SPECIAL Deborah Newton

SPECIAL Deborah Newton episode is the way we choose to close out the 2015 year of the Yarn Thing podcast with Marly Bird.Deborah Newton profile pic

Deborah called us from Providence, Rhode Island, to make our Wednesday episode special. This is the first time she’s been our guest. She said she knitted garter-stitch potholders for the first ten years of her knitting experience, having learned from her mother as a child. ‘Purling seemed superfluous’ she says. Even when she discovered Elizabeth Zimmerman books on the shelves in college, knitting in the round meant that she could still put it off mostly, then Barbara G Walker’s books, and discovering a love of swatching changed everything.

Her first sweater was a drop-shoulder Lopi pullover. At the time, working in theater, not really following a pattern, seeing designs in magazines, she thought she would give it a try. She submitted her first design to McCalls and saw her design photographed backwards! Her husband was trying to pursue a writing career, and she wanted to be a freelance designer, so, she continued on. Her mother-in-law had purchased for her some of her favorite yarn, so she created her first design with it to submit that first time, she describes it as a sampler of stitches. She has designed fabrics for Seventh Avenue, designed for many companies and become an author. Her love of fabrics, watching the trends and garment shapes, she sees herself as a garment maker.

In her new book, Deborah Newton bookGood Measure: Knit a Perfect Fit Every Time, she thinks the working for the measurement of a body is more important than the body’s shape is a priority. We learned more about that as she continued to chat with us.

Deborah says when she designs she creates the body before the edges. Marly referenced her earlier book ‘Designing Knitwear‘, Deborah says there is no right way, she was self-taught, basically sitting down and figuring it out for yourself. It came about that Deborah went to visit Trisha Malcolm at Sixth & Spring with a book proposal. Trisha said we’re really not interested in her idea but rather a book about fit. This challenged Deborah to present it in a way that others would understand. Deborah actually countered with a book about finishing, an idea which everyone in the back liked. She also says sometimes it’s as simple as looking at what’s in your own closet.

‘Nothing works unless you test it first’ must be the reason Deborah swatches with fondness. Taking the pattern stitches she wants to work with, finding how the stitch patterns work together, starting with smaller swatches, working with larger swatches to combine the things found with the smaller swatches. ‘Swatching is totally my success story’, she says, ‘You can’t guess how something is going to work out.’ Working out how design elements work out, looking for beautiful, declining what’s not exciting enough. She says the swatch never lies, that sometimes we let our brain misinterpret what the swatch tells us. It’s about being inspired, not necessarily about gauge, and it’s a safety net.

Some design elements, like a drawstring or a pleat. She knows what her gauge is, she will work up a schematic drawing, to help visualize how deep the detail should be. Swatching still helps to work out the details. And still, after years of designing, she experiences designer troubles. Always looking to make things complicated for herself, she thought up a long cardigan, with a fine gauge yarn, the over 300 stitches and it was wrong… due yesterday. ‘I could do this ahead of time and I wouldn’t want to kill myself.’ Do we learn from her example? Must Swatch!

Deborah does mention something unusual, in that she doesn’t block unless it’s a lace shawl that needs stretched. She says that not blocking helps the fabric keep it’s bounce, that the seams and edges set the shape, sometimes a yarn may need a little steam to fluff it up (check the ball band from the skein) but the finishing is really what sets the garment. She advises, ‘Life’s to short to block’.

She people-watches for new ideas, or will see something in a movie or on tv that inspires her. Every season she says there’s a new raglan, she likes to see what new thing has been done with it. She says she doesn’t crochet, but like a lot of us, would like to combine knitting and crochet in a single design.

The new book, Good Measure, she says is her gift to the knitting community. Encouraging the use of schematics and their simple and necessary, knowing how to measure correctly and learning how they work with the design. Understanding ease, silhouette and fabric and how it affects the garment. Alterations in the pattern within the stitch, like cables and lace, can help to fit. Really, she is telling us we can be designers.

You can follow Deborah Newton in Ravelry at her designer page. I don’t find a website or Ravelry Group, which probably leaves her free to design more interesting garments for us!

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  1. Vicki Lynch says:

    You come very highly recommended by Marly, so I know your book might just be what I need to get a good fit. I love that you’re self taught and yet your books are used as a text for those studying how to do this at art schools. I’m excited to read your book and apply the techniques. It’s on my Christmas list.

  2. Brittany says:

    I’ve just started knitting more sweaters for myself. I think most of them have fit due to luck rather than technique. My hope is to become more confident in modifying patterns to get a truly good fit as I continue to make garments for myself.

  3. Jessica says:

    Well, I am 3 for 3 on sweater failures so far! I can’t wait to use this book to get a good fit! Thank you, Deborah Newton!

  4. Kathy mccann says:

    I loved this show and can’t wait to see Deborah’s new book. I struggle with pattern alterations all the time and can’t wait to see this new book so I can finally figure out how to get a good fit.

  5. Ramona says:

    I absolutely loved this episode. I’ve been following Deborah almost since I started knitting. One of my 2016 goals is to knit my first garment and I am determined to get a good fit. Otherwise it will feel like a lot of time wasted! Thanks for the great information.

  6. Louise says:

    It was a pleasure to learn about Deborah. Her book seems like a necessity for knitting sweaters in order to get a good fit.

  7. Linda C says:

    I have never knit a sweater since I’m afraid that I won’t get a good fit. Maybe with the help of this book, I could. I really enjoyed the podcast with Marly and Deborah.

  8. Jamie Grimshaw says:

    Loved this podcast. Who hasn’t dreamed of changing designs up but are to afraid of not being able to get a good fit? I am going to find Deborah’s other books today so I can have her in my library. Thanks

  9. Dawna says:

    I would love to have Deborah’s new book do that every sweater I knit will be a good fit. With all the time invested in knitting a garment it is so important to get a good fit.

  10. hotknittter says:

    That is my #1 goal in knitting garments – to get a good fit. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all achieved that? I plan to get Deborah’s book.
    hotknitter on Rav

  11. Seven (say it just like the number) says:

    I try to get a good fit every time, but it has been hit or miss so far.
    Deborah is awesome. Thanks for getting her on the podcast, Marly and Tammy!

  12. Mary L. says:

    I have been putting off making a sweater for myself because I was afraid that I would not be able to get a good fit. Sounds like Deborah’s book is just what I need!

  13. Lisa Smith says:

    I do need to get a good fit and this book may he the exact thing to get me there! Good Measure. sounds interesting.

  14. hotknitterf says:

    There seems to be a problem with my earlier comment – the message keeps saying it’s awaiting moderation, and 2 comments have been added after mine. So I’m resubmitting. Please disregard the problem one.
    That is my #1 goal in knitting garments – to get a good fit. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all achieved that? I plan to get Deborah’s book.
    hotknitter on Rav

  15. Valerie K says:

    Every knitter wants to get a good fit on every project we make. I am looking forward to learning more about how to make this happen

  16. Michelle says:

    This interview was most certainly a good fit. The book sounds like exactly what I need. I so wish there was a crochet version as well….

  17. Wendy Senter says:

    I haven’t made too many sweaters for myself but my goal is to do that. Good Measure would help me get a good fit the first time so I don’t get discouraged! Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy for my library.

    Wendy (Wendeluu on Ravelry)

  18. Colleen says:

    a good fit is what distinguishes a beautiful statement versus, as you always say Marly, “oh sweetheart did you make that?” Great show. Love the focus on gauge swatch in the design process.

  19. Trisha says:

    I’d love to get a good fit in everything.
    Please ignore my first 2 comments – something seems to be wrong re moderation.
    hotknitter on Rav

  20. kathy b. says:

    Thanks, Marly, for this wonderful episode. I loved hearing Deborah’s perspective, and her encouragement and wisdom about us all being able to get a good fit in our knitted garments.

  21. Irene Marks says:

    I really enjoyed hearing more about Deborah’s process, and thoughts. It is so different than just reading. I’ve knit some sweaters but I’d love to get a good fit or make some changes in the patterns myself. Thank you

  22. SallyFromIdaho says:

    I would love to have Deborah’s new book so every sweater I knit will be a good fit. With all the time invested in knitting a garment it is important to get a good fit.

  23. Anita says:

    this might be my favorite episode. All throughout it I kept having ah-ha moments like the hilarious discussion on blocking. I knit sweaters and fit isn’t generally a problem but I also don’t think the fit is always perfect. Maybe with Deborah Newton as inspiration this will be the year of the perfect fit. It is important to get a good fit will be my new mantra.

  24. Johnny says:

    I would love to win this book and get a good fit! I have finally purchased enough yarn to make a sweater this year with this book I will be unstoppable!

  25. Thekla says:

    Deborah, now I want to knit all the sweaters!…with your help, of course. I think it may be possible to get a good fit now! You are such an inspiration. Thank you.

  26. Suzanne says:

    My goal for this year is to make a sweater for myself. I’m casting on my swatch soon because I know that having a good fit will start with getting gauge. Loved the banter between you two!

  27. Rachel Catherine says:

    I had been intimidated to knit a full size sweater for years in fear of messing up the fit, but it worked out fine for both the sweater I made for myself and for my husband in 2015. I think Deborah’s book is just what I need to gain the skills and confidence to achieve a good fit in the sweaters I knit.

  28. Lori Biamonte says:

    I knit all the time but am sometimes hesitant about sweaters because I never seem to get a good fit. I need this book!

  29. Amy L. says:

    I have been putting off starting my first knit sweater because I am intimidated about taking on such a complex project and investing so much money in a project that may not work. After listening to Deborah I feel more confident that I will be able to get a good fit and will be thrilled with the outcome! Thanks so much!

Marly Bird

The One and Only, Marly

Marly is a knitwear and crochet designer (and yarn addict) that is here to help you learn how to knit and crochet in a way that's fun and approachable.

Meet Marly

Knitting & Crochet Patterns for Every Mood
A cartoon image of a joyful chicken, sitting comfortably in a green armchair, knitting happily with blue yarn, surrounded by pink and white flowers, looking for DIY project ideas. -Marly Bird

Netflix & Chill

Simple projects for when you want to relax and zone out

A colorful illustration of a white rabbit with a unicorn horn, nestled among multi-colored leaves arranged like a fan behind it, projects every mood of peacefulness and whimsy. -Marly Bird

Social Butterfly

Frustration-free projects that you can easily work on in public areas

A whimsical illustration of a white chicken adorned with pink flowers and light pink butterflies, featuring flowing tail feathers and a playful pose, all set against a simple white background, perfect for mood-based projects. -Marly Bird

Smooth Jazz

Projects that require a bit more intense focus (but music is nice!)


Shhh Be Quiet!

Advanced projects requiring deep focus (but a big payoff, too!)