Designer Interview: Barbara Benson

I’ve been following Barbara Benson’s design work for a while now, and was delighted to see her involved with the Giftalong. She has a knack for combining techniques that I wouldn’t have guessed would go together, such as mosaic knitting and lace. (Who knew!?)

Designer Interview: Barbara Benson
© Barbara Benson

I plan on knitting along with her Cables are Cool (Ravelry link)pattern, a combination of mosaic knitting and cables, after finishing up another of my Giftalong projects, but any of her other patterns would delight me too.

Designer Interview: Barbara Benson
© Barbara Benson

In Uffish Thought. (Ravelry link)

Designer Interview: Barbara Benson
© Barbara Benson

Golden Lion Throne (Ravelry link) (not included in the Giftalong discount, but I do love it so. It would count for the knitalong portion of the event in any case.)

1. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, my name is Barbara and I’m a knit-a-holic …

I kid, I kid.

What is interesting about me? I live about 11 miles from the world’s largest rock, that’s cool right? Kidding aside, I live in a close-in suburb of Atlanta, GA with my husband, son, two bunnies, and two parakeets. We have slightly exotic pets because I am pretty much allergic to any normal pet you can imagine. My life in knitting began in 2010 and I kinda jumped directly into the deep end with both feet (as I tend to do with most things). I meet weekly on Friday nights with my knitting posse who have been the best support and friends that I have ever had the luck to encounter. As of last night I now sleep with my very own fighter pilot mask and air machine. 😉

2. Which of your patterns do you think are great but are overlooked?

You know, whenever I am working on a pattern it becomes my mostest favoritest pattern ever. I fall in love with it and when I set it free into the world it is the most nerve-wracking thing ever. Will it go over well? Will it sink like a stone into nothing? If I had the ability to predict I think I would rule the (knitting) world. But since I have to answer the question I would say I Can’t Control My Fingers. (Ravelry link) Any time I wear them people love them. The texture is great and they are ridiculously easy to both knit and customize. I developed the texture pattern to have the most forgiving amount of stretch ever. They magically expand enormously, but pull back into shape beautifully. I have thoughts on doing more with the texture, but who knows if I will get around to it?

3. What attracted you to joining in with the Giftalong?

Well, I was in it last year from seeing the very first seed of an idea pop up through the end. It was a wild, fun ride and I figured if it was half as fun this year then I had to play. I always like the camaraderie of -a longs and feel it is one of the best aspects of participating in a group on Ravelry. You meet fun new people, cheer them on and get to ogle all of the yarn, projects and yarn/project combos. It is like knitting vicariously.

4. What are a few patterns from the Giftalong that have really caught your eye?

Amy van de Laar of Baroquepurls has put out this great set of hats inspired by origami and I bought the e-book the moment I saw Paper Boat. (Ravelry link) I so want to knit one for my son, but when I let him look at the pictures for all of the hats he said he wanted Paper Planes (Ravelry link) so I hope I can find the time for that. Hunter Hammersen is a designing machine and I am attracted by her clean style. If I didn’t have a billion other things on the needle right now I would be knitting her Quiescent slippers. (Ravelry link)

5. I’ve admired your unexpected combinations of techniques for some time now. The combination of mosaic knitting and cables in Cables are Cool and the combination of mosaic knitting and lace in Courant (and other patterns) in particular really sparked my interest. Do you have any other interesting technique mixtures in the works, assuming you can talk about them?

Pretty much I am doing my best to see what kind of trouble I can get into with mosaic and slip stitch techniques. My right hand is just not cooperative when it comes to tensioning yarn (I am a continental knitter) and while I have managed to do it and plan to continue to improve – stranding just isn’t my favorite thing in the world. I consider mosaic/slip stitch to be “cheater” color-work and I am inherently lazy. It is also a fun challenge.

Have you ever watched any of those home renovation shows? (This will make sense, I promise.) For me the best ones are where you have a historic house and there are limitations on what can be demolished and/or changed. When the team can simply go in, wipe the slate clean and rebuild whatever they want you end up with something that is beautiful – but perfect and at times kinda bland. When there are restrictions you have to get creative. You have to come up with ideas that work within the framework and you end up with solutions that might not have been obvious but have more “character”. That is what mosaic does for me. It isn’t a blank slate and I can’t just put a bit of color wherever I want. I have to figure out how to trick or bully the pattern into doing what I want and sometimes I can’t make it happen. But if I keep plugging away I find that what I can do is much more interesting that what I had originally envisioned.

So I guess the answer is that I hope to continue to keep developing technique mixtures as long as I can keep learning new techniques to mash together. If you (or your readers) have anything specific that you think might be interesting I suggest that you say “Well, that is interesting but I am pretty sure you just can’t combine X with Y.” Because really? Challenge accepted!

Where else to find Barbara online:

Ravelry Group: Barbara Benson Designs

Photos used with permission.