Interview with Tanja Luescher

It’s Indie Design Gift-A-Long season again, where we gather as a community of knitters/ crocheters to create gifts for family and friends (or ourselves!) from Indie patterns, and chat about the experience, and win prizes along the way! It’s a great opportunity to get to know people we’ve perhaps only had passing interactions with, and in line with that spirit, I’ve had the chance to interview Tanja Luescher, a designer in Switzerland who has created some amazingly intricate shawl patterns. In fact, she is the designer of the first shawl I ever made, Margrit’s Pi Shawl. What an introduction to shawl knitting!Margrit_AJ

Image (c) Ashwini J

I’ve since gone on to make a few other pieces designed by Tanja, including the Thunder and Lightning Shawl


Image (c) Ashwini J

and Gemma’s Cowl


Image (c) Ashwini J

I had the chance to learn more about Tanja’s design process this month.

When/ how did you learn to knit?

My mother taught me how to knit and purl when I was young, but I really learned when I met my husband. We were living 600 km away from each other and every weekend at the train station, he was so cold. So I bought a book on knitting and wanted to make him mittens. Unfortunately, he doesn’t wear anything knitted unless it’s socks. 🙂

What was your first knitting project?

The usual garter stitch scarf. 🙂 My mother thought mittens were too difficult for me and urged me to make socks first. I was quite confused – the instructions for mittens in my knitting book made sense to me, while I didn’t understand the instructions for the socks at all. But I made a terrible sock that looked fitting for a monster and then finally took on the mittens.


(Tanja has certainly come a long way from that first garter stitch scarf!)

How did you start designing, and what was your first design?

I’m very small, so I soon began to modify sweater patterns to fit me, or I created my own using recipes. My first published design was Eri’s Shawl, made for my best friend who’s living in Canada.

Here’s Eri’s Shawl:


What are your favorite sources of stitch patterns?

You can never go wrong with the Barbara Walker Treasuries 🙂 But I also love my collection of Japanese and Estonian stitch dictionaries, and a German book called Oma’s Strickgeheimnisse (Grandma’s Knitting Secrets) with really old patterns in it.

You’ve designed some large, intricate shawls. Do you have any tricks for ensuring that your stitch pattern combinations will work well together over the large scale of the shawl (short of making an enormous swatch)?

Actually, I’ve only once created a stitch combination that I didn’t like. The roses in Margrit’s Pi Shawl were surrounded by lots of stockinette stitch in the stitch dictionary, and all the lacy patterns together with all that stockinette looked terrible in the first prototype. So, if you combine either very lacy patterns together or less lacy patterns together, I’m sure it will work out. When I’m still unsure, there’s always the possibility to separate them by “neutral” stripes, like garter stitch.

(It was Tanja’s witnessing heroic efforts with this shawl design over in the Designer’s forum on Ravelry that inspired me to give it a try!).

Is there any type of project/ technique you haven’t tackled, but want to?

Double knitting, I definitely want to try that 🙂

What are your design plans for the GAL/ upcoming year?

In December I’ll publish Snövit Scarf, it uses a really cute stitch pattern with picot welts. My testers love it, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. I’ve been wanting to use the stitch for a long time and now I finally had the right idea for it. 🙂


I’m in love with Caterpillargreen Yarns Shawl Stripes yarn, and I’m doing some experiments at the moment to find out what happens when you put it into different shapes then the top down shawls it is dyed for. It looks very promising so far 🙂

Other plans are to have a wider portfolio. I have a sock design on the needles at the moment, and I even have plans for a sweater. 🙂

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more from Tanja next year, and, being primarily a garment knitter, super-excited to see her upcoming sweater design.

If you would like to join in the Gift-A-Long fun, it’s not too late to participate over in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long forum. Hope to see you there!

All images (c) Tanja Luescher, unless otherwise noted.


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