UPDATE: Congratulations to winner Molly! Molly, check your email! ------------------
If you're a lace knitter, you know Romi Hill. This very talented lady has a beautiful new book out, New Lace Knitting, Designs for Wide Open Spaces (Interweave/F+W; $24.99). Not only is she fabulous, but she has a way of knitting lace that makes you wonder "how does she do that?"
Romi was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about her new book for us during this busy holiday season. Side note: her book is on sale right now, so if you need a gift for a knitter, this would be a great one!
Tanis Gray (TG): Your new book is lovely - and I’d expect nothing less from such a talented lady! In your introduction you talk about learning to knit from your mother after watching your grandmother crochet lace on a tiny hook with tiny yarn. What made you start with knitting rather than crochet?
Romi Hill (RH): Thank you so much, Tanis! For some reason, I never really caught the crochet bug. Looking back, I think I was drawn most to the orderly rows and stitches of knitting. In crochet, all is basically freeform in that you can really place your hook wherever you wish. In knitting, you must deal with each stitch. Knitting satisfies my OCD side.
TG: You are obsessed with lace! What made you gravitate towards that technique over another?
RH: It's really kind of funny, actually. I'm not a lacy person, and I've never worn frilly clothes. But I've always been obsessed with the patterning in lace. It's the geometry geek in me! I love playing with the negative space and the different ways a lace pattern can be knitted up for so many effects. For instance, the juxtaposition of increases to decreases...moving them maybe one stitch away relative to one another or changing the type of decrease can completely change the fabric. I find it fascinating to play with all the possibilities.
TG: Your new book takes classic lace patterns and combines them with modern fits and silhouettes. What made you want to go in this direction?
RH: It's been sort of in the back of my mind for years. I love lace, but as I mentioned before: I'm not really a frilly kind of person. My thought was to design a group of garments and accessories that would make lace into part of an everyday wardrobe. I wanted a group of pieces that had a modern vibe, but would also stand the test of time, because when I knit a sweater or other garment, I want to be able to wear it season after season. Also? I have a special shelf of my very favorite books. My dream was to wind up on knitters' special shelf with a collection of pieces that could be worn season after season and knit more than once. I worked on making each and every piece special and/or different in some way.
TG: You cover a lot of ground in your book, from sweaters to hats to cowls to scarves, proving that lace does not automatically mean “shawl.” What is your favorite garment to make with lace?
RH: Hmmmmmmmm. That's a difficult one! I think my favorite garment is whatever I'm obsessed with at any given time. I used to be completely a sweater knitter. I think I'm probably headed back that way again.
TG: I simply must make the Bright Moment Cardigan! Stunning! Do you have a favorite garment(s) in this book and why?
RH: I'm so happy you like it! It's difficult to pinpoint one favorite, to be honest. I worked SO hard to make them all appealing. I didn't want to look back and cringe at anything. Ha! I think my favorite is the Salt Grass Pull. I love everything about the way it is constructed, the yarn used, the finishing details.... It is in the shape of a traditional gansey, but that's where the similarities end! First, it's knit top down, and second, it's all over lace. Completely not traditional! The yarn used is a fluffy woolen spun yarn (Brooklyn Tweed Shelter) that keeps an amazing block, so I was able to make the mock turtleneck stand up by using smaller needle sizes. The cast on and bind offs are all tubular - I love the finished look to the edges. The neck is shaped with short rows that are incorporated into the lace, with special decreases so that there's no interruption in the twisted stitch lace pattern. Then the shoulder strap lace panel is knit unbroken down the arm and ends in a point at the cuff. There is a small underarm gusset for free range of motion and the overall silhouette is so very easy to wear every day. And I love the color. It came out exactly as I had envisioned it.
TG: We follow each other on instagram and you often match your shoes and yarn. Does this happen by accident? :)
RH: Yes and no. I tend to get into a color groove. For the longest time, I was loving acid green above all things. Then plummy purples and deep reds. Then greys. I tend to collect things that go with my current color mood. :)
TG: Speaking of color, you have an excellent sense of color. You live in Nevada - do you find your location influences your palette?
RH: Thank you! Yes - I'm always very influenced by my surroundings. Though it's the high desert, the color palette is incredible here. The night sky is a rich vibrant deep blue and the Milky Way is brilliant against the darkness - so amazing! The sunsets look like the sky is on fire, and the cloud formations are unlike anything I've ever seen. The sky is this gorgeous blue, and I don't think there's ever a day when we don't see it popping through at least once. This afternoon, driving my son home, the sun was setting on the snowy mountains. The sky and clouds turned from a peach reflected in the snow into a stunning fiery orange and red. In the autumn, the trees in the valley are brilliant shades of gold and red against the backdrop of the High Sierras. If we're lucky, we'll see snowy winter in the mountains and autumn on the valley floor. I love to watch the weather roll down the Sierras towards us. I could watch it for hours...and have. And I could go on and on! It is always changing and so breathtakingly beautiful. I am constantly in awe.
TG: Do you have a favorite fiber?
RH: Not really, no. I go through phases of what I like to use, but overall, I think there's a time and place for almost any fiber.
TG: Where do you find your knitting inspiration?
RH: Everywhere. I love art, architecture, nature.... It all sort of percolates into ideas. I try to open myself to everything.
TG: You are a woman of many talents and take beautiful knitting photos and make wonderful shawl pins. Can you tell us about your pins and other work?
RH: You are too kind! Thank you. :) I've actually made jewelry since I was quite young. Also studied art, graphic design, music, sewing and all sorts of crafty stuff. I love creating, but I've been taking a hiatus on the shawl pins lately. I'm reaching a point where I need to change how I go about doing. I want to make All The Things, but there simply isn't enough time!
TG: You have a wildly successful yearly shawl club. Any plans to expand out of shawls?
RH: I think about it often. I don't think I'll have a different club; I like the way it's working for now. But look for more in the coming year! Now that I've finished this mammoth project and almost caught up, I want to try new things! For instance, I've never steeked. This is clearly a very serious deficiency in my knitting education. It must be rectified! ;)
TG: Oh, come visit and I'll teach you how to steek! I really like your “Romi’s Golden Rules” of lace knitting. Why did you feel these were important to include in your book?
RH: Above all, I want knitters to enjoy their lace knitting experience and come out with the result they've envisioned. Lace can be challenging for several reasons, and I want everyone to know that's totally normal. My golden rules started out as part of a class, and a lot of people - some of whom are experienced lace knitters - have said they've kept them. I thought that was a great reason to include them. Even though you may already know most of them, maybe there's something that will make a little light bulb go on and help you enjoy the experience even more.
TG: What’s up next for you?
RH: That's a secret...mostly because I want to do so many things and I need to narrow it down. Ha! But I think I've gotten it trimmed to two things that I am super excited about. Stand by!
Let's give a copy of Romi's new book away, shall we? Answer the below trivia question correctly in the comments section and automatically be entered in to win a copy of the book. Contest open to USA residents only. A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, December 23rd.
In which year did the US postal system first issue Christmas stamps?