Designer Spotlight: Melynda Bernardi

Melynda BernardiWe’re working on the final touches for the Swans Island Fall 2015 pattern collection. Today we’re excited to feature an interview with talented designer Melynda Bernardi, who has designed two pieces for the new collection in a new sport weight version of our All American Collection Worsted Weight yarn.

Growing up, Melynda never found a wardrobe problem that could not be solved with some fabric, a needle, and thread.  This early proficiency eventually led to teaching herself knitting in high school, as a way to keep her ever-creating hands busy.  A few years later, when the day to day stresses of a job pressed in, her creative needs burst forth onto the internet as French Press Knits.

What started as a simple Etsy shop that sold hand knit goods quickly shifted focus to a new market- knitters who were interested in Melynda’s designs to knit for themselves.  Soon after this, Melynda discovered Ravelry and the world of knitting expanded beyond what she ever imagined!

How did you get started knitting and then make the transition into designing?
I learned how to knit in High school at some point, but probably just the most basic of stitches. I know that when knitting became “cool” in college I felt super cool, because I was the one who already knew how to knit. Little did I know, at the time, I knew basically nothing about knitting. Years later, when I became an aunt, I decided it was time to get serious about knitting and learn how to read a pattern so I could knit my nieces and nephews gifts beyond just lumpy, (unintentionally) triangular shaped scarves.

Swans Island Frances Hat
Frances Hat

I bought a book about knitting and started to learn. The stitches began to make more sense with every new skill I tried, and before I knew it, knitting ‘clicked’. I had ideas for patterns, and fully jumped in without a ton of knitting knowledge. It’s been a learning process ever since!

Can you give us a peek into your day-to-day as a designer? Do you design full time?
Oh my, if I can fit more than two hours of knitting in a week, that’s a good knitting week. I started French Press Knits right before I had children. I worked full time then, but my evenings were free for designing/knitting and it’s how I loved to spend my time. Now, five years later, I still work full time but also have three children. Now, knitting/designing is how I long to spend my time! One day I do plan to pursue knitting as a career, but for now, knitting time is limited to stealing a few minutes during a teleconference or long car ride.

What inspired your designs for Swans Island?
The Paige Mitts and Frances Hat were both inspired by a trip ‘Up North’ we took with our friends this past fall. Early fall is my favorite time of year. The first night chills we feel in September always gets my fingers itching for some quality knitting time. On our car ride to Northern Michigan, I was swatching with my Swan’s Island yarn as the colors changed around me. The farther north we traveled, the more the rich autumn colors came in to view.

Paige Mitts
Paige Mitts

What excites you most in knitting?
There are certain techniques that I long to become more familiar with: Brioche, steeking, and double knitting were all on my ‘knitting goals’ list for 2015. I am always excited by colorwork- playing with different color schemes, watching colors blend and pictures form as you knit with different colors; it’s my favorite type of knitting. But ultimately, the thing that excites me most about knitting is the hope that someday there will be more of it in my life!

Melynda's work space
Melynda’s work space


How has your designing changed over time?
I would say that I try to approach designing in a much more professional way than when I first started. I realize now how much goes in to it- it’s not just the designer. There’s sample knitters, tech editors, graphic designers, and photographers. It’s a team that really produces professional work. That being said, I am much more willing to pay for a good pattern than I was when I first started knitting/designing!


Melynda's work space
Melynda’s work space