Interview with author and designer Larissa Brown – Part 1

Gull Cowl by Larissa Brown
Gull by Larissa Brown
©L. Brown. Used with permission.

Larissa Brown (LarissaBrown) is the author of two books about knitting, Knitalong and My Grandmother’s Knitting, as well as a new novel about a woman from the 22nd century traveling through time to a Viking settlement in 10th century Iceland. She is also a prolific knitwear designer who is participating in the 2014 Gift-A-Long on Ravelry. Larissa graciously took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

This year your first novel, Beautiful Wreck, was published, and you have released 16 knitting patterns. What is the secret to your amazing productivity?

That was a lot in one year, now that you mention it! I’ve been known to try to do everything, and for a year I had a sign on the kitchen door that said “NO NEW IDEAS.” To make it work, I get help. This year, I worked together with my amazing friend Michelle Kroll (rainmomma) who did a TON of the work on the Shieldmaiden Knits collection. I have wonderful test and sample knitters, and most important, my family is supportive–both in giving me time to work and also reminding me to step away from it.

The work on my book took place over the two prior years, but this year I’m writing the second one. There is a very welcoming writing group on ravelry called Pens & Needles, where members plan ahead for each month’s goals. Planning ahead is another thing that makes it possible to do so many projects. The trick is to plan without your work getting rigid or un-fun. I’ve gotten a lot better at it as I’ve gotten older.

I need a sign like that! I often have trouble focusing on a design and getting it finished because I keep getting distracted by the next great idea that pops into my head.

You mentioned your new ebook, Shieldmaiden Knits, which has just been released. These seven accessory patterns were inspired by the research into Viking style that you did for your novel. Can you tell us more about the inspiration for these pieces?

Vikings were artists. If you look at their jewelry and everyday objects like needlecases and drinking horns chased with silver, you see their love of beauty. I tried to use the gorgeous Malabrigo yarns to dream up ideas that seemed epic and beautiful to me. I tried not to worry about whether people would like them or many knitters would make them. It was hard, because I’m a pleaser and want people to like my designs, so I don’t think I went big enough.

As a fiction writer of time travel love stories, I personally have (and I cultivate in my books) a very rosy view of Viking settlement in Iceland. In reality, I’m sure it was a struggle I can’t even imagine, and sometimes miserable. But I feel strongly that the Vikings settlers’ lives were punctuated with moments of intense beauty, just being in that landscape and living off the land, the way it was over a thousand years ago. And I believe Vikings were romantics, who placed a value on love. I tried to absorb that as I did my research and visited Iceland. I think these years of studying Viking culture just naturally went into the knitting collection.

It is a fine line. I try to design what I want to design, but at the same time, I do keep an eye on how many exotic techniques it will require to execute because, what good is the most beautiful design in the world if people get intimidated and don’t want to knit it? On the other hand, I totally agree that thinking too much about what other people may or may not like is a sure way to kill what was special about the design. I like the way that the collection features lacy stitch patterns and simple shapes in mostly bulky and rustic yarns to evoke that place and time, yet are completely wearable today.

In my next post, Larissa plays favorites!

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