From Nov 13th through Dec 31st there is an Indie Design Gift-A-Long going on over on Ravelry. This is my first year participating. It has been great fun joining with 293 other designers, and a community of knitters & crocheters in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long group.
Today I’m interviewing a fellow designer, Justine Turner of Just Jussi Knitwear Design. I grew to love her designs way back with her amazing Aviatrix hat, and more currently I’m in love with her Coop set of mitts, hat, cowls, and even a mason jar cozy!
KW: What is it about babies and children that inspires your designing passion?
JT: I design for babies and children because I have a lot of ideas that just don’t suit adults. I can be more flexible designing for littlies. The yarns can be fine, construction methods that won’t work on an adult due to drag can work fine on a baby.
Riverstone is a good example:
The yoke would stretch far too much on anyone over 10, but on a child it is cute and quick to knit. I have two other designs which people are always asking me to resize for adults – Aria and Cocteau - but they aren’t suitable for grown women’s body shapes, what looks cute on a child can often look frumpy on a grown up! There are so many amazing designers creating garments for adults, I step into that world occasionally with accessories but most of the ideas that jump out at me are for children. My husband and I raised five daughters, and they have delighted us with three grandchildren so far. I have always knitted for children, so it just feels like my niche.
KW: I love creative and unusual constructions. What kind of unusual constructions are your favorites?
JT: I like construction methods that feel “clever” – projects that I just get a burst of joy from. That’s why I still love the Aviatrix after knitting so many of them! I don’t like making things more difficult than they should be, and I like to reduce seams where it is suitable. I am not a proponent of the “always seamless” philosophy though, as sometimes you need a seam to give structure to the garment and to carry weight.
I do like the “up and over” method, working the front, then adding sleeves, reducing sleeves, knitting the back then folding at the shoulders and seaming the sides. I have used that method in a few of the garments in my Garter stitch plain and simple set, where I have also used increases and decreases within the body of the knitting to create sleeves (4 Seasons) and a button up flap (Sailor) I just love details like these, they keep the knitting fun.
KW: As a teacher, what are your favorite topics to instruct?
JT: Teaching still scares me, so I teach what I know! My favourite is my Short rows class. Aviatrix opened the world of short rows up to me. I know 7 methods inside out and I love teaching them, often using the Aviatrix as a sampler. The students work a different method for each section and it gives them a good comparison. I have taught Designing for knitters, Finishing techniques, Knitting for beginners and Troubleshooting and Cables and Lace for beginners. I always have fun during the class but I’m a stress bunny beforehand.
KW: When you are designing, what drives your creativity? The yarn, something you see, special moments?
JT: I get most of my ideas while I am knitting, I think about different ways of doing things and the ideas just flow. I draw them in my design folder and describe the idea in as much detail as possible so that when I am ready to write a new pattern I can go through my folder and understand what past me was trying to say! I am more likely to design the garment first and then go and look for a suitable yarn rather than the other way around. That said, my stash is quite large and surrounds me in my studio. So it is definitely having a subconscious influence on me. I also use my experiences with my grandchildren to help me design garments that are actually going to be used. My latest series of short-sleeved tops were designed because my eldest granddaughter (she is 21 months old) always gets her cuffs grubby and wet, because she is so enthusiastic in her play. We don’t want to stifle her enjoyment and learning, but we also don’t want to spend hours laundering hand knits just because the cuffs are dirty. The short-sleeved over-tops mean that my daughter only has to change the (machine washable) fine knit merino undershirt that most Kiwi kids wear in winter. They are also great for our “four seasons in one day” weather.
KW: Your website has many wonderful tutorials. I was especially excited by the Laundering Woollens page. It made me want to get the supplies to make my own soap (in fact, I might just have done so). How did you come up with this fab idea?
JT: Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed them! I was what we now call a “crunchy Mum” I lived in a part of the country where attachment parenting was popular before it became mainstream (my kids are aged between 27 and 23) and I loved gardening, crafts and making as much as possible from scratch. One of my daughters had numerous allergies and asthma, so it was important for us to keep the number of chemicals to a minimum. These days we can buy products which are better for the environment and ourselves which is great, but making them yourself, even if only occasionally, is fun. I still grow all my own herbs and we have a veritable orchard of dwarf fruit trees in our suburban garden. When you have a new baby you want everything to be as nice and safe as possible, that’s why I like the idea of washing that new baby’s knits in homemade laundry soap. I think the most important thing about that tutorial is that it tells new parents that hand washing knits does not need to be a time consuming, difficult chore. My daughters and sons-in-law have all learnt this from me, and the tiny garments have survived well enough that they are ready for the next batch of babies.
KW: With the beautiful Waitakere Ranges so close, does this impact your design process? How does the weather and stunning views help/hinder your process? and do you give Bed & Breakfast tours? Please?
JT: I’m lucky to live where I do, the city centre is only a 20 minute drive away, but within 30 seconds I can be on a track surrounded by cool, calm, green bush. I love the scent of the forest, the shade and the sound of native birds. It centres me so quickly and helps me to relax and think. We live in a valley, there are plenty of neighbors, but many are hidden by the trees so it feels a lot more rural than it is. My studio is on the ground floor of our home. It looks out onto a bed of gardenias and my vegetable gardens. The gardenias are just starting to flower now, so in a couple of weeks the scent will be amazing. Being so close to the bush means that there are always birds in the garden. There is a cheeky little fantail who dances on the fence every morning, and some big Tuis who are always fighting for territory. Their song is stunning and reminds me to go outside for a cup of tea in the sun every now and then to watch their aerial displays. Traveling has shown me just how lucky I am to live in this green oasis, and journeying knitters are more than welcome to visit! Bed and breakfast may be difficult though, although our kids have left home and my husband and I have claimed their rooms as our studio/ offices, there always seems to be at least one friend or family member sleeping in our guest room…though I’m eyeing that room up as my photography studio!
KW: What an awesome environment to live and create in! Thank you, Justine, for sharing a bit of your world with us today.