One of the amazing things that happened during the recording of season one of the podcast was that I got to know knitwear designer Robynn Weldon of Studio Miranda, a little bit better. From her detailed and fun newsletters to her antics on Twitter, Robynn manages to bring a smile to my face on a daily basis. When Lost in the Woods was launched earlier this year, I got to chat with her on the podcast and you can find that recording here but I wanted to send some follow-up questions her way as I realise that not all of my readers listen to the podcast and vice versa.
Robynn very kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to tell us a little bit more about her background, designs, creative inspirations and challenges as a knitwear designer. I hope you enjoy and a huge thank you to Robynn and to Armin Rüede for the wonderful photographs in today’s post. Enjoy!
Robynn, can you tell us when you started designing and describe your creative background?
I published my first design in Knitty in 2008, right before having my first baby. Who kept me from doing much more for quite a few years! I started putting a more consistent effort into designing about three years ago, but since I had two kids by then, it’s been slow going. Some people are great at combining knitting with babies, but I’m really not.
Knitting has been my creative outlet since high school. I can’t draw or sew. It’s all about knitting for me. My professional background is in publishing though (layout and editing), so that feeds into my design in that I have the skills to communicate my ideas. I find the actual publishing side of things, pattern writing and layout, about as satisfying as the pure design side. First I make the knitted object; then I make the pattern. They’re both creative and both rewarding, and I love working with other designers on their layouts, too.
Aesthetically, how do you see your designs worn with a modern wardrobe?
I keep a Pinterest board (“Miranda’s wardrobe” – Miranda, as in Studio Miranda, is my middle name) that reflects the way my ideal customer dresses. I want my designs to fit this aesthetic: they should be distinctive, a bit quirky and romantic, but always wearable. My imaginary customer doesn’t want just another cardigan, but she also doesn’t want an heirloom shawl that keeps slipping off her shoulders. So that’s where Pavonis comes in!
I’m actually wearing Winterbeere right now. I’ve never made a knitted summer top before and wasn’t sure how useful it would be, but I wear it constantly, alone or layered, with jeans or cropped linen trousers or a long flowing skirt… It’s become one of my favourite things. So I like how well my garment designs are fitting into my own wardrobe.
Can you tell us where your inspiration comes from and what are your key concepts in your designs?
Inspiration tends to spring from the latest yarn I’ve fallen in love with, or from fashion – I get excited about shapes and silhouettes and construction possibilities – or just a problem I want to solve. Most often all three strands working together. Right now I’m developing a few designs that are essentially variations on things I’ve already done, but want to update and take further; plus something quite new and quirky that came out of swatching with a very opinionated yarn; plus something to meet the challenge of a “colourful men’s jumper” – my dad’s request!
My ultimate goal is to create designs that are exactly the way they need to be. Sophisticated but not overcomplicated, with every detail – from the specific increase and decrease techniques to the construction – elevating the expression of the concept. I love the buttons on Winterbeere because they serve three functions: they hold the rolled edge in place, they weight the rather floppy sleeves, and they look awesome. It’s just the perfect finishing touch, and such a small thing became a real highlight of the design.
Can you tell us how the collaboration for Lost in the Woods came about?
Julia had been thinking about doing a forest-themed collection but wanted a partner or two for it. (She’s written about the process from her perspective.) She approached me after seeing an Instagram post about the forest being my happy place, and I suggested bringing in my friend Emily – since I’d knit one of her designs I knew she could deliver great patterns, plus I knew I’d enjoy working with her. So building the team was almost a random process, but it turned out that we had the perfect set of skills between us: Julia’s graphic design and illustration, my own copy writing and editing, and Emily’s technical input. We were very lucky.
There is no denying that the photography in Lost in the Woods is stunning. How did you manage to pull a beautiful, cohesive style together with the designers in three different locations?
Thank you! I think a lot of the cohesion is thanks to the theme – having everything shot in a forest immediately provided unity. Even though they were different forests in different seasons and different countries. Also, a lot of the atmosphere shots were provided by Julia, so even if you’re looking at one of my spreads, it could be her background pictures. And Julia handled all the grading. I think we spent enough time chatting on Slack, sharing inspirations and progress (and refining each other’s ideas), that we were all very much on the same page, so it came together pretty naturally.
What has been the most challenging thing you have encountered in knitwear design?
I have two big challenges. The biggest is photography. The logistics of getting a shoot done are always challenging (finding the right time, with the right weather, and getting the shots before the kids go nuts – so far we’ve always had kids tagging along, and it has to be outdoor shoots because our small flat just doesn’t have the right space for it). Then you’re dealing with me, who hates modelling, and my husband, who loves photography but doesn’t necessarily have knitterly priorities. So sometimes we end up with a beautiful portrait that just totally doesn’t show the item, or a shot that would be fantastic if I weren’t giving really stony “please just get it over with” face. And then I still have a whole lot to learn about processing those shots. Photos are always the biggest roadblock in getting a pattern out.
The other is in learning not to overcomplicate things. Both aesthetically, and in writing the pattern. I wasn’t really aware until working with Emily, as my tech editor on Lost in the Woods, just how much I go overboard. I originally tried writing Pravigan with instructions for one-pass brioche as well as the usual way (with each row worked twice over, once in each colour). Nice idea but completely unnecessary and very tricky to present! So I’m trying to ask myself now, with every technique or tutorial: is this actually necessary, or does it just add confusion?
How would you describe your personal knitting style?
Eclectic! I love to explore new techniques and to knit patterns that have something to teach me. And although it’s not an explicit goal, I am very happy with my own patterns include something a bit different, a new trick for knitters to put in their toolbox. Which I guess is why they all seem to come with tutorials. I’d love to write a pattern that didn’t need a tutorial, it would be so much easier, but for ages now, I’ve had to create at least one tutorial for each pattern. Arguably this is an example of my overcomplication problem – I do make a lot of work for myself – but I think it’s worth it. For my new pattern Wraparoche, I specifically learned a new cast-on and I’m glad that my customers can learn that too!
Aside from knitting, do you have any other hobbies?
I love to read and I love TV – especially scifi. I’m not sure those count as hobbies, but it’s about all I have time for. Any time I think about learning something else – like spinning, or embroidery – I just keep thinking how it would be taking away precious knitting time. And that’s not about work pressure, it’s not about designing. I just want to knit all the things. I’d really love to be able to sew, but learning stresses me out, and as a mom with small kids, I don’t feel the need to spend my very precious time on something that adds to my stress levels. But I hope I’ll get there one day.
How do you deal with creative slumps?
Since design isn’t a major source of income for me, I have the great luxury of being able to just take a break. When I was feeling burnt out earlier this year I just spent a week or so doing jigsaw puzzles, which I find very soothing.
More often, if stuck on a design, I turn my attention to something else. A lot of my designs have come together after percolating in the back of my mind for a long time. I knew the parameters of the problem, I had a vague idea of what I wanted, but tackling it directly wasn’t working… so I just left it bubbling there while I knit or designed something else. And then one day it was all pretty much figured out bar the actual knitting. The indirect approach seems to really work for me.
How would you like to see craft promoted in the media?
I’d like to see more respect for craft as an artistic practice. Not a novelty, not “the new yoga” or “not your granny’s knitting”, but just a way that people make beautiful things. Something that takes a lot of skill and that a lot of people find very rewarding. Those pieces that treat it as a gimmick aren’t only lazy, they’re also really counter-productive – the subliminal message is that this isn’t something to take seriously. Which is why we all hear people say, “Oh I read that knitting is really trendy now,” but not, “I read this great piece about knitting, I’d love to try that.”
What is in the future for Studio Miranda?
A lot, I hope! My younger kid has just started kindergarten, so for the first time in eight years I have a bit of time to really work on my stuff. I’m looking forward to collaborating more (with yarnies and other designers), and to building my skills on all fronts, from photo editing to pattern writing. I’ve blocked Friday mornings off for studying. It’s pretty exciting.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today Robynn. If you would like to hear more from Robynn you can find her on Twitter, Ravelry, Instagram and on her website here and my personal favourite her fortnightly newsletter here. If you would like to catch up on all the interviews here on the blog you can find them here and of course season one of the podcast has some wonderful interviews too.
Thank you so much for joining us!
Best wishes for the weekend and see you all on Monday,
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*Disclaimer: All photography is under the copyright of Armin Rüede. Photography cannot be used without expressed permission.