5 Questions with Hilary Smith Callis

Have you seen The Sweater Book? It’s a unique set of patterns with interchangeable parts, so you can knit a sweater customized just the way you want! The book is authored by Hilary Smith Callis, a great designer, and interesting person! If you’d like to find out a bit more about her, and the book, click through to read 5 fun answers to questions we wanted to know!


Tell us a little bit about yourself! Where are you from and how did you start knitting and designing?
I’m originally from a small town in California’s Central Valley, and after being away for about 15 years, I’m back! My husband and I live here with our 4 year old son and baby girl, and are enjoying being part of this community. As for knitting, my grandmother taught me when I was about 8 years old…but she only taught me to, quite literally, knit. Then somewhere around 2003 when I was out of college and kept seeing cool ladies knitting in coffee shops around San Francisco I decided it was time to take the plunge…and learn to purl. A few years later, I made my first sweater, and since then I don’t think two days have gone by without me having yarn and needles in my hands. Designing came naturally after that first sweater…I couldn’t find a pattern for exactly what I had in mind, so I just made up my own! And that hasn’t slowed down since then either!

You seem to design a little of everything – from hats to shawls and sweaters. What is your favorite thing to design, and what are some of your favorite fibers?
This seems to be constantly evolving. I used to be strictly a sweater girl, and I do still love designing garments (designing for The Sweater Book was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done), but since my daughter was born last year I’ve been on much more of an accessory kick. They’re smaller (which is nice since I don’t have as much time as I did!), more portable, and I don’t usually need to grade them for 10 different sizes. 🙂 As for fibers, I never met a cashmere I didn’t like….but I usually design with some form of wool.

What is your design process like? What elements do you start with, and how do you proceed? Are you solving a problem with design? Are there sources of inspiration from which you draw when you design?
I almost always start with the yarn. A particular yarn will really speak to me, or I’ll just simply want to use up something in my stash. (In fact this was how my first published design, the Citron Shawlette, came into being. I had a skein of laceweight that was just hanging around and it was really bugging me! 🙂 ) Then I move to stitch patterns, playing around and letting the yarn continue to “talk” to me, and from there a shape will come into being. I don’t usually have a direct source of inspiration…unless, of course, I see something in an Anthropologie catalog and want to replicate it!

The book you did for Knit Picks, The Sweater Book, is a unique collection in that it has swap-able parts. How did you go about designing the elements of this book?
Designing for The Sweater Book was so much fun! I took all of my favorite parts of sweater knitting — construction, shaping, sleeve caps, stitch patterns, and garment shapes — and got to put them all together in one collection. And then it was like solving one big, fun problem: how could I take all of my favorite elements AND get them to all fit together and play nicely? It took just a little bit of sketching, and then a LOT of math.

If you could choose one combination of parts to make your ideal sweater from The Sweater Book, what would they be? What is your favorite kind of sweater to make, and to wear?
Oooh, this is a hard one. Actually, I think the Yuri Pullover could be my ideal sweater right now. The empire waist shaping is super flattering, the 3/4 length sleeves make it a little different, the cable pattern on the sleeves is so subtle yet so cool, and I love a turtleneck! It was also my favorite of the four to knit — simple, yet just enough going on to keep it interesting. I absolutely cannot wait for the weather to cool down so I can wear it! However, when I have some free time, I’d also love to make a v-neck cardigan with long sleeves and the cable from Yuri’s sleeves running down the back.


Thanks, Hilary! You can find The Sweater Book in print HERE and as an e-book download HERE.

You can also find other great designs by Hilary HERE.