Lily Kate France is a knitwear designer, blogger and keen traveler who had documented her adventures in fibre and the world on her blog Joli House. Born and raised in Preston, she began designing early and continues to create feminine, youthful designs with a classic, almost vintage flavour. She has designed several patterns with The Fibre Co. yarn, including the Lawrenson Sweater, the Fine Line sweater, and more recently the Greystoke cardigan in Cirro, and the Erinome sweater in Meadow.
We are always pleased to work with Lily Kate and we took this latest opportunity to ask her a few questions.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself: how did you get into knitting and designing knitwear?
LF: I learnt to knit at a young age, and quickly became frustrated with the patterns available for a tall tween like myself. So I wrote my own! I loved the mathematical challenge and you can’t beat the satisfaction of wearing something you’ve designed and made from scratch. Designing and knitting remained a part of my life throughout my teens, and in my early twenties I made the decision to take it more seriously again. Now I couldn’t be more grateful that what began as a childhood hobby is now my full time job.
The Almanac Series is based on the original farmer’s Almanac guide to the seasons, this collection acts as a seasonal guide to knitting with The Fibre Co. and celebrates each month of the year with an ascribed Yarn of the Month, paired with a new design launch in that yarn. This year’s series has a theme of herbalism. In the first half of this year’s series, we cover the Autumn Winter season, where each month’s yarn has been specifically chosen for its qualities to compliment colder conditions in the northern hemisphere. Lady’s Mantle was launched this December.
Lady’s Mantle is a radial yoke cowl that is worked from the top-down like the round yoke of a roll-neck sweater. Lily France designed this cowl with short rows to dip the front and back, creating a cosy capelet shape.
Tell us about your recent design in The Fibre Co. yarn—what inspired this design and what techniques, makes it special to you?
LF: Lady’s Mantle is the kind of item I find most useful in cold weather – it keeps your neck and chest cosy, but without excesses of fabric to tangle in. I envisaged wearing it on a breezy winter walk, or under an autumnal jacket when it’s not quite cold enough for a full extra layer but you need something to ward off the chill. Ribbed round yokes look so striking and I thought it would be fun to use a yoke as a standalone item.
What inspires and influences your designs?
LF: I’m definitely inspired by the silhouettes of decades gone by, particularly the 50s and 70s. Often the yarn itself provides the inspiration; sometimes a swatch just calls out to be made into something in particular!
What is your favourite type of knitting project?
LF: Something simple but with interesting shaping and tecnhniques. I enjoy projects that I can zone out whilst knitting and breeze through, but aren’t too boring.
Could you share your design process with us.
LF: Swatches and sketches come first. Sometimes the finished item turns out exactly like the sketch, sometimes it’s nothing like it! I begin knitting before writing up the whole pattern, as often I change my mind throughout the process so this affords greater flexibility. Once my sample is finished I grade the pattern into 9 sizes, and so begins the process of writing up for testers, formatting, photographing, marketing and all that jazz.
How does the yarn you use influence your design?
Massively – many of my garment designs are quite structured, so yarn choice is critical. Too smooth and drapey a yarn could ruin the design! My main considerations are how much substance, bounce, and drape a yarn has. For the Lady’s Mantle cowl I was able to use a more decadent and drapey yarn because the yoke doesn’t have the weight of a whole garment hanging from it; to use the same yarn and design on a round yoke sweater wouldn’t work as well.
What is your favourite knitting technique and why?
Short rows! As demonstrated in my Lady’s Mantle design, you can do SO much with them. I think they’re just the most useful and versatile technique ever when it comes to creating fabric that isn’t just flat.
What is your desert island knitting project—what could you knit again and again and still enjoy?
I think it’d have to be a cosy cardigan with big poofy sleeves. You can never have to many of those!
What’s your first knitting memory?
My very first knitting memory is a tiny red garter stitch scarf I made for my doll at 8 years old. It was full of holes but I was so proud of myself! I was hooked immediately and haven’t put the needles down since.
If you are knitting a Lady’s Mantle, please do share it with us! We would love to see it. If you are sharing on social media, please use the hashtags #MadeWithTheFibreCo and tag us @thefibrecompany so we don’t miss it or join us for our January KAL!
We will be casting on live on 6th January 2022 in a Virtual Cast On Party! Sign up for our KAL mailing list now for more information and to get the link.