Knit designer Stefanie Japel’s stylish pattterns of sweaters, tops, cropped cardigans, and more will make any fashion-forward knitter drool. Her new book, Fitted Knits: 25 Designs for the Fashionable Knitter, is no different. From the puff-sleeved femine cardigan to the two-toned ribbed shrug, you’ll find that you’ll want to make every pattern in this book. I love how there’s a variety in the kinds of projects too — from simple and quick to more advanced projects you actually want to make like the Saturday-in-the-Park Perfect Dress (one of my absolute favs!). I’m honestly about to abandon my current knitting project to go buy yarn and start something in this book right away. The patterns work year round and there’s lots of time to start on a few of them right now to have some super cute knit outfits for spring!
Not only is Stefanie an amazing designer with her own line Glampyre Knits, this New Mexico based gal is also a geologist specializing in mineral physics! I got a chance to talk more with Stefanie all about her new book, her craft, and how she keeps up with her growing craft business.
Nat: Tell me more about Glampyre Knits and how you started your own knit pattern business.
Stefanie: At about the same time that I started my PhD, I started getting heavily into knitting and wanted just a little online gallery to share my work. My friend is a web designer (www.plastinated.com), and I asked her how I should set one up so she built me this amazing website with a BLOG installed in it. And she called it Glampyre.com after the eBay name I had been using. At first, I was totally hesitant to blog, like, who in a million years would care what I was knitting!? But she forced me, and the second I got my first comment, I was totally hooked.
So I started blogging, and putting up photos of my stuff…and people started asking for the directions to make what I was making. I began doing little tutorials on sweatermaking. At about that time, Knitty.com started up. I remember submitting my first Knitty idea while I was studying for my Departmental Qualifying Exams (DQEs) at Johns Hopkins. (DQEs are this horrible oral exam that we had to take to prove that we knew our coursework well enough to go on to our PhD projects…to become colleagues of our professors and members of the department. (Total right of passage / intellectual hazing type of deal.) I had this whole superstitious thing going in my head that if this pattern is accepted for publication, it means I’ll pass my exams. And it wasn’t accepted. And I totally failed my DQEs and had to take them again. So then of course knitting took on a whole supernatural meaning for me…it can tell the future!
After the first Knitty pattern, things sort of took off…self-published knitting patterns on my site, continuing to publish free patterns in the online mags (Magknits.com and Knitty.com), submitting designs to various books (Stitch -n- Bitch Nation, Big Girl Knits, Knittgrrl, Not Another Teen Knitting Book, Knit Wit) and just generally getting involved in the online knitting community. It was just such an organic thing. I’ve made a lot of online friends, and just participate in the community as much as possible. I don’t know how things exponentially grew the way they did. Having really nice and supportive friends has made all the difference!
Nat: Are there any tips you can share about running a craft business?
Stefanie: I’m still learning about the whole business end of things, so don’t listen to any advice from me. But here are some things that I do:
Nat: You also work as a scientist / researcher in your day job. Please tell me how you balance the 2 worlds of science and craft?
Stefanie: They balance themselves…I have one completely left-brain activity and one completely right-brained activity. I like having something ‘soft’ to turn to when work is hard, and having scientific work to turn to when knitting becomes hard. When I’m zoning out into one, ideas about the other formulate themselves.
At the same time, the process of writing the pattern is really similar to doing a little research project. Get the idea (draw the sketch) collect the data (knit the sample) write the paper (write the pattern.)
Nat: Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
Stefanie: I look at a lot of magazines, and check out the runway shows online. I think about what features the garments have that I’d like to wear, and then try to figure out how to recreate them in knitting, and size them to fit me. I’m tall (5’11″) and it’s important to me that things fit right. That’s one reason I love to knit raglan sweaters…they look great on broad shoulders. They’re customizable…so if someone’s short-waisted, it’s easy to make it shorter, or longer if the knitter is tall.
Nat: What are some of your favorite sweaters you’ve created?
Stefanie: My favorite is the puffy-sleeved cardigan [pictured top right above] and this one [bottom photo above] is kind of crazy.
And I really like the simplicity of the pattern I did for the Spring ’07 issue of Interweave Knits.
Nat: Tell me more about your new book Fitted Knits. When and where can we find it?
Stefanie: My book is called Fitted Knits, and is a knitting pattern book that focuses on shaped, fitted garments. There are 25 patterns, ranging in difficulty from a simple tee to a knee-length dress.
Nat: What are some of your upcoming projects?
Stefanie: I’ve already started on my second book for F&W Publishing, due out in Spring ’08. I’ve just heard that I’ll be teaching a class at TNNA this June, and hopefully signing books as well. I’ve recently been commissioned to design a few patterns for the new Vickie Howell yarn collection from SouthWest Trading Company, and am working with Tilli Tomas Yarns on several new ideas. Other than that, just trying to get a few more patterns finished up for release.