Designer Spotlight–Diana Troldahl
Whew, it's hard to believe it's the last full day of school! Don't believe the face, he woke up this morning and we heard ,"It's Fun Day!" from his bedroom; both kids ready to go with sunscreen, water, hats and everything way before the usual time. It's a beloved tradition, a waterslide down the hills on the front playground, cardboard box maze, dunk tank and all sorts of merrymaking. The kids don't know it, but I have a secret plan to take them to Ella's Deli after their last morning tomorrow to keep the good vibes going. Little Belle's excited, too, and told me solemnly that she plans to wear her Mi Amorita tomorrow to be suitably fancy for the last day.
In knitting news, working on a Secret Project for the fall issue:
But enough from me, we have a great interview for you today with Knitcircus designer (and book reviewer!) Diana Troldahl, so let's get to it!
Which design do you have in the current issue? Please tell
us a little about this pattern and what makes it exciting for you as a
My Rosie Socks are in
the Summer issue of Knitcircus. I love learning new techniques, and also enjoy
bringing pattern stitches which have become less well known into a more modern
pattern. It is a wonderful challenge to transmute out-of-date language into
modern knitting parlance, too. With this specific design, I had a great time
incorporating an old fashioned German heel and continuing the triangle design
of the trellis to a pyramid-shaped French toe. I also love how the cuff hides
the ribbing, like a secret.
My Espalier Shawl in
the Spring issue was also based on a stitch pattern from the past. I had only
seen the Espalier stitch in a Victorian era pattern book until I designed my
How’d you get started designing?
About six or seven
years ago my sister-in-law asked me to vet one of her patterns as a beginning
knitter. (She is designer LynnH of Colorjoy). I remember having to look up how
to bind off. She found my comments useful, and I often helped her with tech
editing after that, learning a lot about pattern layout in the meantime. I
eventually wrote a few free patterns for sharing on my blog, then on Ravelry,
and had a pattern published in Magknits.
In 2008, I wanted to
contribute something to Susan G. Komen in memory of lost friends. I am disabled
but receive no government monies, and had no job. What I could do was design a
pattern for sale, and contribute part of the proceeds each year for breast
cancer research. That was my Cloud On Her Shoulders, still a favorite among my
The feeling of
empowerment that gave me, and the warmth I felt when reading stories from
knitters about sharing the shawls with their loved ones was incredible, and
encouraged me to keep on writing and sharing patterns, this time, as part of
the household income.
What’s your favorite part of designing?
There are two aspects
that thrill me the most. One is the feeling I get that I can touch peoples’
lives through my work; whether that be the money I can contribute to Kiva or
Susan G. Komen, or learning that one of my patterns helped a dyslexic knitter
gain enough confidence to try lace, or being able to answer questions of
beginning knitters when they PM me on Ravelry about one of my patterns. Another
is the thrill of the hunt. I am a very geeky person. I have a degree in
Anthropology and a strong interest in history as well. When I spy instructions
or an old illustration of a pattern stitch I have not encountered in more
modern stitch dictionaries, I am not happy until I have tried it out.
I often am inspired to
create a pattern showcasing that stitch, and I enjoy the challenge of
describing how exactly to re-create it using modern terms.
I really feel sick to
my stomach if someone comes across an error in one of my patterns that has been
published. It has happened, but my working methods have kept it to a minimum,
thank goodness. No one is perfect, and of course an error slips through now and
then, but I am pleased to say most of my patterns have turned out to be
Which pattern have you made that surprised you; harder or
easier to write than anticipated, more popular than you guessed?
Cloud On Her Shoulders
is a fairly basic semi-circular shoulder shawl in garter stitch. The shaped
increases make it something that sits securely on your shoulders, but there are
no fancy lace stitches, nothing that requires more than knitting, slipping, and
a kfb increase here and there. It was fairly easy to design, but it is by far
the most popular of my for-sale patterns. That surprised me at first, but I
think perhaps, as in my own family, it is workman-like enough to actually be
used by the recipient, rather than being put away in a drawer ‘for good’. It is
also an incredibly fast knit, and can be finished in a day or two.
It taught me that
designing a good pattern is often less about showing off my knitting chops and
more about simplicity and usability. Of course I still get a geeky thrill from
my more intricate designs :-}
Which kinds of patterns attract you as a knitter and as a
designer? Are they different?
Hmm. I haven’t thought
about it until now. I think what attracts me to patterns by others is similar
to what attracts me to a design I want to create. I want learn something, or
explore a new technique. I guess I want a challenge, mostly.
Favorite kind(s) of yarn?
I have a strong
preference for natural fibers, and enjoy knitting with sproingy wool the most.
That being said, I also love the sheen and sparkle found in some synthetics.
There are few yarns I will not knit (with the possible exception of 1970’s era
Favorite needle sizes or kinds of needles?
I need to use a
variety of needle sizes in the course of a work day. Switching between projects
really helps my hands stay limber despite the arthritis.
What’s your all-time favorite design you’ve created?
My favorite is the
Dragon Butt Hat. It is one that was inspired only by my imagination, and
embodies my weird sense of humor. It is also fun knitting it. And making my
adult friends pose with it on their heads LOL..
Designer(s) who inspire(s) you and why?
Anne Hanson has a
lovely enthusiasm which infuses throughout her patterns. I have learned a lot
about good classic design from her. Anna Zilboorg, Elizabeth Zimmerman, the
unnamed men and women who wrote all those lovely Victorian patterns. Deb Robson
inspires me simply because she is so open and willing to share information about
the publication business with whomever asks. Barbara G. Walker, in so many ways
(I first knew of her through her non-knitting publications). Of course my
sister-in-law LynnH of Colorjoy continues to be an inspiration, and I love
every one of her designs. Some of the most inspiring designers I’ve encountered
through Ravelry, when they PM me asking
how to get started in this business. Seeing them find the courage to put out
their design ‘children’ for the world to see is a real thrill, and their
enthusiasm helps keep my own fire stoked.
Where can people find your designs?
What’s next for your designs?
I will be putting
together a few mini ebooks containing pattern collections this year including
at least one containing themed finger puppets. Individual patterns in the works
include a few sock patterns, some crochet patterns, more lace shawls, some tank
tops with somewhat unique construction, two bolero-style jackets, a few modular
shawls, some children’s clothing and accessories, perhaps some toys. I feel I
have much to learn about pattern grading, so that is something that I will be
addressing this summer, too.
I have a list a few
hundred line items long with more ideas that are not as fully fleshed out as
those I mention here…
Anything else you’d like us to know?
Becoming a designer
happened almost by accident, one step leading to another, but it has been
incredibly rewarding on many levels. I still think of one day publishing a
novel, but this designing gig fulfills me in ways I could not have imagined.
Thanks so much, Diana, and we look forward to seeing more of your designs as they come to fruition!