Designer Spotlight: Tonia Barry

Peony knit in Provence

Tonia Barry is a prolific designer who has not only been published in many of the magazines and websites we read religiously, but has designed some of our most popular Spring 2011 pieces. We are also lucky enough to see her every day as a member of our in-house design team.

You can see her self-published work at Tonia Barry Designs, or in the pages of Twist Collective, Knitscene, Creative Knitting, and Cast On, among others. A quick Ravelry search revealed over 600 Tonia-Barry-designed projects! We recently chatted about her design process, how she got into this crazy business, and her work for the Classic Elite Spring Collection.

Sandpiper knit in Seedling

How long have you been designing?
I’d have to say Barbie was the first model to wear my designs. Barbie had some really stylish outfits fashioned by me. I grew up in a family of talented women who always got together (and still do) to knit and work on various crafty endeavors. I fell in love with knitting in the early 90’s and as soon as I started knitting, I started changing things on patterns and then designing my own pieces. But professionally, I’ve been designing since 2004.

Calliope Vest
Calliope Vest

How did you get started? What's the first piece you ever designed?

I started putting design proposals together and sending them out. My first published design was actually for CEY. It was a bolero in a yarn called Calliope.

At this point, I started my own line, Tonia Barry Designs; my patterns are currently available online and in shops throughout New England. I also continued to do pieces for CEY and some of the knitting magazines. One day, I met an industry icon at a book signing and asked her if she would mentor me in trade for some knitting. She did not take me up on the knitting, but did spend her time teaching me how to put my portfolio together and how to fix some design issues I was having. Her help was invaluable to me. It was very much a “Pay it Forward” situation. She even bought some of my designs for her company.

What pieces did you design in the Spring Collection?
In High Seas- Parkhurst and Bailey; Garden Gate- Peony; Cricket- Shanda; Seedling-Sandpiper; Seaside- Nigh Duck; Rocky Coast-Landlubber; Shoreline-Vista; Wee Ones- Chloe; Home Sweet Home- Envelope, Center Cable, Patchwork and Stripe, Round pillows, Wine Bottle Bag.


What is the timeline for one of your designs, from swatch to pattern to sample?
I have some design ideas that have been lingering in one of my notebooks for years until some spark brings them to the forefront. Yet with others I will sketch it up, swatch it, and the pattern is off to a test knitter in a week or so. We started designing and swatching Spring 2011 back in February of 2010.

Do you use test knitters?
Yes, test knitters are as much a major component of a successful design and pattern as are technical editors. Test knitters work closely with me to work out any kinks in my initial pattern. I am fortunate to work with some very talented and conscientious test knitters.


What is your "design process"?
I normally start with a sketch, then play around with stitches in a swatch. The first thing I normally do when I’m ready to start writing the pattern is the schematic and then I go from there.

Where do you do your design work? What does your "creative space" look like?
Here at CEY, I design in my office. I have a mannequin to drape pieces on. I also have several baskets of yarn. I switch out the yarns based on the season that I am working on. Yarn is a great design inspiration for me. At home, in the winter I work in “my office”. Again, another dress form and bowls of yarn. But my favorite place to work is on my deck on a sunny summer day when the birds are chirping and the flowers blooming.

A recent Web Letter pattern, the Seedling Wrap

What is your favorite piece you designed for the Spring Collection? What was your inspiration?


My favorite piece for the Spring Collection is Parkhurst. It’s no secret that I love Silky Alpaca Lace. This yarn itself inspires me. I love playing with charts and lace stitches. In Parkhurst I wanted to create a shawl that was interesting but simple. I find that sometimes I need a little therapeutic mindless knitting, so therefore the stockinette stitch panel between the lace panel. I’m making one for myself as we speak, along with several members of my knit-night.

1 comment:

  1. This was a great article. I like to get inside the head of designers. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete