The eighth pattern in The Almanac Series II is the beautiful Starburst Sweater design from Julee MacKessy!
In this interview, we chat with Julee MacKessy about her striking design the Starburst Sweater, and why The Fibre Co. yarn, Cumbria Fingering was the perfect choice to create a warm and lightweight sweater that is perfect for layering.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself: how did you get into knitting and designing knitwear?
“I learned to crochet in grade school and I attempted to learn to knit many times from books, but it didn’t really click. It wasn’t until I took a lesson at a LYS when I was in high school that I was able to actually knit. Shortly after, I was teaching English abroad in a small town where there was not a lot happening, but there was a LYS. So I picked up some yarn and needles and played. Since then, it’s always been in my life and helped me through some of the toughest times.
I only got into design a few years ago and it wasn’t until maybe 2 years ago that I started to take it more seriously. Like many designers, I started small with beanies, but eventually grew into sweaters then shawls and now I am venturing into socks.”
Tell us about the inspiration for the Starburst Sweater.
“I was imagining a cascading star falling from the sky, then bursting into a beautiful star shape. The cables start small at the top of the sweater and then progressively get bigger, eventually “bursting” into a star shape towards the bottom of the yoke.
Cumbria Fingering allows the cables and smaller details to really shine in this sweater. It also creates a warm, but lightweight sweater that is perfect for layering over or under clothes.“
What makes your design special?
“My designs are usually wardrobe items I wanted to have in my closet. They are staple items that you’ll want to wear over and over again.“
The Starburst Sweater by Julee MacKessy embraces the idea of order out of chaos, with a beautiful pattern of entwining and twirling twisted stitches radiating out from the neckline in this textured, round yoke pullover. A topdown, seamless construction means that you start with the twisted-stitch pattern before relaxing into the mindless knitting of the stockinette-stitch body and sleeves.
This yoke sweater is knitted top down seamlessly in the round to the underarm where the work is then divided for the sleeves and body. Short row shaping is incorporated at the yoke before dividing for an improved fit. The body is then worked in the round. The sleeves are picked up in the round and knitted top down.
About The Almanac Series
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. For this year’s series, we looked to the heavens for inspiration, letting the beauty and grandeur of the night sky guide us. 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. Erika Knight’s Zodiac Sweater was the first design in The Almanac Series II collection, in which you can read our interview with Erika here.
What inspires and influences your designs?
“Sometimes it starts with a skill I really want to explore for myself. Other times, I’ll see a yarn and know exactly what I want it to be. I feel like I’m always looking for inspiration wherever I am. It might be the pattern the leaves make or a shower curtain at a friend’s house.“
What is your favourite type of knitting project?
“I really enjoy knitting projects that challenge me, but also give me times of rest. When designing, I usually pick stitch patterns where one side may be challenging and the other side is simpler, allowing the knitter to rest.“
Could you share your design process with us.
“My design process usually starts with an idea. Sometimes that can be from a technique I want to explore or stitch I want to use. Other times, I will want to add something to my wardrobe. From here, I will knit a swatch with the stitch patterns I am interested in. Then I will do a lot of math to make sure all the numbers work before I even cast on. After that, I will get to do the part I enjoy the most – the knitting. As I knit, I will modify numbers as I need to, take notes and start writing the pattern. After that, it is sent to the tech editor then test knitters.“
How does the yarn influence your design?
“Different fibers can highlight different things. I usually try my best to choose the yarn that is best suited for the design I have in mind.“
What is your favourite knitting technique and why?
“I usually bounce from technique to technique. Recently, I have really been enjoying lace.“
What is your desert island knitting project?
“I love sweaters and cardigans. I cannot get enough of them. Hopefully, this island has seasons and gets cold enough for me to wear them – ha!“
What’s your first knitting memory?
“My first knitting memory (where I was actually knitting) was at the LYS where I learned to knit. My first project was a cotton washcloth where my tension was too tight. When we moved back to the town I grew up in, we were able to get a house in the neighborhood where I took my first lesson. Unfortunately, that knit store is not there anymore.“
Knitting the Starburst Sweater?
If you are knitting the Starburst Sweater, please do share it with us!
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