from mama, with love / an interview with connie

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen the wonderful collaboration of five knitwear designers who teamed up to create clothing for their children in the adorable ebook, From Mama, With Love. Designers Connie Chang Chinchio, Tanis Gray, Margaux Hugnagel, Melissa LaBarre, and Kate Gagnon Osborn each contributed 3 designs; making a fantastic collection of knits for kids.

Here’s an interview I did with Connie, so you can learn more about the ebook:

Me: This collection is so sweet, Connie. Who’s idea was this? How did it take shape?
Connie: Tanis Gray originally came up with the idea and recruited a bunch of us to contribute designs. She has extensive publishing experience – first with Vogue Knitting and now with Interweave – that it wasn’t a surprise she’d be the mover, shaker, and instigator in this little collaboration.

Me: How did you get things started? Were each of you responsible for picking the yarn/colors? Or was there an overall theme you had to work around?
Connie: There was no overall theme other than the requirement that the items needed to be garments or accessories we’d want to knit for our own kids. I think there may have been a general understanding that we’d each contribute 2 garments and 1 accessory. As for yarn choice and color – each designer was responsible for contacting yarn companies and deciding on yarn and color. At the very start of the enterprise, we shared our sketches, tentative yarn choices, and palettes with each other to make sure everything would fit cohesively. But I think most of us had published independently before, so we were all pretty comfortable with the process.

Me: It looks like you each were responsible for providing the photography for each project. What other tasks were there to do and how did you all decided who would do what?
Connie: We decided on tasks based on each person’s individual strengths and to a certain extent, bandwidth. We were lucky that one of us, Kate Gagnon from Kelbourne Woolens, has had a lot of experience laying out patterns. She really took on the bulk of the project since there were a lot of graphic design work involved – from charts to schematics to the overall look of the booklet. The other tasks we shared were mainly centered around promotion – with the flood of new patterns hitting the market every day, it really takes a lot of work to get the word out! We hired a single tech editor to edit all of our patterns for consistency.

Me: I really love your designs for adults, so I always enjoy seeing what you create for Olivia. Can you talk about the designs you created for the ebook—how did you decide on those? They are all so great! I want to make that vest for Immie.
Connie: Thanks, Carrie! Right back at you! I love your adult patterns and I’m always excited to see what you make for Immie.
 It’s a bit challenging to knit for Olivia these days. She’s three now and suddenly she’s developed all sorts of opinions on what she will and will not wear. Like her mama, she’s also very picky about “itchy” yarns. Most wools these days are a nonstarter for her. Given these constraints, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible. She loves hoods and she loves subtle feminine clothes. So the Velvet Hoodie is really very simple – an open Henley collar, a hood, and a little flounce at the hem – all knit in one of the most wearable (read non-scratchy) wools out there (Neighborhood Fiber Co’s Studio Sport). Similarly, for Olivia’s Hat, I wanted something simple and sweet, but still special – so I incorporated a delicate cable at the brim, but left the rest in plain stockinette.
 Kyle, fortunately, is still at a very malleable age. He’ll protest if you try to put a hat on him, but other than that, he’s very easy. Still, he’s a squirmy guy – so a vest that’s easy to put on and off seemed a safe bet. I had in mind an almost sporty, puffy vest look when I designed the Kyle Vest. It’s knit side to side and has small cable columns that suggest the quilting on puffy vests – or at least, that was my aim! Because the vest had to look puffy, I went with a thicker yarn than I usually work with. And there’s a fun factor with the buttons – you can choose something big or small, whimsical or practical. Since the buttons are fastened with loops instead of buttonholes, you can decide after the vest is finished.

Me: What’s next for you, Connie? Will there be a volume 2? Or any other projects on the horizon you can share?
Connie: I really hope there will be a volume 2! I lobbied for it even before we put the final touches on this edition. But it all depends on our commitments, etc etc. As for my next project, I don’t have anything concrete planned. Right now, I’m working on a fingering weight long cardigan that’s sort of a cross between my Apres Surf Hoodie and my Sabbatical Cardigan. If it works, I might write it up for self publication. It’s a bit hard to make concrete plans these days with two small kids, but I hope you’ll see my work out there again soon!

Thanks so much, Connie!