crush

Designer Crush: Irina Poludnenko

One of my most favoritist designers is Irina Poludnenko. She’s been around the knitwear design world for about 20 years, before the interwebs and Ravelry, so I caught her in Vogue Knitting.

A few years ago I knit* her #07 Slant Rib Pullover from Fall 2002 (which I believe is one of the best issues they’ve ever published).

Rina—which is what I would call her if we toasted each other at the VK Christmas party in NYC—is now an in-house designer for the yarn company Tahki Stacy Charles, and while her designs for them are rather fabulous, she’s been swinging for the bleachers since the beginning.

My love for her is infinite, but I’ve chosen a few stand-outs from her extraordinary body of work.

Diagonal Slit Pullover

She took a mid-century funnel neck pullover and went Jetsons with the ridges and rips. (And is that Joan Severance?)

Cabled Pullover

All. Those. Cables.

Two-Button Jacket

An homage to Pop Art that uses a mosaic(!) technique to create a fitted(!), shawl collar(!) cardigan.

Allover Cabled Cardigan

A deep, deep, deep v-neck cabled pullover with a ribbed hem to hold it all together. (+1 for the magazine’s styling of this design. The belt closes the deal.)

Alyce Cardigan

The upside-down horseshoe cables on the peplum and bell sleeves that flow into waist shaping with XO cables that flow into ribbing that flow into plaited cables on the yoke and fitted sleeves. And the horseshoe placket that easily accommodates the buttons.

Natalie Tank

Unusual construction of a standard tank top that looks like a weatherman’s map of a cold front moving SE from the PNW.

Sundance Cardigan

A Nehru silhouette knit side-to-side with a zipper and semi-circle waist detail that forms a full circle when you sew everything together. It would be a great design without the circles, but that little detail… See? That’s why Rina rocks. And the colors.

Parma Ridge Poncho

A poncho that uses two yarn weights to create texture. And sleeves! My absolute favorite design by her that I’ve never knit for the simple reason that I haven’t ponied up $6 for the pattern.

Ethel Mesh Stripe Pullover

I’ve been working on a similar design that has been submitted and rejected several times because I’m not Irina Poludnenko. Or more probably because—aha—I continued the lace pattern too far into the yoke. Also, mine has a better name than Ethel. (-1 for the magazine styling. Really? A collared shirt?)

Rosslyn Cowl

If you can get past the Shrek colored yarn and obvious lack of blocking, this is a brilliant execution of multiple complex knitting and shaping techniques.

Geghard Cabled Pullover

Cables that look like cousins, and without a heavy reliance on filler stitches.

Victoria Top

First, the colors. And b) elongated entrelac in garter stitch.

A lot of Rina’s designs don’t have many projects on Ravelry, and I think it’s because she’s on an elevated plane. She’s one of those people whose designs you knit because they’re interesting or they’re going to develop your skills, and with the price of yarn these days knitters tend to knit wardrobe staples.

She mostly lets her designs speak for her, but if you’re interested in more about her or are curious about what she looks like when she travels to Europe with her family, you can read a rather serious interview she did in 2012 with another knitter named Robin.


*I didn’t put this project on Ravelry because the armscyes were too tight. My knitting hubris, however, prevented me from trying on the sweater before I blocked the whole thing, and when I finally admitted defeat and tried to unpiece it, I had done such a good job of weaving in my ends** that I couldn’t find the place to start unravelling***.

**Knitting hubris indeed.

***I can’t go Gordian on this because I’m out of yarn and need to tink to save every centimeter of yarn.

To Ponder: Your circumstances aren’t holding you back, your decisions are. |-John Assaraf-|

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Crochet Crush: Sophie Digard

First, let’s be clear that I am not a hooker. I am exclusively a knitter. I use two needles with points on the ends to knit and purl skeins of wool into something wearable. When I use more than one color, I don’t have a squillion ends to weave in, and nothing I make can be started at breakfast and worn at lunch.

It’s not that I don’t like to crochet, it’s that I don’t grok it. What do you do with your other hand? How can anything be made with only one loop in action? (If I’m down to one loop, I’m at the end of the bind-off row which means the thing is done.) And charts without gridlines? Sheesh.

Like Walter Sobchak dabbling in pacifism (not in ‘Nam, of course), I have dabbled in crochet. Knitting sometimes benefits from a crochet edge or reinforcement, so I’m not completely useless with a hook. I can make a chain, single crochet, double crochet, and even triple crochet, but I’ve never made anything wearable. Never really wanted to.

And then along came Sophie Digard.

A talent like hers makes you want to know everything about her so you can do what she does. Where was she born? Did she study poetry and architecture in school, because her scarves have elements of both. Was she an only child given every opportunity by indulgent parents, or did she wake up from a coma one day at the orphanage asking for a skein of yarn and a size G hook?

But she’s the J.D. Salinger of the fiber arts—a rather enigmatic French genius who doesn’t have a website or blog, or any online presence, really. I could find no interviews with her and very few details about her and her art—and this is art, not craft—except that she lives in Madagascar with her family and employs hundreds of local women to produce these masterpieces. Mostly accessories like scarves, necklaces, and purses.

A Sophie Digard scarf costs more than my monthly mortgage payment, so I figured I could learn how to crochet those little puffy flowers and make my own. (Yes, I know…but a master makes everything look easy. What writer doesn’t read The Catcher in the Rye and think they could write another one?)

My crochet vocabulary is limited, so that’s what I searched for—puffy crochet flowers. Naturally, it took forever to find instructions for them because they’re called Mollie flowers. And they’re not easy to make.

Plus, if you’re not Sophie Digard, they look like this:

I didn’t even try.

And even if I did carve out a month’s worth of time to figure them out, I couldn’t duplicate the colors. Sophie works with merino wool, linen, and velvet, using up to 60 hues in a single color palette that is hand-dyed to her specifications.

Her scarves are made from several strands of laceweight yarn held together, so creating just the right color and fiber combination is something only Sophie Digard can do. (Well, Sophie and a bunch of hookers living on an island off the coast of southeast Africa.)

Just so you’re clear about the majesty of her color sense, I believed myself to be a genius when I combined these two yarns together on a hat.

Ironheart Hat by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

“People always clap for the wrong things.”

In a future post, I’ll tell you how I came to own a Sophie Digard scarf.

To Ponder: We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself. |-Lloyd Alexander-|