Japel has been a contributor to Knitty since
2003 -- her bell-bottomed mohair Postmodern
her first contribution to the magazine.
Since then, her stylish sweater designs have
appeared in Knitty multiple times and include
the popular designs Bad
Forecast, Cathode and
Her first book, Fitted
Knits, was recently
published by F&W, and she took a few minutes
out of her busy schedule to talk to me about
Courtesy of Stefanie
and her publisher, we're very pleased to
offer a pattern from Fitted Knits in this
issue of Knitty. You'll find it here.
R Singer: So, tell me about
Japel: Fitted Knits is a book of
25 knitting patterns for people who would like
to make [or learn to make] garments that incorporate
shaping elements. Like bust darts, waistline
shaping, sleeve shaping. There is no learn
to knit section; it just jumps right into the
AS: Who's your ideal knitter-reader?
SJ: My ideal
knitter reader is someone who already knows
the basics. They may or may not have knit a
sweater before, but are ready to learn how.
There are patterns ranging in difficulty from
simple stockinette to cables and lace.
AS: Where do you get your design inspiration
SJ: I daydream a lot about
clothes. I keep an eye on the runway shows
and magazines, and find inspiration in the
colors and shapes. Then I think about what
of those elements are realistic and try to
create designs that utilize some of these trends
while still being knitable and wearable.
models her Forecast sweater
AS: Who's your favorite runway
Jacobs. His work is feminine, pretty, incorporates
lots of elements that I'm into right now...little
collars, puffy sleeves, big buttons. While
girly, his work is also sophisticated, so it
crosses traditional generational boundaries.
about your first submission to Knitty [which
was rejected] and what made you not give up
until you got in.
first submission was a tube shawl thing that's
still in my free patterns section. Looking
at it now, I can totally see WHY it didn't
get in. I had been designing my own garments
for a while and detailing the process on my
blog. I was starting to get a lot of comments,
asking for the patterns for various things.
When Knitty came onto the scene, it was like, "FINALLY!" This
was so perfect for me. So I got a little design
together and wrote up the pattern and took
some pictures....and didn't get in.
BUT! Persistence pays off. My second submission,
the legwarmer pattern, did make it into the
magazine. After some gentle coaching from the
Knitty staff, I was able to get some decent
photos, and the rest is history After that,
I couldn't STOP designing. Knitty was where
I got my start, and I'll always love Knitty!
AS: How did you get your book deal?
you convinced me to stop giving my patterns
away, I started designing downloadable patterns
for the site. Shannon Okey introduced me to
Tricia [Waddell] who was then at F&W and
is now at Interweave, using my "for sale" patterns
as a sort of introduction. She showed her my
site, and then we put a proposal together,
and that was it. I was really naive about
the whole thing.
AS: Naive how?
SJ: I didn't go out
looking for a book deal, it just sort of
came to me. And I don't mean that in any
kind of a bragging way. It didn't even really
hit me what I was getting into until my first
deadline. Then it was, "oh
man. I have to design 25 sweaters." Fast.
AS: How did you do that?
SJ: I thought
a lot about things I'd like to have in my
own wardrobe. An a-line skirted dress, a
little suit, a puffy-sleeved sweater or two.
Then I started thinking about the things
I had already designed and about ways that
I could improve on them, or use some of their
design elements in new garments. I'm really
into the idea of customization of garments,
and I wanted to show how a sweater that is
designed to be loose like a tunic can be reinterpreted
as something more form-fitting.
AS: What kept you going when you thought you
never wanted to see another ball of yarn?
SJ: I just let out a huge sigh when you said
that! Let's see...I think the deadlines helped,
and knowing that there were other people depending
on this getting done (like the photographer,
book designer, etc.) My editor and my tech
editor really kept me going at the end. They
were encouraging and really helped a lot. Even
now after the book's out, we're still talking
about how to make it more successful.
AS: Are you ready to do another one? And is
there one in the queue?
SJ: There are TWO in
the queue. They're both on F&W, and I'll have the same editor for
them. One is called "Glam Knits" and
will use luxury fibers and designer yarns.
The third one is called "From the Top" and
the focus is on how to design sweaters knit
from the top down.
AS: And that's your specialty, isn't it?
SJ: It's definitely how I first learned to
make a sweater. I'm branching out from it in
Glam Knits. It really is my favorite method.
My grandmom always made top-downs and it's
comforting, somehow. It feels like a tradition
that I'm carrying on.
AS: What advice do you have for new designers
who want to make a career out of designing?
SJ: I'm really overwhelmed by how things have
turned out for me, and I can hardly believe
it myself. I just recently got my first pattern
accepted by Interweave Knits...it took me years
to get up the gumption.
was Knitty less intimidating to submit to than
SJ: Knitty feels like home, in a way. The
way it's written is really friendly. All of
the people involved have blogs, it's open,
seems relaxed. I just wanted to be a part of
it. Really, really bad.
me one thing we don't know about you.
SJ: I dropped out of college after a year
and it took me five years to go back. And now
I have a book deal and a PhD.
To see more of Stefanie's design
work and read her blog, visit her website.