Today we are delighted to have Jennifer Lassonde (from the Down Cellar Studio Podcast) in our Designer Spotlight. She has a lot of beautiful patterns to make for yourself or for gifts, and I know you’ll enjoy reading more about her.
Loopy: Hi Jennifer! Thanks for being in our Spotlight today. How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Jennifer: Hi Loopy! I learned to knit in 2009 with a basic lesson at a local big box craft store. I strategically signed up for a class the night before getting on a plane to a scrapbooking retreat in Virginia where I knew at least two of my friends were knitters and could help me when I got stuck. I hadn’t realized my friend Anya who was flying down from Boston with me was also a knitter. My friends were all so patient with me, correcting things for me at first, but then showing me how to fix my mistakes which served me better when I got home and didn’t have them with me.
Loopy: It’s definitely good to have some knitting friends to help, when you first start. Very good planning on your part! What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Jennifer: I’d have to say socks are my favorite to knit. Now that I’ve knit well over a hundred pairs, socks are just a pure comfort knit project. Socks provide a great canvas to play with colors (especially colors you may not wear close to your face) and I primarily knit with self-striping sock yarn. Let’s face it, that’s just fun! Also, I love how portable they are. I always have a sock in my purse. Best of all? My family adores receiving them as gifts, so I never have to worry about running out of grateful recipients (or reasons to knit more socks) and I’m rarely scrambling for gifts or having to run to the mall!
Loopy: Handknit socks make such a great gift for those who appreciate them (and it sounds like your family does!). What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Jennifer: I’d have to say it was the Planche Vest by Meghan Jones. It’s an all-over lace tank with eyelets that run diagonally out from the center line. It has a very large keyhole in the back. I knit it back in 2013, at which point I’d done very little lace knitting and wasn’t familiar with how to insert a lifeline and wasn’t great at reading lace patterns to know before it required frogging back several rows, that I was out of sync with the pattern. It was definitely a challenge, but I am grateful to have this fun top in my wardrobe and I learned a lot about lace, how to read my stitches and how to fix my mistakes. Here’s a link to my Ravelry Project: BostonJen’s Planche Vest.
Loopy: That’s a whole lot of learning in one design. Sounds like it was a good experience overall. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Jennifer: In the spring of 2013, after having knit a couple of top-down triangular shawls, I wanted to try my hand at using that basic shape and adding in stitch patterns I liked. I had an old Stitch Dictionary from my aunt which I used to write up a few notes, but in the end, I made up each section as I went. I hadn’t planned to “design” anything nor to publish or share it, but when I shared photos and talked about it on my podcast, I got a lot of requests, so I took a shot at it. Friends from my local knitting group tested out the pattern for me and helped me tweak a few things, and from there I had the designing bug. I have a hard time just knitting a pattern as written. I guess that urge to put my own spin on things is just part of me, and so I’ve embraced it.
Loopy: I think a lot of designers start that way – wanting to do something their own way. We all benefit from that, when you all turn your designs into ones that we can make, too! Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Jennifer: This is a hard one but I’d have to say my World of Difference Shawl. This was a project that was fun for me to knit and design from the moment I cast on. Everything flowed smoothly even though I was designing as I went (and believe me, even with a solid plan that’s rare). It’s a sideways garter stitch shawl with stripes on either side of a center short-row triangle center. I had fun playing with colors and forming the short row triangles which was new to me at the time, but mostly I just love wearing this shawl. Coming in at around 150g of fingering weight, it’s large enough to be cozy without feeling too warm or heavy and I adore the bright pop of neon around my neck especially on a cold winter’s day!
Loopy: That’s beautiful and looks like it would be fun to knit, as well as fun to wear. What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?
Jennifer: My favorite part of designing (aside from seeing talented knitters take my finished pattern and knit beautiful things with it) is that initial phase of excitement. The spark of the idea. Sketching it out. Writing up some notes, making a chart and getting it onto the needles. There are a lot of things after that which are far less fun- adjustments, math (and more math), working through tweaks with my tech editor. Of these, my least favorite part is when you’ve got something in your head and just can’t translate it onto the needles. I can usually get there in the end, but that middle phase can be really challenging. When it works out, it’s even more satisfying!
Loopy: Yes, the math. But also, trying to get the image in your head to work in yarn. I totally get that. Do you do this business full-time, or on the side? And is that hard? Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing?
Jennifer: I design and podcast as a side-hustle. By day I’m a project manager in the nursing department of a big Boston hospital. Sometimes this makes it difficult to find as much time as I’d like for designing, but my day job is also really challenging and rewarding in its own way and I’ve learned so many skills for time and project management, customer service, team work etc that serve me well in all of my creative pursuits. I do hope that eventually I can retire early and focus solely on my creative projects so I’m enjoying the process of laying the groundwork for that now.
Loopy: If you don’t already know Jennifer from her podcast, check out her website for more info on that! Does anyone else in your family knit?
Jennifer: Both of my grandmothers were knitters at different points in their lives, my mother knows how to knit, but chooses not (an easy decision when your daughter makes all the shawls, socks and sweaters you may want) and I’ve taught several of my nieces and nephews to knit over the years. My niece Riley, now 12, is the most prolific knitter and, with my help, has recently started her first sweater! It’s such a joy to see her build her knitting skills and her love for the craft and we even record some things so she can share on my YouTube Channel! I’m so thankful to have a creative family and many crafty friends, to be able to share my projects with people who get it!
Loopy: That’s so fun that Riley has taken to it so well. I hope her first sweater is a big success! It’s true that having crafty and creative friends is a huge blessing in life. Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Jennifer: I enjoy crocheting, spinning, painting, scrapbooking, hiking and kayaking. I dabble a little in sewing and am just now learning embroidery. Just recently I’ve been teaching myself more about video and video editing. It started as a new way to share my craft in a visual medium (for my audio podcast fans who might like to see more) but I’ve found a lot of joy and creativity in the video editing process too which was a nice surprise.
Loopy: What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Jennifer: On my perfect day off, I’d sleep until I woke up naturally, drink a big glass of water and go outside for a hike at one of my favorite local trails. I’d come home and enjoy breakfast (my boyfriend Dan makes the best omelets) and coffee. Then I’d settle in for something crafty for a few hours-likely knitting or spinning while watching or listening to knitting/crochet podcasts. I’d take a bath in the late afternoon, get dressed, put on some make-up and curl my hair, and meet my friends for an outdoor dinner and some local craft beer. I’d knit on a sock and we’d all chat and enjoy the food and the atmosphere. We’d end the night catching a movie or a musical at a local theater, with my knitting in my lap to keep my hands busy, of course.
Loopy: That sounds like a great day off – even more so, as we are all staying at home and not doing much of those fun gatherings! Ok, last set of questions: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or Multicolors?
Jennifer: Morning person all the way. I’m useless after 4 pm for anything that requires real thought or effort. Coffee please! Ideally something with a coconut flavor. English style knitter. Solids (though I do like a good fade or stripes depending on the project).
Loopy: Thanks again for being with us today! Anything else you’d like to add?
Jennifer: This has been so much fun! Thanks again for including me!
Jennifer has set up a code for 20% off of one pattern of your choice from her Ravelry Pattern Shop. Code: loopy The code is valid Feburary 19-26, 2021.
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