Designer Interview: Susan Andrews, aka Design Tonic

As the year — and the Indie Design Gift-A-Long — draw to a close, I’d like to treat you to an interview with a participating designer. Susan Andrews’ collection of designs is carefully curated: each one shows attention to detail and a love of geometry and colour, as well as a great sense of style. In my interview with Susan, I found out why this is.

All photos © Meridith Shepherd, except for Reunited, which is © Susan Andrews. Click each photo to go to that design’s pattern page.

Tommy Cowl detail
Tommy Cowl detail

How did you first start knitting, and what was your first finished project?

I started knitting in the 70’s. I had 2 small children at home and I needed an activity for me that was creative. I always wanted to learn to knit so I bought a small book and taught myself to knit. (basics)

I think my first project was a simple scarf. I only had straight needles at the time so everything was flat. But I made a ton of baby gifts for my friends.

How did you start designing?

For about 2 years I worked at a great yarn store for one day a week. Every quarter they had a theme and each employee was to knit a pattern for the store that fit the theme. That quarter it was entrelac, which I had never done. In researching the patterns available I realized I wasn’t too fond of the selection. I liked the idea of modular knitting and wanted a lightweight project with some lace. So I took a simple lace pattern to add to the blocks and blew up the blocks to make it more appealing. That’s when I came up with Reunited. It’s done in hand dyed Anzula yarn and has been used in their trade shows.

Reunited
Reunited

Apart from knitting, what are your other interests/areas of expertise? Do you feel these interests inform your designs? How so?

I have just retired from being an Interior Designer. I love working with color and design and knitted pieces are just an extension. I like creating a fresh look at any design. Always trying to keep even an older traditional piece more current. Beautiful hand dyed yarns really are my go to for fiber choices. I love the way the color is set.

What is your favourite technique or type of project, and why?

My favorite projects to knit are cowls. I think it’s because they are so useful and they add so much to a very plain wardrobe. I love knitting the most with smaller weights of yarn, fingering and sport. There are so many textures and lace ideas that it’s almost endless. Also you can purchase the more expensive yarns and use them for cowls…. luxury and warmth!!

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

When I design a piece it’s because I see a need for others or myself. I love using color to bring it forward to today and the more saturated it is the better.

When I was at the store working we had many beginner knitters or ones that were ready for more projects, so I created Tommy Cowl. It’s done with several learning steps and written with all of the directions to be able to knit them. Tommy Cowl teaches knitting in the round, striping without a jog and a very simple cable.

Tommy Cowl
Tommy Cowl

When I was first knitting it I thought it reminded me of a current designers sweaters. Simple and yet bold. That was a hit and so I ended up doing Warm me up Tommy, which is a blanket design. Again with the stripes and the simple cable for the first timers. It has all of the directions to teach you how to do it.

Warm Me Up Tommy
Warm Me Up Tommy

Mostly I think fresh colors and clean looks are what I’m after. I like things that aren’t too busy but have a modern take.

Out of your designs, which do you like the most? What is it about that those designs that makes them favourites?

Probably my favorite of all of the designs are my pillows in the Architectural Eye Candy group.

I love architectural details. So I mixed architectural details and saturated colors to use for my own house. They are really eye catching and can perk a plain chair immediately. The patterns are fairly easy and graphic. Again with detailing that is spelled out and made to be clear and easy.

Ziggurat
Ziggurat
Marquetry
Marquetry

I’ve recently moved to a new house so I’m needing to created some new Home Dec pieces…so stay tuned.

What knitting skill or technique would you like to learn next/work more with, and why?

Last year I started doing color work and Loved it. I particularly like Meridith Shepherd designs (her cowls!!). I did a few pieces as a test knit for her. I would like to do more color work. I’m also interested in some of the designs from different regions of the world.

What’s on the needles now?

I just finished up a very yummy wrap that is made out of Plucky Traveller yarn that is an Aran weight. The yarn is Merino, Silk and Yak and is the best feel ever. It’s a very simple chunky wrap that can be over the shoulders or wrapped around your neck. I’ll be wearing it tonight! Simple, warm and classic.

I also am doing a top down sweater out of Malabrigo Arroyo. It’s a pullover with a simple lace pattern in the front panel. Just so pretty, simple and yet so lovely with that yarn.

I always seem to start with the yarn. It either makes or breaks the knitted piece for me. I know people have budgets for yarn… but break the bank once in a while. Knitting isn’t a fast project and you will enjoy it during and afterwards so much more.

after that… who knows. My queue is full and I’m fine with knitting a lot of great designer’s pieces. I learn something nearly every time. Happy Knitting in 2015 !

 

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