Interview with designer Deirdre Lejeune

The 2014 Indie Design Gift-A-Long continues on Ravelry through our New Year’s Eve party on December 31st. All paid patterns by participating designers are eligible for the KAL/CAL, and there are still many prizes to be won and fun to be had. It’s not too late to join in!

One of the 293 participating designers is Deirdre Lejeune (deirdre78) from Belgium. Her Ravelry shop can be found here. Stay tuned for a special surprise from Deirdre at the end of this post.

Photo of Delores Wrap by Deirdre Lejeune
Delores Wrap by Deirdre Lejeune
©Deirdre Lejeune. Used with permission.

You wrote this on your Ravelry profile page:
My mother divided the women in our community into two distinct groups: those who like to clean things and those who like to make things. Looking at our house, it was not hard to figure out which group she herself belonged to. Growing up surrounded by a constant creative mess, it is not surprising that I too spend every free moment playing with fiber and fabrics.

I love this! When I was a teen, a family friend gave my mother a sign that read “A creative mess is better than tidy idleness” because it reminded her of our house. Rather than being offended, my mother laughed and put it on display in the kitchen for all to see. My mother taught me how to knit and crochet, so I definitely have her to blame for my fiber obsession. Who taught you to knit?

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I wanted to do everything my mother did. So she got me some nice little books aimed at children and taught me some fiber crafts. At the time, I liked embroidery the most. A few years later, I was in an all girls school run by nuns, and we were taught to knit and crochet there. At the age of 7 (this was around 1985), we started out with a single crochet chain that was glued around a plastic cup and served as a flower pot. After that, we crocheted a simple animal in the round (I think it was a mouse). Then we moved on to knitting. Projects got more and more complicated while we grew older. We were also taught to knit in the round, with 5 full length double pointed needles. That was a real challenge! I always enjoyed these crafts classes, but never managed to meet the deadline so in the end, my mother had to step up and take over in order for me to finish in time.
I consider these classes a valuable part of my education, and was very surprised to hear that they are no longer a part of the primary school curriculum. I’ll have to teach these skills to my children myself… I still have those little books my mother got me, so I am fully prepared!

What a shame that this has been discontinued! I have always envied the fact that many European educations include fiber arts. Many people here are so woefully ignorant that they will see me knitting, which they find fascinating, and then will ask me if I’m crocheting (and sometimes if I’m sewing!) They will often say rather sadly that their mother/grandmother/aunt (insert beloved female family member here) used to knit or crochet, but they, themselves, never learned and they think it would be too hard to learn now. I always encourage people to give it a try and have taught several people who were truly interested. I was so happy when it became clear that my daughter had caught the fiber bug, but it took some time for that to show. So my advice to you is to teach your children as soon as they show interest, but be patient because they may appear to lose interest for a time, but it will probably return a few years later.

Photo of Tapti Hat by Deirdre Lejeune
Tapti Hat by Deirdre Lejeune
©Deirdre Lejeune. Used with permission.

What made you decide to start designing?

I always get very clear and vivid images in my mind of what I want to knit with a particular yarn. For the last few years, the Ravelry search engine became a great resource to find patterns that matched the ideas in my head. But very often I could not find what I was looking for. That’s amazing, given the amount of patterns that are already out there. For me, this is proof of the unlimited possibilities in knitting. There will always be new ideas, new concepts, new combinations!

The more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me to create my own patterns. I’ve always been a “maker”, if I can make something myself I won’t buy it. So why not take it to the next level and create patterns, too? Especially now that online communities and services make it possible to self-publish your designs. There are so many options to get your patterns seen by the knitting community, it has made everything so much easier!

I completely agree. I think so many of us designers have the same story.

You live in Antwerp, which is known for its art, tapestries, lace and other textiles and has been a center of trade for over 600 years. How does living in such a historic place inspire your designs?

This city is a constant source of inspiration. First of all, there are a lot of very fashion-forward people here: students, designers, people from all over the world. When you walk the streets or sit down for a coffee, there are always interesting silhouettes, details or fabrics that catch my attention. Secondly there’s the wealth of book shops. When I have a moment to myself, I like to look at books about fashion and design, about fabrics and techniques. I am never out of ideas because of these books! I also want to mention the fashion museum here in Antwerp. They always have interesting exhibitions, of course not always knitwear related but that’s not necessary to get inspired!

Not to mention the fact that the city provides so many interesting backgrounds for photo shoots!

Which of your designs is your favorite and why?

Photo of Cornelia Sweater by Deirdre Lejeune
Cornelia Sweater by Dierdre Lejeune
©Deirdre Lejeune. Used with permission.

That’s a tough choice. I still like my very first design so much, and I wear it often, Cornelia sweater. Looking back, it was not the most logical thing to create a sweater, graded in multiple sizes, as a first pattern. But of course, when I started, i had no idea what it takes to make a pattern :-). It took forever to get it finished, I had to do so much research on grading and shaping, and then I had to research how to actually write it down! And just when I thought I was done, I had to get nice pictures, and my first experience with a tech editor, and my first interactions with test knitters… I’ve learned so much! And when it finally got published, I was extremely proud. That’s why that pattern will always have a special place for me.

I was amazed when I realized that your first published design was a sweater! I have yet to produce a pattern that requires grading because I decided to start with items that don’t require sizing and then work my way up to that.

But at the moment, I’m very happy with my Irena wrap. It really came out the way it was intended, and it was received so well! This was the first pattern that gave me some recognition as a designer, and I really needed that reassurance. So that pattern will always be special for me as well.

Photo of Irena Wrap by Deirdre Lejeune
Irena Wrap by Deirdre Lejeune
©Deirdre Lejeune. Used with permission.

I think many people agree with you, as Irena is currently your most popular pattern. It is very cleverly constructed.

What is your favorite aspect of designing?

I really enjoy the creative part: making an idea in your head come to life, finding out which techniques and materials will work and which won’t work, etcetera. I really like swatching and I very much enjoy doing all the maths.

And what is your least favorite?

Creating a design is one thing, but a design is not yet a pattern. The actual pattern writing is a chore, because a pattern has to be understandable for everyone and not just for yourself. It takes a lot of time to make a clear and concise pattern, with enough information to make it useable but not so much to make it too long or tedious. I’m lucky to have found a tech editor that I have a good interaction with, she always has great suggestions. I also rely on feedback from test knitters on how to make my patterns better.

Making clear pictures of a design that are appealing to other knitters is also a difficult aspect. It’s so much harder than you think!

Yes, I agree. I’ve learned to write the pattern as I go along because it is just too difficult and depressing to have a finished object that has turned out just as you hoped, but then you still have to make sense out of a pile of scribbled notes in order to explain how to make it.

What can you tell us about your new design that is coming out soon?

It’s a colorwork cowl that can be worn doubled and it’s knitted in the round. It has been finished for a while now, but I’m not happy with the pictures. It’s going to be a clear and bright weekend, so I’m planning to do a final photoshoot tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Hopefully by the time this post goes live you will have great photos and can share your new design with all of us!

Thanks very much for your time.

Deirdre is very generously giving one of her patterns away to one of you lucky readers. Please leave a comment here before December 2 at 9:00 PM Pacific Time and I will randomly select a winner.

4 thoughts on “Interview with designer Deirdre Lejeune

  1. Very nice interview – I, too, am in awe of a sweater as a first design! Jumping in with both feet! Thanks for the great interview.
    -nicoletavares (on Ravelry) 🙂

  2. Thanks Carla for the lovely interview and everyone who commented. My photoshoot last weekend was a success and the pattern is now published on Ravelry!

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