Friday, September 12, 2008

Dawn Leeseman is in the House! Casual Elegant Knits Blog Tour Continues

Today, I’m happy to welcome Dawn Leeseman to my blog as part of the blog tour she and her co-author, Faina Goberstein have underway. She’s here to talk with us about felting.

Their book,
Casual Elegant Knits, includes four felted projects. There are a felted beret in two sizes, two large bags, and a smaller purse. The beret and bags are modeled by a man, however they are definitely suitable for a woman. One distinguishing feature in their felted designs the incorporation of edgings that help to tailor and define the shapes.

Me: Dawn, welcome to my blog! I’m so happy to have you here. As you know, felting is one my passions, along with sock knitting. I jumped into felting about 4 years ago. How about you . . . when did you pick it up?

Dawn: I had knit for about 10 years before I discovered felting in the 90’s, but did not really design a felted project until I started designing professionally. My first felted design is the Scalloped Tote written for Y2Knit in 2003. The top features a feather and fan lace pattern. I had never seen the use of any stitch pattern, especially lace, used in any of the published felted patterns and approached it from the “What If” standpoint.

Me: I love that you were fearless in doing something new with your Scalloped Tote design. I find being able to innovate something in a project very satisfying. What is it about felting that you find most satisfying?

Dawn: I love the way that the knitting is transformed into something totally different. I also like that it can be a bit unpredictable, especially when designing from a swatch that you have felted. However, what is also great about felting is that no matter what, you always end up with something. Even if the project does not turn out, you can always use your imagination to create something else, perhaps using the cut and sew method or simply using the fabric to make some flowers or trim for another project.

Me: Felting is not without its ability to strike fear into the hearts of knitters. What is it about felting that you consider to be the most challenging?

Dawn: That would be the flip side of what I like the most, that bit of unpredictability can be difficult when I want something very definite and the end product defies all of my predetermined calculations. Another challenge is when interchanging yarns; you can’t assume that a yarn with the same ball band information with felt in the same way.

Me: So tell us a little about your design process.

Dawn: Once I have determined what I want in my finished project then I choose the yarn type For the most part I like to stay will a basic wool and tend to steer away from my beloved novelty yarns. For the most part I like to use yarns that I know will give me good results time after time.

Me: One of the remarkable things I’ve learned about the designers I’ve encountered is how generous they are with sharing their knowledge with knitters. Do you have some felting tips to share with our readers?

Dawn: Of course! First, work in all ends to the wrong side and check your work for any dropped stitches before you began felting. Second, take care that you stop the washer before it goes into the spin cycle as this may set creases that cannot be removed. Finally, take the time to shape your damp project. For a felted bag I use a box covered with a plastic bag that is the same dimension as the finished bag, I like this form to fit snugly inside so that I get good definition.

Me: I’ve had my share of horrible felting-gone-wrong moments. I'm sure you have as well. Do you have any advice to offer about how to avoid the most common felting pitfalls?

Dawn: Oh yes, I have! Do not put anything in with your felting that sheds lint. This can be permanent. I used a towel one time to help in the agitation process and ended up with lint embedded in the felted fabric, I was unable to remove the lint and it spoiled my project.

Also, do not use yarn from your stash that you assume is wool without felting a swatch. I keep my yarn leftovers sorted in plastic containers. Some of the acrylic wool blends look so much like wool that somehow a leftover skein made it into my wool container; it was missing the ball band. I was trying to use up some stash and worked for hours on a bag. When I put it in the washer, I agitated for what seemed to be forever, and still no felting.

Me: Dawn, you’ve had some longevity in the knitwear design world, do you have any insights, hunches, or crystal ball gazings into what the future of felting will be and what trends we may expect?

Dawn: I have seen felting really evolve over the past ten to fifteen years. Designers are experimenting with so many elements of design. They are combining wool with novelties, and using unlikely stitch patterns with stunning results.

At first I thought it would be a passing trend, however I see that it has earned a place in the knitting world. I think that designers will continue to surprise and delight us in the future.

Me: Dawn, you and I have both designed some patterns for Crystal Palace Yarns. I think we both started doing some things for them at about the same time.

Dawn: Yes, we did. I began working with Crystal Palace Yarns in late 2004 after meeting one of their yarn reps, Marge Okuley. I had shown my portfolio to her and she liked my work. She recommended me to Susan Druding, the owner. Susan sent me some sample balls of yarn and I worked up some swatches and sketches. She liked my ideas and we have been working together ever since.

I have not done any felted projects for Crystal Palace, but have admired your work Terry. What are you currently working on?

Me: Thanks, Dawn! That makes me very warm and fuzzy!

Right now, I’m in the throes of the 52 Pair Plunge II and since June, I have completed 19 pairs of socks. As an added challenge, I've set myself the task of designing as many of the pairs I knit as I possibly can, so you can expect to see more sock designs popping up on my website in the coming months.

I’m fairly well serially monogamous when it comes to knitting, so I don’t have a whole lot of unfinished projects started. I have a Modern Quilt Wrap by Mags Kandis in progress, as well as a wrap of my own design cooking on the needles. And always a pair of socks! I have a few felting projects percolating in my brain, too. Always multi-tasking!

However, very near on the horizon, I see many of your felted berets from Casual Elegant Knits on my needles for Christmas gifts for friends, family, and teachers. I just love that beret! What can you tell me about it?

Dawn: Thanks! That is one of my designs. Even though Faina had not done any felting prior to the projects in the book, she gave me great input as to what she envisioned for our collection. She even test knit and felted the beret. It was her first felting project.

Me: Well, it looks fabulous! It’s a great way to assure beginning felters that they also can have that kind of success.

Congratulations to you both on such a great collection of designs, and on the publication of your book. Thank you so much for joining me today, and have a great time on the rest of your blog tour! I’ll be checking in tomorrow to see your stop at the blog of Liz Moreno.

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