Designer and artist Connie Peng, also known as yellowcosmo on Ravelry, was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and moved to San Francisco with her family at the age of 12. Learning a new language and living in a foreign culture and vibrant city were formative experiences for Connie, awakening a great curiosity in her. She studied art at the University of California at Santa Cruz and later earned her MFA in painting at American University in Washington, DC. She later moved to Lake Tahoe in the southwestern US to snowboard and found a job teaching art at a local college; she began designing knitting patterns on the side. She incorporates her sense of adventure and artistic flair into her work, making each design unique. Connie loves to play with colours, but also creates designs with unique combinations of cable and lace patterns. She has published more than 100 patterns for jumpers and accessories. For our Touch collection, she designed the Toco loop scarf last year.
Hi Connie, how nice that you have time for us. You`ve got a fine art background, you paint and draw, sketch and illustrate. Knitting and designing only later became a part of your life. Would you please tell us something about the beginnings? How did you discover knitting?
Good question! When I was in college, my painting professor took us on a field trip to an art Museum in San Francisco. We looked at a lot of fantastic paintings, then he spent quite some time in front of oriental rugs of the museum collection and talked to us about the things he saw in each piece. That really sparked my love of textile art. Soon after I graduated, I took a weaving workshop when I was in between jobs, I wasn’t interested in the process enough to continue. Then I decided to try knitting, and I just fell in love with it. My very first knit was a Norweigian colorwork sweater, I just learned the techniques from a book (no internet back then.)
Did you plan to make your own designs, or did it just happen?
It kind of just happened after making modifications to several sweaters. I started making design for myself, and it just went from there.
Looking through your Instagram Account I especially loved all your beautiful knitting and yarn sketches in different techniques. It looks like both arts are strongly interwoven in your creative work. Please give us a few insights into your design process and how both, fine art and needlecrafts, influence each other.
My art background influences everything I do; I considered myself a painter foremost. What gets me excited is the creative process, more than being pretty or trendy, I love problem solving in a creative way. I tend to prefer yarn that showcase designs more than yarn that showcase the latest fashion of dyework.
My design process.... hmmm, the painter side of me often likes to make the process a bit messy, and welcoming changes and alteration througout the knitting. I like to respond visually to what is in front of me, kind of like Jazz musicians doing improvisation, responding to the vibe, the mood, or the sound. Very often, my design looks quite different than what I had in mind when I started the project.
As to how my knitting ties into my art, for a period of time I was designing original lace motifs so that I could make original shawl design and use them as the theme for my paintings. I was intrigued by the gragile, feminine quality of lacy shawl being painted in a monumental way. I don’t really wear lace, so the reason I designed and made them was all for my paintings :-)
What inspires you and how do your ideas develop and come to life?
Almost everything inspires me, but I’m most inspired when I walk in the woods, There are so many shapes, lines, and shifting colors. I see things in abstract, everything becomes a motif, a pattern, with or without meaning. But course, not everything can be translated from a motif in life to a motif in knitwear. Some become ideas or mood, such sense of fluttering lights through leaves, and creating knit shapes or motifs to represent that idea.
What role does drawing and sketching play in the process?
Honestly, not much, in terms of real drawings for a knitting design. I just make quick unartful sketches on scrap papers. I have lots sketches on scrap papers. I don’t like sketching out designs on sketch books, it feels too precious, which prevents risks-taking or changes. I sketch with pen or markers. They are very basic, not art at all. When I sketch design, I try to turn abstract motifs, elements into something concrete. On the other hand, when I draw in my art sketchbook, I make real objects in front of me into abstract shapes, and I get to play with medium.
But if I’m submitting a knitting design proposal, I will try to make a nicer drawing, usually a digital drawing.
For last year‘s Rosy Green Wool pattern collection with the theme of Touch you designed the structured loop scarf Toco. How do you approach a design process with a clear topic like in this case?
It was really nice that Rosy Green Wool provided a mood board and something more specific in the idea so that my mind wouldn’t just take off and completely do my own interpretation of things as I often do.
Asymmetry can lead to a more modern aesthetics, so I started from there and kept the idea of structure in mind. I felt stitch motifs that are more geometric (as opposed to more organic) would be suitable for the sensibility, so I swatched a bunch of textured stitches to get a good combination in terms of proportion. One thing I wanted is a sense of fluidity as well as structure and I felt the yarn was perfect for that.
What did you like about your cooperation with Rosy Green Wool? Anything we could improve?
I love how Rosy Green Wool was very supportive and respectful of designers. The communication was clear. It was wild our collaboration began when pandemic was getting bad. I live in an area where no one wears masks, so I was not big on the idea standing in line at the post office to pick up packages. Rosy Green Wool was really wonderufl to work with me using other carriers. I know this may not sound much to many people, but if you live where I live that had a huge influx of tourists and new residents during pandemic this may mean a lot too.
Last but not least: Do you have special tips for our knitters?
Try everything. Stash up some yarn, so you can build up your own sense of colors by experimenting, and not just using the colors that look good on other people.
Connie, thank you so very much for your time!