An interview with American designer Jessica McDonald

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello dear reader, I am Jessica and I design knitting patterns. My family and I live on a piece of
property among the mountains in rural Idaho, USA. Our home is surrounded by farms and
ranches, and we are frequently visited by the local wildlife. Our life is very focused on the
outdoors. In the summer, we often go to the nearby mountains for hiking and camping. We have
a large garden and are outdoors more often than indoors. In the winter we have an ice-skating
rink that my husband builds, and we like to go skiing and sledding.

Where we live is very cold. From early November to sometime in March, it remains below
freezing and we have snow for most of that time. In our climate wool is a necessity. I wear wool
sweaters almost year-round. The mornings in the summer are cool enough that a wool sweater
feels wonderful.

This coming summer, we will begin a new adventure with a small flock of Finnsheep! Both my
husband and I grew up on farms and treasure our childhood experiences. We wanted our children
to have some of the same experiences so have decided to start a little family sheep farm. I am
very excited to have a few sweet sheep joining us on our little “homestead”. Eventually in the
future, I will also have their wool spun into yarn, which is very, very exciting!

How did you get to do what you do today?
My mother taught me to knit when I was a newlywed. Knitting quickly became a passion, and I
was eager to learn how to knit myself sweaters. As you have read above, I really needed some!
When I had children, I began to knit for them, and soon began to create my own designs for
them. Once I realized that I could create any knit design I could imagine, I was hooked. Long
before I began to publish and sell my knitting patterns, I was creating my own designs for my
two little girls. I loved to make unique little tunics and sweaters for them.

My knitting pattern design business grew out of that love for creating beautiful knits for my
children. I love creating new patterns to share with the world and seeing how knitters around the
world are connected by this craft that we share. My focus is on creating simple, beautiful knits
that knitters will enjoy knitting and will wear time after time and feel amazing in.

What is the inspiration behind the beautiful “Forest” collection?
Forest is quite literally inspired by the forest. We live very near mountains and spend much of
our free time in the forest. It is one of my absolute favorite places in the world. As I was
dreaming up Forest and its child-sized companion Woodland Ramble, I kept thinking of knits
that would be perfect for a walk among the trees on a chilly, maybe slightly misty, day. Cozy
colorwork and textures would be perfect to wear on that kind of day.

All these patterns are knitted in our Ulysse and Gilliatt woolen spun yarns. Can you tell us
more about this specific choice? How did you choose this colour palette?

The children’s version of this collection, Woodland Ramble, was published first and the decision
for what yarn to use was made as I planned that collection. Since I was knitting for my children,
I wanted the yarn to be soft, but still woolly and a have a bit of a rustic feel. After much research
into various yarns, I settled on De Rerum Natura.

The colors available were a big driver of this choice. Since the whole collection is inspired by the
forest, I needed colors that would be found in nature. The dark green Foret is perfectly the color
of pine trees. Caramel is found in many places – fallen pine needles, the bark of trees, rusty
foliage in fall. Foret and Caramel became my foundation colors. Then I chose a couple more that
are also found in nature and would go nicely with Foret and Caramel. Goeland is the perfect gray
to accompany them. That shade of gray can be found in old fallen trees and branches. A white
was needed to round out the selection and make the colorwork in Snowy Pines, Ponderosa, and
the Snowy hat, mittens, and shawl possible. Bouleau with it’s slight lean to gray was perfect.

This color selection coordinates perfectly with each other and every one of them can be found
naturally in the forest. Using just these four colors in the designs gives the whole collection a
cohesive look and feel.

Another factor in my choice was that the yarn is available in two weights: sport and worsted.
This meant that I could keep my color palette through all the pieces while offering patterns in
two different yarn weights.

Gilliatt and Ulysse are also woolen spun yarns, which is my favorite style of yarn. I love how it is
lofty and lightweight, while being so wonderfully cozy. The soft look of the finished fabric is
beautiful, and the lightness of the finished sweaters is delightful.

We have entered the Advent season and it’s a time that we particularly love here, with its
rituals, spicy scents and joyful family preparations. Is it an inspiring time for you? Do you
have any rituals or recipes to share with us?

Advent is such a special time of year! I love to decorate our house with greenery and lights. The
main fixture of course, is our Christmas tree. Where we live, you can buy a special permit to go
cut down a Christmas tree in the public forest. We usually go to a canyon near our house to find
our tree. We take along a thermos of hot water to make hot chocolate, and occasionally build a
fire to warm up by. The children especially love the hunt for a good tree. It’s one of our favorite
family traditions for this time of year.

This year, I am learning about the tradition of Advent candles. We are Christian, but our families
did not observe the beautiful tradition. I would like to learn all the meaning behind it so that it
can become part of our family tradition. I am especially inspired by the lovely advent wreaths I
see shared by the Europeans I follow on Instagram. From my perspective, it appears that the
Advent celebrations in Europe are simpler and more meaningful than our more busy and
commercialized approach in the United States.

The children especially love crafting Christmas decorations. We make paper bag stars, paper
snowflakes and garlands. This year I am teaching my daughters to make crochet snowflake
garlands. They will go perfectly with all the decorations I have knitted over the years.

Thank you so much Jessica for taking our questions, it was a pleasure to learn more about you and your creative process!
Thank you so much for inviting me to share a bit more about myself and my knitting patterns!

You can find Jessica’s books and patterns on her website

Her blog is full of informative knitting posts, and a pop up to sign up for her newsletter will greet you.
Do sign up for her newsletter if you like her designs!

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