Designer Spotlight: Elena Nodel

Maya modeling her Summer Days cardigan
My name is Elena Nodel, and I am a mom to a very industrious, busy, ever curious and adventurous little girl. Her name is Maya, and she is my ever present inspiration for all my creative ideas, and the spark that reignited my interest in knitting and designing. I was born and raised in Russia, a place where knitting is part of a lifestyle. It is not uncommon to see moms and grandmas knitting in the parks and playgrounds while watching kids play. As a child I was curious and fascinated enough with their work to actually sit and learn from the ladies. I made my first knitted piece at the age 7. Afterward, I knitted a piece here and there, but nothing serious. Only when I started knitting for my own daughter did my passion for knitting truly blossom. I am a trained microbiologist/immunologist, and have spent years doing scientific research. It might be surprising to some people to see me as a knitwear designer now. People that know me well were not at all surprised when after our daughter was born I became passionate about knitting. I have always been artistic and imaginative from as long as I remember.

Elena's home in Norilsk, Siberia
How long have you been designing? 
Kids wear is such a personal preference for parents, and I saw little in stores that I liked. So I picked up my needles again, and here I am, and I have been knitting and designing for the last 5 years now.

How did you get started? 
My very first design was a sleeveless dress with some lace elements (Pink Lacey Spring Dress), which was dearly loved. I was so happy with my work, I absolutely had to bring and show it to Diane Debray, the owner of my favorite yarn store Wool and Wicker. It was Diane’s idea that I should make it into the pattern; with Diane’s positive feedback and encouragement over the next few months that followed I started to write down my patterns as my blog posts at first, and then started turning them into the actual patterns later.

How did you get started publishing designs?
I discovered Ravelry, and initially used it as my knitting notebook. I was very surprised when others showed such a great interest in my work. My original patterns had only 1-3 sizes the most, and the number of request to upsize or downsize my patterns was overwhelming. So it was only natural to create proper patterns and offer them to the online world. I have learned a great deal over the last 5 years, and developed a new respect for all the designers out there, as writing patterns is not always easy and there is always a lot of background work involved that regular knitters do not see.

Do you use test knitters?
Always! After my prototype is made, I write and size my pattern, then send it to my test knitters to make sure that my math holds to the actual test. Since my patterns cover sizes from baby to teenagers, I want to be sure that my adjustments for each age group are proper and the garment fits each age group as intended. I am very fortunate to work with a group of very talented knitters who test knit my designs, always challenge me to be a better writer, and trust my ideas no matter how crazy they might seem. We have a great dynamic and constantly learn from each other. Some of my designs would not be available in so many sizes without these wonderful people.

The Maxi Dress
What's the first piece you ever designed?
As I mentioned earlier, my very first piece was Pink Lacey Spring Dress, however I did not feel like I made a proper design till I created Maxi Top/Dress. It was my first fully written, sized, and tested pattern. I wanted to create a design that would grow with my girl, that would be easy to knit, and easy to wear for a little kid. I think I have succeeded with my goal and more. This design is the one I have knitted the most, both as gifts to others and as staple wardrobe pieces for my daughter. It was also my very first exposure to properly sizing a pattern. I remember being very intimidated by the process.

What is the timeline for one of your designs, from swatch to pattern to sample?
Some designs transition from the idea to the garment easily; I sketch the idea, choose yarn, stitch work, do my math, and start knitting. Other patterns can take months to develop. For example, it took me only 2 days for my Tropical Fish Skirt and Summer Days top to transition from the idea to the actual prototype garment. Yet, it took another couple of months to write, size, and test the patterns before they were presented to the knitting community. On the other hand, my Tomboy Cardigan was months in making. I had the idea long before I started working on the prototype, and I must admit that I lost some sleep over it, thinking of every little detail I wanted to be there. I had Tomboy cardigan in sketch form for about 5-6 months until I found a construction method that fit perfectly with my idea of what the design should be like. Since the construction method is fairly new (contiguous set-in sleeves), it took a couple of prototypes to finalize the design. Overall the whole process for this particular design took about 8-9 months to transition from the original sketch to the fully written and tested pattern.

The Tomboy Cardigan
What is your “design process”?
I put a lot of thought and effort in each of my designs. My “design process” always starts with an idea and or inspiration that transition into a sketch. I do not start working on the prototype unless I am absolutely sure about every single detail that will go into the design. While working on a new design, I can spend hours looking for the right yarn and color, making several swatches. I would sometimes rip the whole garment out and start from scratch just because the construction method I chose was not working exactly as I envisioned, the elements I was trying to combine were not flowing together well, or the yarn I chose was not quite right for the project. As you can see it is quite a process, but I thoroughly enjoy it, otherwise I would not be designing! One thing I don't like doing much is seaming, therefore I tend to knit and design in the round as much as possible or find ways to bring down seaming to a bare minimum.


Where do you do your design work? What does your "creative space" look like?
Nothing says Zen to me like being surrounded by lots of colorful yummy yarn. My knitting and yarn followed me everywhere in the house, or rather every room had yarn and one of the numerous projects I always have on the go. That was the case till I got my own work room! I have a computer desk that has my working notebook, markers, scissors, calculator, and measuring tape right in front of me. All my other tools and yarn for all the projects in progress are within an arm’s reach on a study desk next to me. I have a very comfy Lazy Boy chair, where I like to sit and knit, while watching Netflix on my computer. And of course, it is also surrounded by yarn and projects.

My Honey Cardigan from the Spice Girls 2 eBook

What is your favorite piece you designed? What was your inspiration?
My newest project tends to be my favorite, though I do have a couple of designs that stand out for me for one reason or the other. My newest release is “My Honey” cardigan for my Spice Girls 2 ebook. It was a bit challenging to design as I wanted to have lace yoke and at the same time keep it very simple for a large range of sizes. I found a very elegant solution and was very happy with the result. I would say it was one of my knitting experiments that went very well. My other two designs that I really love are “Color Me Pretty Hat” and “Fancy Guppy Skirt”. I love the hat because it provides the knitter with so many different color possibilities and fits. I have made 6 of those hats myself, and there will be many more next winter! I love the skirt because it is so “IN” right now with the fashion, and it is such a great stash buster for all the odd left over yarns. It also provides a lot of visual fun while changing and combining various colors together; the design lends so many different possibilities to a knitter. Another reason I love this skirt so much is because it was inspired by my beloved Missoni line.

Missoni-inspired Fancy Guppy skirt
What advice would you give someone who is interested in knit design?
Follow your inspiration - there is no wrong or right, don’t be afraid to start. If you have an idea, write it down; you will be surprised how quickly you might forget it! If you are very new to the whole scene, find test knitters and treat them very nicely– they will help you a lot along your way, and who knows, you might build long lasting friendships. I sure did! Designing knitwear is a constant learning curve; challenge yourself, do your research, but most importantly HAVE FUN!

To learn more about Elena Nodel and her work, visit her website or her Ravelry page.


9 comments:

  1. dianedebray@shaw.caMay 1, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    This is Diane DeBray. Watch this lady, she is starting to design for adults as well, and she has many great ideas coming up. She is a natural, and her scientific training has helped her become a very successful online knitwear designer. I think she will be a star some day soon. Go girl!

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  2. Nice profile, Classic Elite! It was wonderful to go behind the scenes with this talented designer.

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  3. Nice dress,very comfort and nice color,it's a better choice for baby girl but in my opinion parents should be choosy and buy comfortable,sophisticated cloths.

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  4. Very exciting to read about Elena. I've learned so much about knitting while using her easy to follow patterns. The items I've made for my nieces and as baby gifts are always appreciated!

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  5. I love those girl's dresses. And I absolutely love that circle jacket. Can you imagine its made of yarns? This certainly inspired me, would be great if I can make one of those jackets through knitting.

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  6. I would also like to thank Elena, since some of my first projects were her creation and as most knitters I also became obsessed (should I thank for this:).I learnt and am still learning from her experience and I congratulate her on the choice of colors for her garments. The simplicity of perfection...

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  7. wow really nice dress. these dresses are really good. but parents should choose comfortable dress for their girls.
    online baby toys

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  8. Baby Frock provides extra comfort and easy to your baby girl. It is very stylish makes your centre of attraction and look like princess.

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  9. The yarn designed winter clothes for baby and kids look more attractive and are undoubtedly warm. I too bought for my baby girl Gia from http://www.snapdeal.com/products/baby-clothing and have a complete album of her in different knitted winter dresses.

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