Chatting with Melanie Berg
One of our favourite designers here at Tangled Yarn is Melanie Berg. I personally became aware of her designs shortly after we added Rosy Green's Cheeky Merino Joy to the shop as it was timed with the release of her shawl pattern, Drachenfels and I reached out to Melanie to ask if she's consider allowing us to add her patterns to the shop, I was thrilled when she said yes!
I managed to catch up with Melanie shortly after she released her collection Texture is the New Black.
You’ve been very busy lately with lots of new designs. Tell us a bit more about your collaboration with Malabrigo; Texture is the New Black. What did you think of Finito?
Working on this collection has been one of the most exciting projects for me. I love collaborating with Malabrigo - they have amazing yarns, and a great understanding of how independant designers like to work. They give you a lot of freedom to make your vision come true, and I really felt my inspiration thrive on this.
I knew from the start that I wanted to create five designs - each of them unique, but all of them singing the same song. This common element was the yarn I chose - Finito, an amazingly soft fingering weight that comes in a beautiful range of hand-dyed color shades - and along with that, a strong focus on stitch definition and texture.
The final collection consists of Threshold, a modern drop-shoulder sweater, Risen, a timeless and flattering cardigan, Sunwalker, a big shawl that combines texture and lace, and the Qwist set: a hat and a matching pair of fingerless mitts.
What started you designing and when did you decide to make a career of knitting? Does you IT background help?
I first learned to knit when my mother taught it to me – I think I was thirteen years old. I made a terrible, curling stockinette scarf and was so disappointed with it that I didn’t want to knit anymore. I put it down and only picked it up again when my first daughter was born. I wanted to create something for her, something warm, something to protect her, and knitting seemed like the natural thing to do. I’m passionate for it ever since! As soon as I started knitting for my daughter, I tweaked the patterns that I had been following. I added little details here and there, changed some things, left others out. That felt very natural to me and I was never afraid the outcome might be bad – if that was the case, you could always simply rip out your work and start over, couldn’t you? This wouldn’t be the end of the world.
So from there on, it’s not been a far way to come up with my own patterns. I soon started to write them down, and thanks to platforms like Ravelry, it was easy to share them with the knitting world!
I do have an IT background – I’ve worked as Unix system administrator for more than ten years. But as our family grew and my designing career, too, I didn’t feel connected to that job anymore. I quit it more than a year ago and now work fulltime as a designer. However, that IT background is helpful in so many ways for me! Being a knitwear designer is not only about knitting, you know. You have to be skilful in many fields – photography, layout, technical writing, basic math, social media, just to name a few, and my technical education definitely comes in handy now.
How would you describe your style?
It’s hard to put my entire style in only a few words, but “modern” and “wearable” are probably the best ones to describe my way of knitting. I don’t design with these in mind – it just happens automatically!
Why do we knit? It’s because in the end, we want to have a finished object that we love. One that we wear a lot, one that we enjoy. With my designs, I try to offer this. I don’t want my knitters to end up with a piece that’s unhandy in their everyday life – I want them to be able to use it whenever they wish. At work, when chilling on the couch, or even when going out at night.
What design are you best known for?
My most popular design to date is Drachenfels, an asymmetrical triangular shawl, knit in Rosy Green Wool's Cheeky Merino Joy. Hundreds of knitters have created their own version of this shawl already, and I'm amazed and thrilled to see their finished objects.
Being a three-colored design, it's really easy to make Drachenfels “your own” by combining your favorite colors and arranging them in whatever way you like - the options are endless! That's probably one of the reasons why Drachenfels is so popular - no matter what, you'll get a wonderful and very wearable shawl.
We can see from Drachenfels and Moonraker that you have an amazing eye for colour; how do you decide on what colours to put together?
I truly love neutrals. If you take a look at my patterns, you'll find a great amount of greys in all shades, and I often combine them with true color pops. Moonraker is really a perfect example for that - two greys as a balancing background for color accent rows.
Another reason to use neutrals is that they'll most likely go together perfectly with many pieces of your wardrobe, making it easy to combine.
But neutrals are not my only love - I have a very soft spot for all things mustard/ochre. And petrol. And poisonous green. And pink! Oh it's hard to narrow it down, really.
Moonraker by Melanie Berg
If you couldn’t knit what would you do instead?
If I could wish for another talent, I'd love to be a painter. I've always admired artists who can draw, those who can pour their thoughts on a piece of paper and make their ideas visible to everyone. Unfortunately, I lack this talent completely. I'm well set up to draw a quick fashion sketch or, to draft an idea, but those pieces are far from being called art.
Tell us a little about Plan Deutschland, I know you donate to them each month from your pattern sales?
I’ve always felt that from all the good things in my life, from being healthy, having a roof over my head and never having to live in poverty, I wanted to give a little back and help others who have not been as lucky.
Plan Deutschland is a German aid organization with a strong focus on supporting young kids, especially girls, in Asia, South America and Africa. With a part of my pattern sales, I'm sponsoring two of these kids as well as two aid fonds. I'm incredibly happy that I'm able to do so, and that the love of knitting we all share is helping to make an impact in someone else's life, helping them getting a good education. If you like to learn more about my commitment to Plan Deutschland, you can find more detailed information here.
Can you share a little about what you’re working on at the moment?
Sure! Currently, I'm working on patterns for early 2016. It's mainly shawls (my alltime favorites!), and some of them are for self-publishing, some for yarn companies. I'm also working on classes to teach in the States when I travel there next January and February. This is an exciting trip for me and there are many things to prepare, so this is really keeping me busy at the moment.
Melanie's latest pattern The Love of Spiders has just been released on Ravelry.
About the Author
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!