Today’s interview is with one of my absolute favourite shawl designers, Nim Teasdale of NimbleKnits – I first encountered her work with the amazing The Phoenix’s Tale shawl. It was a very fun knit, and I discovered her active and encouraging Ravelry group as I made the shawl.
She agreed to sit down and give us a bit of her time today
Making things makes me happy. Knitting, crochet, drawing, sewing, cake.. Nowadays I’m so obsessed with lace that I even dream about it and I mostly design when I ought to be doing something else. Like housework…
I’m a stay at home mum of three young boys, and behind the everyday rhythms of cleaning and cooking, I daydream about knitting and lace design. ~Nim Teasdale, aka NimbleNim
First, the basics –
Many! I’m usually most drawn to deep or saturated colours, but there’s not many I don’t like. Pink is a bit of a challenge, but I’m trying.
Everything? I love smooth sleek yarns and shiny fibres like tencel and silk (I’m a frizzy person myself, so maybe I’m drawn to my opposite ) but I love a nice soft merino too. I’ve been learning a little more about different breeds of sheep as we’ve travelled. That’s been really eye opening and something I’m looking forward to exploring.
Just one? Eeek.. “Never say never”? (I learnt that the hard way.. I was never going to get married or have kids.)
Favourite Guilty Pleasure:
Dark, dark chocolate!
Favourite Non-fiber Hobby:
Does eating chocolate count as a hobby?
Rebecca: I discovered your patterns in the summer of 2015, when I knit your The Phoenix’s Tale as my Order of the Phoenix shawl. Clearly, you’ve been designing longer than that 😉
So inquiring minds want to know, how long have you been producing patterns for others to knit?
Nim: About 2 years, full time. I had a botched attempt at designing in 2012 which taught me that writing a pattern that someone else can use to recreate a project is a very different thing to being able to make up something on the fly yourself. I tried again in 2014, and something about the design process clicked, and I was hooked. I started the Nimble Knits group as a place to hold test knits, and the group has just celebrated its second birthday recently.
Rebecca: Was it a natural progression from designing for yourself to designing for others, or was it hard to begin putting your designs out there at first?
Nim: It was a slippery slope! I can never follow instructions without improvising, and from there to making up things from scratch was a natural transition. Then I found there was something very satisfying in putting the whole pattern together, with the theme, photographs, layout and so on. Now I can’t help myself.
Rebecca: What is your very favourite design you’ve made so far?
Nim: Usually the one I’ve just finished. So at the moment, Robin in the Leaves. I learn something new with every design, and I’m really enjoying doing interesting things with spines, and this one was particularly fun from that perspective.
Rebecca: Walk us through the design process a bit, if you would – what does a design day (or evening) look like for you? Do you have to wait for quiet and solitude to design, or does it happen in bits and pieces throughout your day?
Nim: Very much the latter, especially for the last year. I love quiet and solitude, but mostly I work in chaos, and tend to shoehorn work into any spare minute. Life has been rather unusual for the last year as we’ve been living in a campervan, travelling around Europe. A small van, with 3 kids, homeschool, travel research and work all jostling for space is not the easiest working environment, but it’s been a very memorable experience, and very inspiring.
From the design perspective, I’ll often start with a theme, it might be something in nature, or an interesting tile or fabric pattern I see in a building in passing, or a fragment of a story that gets stuck in my head. Other times it comes from looking at a particular yarn, maybe the texture or colour, and trying to figure out what it wants to be.
Rebecca: Do you knit your own designs more than once? Or do you complete a design, hand it off for test knitting, and move on to the next design?
Nim: Not usually. Once I’ve knit it, the mystery is solved (the mystery being will this chart work and what happens when you come to x transition, and how will it look when it blocks!)
Shawl of Many Shapes was one exception to that, and by the time I was up to the fourth, I was very glad to have finished!
Rebecca: Speaking of test knitters, I totally enjoyed test knitting the Dragon Helm hat. Can you share with the audience how they can sign up to become a test knitter for your patterns?
Nim: Just lurk in the group, really. I have a big backlog of things that need testing which I’ll have to catch up on in a month or so once we’re home, so there will be tests coming up.
Rebecca: You have a very active group on Ravelry, with ongoing KAL’s, and a very helpful team of moderators. Did you expect your design work to grow into the vibrant community that it has?
Nim: Not at all! That’s been such an amazing surprise. I feel incredibly privileged to have the chance to meet people from all around the world, and to watch friendships forming, it’s a real joy.
Rebecca: In parting, can you give us a sneak peek of what the near future holds? Are you planning additional ebook collections? Or can we anticipate more stand-alone patterns?
Nim: I like collections because it means I can work around a theme, and having a clear inspiration or theme for each piece seems to often be an important part of my design process. But some things don’t fit any particular collection, so there will be both.
Rebecca: Thanks Again, Nim! I truly appreciate it!
Nim: Thank you! It’s an honour to be asked.
(All images copyright Nim Teasdale, used with permission.)