Technique Talk with Julia Farwell-Clay

This month’s Boost Your Knitting designer is the supremely talented Julia Farwell-Clay, whose cleverly cute Heartgyle Socks have knitters around the world not only working intarsia, but doing it in the round! She loves a good sweater, but also has designed beautiful accessories — she’s partial to eye-catching designs and interesting techniques! She was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about her design process and the role that new techniques play in it — and she’s got some good advice for us too!

Julia’s July design for Boost Your Knitting. Photo © Jesse Wild.

Julia’s July design for Boost Your Knitting. Photo © Jesse Wild.

KR: I love your pattern for Boost Your Knitting this month, the Heartgyle Socks! The pattern just immediately brought a smile to my face — the socks are so cheerful! Can you tell us a little about how you came up with the desigh?

JFC: I based the socks on a class project I've relied upon for the few years I've been teaching intarsia. I like argyle as a beginner pattern for the technique because it covers all the inevitabilities, and the heart just came to me as an alternate to the traditional diamond.

KR: Intarsia is such a marmite technique – and of course, working it in the round brings its own challenges! Can you remember the first time you used intarsia and what your reaction to it was?

JFC: I love this idea of intarsia being the marmite of knitting. Intarsia was the heart and soul of the Rowan "look" in the early 90's when I really threw myself into knitting sweaters. No one ever told me it was hard or unusual, it was just what I needed to do to knit the pattern I was head over heels for.

Julia’s  Picket Fence Afghan , from Mason-Dixon Knitting’s  Field Guide No. 7 , features (flat) intarsia. Photo © Sara Remington.

Julia’s Picket Fence Afghan, from Mason-Dixon Knitting’s Field Guide No. 7, features (flat) intarsia. Photo © Sara Remington.

KR: I love that you just tackled it. Sometimes, I think techniques get such a reputation, and it can create an obstacle to just giving something a go! Nine times out of ten, the techniques aren’t nearly as hard as we’ve imagined! What advice would you give to knitters who love the look of the socks, but are still feeling a little intimidated by the technique?

JFC: Watch Jen's tutorial, and try a small version of the idea as an audition swatch. Cast on 20 stitches and give it a go for a few rows. It is fiddly, I'm not going to lie. But honestly, I never let a technique I wasn't familiar with stand between me and the thing I wanted to wear. I always hope my work might get a few people to make that same leap.

KR: You have a wonderfully varied design back catalogue, and, to my eyes it least, it looks like you use a lot of different techniques! Can you talk a little bit about what, if any, role learning new techniques plays in your design process?

JFC: You have cut to the quick here, I am so flattered you noticed that. I usually start with an idea of what I want the knitted thing to look like, and ask the "how?" question after I commit to making it happen. Sometimes it means I turn my knitting inside out to get there (that's not a figure of speech).

KR: On the blog last month, Jen was talking about the virtue of having some emergency sock knitting on hand at all times – and the plain knitting part of this pattern has definitely been what I’ve carried out of the house with me this month! Do you take your knitting on the go with you? Is a particular kind of project your go-to “emergency” knitting?

JFC: I'm always working on a yoke sweater, and I like them bottom up precisely because I can always fit a sleeve or a body piece in my purse.

Julia Farwell-Clay wearing her  Coquille  pullover, released earlier this year. Photo © Julia Farwell-Clay.

Julia Farwell-Clay wearing her Coquille pullover, released earlier this year. Photo © Julia Farwell-Clay.

KR: I’ve been asking each Boost Your Knitting designer about their “desert island” knitting pics – one yarn, one knitting book, and one piece of music you’d take if you were stuck on a desert island. What would your pics be?

JFC: Yarn: Cormo Sport from Sincere Sheep, Book: Barbara Walker Volume 3, Music: David Bowie's Heroes

KR: Finally, care to share what’s on your needles at the moment?

JFC: I'm knitting a yoke sweater out of Daughter of a Shepherd and a striped shawl in La Bien Aimiee.

Photo © Jesse Wild.

Photo © Jesse Wild.

Don’t those both sound like lovely projects? Thank you again Julia for letting us take a little peek into your process! You can see more of Julia’s work on her Ravelry pattern page and also catch up with her on her website, Facebook, and Instagram. We’ve also got a few copies of her lovely contribution to Mason-Dixon Knitting’s Field Guide Series, Ease, in the online shop! And if you’d like to try your hand at intarsia in the round and whip up your own pair of Heartgyle Socks, you can find all the details about Boost Your Knitting over on the product page — 12 patterns, 12 techniques, 12 opportunities to learn something brand new!