I've been very lucky this week to catch up with designer Hanna Maciejewski. Hanna was one of the very first indie designer for Tangled Yarn to stock. She has been designing commercially under her own label Hada Knits since 2012 and she is responsible for the beautiful shawl; Spontaneous we featured in the blog Be Spontaneous a few weeks back.
How did you get started designing? When did it go from being a hobby to an actual full time job?
I have loved knitting since I was a child! My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was a little girl. In High School, I perpetually knit sweaters – all from my own imagination, because books and knitting magazines were hard to come by in my country back then. If you wanted something – you thought it up yourself and made it yourself, and then you had something unique.
After moving to the US and then to the UK, knitting temporarily became less important for me since there were so many other exciting things to explore and places to visit, but when I returned to Poland, I realized that knitting and designing knitwear is truly my biggest passion!
When I joined Ravelry a few years ago, at first, I posted projects just for fun. After a dear friend, who is a talented hand dyer, created a special yarn for me, I designed “Colors of Kauai” and felt encouraged to publish it. It was so well received that I decided to write down more of my designs – this is how it all started.
Tell me about Hada Knits, how did you come up with the name?
I had been thinking about my business name for quite a while and discussed it with my husband and my best friends. We came up with several names. Some of them were quite good, others… not so much! In the meantime, I was using my Ravelry ID: hada, which was one of my nicknames since university days. In the end, we decided to go with this one, as we felt it fitted me the most.
What sets you apart from other knitwear designers?
Well, we all have uniquely shaped bodies, don’t we? Not all women have model-like measurements; therefore, we may want to custom tailor different areas of our knitwear to assure the best possible fit.
I have been quite generously equipped by the bust fairy and as you know, this can be both a blessing and a curse because it requires extra shaping in that section. I always had to customise other designers’ patterns for myself to add extra fabric at the front and additional decreases in the waist.
I keep this in mind and try to design garments that slim out the top of women’s bodies and balance them with the bottom half. I love open cardigans, deep neck openings and intriguing waist shaping – in short, everything that flatters!
Do you have a favourite knitting technique that you couldn’t live without?
Definitely cables! Especially the way I can drape them all over a garment and hide and incorporate shaping in cleverly placed cables. I really like short rows, too. They give endless possibilities to form a garment. That’s not all, though – I also like to learn new techniques and new stitches; it always motivates me a lot. Lately, I have started to play with double knitting, especially in cuffs and hems of top-down sweaters. I really like the potential of this technique! I also love lace, but prefer delicate, subtle, not-too-obvious stitch patterns, if you know what I mean.
What design are you most proud of and why?
This is a very difficult question to answer. It is almost impossible to choose one favourite design, and I kind of consider all of them my “babies”. Besides, my favourites change all the time!
At the moment, my two favourite ones are the Petrichor cardigan and its girly version, Little (Splash of) Petrichor
Another favourite cardigan of mine is Wink. It is the worsted-weight version of one of my most popular patterns; Ink and cabling is my favourite knitting technique.
I also like the Wisteria Lane pullover because of its subtle lace panel on the back.
You see? I simply can't pick one! On the other hand, I’m very self-critical, and I always find something that I could have done better.
Do you have time to knit for yourself? And if you do which designer/pattern would you like to knit?
If I ever have the time (ha ha ha), I would like to try a few of Stephen West’s, Martina Behm’s or Melanie Berg’s shawls. They look like really fun pieces to knit.
How do you come up with a new design? Is it a stitch pattern or the yarn? Where does your inspiration come from? Do you sketch it out first or just pick up your knitting needles?
A huge part of my inspiration originates from online sources. I can spend hours browsing Pinterest, Tumblr and similar sites, checking out current fashion trends and allowing myself to get inspired. It’s easy to get carried away when there is such a multitude of inspirational sources to explore, but there’s a downside to this too! I’m not alone watching these sites; everybody is seeing the same pictures, and however beautiful and inspiring they are, truth is if several people see the same pictures, then those several people might end up getting the same ideas! You won’t believe how often it has happened that I had a great idea after seeing x or y online, happened to have just the right yarn for it and got very much carried away detailing it into a nice pattern – only to notice by chance or get alerted by one of my testers to the fact that somebody else had thought up almost the same thing at the same time! Those get always scrapped, however neat the idea might have been, and I frog them and make something else.
The place I live in influences me a lot, too, though it is not that obvious when you look at my designs. The serene place in the countryside near Toruń I live in, my big garden (I am a huge fan of gardening, and whenever the weather permits, I love to sit on the porch and knit) and the forest nearby are quiet places to think about new designs and life in general and to look for sources of inspiration and get new ideas. I also like to walk around the Old Town of Toruń, feeling the history and watching people.
The yarn stimulates me a lot, too. Its texture, colour, the possibilities it can bring etc. always amaze me. If a yarn doesn’t “talk” to me, I tend not to work with it.
Most of the time, my designing process starts with a sketch, a preliminary swatch and a collection of stitch ideas. However, this does not always work out, and I sometimes change them on the go. I’m a hands-on designer, and very often, useful ideas for improvement come to my mind while I knit up a design.
You’ve had quite a few designs published in PomPom Quarterly, which is exciting. How do you find working on a magazine submission differs from designing under your own label?
It really is exciting and I loved working with PomPom Quarterly. Not only are they very passionate about knitting and their magazine, they have a fabulous tech editor, too, and then there is the added exposure – I felt very honoured when, recently, I saw one of my knitting idols making a hat of mine that had been published in PomPom!
Are you working on a new design at the moment? Is it something you can share?
As most of the knitters, I always have a few projects on the needles at the same time. At the moment, I am working on a small collection for one of the great yarn companies and hope to have it ready by winter. Also, a couple of exciting collaborations are coming soon! In the meantime, I hope to publish a few designs under my own name, too!
We also a stock of a number of Hanna's pattern here at Tangled Yarn which can be downloaded for instant casting on as a PDF knitting pattern. We'd love to hear which is your favourite!
SAVE 20% ON ALL HADA KNITS PATTERNS STOCKED BY TANGLED YARN, USE THE DISCOUNT CODE HADAKNITS.
Rachel Owen is the owner of Tangled Yarn. As a mother to two teenagers, life is never dull! When she's not knitting can be found wandering the Pennines with her faithful cocker spaniel Bailee. Her favourite colour is blue or is it green? And she could sink a ship with the amount of tea she drinks!