Giftalong Designer Interview with Elizabeth Sullivan
Can you tell me a little about yourself and Sweet Paprika Designs?
My sister Debbie and I run Sweet Paprika Designs, a business we started together in 2007. We design and sell knitting and crochet patterns as well as hand-dyed yarn and kits.
We initially started Sweet Paprika as a fun, creative outlet and as a way to fund our fibre habit (I was spending lots of money on yarn). Although we always took it seriously as a business, it’s grown beyond what either of us had ever imagined!
In the beginning we both did a bit of everything, but as our lives have changed and the business has grown, Debbie has taken on the yarn side of things while I’ve focused on the patterns. Of course we are both still very involved in all of the decisions but it has helped us to define our roles a bit more.
I really enjoy working with my sister and having someone to bounce ideas off of all the time. Between the two of us we have far more ideas than we’ll ever be able to implement, but coming up with new challenges all the time is what keeps it fun!
How long have you been crocheting/knitting and how did you first learn?
I’ve been crocheting since I was about 8 or 9. I mostly learned from books and was able to follow patterns and make up my own creations, but when I tried to learn to knit from books it didn’t work at all. I remember being very frustrated looking at knitting patterns because it was like this secret language that I just didn’t understand. When I was 12, my grandmother came to visit and taught both me and my sister to knit. Seeing someone actually knit in person and get us started was all we needed; we’ve both been knitting ever since!
How long have you been designing and what led you to design?
I’ve been modifying and designing things for a long time, but didn’t really think of it as designing until 2006 when a friend suggested I submit a hat I’d designed for my husband to Debbie Stoller’s latest Stitch ‘n Bitch book for men. My Catawampus Cap (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/catawampus-cap) pattern didn’t make the book, but they did use it in the Stitch ‘n Bitch 2008 Page-A-Day Calendar and it continues to be one of my best-selling patterns. That early success inspired me to keep on designing and to publish my patterns.
Why crochet/knitting? What is it that interests you? What do you enjoy most about the craft?
I’ve tried a lot of crafty things, but knitting and crochet (and more recently weaving) are the ones that have stuck with me.
I love making beautiful things that are also functional with a purpose. I also like the fact that knitting and crochet are portable and I almost never leave the house without at least one project in my bag.
How does the weather where you live influence what you design and knit?
I live in Montreal where the winters are quite long, so I definitely design and make a lot of things to keep myself and my family warm. For example, I designed Ume Blossom (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ume-blossom) to be a pretty, but also practical, extra layer for super-cold days.
What about designing and producing patterns are you most adept at, what parts are you most fond of, and what parts are challenging? (Pattern Grading, the last week of editing, coming up with a name for a project, self promotion?)
I work as a knitting and crochet tech editor so writing up and grading patterns is pretty straight forward for me, but naming my designs can be a real challenge! Occasionally I have a name in mind right from the beginning of the design process, but most of the time everything is completely finished and I’m still stuck on the name. My husband and sisters are my go-to people when that happens and they’ve come to the rescue many times.
What is your favorite design of yours, why? (provide link/photo)
It’s so hard to choose! My favourite knit design to wear is my Morning Echo cardigan (Photo above) (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/morning-echo),
and my favourite crochet design is the Tenzing Vest (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/tenzing-vest) I designed for my baby boy.
What pattern/design are you most proud of, why?
I’m quite proud of my Leif the Lucky(http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/leif-the-lucky) hat. Usually I’m a swatcher and a planner and have my designs pretty much written before I even start knitting the sample, but this one I designed on the needles as a gift for my brother and somehow it all came together even better than I’d imagined.
How many WIPs do you currently have and do you think you will ever finish all of them?
I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I have too many WIP to count. Do I think I will finish all of them? I’m an optimist, so yes!
What are your favorite stitches?
Hmm, good question! I love knitting lace, but I also really enjoy simple textured stitch patterns. Colourwork is fun to design, but I need to be in the right mood to knit it.
For crochet, I’ve been playing with linked stitches recently and I like the way they give drape to the fabric while not being too open. I like the way crab stitch (reverse single crochet) edgings look on both knit and crochet projects.
What is/are your favorite crochet/knit tool(s) or notion(s)?
My favourite needles are Addi-Turbo lace tips, and I love, love, love buttons of all shapes and sizes.
When you aren’t crocheting/knitting, what are you doing?
These days I’m spending a lot of time with my one-year-old son which is so much fun! I also enjoy cooking, reading and dancing and soon will be pouring over seed catalogues, starting to plan my community garden plot for next spring.
Thank you Elizabeth!