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Jane Richmond – modern, pretty, minimalist knits

March 14, 2014

Jane Richmond is a west-coast designer who creates simple, pretty, and very wearable designs. Alexa and I had the pleasure of working alongside her in the recent book Cascadia, and we have made time to chat with charming Jane on several occasions. IMG_5405

I had the pleasure of meeting Jane in person this fall when we were both in Vancouver for Knit City 2013.  Jane Richmond, Shannon Cook (her design partner on their recent book Journey), Alexa and I enjoyed a lovely lunch and non-stop chat about design and the knit business!

Since I’ve been writing about design this month, I wanted to share Jane’s work, and a mini-interview with her about her story and her design process.

What we love about Jane Richmond’s designs

Arbutus Cowl by Jane Richmond.  Photo © Nicholas Kupiak

One of the strengths of Jane’s work is her ability to create designs that are simple and minimalist but at the same time clever and distinctly beautiful.  As any designer knows, a simple design does not mean a simple design process… achieving the level of clarity, simplicity, and beauty that Jane brings to her knit designs takes a lot more thought and design iterations than you might guess.

The Arbutus cowl is a clever design that uses short rows to maximize the volume you can get from a small amount of yarn.  It is nit from a single skein of hand dyed DK yarn (shown in Madelinetosh DK in Sequoia), in a solid colour, with only knits and purls, but it has so much volume and texture using this amazingly simple palette.

The Strathcona scarf also uses an extremely minimal palette of biasing mesh lace and garter stitch, but combines them in a really effective way for a strikingly modern finished piece (shown in Quince and Co Sparrow in Blue Spruce)

Strathcona Scarf by Jane Richmond.  Photo © Nicholas Kupiak

Strathcona scarf by Jane Richmond. Photo © Nicholas Kupiak

Both Arbutus and Strathcona can be found in Jane’s first book, ISLAND, published in 2012.  ISLAND is inspired by (and exquisitely photographed in) truly beautiful locations on Vancouver Island.  As I was born and raised on Vancouver Island myself, the photography and styling of this book really took me home.

The amazing video (created by Jane’s creative partner-in-crime Shannon Cook aka luvinthemommyhood) made me tear up with nostalgia for the Island!  All the photos for Island were taken by Jane’s brother, the talented Nicholas Kupiak.

What Jane has to say about her work :::

After my recent post about my own design process, I asked Jane about her work as a knit designer, and you can read a bit about her story today.

Emily:  What inspired you to take the leap from knitting to designing?

Jane:  I learned to knit as a child and knit on and off through my late teens and early twenties but it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my daughter that I became a regular knitter. I knit up a storm during and after my pregnancy and shortly after Elsie was born (2008) I discovered Ravelry — which changed my world! Being able to see and share projects with other knitters really pushed my knitting to another level. My entire life I’d never had a knitting friend, and now I had an entire community to connect with.

I soon joined my first knitting group — a warm and inviting group of ladies that knit once a week at a local coffee shop. I was sad to leave them when I moved from the Lower Mainland back to the Island and made it a priority to find another group to knit with. I soon found another group of wonderful women! We became fast friends and attended our first Fibre Festival together. There I picked up some local fibre from a mill on Salt Spring Island. It was the first time I’d bought yarn just because it was beautiful — in the past I would have chosen a pattern first and the yarn to go with it next. I took the skein of mustard coloured yarn home and rather than look for a pattern I decided to swatch stitch patterns with it, and eventually came up with a loose mesh stitch that made a simple little scarflette. I brought my project to Knit Night to show everyone what had come of that yellow skein of local yarn and everyone loved it, they encouraged me to put my notes on Ravelry so that others could make the scarf too.

I went home and did just that and the response was more than I expected — I hadn’t expected anyone to notice the scarf really, it was so encouraging — not only did people like the Mustard Scarf, they liked it enough to download the pattern! That Christmas I challenged myself to design each gift on my knit-list — a scarf for my brother Nicholas, a cowl for my Mom Marian, mittens for my B-Mom Fran (Frances), a toque for my sister Betsy (Elizabeth), and a bolero for my sisters Emma and Pasha (Cozy Bolero), and a hat for my friend Amy (Aesderina). I’ve been designing ever since!

Emily:  What is the most complex design you have ever created?


Jane:  The most complex design I have ever created was the Beacon Hill cardigan for Cascadia. Anyone familiar with my designs probably knows that my aesthetic is minimalist, classic, simple. Beacon Hill was outside of what I typically design.

My original submission for the book was actually a hat using the same raindrop stitch pattern (later published as Wellington). The editors really liked the stitch pattern and hoped that I would resubmit only this time using the stitch to create a garment. I liked the idea of a challenge and got to work sketching my ideas for a long cardigan with a striking shawl collar and all over raindrop stitch pattern.

blog-jane-beaconhill-sketchSketching is one thing, designing is quite another. I did extensive swatching before setting forth with the design to ensure each detail would flow together, looked good knit up and not just on paper, and was in fact do-able. Using an all over stitch pattern is certainly more challenging when designing anything that requires shaping, it has to be manipulated to flow and remain consistent when increasing and decreasing stitches. Not only that but the pattern writing itself is more in depth. The pattern requires more written instruction and the stitch pattern needs to be constantly considered when calculating each section of the piece. I prefer to provide a little more guidance when using stitch patterns so that the knitter does not have to guess how the shaping will affect the stitch pattern.

Once I had conquered the body and sleeves — both in written and knitted form, I felt very close to the finish line. All that was left to do was the collar. I had never knit or designed a shawl collar but I had very specific ideas about how it would look when it was complete. I did quite a bit of research before beginning and couldn’t find anything that was quite as full or substantial as I was aiming for — I like my collars big and bold, everything I was finding was subtle and dainty. I decided the best thing to do was jump in and use trial and error to design the perfect collar.


My first attempt didn’t have enough shaping to lay nicely along the back neck and shoulders. Attempt number two had just the right amount of shaping but wasn’t nearly tall enough. It was hard to get the fullness and the height when limited to a certain number of stitches and rows. One thing I knew for certain was that I wanted the fabric to be doubled up, this meant that each attempt took an enormous amount of time and effort (the collar alone used an entire skein of yarn) but by my third attempt I had nailed it! And I can’t tell you how gratifying it was — I hadn’t settled or compromised, I’d followed through and brought my design from paper to knitted garment. I learned so much along the way — it was a challenging and very rewarding experience.

How about you?  Do these design stories inspire you to bring your own ideas into knitted form? Perhaps you have a story about the most challenging or satisfying project that you have created.  Tell us story in the comments, or share your photos on our Facebook page!
Books by Jane Richmond and Shannon Cook:

Island by Jane RichmondJourney by Jane and Shannon
7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2014 5:01 am

    Very interesting interview. I love Janes work, and its always great to learn how different designers work. Thanks for posting this series.Anna

  2. March 17, 2014 6:23 am

    Lovely, I adore the patterns, thanks. :-)

  3. March 14, 2014 9:27 pm

    Beacon Hill is on my next sweater to knit list! I love Jane’s patterns. Thanks for posting the interview!

    • March 25, 2014 2:04 pm

      mmmm, I just need a couple of sleeves on mine! It’s been hibernating for some times now….

      • March 26, 2014 9:51 am

        Did you like the stitch pattern on BH? I think I’ll try the arm warmers first.

        Speaking of hibernating, I just frogged my Audrey because I missed the waist shaping and then convinced myself that I needed to make a larger size at the same time.

  4. March 14, 2014 6:16 pm

    I love this series! It’s so much fun to get a sneak peek into the minds of my favourite designers. I love Jane’s work and her attention to every little detail. You are so right, a simple aesthetic does not mean a “simple” design.


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