Designer Spotlight #2: The Yarniad

Designer Spotlight #2: Hilary Smith Callis, The Yarniad

San Francisco resident Hilary Smith Callis was an easy choice for inclusion in Brave New Knits. Although at the time she did not consider herself a full-fledged designer, the foundation had been established and was just waiting to blossom.

Hilary writes an entertaining blog that shares all the fibery details of her knitting experiments, successes, and even the occasional frogged project. That blog “voice” is endearingly modest and just a little bit goofy in a highly entertaining way. Her knitting evolved quickly from covering the patterns of other designers to working up her own ideas from sketch to swatch to finished sweater. Since first discovering her blog, it has been a pleasure to follow her progression from basic knitter to accomplished designer.

Simple But Stunning

Hilary’s eye for simple but stunning details is unerring; she creates designs that manage to be both user-friendly and style-conscious. The project she designed for Brave New Knits is a perfect example of the wearable simplicity she strives for. Although the finished garment is as sophisticated as it is practical (love those pockets!), making it would not be beyond the skill set of a new knitter.

The detail shown below, with its neat textural juxtaposition (Whoa! An ‘x’ in two consecutive words! God, I love the English language!) of stockinette and reverse stockinette, the clean finished edge, and an unfussy, classic button choice, is just a tiny preview of the knitterly goodness to come.

In the year since we first met to work on her interview, Hilary’s knitting life has changed in major ways. “Back then, I think I was looking at designing more as a hobby and a way to express myself; now I’m definitely taking it more seriously as a ‘career’, even if that career is just part time.”

Soon after our interview, Hilary released a few free patterns on her blog. The enthusiastic reception these received was the tip of the iceberg, because “… when [the] Citron [shawlette] was published in Knitty [in the Winter 2009 issue], things really took off.” Hilary credits Knitty and its readers for the fact that her “… blog readership has grown about 1000% (!) and I’ve started being contacted by indie dyers to collaborate on designs.”

Collaborative Creativity

It is this kind of collaborative creativity that really resonates with the designer, whose inspirations seem to come at her from all directions, marinating in her imagination until she “sees” a precise image of what the design should be.

At the beginning of 2010, Hilary had three sweater designs accepted into Knit Picks’ Independent Designers Program. This additional exposure gave her designs an even wider online audience. In fact, she is convinced that “… because I design exclusively “for the internet”, almost everything I do is in some way influenced by the online knitting community.” And that conviction made her a perfect fit for Brave New Knits.

Even Ravelry has gotten in on the act of anointing Hilary as an up-and-coming designer to watch. Within just a few days of putting up a new pattern for sale  (the Lilas Cardigan, below), responses were overwhelmingly positive, and it had made the “New and Popular” list that is a regular feature on Ravelry. Thanks, Hilary, for letting me “borrow” this image of your lovely design to share with readers.

With more designs in the works for Knit Picks, more collaborations in progress, and other design proposals pending, her main problem is “… not having enough time to get everything in my head out on paper [and] yarn.”

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  1. Love her designs. Looking forward to receiving the book. This sweater looks fabulous.

  2. I agree completely, Margo! It has been a pleasure getting to know Hilary over the last year.

  3. Not only is Hilary an amazingly talented knitter and designer, she is truly a beautiful person inside and out. She is so supportive of eternally beginner-status knitters like myself, I ALWAYS walk away from face-to-face interactions with the confidence to start a sweater pattern!

  4. Hey, that’s me!! Thank you so much for such a nice profile, Julie. 🙂 I am truly honored to be a part of Brave New Knits.

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