We had the pleasure and privilege of interviewing the ever-so-sweet Bev from Boo Knits. She is best known for her cobweb-like shawls that are drenched in delicate beads. If you haven’t already fallen in love with our favorite British knitwear genius, Bev, you will after reading her answers to a few of our questions!
Tell us about yourself.
I live with my husband in Staffordshire, England – the very green bit, right in the centre of the country.
I totally and utterly fell into designing. I didn’t have any plans or ambition to design but one day I wanted to make a shawl from a skein of Fyberspates Faery Wings – I had one skein, only one skein. I wanted a shawl that was shallow and very wide but not quite a scarf. I couldn’t find a pattern that ticked the boxes on my wish list, that would use just the one skein, so thought I would have a go at making one myself. I created Dragonfly Wings (only named so as it was the colour of the yarn and wasn’t going to be a pattern). When it was shown on Ravelry, I was asked time and again where the pattern was from. When I explained that I had made it up, I was asked to write the pattern and offer it for others to knit. I did, I released it and then I was asked when the next pattern would be released. Little did I know what had started.
Who taught you to knit?
My aunt tried to teach me when I was a child but gave it up as a bad job when I just couldn’t hold my yarn properly. I still don’t! Many, many years later I taught myself with the aid of books, YouTube and a fair bit of trial and error to find the easiest way that worked for me.
What does your designing process look like?
I would love to tell you that I am super organised but I would be lying. I have notebooks with jottings and small sketches. I stick in the odd picture that will jog my memory – usually small pictures torn from a plant catalogue, home décor magazine or a travel brochure. These are usually colour inspiration, sometimes shape or an atmosphere I want to capture in stitch. I sometimes work small swatches to see how a stitch will work best and these get stapled into the notebook too. It makes things easier if I keep everything together in one place – in theory anyway!
How do you choose what you will design next?
I find inspiration everywhere, leaf shapes, flowers, clouds, ploughed fields, the ocean, snowdrifts, books, old churches, gravestones, windows, locks and keys, architecture … Other times I will look at a skein of yarn and know exactly what it is going to look like knit up.
Your bead choice is flawless. Where do you find the best beads and how do you choose which to use?
Thank you for such a lovely compliment! I buy beads when I see something I like, not for a specific project and I always buy lots of them as I don’t want to worry about running out. I have my beads on shelves in my yarn room and match yarn and beads as and when. I always thread five or six beads onto the yarn, usually five or six different options too, and leave the cake or skein for a couple of days so I can see the beads in different lights. Those that I don’t love are removed during this time and I am usually left with two or three to make a final decision. Then I ask Mr. Boo what he thinks; luckily this is usually the one I am leaning to too. When I get down to only a few beads in a jar I mix my own bead mixes so nothing goes to waste.
What are you currently knitting?
I have just finished the sixth pattern of the Boos for Beginners Collection, Mojito. Just leapt onto the needles is the prototype for the Halloween MKAL for 2017 so unfortunately, not something I can describe to you or let you see but it will be lace and it will be beaded.
Your MKALs are always so popular and well thought out. Can you tell us about how you prepare for these?
My patterns usually start with the name of the shawl and evolve from there. I will know exactly how it will look and then have to find the yarn that already exists in my mind. MKALs are different from a regular pattern as it is very difficult to substitute a yarn when a knitter has no idea what the pattern will look like or how it is to be blocked. Different fibres behave differently ie. Alpaca won’t hold a block as well as silk and it is not as strong. For a floaty and light shawl with more of a frill than a point, and not too many beads, Alpaca is perfect but for heavily beaded shawls with definite and strong blocking then silk is the one to go for. This decision is easier to make when you can see the finished item and this is why I usually work with a dyer to create special colours on a specific yarn for the MKALs. It also gives everyone the chance to use a yarn that they might not have tried otherwise and I get some reassurance that everyone will be happy with their finished shawls.
What is your favorite design and why?
My favourite changes but I think if I had to narrow it down I think my favourite of my patterns is Wintersweet, it has a kind of faded elegance to it; as though it belongs to a different era. The shawl I wear the most? There are two really, Rum and Cola and Puck. Both are really simple shawls, one light for warmer weather and the other in DK that makes a fabulous shawl/scarf for dog walking. Rum and Cola is the first shawl in the Boos for Beginners Collection and is aimed as those wanting to start to knit lace shawls. With a beaded body and a little bit of lace, it is super simple but not boring for more experienced knitters and is just so wearable! The shawl I knit the most often – a tie between Voodoo and Spellbound. Difficult to pin down
What designers do you admire?
All of them! Designing, whatever you are designing, is not just a job or hobby, it is a way of life. I think all designers have to live with the ‘what if’ thought constantly in their mind. All of those questions, trials and endeavouring to find the best and easiest way to do something and translating that to a chart and/or written instructions so that it is crystal clear and easy to follow doesn’t have a switch to turn it off; it is something that you live with and is in your mind constantly.
In the sphere of knitting I especially love the flamboyance of Stephen West and his love for bright colours; the boldness and geometry of Veera Välimäki and the beautiful lace of Romi Hill! I shouldn’t forget that a large part of my work is inspired by the wonderful indie dyers who create the most magical colour combinations on some fantastic yarns.
When you’re not designing, where would we find you?
I live in a beautifully rural area so if I am not designing I am either out in the lanes walking my dog Lil, baking, chatting on Ravelry (usually in the Boo Group) and, of course, knitting. I am a knitter first and foremost. What can I say; it isn’t really a hobby or even an obsession but it is a need. Definitely a need – something I have to do each day.
Do you have plans to expand? Would you ever stray from your beautiful lace shawl designs?
Ha ha – never say never! I have plans; I always have plans!
What is your favorite thing about designing knitwear?
I love the excitement of transforming a skein of yarn into something that can be worn. The texture, colour and luxuriousness of fibre and the putting together of colour, pattern and beads. I am amazingly lucky to be able to play with colour, yarn and beads on a daily basis.
Are there ideas you have that just don’t translate into patterns? If yes, what happens to them? Do they just hang out in the back of your brilliant mind waiting to be used?
Well, if my mind was brilliant I would be able to translate them into patterns right away. These ideas linger in my mind. They are those elusive answers/solutions similar to the forgotten name of an actor or a song; as soon as you think it is within your grasp the answer runs away again. I make some notes and sketches and leave the idea for a while and work on something else. Usually they get solved but there is always one or two that just refuse to make it to reality.
We would like to thank Bev so much for taking the time to answer our questions and giving such thoughtful responses! You are truly a gem and we so admire your design skills.