Designer Spotlight: Stephanie Earp
Stephanie Earp is the featured designer for the Fall 2021 pattern collection, a collection of garments and accessories that are fashionable and modern, and nothing you could find off-the-rack! We reached out to Stephanie asking if she would share a bit of her background and experience working with Manos del Uruguay yarns. She was generous and kind with her time and we’re pleased to share her responses and photos with you!
Tell us about your knitting origin story.
I learned to knit, purl and cable from my wonderful nanny, Shirley, when I was eight or nine. She’d occasionally take my work, do something mysterious to it, and then pass it back, slightly wider. I realized many years later, I was knitting the sleeves of her sweaters. Then in my twenties, I found myself early for a dentist appointment and stopped to pick up a few magazines for the waiting room. I thought I’d picked up a copy of Vogue, but it turned out to be Vogue Knitting. I left the appointment and went straight to a craft store and cast on a ludicrously complex James Coviello design. I didn’t know what I didn’t know - which was a lot - and that pattern taught me lace, short rows, bobbles, and double increases. It is still one of the most complex sweaters I’ve ever knit! I was hooked after that, and taught myself from books and magazines. I’ve added to my skills by taking knit-specific classes at events like Vogue Knitting Live, and more sewing-focused classes in pattern making.
Do you have a favorite yarn or colorway in the Manos del Uruguay line?
I love single ply yarns, so Maxima is my go-to yarn from Manos del Uruguay, with Silk Blend running a close second. Spirulina is basically my dream colour. The acidity and brightness of it and the way it’s almost neon, but not. To me, there’s something so sophisticated about that. I think one of the things about the Manos palette that really stands out to me is how adaptable it is. My collection showcases these bright jewel tones, and pairs them in ways that have almost a retro 80s feel, but previous collections have shown off the earth tones, or featured very delicate, feminine details and colours. You can really make anything with Manos yarns.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
My design inspiration is often not visual - it usually comes down to problem solving. That problem might be that I have 5 skeins of DK in five different colours and I want to make one sweater out of them without buying any more yarn, so what kind of stitch or pattern can I come up with that will allow me to do that. Sometimes I feel I’m more of an inventor than a designer; I want to know if something is possible, if it can be made to look or function in a new way. So if there is no problem to solve, I’ll pretend there is one, to get my creative brain going. In this collection, I asked myself, how do I use this space-dyed Cabrito in a new and unexpected way? How can I use Estonian lace techniques like star increases without using any lace? And I watched old seasons of Project Runway while I knit these pieces, so I had Tim Gunn in my ear saying “cohesion, cohesion, cohesion!”
Do you have tips for knitting the Fall 2021 collection?
- Knit your buttons into place: On the Jerrica cardigan, I used shank buttons for one reason - so I could knit the buttons on as I worked! I threaded the buttons onto my yarn before I worked the button band pick-up, and slid the buttons up and into place as I went. I still needed to tighten them in the finishing process, but the bonus of working this way is the buttons will never fall off. And it’s fun.
- Knit Front Slip Back: I learned this increase in a class with the amazing Amy Detjen. The class was about working set-in sleeves in the round, but this increase was the aha moment for me. You know that little purl bump you get when you knit into the front and back of a stitch to make an increase? Well, this takes care of it. Instead of knitting into the back leg, just slip. Couldn’t be easier or tidier! You’ll find it in the Raya Shawl.
- Placing Dip Stitches: In the Raya Shawl and Mitts, I knew I wanted to try dip stitches, but my previous attempts had been a bit messy. Instructions for these stitches usually say to work into the stitch 2, 3 or even 4 rows below. Apparently, counting is an issue for me, and my work always looked mismatched and uneven. Enter the inlay stitch! I added this to the decorative panel in these patterns so the knitter has a visual guide of where to insert the needle for the dip stitches. Perfect placement, every time!
- Yarn Management: Working with the lush Cabrito held together with other yarns is a cornerstone of this collection, but did you know that the “take up” on your two yarns is different? As you knit, you’ll use more yardage of one yarn than another, which is why I’d advise you NOT to do what I did on the Aja Sweater: make a ball of the two yarns held together for your contrast colour. Yikes - what a mess! I do advise working with two different balls of the Alpaca Heather for this pattern though - one paired with the main colour, and one with the contrast colour - to make the stranded colourwork go faster. Use yarn bowls or ziploc bags to keep your yarn neat, and bear in mind it all gets much easier once the yoke is done!
- Colour Comfort Zones: I love to knit with big, bright colour, so creating a collection for Manos del Uruguay was a dream come true. But I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m often asked for color substitution ideas on my patterns. When I’m trying to push myself out of my colour comfort zone of purple & mustard, I look around my home. What colours do I choose to decorate with that I don’t often wear, and how can I try those colours out in my wardrobe? This recently led me down a navy blue path that has me blending into the walls at home.
Thanks so much to Stephanie! Check out all her designs for our Fall 2021 Collection here!