Interview with knitwear designer Laura Irwin

October 25, 2008

Laura Irwin

I distinctively remember the very first time I saw Laura Irwin. I had just moved to Portland and was knitting at the yarn shop CloseKnit on Alberta Street when a young lady with a very beautiful knitted/felted bag walked by me. As that bag caught my eye, I stopped knitting and asked the young lady were she got that beautiful bag.

bag-by-Laura-Irwin

I was beside myself when she replied that she designed and knitted her bag, but I was even more impressed by the humble and friendly way she carried herself. Little did I know that this humble young woman was a published knit wear designer and that her bag would shine on the front cover of the book BagStyle by Interweave Knits.

Now, a year later, Laura Irwin’s first book “Boutique Knits, 20+ must-have accesories” is about to hit the shelves at yarn stores nationwide. I approached Laura Irwin and last Wednesday we sipped some wine at a French Bakery somewhere in Portland and chatted away about knitting, designing and how it feels to have your very first book published.

Boutique Knits, 20+ must-have accessories

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Laura Irwin started her knitting career about 8 years ago in SE Portland. Every day she would walk by a yarn shop called “the Yarn Garden”, and when she saw a young woman knitting at a Stumptown coffee shop, her interest was piqued.

“It was for the very first time that I saw somebody knitting”, Laura recalls, “She was young, stylish and just a cool girl knitting at a coffee shop. I instantly knew that what was she was doing, was something special.”

Soon after her very first “knitting sighting”, Laura went into the Yarn Garden, got herself some yarn, needles and a pamphlet. Determined to figure out herself how to knit, she produced these garter stitch rectangles. “I did not even know how to seam pieces together”, Laura laughs, “So I would just cram my knitted rectangles together with my sewing machine!”

Working at yarn shop Lint and encountering mentors

Although Laura worked as a line cook in restaurants, she made the choice to make a major career switch. Barely knitting for less than a year, she got a job at a downtown Portland yarn shop called Lint.

Laura: “I decided to embrace this whole new path. Compared to working at restaurants, working in a yarn shop felt like vacation.”

It is in this yarnshop Lint where Laura meets her mentors: the yarn shop owner Melissa, the costumers who with their endless curiosity and questions pushed Laura to learn everything there is to know about knitting, but hands down her most important mentor would be a woman called Leigh Radford.

Laura: “Leigh was the very first one who really acknowledged my work as a knitting designer. She guided me in how to make it in the industry of designing knitwear. I highly respect Leigh as a designer and I highly respect her integrity. Leigh found me…”

Yes, yes! I am your girl!

After being published in several knitting magazines, Laura is approached by Interweave Knits to publish a book. She grabbed this wonderful opportunity with both hands and said to the Interweave Knits acquisition editor who called her: “Yes, yes! I am your girl!”

And thus Laura commences to design her projects for her very first book. The results are stunningly beautiful. There are many pieces which I find very unique and fresh!

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hoodie+devoted

fingerless

Is it hard parting from your patterns?

Having designed and written patterns myself, I know how much work that entails. There are many hours spent on knitting, re-knitting and even a lot ripping. A LOT OF RIPPING.

Once you put your patterns out there for the world to know, it is really out there. All your little secrets and tricks are now for everybody to see. When I ask Laura whether it is hard for her to part from her patterns, she replies that she does not have any problems with that.

Laura:” I decided to be a pattern writer. I am very happy when knitters are inspired by my patterns. We all inspire each other with our work.”

Being extremely grateful

At the end of the evening, Laura expresses how extremely thankful she is to have been guided by several amazing teachers. She mentions Leigh Radford (knit wear designer), Dayna Pinkham (designer and milliner) and Holly Stalder (fashion designer). “All talented designers who are comfortable in their skin”, says Laura.

She feels truly lucky to have been surrounded by such amazing women and knows that one day she will have the opportunity to guide somebody else, and give back what was so generously given to her.

Book signing at CloseKnit on Alberta Street in Portland OR

It was a pleasure to meet up and talk with Laura Irwin. Her fresh and sparkly yet very down to earth energy made me smile. I am so happy for this talented young woman and I want everybody to buy her book!!!

There will be a book signing event at CloseKnit on Alberta Street on Saturday November 15th from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Come get your copy and meet the wonderful Laura Irwin herself.

Laura Irwin booksigning

Visit Laura Irwin’s blog at: Preciousknits.blogspot.com.

Laura Irwin’s designs are sold at Seaplane in NW Portland: e-seaplane.com.

Thank you for reading and until the next entry!

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Letting go and feeling glamorous

October 19, 2008

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Last August, my neighbor Eric asked me if I could find him a cravat/short scarf to wear with his suit. He had one request about the material: 100% silk.

At the yarn store, I simply cracked my brain what to make for my neighbor and a slew of word associations danced around my brain: hard working man, suit, black BMW, impeccible and pristine appearance, polite, friendly and proud.

When my eye fell on Louisa Harding’s Mulberry Silk color black, I snapped my fingers because I had found the perfect match!

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It took me several weeks to complete Eric’s scarf. This sophisticated 100% black silk scarf has been with me through my insecurities in being a “designer”. This black silk scarf sat patiently beside me when my hands hurt so bad that I simply could not knit. This black scarf traveled with me to Pittsburgh, was touched and ooh-ed and aah-ed over by the Pittburgh knitters at Ewe Can Knit.

This black scarf was completed by me at the beginning of October, right at the time I started to offer my patterns for sale at CloseKnit.

And when I blocked it and it was ready to be handed out as a gift to my neighbor Eric, I simply could not part from it… Dear reader, the mere thought of detaching from this black scarf, saddened me beyond belief…

For days and days I held on to the scarf, debating whether I should keep it or not. And then, last Sunday, when I walked out of my house to get to work, I saw Eric and his family in front of their house. They were getting ready to go to church.

The sight of this beautiful family made me pause and I felt so thankful to have them as my neighbors. I rushed back into my house, carefully hung the black silk scarf over my arm, rushed back outside and handed it over to Eric.

And just like that I let go of it… and as I am writing this I realize that this black scarf is the very first knitted item I have had a hard time letting go of…

GlamKnits by Stefanie Japel…Smokin’ hot!

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It finally arrived at the store… GlamKnits by Stefanie Japel!!! Let me tell ya, it is simply FABULOUS. I am so incredibly excited about GlamKnits, it exceeded my expectations, and my expectations were high.

Once again, Stefanie nails it and I just cannot wait to make one of her delicious designs. The one that I am so lusting over is the Texturized Tweed Coat:

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SWEEEEET!!!!

Regular readers of this blog know that I knitted two designs of Stefanie Japel (author of the book Fitted Knits) before and I can honestly say that Stefanie’s patterns are easy to read and to follow.

Once again Stefanie’s designs are very feminine and there are several designs I want to knit.

Congratulations, Stefanie!!! Just browsing through your book makes me feel so glamorous!

Thank you for reading and untill the next entry…


Photography with Patricia Emmert

October 10, 2008

The Spot

The Spot

While in Pittsburgh, I was fortunate enough to hook up with a talented photographer named Patricia Emmert. I had seen beautiful work of Patricia before, and always wanted to talk with her about her creativity and photography. More specifically, I wanted to learn from her, how she does her photography with regard to models.

I approached Patricia and we spent a beautiful morning together in which I come to the realization of how uncomfortable I am with regard to taking pictures with models.

Invading personal space

Taking pictures of people is hard for me because I have the feeling I am invading somebody’s personal space. I feel anxious, keep on worrying about the model’s well being, and continuously have the feeling that I should rush.

When Patricia told me to photograph her while she was sitting on the floor, I completely froze out of mere insecurity and just stood there with my camera in my hands, afraid to do anything.

On the Edge

On the Edge

I uttered timidly: “Patty… I am having a hard time with this.”

She raised her eyebrows and replied quite surprisingly and in disbelief: “Really..??”

What comes naturally to her as a photographer, comes uneasily to me. Patty, however, is a great and patient teacher and proceeded to direct me where to take position around her and to just push the shutter and take that picture.

She also taught me not to rush, to take my time and that I do not have any reason to feel uncomfortable.

Photography is like painting, take your time…

During that morning, I learned that photography is like painting. Do you rush when you paint or draw? I know I don’t. So why should I rush in photography, then?

There is no rush, no need to be anxious, model and photographer can just take their time to create a satisfying image.

Reach

Reach

Inspiration because of kindness

Being around Patricia gave me so much inspiration.

She created a safe environment around me by being patient, encouraging and by just being kind.

It strikes me over and over again how much we can inspire eachother by just being kind…

When I walked back to my hotel that day, I felt so good. I made the promis to myself not to focus anymore on being anxious or being uncomfortable in my creative process.

But most importantly, I made the promis to always be a kind knitting teacher and to provide a safe environment for novice knitters who will cross my path.

What Patricia showed me as a teacher, I will always bring forth.

Thank you for reading and untill the next entry!

All photography in this post by Patricia Emmert


Revelations during a Football Game

October 6, 2008

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During my visit in Pittsburgh, PA, me and my husband were surprised with tickets to a Steelers Football Game on Monday. Although I am not a sports fan at all, I realized that tickets to a Monday night game are hard to come by and I hesitantly agreed to go.

There I was, appropriately dressed as if I was a hardcore Steelers fan: a black and yellow colored T-shirt, an old school football cap and something that is called a Terrible Towel. I was instructed to wave with that towel in the stadium.

Dear reader, I felt so out of place in the football stadium! If one would know me, one could easily tell I was completely out of my element. I persevered, timidly sat down in my seat and did not know what to expect.

Little did I know that during this game, several insights would hit me like a lightning bolt.

My fears and insecurities with regard to my creativity

The weeks prior to my visit to Pittsburgh I was sort of in a heavy struggle and difficult dialogue with myself. Regular visitors of this blog will know by now that I have been designing knitwear more and more over the past year. Untill this day I have been receiving positive feedback and more than once I have been asked when I am going to sell knitting patterns.

And more than once, my response was a hesitant one. I would reply with: “Oh it’s so much work to write a pattern!”, or I would say “I just cannot find the time to set it all up!”

The truth however, is that at times I can be rather insecure about what I do. I am plagued by visions that knitters will hate my patterns, that they will hunt me down for mistakes in the patterns, that I will be accused of being a bad designer or even worse, that I am accused of stealing somebody else’s pattern

I am afraid of being hit hard by negativity. Because when you get hit, it hurts. It hurts like hell.

Getting hit hard

During that football game, I was amazed of how hard the players would get hit. And I was equally amazed how quickly they would be up on their feet again, back in formation, focussed, in balance and with no fear.

I would see how a player would run with the ball, knowing that at one point he would get hit so immense hard, but it did not stop him. He just kept on going fearlessly and then took the blow, fell down with all these huge guys jumping on top of him, and then got up again.

Right there and then it became so crystal clear to me.

How fear can keep you from growing

If I continue to be afraid of getting hit by negative response by knitters with regard to my designs and/or patterns, then my patterns will never come about.

If I continue to be held back by the mere fear of getting hit, well, then I will never grow.

In life, things will hit you hard and it will hurt. But guess what, you will get up on your feet again, focussed in balance and back in formation.

Passionately doing what I am doing

I can only do what I passionately want to do and that is knitting and patternwriting. I love it so much, it brings me so much joy and I just cannot stop doing what I am doing.

I so want to create beautiful designs and better myself. I so want to grow and keep on moving forward. In this frame of mind, there is no place for fear any longer.

If you like my work, than I am thankful. If you hate my work, well, too bad…

Thanks for reading and untill the next entry!

Let’s go Steelers, let’s go!


Thank you, Pittsburgh

October 3, 2008

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My time here in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania has come to an end. What a wonderful, wonderful visit… When we first visited Pittsburgh back in 2006, we were immediately taken by the friendly people we encountered in this city.

We came back only to find yet more of its friendliness and kind openheartedness.

A Steeler’s fan forever

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Me and my husband were surprised by tickets to a Steeler football game last Monday. Now you must know that I am absolutely not a sports fan and what do I know about American Football? Absolutely nothing.

However, I did realize that tickets to a Monday night Steelers game are hard to come by, and hey, I am in America after all, so why not go and experience this “all American” sports event?

I am so happy I went… It was a magnificent experience. To me, it was not just a football game. During that Steelers game last Monday, so many things became crystal clear to me. I had lots of insights and I would have never thought that during a football game the universe would reveal to me several life lessons.

More of that in a later post.

Hooking up with with an artistic photographer from Seattle in Pittsburgh

I had the wonderful opportunity to hook up with a lady friend who does artful work with photography. We spend a morning together in which she taught me several principles about being a photographer.

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Photography does not come naturally to me. I struggle when I take pictures, especially when I take pictures with models.

My friend helped me on my way, coached me in areas where I got frustrated or anxious and pointed out to me in what parts of photography I can become more confident.

Also, more of that later in the week.

A shout out to the knitters of EWE CAN KNIT

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Marleen at EWE CAN KNIT

Last, but most certainly not least, here’s a shout out to my knitters at EWE CAN KNIT in downtown Portland.

I spend lots and lots of fun hours in that warm and cozy knitshop. So much that my poor husband felt a tiny bit left out. Hey what can I say, I am a passionate knitter and where ever there are kindred spirits… you betcha I am there!

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Every time I would come over to hang out and knit, Marleen would make sure I would feel so welcome. Her friendly smile, and enthusiasm just warmed my heart and I kept on coming in for more.

During a Thursday knit get together I had the pleasure to meet several wonderful knitters. I am thankful that they accepted me into their group and let me hang and knit with them!

Thank you so much… it was a pleasure hanging with you. Your warm kindness I will never forget…

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Thank you for reading and untill the next entry!