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Stefanie Japel has been a contributor to Knitty since 2003 -- her bell-bottomed mohair Postmodern Legwarmers were her first contribution to the magazine. Since then, her stylish sweater designs have appeared in Knitty multiple times and include the popular designs Bad Penny, Forecast, Cathode and Mesilla.

Her first book, Fitted Knits, was recently published by F&W, and she took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to talk to me about it.

Courtesy of Stefanie and her publisher, we're very pleased to offer a pattern from Fitted Knits in this issue of Knitty. You'll find it here.

Amy R Singer:  So, tell me about the book.

Stefanie Japel: Fitted Knits is a book of 25 knitting patterns for people who would like to make [or learn to make] garments that incorporate shaping elements. Like bust darts, waistline shaping, sleeve shaping. There is no learn to knit section; it just jumps right into the patterns.

AS: Who's your ideal knitter-reader?

SJ: My ideal knitter reader is someone who already knows the basics. They may or may not have knit a sweater before, but are ready to learn how. There are patterns ranging in difficulty from simple stockinette to cables and lace.

AS: Where do you get your design inspiration from?

SJ: I daydream a lot about clothes. I keep an eye on the runway shows and magazines, and find inspiration in the colors and shapes. Then I think about what of those elements are realistic and try to create designs that utilize some of these trends while still being knitable and wearable.

AS: Who's your favorite runway designer?

SJ: Marc Jacobs. His work is feminine, pretty, incorporates lots of elements that I'm into right now...little collars, puffy sleeves, big buttons. While girly, his work is also sophisticated, so it crosses traditional generational boundaries.

AS: Talk about your first submission to Knitty [which was rejected] and what made you not give up until you got in.

SJ:  My first submission was a tube shawl thing that's still in my free patterns section. Looking at it now, I can totally see WHY it didn't get in. I had been designing my own garments for a while and detailing the process on my blog. I was starting to get a lot of comments, asking for the patterns for various things. When Knitty came onto the scene, it was like, "FINALLY!" This was so perfect for me. So I got a little design together and wrote up the pattern and took some pictures....and didn't get in.

BUT! Persistence pays off. My second submission, the legwarmer pattern, did make it into the magazine. After some gentle coaching from the Knitty staff, I was able to get some decent photos, and the rest is history After that, I couldn't STOP designing. Knitty was where I got my start, and I'll always love Knitty! GO KNTTY!

AS: How did you get your book deal?

SJ: After you convinced me to stop giving my patterns away, I started designing downloadable patterns for the site. Shannon Okey introduced me to Tricia [Waddell] who was then at F&W and is now at Interweave, using my "for sale" patterns as a sort of introduction. She showed her my site, and then we put a proposal together, and that was it. I was really naive about the whole thing.

AS: Naive how?

SJ: I didn't go out looking for a book deal, it just sort of came to me. And I don't mean that in any kind of a bragging way. It didn't even really hit me what I was getting into until my first deadline. Then it was, "oh man. I have to design 25 sweaters."  Fast.

AS: How did you do that?

SJ:  I thought a lot about things I'd like to have in my own wardrobe. An a-line skirted dress, a little suit, a puffy-sleeved sweater or two. Then I started thinking about the things I had already designed and about ways that I could improve on them, or use some of their design elements in new garments. I'm really into the idea of customization of garments, and I wanted to show how a sweater that is designed to be loose like a tunic can be reinterpreted as something more form-fitting.

AS: What kept you going when you thought you never wanted to see another ball of yarn?

SJ: I just let out a huge sigh when you said that! Let's see...I think the deadlines helped, and knowing that there were other people depending on this getting done (like the photographer, book designer, etc.) My editor and my tech editor really kept me going at the end. They were encouraging and really helped a lot. Even now after the book's out, we're still talking about how to make it more successful.

AS: Are you ready to do another one? And is there one in the queue?

SJ: There are TWO in the queue. They're both on F&W, and I'll have the same editor for them. One is called "Glam Knits" and will use luxury fibers and designer yarns. The third one is called "From the Top" and the focus is on how to design sweaters knit from the top down.

AS: And that's your specialty, isn't it?

SJ: It's definitely how I first learned to make a sweater. I'm branching out from it in Glam Knits. It really is my favorite method. My grandmom always made top-downs and it's comforting, somehow. It feels like a tradition that I'm carrying on.

AS: What advice do you have for new designers who want to make a career out of designing?

SJ: I'm really overwhelmed by how things have turned out for me, and I can hardly believe it myself. I just recently got my first pattern accepted by Interweave took me years to get up the gumption.

AS: Why was Knitty less intimidating to submit to than print publications?

SJ: Knitty feels like home, in a way. The way it's written is really friendly. All of the people involved have blogs, it's open, seems relaxed. I just wanted to be a part of it. Really, really bad.

AS: Tell me one thing we don't know about you.

SJ: I dropped out of college after a year and it took me five years to go back. And now I have a book deal and a PhD.

AS: Cool.

To see more of Stefanie's design work and read her blog, visit her website.