I'm honoured to be handing the blog over to knitwear designer Lily Kate today to share her knitting journey. Lily is an accomplished designer with over 93 knitting patterns already published.
Hello there! I'm Lily, @lilykatemakes on the social places, and I'm a knitwear designer based in Lancashire. A fellow northern knitter like Rachel. Rachel has kindly invited me to share my work here with you today. Naturally, I'm biased, but the North West really is a wonderful part of the UK, not least for its friendly people and excellent yarn selection!
Knitting has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. At the grand old age of 25, I have 17 years of experience under my belt, and I'd hazard a guess that we're talking tens of millions of stitches at this point. Enough to be able to knit in my sleep, anyway. Not many people can say that their childhood hobby turned into their full-time career, but I found my 'thing' young, and I am incredibly grateful for that.
My knitting journey began like many others. I was taught the basics by my mum and nan. I knit a garter stitch scarf for my doll and made peculiar small items with unintentional holes. The usual. I fell in love with the craft from day 1, and before long, was making clothes and accessories to wear with pride. The thrill of responding, "thanks, I made it myself!" started then and is yet to fade. At the age of 11, I was pretty tall. I was frustrated with the lack of pattern options for my gangly frame, so the only logical solution for a challenge-loving geek was to write them myself. The short version of this blog post is that absolutely nothing has changed since. I'm still geeky, love knitting, and am still tall but no longer so gangly. Still enjoying the challenge.
Stitches hold memories exceptionally well, and my life story could be told through knitted items (maybe that's an idea for a memoir somewhere down the line?). I'll spare you the whole life story and share a few highlights.
The Wray cardigan was Lily Kate's first published design in 2010.
My first published design was the Wray cardigan for The Knitter Magazine, released days before my 13th birthday in November 2010. The publication came about as a result of a chance conversation with Juliet Bernard, then Editor-in-chief. I was sitting on a hay bale at a woolly gathering in Grasmere (where all the cool tweens hang out, I'm sure you'll agree). Obviously, I was beyond excited to have my name in print and for people to knit actual clothes following my pattern. Back then, I kept my first published pattern under wraps and didn't let on to any of my peers. Unlike now, I'll shout about knitting from the rooftops and talk stitches to anybody who'll listen.
Lily designed the Haslam Scarf as a teenager.
As a young teen, I designed quite a few accessories for my own Ravelry store and for other publications, some of which I still wear to this day. The Haslam Scarf has recently been resurrected as I like narrow scarf and shawl shapes once again – funny how trends come back around so quickly!
Art Deco Skirt
The Art Deco Skirt was inspired by the lines of the Chrysler building.
Knitting doesn't feature on any GCSE / A-level textiles curriculums here in the UK, much to my disappointment. Imagine how many more potential knitters may exist if it did? Luckily my teachers were happy to indulge my passion and allow me to do my own thing (read: give myself 10x more work than necessary), and for my GCSE exam piece, I made a lace, ribbed, bodycon midi skirt inspired by the lines of the Chrysler building. It was complex, frustrating, time-consuming, and SO SATISFYING to make. The pattern will never ever be written up (please give my head a wobble if I think that's a good idea).
The puff sleeves of the Lawrenson Sweater brought Lily's designs to the forefront.
We'll fast forward through the few years when knitting wasn't as big a part of my life. I focused on A-levels, started my Astronomy degree, and worked across travel blogging, modelling, and photography (creative jack of all trades just about covers it). I always knitted, but FOs were less frequent, and the patterns needed to be written up. Until the lightbulb moment in the Spring of 2019, it dawned on me that if I could make a 'thing' of this as a young teenager, I should probably make a 'thing' of it again as a (supposed) adult. Part of me wishes I'd had this realisation sooner (and written notes for those sweaters I freestyled!), but overall a break from the knitting industry was valuable. I was able to see it with fresh eyes. Instagram now existed, and starting my @lilykatemakes account gave me a new focus and opportunity to connect with knitters worldwide in a different way than the Ravelry forums of 2008.
The Lawrenson Sweater wasn't my first item after re-joining the knitting world, but it was the sweater that kicked things off. It felt (and still feels) so 'me'. It was the first of many puff sleeves, for starters! The phrases' elegant everyday' and 'casual vintage' have been used to describe my design style. I love that, especially since it's an aesthetic developed naturally over time. The Lawrenson sweater uses Aran weight yarn, knits up quickly, and is seamless. I've been told it makes a great first sweater for newer knitters.
The Livingstone Vest is a bestseller.
The Livingstone Vest is possibly my quickest turnaround to date! I was inspired and figured that striking while the iron was hot would be wise. The yarn was purchased, swatches were knit, calculations were made, and I turned my sketches into a finished garment in around 5 days. Grading was challenging but satisfying, so off the pattern went to test knitters to be released a month later. This pattern writing speed was fuelled by sheer excitement about an item different from anything I'd created. It remains a bestseller to this date.
AXIS by Lily Kate
AXIS is a worsted weight yarn making is perfect for accessories and garments
From knitwear designer to Yarn Person! When the opportunity arose to have my own yarn line in collaboration with Fyberspates, obviously, I jumped at the chance. Jeni and I have known each other for a long time – I designed and modelled for her books back in 2011 – so developing AXIS by Lily Kate together felt like a significant next step. I had complete control over the fibres, colours, name, label, shade names, patterns and everything creative, whilst Fyberspates dealt with everything else. That is an excellent setup for me! AXIS is a worsted weight blend of 90% non-superwash merino and 10% undyed Suri alpaca, now available in 16 colours with a variety of supporting patterns.
Over It Slipover
Everyone should have the Over It Slipover in their wardrobe, a key staple for 2023.
Oh, how I adore this one. The Over It Slipover is relatively new, but I'm sure it will remain a favourite for some time. As a designer, creativity can ebb and flow. There are periods when I simply need more hours in the day to knit all my ideas. Everything turns out exactly as I'd imagined (or better!), and there are periods when nothing seems to work. I rip back the same upper sleeve 5 times before calling it quits. Which, as you can imagine, is not conducive to creativity. The Over It Slipover followed a period of creative frustration and re-ignited my love for the whole process. It's been well received at yarn shows and online, which feels very rewarding!
I could go on and on but shall leave it there. You can find me on Ravelry and on Instagram as @lilykatemakes. Best wishes for your knitting and the memories it holds. Thanks so much Rachel for featuring me!