Knitting Short Cuts with Jennifer Dassau
I’m a huge fan of short-row knitting; those partial rows do all sorts of cool things. I’m also really into charted colorwork these days. So imagine how excited I was when designer Jennifer Dassau visited Interweave to shoot her courses Short-Rows 5 Ways and How to Read Knitting Charts. I was getting a twofer! 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. We have a lot in common besides a love of knitting: we both watched a lot of bands at the same dive bar in New Hope, Pennsylvania. We both wear Urban Decay lipstick. She designs super-fun colorwork hats and I can’t wait to knit them. This was great! We were practically BFFs.
Then I went and ruined everything with my next comment.
“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 unlock the mystery of knitting charts, you’re funny. 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.”
Unlike lengthy legal briefs, Jennifer’s designs are streamlined and pared down. Anything there is there for a reason. Why sew in sleeves when you can seamlessly work short-row sleeve caps? Why do intarsia when short-rows create a similar graphic color change? Why write wordy patterns when charts do all the work for you? Jennifer embraces these shortcuts because they are efficient and useful in her design work. I asked her about her designs.
“You use short-rows for more than shaping, like the yarnover version in your colorwork.”
“Yarnover short-rows are great because you can create pieces that look like intarsia but aren’t. And I don’t like doing intarsia.”
“Me neither. High five!”
As for knitting charts, she embraces them because they are a graphic representation of both the pattern AND the knitted fabric. Talk about efficient. Jennifer feels that charts get a bad rap for seeming complicated when they are actually easier and more efficient than many written patterns.
“Jennifer, you had me at lace charts. But I have to ask…is beer at 7:40 a normal thing for you?”
“I was trying to fit a folded pizza box into the mini-fridge last night and found this. Don’t you guys have a beer cart on Fridays? I’d like to donate.”
“We do, but my colleagues are snobs. Unless it’s made with artisanal, cruelty-free hops, they aren’t interested. But maybe the new intern would like it.”