Stephen West Interview

1. Hi, Stephen! How have you been since the last time you were on the blog? What have you been up to?

I’ve been quite busy. I’m still in Amsterdam, but I moved into a new apartment furnished with a beautiful wooden bookcase that is now my yarncase. I just got back yesterday from a week in Berlin, performing in an arts festival. I’ve mostly been in Amsterdam, but I look forward to more traveling within the next year.

2. Your most recent large publication release was Westknits Book Two, which is our featured giveaway this time. Can you talk a little bit about the patterns and where your inspiration for this collection came from?

I started working on Book Two patterns last summer while Book One was in the editing process. I usually start designing with a yarn that I have in my stash and a lot of those yarns were calling for a textural fabric. So, I introduced cables in several of the designs to help highlight the beautiful solid wools and semi-solid hand-dyed yarns.

I was busy moving to Amsterdam halfway through designing the new projects for Book Two. I needed quick and easy knitting with me so you see some smaller 1 or 2 skein projects with a healthy dose of garter stitch incorporated.

All the photos were taken with two of my friends in Amsterdam and this chilly city is perfect for handknits. It rarely gets very hot here so I’m glad I still live somewhere where I can pile on the woolies.

3. Has living in Amsterdam changed your knitting at all in anyway?

There aren’t as many yarn shops over here so I end up ordering most of my yarn online or acquiring a decent amount when I travel. My friend Malia just opened a new craft shop called Penelope Craft though so I enjoy sitting in her cozy space to knit. I mostly knit on my couch facing the wall of yarn I have displayed in the “yarncase” so I often spontaneously grab yarn from the shelves to cast on new projects all the time. I used to store yarn in plastic bins, but now seeing the rainbow of colors all the time adds to the number or WIPs. I’ve always been a knitter that has several WIPs on the needles at any given time. Right now I have about a dozen on my needles.

4. What’s next for you? Do you have any secrets you can share with us?

I’m working on Westknits Book Three right now. All the new designs are knit and my distributor Deep South Fibers is already taking pre-orders for the fall release. The book of accessories will have the usual hats and scarves that I love to make, but two of my favorite pieces are a huge circular blanket and felted bag.

I’ll be attending Knit Nation in London next month for the first time. I can’t wait to play with some new UK yarns. I always read about friends and other knitters attending the Stitches shows and fiber festivals in America, which I don’t get to attend so I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the UK knitting scene.

Next month I’m teaching on a knitting tour in Iceland, which I’m very very excited about! There are still some spaces available too if you want to adventure-seek and knit in a gorgeous landscape.

Also, the first Westknits Mystery Shawl KAL is planned to occur later this summer. I love the new shawl and it will be another fun one for color combinations. Keep your eyes peeled on my blog and Ravelry group for that info.

I’m headed back to the states for August and I’ll probably plan a few trunk shows/workshops/book signings. Check my twitter account and blog for those announcements.

Oh, and you’ll finally see some Westknits garments this fall. :D

5. What are some of your current favorite yarns that you are knitting with right now?

Yes, I love Quince & Co. I continue to work with some of my favorite indie dyers, Skein from Australia and Hedgehog Fibres from Ireland. A few recent designs that jumped off my needles used Madelinetosh yarns. Malabrigo Twist will always have a special place in my heart. I just discovered the luxurious fibers from The Fibre Company, which will appear in a couple new designs this year. Elsa Wool, Beaverslide Dry Goods, and Brooklyn Tweed SHELTER are a few of my favorite woolly farm yarns. I love a yarn that smells as good as it looks.

6. Do you have any recent fun knitting stories that you can share with us?

I’m not sure how fun of a story this is because at the time it was a bit traumatic, but here we go. I’ve made several trips to London in the past year and my London visits are always full of adventure and surprises. I make a point to visit Loop in Islington every time because I love their shop, the people who work there, and their yarn/color selection. During one of my first visits, Loop had just started carrying Wollmeise and I was one of the first lucky knitters to snag my preferred colors along with some other favorite yarns from their shop. I may or may not have had to borrow a suitcase from my friend Sam for my flight home. Anyway, we were on the train going somewhere for tea and cake I think. I don’t remember, but I drank so much tea in London that I’m sure tea was somehow involved in our destination. When we got off the train and started walking, I soon felt like a piece of my soul was missing and then I realized I left my suitcase full of yarn on the train. Luckily, the end of the train line wasn’t far so we hopped on another train to make sure someone didn’t steal the suitcase or security didn’t think the abandoned object was a bomb or something. I just had to say, “suitcase full of yarn” and the nice man working in the station proceeded to reunite me with the other half of my soul.

7. What’s on your needles right now?

I just cast on a new scarf design with The Woolen Rabbit Oasis today and I have a shawl, 2 vests, and some sweaters on the needles, among other WIPs of course.

8. You are a young and hip designer in the knitting world. In your prespective, where do you think knitting is headed in the next couple of years?

There are so many patterns and yarns out there these days and I think it’s easy for some things to get lost among the massive amount of products. I’ve seen some beautiful books and yarns pop up recently like Ysolda’s new Little Red in the City, Quince & Co. yarn company, and Jared Flood’s new yarn, SHELTER. I think there’s still a need for thoughtful designs and yarns that will last longer than a particular season’s trend. I’m sure the products I mentioned along with others will continue to develop and enrich the knitting community.

For myself, I love making certain designs like shawls and using simple techniques like garter stitch, slipped stitches and stripes, but I also want to incorporate other techniques and styles into my design work in the future. I have several pattern collection ideas that excite me and I also want to add to the men’s garment selection.

9. Have you learned any new techniques that you don’t know how you lived without?

I did my first tubular cast on and bind off recently and I love the finished look! I’ve known how to do basic stranding for awhile now, but I only started playing more with fair isle this year.

10. Favorite color right now…

It’s an ongoing one, but rusty orange always makes me swoon.