Ravelry Design Spotlight – Maile Sweater

Ravelry Design Spotlight

We’ve been fans of Nikki Van de Car’s work ever since 2012 when What to Knit When You’re Expecting was released.  At the time, Nikki’s baby knit designs were a little different to many around and stood out from the crowd, so its no wonder that some are still as popular as when they were first released. 

One of these perpetual favourites among knitters is the Maile Sweater and we were thrilled when we contacted Nikki and she agreed to give us a little insight to her crafting journey and the story behind her designs, including the Maile Sweater.  

You knit, crochet and needle felt, when did you learn and who if anyone, taught you?

I worked at a mom-and-pop dry goods store in college, and the owner of the store taught me! Which is to say, she stuck a pair of needles in my hand, taught me to knit and purl and cast on and cast off–and that was it! My first knitting projects were dreadfully full of holes and rhombus-shaped! But that way of forcing me to figure it out made me a much better knitter–and crafter–in the long run. I relied on YouTube and experimentation, and it served me so well. My mom tried to teach me to crochet when I was growing up, but it just didn’t take. It wasn’t until I went back to it after knitting that I learned why–in order to keep my tension correct, I have to crochet like a knitter! I throw and switch hands and it’s a whole to-do, but it ends up coming out better, so it’s worth it!

Needle-felting is something I learned only very recently–for my most recent crafting book, The No-Kill Garden, in fact! It’s something I’ve always admired, and it seemed so suited to the kind of three-dimensional crafting we were doing for that book, so I rolled my sleeves and got YouTubing again–and I had only a few bloody fingertips as part of my learning curve!

Which do you prefer, and can you tell us a little bit about the first thing you made or one of your favourite memories associated with this craft?

My heart will always belong to knitting. Needle-felting and I like each other ok, but we’re more the kinds of friends that go out for drinks once a year. Crochet is a dear, sweet friend–but knitting. Knitting makes my heart sing, every time I pick up a new project.

Picking a favourite knitting project would be like picking a favourite child…but I think the thing I love most about it right now is that my daughter is beginning to learn. She’s a much more willing student than I was at her age! So now a rainy day might find the two of us sitting on the couch, knitting together, and there is just nothing more wonderful than that.

Can you tell us a little about your designing process and how it’s evolved over the years?

My first designs were mathematical disasters! Math is–ahem!–not my strong suit. The trouble with learning to knit the way I did is that I’m a very “let the mistake go and fix it later” sort of knitter, and designing doesn’t really work that way, because you can’t expect other knitters to follow you down the same dark path! So I had to learn to really sit down and think things through, rather than experimenting.  For some more complicated designs I still need to design-by-knitting, but it’s been fun to learn how to write the whole thing out and then make sure it works, rather than the other way around!

Where did the idea for the Maile Sweater Design come from?

The Maile Sweater is named for my daughter, Maile– 8 year-old knitter extraordinaire. The maile vine is endemic to Hawaii, where I’m from, and is worn as a traditional lei at weddings and graduations and other significant events. The leaves draped across the shoulder on the sweater echo that lei. It’s a very special vine, very hard to find growing in the wild, with a gentle, spicy-sweet fragrance.

The design is hugely popular, how many have you made yourself?

Only two! The green one for Maile, which is tucked away in a trunk somewhere, and the brown one in the book. Wait, no, I guess three–I made myself a Maile Grown Up, adult version, but I ran out of yarn part way through and so it’s much too small for me. (See? I’m still learning about planning).

You have many designs on Ravelry, is there an unsung hero you’d like to draw our attention to and which is your favourite?

This is such a fun question because I totally do! It’s funny–you put a pattern or collection of patterns out there, and you never know what’s going to resonate. I think Sophie Blouse is actually my favourite from What To Knit When You’re Expecting. And I love Avery Pullover from Toddler Years–I’ve been meaning to make one for myself one day for ages now (making sure I buy the right amount of yarn this time!) I also think my Dovetail Sweater (not from a book, just available as a Ravelry Download) is super cool and Art Deco-y and I wear it all the time…

Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to share with us?

I’m actually between crafty books at the moment! I’ve been more focused on my wellness and magic books…right now I’m working on what is tentatively titled “Wellness Witch” and I’m having So. Much. Fun with it!

A little Maile Sweater trivia for you.

  • In What to Knit When You’re Expecting, the Maile Sweater includes directions for three sizes; 0 to 3, 3 to 6 and 6 to 12 months. 
  • You can access the 0 to 3 months size for free on Nikki’s blog (the Ravelry page takes you straight there). 
  • The Maile Sweater is knitted using 4ply/fingering weight yarn. 
  • Dream in Colour Smooshy the original yarn that Nikki used, still remains the most popular yarn choice on Ravelry, with Malabrigo Sock. 
  • Pink is the most popular colour choice to knit a Maile Sweater in. 
  • There are over 3000 Maile Sweater projects listed on Ravelry. 
  • The Maile Sweater design also appeared in the Yarnwise Magazine Issue 51. 

We had great fun looking through all of the Maile Sweater project pages on Ravelry and got in touch with some of the makers to see if we could feature their projects here.

Space in our gallery is limited, so we would urge you to pop over to the project pages to check out lots more fantastic photos.