Jennifer Dassau: She Shapes Short Rows
I’m a huge fan of knitting short rows; those partial rows do all sorts of cool things and make my garments fit so much better. So imagine how excited I was when Jennifer Dassau, the designer behind the wonderful Knitting Short Rows, came out here to shoot a few videos. Picking her up at the Hampton Inn on the way to our studio, I watched her stride toward my car. “Hey, look what I have,” she called, swinging a partial six-pack of Miller Lite. It was 7:40 am.
The circumstances leading up to this moment were not auspicious: she thought I was a flake and I thought she was dead. She had inadvertently blocked my cell number, so my texts went from “Welcome to Colorado!” to “Checking in again” to “I’m a little worried” to “Is this Jennifer’s husband? Can you please call me at…V important!” At her end, she was trying to figure out why no one at Interweave had been in touch to give her directions to the office or make sure she had food.
Once we determined that I actually cared about her and that she was very much alive, things got better. Jennifer is wicked smart, very funny, and working with her was a blast. Turns out we have things in common besides a love of using short rows: we both lived near New Hope, Pennsylvania, and watched a lot of bands at John & Peter’s there. We both favor all black (not a thing here in CO). We both sing along to Queen and like Urban Decay lipstick. This was great! We were practically BFF’s by now.
Then I went and ruined everything. The conversation went like this…
“Oh, I have to do a Designer Profile on you.”
“No! I hate those.”
“Oh c’mon. You wrote this terrific book on how to knit short rows, you do beautiful designs, you’re funny. You probably have multiple Amusing Anecdotes about designing knits. Why not?”
“If you ask me ‘What inspires you?’ I’m leaving.
“You were going to ask that, weren’t you? I knew it.”
“Well, we could start with why you started knitting.”
“I was a lawyer. I hated it: I generated 8-million-word legal briefs all day long and really needed to do something more creative.”
“Can I say you started knitting because you hate lawyers? That would be funny.”
“No. And I don’t hate lawyers; I just hated writing legal briefs all day. That’s not funny, that’s just sad.”
If any word describes Jennifer’s designs, it’s streamlined (unlike wordy and turgid legal documents). Anything there, is there for a reason. Why sew in sleeves when you can seamlessly work short-row sleeve caps? Why knit collars separately when short rows make them fit perfectly and are less fussy? Why do intarsia when short rows create a similar graphic color change? Jennifer embraces short rows because they are efficient, useful, AND create really nice design details. I asked her about her designs.
“I love how most if not all of your garments are seamless.”
“That’s because I don’t like seams. Wait, you can’t print that. It will make seam people mad.”
(I’m printing it anyway because I agree with her. Editorial license.)
“But you use short rows for other things as well, like the YO version in your colorwork.”
“YO short rows are great because you can create pieces that look like intarsia but aren’t. And I don’t like doing intarsia. Wait—don’t print that either.”
“Because it will make intarsia-lovers mad? It’s okay to not like intarsia. You’re not dissing people who do.”
“Just so we’re clear on that. I believe people should knit however they want.”
“Noted. But I have to ask…what’s up with the beer?”
“I was trying to fit a folded pizza box into the mini-fridge last night and found these. I guess someone left them there. What should we do with them?”
“We always give found beer to the editorial assistants.”
“No, but there’s always a first time. Now let’s get back to the studio.”
Knitting Short Rows: Make It Yours