Mari Chiba started knitting while living serving in Armenia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She has had her designs published in Twist Collective, Knitscene and Clothershorse magazines.
She currently lives in Raleigh, NC. She also teach knitting classes at Warm ‘n Fuzzy in Cary, NC.
We love her new pattern "Helium Sweater" that are published in Knitscene summer 2014 magazine!
When and why did you decide to become a designer?
From the very beginning when I started knitting I liked to make up my own stuff. I would see a pattern, and even if it was free I would reverse engineer the pattern, or adjust as I knit it. This is how I cook too--I read recipes as inspiration and then do whatever I feel like! I started writing patterns down in 2010 when I was living in China, and then really started publishing my patterns in 2011.
How would you describe your style?
I like clean lines and knits that look simple but have a lot of detail. I think what makes a hand knit really shine is in the details. Finishing is extremely important for making your hand knit items look beautiful and professional!
What is the most enjoyable project to knit and design?
I design mostly sweaters. I love designing all accessories too, but I'll always be a sweater knitter. I can only wear so many scarves, cowls, hats, and mittens, but I can NEVER have too many sweaters!
When do you start a new project? Where does inspiration come from?
I get inspiration from a lot of places--but one of the places I get the most inspiration is from ready-to-wear garments. I maintain a pretty active Pinterest board with knitting inspiration. (http://www.pinterest.com/mariknits/pins/). Sometimes I'll be out and about and I'll see something that totally inspires me, like the way vines are moving up a brach, or patterns in plants, and I'll just take out my phone and snap a photo for later!
How important is the yarn’s choice? Could it inspire you to start a new pattern?
Yarn choice is really important. I have a couple patterns that were inspired by the yarn--with Through Thick And Thin I really wanted a simple knit that would highlight the beautiful texture of the yarn. For Creedmoor Cowl I wanted a pattern that would break up the pooling in a hand painted yarn. Right now I'm working on a couple designs that mix yarns in different weights and textures, and I'm really enjoying that too. Knowing how a fabric is going to drape and stretch is important to getting the look you want to achieve. Don't knit a fitted cardigan in cotton, it's just not going to be the same!
What are your favorite knitting techniques?
I tend to go through them in phases. I went through a long duplicate stitch and heart phase with the Two Hands series, the Heartgyle Pullover, the Heartigan, and Rainbow Love. I also went through some short row obsession and you can see that I did some research on that with the short rows tutorials on my blog. My current obsession is with i-cord, and you can see the beginnings of the i-cord obsession with Coleen which has an i-cord cast on, bind off, and applied i-cord edging!
Where is your favorite place to knit and where to design patterns?
I mostly design from my office--which is currently a desk in our dining room. Though the plan is that this fall we'll move and I'll get a whole room! I really love sunlight, so I'm hoping to get a room with some windows and good natural lighting. But I'll knit anywhere and everywhere--when I used to commute I would frequently knit on the bus or the metro, and I'll still take knitting with me almost everywhere I go. I usually try to have one mindless purse project because it makes me a more patient person when I have to wait in line!
What advice would you give to a new designer?
This is a tough one. I also put together pattern collections for my clients as part of my day job at Stitchcraft Marketing, and I often work with newer designers. My first piece of advice: Do your homework, know your techniques, knit A LOT, and be sure you know what you're doing. When I first started I put out some not so well written patterns, and I really regret not waiting to polish those more. Also know your limitations--I love to knit socks and improvise my own sock patterns, but that doesn't make me qualified to design sock patterns. Frankly--I haven't knit enough socks and I'm not familiar enough with all the techniques out there to design socks. If you're going to design something you should be an expert in it. I also have a lot of opinions on pattern photography--since we are mostly selling our patterns online photography is key. If you can't get good photos don't bother publishing the pattern, and if there are 10,000 other patterns that look just like what you've designed than what's the point? I think the best advice is to be honest with yourself, and be critical, and NEVER sacrifice your standards.