Leethal Knits – Choose-Your-Own Colourful Adventure
The beautiful, energetic and eclectic Lee Meredith, creator of Leethal Knits, is a southern California to Portland transplant.
Lee chose to make her home in Portland because she fell in love with the city’s vibrant DIY and indie design scene at a time when this kind of community was hard to find.
Leethal Knits patterns feature many options for size, design, and yarn weights – this makes knitting her designs an adventure with great possibilities for creative use of colour!
Alexa got to know Lee last year at TNNA (check out the knitted mustaches…), and I had the pleasure of meeting her in Portland while I was teaching and signing books on the west coast last October. I find her playful attitude toward design, and her bold and unrelenting use of colour very inspiring!
What we love from Leethal Knits
I admire Lee’s attitude toward colour, and the way she combines colour with pattern and texture. Her designs also use unique construction methods to great effect, so they are interesting projects to knit, as well as being exquisite finished objects!
Another favourite of mine are Leethal’s Either/Or mittens (part of the Remixed Collection). These fingerless (or full) mitts are a very special design, with a unique construction – knit starting from the thumb outwards.
As with many Leethal patterns, these mittens can be knit in any weight of yarn, and the construction is emphasized by stripes, garter stitch, or colour changing yarns. The flexibility in her patterns is excellent for beginners and creative knitters!
What Lee has to say about her work, and design in general :::
After my recent post about my own design process (as it applies to knitting patterns, and my own work), I asked Lee what she thought ~ here is a mini-interview with her take on design for hand knitting.
Emily: What inspired you to take the leap from knitting to designing in the first place?
Lee: When I first started knitting in college (about 10 years ago) I was self-taught, and this was in the pre-ravelry dark ages, and pre the abundance of awesome modern knitting books we have nowadays. So basically, I taught myself knitting techniques from intro books and random websites, but didn’t use patterns, so everything I knit from the very beginning was technically my own design, though they started out very basic.
After a couple years of garter stitch scarfs, stockinette hats, and other basics, with new techniques I learned incorporated into them (like, learn cables, make a hat with cables), I discovered Knitty (check out Lee’s free pattern Superduper… it’s on the cover of the latest issue!) and other free patterns online and learned how patterns worked in general. So after a couple more years of occasionally knitting from a pattern, but mostly just continuing to learn new techniques by reading patterns, and then improvising my own stuff, I finally realized that I could write my creations into patterns! I think Ravelry was a big factor with this realization – seeing the huge community of knitters out there who wanted to knit from patterns. I had already been “designing” for years, by improvising my knits, so it made sense to teach myself how to write patterns, and start teaching other knitters how to make my stuff!
Emily: What is your favourite part of the job as a pattern designer?
Lee: My favorite part is definitely the designing itself – getting the seed of an idea, brainstorming, swatching, sketching, writing out parts, until it develops into the design, and then knitting it and watching it turn into a real item! So satisfying! (Plus, I really love that I can watch movies and tv shows during a big chunk of my work process!) Another part I really love is getting to see other people knit my designs and enjoy them, through ravelry projects and forum posts. Knowing that the patterns are out there in the world making other knitters happy is a really fantastic feeling!
Emily: Could you tell the story of one of your designs?
Plus, there had been more and more mystery KALs popping up over the years, so I decided I wanted to come up with an idea to differentiate my next KAL from the rest. And because of the way I tend to design, and think about design, I knew I could incorporate lots of different options, both to make it more exciting, and to help prevent unhappy knitters – if everyone could choose design options for every part of the project, they’d be much more likely to end up with something they liked in the end! I could even expand on that further by offering different items to choose from… so as the brainstorming process went on, it hit me, a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style knit-a-long!
Pick your item, pick from a selection of different options for each section of the knit-a-long; there could even be some kind of story or something, with like code names for the options so it’s still a mystery KAL. I sat on this idea for a while, knowing it had major potential, but not having a clear vision for how to put the whole thing together… Then it was one of those epiphany moments where an idea just hits out of thin air – I could turn each week’s knit-a-long clues into a mini-booklet, so that there’d be pages, so the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure inspired choices could actually say “if you want to do this option, turn to page 11” etc, with each knitting pattern option on its own page of the booklet. And then each week there would be a new booklet, and at the end you could use them altogether, as a full on Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style knitting pattern!
Then it developed into figuring out how to bind the booklets all together, and I ended up making more than just one booklet per week/section, and in the end, it’s an 80 page DIY book, with 4 different items and 20 different stitch patterns! That seed of an idea really took on a life of its own – I had no idea where it would end up when I first starting thinking about a mystery knit-a-long with multiple options; I’m so happy with where I was able to take it! (Side note: participants had a fantastic time with the first one last year, so I am planning on making it an annual event every summer!)