"Designing has a lot in common with science": Q&A with Tanja Lüscher

Designing can be pretty lonely – it's always fun to get in touch with others in your region. Tanja Lüscher, who blogs at Knitted in Switzerland, was kind enough to interview me for the GAL and I enjoyed talking to her in turn. Tanja's designs feature a lot of classic, complex lace shawls, as well as smaller accessories. I've had my eye on the satisfyingly chunky International Cowl.

How did you get into design?

When I started knitting, I very soon began to modify patterns and then, thanks to recipes like for top-down raglans, made them from scratch. In 2012 I took a course in shawl design by Renée Leverington, and after that I began publishing my own patterns.

What motivates you?

I love the idea of accompanying a design from the very start – an idea in my head – to a finished object including the instructions to make it, so that other knitters can make my idea as well. And I love seeing their projects and maybe modifications. :)

What did you expect to achieve when you first started designing? Do you think you’ve met those goals, or perhaps surpassed them?

I was looking for a way to combine my creative side and my science-driven side, and designing turned out to be perfect for it :)

Where do you see your designs in five years’ time?

If things go according to our plans, we'll be living in Scandinavia by that time. Who knows, maybe I'll finally tackle designing sweaters. I love the look of stranded knitting, traditional Norwegian patterns or Swedish Bohus knitting.

This is your second (third?) Giftalong. What do you most look forward to in the GAL, as a knitter and as a designer?

It's my second, unfortunately I missed the fun in the first year. I look forward to the community, knitters and designers coming together for a huge party. And of course it's a chance to knit other people's designs, :)

What GAL patterns have caught your eye? Are you making anything?

Oh, yes :) I've cast on Natalia Sha's Vining Roses, Kirsten McTeer's Fairy Ring Socks, Clare Devine's Pleach Socks and Tracey Lee's Sand Tracks Scarf.

Your portfolio is full of beautiful, traditional shawls – the kind of thing some knitters admire, but don’t dare tackle. What advice do you have for people who don’t know how to wear a classic shawl? Or for those who are scared of knitting lace?

I just wrap them around me when I need a hug, easy-peasy. :) It always makes me sad when people think something is too hard for them to knit – be it lace or cables or whatever. Just dive into it, you can always frog when it doesn't come out the way you want, and there's always lifelines to come to the rescue. My second project ever was a Fair Isle sweater for my husband. It turned out awful, but I had fun knitting it and I learned so many things about how to make the next one better.

What’s your favourite of your own designs? And which one do you think is the most underappreciated?   

It's hard to choose one of your babies and say you like it best :) Daddy's Prayer Shawl of course means a lot to me. Lena's Shawl is named after my cat, so it's a favourite as well. International Cowl reminds me of the wonderful time we had in Norway last year. But really, I love them all. I still think that Soraya's Faroese Shawl hasn't received the attention it deserves.

You studied chemistry – I love how many knitters turn out to have geeky backgrounds! Why do you think that is?

Figuring out how to make a design work and how to describe it in a way that's easy for others to follow has a lot in common with science, I think. It's a perfect combination of technical and creative work for me.

What haven’t you done yet (in craft, in business or in life) that you really, really want to?

In craft, I want to knit something by Herbert Niebling one day. In business, I set myself milestones in terms of new patterns. This year I have more than 20 patterns available, now I can't wait to have 30. And in life, as I said above, we're planning to live in Sweden. Or maybe Norway. This should happen in 2018, but it's really exciting already. :)