If you live in Toronto and you knit, crochet, spin, weave or tat, chances are you’ve come across Robbie Laughlin somewhere. A regular on the Toronto knitting scene, Robbie has worked in yarn shops, taught classes and workshops, given talks, presentations and newspaper interviews, and he still manages to find time to design stunning, wearable handknits for Estelle Yarns!
Robbie has designed ten contemporary, upscale patterns for Estelle Yarns over the past few years, as well as his own self-published patterns on Ravelry, and he’s just released his first pattern book! Seriously, we just can’t figure out where he finds all the time!! Have a look at Robbie’s website – www.robbielaughlin.ca – to have a look at his extensive line of patterns.
While every single one of Robbie’s thirty-one patterns on Ravelry have been favourited by many knitters (favourites on Ravelry are indicated with a cute, little red heart), his Eclipse Shawl boasts an incredible 1092 hearts!! That’s a whole lot of love!
We caught up with Robbie a few weeks ago and he was kind enough to take the time to fit us into his busy schedule and answer a few questions for us.
How long have you been knitting?
I learnt as a child but have only picked it up again as an adult about 11 years ago.
Who taught you to knit?
As a child it was my grandmother. As an adult, it took many people to get me going – I was all thumbs at first and knit in a very odd way.
When did you start designing your own patterns?
Approximately 4 years ago, when I began working in a local yarn shop.
Do you have a favourite designer?
Jared Flood and Andrea Mowry.
Is there a designer who has inspired your work?
I take a lot of my math and shaping ideas from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books.
What inspires your work?
I try to find interesting shapes and textures in either nature or the way the city has been built up over the years.
What has your work as a designer changed in your life?
It’s made it very difficult for me to walk into a yarn store anonymously! But it has also allowed me to establish a number of very meaningful connections with shop owners and knitters – its pretty wonderful being able to have great conversations anywhere I go, and feeling so welcomed.
What are your favourite types of items to knit?
Selfishly, socks. Professionally – mittens or neckwear.
What’s your current favourite colour?
Do you have a favourite weight of yarn to work with?
Fingering to DK weight.
What is your preferred fibre?
Wool, or Wool/Alpaca Blends.
What other hobbies do you have?
When knitting became “work”, I found myself exploring other crafts for fun – my current favourites are embroidery like Sashiko or Crewel Work, and painting.
Do you have a favourite technique or tip you would like to share with us?
My favourite technique is cables – and I have a tip for making the cast on and bind off edges not flare out! Cast on for your cable 2 stitches narrower than you need it to be, and do an increase on either edge of the cable a row or two before the first crossing! Likewise, when you are at the end of a cabled piece, decrease one stitch on either side of the cable a row or two before you bind off. You’ll be surprised what a difference this makes to the finished look.
How did you come to design knitting patterns for Estelle Yarns?
I was working in a yarn shop and had just self-published my first or second pattern, and one of Estelle’s sales reps (Marsha) really liked what she saw – over the years she kept bringing me yarn to “just make something”, and I kept doing it! It’s actually writing patterns for Estelle that made me decide to design on a more regular basis.
How do you connect to or are involved with the knitting community?
I try to get out and visit as many shops, social gatherings or trade shows as I can. I also so some volunteer work teaching new knitters at youth groups and community centres.
Visit our website to download all ten of Robbie’s free patterns. With designs available for beginner and experienced knitters alike, Robbie has thought of everyone with his clever patterns!
If you plan on being at the Toronto Knitters Frolic this year, you can meet Robbie in person and have a look at all of his sensational designs. If you’ve completed a pattern using one of Robbie’s designs, bring it with you to show it off – every designer appreciates seeing their patterns come to life!
We would like to thank Robbie for all his work for Estelle Yarns and for kindly agreeing to this interview.