I’ve followed Romi Hill’s work for a number of years and I love the way she constructs a project, making it a hugely satisfying knit. Over the last couple of months, she has been tempting us with sneak previews of her latest book, New Lace Knitting, and now you can get your hands on it here.
The book is so much bigger and meatier than I expected and begins with some great hints and tips -essential reading to unlock the beauty of lace knitting. Each chapter focuses on a lace technique or stitch and then explores it through projects that have detailed patterns and elegantly written instructions so there is sure to be something that takes your fancy.
I was intrigued to know more so I doorstepped Romi via email to find out a bit more about what makes her tick. I found the answers she sent back so fascinating that I haven’t edited them at all, so I hope you enjoy learning more about this amazing designer.
JB: What is your background?
RH: I have a fairly varied background, so here goes! I am the knitting black sheep of a crocheting family, and my mother taught me to crochet in preschool. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I also made jewelry and took art/drawing lessons. My mother sewed all of our clothes (including her business suits), and she taught me sewing and tailoring. It’s funny looking back how much I wanted ready made clothing. I especially remember my mother making me a full circle skirt for folk dancing; I was so jealous of the girls with (less full) store-bought skirts! It’s crazy; I appreciate it all so much now, but back then I just had no idea how lucky I was.
When I was 9, I begged and begged and begged my mother to teach me to knit; she finally relented and I became hooked. I knit off and on throughout high school and college. I was a musician (French horn) and so there was time to knit in pit orchestras and rehearsals. I went off to major in music in college (Carnegie-Mellon and Eastman School of Music), and I frequented the sale bins of all the local yarn shops. I used to buy whatever was on sale and make up sweaters that used all the yarn. I didn’t know any better at the time! I had a couple of disasters (which oddly enough were when I tried to use a pattern), but mostly it worked out well. I knit a lot on tour and in the recording studio where I worked.
When I graduated, I decided horn playing wasn’t what I wanted to do (I am a frustrated trumpet player at heart). I went on to get a master’s in recording engineering and broadcast communications, but as much as I truly love music, I am much more of a visual person. I worked in the corporate world for awhile doing marketing and then ended up getting married and having a small ad agency with my husband who used to be a photographer. When I was pregnant with my second son and so sick to my stomach I couldn’t get off the couch, I started knitting after a hiatus. I found the internet knitting community and never put the needles down again! There are just so many techniques, and new things to learn!
JB: What inspires you?
RH: Beauty inspires me: nature, architecture, texture, art, color, graffiti, clothing, folk art, furniture. When I take walks, I let my mind wander and it pieces things together.
JB: When and why were you drawn to lace knitting?
RH: I’ve actually puzzled on that. I really think it’s the geek in me. I loved geometry in high school (I even tutored it), and I like playing with patterns and progressions. Also, my grandmother used to crochet fine lace. I think I must have been marked at an early age!
JB: Which other designers do you admire – whose book would you buy?
Wow. That’s such a difficult question! There are SO many people I admire. So I’ll just tell you some books that have really stuck in my head lately: Sequence Knitting by Cecelia Campochiaro, Knitting Fresh Brioche by Nancy Marchant, Yokes by Kate Davies, A Gathering of Lace by Meg Swanson, Victorian Lace by Jane Sowerby, Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan. But today there are so many amazing self publishing designers as well! I can’t list them all, but I do follow most of them on Instagram. 🙂
For a reference book, I love Katarina Buss’ Big Book of Knitting. Excellent!
JB: Which are your favourite yarns?
RH: Oh my. Lucky me, I got to use a lot of them in my book! Right now I am really loving knitting with Bare Naked Wools from Knitspot. The range of fibers and amazing natural colors is dreamy! And I’ve been knitting a lot with Elemental Affects American-grown Shetland wool. I love it sooooo much. I’ve been cocooning with my wool knitting in front of the fire. So satisfying!
JB: Any secret hints or tips for successful lace knitting?
RH: Definitely! In fact, I have a list of my lace knitting rules in New Lace Knitting right up front. But most importantly? Swatch and block your swatch! Then you’ll know your ugly shrivelled little duckling will turn into a beautiful swan, and you won’t be able to put the needles down until you see the magic happen at the end.
Also – and maybe just important – be patient with yourself. Lace is frustrating at first, but then it clicks. It’s kind of like learning to ride a bicycle. Once you know how to do it, you wonder how you ever could have fallen off so many times.