Interview with Pattern Designer Leila Raven
Posted on September 13 2019
When mornings are filled with that crisp Fall air, we know summer is coming to an end. This year, it’s making way for an inspiring season at Stone Wool. Released last week, our newest line Cheviot is available in fourteen painterly colors. Today, we are excited to announce a new pattern in Cheviot by Leila Raven.
Leila is the Creative Director of Quince and Co. and designed our newest pattern, the Odetta Shawl, releasing today on Stone Wool. A timeless design in Cheviot Hematite 01 – a blend of purple and neutral blue hues – Odetta is an heirloom shawl with beautiful lace and rib details. We’re delighted to share our recent interview with Leila and hear more about her story, design process and more.
How long have you been designing hand-knitting patterns?
My first knitting pattern was self-published in 2007: A cowl with a simple textured lace pattern, using handspun yarn. I had by then been knitting for about four years, and spinning yarn for about three. As obsessed as I was about knitting then, I never really had a conscious thought of "this is what I want to do for a living." A few years later I started working for a small yarn and pattern company and, as they say, the rest is history.
Do you have a color palette that you favor, or does it depend on the design?
I always favor black and gray, just in terms of comfort zone. I don't often get a chance to design in that limited range, but when I do, those tend to become my favorite designs, because the color isn't fighting me (or vice versa). I also enjoy working with colors that evoke the natural world: Soft browns, golds, deep greens and reds, gray-blues. Bright colors are lovely in theory, but I find them painful to work with.
Color choice is absolutely crucial to strong design no matter which colors you have at your disposal. If you're trying to convey a particular mood along with the style of a given garment, color is the language to express it. Oftentimes, though, color choice is solely up to the publisher, and I'll give you a BTS fact: Most color choices have more to do with the ease in which they can be photographed, as much as for the concept of the design or collection itself. No bright reds to confuse the camera, no hard-to-see dark shades that obscure the details knitters want to see in the imagery of a pattern they're considering knitting.
Did you have specific inspiration when designing these patterns for Stone Wool, and, what did you love most about working with Stone Wool Cheviot yarn?
Cheviot has to be one of my favorite yarns to work with so far. Its rough, woolen hand and the combination of bounciness and ruggedness make it such an interesting yarn. It's a good example of swatching a yarn and letting it tell you what kinds of stitch patterns will make it sing. I had originally planned to use cable and lace motifs for Odetta, and the background was going to be in stockinette, but I loved the way the heathered qualities really came through in reverse stockinette, and how slipped/ribbed stitches stood out due to the twist behavior of the yarn. It begged for simplicity, so I ended up with a pretty heavily pared down version of my original concept for the shawl.
I know I said that I love black and gray earlier on, but the blended colors in the Cheviot palette are exceptional...I would gladly work with any and every single one of them. The Hematite shade I used really changed my mind about purple.
What is your favorite pattern you have ever designed and why?
That's too hard to say! I don't really have a favorite. I'm proud of 99% of them but there is something I'd change about pretty much every one. If I had to pick one, it would be Chiral. It's a simple sideways-knit triangle, but the way the different elements work with the construction of the shawl, and taking well-known stitch patterns like ribbing and using them in new ways, makes me happy. Designers often joke about just throwing a stitch pattern on a basic shape and calling it design. I'm proud of the thought process that went into Chiral.
What has knitting brought to your life and why do you knit?
Like most things, it's brought ups and downs. I don't get to knit much these days, but my knitting career has never really been solely about designing patterns. I'm fortunate to work with yarn companies that give me space to work creatively and challenge me to not settle for just adequate. I think we all get caught up in producing for the sake of not getting left behind, but what we do end up leaving behind is often the very things that brought us to knitting in the first place...a chance to slow down, stop, and experience the moment we find ourselves in, the repetitive and relaxing event that is creating something with our hands. Doing it for a living changes that, for better or worse.
I knit because it keeps my hands and brain busy, and because it gets extremely cold here in Maine in the winter months.