Designer Interview – Luise O’Neill

Luise O’Neill is one of the more prolific and successful designers that we at Knit Picks have the pleasure of working with. She is not only active in the Independent Designer Partnership program, but a regular contributor to our exclusive collections.

Designer Interview Luise O'Neill - Cabri Shell

Cabri Shell, by Luise, from Knit Picks’ Sunday Morning collection

Luise creates her knitwear designs in the beautiful ocean city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. An adult educator, author, technical writer and lifelong knitter and crocheter, she loves to explore fibers and adores experimenting with different techniques giving her design collection an eclectic nuance. Her website — — shares lots of tips and resources, especially about cable knitting.

Featured in VOGUEknitting’s Made in Canada, winner of Elann’s Winter 2012 Designer Contest and selected as Patternfish’s Designer of the Month, her publishing credits include Louet North America, Knit Picks’ Woodsmoke Cable, Under 100 Knit and Joyful Lace collections, Twist Collective, In Tune (her 6-pattern collection) and Hitch: Patterns Inspired by the Films of Alfred Hitchcock.

English or Continental? – Continental

Cardigan or Pullover? – Pullover

Cables or Lace? – Cables

DPNs or Magic Loop? – Magic Loop

Yarn: Solid or Variegated? – Solid

Socks: Toe Up or Top Down? – Toe Up

Needles: Wood or Metal? – Wood

Wool, Cotton, Acrylic, Alpaca, Cashmere, or Silk? – Cashmere

What was your first design, and how do you feel about it now?

My first design was Celtic Jenna Rose – a strapped top with a Celtic cable knot centerpiece. I can’t remember how many samples of that Celtic knot I knit before it finally worked. I still love the crossed, braided straps and the Celtic knot – although I’ve developed more elegant transitions for closed-ring cables since then. Given today’s more fitted silhouettes it would definitely benefit from added waist shaping!

Designer Interview Luise O'Neill - Absent Friends Shawl

Absent Friends Shawl, by Luise, from Knit Picks’ Woodsmoke Cable Collection

What is your favorite design with Knit Picks?

My Absent Friends Shawl from Knit Picks’ Woodsmoke Cable Collection – I love to try new things when I design and this shawl has short-row shaping in the cabled border so designing this was a delight. And, I really adore closed-ring cables so this one is at the top of my list.

What is your favorite current Knit Picks yarn?

This is a really hard question! How do I pick just one? I think it will have to be Alpaca Cloud Fingering since this is such a beautifully versatile yarn and feels like butter in your hands. I used it to knit the Come Fly With Me shawl (one of the bestselling patterns in IDP since coming to at the end of last year) and every knitting minute was a joy!

Designer Interview Luise O'Neill - Come Fly With Me Shawl

Come Fly With Me Shawl, by Luise

When/how/why did you first learn to knit or crochet?

My maternal grandmother taught me how to knit before I started school. I was very lucky to be surrounded by one grandmother who knit, crocheted, did needlepoint and embroidery, and my other grandmother who was a seamstress. I really took to it all like a duck to water and have tried my hand at many handcrafts over the years – idle hands were never a problem!

What does your stash look like?

My stash has its own closet 🙂 I am very organized when it comes to my stash – every yarn has its own labelled clear-plastic shoe-box with the yarn weight (colour-coded), brand name and yarn name on the label. Then, they are grouped by yarn weight on the shelves.

Designer Interview Luise O'Neill - Margaree Harbour Shawl

Margaree Harbour Shawl, Luise’s bestselling pattern

What is your favorite thing to design?

I’m usually on a seesaw with shawls on one end and socks on the other. I love shawls because there is such a huge variety of shapes to explore and they provide a big canvas on which to play with the cables I love. Socks provide the challenge of creating on a small canvas and are a wonderfully portable project while I’m working out designs.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

Literally everywhere – from trees to buildings to flowers to china plates to Celtic ruins to music to stitch patterns – the colours, shapes and sounds get me sketching and then it’s off to my stitch dictionaries. My Kinsol Trestle Vest began when I saw a picture of the Kinsol Trestle, a wooden railway trestle built in the early 1900s in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. On the other hand, my Ashokan shawl began with a piece of music – Ashokan Farewell. The first time I heard this hauntingly beautiful piece of music, I knew it had to become a shawl – something that provides comfort. Jay Unger composed this tune in 1982 as friends once again parted and followed their life’s path at the closing of his Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camp; he embodied his feeling of loss in this lament. And so the Ashokan shawl design became an interplay of leaf motifs for the Catskill forests and intertwining cables to denote friendships and the entwining yet diverse paths our lives take.

Special thanks to Luise for her pioneering spirit, being the first in what promises to be a regular feature.

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