Maxine the Mini: A JimiKnits Design!

Jimenez Joseph stands and leans happily against the bonnet of her beloved mini; she is smiling and relaxed, wearing a pair of blue jeans and her Maxine the Mini cardigan the predominant colour of which is a grey colour. There is stranded colourwork detailing on the sleeves, around the neck, and in the nifty steeked patch pockets in which Jimi has her hands

Nothing makes me happier than seeing folks using the courses I produce to support their own creative work: indeed, that is why I love to teach and the best part of that job. So you might imagine my joy when fellow designer and creator Jimenez Joseph AKA JimiKnits got in touch to say that after participating in my first edition of The KNITSONIK System online course, she’d designed a gorgeous cardigan featuring stranded colourwork inspired by shapes and details found on her beloved Mini Cooper, Maxine! Jimi’s amazing process from the course through to this beautiful finished design can be tracked through a series of exciting Ravelry projects from the mitts she made on the course exploring her ideas

Jimenez Joseph's amazing collection of swatches, mitts, notebook ideas, yarn scraps and yarn palettes, arranged against a blue background with a KNITSONIK bookmark placed top right of the image

…through to three different versions of her cardigan pattern featuring colourwork sleeves and nifty colourwork swatch patch pockets!

Jimenez Joseph leans happily against her beloved mini; she is smiling and relaxes, wearing a pair of blue jeans and her Maxine the Mini cardigan the predominant colour of which is a grey off-white oatmeal. There is stranded colourwork detailing on the sleeves, around the neck, and in nifty steeked patch pockets

Jimenez Joseph sits in the driver's seat of her beloved mini with one hand resting on the foot handle and the other on her thigh; she is smiling and relaxed, wearing a pair of blue jeans and her Maxine the Mini cardigan the predominant colour of which is a rich mid blue. There is stranded colourwork detailing on the sleeves, around the neck, and in nifty steeked patch pockets

Jimenez Joseph leans confidently on the bonnet of her beloved mini with one hand in her pockets. She is smiling and relaxed, wearing shades, a pair of blue jeans and her Maxine the Mini cardigan the predominant colour of which is a rich gingery orange. There is stranded colourwork detailing on the sleeves, around the neck, and in nifty steeked patch pockets

Find her amazing projects on Ravelry here (mitts and initial swatching project), here (grey Maxine), here (blue Maxine) and here (ginger Maxine)!

Jimi’s methodical, inspired and industrious creative labour (over several years) means that now you can knit this too; the pattern came out about a month ago and you can get it here: Ravelry / Lovecrafts.

The sheer amount of work here – from those thoughtful initial sketches, swatches and experiments through to not one but three (!) versions of the design is staggering, and I love the final pattern with all its thoughtful details. Jimi has a really sleek design aesthetic and I love her focus on clean lines, wearability, and an instantly recognisable sense of fun. I knit her Tower of Strength (Ravelry link) skirt pattern a few years ago and it’s one of my favourite wardrobe staples. Maxine the Mini looks equally joyous to make and to wear, and there’s something really happy about the pictures that show Jimi’s beautiful knitwear design and the car that inspired it together. Surely the ultimate roadtrip cardi, Maxine the Mini is also a really great way to dip your toe in if you want to make something with stranded colourwork accents but enjoy the familiarity of lots of stocking stitch as well. I love how the design has a completely different feeling depending on which colour is used as the main shade, and the rich, vibrant patterning on the sleeves and pockets.

To celebrate the launch of this design, I asked Jimi if she’d join me here for a Q&A as I thought some of you might be curious to understand more deeply the creative process from an initial stranded colourwork swatching experiment exploring an everyday inspiration through to a glorious wearable design. Grab a cuppa and join us for a chat!

Felix: Welcome to the KNITSONIK blog! I love the celebratory aspect of your design, and how it speaks to your car; can I start by asking if there’s a backstory to Maxine and why you chose this name for your Mini Cooper?

Jimi leans against her Mini Cooper car, wearing the blue version of Maxine the Mini, blue jeans and shades. She's smiling and has her left hand in one of the nifty stranded colourwork patch pockets for this design

Jimi: I’ve been a Mini Cooper owner since 2003 and each one has been named by my daughter since she was a toddler. From “Minnifer” (as in Jennifer) to “Mini-Mocha” (for the coffee-coloured one). This Mini, “Maxine” was named by me as my daughter had finally outgrown the naming conventions! And thank goodness too, because we were very close to having a “Mini-MooMoo”!! 😆

Felix: Haha! I love that your cars have that family connection too; my car is a tiny black Fiat 500 that my parents called Stumpy – the names are important! I love your joyful relationship with your Mini Cooper and how that comes through in the pattern photos for your cardigan design. I wonder if you could say a bit about why you love it, what it gives you, and why you decided upon this inspiration source when you signed up for The KNITSONIK System?

Jimi: That’s an interesting question… My love of sporty cars goes back to childhood, where my walk to school would pass by a sports car dealership (Porches, Jaguars, Triumphs, MGs etc.) and I would stop to admire these beautiful cars. My first car was a 1976 MG BGT – I named her “Bridget” (get it? BridGeT). She was bright yellow and had a terrible smoker’s cough when she started up in the mornings, but she and I had some amazing journeys! I can see why I chose a car as a source inspiration for The KNITSONIK System. I could look at cars all day!

Felix: I love how things from childhood can kind of stay with us like that; how things we appreciated aesthetically as kids can continue to inspire us through adulthood. You sent me some really encouraging feedback about my course (thank you :)) in which you said something about how the process of swatching and working up your designs had taken you down a process knitting route that was quite unfamiliar to your way of working – could you talk a bit about the difference in the more process-oriented swatching you undertook for The KNITSONIK System vs. your previous/established route to design? How was this different? Did you pick up anything that you can use in future designs?

Jimi: As a trained Graphic Designer, my methods were very much led by the finished product. It is usually time-driven, while simultaneously seeking creativity and practicality. I would normally focus on how the final design looks and wears, as well as how the pattern is received. When I took your course, I wanted to understand the notion of process creativity. Given my nature, I was half expecting to fall asleep, or find it tedious, but not at all! It kept me fully engaged and happy to explore rather than seek to resolve. I think it has showed me that it’s OK to take my time with my work and enjoy the journey – I’ve found it so freeing! I hope to continue this mindset from here onwards.

Jimi's notebook of initial ideas, a bowl of swatching yarns, a swatch of early ideas and an experimental stranded colourwork mitt on the needles

Felix: That is music to my ears! There can be so much pressure to work fast and focus on an end goal, but creative ideas can really benefit much from time and space to unfold – time to think and process in between the making parts. I love introducing the idea of a rich, slow process to other designers and knitters and it’s really blown me away to see how much room you’ve given this idea! One of the things I love about teaching The KNITSONIK System online is that participants have loads of time to process ideas and work on swatches in between sessions – unless I could run a six-week long knitting retreat, I cannot think of a way of recreating that generous sense of time offline. It’s a privilege to join knitters in your preferred knitting locations through the screen, and I wonder if you could talk about how you fit the course in around your life back in the winter of 2020, and what it looked like, day-to-day, when you were working on your swatches and on your design ideas?

Jimi: This was my first experience of an online course. It was well organised throughout and well attended on Zoom. The offline videos were a source of interest as well as comfort. I liked that I could re-visit them as much as I needed. As a busy designer with projects underway, it was a case of fitting it in as and when. I would mostly work on swatches to relax and take my mind off pattern writing. The tabs were always open on my web browser and I would have them playing in the background while I was grading patterns!

Felix: I love that! Thanks for having me in your knitting office 🙂
As you’ll know, it can take a long time to design your own stranded colourwork motifs! I think in one sense this can be frustrating but, in another sense, we can discover things through committing to that process that would be hard to find through any other route. Does this ring true for you? Was there anything you discovered purely through your creative swatching process that went on to influence this magnificent design?

Jimi: I have a head full of ideas and this process had found me not able to stop! I went through a number of swatches and I kept finding more and more ‘shapes’, it was so addictive! I didn’t have a lot of experience with stranded colourwork knitting, but this course has shown me that I can look beyond simple star & flower motifs.

Jimi's notebook and charted ideas, photo go her mini, yarn palette and initial swatch showing design ideas taken from the details of her car

Felix: I think the cardigan you have designed is such a perfect summary of your stranded colourwork design journey – from the swatch-celebrating pockets to the little pops of colour around the neck and the ingenious richly-patterned arms, it feels like you have struck a perfect balance between a really wearable, fun garment shape that feels fresh and contemporary, paired with areas for stranded colourwork joy. Can you talk about how you went from the initial colourwork motifs and ideas in your swatch to this complete garment concept?

Jimi: The motifs are mostly drawn from graphical shapes and contours from Maxine, some are more obvious in the knitting than others. These would be: headlamps, grilles, steering wheel, tyre tread etc. While swatching, I would work a row of motifs then refine it on the next row… and then refine it some more. This went on for a long time! The main feature of the cardi are the sleeves, but I felt that it was missing something else. Being surrounded by all these swatches gave me the idea to use them as pockets!

A beautiful stack of Jimi's glorious swatches, based on details and shapes found on her Mini Cooper

Jimi's grey cardigan sits on her work surface with needles and live yarn running around the sides and bottoms of two niftily applied patch pockets made from swatches

Felix: That’s such a good idea! The steeked swatch pockets are genius – they are a very nice way to repurpose gauge swatches, but also teach some valuable colourwork skills (such as steeking); I notice as well that you have included a wondrous lightly-coloured chart that will enable knitters to recolour the design. It feels like you are giving the knitter lots of opportunities to play and learn with this design – what else do you hope folks who make Maxine the Mini will get out of the process (other than a cosy, stylish cardigan with pockets!)?

Jimi: Thanks for pointing that out, I appreciate it! My aim in my patterns is to be able to just dive right in. I write them so that once you’ve done a tension swatch, everything can be achieved in a logical order, at a glance, without exhausting the knitter. Using the colourwork tension swatch as part of the finished piece is another practical approach that I hope people will enjoy. I also hope folks will have fun making the cardi using this type of top-down set-in sleeve construction method.

Felix: I am always interested in the generative nature of creativity – how making one thing leads to another, and then another… and I wonder if this is what happened with the THREE colourways/samples of Maxine the Mini?! The whole look and feel of the design seems to shift completely depending on the main colour used for the body of the design which, in turn, shows off the colourwork in a slightly different way each time. How did each colourway inspire the next?

Jimi: You know I mentioned before that I couldn’t stop? Well, Methera by Northern Yarns is a fabulous British yarn that came in 6 colourways. A well-balanced set of colours that can spark off any number of potential looks. After making the grey version, I then fancied a blue one, then a ginger one…! Now, I’m quite interested to see what a yellow one would look like… OMG somebody stop me!!! 😂

Nice fat cakes of Methera by Northern Yarns, arranged clockwise from far left, teal; orange, yellow, grey, navy and red

Felix: I think it’s really exciting to see how many different looks can be produced by working with just six colours and can totally see why you can’t stop! You spent many hours first of all sketching Maxine, your Mini Cooper; looking at her little details and shapes; transposing them into charts; then swatching those ideas as stranded colourwork and playing with the colours… after this massive creative journey do you feel any differently about your car and… of course, I have to ask – how does it feel to drive Maxine the Mini about now, while wearing the magnificent sweater that she inspired?

Jimi: Hmm… that’s interesting. I must admit that I have noticed more potential motifs from the dashboard and engine than I did before!

Jimenez Joseph stands and leans happily against the bonnet of her beloved mini; she is smiling and relaxed, wearing a pair of blue jeans and her Maxine the Mini cardigan the predominant colour of which is a grey colour. There is stranded colourwork detailing on the sleeves, around the neck, and in the nifty steeked patch pockets in which Jimi has her hands

Felix: That’s my favourite thing: how paying attention to something helps us to find more and more shapes and patterns and details than we saw at first! Anything else you’d like to add? Where can folks find the pattern, is there a KAL? Where’s your favourite place for folks to find you?

Jimi: Thanks so much for having me and for showing a light on my design. If it wasn’t for the amazing experience I had with The KNITSONIK System online course, I’d doubt that there would even be a Maxine The Mini!

Jimenez Joseph leans confidently on the bonnet of her beloved Mini Cooper, looking off to the left. She wears shades, a pair of blue jeans and her Maxine the Mini cardigan the predominant colour of which is a rich gingery orange. There is stranded colourwork detailing on the sleeves, around the neck, and in nifty steeked patch pockets

Maxine The Mini pattern is available on Ravelry and Lovecrafts and you can find me on Instagram, on my own website, or on BIPOC in Fiber.

Felix: That’s so generous of you to say – I’m thrilled my online course sparked such a creative process for you and can’t wait to see lots of different Maxine the Mini cardigans appearing online and at knitting events! Thanks for taking the time to tell us about it today and congratulations on such a brilliant design.


7 thoughts on “Maxine the Mini: A JimiKnits Design!

  1. Really interesting to read Jimi’s comments about the swatching process, because I’ve had a similar experience. I’m doing your stranded colourwork course, and I started with the idea that the swatch was the bit I had to get through in order to knit ‘the thing’. In fact, it’s become a kind of meditation on my inspiration source, and hugely theraputic in its own right. One day there may be ‘a thing’, but I’m in no hurry!

    1. Hi Pat! I’m so happy to hear this – yes, I completely feel the same about swatching colourwork from an inspiration source. With my first book and my course, I really wanted to separate out the swatching as its own activity, and to give it some space and love. I think the pressure to MAKE THE FINISH THING can make us really rush this stage but as you – and Jimi – say, there’s a kind of meditative quality to it, and a state of pleasureful observation and design as you work back and forth from your swatch to the inspiration source. I’m so happy you’re enjoying it!

  2. I love this cardigan, it’s gorgeous! I already have the tower of strength skirt pattern but I’ve yet to make it. Two things on my list that I’m going to try and get done for this winter! PS my car is called MoZarT . This is partly due to the registration and partly due to the noises it makes

    1. Hi Bev! Thanks for stopping by 🙂 I love the name of your car and can say with confidence that you will LOVE the Tower of Strength Skirt – it’s such a fab, fun knit and such a great opportunity to play with colour. Isn’t Maxine the Mini just such a fun design and – as a fellow swatch lover – aren’t the pockets awesome?

  3. As a thrifty New Englander (though I now live in exile in Maryland), I was thrilled to see the swatches becoming pockets! I didn’t realize that not everyone saves their yarn scraps, and doesn’t like a tail left after my cast on being too long (of course I repurpose it or even rip out an cast on again). Then at one knit night a friend there commented that she’d noticed how I saved my yarn scraps just like her, another New England thrifty Yankee,

    1. Hurrah for using up every scrap of yarn! Yes – I think the repurposed swatches are such a brilliant idea; I feel they will also entice reluctant swatchers who maybe see swatching as a waste of time and yarn, as they are so integral to the final garment. They’re definitely one more thing to love about Jimi’s glorious design!

    2. Hi Barbara!

      Isn’t this a cute design? I also took a link to Felix’s Ravelry page to see JimiKnits skirt–I believe I must have this for next fall/winter/spring. How are you doing? I’m sure it’s probably rather hot in MD now, isn’t it? Hope all is well!

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