Designer Spotlight: Sweaterbabe!

"As knitters, we can and should knit things that don’t just mimic the styles we could easily find at stores. . . it’s all the fine details, careful knitting, yarn choice, and interesting project elements that make each knitting project worthwhile."

Sweaterbabe is a pretty hard name to forget, and once you see her work, you'll have even more reason to remember it. Katherine Lee has been designing for about 10 years and knitting for over 30. Her designs are flattering and contemporary, and feature special little details that add a touch of femininity. Her fans couldn't agree more; Ravelry shows almost 4,000 projects knit in her designs! Katherine was kind enough to answer some questions, hope her answers leave you feeling inspired!

How long have you been designing? 
I’ve officially been a knitwear designer for about 10 years. Throughout my 30+ years of knitting, I’ve always improvised and altered patterns to suit my needs though, and the designing process has since proven to be my strength in this business.  Now, I really consider it my job to design interesting knitting projects that feature unexpected and interesting details that can define a project as hand-crafted and make the time my customers’ spend knitting them really fun and rewarding!
How did you get started?

I started by designing knitwear to be produced and sold in stores.  I designed entire lines of knits in baby alpaca, from sexy knit lace dresses to monogrammed baby cardigans.  In order to be able to produce the same designs more than once, I had to take meticulous notes and create charts to serve as really detailed production specifications.

This was only a few steps away from formally writing up complicated hand-knitting patterns...

As it became clear to me that I preferred the designing process vs. dealing with all of the production, marketing, and distribution issues that come with selling finished goods, I shifted towards developing designs where the knitting patterns themselves were the products. I quickly discovered that all the feminine, interesting, and textural details that I can include in my hand-knitting patterns (that were the costly design elements I had avoid when designing for production knitting) are the things that keep me and my customers happy and make my line unique and special!

Ruffled-Strap Tank from's Fabulous & Flirty Crochet
I created as my online shop to sell patterns directly to knitters, but to also offer a lot of advice and information on knitting that I did not find on the web at that time, e.g. like a Yarn Shop Directory that was comprehensive, free, and easily searchable.  That Yarn Shop Directory is still a very important service on my site and my pattern line has grown since to over 120 patterns!  Now, I have a mailing list of over 45,000 knitters and crocheters, hundreds of knitters who belong to my to enjoy all of my new patterns as free downloads each month, and a strong presence on 

And, I’m able to do this on a flexible work schedule so I can still be a stay-at-home/part-time working mom!  My 3 girls are still young, aged 3 to 8, and it’s so nice be a working mom with lots of flexibility and control over my time. 

Shawl Collared Wrap Cardigan from's Fabulous & Flirty Crochet
What's the first piece you ever designed (not necessarily for CEY)? How have your ideas/aesthetics changed since then? 
One of the first knitting patterns I offered through is a simple wavy lace scarf.

It is like many patterns in that it features a stitch pattern that creates a lovely, complicated-looking texture, but is actually quite easy and repetitive to learn.  It is a scarf that I still wear very often because it’s classic, but has an up-to-date feel (wider and longer than “old” scarves).  I still very much like to design things that can be wearable for many, many years, but never look dated because the details are modern.

Also, that scarf design required using a classic yarn that would show excellent stitch definition. Back then, and ever since, I’ve always preferred classic yarns (like Classic Elite!) vs. the novelty ones, because of their long wearability, sophisticated colors, and how they allow the true skill of the knitter’s work to be showcased.
What pieces have you designed in CEY yarn? 
I've designed many of my most popular knitting patterns in Classic Elite yarns!  My #69 Cables and Lace Kimono Wrap Cardigan in Princess (on Ravelry here) and #70 Lush and Lacy Cardigan in Lush (on Ravelry here) have been incredible best sellers.
I’ve also used Classic Elite yarns in at least 10 more designs, including several of the projects featured on the front and back covers of my book,’s Fabulous and Flirty Crochet (Rockport, 2006).  Most recently, I’ve used Classic Elite Montera yarn to create two fun one-ball hats, which I know will be great-selling patterns!
Three New Hat Designs
What is the timeline for one of your designs, from swatch to pattern to sample?
Lately, my design process can vary very much in length based on how many designs I’m simultaneously creating.  Generally though, I’d say 1 to 2 months from the first swatch through a finished pattern that’s been tech edited and is ready for sale.  Wow – that sounds faster than it feels!

Approximately how many patterns do you publish a year? 
Because I give at least one new pattern to my subscription-based members every single month, I currently publish at least 15 patterns each year.  I’d do more if I could find more time for it...and I plan to when my youngest begins Elementary school in a few years ;-)
Two sweater designs from

Do you use test knitters? 
No, never have.  I always knit the sample myself because much of my design process involves determining fit and detailing as I see the project progress.  Proportion and fit are very important to me, so I am constantly trying the sample on myself and sometimes ripping out entire sections to perfect the shaping and placement of details, like pockets or fancy waist shaping. 

Also, I’ve never felt a strong need for test knitters because I do have an excellent tech editor AND a loyal audience (especially my Knitting Club members!) that often knit up my new patterns incredibly fast.  They are also not shy about telling me if they spot any errors.  My best customers and Club members end up being great test knitters!

What is your "design process"?
I usually start with a yarn and a very vague idea of what I’d like to design. It’s very often based on what I want to add to my closet to wear that same season! 

I then get inspiration from people watching, shopping online, flipping through magazines, or just thinking about how best to use the yarn.  I’ll do a very simple sketch with notes on possible design details.  I’ll hunt for stitch patterns that will be incorporated into the design, and then I’ll swatch to get the different gauges needed.  The swatching always takes longer than I’d like, but I know that I need to do it since I can be extremely picky about how a yarn feels after it’s knit up in a certain stitch pattern and at a certain gauge.  Sometimes, even bumping the needle size up by one size can make the resulting fabric feel that much softer or let the stitch pattern show up that much better. . .
 #69 Cables and Lace Kimono Wrap Cardigan in Princess

Once I’ve got the gauges, I begin a lot of math to determine stitch count and stitch pattern placement, shaping, etc.  I knit and adjust, knit and sometimes rip back, knit, knit, knit – all the while taking lots of notes down on what I’m doing!
Once the finished sample is to my liking, I have to sit down and write out the pattern in additional sizes and do a lot more math, as well as making stitch charts, etc.  This pattern writing part can take a while, but I’ve got a process and pattern writing standards that my customers really appreciate!
Where do you do your design work? What does your "creative space" look like?
I do all of my design work at home, mostly in front of the TV at night, sitting next to my dear husband.  I prefer to do the knitting sitting comfortably on my couch vs. at a desk or work table.  Once the sample is finished however, I do take all my handwritten notes and the sample and park myself at my computer to do the sizing and writing up part.

Besides working on the couch in the living room and at the computer, I also have a room where I store all of my yarn and hundreds of samples in a big shelf.  I call this my “yarn wall.”  This room is also where my big blocking table and other knitting supplies are located. 

What is your favorite piece you've designed in CEY yarn and what endears it to you? What was your inspiration? 
My current favorite Classic Elite project is the #70 Lush and Lacy Cardigan!  When I designed it, I remember having a great a-ha moment deciding to create the nipped in back waist detail and then echoing this as part of the sleeve design.

#70 Lush and Lacy Cardigan in Lush

That little change really transformed a nice little cardigan into a very feminine, flattering, and “designed” sort of signature piece. This pattern has also had many lives because of sites like, where I’ve seen this pattern knit up by so many people, some of whom have done it multiple times in totally different yarns!

I believe the inspiration for the Lush and Lacy Cardigan really was that I wanted something that was unique, but in its subtle, lovely details, which is something I strive for in all of my designs.  As knitters, we can and should knit things that don’t just mimic the styles we could easily find at stores. . . it’s all the fine details, careful knitting, yarn choice, and interesting project elements that make each knitting project worthwhile.


  1. In your Lacy Leaf mitts, I don't understand the part where you are doing the thumb -Next rnd – thumb placement: P2, k13, p2, knit the next 5 sts with waste yarn and sl these sts back to LH needle, and knit to end of rnd with working yarn - can you you make this clearer? do I put stitches on waste and then knit with the waste????
    thanks for your help

  2. "Knit the next 5 sts with waste yarn" means to use a separate strand of yarn (any scrap of yarn you have handy, like 12-14" worth) to knit those sts, i.e. wrap the yarn around your RH needle tip to work the knit st, etc.

    Hope that helps! When you then get back to knitting the thumb, you will carefully take out this waste yarn to expose sts that will need to be picked up and knit to become the thumb.

  3. Anonymous, If I were reading that pattern, I would do the following: P2, K12, P2, then I would grab a piece of waste yarn the same approximate gauge as my working yarn and knit 5 stitches on the waste yarn. Then I would slide the 5 stitches made of waste yarn back onto the left hand needle, and would drop the waste yarn end and pick up the working yarn, and work the waste yarn stitches with the working yarn. If I then looked at the last 5 stitches on the right hand needle, the last three rows would look like a row of loops over the needle in the working yarn, with a row of waste yarn stitches under that and a row of working yarn stitches under that. My guess is that she is going to have you pick up the stitches on that bottom row and pick up the stitches on the next row of working yarn stitches with another needle, then pull out the waste yarn (and proceed to knit a bit of edging around the thumb hole.)

  4. In your Lovely Lacey Mitts, the Lace Stitch says Rep rows 1-16 for pattern. However, in the Est pattern portion, it reads "Cont working as est through row 16 of Lace Stitch then work rows 1-11 once more, ending the last row 2 sts before the end". I'm a new knitter and don't understand the instructions. After I finish the Lace Stitch Row 1-16, where do I go? Thanks so much! Beautiful pattern!

    1. Hi Anonymous, as i read it, after you finish one full rep of the lace pattern, you go back to row one and work the chart only until row 11, ending the 11th row 2 stitches before the end.

  5. Great interview! Katherine, I enjoyed the insight into your design process. I'm a budding designer myself, and it was fun to compare my approach with yours. Interestingly, they are very similar :-)

  6. Katherine the interview was great reading. It gave insight to you and your design process. I love your designs and enjoy knitting them. I wish I had a figure that they would flatter, I would love to wear them.

  7. Great interview Katherine...can I please have your yarn wall?! I'm so jealous. Your patterns are great and I love getting your emails. Continue your fab work!