Interview with Kristy McGowan (author of Modern Top-Down Knitting)

A few weeks ago, I got a copy of Modern Top-Down Knitting: Sweaters, Dresses, Skirts & Accessories Inspired by the Techniques of Barbara G. Walker by Kristina McGowan, and loved it! There is rarely a book where I feel like I want to make every item inside it… and this is one of those! Kristy blends innovative (but not overly complicated) knitting techniques with crocheted edgings- making her a girl after my own heart.

I made the Annie Hat (pictured at left) and loved it… which began my Ravelry messaging with Kristy, the brilliant designer. A couple messages later, I was lucky enough to score an interview!

Your book has a number of designs that feature both knitting and crocheting. When did you get your start with yarn?
I love to crochet, and learned how to crochet before knit. I found a crochet hook in my mother’s sewing basket when I was around 9 and lugged craft books home from the public library to practice in my room until I got the hang of it. At first, and for about a year, all I could master was single crochet. Then we took a family trip to Greece to visit my mother’s sister and it was one of those magical moments for me that I’ve never forgotten — I was sitting next to my aunt working single crochet and in German, which is her native language, she leaned over and asked me, “You know you can build on that, right?” And she went on to explain “steps” and how one could yarn over to make doubles and triples. It completely blew my mind and really connected me to her. It was just the first time I had ever shared my love of crochet with another person and her instruction completely lifted me up. I’ve never forgotten that moment. In my designs, I gravitate towards crochet because it adds a finish to my knits that I love – the edges always seem crisper to me somehow. I also like finishing the insides of my pieces with trim and crocheted borders are the perfect backdrop upon which to do that.

When did you start designing?
In earnest, about five years ago, though I’ve always made things for family and friends.

What inspired you to write a book?
Writing the book had always been a daydream of mine. Receiving a beautiful dress form as an unexpected gift from my twin sister (best gift I’ve ever received!), reading Barbara Walker’s book Knitting from the Top and eventually meeting my editor, Melanie Falick, all helped the stars to align and finally make it happen.

What’s your favorite pattern from the book, and why?
Probably the Suspension Dress – it’s just a very comfortable, flattering fit.

What’s the favorite thing you’ve ever knitted/crocheted?
My grandfather had an intricate cable sweater that he wore when I was very young and when I was in my early 20s, I set out to make an exact replica of it. With the help of a brilliant teacher in Syracuse – who for several weeks helped me to look up, learn and write out all of the various cables and calculations — I was able to do it. It was a saddle shoulder which at that point I found daunting but insisted on copying as well. It took me about two years to finish it and I still wear it all the time.

What’s your favorite yarn to work with? Favorite colors, fibers, companies?
I love merino wool and am drawn to solid colors. I am a big fan of gray in any shade, and think knitted items always look especially beautiful in gray. I have many so favorite yarns — I am fond of Louet (esp. Gems) and anything Blue Sky Alpaca. Sheldridge Farm has wonderful yarn in a rich palette…Zara is also great yarn. The list is endless!

Since you live in NYC, do you want to give a shout out to any of your favorite LYSes?

I really like Downtown Yarns in the East Village – owner Rita is a warm and kind person and her store is charming. She has a screen door at the front – and her window is always clever and dear (knitted creatures and lovely settings). I’ve also recently discovered Purl Soho (I had my first-ever book signing there a few days ago) and the care taken to make every aspect of that store beautiful is extraordinary — what a treat it is to wander around in there!

Onto serious stuff… how big is your stash? Are you the sort of girl who has multiple needles of each size?
I’ve been trying to find time to organize my stash and it is admittedly way out of hand at the moment. No exact count to give, but I have a ton of yarn — and though there’s no such thing as too much, I’ve been working to come up with a better way to organize and store it. I do so (at the moment) mostly by color in large, old wire wall baskets and converted bookshelves. Needlewise, I’m lucky to have a good collection of circulars and different lengths of each size.

and this is what I’ve been dying to know… why don’t you have any projects up on Ravelry?
I think I have about 7 at this point and hope to get more up soon. I’m very new to Ravelry. Though I signed up about two years ago, I only started participating a few weeks ago. It’s been such a joy getting mail from other knitters and meeting people like you!

What’s your favorite type of crochet hook? I’m a Susan Bates-girl, myself…
I am too! My favorites are all-metal ones from Susan Bates and Hero.

Thank you so much, Kristy!
You can check out Kristy’s website at: (and check out more of her beautiful patterns), and purchase her Modern Top-Down Knitting here.