it is. Have it where you can see it and enjoy it, or at least have it easily accessible so you can go through it every once in a while. Occasionally (in the spirit of making sure everything’s organized) I’ll take everything out & go through it all. Is that weird?
I store my yarn in two cedar chests (sweater quantities in one chest, sock & Shetland in the other) and in baskets in an old English Arts & Crafts bookcase with glass doors. I have a little bit of yarn in a second bookcase (the Malabrigo for the MFPP booklet I’m working on), some in the basket at the foot of the couch (yarn for DIPs (designs in progress)) and the yarn for the next book in a leather tote that sits by the daybed near the big bookcase.
Zylphia Pilots Her Airship, by Stephannie Tallent (Not featured in her book, but I absolutely LOVE this pattern!) Published in The Sanguine Gryphon
Current knitting obsession?
I’m exploring more colorwork and lace (not always at the same time – but sometimes at the same time!).
I’m also trying to learn more, and incorporate more, dressmaker and/or tailoring details, things that really make an item special.
Stephannie Tallent is StephCat on Ravelry and blogs over at SunsetCat.com. Check out all of her patterns on Ravelry and click here to pre-order a copy of California Revival Knits!