Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Meet Kerin Dimeler-Laurence, Knit Picks' Designer

With the Knitting at Large Knit Picks KAL beginning in just a few days, I thought you should meet the company's amazing resident designer, Kerin Dimeler-Laurence.  Here she is knitting on a fishing boat. Makes complete sense to me! This is exactly what I would do if Tom took me fishing.

Kerin Dimeler-Laurence
I asked Kerin about knitting in general and designing for ample women in particular.

How long have you been designing? And how did you come to design patterns?

I've been designing roughly as long as I've been knitting; I didn't learn to read knitting patterns until I was in college, so before that I would just make it up as I went along. I started sewing clothing when I was really young, all without patterns but ‘traced’ essentially from existing clothes I had. Even though I didn't know all the right terms for things, I could draw out the pieces for a collared shirt or a vest and sew it up by hand, adjusting to make everything fit properly. I applied the same to knitting. Even after learning to read patterns I still wanted to change everything to make it "mine," and eventually I started getting asked to write it down. When I worked for a yarn store, I started writing simple, free patterns that we’d give away with a particular yarn. After a while the patterns became more complex, and I think at that point I was considered a designer. It was an organic process! I still consider what I do more play than design, in a way.

Mistake Rib Neckwarmer

You design incredible patterns with both cables and colorwork. Which is your favorite and why?

Colorwork, certainly! I love experimenting with color and trying to essentially paint with yarn. I have an arts background and spent many long hours with paints or pastels working on illustration; in a way, I look at knitting as just a different sort of canvas for that. I do love cables, but they don’t give me quite the same satisfaction as a good block of intarsia! I think also that from a chart perspective, colorwork can be simpler to read. Once you get into some really difficult cables, or invent your own, it can get really confusing to a knitter. Colorwork is a little more straightforward in that respect.

Tuva Pullover

Why did you decide to start designing sweaters in larger sizes?

It was natural, really. Growing up, watching my mom try to find nice clothes that fit her and then going through the same thing as a teenager and adult, I wanted to be sure that whatever I made, there was a size that would fit my mom. Not that she’d knit herself a sweater, but I’m sure my mom isn't the only person who has felt disheartened by the lack of options. I have to say I was also pretty unimpressed with a lot of the plus size collections I’d seen coming out; in some, the largest size would have been just a little too big for me and I’m actually pretty average. So I got really offended on behalf of anyone who would see a collection for plus sizes, only to find themselves excluded. By that same token, seeing patterns and clothes that are unattractive or just unflattering aimed at plus size gals, as far as I can tell, defeats the purpose of making your own clothing! I don’t think anyone should be excluded from making pretty things that they like to wear. If you’re willing to put in the effort to make something, no matter your size there should be lots of choices.

Yarrow Blouse
What's the hardest part about upsizing patterns for larger women?

Definitely body shape. Different women carry their weight in such different ways that it's nearly impossible to really account for all the differences in one pattern. In that way I have to take an averages approach, and make sure the garment would fit about how you'd expect a store-bought item to fit; not always the best for everyone, unfortunately, and that's a struggle. I sew a lot of my own clothes, and a lot of what I learn from that helps me understand how to tweak things here and there for a better fit, but it's still a really individual thing. Luckily, I do have a CAD program for fashion design that includes misses, women's and plus size slopers, which helps me make certain basic adjustments at the right sizes (lower armholes, higher waist, more subtle shaping, etc). What I can't do, really, is adjust for swaybacks, wider bust or hips, rounder shoulders and the like, since not everyone has those. It's frustrating, really, knowing that I can only get it about 80% there for everyone! This goes for all sizes, not just plus.

Fogarty Creek Blazer

Do you have any advice for larger women when it comes to knitting your designs (or any other designs for that matter)?

Firstly, be honest with yourself. I know sometimes it can be disheartening to break out the measuring tape and write down what you see, but it's so important to really know your size and think honestly about how you like your clothes to fit. That might mean going up a size – but it's just a number, after all! This is especially important for any measurements where you feel you might be differently shaped than average – if you always need to adjust the neck width, sleeve length, wrist circumference and such, be sure you have those measurements handy. You can use those measurements and a project's gauge and a whole new world opens up!

Black Oak Jacket
The other advice I would say is to send constructive feedback to the designer. I can't say I know too many knitwear designers personally, but I don’t think any of us would try purposefully to write patterns that don't fit. So, any time you have suggestions to make something fit better for your size, whether something like 'the largest three sizes should really have an underarm gusset,' or 'this is the way I alter every pattern to fit a larger bust, you might want to suggest that for this sweater,' will be helpful. The more you communicate your needs with designers, the more well-fitting patterns you’ll end up getting! Keep in mind that a lot of issues you might encounter are up to simple ignorance on the designer's part – we might just not have thought about that particular thing. While we can’t revise a pattern to fit everyone individually, the more feedback we get about sizing concerns and fit, the more appropriate patterns we can write in the future.

Nonna's Garden Shawl

Finally, this is more of a request than a question. Ample knitters need to make revisions to almost every pattern to get it to fit their particular lumpiness, as I say. One thing we REALLY need are schematics with all measurements so we can tell where and what we need to modify. Your patterns don't come with a full schematic at this point. I was wondering (hoping) if maybe you have the measurements in a spreadsheet somewhere? If you could send me a copy, I'll work with the girls to mod their sweaters. I can put revised schematics up on our board, too. Let me know what you think.

I do have schematics for a lot of the patterns, but not all of them, and likely not with the level of detail you'd need for adjustment – though I do keep copious notes. I can certainly go back through and update schematics I have, and create ones for patterns that don't have them! Going forward all of the patterns I write will have a pretty well filled-out schematic – it hadn't been as high a priority before to include one, but we’re working on that! I’m looking through the KAL on Ravelry to get a list of patterns to start with. I've also updated all of my plus-size patterns on Ravelry to include the tag "plus," so that should bring up a lot more options for folks who are looking! I’d also like to mention that right around the time your KAL starts, several more patterns will be coming out. In case anyone wanted to wait till they had their holiday gift money to get their yarn, there will be more options then!

Aesa Pullover


  1. Great interview! I am really happy to be knitting Black Oak Jacket.

  2. What a great interview! Kerin seems like a very thoughtful designer! I'm eager to take another look through her patterns. Thanks Julie!

  3. thanks for getting even more involved in our journey of enlightenment, Julie

    Onward with the Black Oak pattern...


  4. Nonna's Garden Shawl.....ooooohhhhh...wonder if I could handle all that intarsia....but if I could, it would certainly be worth the effort.

  5. Beautiful designs and a great interview! It cracks me up to see another person knitting on a boat. When I go out "fishing" with my husband, that's exactly what it looks like. Him fishing and me knitting. It always turns out to be a lovely outing.

  6. Is it possible to have charted patterns ie: Heirloom Layette Set, made into a written pattern?

  7. I don't do this work, but the amazing Dottie Daiker provides these services. Send a message to dottie@designsbydottied.com. She's the best!