I’ve had a fun month of knitting along with other designers and Ravelry members in the annual Indie Design Gift-A-Long. During this time, I got to know Leeana Gardiner (Whirlsie on Ravelry), who hails from the opposite side of the world, and is undoubtedly enjoying better weather than I am! She has produced a plethora of designs, many for children, but also some for adults. There are even adorable elf skirts in her catalogue!
I was able to ask Leeana a few questions about her knitting and designing process.
Ashwini: We are a few weeks into the Ravelry Gift-A-Long. What has been your favorite aspect of the event? Have there been any surprises?
Leeana: This is my first Gift-A-Long, both as a knitter and a designer. I have really been enjoying it. It is so wonderful to see so many knitters in the KAL and CAL, helping and cheering each other along. It has been wonderful to sit back and knit, and have a little rest from designing, although it has also been great for my getting my designing mojo going!!
Ashwini: Are you working on any GAL projects?
Leeana: I currently have some Springstep Boot Cuffs on the go and I am planning on making some Beira Mitts, and a Branching Path Cowl. I bought so many patterns during the GAL sale, I will have so many options!
Ashwini: What are your favorite items to knit?
Leeana: It really depends on my mood, and what I am hoping to achieve. Overall, I love cables, but I love to knit anything that will hold my interest. At the moment, I like quick knits, but that’s due to my hectic life.
Ashwini: What do you find most rewarding, and most challenging, about being a designer?
Leeana: The most rewarding part of designing is seeing a pattern getting attention and being well received. It is so amazing to have something I have designed being created by others. It always gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside when I see it being recreated or mentioned in the forums.
The most challenging is probably getting the patterns out there. Firstly being able to knit fast enough to get my designs out of my head and into reality, and secondly as a new designer to have my patterns reach as many knitters as possible. But, these are great challenges to have, it’s great to have something to aim for.
Ashwini: Most of your designs are for little ones- infants’ through children’s sizes. What do you most enjoy about designing for this demographic?
Leeana: I love how fast they knit up. There are so many cute options that can be made for little ones. It’s no longer about pastels, you can make lovely vibrant garments. Sometimes I just wanted to knit something, without having a big commitment… plus I have a lot of fingering weight yarn that I wanted to knit up.
Ashwini: Your Taliesin sweater, which is sized for infant through adult, has received a lot of attention on Ravelry! What was most challenging about designing for such a broad size range?
Leeana: It was so much fun, I really enjoy the challenge of calculating different patterns. Originally, I had designed the Mini Taliesin. I loved it so much I wanted one, and that’s where the Taliesincame in. As there was a baby version and an adult version I figured I had better make a child version. When I initially designed the Little Taliesin, it only had the one neckline option, but I wanted it to have a more masculine option, so I added the shawl neckline as well. Overall, I wanted something that will appeal to a broad range of people, but would still look great with the cables running down the centre.
Ashwini: I noticed that many of your designs are made in Bendigo Woollen Mills yarns. Can you comment a little about these yarns, and why you enjoy working with them?
Leeana: I love knitting with natural fibres, but in Australia yarn prices can add up very quickly in some craft stores. BWM yarns are great quality, affordable and come in big 200g balls wich mean less sewing ends in. I love the colour range and they often have limited release yarns which can be quite fun too. My favourite line is the Luxury yarn as it is so nice and soft, has great colours and is machine washable.
Ashwini: I see that you are based in Australia, so your seasons are reversed with respect to the Northern hemisphere, where the majority of Ravelers live. Do you time design releases according to season, and if so, do you follow northern or southern hemisphere seasons?
Leeana: As I have only been designing for 9 months, I am still figuring some of this stuff out. I have been considering working my releases around the Northern Hemisphere winter, but I get so excited about a new pattern that I cannot wait to publish it! Plus, at the moment it can be hard to get knitting done as it is starting to heat up. My main problem at the moment is having so many designs and patterns written up and not knitting fast enough to get them all out! But it’s a fun process.
Ashwini: Your recent tutorial about scheduling Facebook posts was very helpful to a lot of designers engaged in GAL promotions. Do you have any other tutorials planned?
Leeana: Thank you. Sometimes it can be hard to know what to do when learning something new like social media, and I really wanted to help other designers out with getting their message out there about the Gift-A-Long. I like to be able to give back to the knitting community.
I am in the process of getting some tutorials up, but have been having some “technical difficulty” with my video camera and finding suitable video software. However I am hoping to get this up and running as over the years I have used countless tutorials that I have found so useful.
Ashwini: Because I’ve been curious and finally have the opportunity to ask- what’s the inspiration behind your Ravelry username “Whirlsie?”
Leeana: My username has become part of me and I will even answer to it. When I was 17 and had to come up with a username, I originally decided on Whirl Wind Galaxy, which is a reference to my favourite TV show at the time (Roswell), since when it was shortened to whirls and then I was affectionately named whirlsie on the Traci Harding forum Trazling where I have made some amazing friends whom I have known now since I was 17.
Ashwini: Can you give us a preview of what we might see from you in the upcoming year?
Leeana: I would love to!! I am currently working on a child version of Rhun , I have a couple more adult garments up my sleeve and I am hoping to put Snow Dancer out to testing shortly. I also have 2 tiny Elf Skirts being tested at the moment for the Elf on the Shelf/Barbie size and this has also inspired a child version which I am currently knitting up and grading for other sizes.
I’m looking forward to seeing more designs from Leeana in the next year! Meanwhile, I’ll be following her on her website at whirlsie.com. Happy holidays to Leeana and everyone else!