Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview & Giveaway - Tin Can Knit designs

 I thought I'd celebrate the newest book from one of my favourite design teams, Tin Can Knits, by interviewing Emily Wessel, one half of the dynamic design duo.

But before we start the interview....

In addition, I'm going to give away a copy of one of their books. Leave a comment, get your friends to leave comments, by 11:59pm EST, Sunday, Nov 25th, 2012 and one lucky winner (selected by random number generator) will receive the e-book of their choice from Tin Can Knits. Don't forget to either leave your Ravelry name or check back on Monday to see if you've won!

How did Tin Can Knits get started?
We met while we were both working at our local yarn shop - Urban Yarns in Vancouver.  A year, two moves, and some crazy ideas later Alexa and I decided to put together our first book: 9 Months of Knitting.  Alexa was pregnant, so baby projects were on her mind!

Photo courtesy of Alexa Ludeman

How do you & Alexa decide who does what in your partnership?
The division of labour at Tin Can Knits happened organically; essentially we try to play to our strengths.  Alexa and I both bring very different things to the partnership.  I am trained as an architect, and so I come from a background of design, layout, and producing detailed documentation for construction... not that far off of the requirements for pattern design and technical editing, so I take the lead on that side of things.  Alexa is avid photographer, and has a great eye for colour and a great sense of what will be desirable in a knitting project.  She is trained as a teacher, and has taught knitting for years, so she always has great ideas for projects that would work well for beginners and people learning new techniques.

Where do you find your inspiration?
We find that inspiration is everywhere.  We are mostly inspired to make things for our families, our friends, and ourselves, really!  I find my best ideas strike when I am relaxing and allow my mind to wander.  Alexa finds a lot of inspiration through her photography, travel and teaching.

Do you have a favorite knitting technique, either personally or that you like to feature in your designs?
Alexa and I are always learning new techniques and incorporating them into our designs.  I love lace, which is pretty obvious given my lace designs! Alexa is a total sucker for cables.  There are few techniques which I don't like!  I have recently learned intarsia for example, and immediately used it in two sweater designs, and I have a design for next year's book which will use that technique.  For me any technique is simply a means to achieve the finished result that I desire!

Photo courtesy of Alexa Ludeman
One of the unique things about your designs is the tremendous range of sizes, from infant to adult plus sizes. What was the thinking behind that?
As designers, we believe strongly in providing good value, and making user-friendly designs which are accessible to a wide range of knitters.  We saw how many adorable adult patterns there were which would be amazing if re-imagined for babies, and at the same time, how many baby patterns would be adorable on adults, and saw an opportunity.  Also, sizing patterns to 4XL  just seems like the right thing to do; there are many plus-sized knitters; and we believe our designs should be accessible to everybody.  While the decision to size our patterns from baby to grandpa requires some consideration in the initial design, and more time in pattern writing / editing / testing phases, we believe that it is worthwhile, and we hope knitters agree!  On a less serious note, we just think it is mind-blowingly adorable to have matching mommy - baby knits!

Are there any designers in the knitting world who inspire you?
Elizabeth Zimmerman, Jane Richmond, Brooklyn Tweed, Joelle Hoverson, Debbie Stoller, Ysolda Teague, Barbara Walker, Alice Starmore, Kaffe Fassett, Kate Davies... and many more!

What have you learned since you've published your first pattern?
Since Alexa and I published our first pattern, we have learned basically everything; and we are still learning from our fans, our pattern testers, and through critiques from our peers in the design world.
What we are getting better and better at is taking an idea from concept through to completion in a structured way.  When we wrote 9 Months of Knitting, we didn't have a grand vision of how the collection would be styled, and it just came together organically.  With Pacific Knits we developed a clear idea of style and the contents the book needed to have early on.  Great White North was imagined / styled / and a pattern list created all at once, so it has a very cohesive aesthetic.

What are your goals for Tin Can Knits? How do you define success for TCK?
Right now we are focused on building a business that will be sustainable long-term and allow us to have flexible schedules.  As a woman coming from a professional full-time background, who is looking forward to having children, my dream is to be self-employed and have flexibility that will be beneficial when I do have kids.  Alexa would love to continue to stay home with Hunter and Jones.  So while we do have grander visions for the business, we define success by our ability to create our own professional jobs, which allow us some flexibility in balancing work family obligations. 

Tell me about your collection of patterns. I understand you have a new book of patterns out for the holidays.
Our first design 'baby' was 9 Months of Knitting (2011)... not surprisingly coinciding with Alexa's first baby! 

The second (and my most beloved) is Pacific Knits (2012), which is packed with designs that I personally love to death and nostalgia-inspiring photography of my homeland.  I just think it is a great example of our best work.  Interestingly enough, Alexa delivered her second baby, late, about 24 hours after Pacific Knits went to print!  I felt really guilty asking her to edit and take more last-minute photos when she was past her due date... but I did ask!

We have just launched our third collection as an ebook : Great White North (2012), and is has some really adorable gift knits inspired by the holiday season.
Photo courtesy of Alexa Ludeman
Do you have a favorite pattern in the collection? If so, what is it about that pattern that attracts you to it?
I can't really talk about my favourites... but I did almost stop editing mid-way through the collection in order to cast on a Snowflake sweater for myself...  And Alexa keeps making noises about making a Drift blanket for Jones (to which I reply 'you don't have time to knit a blanket!').  Also I plan to knit a bunch of Fancy Balls (free pattern!) for Christmas gifting this year!  Oh my... so much to knit and so little time!

Thanks to Emily of TCK for taking the time to chat with me. Now it's time for me to find the perfect yarn to cast on for Drift!


  1. My granddaughter came home from the Birth Center wrapped in her "Waffles" blanket I'd made. I used Madelinetosh Vintage in Mineral. I just love your patterns!

  2. It was wonderful reading the interview... lovely designs :)

  3. Great interview, nice to learn a bit more about one of my favorite design teams. I am addicted to their patterns right now! My whole family with be clothed in their ideas after christmas! Ravelry name: RavenousRowie

  4. Very interesting interview. I love TCK designs; one of their ebooks would be an awesome addition to my library.
    Thanks for the opportunity!
    lindaran (on Rav)

  5. I've already made Gramps, as the first knitted item for my first nephew. Loved the pattern. As it happens, a lot of the designers they hold as an influence and inspiration, are many of my faves as well. Probably helps to explain why I like Tin Can Knits.

  6. These ladies have incredible designs and I've lusted after every book they create. Oh to have the time to knit everything I'd like!! Thanks for the interview-- it's nice to see what motivates and inspires people to do the things they do. You're awfully nice to host this give away---

  7. Great interview. I love the shawl patterns.

  8. I'd love to win this book. Please pick me!!!

  9. Love them all!!! I wouldn't know which one to CO for first.

  10. I love these patterns. I have completely fallen in love with Pacific Knits and I am unashamed to say that I look at that book every day. The photography and the patterns are inspirational. Big Heart for Tin Can Knits!

  11. I'm working in my second TCK pattern right now (have made Estuary, working on POP blanket) and I will be making a third in the near future (pine tree sweater from Pacific Knits). Their style really appeals to me. Keep designing!

  12. This interveiw was awesome to read, thanks! I am IN LOVE with the Snowflake Sweater, and I am hoping for enough CHristmas gift cards to maybe buy the yarn to make one!

  13. the Sunflower shawl is so beautiful and a very accurate representation of a sunflower head full of seeds. have added it to my favorites
    susanjd on ravelry

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  15. I've admired the Gramps cardigan from 9 months of knitting for a while - all her patterns are great!

  16. The hats in the pictures look great and those shawls are special too!

    Happy knitting! Ciao, Fleur (Fleurtje-Eliza on Ravelry)

  17. Beautiful patterns and lovely photography. The snowflake sweater is absolutely gorgeous!

    Thanks for the interview, it was a fun read.

    - Lauren2Jade on rav

  18. Ooh, I do like the patterns in this book. Had to comment that November 25 would've been my 17th year anniversary (shudder), but alas... divorced.

    -- "McLovin" on Ravelry

  19. Great interview! From both sides - excellent questions and thoughtful responses. Thanks for the blog and I really hope I win. My Rav name is susu2u

  20. I love Tin Can Knits! I bought their Pacific Knits book at Knit City 2012 (Vancouver's first Fibre Festival) and it's such a fabulous collection.

    I'm so glad you're introducing them to more people!

    (My Ravelry name is HeatherLJ)

  21. A friend of mine introduced me to Alexa Ludeman's work and I have been a fan ever since. Thank you for the interview with Emily - it is nice to see the other half of Tin Can Knits! Pacific Knits has been on my wanty list for ages so I am crossing my fingers for the random number generator to pick me :)

  22. Nice interview! I have been ogling Pacific Knits since it came out. All the patterns look amazing!

  23. Great interview! I had been wanting to start a cardigan for my youngest grandson, and had Gramps queued, but then saw a photo of the Antler cardigan last night on Pinterest. Bought the Pacific Knits book this morning and cast on this evening. Love, love, LOVE the patterns. With 5 grandkids to knit for, the multiple size ranges are awesome too! (Although I might have to knit North Shore for myself next!)

    (Namma119 on Ravelry)