It’s no secret that our next guest happens to be one of our favorite knitwear designers. Elizabeth Doherty’s patterns are classic yet modern, tailored, and just so much fun knit. We’ve had the privilege to get to know her over the years as she has taught several classes at our shop, and we are so glad to now call her a dear friend. We’re grateful she was able to join us here on our blog…
How did you get started knitting and what led to Blue Bee Studio?
I started knitting a few years after college when I was living in Brooklyn. I had been sewing for a long time, making my own tailored garments, and really enjoyed relatively complex patterns that resulted in clean simple designs. When a local yarn shop owner taught me to knit, I looked at the available knitting patterns, but couldn’t find any designs for sweaters that spoke to me. With a little advice, I was able to transfer from sewing what I knew about the kinds shapes needed to create a garment, and for years I just designed the sweaters I wanted to wear. It wasn’t until I discovered Ravelry that I became aware that there was a whole world of knitting patterns out there, and by then there were ones I wanted to knit!
What’s your favorite part about being a knitwear designer?
I love swatching for new designs. It is a process that captures all of the excitement of a cast-on while exploring new shapes, textures, colors, and so on. I really like all parts of the design process, and even find grading a pattern to be very satisfying. I love creating a comprehensive spreadsheet in Excel and seeing how all of the elements are going to work in different sizes.
Your pieces are timeless yet fresh. We simply admire your designs and overall aesthetic. Where do you draw your inspiration from or what brings out this style?
While I like to design things that look current, I try to find shapes that will flatter a wide range of body shapes and sizes. I want everyone to feel good in their clothes. When you feel good, you look good—so fit is critical.
My design process is pretty organic. There are so many choices made in the course of a design. When I’m knitting on the current project I often find myself mentally reviewing the roads NOT taken, and coming up with other design ideas that I want to explore.
My desk is covered in quick post-it note sketches that may take years to fully develop into a finished design. For example, the sketch for Bodie was attached to my computer screen for two years before I found the right combination of yarn and stitch patterns to take it further.
When you’re not Re-imagining Set in Sleeves… what are some of your other hobbies/interests?
I love road biking, hiking and paddling my kayak. Each of those activities is meditative in its own way, helping to quiet the constant hum of my mind—but also giving me time for mental knitting, where I am often able to solve design issues.
You have quite the library of designs. Do you have a favorite or two or maybe one you love to knit again and again?
The design I find myself wearing constantly these days is Helvetica. I’d love to knit myself another Donner, and I could knit Lineate a hundred times and still find it fun!
Current WIPs, FOs, or sneak peeks of future projects?
Right now I am over the moon about my two new designs in Shibui Reed, Westerly and
Westbound. I am loving how quickly these knit up, and one can’t ever have too many linen tees for summer. Both designs share a beautiful self-finished V-neck, yet offer different hem and sleeve options. The elegant braid across the shoulders creates the simplest back neck finish ever—I’m very excited about this detail!
Everyone already knows just how much we love your Bee Bins! Everything fits so nicely inside, including notion bags. Speaking of… what’s in your notion bag?
Many types of measuring devices and a lot of crochet hooks. I don’t really crochet, but they are infinitely useful. And hair ties!!
You’ve taught countless sweater and linen workshops which we value so much! What’s in store for Blue Bee Studios in the upcoming season?
This August, I’m super excited to be hosting a knitting and hiking retreat—and it’s practically in my own backyard! This intensive sweater-fitting workshop, called The Muslin Sweater, will be held at the historic Sugar Bowl Lodge in the Northern Sierra. Over five days, participants will learn how to make a perfectly fitted top-down set-in sleeve sweater with asymmetrical armhole shaping. When we aren’t taking measurements, customizing the shaping in the pattern, and knitting, we’ll be out enjoying the beauty of my beloved mountains.
Just for fun…
It’s always such fun and so inspiring to follow along with you on social media. Where can our readers find you?
I’m most active on Instagram, where you can find me as bluebeestudio, and you can subscribe to my newsletter at bluebeestudio.com.
Many thanks to Elizabeth for such fun Q&A! It was such a treat to get some sneak peeks of her two new patterns, Westbound and Westerly, launching the first week of July. Be sure to follow her on Instagram for those details.