Lotta H. Löthgren on Nature, Knitting and Slowing Down
One of our most interesting books this autumn is Observations: Knits and Essays from the Forest by Lotta H. Löthgren. It includes nine knitwear patterns for long-lasting, wearable garments and accessories, along with beautiful essays about living close to nature. Lotta is a designer, writer, yarn dyer and yarn shop owner who lives in a village in the southeast of Sweden with her husband, children, dogs and chickens.
Observations — Lotta’s debut book — feels like a knitted walk through the forest and the seasons, and it is a must-read for knitters and nature lovers alike. We talked to Lotta to learn more about her work, book and way of life.
How did you start designing knitwear?
I enjoy cracking codes and figuring out how things work, so after I had knitted other people’s designs for some time, I wanted to try my hand at creating my own patterns. While I enjoy putting together different design elements, like colours, stitch patterns and yarns, I also love the technical, mathematical part of pattern writing.
Your knits are beautiful and practical at the same time. Where do you get ideas for them?
Many of my ideas begin with a small detail, like a stitch pattern or a colour combination, and sometimes it takes several tries before it finds its right place in a design.
I’m out in nature a lot with my dogs, and I love the idea of putting pretty design elements to work in a way that is usable in the life I live. I’m a practical person and love using my hand knits, even those in more delicate yarns, when I’m out in the forest. This shines through in my patterns, so while I don’t shy away from a construction or stitch pattern that might be an interesting challenge, I want the final result to be something you love to wear, and wear a lot. This also means I gravitate towards materials that can be mended in general, and different types of wool in particular.
Wool can be so many things, depending on which breed it comes from, how it’s prepared and the construction of the yarn. I never tire of learning new things about this remarkable material.
Your book includes both essays and knitwear patterns, which makes it very unique. How did you end up combining the two?
I’ve always felt most comfortable in the in-between places, so when I started gathering my thoughts on what kind of a book I wanted to make, it was my dream to do just this — combine words and photos and knitwear design to create something that is more than the sum of its parts. I love the idea of things having multiple dimensions or representations. Like this little corner of the forest path I walk every day: how does it make me feel, and why, and how can that be translated into words or stitches?
I’m very grateful that Jonna and Sini from Laine understood what I wanted to create, even if it’s indeed different from many other knitwear publications.
Do you have any personal favourites among the book’s designs?
These designs are all very special to me but the Badger sweater has a special place in my heart. Both creative processes, the designing and the writing, were very intuitive. The sweater is soft and comfortable, and the essay touches on a topic that I think a lot about; how we see ourselves in relation to the world we inhabit.
Observations paints an engaging picture of your way of life. What has slowing down and living closer to nature given to you?
In many ways, it’s the basic prerequisite for me to be able to do what I do. I’m a very fast-paced person, I do things fast and think fast and talk fast, and living in a place where things just take the time they take is incredibly valuable to balance that inner drive. Bilberries will be ripe in July, not in May, and the cold pastel skies I love to photograph will come in January, not in August.
This also urges me to be present in what actually is — if I want bilberries then I’d better go into the forest in July because I can’t pick them in autumn when I may ”have the time”.
What would you say to others who also dream of leaving the city?
If you have a dream, I say go try it out. What’s the worst thing that could happen? The city won’t go anywhere, you can always move back and perhaps try again when you’re at a different place in life. We are allowed to try new things and reevaluate what we want to do with our limited time here, but we are also free to say: ”No, this wasn’t for me”, and try something else.
And there are many ways you can be close to nature no matter where you live! You can get to know the plants that grow by the roadside, perhaps pick them and use them for dyeing yarn (many weeds are actually excellent dye plants!), or get an app that lets you examine the moon, stars and other celestial bodies. I hope that Observations can give you a sense that even these seemingly small ways of connecting to nature can mean a lot to us in our everyday lives.
How are you feeling now when your book is out in the world?
It still feels a bit unreal, to be honest! I think it will take some time before I truly understand that all the ideas and the raw materials I worked with for so long have now been transformed into this book.
Writing a book is much like a butterfly’s life cycle — first, it’s an egg, just hopes and ideas. Then it hatches into this weird larva that eats and eats on your time and brain power before it pupates and turns into absolute goo, and you wonder if this will ever turn into something anyone might want to look at. And finally, there it is: wings and all, ready to go out into the world. I’m excited to travel and talk to knitters about the book’s designs, texts and photos this autumn and winter!
What do you hope readers will get from Observations?
I think it’s so awesome that the book will allow others to create physical items that are like mine but also very different. When the book leaves the shelf, I have done my part, but the journey continues with the person who reads it.
I hope that the projects knitters make will be loved, used and mended over the years, and I hope that the book will allow others to see their own surroundings with the same curiosity that I see mine, no matter where they might be.