a chat with Ruth Garcia-Alcantud

Last month I sat down (over email) with Ruth Garcia-Alcantud a.k.a. rock+purl, knit designer extraordinaire. So without further ado, let’s jump right in:

little acorn:
Rock+Purl designs are tailored and fashionable …please tell me a bit about how you go about designing modern looks that appeal to a range of tastes.
ruth:
Designing is a bit of a “choose your own adventure”. Sometimes I’ll see things so clearly it’s a case of needle-to-yarn and it’s done. Other times (most times!) I check the yarn behavior, how it plays with texture, or drape, how it would look in combination with other things…

Some designs have taken no time from concept to release – I believe my fastest was Chambourcin at 3 weeks – while others, like Aligned Spaces, lurked in the back burner as a sketch for over 3 years, waiting for my grading and spatial skills to be able to bring it to life.

One thing I don’t compromise on is wearability. I can’t fathom designing pieces that are so niche only a twig can wear them. I design for a wide range of sizes and most of my patterns go down to a 28″ and up beyond the 54″ bust. There may be changing details in necklines, or shaping ratios, but I want any woman in any size to feel wonderful with my designs.

rock+purl-space-cadet

Until recently I thought everyone designed their patterns like me: sketch, swatch, grade, write, knit. Turns out not all do! I offer charts and written instructions to all my patterns that need them. Also, I’m not afraid to over-explain or use different layout techniques to aid the knitter. Some of my socks have dedicated sizing pages because it was easier to write each separately than merge all as a single pattern. Some of my garments have “fill in the blanks” to help with the pesky “evenly increase X sts along the row”.

Basically I try to make it easy so you all have a fun time!

little acorn:
I’m test knitting one of your designs, I see your commitment to the entire process in the pattern and how you make sure it’s wearable by a range of bodies. It’s a fun design and I look forward to finishing it so I can wear it!

What is the one thing you wish knitters and crocheters would do when they start working with your designs and patterns?

ruth:
Things to do: Check your gauge, read the instructions, ask questions. Really, please do. Gauge is the crucial aspect to ensuring your work will mimic the original pattern sample. Read to ensure you can understand all the moves, and if you can’t, place a question or comment on the rock+purl forum on ravelry! I check in daily and if there’s questions you’re the first thing I’ll do that day so you can get on with your happy knitting!

Things to stop doing: Stop questioning your skill level, or your ability to create beauty. One thing I always teach in-person is empowerment in our skills. You may not know how to cable YET, but you can take steps to learn it. You may hate one technique, but it may just end up being that you never were taught how to do it correctly, so your results are the thing you dislike, not the technique in itself.

rock+purl-knitting

As women we tend to place mental blockades on what we are able to achieve, and it’s very important to break down those walls. I’ve witnessed many women take giant steps towards their own self-beliefs through a simple knitting pattern. It’s magical.

little acorn:
Yes!

When not designing/tech editing/knitting you can be found…

ruth:
At the dog park, chasing my dogs around. Watching movies with my husband. At coffee shops with a magazine. At a sushi place with a book. One thing I love about the place I live in at the moment (Sacramento CA) is the abundance of good “reading nooks” everywhere!
little acorn:
Good reading nooks are valuable!

You are also a tech editor. What is one thing you wish knitters (or new designers) understood about the process?

ruth:
I think there’s a huge misunderstanding about what a technical editor is and what their work limitations are.

A technical editor WILL check your math so it’s correct. But not all technical editors are well-versed in garment sizing, so they may not all be able to pick up on an incorrectly shaped sleeve cap.

A technical editor WILL check your instructions. But if they’re not grammar nerds or spelling wizards they may not catch all your mistakes.

Also, a technical editor’s aim is for the pattern to be understandable as well as correct, so when we make suggestions to improve the clarity of instructions, we don’t do it lightly. We do it so it’s easier for you to provide support at a later time. At the end of the day, pattern support to questions is part of a designer’s work, so the clearer the pattern is, the less questions the designer receives.

rock+purl-notebooks

It’s not an easy skill to have and develop. It takes an enormous amount of concentration to look at pages of text in garbled slang (aka knitspeak) while transferring the concept in your head to a 3-dimensional view, and at the same time apply grading rules, sizing issues, and correct your k2got to k2tog.

little acorn:
This. It’s important to have dialog between the technical editor and the designer about all of these things!

I know your answer, but I ask everyone: kitten or puppy snuggles?

ruth:
PUPPIES! Not even a question, I have 2 Siberian Huskies (rescued via NorSled from quite precarious situations), and they’re the light of my life.
pepper & winter
little acorn:
Pepper and Winter are very lucky to have you. Thank you Ruth!
For more information



Ruth Garcia-Alcantud can be found at rockandpurl.com.

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