Interview with Designer Tanja Luescher


Tanja Luescher is one of the 335 designers taking part in the Indie Designer Gift-A-Long on Ravelry so she asked me if I would agree to an interview, or maybe even a swap? Great idea, I thought. Tanja, aka Wusel1811 on Ravelry, and I took part in a mystery knit along years back, I have since discovered that she lives in Switzerland with her husband and two cats. She started to knit more than ten years ago, and soon began to design her own patterns in order to get something that fits her. In 2013 she published her first pattern, and her own Ravelry group called Knitted in Switzerland, just as her blog. Another fascinating revelation is that Tanja speaks Norwegian, after attending a course before she and her husband visited Oslo in 2014. I am very impressed!  The questions are the ones designer Janelle Martin asked me, which I thought were brilliant, and wanted to make a small series of interviews myself. Janelle’s interview of me will be posted on her blog on the 25. November. But here is the interview with Tanja:

Who taught you to knit/How did you learn to knit?                                                       My mother taught me how to knit and purl at an early age, but I only made a scarf or sweater for a doll and stopped for years. When I met my husband we were living 600 km apart from each other and every Sunday we were standing at the train station, either in Germany or in Switzerland, saying goodbye. I was crying, and he was freezing. So I decided to finally learn to knit and bought a book. The sad part of the story is that hubby doesn’t wear anything I make him, unless it’s a pair of socks.

How did you get started designing?                                                                                          I started modifying and designing sweaters for me not too long after I had started knitting. I’m very small, so the measurements in the patterns didn’t fit me. In 2012 I took a course on lace shawl design by Renee Leverington and I haven’t looked back. 🙂

IMG_2008What inspires your designs?

Most of the time, it’s a stitch pattern. I love stitch dictionaries, I might have a small library of them, and whenever I look through them I find something new that begs me to knit it. As soon as I’ve said “yes”, I’ll hear a skein of yarn shouting my name because it wants to become this stitch pattern. Sometimes they change their mind when they’ve met each other, but quite often it works. 🙂

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?

Lace, lace, then maybe lace. And after that a touch of lace. 🙂                                                      No, really, it’s important for me that my designs are interesting to knit, I love trying new stitches like Japanese or Estonian ones. They are so creative and give stunning results!

What is your favourite type of item to design?

Definitely shawls, but I also like small accessories like hats or cowls.

tand_grauTell me about designs like “Marion’s Cowl” (top photo) and “Thunder and Lightning” (photo above), with your intricate lace work.

They both came to life just the way I’ve described above. Both feature very old German stitch patterns from that I fell in love with the minute I saw it and just had to turn into a design.                                                                                                                                                   Marion’s Cowl was designed with my father’s cousin in mind. I met her and her husband after many, many years at my father’s funeral in March. She was wearing a gorgeous scarf and I immediately thought that I should make her something nice as a thank you for the holidays I spent at her house as a kid.

Do you have an aspirational knit – a complicated/challenging design that you want to knit “some day” when you feel ready?

Yes, I want to make something by Herbert Niebling, and I want to be brave enough to use cobweb yarn one day. 🙂 Another dream that I haven’t pursued yet is Double Knitting. I have Alasdair Post-Quinn’s Extreme Double Knitting but have yet to knit something from it.

What is coming next? What’s in your release queue?

Oh, a lot 🙂 I recently found a really unique stitch pattern with lots of yarn overs and dropped stitches that I’ve used for a set of a cowl and a hat. After that there will be more shawls. I’m madly in love with Caterpillargreenyarns’ Shawl Stripes yarn. It’s dyed for making top-down triangular shawls where all the stripes have the same width, and I want to explore what happens when it is used for other shawl shapes. Up to now, the experiments have been very promising.                                                                                            The very next project to be released is a scarf in a heavenly soft merino yarn with picot welts.

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)

Garnstudio Drops Lace, I love that yarn! Let’s hope it’s a sunny and warm island so I won’t miss sweaters 🙂

Soraya_weiss_Detail_weissWhich is your most under-appreciated design? (See photo of Soraya’s Faroese shawl above)

I’d say it’s Soraya’s Faroese shawl. I love the pattern very much, but it hasn’t gathered much interest.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?

It’s only knitting. Dive right in, try things, experiment. If it doesn’t work, you can always frog it. It always makes me sad when people have knit for years but don’t dare trying something more complicated than garter or stockinette stitch scarves because they think it’s too hard.

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?

Working from stash and finishing what I start. But we know how that goes… 😉

If you could have dinner with one knitting designer (living or dead) who would it be and why?

Elizabeth Zimmermann! I love her attitude, her approach to knitting. I have all her books and many of her DVDs and she’s definitely the woman who has taught me the most about knitting.

Thank you so much, Tanja! Tusen takk! 

To take part in the GAL and all the fun, join the Indie Design Gift-A-Long Group on Ravelry as well as one or more of the Knit/Crochet A-longs and possibly win some of the amazing prizes.


What is Indie Design Gift-A-Long; GAL?

GAL graphicThat is the question I asked myself, last year, as I watched all the commotion, not only in the dedicated Indie Design-Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry but also in other groups. Why are you not taking part as a Designer? One of my group members asked, but I was snowed in with other work, and realized that I needed to find out more about the technicalities of it. This year I had no choice but to join since Merryn, aka greatminds on Ravelry, had sent me all the links to the GAL planning group and how-to pages, in addition to the deadlines. I am pleased to say that I am in! Not without the help of Merryn and also designer Hanna Maciejewska, aka hada131, who also told me that I had to join. So “What is Gift-A-Long? It’s a multi-designer promotion to help you kick your holiday gift-making into high gear! The Indie Design-Gift-A-Long is a 6 week long KAL/CAL of holiday gifts made from patterns designed by a rather extensive list of independent designers. From Thursday, November 19th at 8:00 pm US EST – Friday, November 27, 2015 at 11:59 pm US EST tons of indie designers will be discounting between 5 – 20 of their patterns 25% for this event. Use coupon code: giftalong2015.” There are 2 300 electronic pattern prizes to be won as well as physical prizes, for taking part in the KAL/CAL and the Designer Hunt Game. Take a look at the interesting stats above.

Ravelry 500x500So I had my husband make a collage of some of my discounted patterns, signed on in the dedicated time-space, made a bundle with the 18 discounted patterns I had chosen – thinking that I could add 2 more later, since there was a new release thread in the group but not realizing all the organizing that goes on behind by numerous volunteers – and set up the two different promotions (one set of individual codes for prizes and one for the coupon code for the whole period). You can see my Gift-A-Long bundle here: It has been a steep learning curve, but now the fun has started with interview requests and links to my selected designs in the chat & planning thread in the group. Do not miss out, come and join us!