Many times I have wished that I was blessed with the ability to design my own knitting patterns. Sometimes, I find it difficult to find just the right pattern for my yarn. Last year, I began searching through patterns on Ravelry for one suitable for my Gotland yarn, and came across Hanna Maciejewska, a knitwear designer in Poland. Hanna incorporates delicate lacework details with simple stockinette stitching. When I contacted her about designing a pattern for my yarn, she was excited to work with my Gotland yarn. I mailed her a package full of yarn and last week, she released Vermont, a “classic top-down raglan sweater, knit seamlessly with textured lace back. The pattern contains four styling options: cropped, regular, short sleeve, and long sleeve.”
I thought it would be fun to interview Hanna so you can learn a little bit about her journey into knitting and her design process. Here is Hanna:
Tell us about your journey to become a knitwear designer?
I have loved knitting since I was a child. My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was a little girl. All my toys got a new knitted wardrobe! In High School, I knit sweaters all the time – all my own creations. I wanted to own and wear something unique, something I thought up by myself and made by myself. Then, I moved to the US and later to the UK, and knitting temporarily became less important for me since there were so many other exciting things to explore and places to visit, but when I returned to Poland, I realized that knitting and designing knitwear is truly my biggest passion!
When I joined Ravelry a few years ago, at first, I posted projects just for fun. After a dear friend, who is a talented hand dyer, created a special yarn for me, I designed “Colors of Kauai” and felt encouraged to publish it. It was so well received that I decided to write down more of my designs – this is how it all started.
Who has influenced your work and why?
Elizabeth Zimmerman and Barbara Walker with their seamless knitting methods have changed my entire view of knitting. Until I knew about them, everything I made was knitted in flat pieces and seamed. That’s not only much more work and using up more material, it doesn’t look half as smart! The seamless method changed my entire way of thinking about knitting because I can approach construction in a much smarter way now, and it is also so much faster – when you are done knitting, you are done and don’t have to do all that tedious finishing work before you can wear your knitting.
What is your favorite knitting accessory or tool?
I’m still searching for the perfect knitting needles, which are hard to find because my preferences seem to change all the time! Since I practically only ever use circular knitting needles for everything I knit, I favor light, pointy, slick needles with flexible cables. I am a big fan of HiyaHiya, ChiaGoo and KnitPro (the European equivalent of Knitter’s Pride). Besides needles, I’m always on the lookout for beautiful knitting gadgets, such as stitch markers, scissors, etc.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Everywhere! Most people who create things say this, don’t they? It is all true! The world is full of colors and shapes. Sometimes it is nature that captures my attention (I am a huge fan of gardening), sometimes architecture. I live close to the ancient town of Torun with its historical buildings and the university, and I love to wander around, feeling history and watching people. However, it is the yarn that stimulates me the most. If a yarn doesn’t “talk” to me, I tend not to work with it.
You design for people all across the globe, do you find this challenging?
Challenging in a positive way because in other parts of the world, people might have other customs or live in a different climate, so they need different things. When I first started knitting, I was mainly into sweaters, because in Poland, it’s rather cold in the winter, and that’s what everybody really needs to stay warm. Having got to know so many people in other parts of the world thanks to the internet, I had to come to terms with the fact that there are people out there who really like to knit but just have no use for warm sweaters! That’s how I came to include lacy shawls into my repertoire, too.
Walk us through the process, from inspiration to final product, when someone approaches you to work up a design for them.
Most of the time, my designing process starts with a sketch. I can spend hours browsing Pinterest, Tumblr and social media sites, checking out current fashion trends and looking for inspiration. Later, I turn my first thoughts into a preliminary swatch, gather a collection of stitch pattern ideas and try and try and try….until I like it! However, my first thoughts do not always work out as I want, and I sometimes I have to change details or even parts of the construction on the go. I’m a hands-on designer, and very often, useful ideas for improvement come to my mind while I knit up a design.
If you could choose only one word to describe your work, what would it be?
contiguous – contented – contagious
It’s a made up word meaning I knit seamless, in one piece, and hopefully my designs make people feel good.
How do your designs influence the way we feel about ourselves when wearing them?
Well, we all have uniquely shaped bodies, don’t we? Not all women have model-like measurements; therefore, we may want to custom tailor different areas of our knitwear to assure the best possible fit. Having been quite generously equipped by the bust fairy (if I may say that), I know that this can be both a blessing and a curse, because it requires extra shaping in that section. I always had to customize other designers’ patterns for myself to add extra fabric at the front and additional decreases in the waist. Keeping this in mind, I try to design garments that slim out the top of women’s bodies and balance them with the bottom half. I hope that all who knit my designs know that they are worth looking good regardless of given circumstances, and feel contented they can achieve this with the work of their own hands, aided by the patterns I write to take the worries and guesswork out of the process so they can concentrate just on the pleasant aspect of knitting.
Does your personal style vary from that of your designs?
My designs do reflect my personal style, and with everything I design, I consciously or subconsciously think what I myself would wear. Actually, it would be hard to imagine designing something that I didn’t like and wouldn’t wear myself! My pet peeve are open cardigans and garments with deep neck openings and intriguing waist shaping – in short, everything that flatters! And most of my designs relate to that.
You indicated that you have never worked with Gotland wool yarn. What was it like working with it? How is Gotland yarn different from other yarns you have worked with?
Yes, it I have never had the pleasure to work with Gotland yarn before and was a little skeptical at first… No, skeptical is not the right word … I just wasn’t sure what to expect. However, when I received the yarn, I was literally blown away by its wonderful texture, lustre and amazing natural grey color with the silvery fleck in the fibers. Gotland wool is remarkably light and warm at the same time. It has an attractive delicate halo and flattering drape and springiness. Best of all, it is all natural! Just like a handspun yarn, but without the hard work of spinning and the multitude of costly equipment necessary for spinning your own. It even has a faint smell of sheep to remind us where the yarn comes from. It isn’t too bouncy at first, but it gets so much softer, fluffier and drapey after washing. When I first started to work with it, I couldn’t find a proper stitch pattern. Nothing seemed to look worthy enough! I didn’t want to spoil it by overloading it with features or drowning out its structure, so I’ve decided to make a classic top-down raglan sweater with textured lace back.
If you could tell your customers one thing, what would it be?
Learn to pick what flatters your natural body shape, and don’t be afraid of looking pretty – you are worth it! If what you choose is pretty and comfortable at the same time, even better! And if it’s pretty, well-fitting, comfortable and handmade by you – priceless!