This month, I’m interviewing Cindy of OrangeSmoothie. I found her lovely patterns a couple months ago on Ravelry. I was searching and searching for a cowl pattern that combines handspun and millspun yarn. I didn’t even know if such a thing existed outside my own mind, and I was just about to give up and try to make my own when I found Cindy’s pattern, “Bison Amid the Daisies.” It was exactly what I was looking for! Then I found her amazing blog at https://orangesmoothieknits.wordpress.com/, and I was totally hooked. I know you will be too when you hear more about OrangeSmoothie.
All of my questions are in black, and Cindy’s responses are in purple to make it easy for you to see who is “talking.”
Tell me about how you got started in fiber arts. How did you first learn to knit?
My grandmother taught me to knit and crochet when I was a child. I did more crochet at the time and less knitting because I didn’t like the straight aluminum knitting needles that were popular in the 70s. I revisited knitting in 2012 when I discovered circular needles—and have accumulated quite a collection of them since!
What led you from there to designing your own patterns?
I have knitted many lovely patterns from Ravelry, but I realized I wanted more one-skein, stash-busting patterns. After working for knitting teachers, designers, and others in the industry, I thought I’d give pattern-designing a shot. I had ideas of how I wanted my patterns to flow. For example, I use an app for my iPad, KnitCompanion, which allows me to highlight each row of a chart or written instructions. My patterns are written to try to maximize the layout so it can be easily converted into the app. I try to make my patterns clean and easy to follow, as well as formatted to print as few sheets as possible for those who prefer printing out their patterns. My hope is that my patterns also fulfill others’ needs to find something fun, but not too complicated, to knit their single skeins of pretty yarn—or to clear out some of their stash.
I think you are succeeding beautifully!
I have to ask where the name OrangeSmoothie come from.
I like the color orange quite a lot, and thinking about a tasty Orange Julius smoothie just makes me want to run out and get one. OrangeSmoothie allows me to combine those same happy, excited feelings and project them through my blog/designs/finished objects where I hope to inspire others to enthusiastically create their own colorful handmades.
Now, this is not your only job. Tell us about what you do when you aren’t knitting and designing new patterns.
My “real job” is as a paralegal at a mid-sized law firm in Kansas City. Sometimes it can be reeeaaallly stressful, so having knitting is a welcome stress-reliever.
When you’re looking for inspiration for a new pattern, where do you find it?
I get a lot of inspiration from what really grabs me. It may be a combination of yarns in colors that would look awesome together, or it could be a single skein of some fancy-shmancy yarn I got somewhere and don’t know what to do with. (I have some 100% silk in my stash right now that really needs to be converted into a nice cowl or scarf—still working on that one.) “Necessity is the mother of invention” is my pattern-designing mantra.
I love it!
Which comes first? The yarn or the pattern? Do you find some yarn and come up with the perfect pattern to go with it, or do you have a pattern idea in mind and go in search of yarn that would complement it?
It’s about a 90% chance that I’ll have the yarn already in my stash, waiting to be made into something fabulous. For example, I had an amazing skein of Tanis Fiber Arts cashmere/silk worsted weight yarn in my stash. I had to have the perfect pattern to make out of this special yarn. From this need came Betwixt Mine Eye and Heart, a cowl with a scroll-y heart repeat throughout. It is adjustable to the amount of yarn or final size you want and knits up very quickly (I can knit one of these up in an evening). Great for short-notice gift-giving. If I have a need to knit up a variegated or handspun yarn from my stash, or if I am traveling or social knitting and don’t want to refer to the pattern, I go to my Twyst Shawlette.
I have to say that I love patterns like that, especially as a spinner!
What’s your favorite weight of yarn?
I am a non-discriminatory yarn lover. I enjoy all weights, really. I probably use lace the least, but for some reason, have stashed a decent amount of lace-weight yarns. I’m working on a pattern that’ll take care of this accumulation.
What’s your favorite fiber to work with, and what do you like about it?
I just loooovvveeee cashmere. Oh! I just love the stuff! So soft and wonderful! Merino and cashmere with a touch of silk is the best combo for shawls, scarves and cowls that I like to knit.
Well, now you have inspired me. I have been eyeing a base yarn with all three of those from my main supplier, and I may just have to get some to dye!
I noticed from your blog and from Instagram that you do a lot of test knitting. What are the unique challenges and joys associated with testing out new patterns for other designers, and how has that affected your own design process?
Testing is fun. Depending on the designer, you may have a “design in progress” or you may have a completely tech-edited, ready-to-publish pattern to test knit. I’ve done both and enjoy them. The “design in progress” is really interesting. I’ve learned so many things on how the design process works, the thought that goes into it, if a stitch pattern will work or not depending on the needle size or yarn composition, the eye for balance in color and texture. This does require patience and may include tinking or frogging. I learned about how to read my stitches in testing this way. With a tech-edited, ready-to-publish test knit, it’s a fun and easy way to get a free pattern from the designer, however, it may be harder to get in on the test knitting due to the amount of competition for that designer’s test knit work.
Doing test knits has shown me what a knitter will need to know as they knit my pattern—any clarification issues will be anticipated to make it a smooth and enjoyable experience. Layout and design of the pattern, as well as accuracy, have been positively influenced by test knitting.
That sounds really interesting, and I can definitely see how it would help you with your own design-work too.
What is your own personal favorite design that you have made so far?
Wow. That’s a hard question to answer! I think it depends on the need at the moment. For right now, I am last-minute gift knitting. I have discovered my Betwixt Mine Eye and Heart cowl pattern works well for this purpose. Not only can I knit it in an evening, but it’s adjustable to the amount of yarn I have.
What upcoming plans do you have for your business as a designer?
I am enrolled in The Knitting Guild Association’s Tech Editor Certification course to help me write more concise, industry-standard patterns so my patterns will conform to what knitters have come to expect in patterns. It’s teaching me the right way to put a pattern together. I’m not sure if I’ll tech edit other designers’ patterns, but I certainly can use the education to make mine better so they are more enjoyable to knit. At the same time, I’ll continue my stash-busting, one-skein, “necessity is the mother of invention” patterns.
Please do! Where can we find your patterns?
My patterns can be found on Ravelry here: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/orange-smoothies-ravelry-store
Thank you, Cindy! It was such a pleasure discussing your work and your beautiful patterns!