Last week, Boost Your Knitting designer Thea Colman’s delicious Apple Swizzle Hat was released. Thea is a prolific independent designer who likes to play with cables, lace and motifs that, in her words “look harder than they are.” The result is timeless garments and accessories full of fun and interesting twists — make one of her patterns, and I venture a guess you’ll be wearing it for years to come! All of Thea’s designs are named after drinks (her design moniker is babycocktails), and her Instagram account features not only her stunning designs, but plenty of fun cocktails and her beautiful vintage glass collection. I caught up with Thea last month to talk about dip stitches, design, and the highs and lows of turning a favourite hobby into a career.
KR: Hi Thea, thanks so much for taking the time to chat today! I just love your Apple Swizzle hat … those dip stitches are SO addictive! Can you tell us a little more about your process for this designing this pattern?
TC: I had been thinking of different kinds of textures that I could work into a hat for the project - I had a few different ideas in mind, but this stitch was something I'd used ages ago, when I first starting to design, in a project called the Chamomile Mitts and I really did love working up the little flowers. For whatever reason, they kept nagging at me and my fingers just wanted to play with them instead of the different things I'd already pulled for the project. Sometimes I find it's best to follow your nose (or your fingers, so to speak), so I did. They looked gorgeous in this yarn, and working them in a repeat was incredibly satisfying, so I went with it.
KR: How interesting that a design detail from years ago comes floating back, ready to be used again! You are such a prolific design– well over 200 designs to date according to Ravelry! I’m a longtime fan of your work and have always admired how consistently you bring out such a variety of garments and accessories. How do you keep your inspiration fresh?
TC: Sometimes it's hard and sometimes it just comes. Turning the thing you love into a job goes both ways. My head has a thousand things it wants to cast on, but I try to weigh my yarns and what I think will sell and what other people are doing with what my fingers are itching to knit next. And honestly, I often knit the thing I want to wear. I love finding new cables or new details and working them into a design, and if given my druthers, I'd be a giant closehorse. I actually have a small closet and a small stash, so I really do try to stick to what I want to wear, given the parameters above.
KR: Does learning and using new techniques play a part?
TC: Lately, I've been toying with different construction details and adding tweaks to classic sweaters, but to be honest, when I'm designing I find it's best to stay with things I know I can do well. I just don't have the time to play around and learn a new thing well enough to write it for others often when the bills are due and I need to keep putting things out each month. Back to that bit about making the thing you love into your job.
KR: While we’re on the subject of new techniques, any on your list to master this year?
TC: Honestly, not really. My queue contains a lot of texture and I'm delving deep into sweaters for the Fall right now, so that's my wheelhouse and it's all quite familiar. If I did find myself with a bunch of free time, I think I'd love playing around with brioche!
KR: Any you won’t touch with a ten foot pole?
TC: I have a hard time designing shawls. I don't like to think in triangles, and there are so many beautiful designs out there that I don't feel it's worth my time to learn how to wrap my head around them. I love shawls, but for the most part I'd be happy to just follow other people's instructions! I also love colorwork yoke sweaters, but there are so many out there I don't feel like I have anything to add right now that would be unique or different enough to stand out.
KR: Lastly, can you share anything about what’s on your needles at the moment?
TC: Sweaters. I started a new one last week in O-Wool balance that I had in stash because I thought I would be stuck in Jury Duty, so it's super simple. It has a little texture, worked in stripes. I'm almost finished with it now, and it took less than 2 weeks from beginning to end!
KR: And maybe what cocktails you’ve been mixing up lately?
TC: Tonight I'm about to make my own grenadine for a design I released today called Jack Rose. The cocktail calls for apple whiskey, grenadine and lime and I've got a recipe to make grenadine that's not sweet and syrupy! By the time this goes live, you can probably go back on my Instagram (@theacolman) and see how that turned out (the link will take you the recipe for this delicious sounding cocktail!)
Thank you so much Thea for taking the time to chat! You can keep up with Thea on Instagram, see her beautiful designs on her Ravelry page or drop into her chatty Ravelry group! And if you’re tempted to dip into dip stitches, you can join Boost Your Knitting at any time. You’ll get twelve patterns, from twelve talented designers, along with twelve photo and video tutorials. When you sign up, you’ll receive the four patterns that have been released so far immediately — the rest will be delivered each month! We also host monthly knitalongs in the Ravelry group — a virtual living room of knitting friends to cheer you on! Learn more in the online shop!