Designer Spotlight: Andrea Rangel and Rugged Knits

Andrea Rangel’s first book, Rugged Knits, is a collection of 24 knitting patterns designed for practical wearing and enjoyable knitting. As a long-time fan of Andrea’s work, I was immediately drawn to the pieces in this collection. They’re all timeless pieces, inspired by a wide range of knitting styles and fashions, and infinitely wearable. I know Andrea to be an adventurous spirit, from bicycling around the Netherlands to working with the Peace Corps, and the projects in Rugged Knits are the kind of knitting patterns you can take anywhere, on any adventure. I would absolutely wear every single project in this book—you know, if I found the time to knit them all. My favorites are the Braided Brook sweater (those gorgeous cables!) and the Woolen Explorer, but there’s something in here for every knitter. Read on for more on the book!

Describe Rugged Knits in your own words. What inspired you to create Rugged Knits? How does this book reflect your own knitting life?
Rugged Knits is a book chock full of practical, beautiful knitting patterns. You’ll find sweaters, shawls, socks, mitts, and hats in a pretty huge variety of styles because that’s how I’ve always worked. I can’t seem to restrict myself to any niche in knitting–I want them all! Getting to reflect that variety in this book was a thrill for me, and it adds to the long-lasting nature of the book. I hope that if you’re on a cable kick right now, you’ll find projects to excite you, and next year, when you’re hot for steeking, this book will be there for you too. One of the great joys of my professional life is hearing from knitters who have branched out from their established skill set to do new, challenging work, and joyfully built confidence in their own abilities and creativity in the process. That feeling drives my own knitting too; I’m seriously motivated by doing hard things that I’ve never tried and then getting more and more exacting. The patterns in Rugged Knits are part of that process. It was a challenge and I’m so proud to see it out in the world!

You have traditional Aran-inspired cables alongside Lopi sweaters—how did you go about balancing different ideas?
Balancing my creative impulses to build a cohesive portfolio is a constant work in progress for me since I love working in all the modes that knitting offers. For Rugged Knits I had a strong thread running through the project. “Rugged” means that each design is something that can be worn in all kinds of active pursuits while maintaining versatility to be just right for more relaxed times. It also means that I expect to still be wearing them in ten years, so the patterns are more classic than trendy, and they all include construction details to make them last, like seams in all the right places and snug gauges for sturdy fabric. The patterns do draw from a huge well of knitting traditions, but the rugged theme brings them all together. And I have to give big props to the Interweave photography and styling team, as well as my book designer for interpreting my vision so clearly. They really nailed it and I’m so grateful.

You’ve created pattern collections before, but what challenges did you face in creating a full book’s worth of designs?
Rugged Knits is definitely my biggest collection so far, and all of the patterns were planned out and approved before I started working on any of them. The process of planning took about a month of full time work, and I had many more concepts than made it into the book, so a big challenge was just to weed ideas out. Fortunately I had help both from my husband and from my acquisitions editor at Interweave. Their feedback really honed the collection down to what you see in the finished book. The other challenge was a physical one. I created all the samples myself, and combined with writing all of the patterns, it was quite the workload. I loved knitting the samples, though, and I’m glad I did.

What role did yarn choice play in the final designs that made it into the book?
Yarn choice was a huge part of the planning process. I had a color palette in mind and very specific requirements for the yarn characteristics. Being familiar with a wide variety of yarns was incredibly helpful during that stage. For Braided Brook I needed a yarn with popping stitch definition, but I also wanted the slightest halo to soften it up and bring a touch of elegance. Berroco Ultra® Alpaca was actually the first yarn I thought of, and after swatching up the cables, I knew it was perfect.

Berroco Blackstone Tweed® had just the right colors to balance the collection, and that tweedy texture and softness meant it would give the rustic quality I was looking for to the textured stitch pattern. There was a lot of swatching in the decision-making process, and I so appreciated Berroco’s generosity in working with me on this project!

What is one place that you’d like to take your Rugged Knits on a new adventure?
I’d love to do a cycle tour along the West Coast. I picture layering my Silhouette Baselayer with my Elderberry Road Cardigan on chilly mornings and watching the ocean roll by.

Thank you, Andrea, for taking the time to tell me more about the book! I can’t wait for the book to be available so I can start knitting—if you want to pre-order your own copy of Rugged Knits, you can do so here (Amazon link). You can also purchase and download the digital edition from the Interweave website.

Let us know which patterns you’re loving from Rugged Knits in the comments!

-AP

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