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From Boutique Designer to Book Author: Laura Irwin

Nov 5, 2008

Note from Sandi: Every one of us who has ever designed an original hat or sock has dreamed of it: A beautiful book of knitting patterns with our name on the cover. For Laura Irwin, the dream came true this year with Interweave's publication of her first book, Boutique Knits: 20+ Must-Have Accessories. Her designs are so unusual--not to mention beautiful--that I invited her to share some of her thoughts on design with you. Heeeeeerrre's Laura!


Hi Knitting Daily Readers! 

It’s pretty unbelievable that I am being asked to write about designing my very first knitting book. I am just extremely grateful to have been given the chance to write one. I think it’s still sinking in, what it actually means, though.

When I first started designing hats to sell, years ago, I never imagined myself being a published pattern writer, let alone an author. In those days experimentation trumped my technical skills. I must’ve told the story one hundred times, but I didn’t understand much about constructing a knit garment- so I would sew pieces together using my sewing machine, and cut the “waste” off. I thought I was being innovative! I continue to design in this way, -sort of designing backwards, defining a garment or accessory at the end, instead of beginning with a plan. For example, I found the vintage-inspired lace for the Softly Pleated Sleeves (see photo above) after I had designed and knit the sleeves. But now I couldn’t imagine not using that trim. That color of Suri yarn and Lace were absolutely made for each other.

Manipulating after the Fact

I’ve been designing and selling my work for years under my label Precious, and a reoccurring theme throughout the years and collections, is that I really love adding trim and other materials to my knitting. The Big Brown Bag in Boutique Knits (see photo) was a project that made all of my dreams come true. I think I used about fifty different materials and combined twenty other craft-techniques to complete this look. Like setting grommets, leather lace, felting, horseshoe handle hooks, Chicago screws, etc… This must come from the need to surprise myself. To create something I haven’t seen before. I want the thrill of leaving a little up to chance. Like finding that perfect handle for a bag, or piece of hardware that connects the bag to its handle, or vintage lace that I only have a yard or so left of that works beautifully for a pair of soft sleeves.

I’ve learned to embrace a lot about knit wear design that didn’t come naturally, while designing for this book. In addition to all of the embellishing, I knew I wanted to incorporate ruffles and pleats and do lots of shaping, for my projects, and all of those ideas took tons and tons of planning. Planning doesn’t feel natural to me- but it was truly amazing and satisfying when projects came out as intended.

Writing this book really showed me who I am as a designer- that I’ve come a long way and that I have still so far to go! I really want to encourage the beginner with a lot of vision and little technical skill. You will learn what you need when you start asking those (technical) questions, and don’t be afraid to make up what you don’t know!

 Thanks so much!

- Laura Irwin


Boutique Knits: A Knitting Daily Editor's Choice Selection

Hi, Sandi here. I see a lot of knitting books, as you might when I see one that offers something unique to the craft, not to mention something beautiful, I get kind of excited about it.

I got pretty excited about Laura's book. I admit, when I saw the title, I expected cutesy trendoid little patterns...but once I opened the book, I was entranced, and read it cover to cover. The patterns are glamorous, the knitting simple and elegant, and the styles are timeless.

One of the things that I liked best about Laura's book Boutique Knits was that she is not afraid to combine techniques and materials to get the look she wants--in other words, she doesn't limit herself to a set of needles and some yarn. This approach allows her to explore shape, color, texture, and fashion in ways that we as knitters do not often get to see. Boutique Knits isn't just about knitting stylish accessories; it's about opening up the world of yarn and craft to find exciting new possibilities for our own knitting.

Look for Boutique Knits in your local yarn shop, or buy it online from us.


Join the Knit-A-Long!

If you're casting on for one of the projects in Boutique Knits, then join us for a Knit-A-Long! We'll share photos and our progress, and share tips and modifications as we go along.

What's on Sandi's needles? No second sock syndrome here. I'm part-way through the second sock I am knitting for Nicholas, a Nancy Bush pattern from Knitting On The Road. (I'm knitting Denmark. No, not the entire country of Denmark, just the sock called Denmark.)

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Jerry Mills wrote
on Nov 8, 2008 3:27 PM

This is a wonderful collection of elegant, easy designs.  The minute I saw it I wanted to start with the first design and make evey item , cover to cover.   I would not hesitate to encourage all of  the  knitters at our store, re-gardless of skill level, to tackle any one of the designs in this book.  GREAT job.   Jerry Mills,  co-owner Knit Witz Yarn Boutique, Stockton, Ca.

ElizabethB wrote
on Nov 5, 2008 12:43 PM

I disagree with PennyT.  I bought Boutique Knits because I loved the cover cloche.  I just happened to have two balls of Soft Lux in my stash and started the cloche that same evening, putting aside my numerous must finish Christmas projects.  The cloche is done and everyone who has tried it on loves it and wants one.  It looks new and modern.  To me, the book was worth purchasing just for the hats and my daughter loves the half felted bag and the bow scarf.  Nancy Bush's new book did nothing for me (perhaps I'm just tired of knitting shawls and stoles) and I do have to agree that there is a  lot of garbage out there.  I love accessories and I think there is room out there for lots of different approaches to knitting.  My other favorite new book is Knitting New Scarves (another book with new to me techniques).  By the way, I've also been knitting for a very long time, too long to admit.

elizabeth b.

PennyT wrote
on Nov 5, 2008 11:34 AM

I just saw this book this morning before reading this post.  I looked at it and thought about how it used to be so exciting to see a new knitting book come out.  Now new books come out each month and rarely are worth looking at.  This one surely fits into that category with at least half it's designs destined to appear  soon on "You Knit What".  I am sorely disappointed in Interweave Press for publishing so many books unworthy of their reputation.  I've been knitting for more than 40 years I do not need a book from someone who, "didn’t understand much about constructing a knit garment- so I would sew pieces together using my sewing machine, and cut the “waste” off."  Thank you for Nancy Bush's new book, but this one isn't worth the paper and ink used in it's printing.

P. Tennermann