We sat down with Ashleigh Wempe, author and designer behind the brand new, Mosaic Knitting Workshop – read more below about Ashleigh’s journey to publishing her book.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
- Outside of knitting, I’m a mom to two rambunctious little girls, an Air Force veteran married for the last decade to an Army vet, and I work in the Financial Industry (while daydreaming about becoming a full-time designer someday!).
- My perfect day starts with a cup of coffee by the fireplace and a good book. Books were my first love, and I probably own at least a couple of shelves of books at the local library due to all the library fees I’ve paid over the years! I will read anything from magical realism, sci fi, fantasy, historical fiction, business books, to biographies and history books!
- I started knitting fifteen years ago, and started designing in 2018 after I separated from the Air Force – it was a way to stay busy while I tried to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up (I still don’t know!)
Tell us a bit about your new book?
- Mosaic Knitting Workshop was an absolute adventure to write! My goal was to create a book full of fun patterns that is accessible to both beginners and advanced knitters. I think I achieved that! Of all the different ways to create colorwork in knitting, mosaic knitting is by far the easiest – you only have to hold one color of yarn at a time, and there are no long fiddly floats or bobbins!
- There are fifteen unique and brightly colored projects, each with a different motif – the fun part is that you can take any motif in the book and turn it into something else – a blanket, a rug, a dishcloth, a wall hanging, pillow, whatever you want! I want readers to play with the techniques and motifs that I’ve provided and make them their own – knitters can choose their own colors, change the patterns, and just plain try something new!
What is your favorite project featured?
- Definitely Saguaro Sunset (it’s the blanket on the cover of the book!). The motif is unique, and it’s fascinating to see the scene slowly emerge as you knit each row. To be completely honest, the colors and the motif worked together in such harmony it took me by surprise! It will be a mainstay on our couch at home for quite some time.
How do you think you reached this point in your craft?
- Persistence and grit!
- Pattern design has quite a learning curve, especially for the vast majority of us who don’t have background in the textile or fashion industry. I think many new designers (myself included!) don’t anticipate how much work goes on behind the scenes to make a successful pattern — we are our own marketers, photographers, sample makers, accountants, customer service reps, etc. and many designers give up after their first couple of designs if they don’t do as expected. My advice is to keep trying, keep iterating, and let “failures” become opportunities!
Where do you look for inspiration?
- I love finding color palettes on Pinterest and in interior design magazines, tile work, fabric patterns, and nature. And when I’m in a designing funk, it can be fun to apply to a magazine or publications design call – they typically have a mood board / color scheme / theme that they want designers to stick to – I love to stretch my creativity by applying these constraints to my designs and submitting them for publication.
What makes up for the challenges?
- The best part of designing is seeing someone make one of my patterns and sending a picture or tagging me on social media – my kiddos and I do a happy dance whenever this happens! I’m still in awe that the musings in my head and on my needles are things that people from around the world like to knit!
What do you think the “Next Big Thing” in your craft will be?
- Like in interior design, minimalism and neutral palettes have been popular in the fiber industry for a while. But, I’m ready for a shift towards maximalism, rich, vibrant colors, and playing with multiple crafts at the same time – knit and crochet, embroidery on knitted fabric, beads and embellishments – I’m here for it all!
How big a part, if any, does sustainability play in your work?
- Most of my knitting patterns are accessories that lend well to complimenting capsule wardrobes and the slow fashion movement. I encourage knitters to use quality yarn that will last the test of time and to only create projects that they love! There is no reason to make garments and accessories that will sit in the back of a closet collecting dust. And there definitely is no shame in undoing a project that you don’t love to reuse the yarn and make it the perfect part of your wardrobe – I’ve taken apart many shawls and sweaters to reuse the yarn for bigger and better ideas and projects!
Who (dead or alive) would you invite to the perfect knitting retreat?
- I would invite Patrick Stewart. I grew up watching Star Trek with my family, and after finding out that he is an avid knitter a few years ago, I would definitely invite him to a perfect knitting retreat. I’ve always heard him as being described as friendly, down-to-earth, and approachable, with a great sense of humor. He is also an advocate for human rights, domestic violence, and mental health. I think he would be a great guest at a knitting retreat!
What advice would you give to your beginner self?
- I would tell myself that there is no need to take knitting so serious! It’s just yarn, and all mistakes can be fixed, so take chances and play with color – you don’t need to use the same yarn or colors that a designer uses. I would also tell myself that it’s perfectly okay to make changes to a pattern if there is an element that I don’t like or prefer a different method – patterns are just “suggestions”. Finally, I recommend ignoring the “difficulty” level of patterns – with gumption and grit you can knit anything!
In one word, how would you describe your book?
1 fun fact about yourself that not many people know?
- I am absolutely terrified of snorkeling and I have no idea where the fear came from. I’ve never been much of a swimmer, but I have been snorkeling just twice in my life – the second time was in knee deep water in Hawaii, and I managed to have a panic attack seeing all those little fish swimming around. My husband was so confused because the water was shallow enough I could have just stood up. I know it’s a silly fear, but I still have nightmares!
What’s next for you?
- I am excited to dive deeper into helping new designers grow their businesses. I teach a course called “Shawl Design Unraveled’ – a six-week course designed to take knitters from ideation to publication of their first shawl pattern. While I wrote Mosaic Knitting Workshop, I had to put the course on hold, so I’m thrilled to begin teaching again! I also love coaching budding designers one-on-one to create efficient systems and processes in their business so they can reach their financial goals and spend more time doing what they love to do — knit.
- My daughters have also been very patient over the past year, and I promised them that I will knit them each a couple of stuffed animals and a new sweater each! It’ll be fun to knit other designers’ patterns for a while.
- I am also excited to have a bit more time to get into some new crafts – I want to dabble in punch needle and macrame, and we own quite a few pieces of antique furniture that I want to flip.
You can order Ashleigh’s book here through Bookmarked Hub and with all good retailers. Mosaic Knitting Workshop publishes June 6th, 2023 and is published by David & Charles.