This week sees the launch of Tucked, a knitalong pattern celebrating Woolly Wormhead’s 10 years in the knitwear design industry. Known for her innovative hat patterns, Woolly has become the go-to designer for ‘toppers’ to suit all ages, sizes, shapes and yarn preferences and everyone from a beginner to a seasoned-pro will find something in her portfolio to suit.
Tucked comes hot on the heels of her new book, Painted Woolly Toppers, a volume of 10 patterns designed to work in harmony with hand-painted and variegated skeins of yarn. I caught up with Woolly for a chat about hats, heads and anniversaries…
RA: 10 years is an amazing achievement! Tell us how you got into the knitting business and hat design in particular.
WW: I came into the knitting business through blogging – blogging about yarn and fibre and quite quickly, Hats. From those first few patterns on my blog business grew organically, to be where it is now. The industry has changed a lot over the last 10 years and sometimes it feels like I’m not sure where I’m heading, and then I remember that I set out following my own path and it’s totally okay to carry on doing so.
And why Hats? They’re portable, there’s only one of them, and they marry perfectly my knitting, engineering and sculptural sides. They’re perfect for trying out a new technique, have a low investment level for beginners, and they’re the ideal quick knit for gifts ot charity. I could wax lyrical about Hats all day long.. mostly though, I love their form and their potential. The design possibilities are infinite!
RA: Do you ever wake up and think, ‘today I am going to cast on a pair of mitts/scarf/shawl’, or do you always go straight for the hat?
WW: Haha! Erm, nope – always straight for a Hat! Hats are my creative playground – here I can explore form, structure and texture; I’m very much about the process. Any other knitting, especially personal knitting (and I can’t remember the last time I finished something for me) tends to be about the product, and that doesn’t excite me much. Besides, I’ve a very short attention span 😉
RA: I’m currently knitting the Dancette hat from Painted Woolly Toppers – the construction is so clever, works amazingly well enhancing the many colours in a skein of variegated yarn, and completely reflects your reputation as a ‘hat architect’. How do you approach a design? Is it construction first, or maybe a particular technique, or does the yarn influence you or…?
WW: I think it’s a bit of all three, really. Construction is my drive, yet invariably I follow phases around technique, or it may be that a yarn decides it wants to be something else and takes me off on a different tangent. It’s important I think to get a good balance – even the most basic of patterns can have a solid construction, introduce an opportunity to learn a new technique and still be perfectly wearable and a great showcase for yarns.
I feel that Painted Woolly Toppers has a pretty good balance of construction and colour – each enhances the other, to the point that if the Hats from the book were knit in a solid coloured yarn, they’d be unrecognisable and the evidence of construction would be lost. I really enjoyed working on this collection – it was a challenge for me to temper my want to push the structure with the colour repeats, and learn how to marry the two…. pushing the boundaries of construction or technique is far easier with a solid colour yarn!
RA: The anniversary knitalong pattern, Tucked, has been in development for a while. How do you know when you’re on to a winning design and where do you draw inspiration from?
WW: Knowing when you’re onto a winning design can be a tricky thing to gauge – I guess it just ‘feels’ right. Sometimes I hammer away at something until I get all the finite details right, ripping out and tweeking, just as any other artist might perfect their work. I do get bogged down in the finer details but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing – quite often there is room for refinement, but invariably it’s those finer details that complete a design.
Inspiration comes from lots of places – nature, by the way of sculptural plants or strange sea-life – and man-made, by the way of architecture. I’m particularly drawn to pattern and repeated shapes, although not necessarily in a decorative sense, more in a sequence and structural sense? (if that makes sense!) I like to think that the structural influences can be seen in my designs, even those that focus more on surface design.
RA: If you could only knit one of your hats for the rest of your life which pattern would it be – is there an all-time favourite hat pattern you often return to?
WW: An all time favourite Hat pattern? Hmm. That’s hard to answer… each time I create a new sculptural Hat, one that pushes me creatively, well, that becomes my new favourite.
RA: Thank you so much Woolly for taking time to chat and I wish you much continued success with your design work…who know, you might knit a pair of mitts one day!
Painted Woolly Toppers is available in print with a complimentary pdf download, or as an e-book, both via the Woolly Wormhead website.
You can pre-order the Tucked anniversary pattern now. Use the code ‘tuckedkal’ to receive a 15% discount at the checkout until launch date on 21st September. Do feel free to join in with fellow knit-alongers over in Woolly’s Ravelry group and keep up to date with Woolly’s knitted adventures on Instagram and Twitter.
All images © Woolly Wormhead and used here with permission.
Disclaimer: I was given a download copy of Painted Woolly Toppers to review but have not received any additional payment for this post.