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As we make the designs in Field Guide No. 20: Atlas, we wonder where Erika Knight finds inspiration for these modern, minimalist patterns. Here she is, in correspondence with our creative director for the Field Guide series, Melanie Falick.

—Ann and Kay

Melanie Falick: I listened to an interview in which you spoke of starting to knit while at art school and always intentionally including holes and ladders in your work, as was de rigueur during the punk era. It seems that you have held onto that punk inclination to deconstruct and embellish, as we see in the projects designed for Field Guide No. 20: Atlas. What were you thinking about while designing these pieces?

Erika Knight: Well, I don’t know about “intentionally”—it was more of a case of it didn’t really matter if you ended up with holes and ladders, you could just add a safety pin and wear with a bit of a swagger! And punk was all about embracing the raw edges and taking things back to basics.

But now that I know how to knit pretty well, as well as all the tricks and techniques to finish something to make it look “shop bought,” I definitely like to deliberately make a few holes, let the stitches run down a ladder, and embrace those idiosyncrasies of the hand made.

So that push and pull of constructing a textile and being aware of how it is made leads to a deconstructed aesthetic. I am a big fan of Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and Martin Margiela and their challenging of the normalised garment shape, and of traditional femininity, radically reassessing this and exaggerating organic forms, revealing the structure, and putting it front and centre. I love external seams, the “wrong side” of stocking stitch, the reverse of fair isle and celebrating the handmade, by showing the colour change “blip” row or leaving an end of yarn as the beginning and end of the journey.

A closer look at the Escalator Scarf—the ladders of unraveled stitches amp up the textural interest of the off-beat cables.

Early in your career, you worked on embellishing fabric for Vivienne Westwood. I once clipped an interview with her in a magazine in which she spoke about the value of knitting as part of a child’s education. You have been advocating for people to learn knitting as well as crochet for many years. Textile-making has been key to your professional journey and education. What role has it played in your personal journey and education?

As a designer I’m not sure that it is entirely possible to distinguish between the professional and personal. At least I have always found the edges to be very blurred (and somewhat frayed!).

I do absolutely believe that everyone should be taught how to use the most low-tech resources around them to craft and create. Knitting is a post-apocalyptic skill, and now more than ever there is an urgency to pass these skills on. None of us know where we might end up and all too quickly the comfort of our lifestyle can be taken from us.

The blanket for me is the ultimate garment, used to wrap, swathe, bundle, swaddle, cloak, enclose and cocoon. Everyone can make a small square from scraps, and these can be sewn together to create a patchwork. Pull it around your shoulders when hibernating on the sofa, throw it over your knees to comfort on a long journey, or tie it around your waist for warmth or belt it around your body for protection from the elements when out and about. 

Stepping Stone Throw—a patchwork of colors, textures, and bold graphic stripes

What is it about punk culture that appealed to you as a young adult? What aspects still resonate with you as an adult?

Punk was anti-establishment and anti-fashion—questioning of the status quo. That really appealed to me then and still does now. I don’t like to get too comfortable, I’m always looking for a way out, or up and over, to take things to the next level.

The Knight Hood is next-level head gear—the ultimate soft armor.

Design is really about interrogating—asking is this the best possible solution, can we turn it upside out, inside out, or should we unravel it and stitch it back together differently? Equally it’s important not to get too hung up on the idea of perfection, which can be stifling of creativity. So, it’s that DIY, give it a go, experimental attitude that can lead to the most innovative design. Not being afraid to get things wrong, to reveal the process and make a mark. Even though I ultimately tend to simplify, refine, and rein things in, to achieve my design I like to go over the edges at the start of the process. I always liken it to a dog going round and round in its basket, until it falls in just the right spot. 

You have worked as a fashion trend forecaster, which includes forecasting color trends years in advance. Can you give us a sense of how you experience color around you and how you are able to intuit what is to come?

[I]t’s always true that there is a zeitgeist and colour plays a big part in that. It’s impossible to be short of colour inspiration, you just need to stop and look—it might be a bright pink flower bursting through a crack in the pavement, graffiti on a concrete wall that wasn’t there yesterday, a poster advertising a local band peeling away to reveal another advert beneath, a passer-by wearing an old tweed jacket with worn out elbows patched in a bright printed cotton, the dusk light over the horizon, a pebble picked up from the beach and rediscovered in a jacket pocket days later.

I like to keep jars of colour in my studio, containing tiny snips of yarn, paper, paint samples, buttons, ribbon, fabric. These fragments are selected, cut up and repositioned next to others when working on colour palettes for yarns, stripes, and other designs. They are probably my most used tool, other than a sharp 2B pencil. 

You live near the sea. Do you spend much time walking on the beach or otherwise outdoors? How does that affect your sense of color? You sense of design?

I do believe that once you have lived by the sea you always crave that salty sea air and wide horizon. I live right on the coast now and can hear the waves crashing on the pebbly beach at night when the other background noise of the town and the road is quietened.

The colour is very different here, it seems somehow muted as if blurred by the sea-mist, bleached by the light reflecting off the water, or salt-washed like the pebbles on the beach, and it’s always changing. I could design a whole colour palette for a new yarn range just based on the sea. It never gets old, and nature never repeats herself. Each time I look out of my window it’s a different view. Whenever I am struggling with a blank piece of paper or a design just doesn’t seem to be working, then I only have to get outside and take in the natural scenery.

A tutor at art school once told me “It always comes back to the landscape,” and you know what, it always does. 

About The Author

The author of numerous highly acclaimed books on knit, crochet, and craft, Erika Knight has acted as designer consultant to craft brands including Rowan and DMC. In 2012 Erika launched her own eponymous handknit yarn collection. And she co-hosts the KnightKraft podcast with her daughter Arabella Harris.

About The Author

Melanie Falick has given the world of craft some of its most beloved books. We are proud and delighted to be working with her as editor and creative director of the MDK Field Guides. Her book, Making a Life: Working by Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live, was named one of the 100 Best Books of 2019 by Publishers Weekly.


  • Am I doing something wrong or are others receiving the message that signing up for any of the Seasons 1 thru 6 are closed and putting yourself on the waiting list is suggested. I tried this several days ago with that message and you are still encouraging us to sign up for previous seasons. I already own two of the series (which I love) but my budget only allows for one or two a year so I an obviously behind and was hoping to catch up a little. Thanks.

    • Hi, Chloe! Seasons 2 through 6 are available. Please try this link: and thanks for your support enrolling with our affiliate link!

  • I can relate to Erik’s comments about living by the sea. I grew up by the ocean and miss the sounds and smell and serenity

  • Punk is the same as every other teenage movement- a device that an immature brain uses to figure out its place in the world. However some of these movements include causes such as ending a war, civil rights, and social justice, which punk never did.

    • @Mary Lynne Foster did you not read the part where a fellow knitter gleaned inspiration from the movement you disparaged?

    • I think Llewellyn has already said it best, but this made me recall a comment from some weeks ago dissing the temperature blanket as a “dumb idea” (I am paraphrasing). You want to look out the window for the weather, somebody else wants to knit it, variety is the spice of life.

      Other than things like fascism which do deserve to be universally reviled, knitting has reinforced for me that different things bring joy and delight to various people. Judging or dismissing them with a broad sweep is perhaps a cue to examine oneself for smallness of spirit.

    • Maturing brains are always trying to figure out their place in the world. Creativity, seeing a new, and potentially better, way of showing our spirit is fundamental to constant growth and the ability to accept and adapt to change.

    • Hi Mary!

      I couldn’t help but notice that you seem to be grossly misinformed about the ethos of the Punk subculture. Punk has always been rooted in egalitarianism and anti-elitism, eschewing simply following the status quo in favor of free thinking. It’s also an ideology of direct action and DIY ethic.

      Sometimes it’s difficult to glean the true meaning and value of a certain subculture or movement, especially one that can be a bit unrefined and chaotic such as punk. However, we should all remind ourselves that perhaps we don’t understand it simply because the underlying social or economic conditions that catalyzed a movement don’t apply to us. If we don’t get it, maybe it’s because we’re not meant to.

      Remember Mary, “No value to me” is NOT the same as “No value to anyone”. Happy knitting!

    • The punk era’s music, fashion, and resistance to authoritarianism continue to resonate for me, so I’m surprised to see such a sweeping dismissal.

      • Yes! Agree about the “sweeping dismissal.” I’m older and wasn’t a teen during Punk’s height, but it’s so inspiring, creative and expressive! Love Erika’s designs, and I just ordered her book Indoors. I need the Cardigan in it.

  • I love EK’s designs. The simplicity of shape, showcasing the yarn’s texture is sublime. I’m knitting a baby cardi “Jammy” at the moment and always hunt for more from this designer. I’ve bookmarked the podcast.

  • Is there a pattern for the scarf you are wearing in your photo? I can envision it coming together in some of the Atlas colors.

  • I had no idea that I must have a knight’s hood in Atlas’ sea glass. I keep tripping over myself for my next favorite color. Trying to plan order so I don’t have to make an appointment with my banker. He said no, I can’t have a sweater’s worth of so many all at once. Checking the grocery money next. Seriously, ❤️

  • Hi Cristina, Thanks for the link! It worked, ultimately. Took awhile, hence, the slow reply. Possibly due to operator error, but Knit Stars is very responsive if you email them. Have started with the MDK class and love all the linen talk. Not only all the qualities Ann and Kay mentioned especially how beautifully linen takes color. I want almost every color in the Euroflax palette, even the beige. Class so fun!

    • The urge to knit linen is strong especially this time of year!

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