GAL Interview: Jennifer Raymond

As part of the Giftalong, several participating designers are making guest appearances on other blogs. This week I’ve interviewed Jennifer Raymond (Jennifer Raymond on Ravelry) of Tinking Turtle Designs. Read on to learn more about this under-rated designer!

How/why did you begin designing?  I come from a very strong strain of people who like to take things apart and put them back together – though I didn’t think of it that way until I was older.  My grandfather was very good with his hands, and love to take apart and repair clocks and all manner of things made from wood (he even built his own house).  My great grandmother used to write patterns for newspapers, punch rug hook, and crochet like a fiend.  My grandfather’s sisters are both excellent at sewing and knitting.

In addition, I wasn’t very good at following directions (because when I first learned to knit/crochet, I wasn’t very good at reading, and later, because I thought I knew better than the pattern-writer).

So I was designing for a long time, about 15 years or so, without it being any more than just something I did.  In college, and after, my husband (then boyfriend) started to point out that I could make a career out of what I did – and I laughed.  He kept saying I could make money from knitting and crochet, and the more he said it, the better an idea it sounded.  When we moved to the Metro Washington, DC area, the thought reached a critical mass, and I began the process of researching what it would take to become a professional in the industry.

one salt sea

One Salt Sea by Jennifer Raymond

What’s your design process like?

I publish both independently and through magazines, and my design process tends to be dictated by a couple of different factors.  Sometimes, I have an idea, often what I think of as a “what if…?”  It normally starts with the thought, “What if I did ____?”  Sometimes I want to know just what it would look like, sometimes it’s because I see a stitch pattern I like, sometimes it’s colors, sometimes it’s shape.  But I’ll ask myself, “What if I used a slip stitch pattern on a shawl?  What would that look like?  How would I shape it?  What would make people like to wear it?” And then I try to answer that question.  I like answering design calls, because it already asks that question, a little bit.

Sometimes I’ll design something with a purpose.  My husband wanted an “aviator scarf.”  Well, I made him a scarf, my interpretation of an aviator scarf.  Same thing with a bag I made, I wanted something that served a purpose.  But in a way, I suppose that’s answering a question also, because I ask myself, “What would a knit aviator scarf look like?” or “What do I need in a crochet bag?”

One of my favorite variation of a “What if…” is when learn a new skill.  I learned a new way of doing a type of slip stitch a couple of months ago, and I got really excited about the technique.  I tried to do what I affectionately call “breaking it.”  That is, I try and push the technique until it breaks down, until it starts to stop looking interesting and starts to look bad/distort the fabric in a way that defeats the purpose of using knits.  In trying to find the limits of a technique, you figure out how it can be used in new ways.  For instance, intarsia works really well as a way to also make patches for a knit piece.

Unlike many designers, you have both knit and crochet patterns available. Do you find most of your audience is bicraftual too?

I don’t think it’s so much that my audience is bicraftual, as I don’t have a big enough list to really start seeing trends either way.  Instead, I feel that if I design in both knit and crochet, that widens my audience.  It means that I can apply to design calls from a variety magazines – and it doesn’t matter if it’s knit or crochet, because I can do both.

But the main reason I publish both knit and crochet is because my creative part of my brain doesn’t really see a difference.  In many other countries (Japan comes to mind) knitting and crochet aren’t viewed as different crafts.  My understanding is that the kanji for crochet in Japan translates roughly into “knitting with a hook.”  I think it’s really only in the last 60 years that knitting and crochet has become so stratified in the United States.  Before that, you’d see many projects that had both knitting and crochet.  There are things that knitting does well, and things crochet does well.  My creative side doesn’t quite understand that they should be viewed differently.  Logically I know that there’s good reasons to specialize, but I think if I limited myself to just one, it’d make me sad.

tunisian cat

Tunisian Cat by Jennifer Raymond

Why indie patterns? Why do you publish them, and why should crafters buy them?

Indie patterns are great for a lot of reasons!  Being that I publish both independently and with traditional publishing, I know that there’s some great reasons to support both industries.  I love indie patterns because designers can create things for very niche markets, and can create things that just wouldn’t work in a magazine.  Indie designers (if they publish online) don’t have to be worried about space, so you’ll find patterns that wouldn’t be published in magazines (or even some books) because of cost of printing issues.  Indie designers can sometimes “hold your hand” a bit more,  offering more support for patterns in the terms of tutorials (in patterns, blogs or youtube) and even in terms of being able to contact the designer.

Magazines and books, I think, in the crafting market have a wonderful place.  They can teach and educate, and they reach very wide audiences.  But because publishing schedules are so long (often, I’ll be designing something a year before it will be published), they can be slow to react to trends.

Indie designers can be a lot faster with their design releases.  They are more nimble, and they often have a close relationship with their audience, so if enough customers tell a designer they want something, a designer can react to that information much faster.  Plus, when you buy an indie pattern, you are supporting the designers directly, which is a wonderful thing.

Either way, I think it is important to make sure that designers are compensated for their time, creativity, and experience.  Most times, when you buy indie, you know they are being compensated fairly, because the indie designers are the ones setting the price.  There is a lot more transparency.

Do you have a favorite tool or yarn?

I love, with a fiery passion, locking stitch markers.  I love them so much I bought a whole bunch of them.  I love them because there are so many uses for them.  I also like my grandmother’s really sharp sewing needles.  If I could only have one sewing needle, it would be one of those, because I could use the threader end as a blunt tip needle.

swirl socks

Swirl Socks by Jennifer Raymond

What’s your favorite thing you’ve designed?

Ack!  How do you answer that?  There are things I like that I’ve designed because I think they are elegant solutions to a question – I like my Totoro socks because they are a pattern that does not stand out or dig into your feet.  I love Witchlace because the math was hard (so hard!) but it came out looking so flattering and exactly as I wanted it to.  I love my Swirl Socks because they are the most comfortable socks I own.  Designs: how can you pick just one?  When I’m working on something, I have to love it enough to spend some time with it, so I’ll be motivated to finish it even when the task becomes hard.  If I don’t have that love, I think it shines through some ways, and most times, I’m not as motivated to finish the idea through.

What has been the highlight of the GAL for you?

I love the diversity of ideas that the GAL has been able to highlight.  I love that a group of people who are very independent and motivated can band together to make something really cool.  I’m hoping next year, with a little bit more lead time, I might be able to volunteer and help out more.

Now for the best part: Jennifer has agreed to give away one of her patterns to one of my fabulous readers! She is offering the winner’s choice of One Salt Sea, Outrageous Orange, Tunisian Cat, Sweet Strawberries, or Swirl Socks. To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us which pattern you want the most, and why. Don’t forget to leave your contact info (Ravelry names preferred)! I will choose a winner from the comments next Wednesday, December 18 and then Jennifer will be in touch with your prize!


4 responses to this post.

  1. I love all the designs especially the outragous orange. but sad to say I am crochet challenged. I keep telling myself that in the new year I will learn but alas many new years have come and gone with out me learning to read crochet patterns.
    I would love to make myself a pair of swirl socks though.


  2. Posted by lindarumsey on December 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I love the swirl socks. I live in my hand knit socks most of the year and am always on the lookout for fun, interesting patterns to add to them.
    lindarumsey on Ravelry


  3. I love that Jennifer knits and crochets (being how i can too). I agree that they do different things better in their own way. I love reading these interviews and finding out about the design process. I love that Jennifer sees it as a challenge, as well as the bit where she pushes techniques to their limit. What a great idea. I am very intrigued by the sea salt. It looks like tatting.


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: