Knitwear design with Melissa Wehrle
We love our designers. Obviously, without them, we couldn't put together our magazines, but across the board, they are all wonderful, lovely, delightful people to work with, and they make various parts of my job incredibly easy.
Melissa Wehrle is no exception. Melissa's designs frequently appear within the pages of Knitscene, and she was our featured designer in the Fall 2009 issue. The Chiton Pullover—on the cover of the newest issue of Knitscene—marks her first cover project, and has been incredibly well-received by knitters around the world! In response to the amazing support and interest all of her patterns have garnered, I asked Melissa to spare a few moments out of her day to answer a few questions about her design process.
The Chiton Pullover (pictured top left) has been a huge hit, inspiring at least a few knit-a-longs before the magazine was even available. What was your design inspiration for this lovely pattern?
The Chiton Pullover was actually inspired by the lovely Manos del Uruguay Serena yarn used for the project. I love, love, love working with a yarn that I can work at a loose gauge and get that perfect drape. It allows me to be a little more creative with the fabric and create a design that just wouldn't work with your typical wool or cotton yarn.
How does your professional life in the fashion knitwear industry affect the way you design handknit patterns, such as the Chiton Pullover or last fall’s Aryn Tunic Cardigan (pictured bottom left)?
I'm constantly being bombarded with information that I file away in my head to use for potential designs. For the Chiton Pullover, I've been seeing a lot of cowl necks and silhouettes that have a bit of volume and felt these two trends would look great worked together. I modified the typical ribbed winter cowl neck to be a bit more trans seasonal and kept the volume of the design within reason. For the Aryn Tunic I was inspired by a stitch taken from a machine knit sweater and all of the cozy cardigans that were popping up on the runway at the time.
Can you talk a bit about your design process, in general? Are you the kind of designer who has a slew of projects waiting in the wings for the right submission call, or do you typically design in response to calls?
I think my design process really depends on the day. I keep a sketch book with more sweaters than I could ever knit in a lifetime and when I receive a submission call, sometimes I have a perfect design from the book that might work. Other times, I'm really inspired by the themes and come up with new brand new ideas. Either way, my submissions are typically very focused. I will work through a design adding just the right amount of details until I am happy with the end result.
Your designs are all extremely fashionable and yet figure-friendly. How do you approach designing for women of all shapes and sizes?
In my full-time job, I've had a lot of experience fitting and designing for different shapes, ages, and sizes. My area of expertise is Juniors, but I have also worked with Womens, Contempory, and Plus Size customers. My eye has been trained by pouring over tons and tons of measurements and by fitting on live models. It makes it a bit easier for me to know what will work for an assorted range of shapes and sizes. Also I take fit very seriously! Especially when dealing with handknit patterns. When you spend so much time knitting a sweater, ending up with something that fits poorly is a huge letdown.
What do you like to do when you’re not knitting?
That's a really hard one to answer since I'm hardly ever without my needles! I really like to bake (Martha Stewart is my idol) and love watching my favorite hockey team, the Philadelphia Flyers, kick butt on the ice.
And finally… cake or pie?
Cake of course!
Are you knitting the Chiton Pullover yet? Have it added to the to-do list? Be sure to pick up a copy of our Winter 10/Spring 11 issue so you can get started. If you're knitting this, or another of Melissa's designs, be sure to share in the comments!