Designer Q&A: Joan Forgione

Knitwear designer Joan Forgione has been designing for Interweave knitting titles for years. She has a keen eye for the classic paired with the ability to bring those traditional techniques into fresh, modern designs. A great example of her aesthetic is shown in the Warwick Hat, featured above.


When and why did you start knitting?

The Gibraltar Henley by Joan Forgione

I started knitting in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. There was a knitting store in my hometown that I’d pass on my daily walk to work at the public library. Being a teenager, I thought there was nothing I couldn’t do, so I took out some how-to-knit books, read those, and then when I felt brave enough, went into the knitting store. The woman who owned the shop asked me if I needed help. I told her I wanted to knit a sweater, she handed me a big binder and told me to pick out a project. I chose a cabled cardigan. She showed me a selection of yarn in the correct weight, and I chose cotton. She offered no advice. It sounds like it would have ended badly—cables, cardigan, cotton—but I went home and knitted it. It was a decent attempt, enough so that I went back and chose a second sweater—an intarsia pullover! Looking back on it, no one told me I couldn’t or that it was difficult, so I just figured I could.

When did you start designing?

I started designing in 2005 when another designer saw some of my things and encouraged me to submit some sketches to a magazine. I have a list of bad qualities—I’m easily bored and can’t do just one thing at a time, I’m a bit headstrong and don’t like being told what to do. These, along with the fact that my two favorite subjects were always art and math, meant that designing knitwear was a perfect fit.

Describe your first design.

My first design was an A-line coat. It had a simple allover texture, but it also had a back pleat, a shawl collar, and an I-cord frog closure.

What is the most challenging part of designing?

For me, time is always the most challenging. I’m a full-time teacher and mom and a part-time copywriter/event coordinator for a yarn shop.

What is the most rewarding part of designing?

knitscene Spring’s Red Clay Top by Joan Forgione

I like puzzles of all sorts, so for me, designing is a bit like the challenge of a puzzle. It’s the process that I love—the numbers, the spreadsheet, and how those translate to make the actual knitting all come together.

What was the inspiration for your Red Clay Top from knitscene Spring 2017?

I wanted to design a pullover with an allover lace pattern that wouldn’t come off as too complicated, fussy, or frilly, but would have a relaxed fit and feeling. Lace is a favorite for me, but I know that shaping a garment with a lace pattern can be frustrating for some. Even though there are no “rest” rows (every row has yarnovers and decreases), the pattern is very intuitive, easily memorized, and geometric.

What would you like to say to your younger self at the beginning of your knitting journey?

I would tell my younger designer self to sketch more. When I go back to look at my sketchbooks from years past, I find that these ideas feed my current work. I’m also often amazed at how just the simple act of putting pencil to paper can make me rethink how a design will work (or not work) when it’s on the needles.

What book should every knitter have?

Every knitter should have Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac, just to experience the joy that comes through on every page. It’s a workbook and a novel all in one. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about reading it.

Find Joan Forgione online at, on Ravelry as joanforgione, and on Instagram @joanforgione.

Try One of These Projects by Joan Forgione