March Pop-Up Designer: Tian Connaughton!

We are very excited to announce our 2020 Pop-Up Shop series! Each month, we will be featuring an indie yarn dyer or company, showcasing their yarn, and highlighting perfect patterns to go with them! We'll also share an interview with the owners and designers here on the blog.

Tian Connaughton with her Marginal Way Shawl
This March, we are lucky enough to have yarns from Fully Spun in our Pop-Up Shop! Even better, we have collaborated with KnitDesigns by Tian to create some scrumptious patterns for us to use! Read on for a fun interview with Tian Connaughton! 

Why did you start designing patterns?
I’m not one to follow the rules, and patterns are no different. I’m never satisfied with doing things the same, so once I learned the basics of crocheting and knitting, I was desperate for more. I was always changing up existing patterns to fit my vision, so pretty early on I sought out more information and stitch patterns. After seeing an episode of Knitty Gritty with Shirley Paden, a black knitwear designer, the seed of designing was sown #representationmatters. I was inspired by seeing her do this thing I didn’t even know was possible. Within a year of learning to knit, I was designing. From there, this whole journey led to technical editing, teaching, creating online courses, and writing books. In a nutshell, I started to design to create pieces that fit my aesthetics and now I empower others to do the same.

Frome Cowl by Tian Connaughton
How and where do you find inspiration?
As you are probably already aware, inspiration can come from many sources – nature, museums, movies, a mood board for a publication’s call for submission. For me, inspiration comes from just living my everyday life. With my designs I want to translate my experiences and explore my roots, to remember places I’ve traveled and people I’ve met into a sort of fiber diary. When I look back at the pieces I’ve created in recent years, I can trace back to holidays and adventures, people, and feelings. And it’s those things that inspire me; to be able to look back through my design portfolio years from now and recapture those initial feelings and emotions that inspired the pattern.

Are there any rituals you might have when you sit down to design?
These days, sitting down to design look the same for every pattern. It wasn’t like this in the beginning when designing was more fluid and inconsistent, but developed over the years to systemize the process. Every design follows the 3 S framework I teach in my Pattern Grading Made Easy course – Swatch, Schematic, Spreadsheet. Once I have the idea, it’s straight to swatching and drawing out the schematic of what I want the intended design to look like with pertinent measurements. This process might sound sterile and too systematic for some designers, but having this process in place helps to fuel my creativity while being consistent. Every time I sit down to design, I don’t have to wonder what to do. The process is all mapped out with the steps in place and I can just get to work.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a designer?
Tian Connaughton
While designing is a fun and creative outlet, it comes with many challenges along the way, from figuring out where to start, getting yarn support when you’re on a budget, getting noticed in the crowd, to learning how to make a go at it, especially if you want to turn a creative hobby into a full-time gig. Saying all that and facing all these challenges, the biggest challenge for me as a designer IS being a designer and visibility. For a long time, I didn’t use that title, designer, to describe myself. Even after creating many patterns, getting featured in major publications, I still felt like an imposter, like I didn’t belong and was just an outsider looking in. I didn’t feel I belong because unlike many prominent designers, I didn’t learn as a kid, I was new to the craft and distinctively did not look like the top designers being featured. This will continue to be my biggest challenge because with every new phase comes new imposter syndromes. But it’s a challenge I’m willing to take on every day and one that I empower other designers to tackle so they can achieve their goals.  

And, just for fun – If you could design a parade float that was fiber themed, what would it look like?

Ooh, this is a fun question and not one I’ve ever been asked or even thought about but I love it. Let’s see. Immediately I’m thinking of tropical plant and flowers, clear blue sea filled with colorful fish, cascading waterfalls, lazy rivers, lots of colors, and a sense of no worries. All these elements would be crochet and knit with bright and vibrant colors using lots of texture. At the center is a woman lying in a hammock, gently swaying in the breeze, stitching on a colorful lacey piece, maybe a shawl that seconds as a bathing suit cover. Can you tell that this parade float idea represents my home country of Jamaica, which I reference often in my patterns?  This float would just bring joy to everyone that sees it. Just thinking about it now brings a big smile to my face.

Pattern Grading Made Easy by Tian Connaughton

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