This is the first in a series of interviews with designers who have worked with our yarns, whether we have published their designs, they’ve published the designs themselves, or they’ve been published elsewhere.
Diane Zangl is the designer of two Happy Fuzzy Yarn patterns, the Bird’s Eye Shawl and the Burwick Tam. Watch for her new mitten pattern this fall!
Happy Fuzzy Yarn: How long have you been designing? How did you get started?
Diane Zangl: I’ve been sewing and crocheting since I was seven and knitting since my teens. I began my professional knitwear career in 1984 after receiving encouragement from Elizabeth Zimmermann to publish my designs. That was at the first of her camps I attended. I’ve gone every year since then, except for one. Her daughter, Meg, runs them now. My first design was published in Knitter’s issue #14, and since then I’ve had the good fortune to have over 600 published designs to my name.
HFY: What does your day look like?
DZ: My office/studio is upstairs and I usually head up there sometime around 8-9 am to check the emails and Facebook to answer any questions that have come in, etc. till around noon. I used to spend the afternoons and evenings knitting, sometimes 8-10 hours a day, but since I’m sort of semi-retired now I usually only knit in the evenings – unless there is a deadline looming. Now that summer is here, I spend good chunks of the afternoon outside in my gardens.
HFY: How would you describe your style? Does your design style match your personal style or are they different?
DZ: My philosophy is that of creating classic, yet current, garments that can be enjoyed across several seasons. Unique stitch combinations and knitting techniques are the things I like to do most. They fit my lifestyle pretty well, as I prefer classic, easy-to-wear garments. I’ve never been into lace or froufrou very much either in my personal style or my designs.
HFY: Tell us about your design process. How does a piece go from a glimmer of an idea to a finished garment or accessory with a published pattern?
DZ: I do what I call a “scribble sketch” first. I still keep a small sketchbook handy and when something comes to mind I’ll scribble a small, very basic sketch with a few notes in that.
I’ll also tear pictures from a magazine or catalog – usually a fabric garment with an interesting detail that I think can morph into knitwear. That’s my seamstress background popping up.
I revisit the book from time to time and refine the idea, most often after I see a yarn that especially speaks to me. I don’t start swatching until the idea firms itself up more. I don’t do a tremendous amount of swatches for each design. If it’s not working after 3 swatches at the most, I’ll drop it for a later revisit. As for choosing yarn, more often the properties of the yarn tell what it wants to be.
HFY: Where do you find inspiration?
DZ: Nature inspires me a lot, also classic garments that can be adapted to today’s styles. I live on the edge of a National Wildlife Refuge and the colors there are great inspiration.
HFY: What attracted you to Happy Fuzzy Yarn?
DZ: Definitely the colorways. I especially like the Semi-Solids.
HFY: What’s your favorite design?
DZ: Usually whatever I’m working on at the moment, although I do have a saddle-shoulder gansey I knit in 1987 that I wear constantly. It’s from a huge cone of yarn I picked up when a local yarn/weaving shop went out of business a few years before that. Berroco ‘Lambswool something’ that is a very high-twist yarn, sturdy, much like what was used in the ganseys of old. It looks good as new, even with all the wear, and being my default sweater for many occasions, I still get compliments on it.
HFY: Any advice for beginning designers?
DZ: If you’re really serious about being a designer, you have to want to devote the time and effort to it. There are a lot of wannabees out there now that put a cable pattern into a plain sweater, write about it on a blog, or put it up on Ravelry and voila!, think they’re a professional. Good pattern writing skills are a must. I think a lot of knitters will agree, there are a lot of very poorly written patterns out there.
HFY: Where can people buy your designs?
DZ: Most of my designs are done for yarn companies or knitting magazines, but I do have others under my Stitch Witch Designs label that are available on Patternfish.com.
DZ: I’m working on new ideas right now that I’m hoping to have finished this fall and will have those available on Ravelry. Knitters can also keep up with what I’m doing on my Facebook page, Stitch Witch Designs.
HFY: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us!
You can see all of our Happy Fuzzy Yarn patterns on Ravelry.