This month I’m talking to Laura Patterson, the designer behind Fiber Dreams. Fiber Dreams also sells blocking wires!
These monthly features of other creative businesses are a way for all of us to get to know these wonderful makers; it has been a long-time interest of mine to explore how other creative people make their way as professionals.
Q: Who put you on the path that became Fiber Dreams?
A: I was lucky to have two amazing grandmothers, each quite different from the other. My maternal grandmother is the one who is responsible for my lifelong love affair with all things string, and for this gift I will be eternally grateful. It is my paternal grandmother, however, who I think of when I design, especially when I design garments.
Grandma grew up on a farm in Iowa, but she had plans for her life. She headed for Chicago, and the art school there, as soon as she was able. Later she moved to Portland, Oregon. In the late 1920s Grandma was still single, and worked for a garment company in San Francisco. I never knew her full role there, but I do know that Grandma came out of it with superior sewing skills, sketches she’d done of some stunning flapper dresses, an eye for style, and the ability to make clothes fit anyone perfectly.
All those things she possessed and shared have inspired me the most in my career as a designer. I just wish I’d been smart enough to learn everything I could from her when I had the chance! Whenever I design something, especially something that I think is particularly clever, I want to share it with her. Whenever I design a sweater, especially a sweater that I’m having troubles with, I wish she were here to hold my hand through the sticky bits, share her knowledge of fit, and to celebrate my successes.
My grandmothers were both women of great style and one was a fantastic sewer. She is the reason I am not a good hand stitcher since she would do mine for me. Oh what we learn too late.
Q: Tell me about how you found your Fiber Dreams in knitwear design.
A: I never had anything resembling a career before this, merely a succession of jobs. Some of the jobs I was quite good at, some maybe not so much. I was never at any of them for very long, even the ones that I started out liking a lot. There are a lot of excuses, a lot of reasons that I learned to tell prospective employers, but when it came right down to it I’d start looking for new work when I got bored with the old. It didn’t matter how much I liked it, sooner or later I always got bored. It was always the same job, day in and day out, and that drove me to distraction. I need more variety in my days.
Knitting design doesn’t bore me. If I want to go explore some new technique or shape or stitch, I just do it. There’s enough variety between the knitting and the work of designing, the pattern-writing, page layout, ad creation, and so forth, that more than ten years later I’m still not bored.
I completely relate. Every day is a new challenge or has different activities. Many years ago when interviewing someone at a large company they said they couldn’t bear the uncertainty of “what to do today” that a small business faces. They loved knowing what they were going to do each day. Knitwear designers are not cut from that cloth!
Q: Where do you pursue your Fiber Dreams?
A: Where do I work? At my desk, and in front of the TV. Boring! But, my desk and the TV moved along with us about 5-1/2 years ago when we uprooted ourselves, and escaped the hoards of southern California to a small town in southern Washington State. We moved away from the crowds, the traffic, the barrage of millions of people living much too close to each other to about seven miles outside of a small town.
We moved from our house on a “large” lot where we were almost close enough to our neighbors to be able to pass the needed cup of sugar from our window to theirs, to a five-acre parcel with a house, a huge garage, a 400 square foot barn, a small apple orchard, and a meadow, all surrounded by the most glorious assortment of conifers and deciduous trees, deer, blackberries, and flowers—lots and lots of unbelievable flowers.
Wow, that is a huge change! I moved to Washington state too, but from one city to another. Nice to have the same desk for continuity. Nothing is better than Washington apples!
A: Design-wise, I have a top-down raglan with lace bits and a lacy crescent shawl with beads are both currently being test knit. I already have photos of both these designs, and both have been through two rounds of tech editing, so will be ready to release soon. I hope. Just off the needles is a big pi half-circle shawl that I knit with a single-ball gradient, and a super-secret project that will be released in July. On the needles is an asymmetric triangle with a lovely all-over leaf design. And then there’s the lace front cardigan with lace sleeves that I finished knitting a while back, and need to get into the pipeline for release.
Oh, I love that cardigan. I am always curious to see how you use lace; you are very adept at combining traditional and contemporary.
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