I really love talking to other designers about their process, so I posed the same questions to Jill Wolcott! Not surprisingly, I had things to say.
The day I did this I was sitting at the dining room table while my office was being cleaned. I love writing things out in longhand, but I type much faster, so when I need to think, it is fun to do it longhand.
Q1: Where do you usually start when creating a design?
Fabric is where I usually start. I am fascinated by what mere knits and purls can do together! I look at everything around me and ideas seem to always grow if I want them. Sometimes I begin with the yarn, or a stitch pattern that needs my attention, or a silhouette.
Q2: Do you have a preference of working with restrictions versus doing “whatever”?
I find it a nice challenge to have restrictions or constraints — it is actually easier to have parameters. My preference is to do whatever, but it isn’t at all efficient. I look for opportunities to impose restrictions.
I probably start with design silhouette ideas for garments. A few years ago I challenged myself to create non-garment projects and I had to start someplace else. That shifted my focus more deeply into fabric. As I’ve become more accustomed to thinking of non-garment projects I think the focus has expanded.
Q4: How do you decide which ideas to pursue and which to let sit?
I am terrible at this! I want to do everything. Sometimes I just record the idea and put it into an idea folder. Other times I am not at all disciplined and something new is going before any rational thought has intervened. This gets me into all kinds of trouble.
Q5: Do you do collections or concept development?
When a concept catches in my brain I have trouble letting it go. But I am patient, because expanding a concept takes time. I used to do designing for the wonderful Jennifer Burt at Love of Knitting and she allowed me to develop concepts over several issues. Now I do it myself, but it seems to take years. It is really nice to collaborate where some of the tough things are determined by another person.
Q6: What appeals to you about independent designing?
Jill Wolcott Knits patterns strive to introduce new techniques and applications. I have no problem being different from the crowd, so I create the patterns I want to produce and use. Although I think my way is better, it is time consuming so I understand why no one else wants to do it.
All of my patterns are designed to make it easy to follow my process; my processes aren’t always easy, but they do create very cool results. I want my knitting to be interesting, but to also have periods of just working along. Making the finishing really special is a goal, so I give detailed instructions on doing it. Always preferring to do things on my knitting needles, I love it when I can devise it so when the last stitch is taken all that is left is blocking and working in ends. That is really hard to do!
Q7: What role does color play in your work?
I love color, but my focus is texture. I am not terrible wedded to colors, but will always choose what I like in the absence of other input. After this project I have decided that I really loath colorwork. Absolutely not because of the knitting, but the yarn untangling just makes me crazy. Although I am very colorful in what I wear, I don’t have a wide range of colors in my wardrobe. I struggle to use blue, which I’m not a fan of, and don’t use black because it is too hard to see, photograph, and isn’t a great color for me. That said, I’m dying to do a black to white project or collection. Maybe naturals, not black to white or white to dark gray.
Being Jill Wolcott Knits
Q8: What besides knitting and your family do you love?
I love to eat. I have become a very good cook in the service of that love. Everything food related is about love and sharing for me. I miss giving dinner parties, and have taken to mailing treats to friends so I can continue cooking and I don’t have to eat it all. Contrary to what most people think, I work hard to stay slim: my twice a week Pilates is now done over Zoom and I will walk almost anywhere. My running has been almost nonexistent since finishing radiation in July; I was tired, and then I filled my time with more Jill Wolcott Knits.
I also love to travel — almost all of my patterns are named after geography or places. After years of having the non-window seat I love it when I get it. I can look at the geography of our earth endlessly. I have lucked into some incredible views of Greenland and Iceland returning from London because I always keep my eye on the view.
Looking for the right name for each project is so much fun. This Rise Up is named Phoenix because the concept to me was rebirth. Thankfully there are places named Phoenix too.
What Else for Jill Wolcott Knits
Q9: How do you remain creative?
Coming up with ideas is never hard for me. Almost anything can get my brain going, and sometimes I have to shut down the idea machine. Texture, color, pattern, shape, artwork, books, movies and television, music, all feed into what generates ideas. Years ago I had to quantify this for a talk I was giving. As I prepared it became clear to me that the input was as important as the output, so I am pretty indulgent about always feeding myself things that serve the output. A walk is often the best way to clear my brain of whatever is bogging it down. Since we are home together all the time Mitch plays wonderful music all day and I don’t have to think about it. Sometimes I ask for something, but mostly our tastes are well aligned and I can rely on an interesting day of music in my background.
Q10: What next — besides leaving the house!
I am hosting the Rise Up Collection on my website.