Expert Corner: Juliet Bernard

This month we chat to our knitting expert Juliet Bernard who gives us a quick insight to her life as a designer. Juliet will be tutoring on our magical German Christmas Market Cruise visiting many magical Rhine towns and will give visitors the chance to shop ‘til they drop in the iconic Christmas markets of Cologne. Juliet gives us the low-down on her trip, talks about her perfect Christmas (ok, we know its June but all this talk of Christmas markets has got us feeling festive!) and gives us some top knitting tips!

Juliet, we are super excited to have you tutor on our Christmas Market knitting cruise. Which part of the trip are you most looking forward to and why?

I am so delighted to have been asked to teach on this cruise. In Germany, Christmas is just magical and the celebrations start from the first Advent Sunday. My mum is German so we were brought up with all their wonderful traditions. I am looking forward to choosing some new decorations for my tree at the Christmas markets as well as showing our guests how to make a few of their own.

We know its early in the year to talk Christmas, but the German Christmas Markets Knitting Cruise itinerary has made us feel festive! What happens at the Bernard’s on Christmas Day?

From the first Sunday in Advent we always put our slippers outside our bedroom. If you had been good St Nicholas would leave a small gift. When I was young we had a lovely advent calendar that we would have to reuse each year because you simply couldn’t get over here then. We open our presents on Christmas Eve and have a traditional meal with all the family. Because my husband is English, we get to do it all again on Christmas Day – aren’t I lucky?

You have had a very successful career writing for the Knitter and the Debbie Bliss Magazine. What’s the most memorable work you have done and why?

Oh goodness, where do I start. I am so lucky to have made my career in knitting and every day is just pure pleasure. I have been lucky enough to meet amazing designers like Jared Flood, Kate Davies and Alice Starmore, picking up lots of tips from them along the way. I have created loads of mini and giant hats for innocent’s Big Knit, including one for the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen harbour. I have even helped to knit jumpers for the Eddie The Eagle movie – one of my knitting buddies works in Hollywood.

How did you discover knitting and when did you become passionate about it?

My brother wasn’t very well as a child so I would be sent to my grandparents for a two-week holiday once a year. From the age of 5 I would get on a plane by myself! My grandmother taught me to knit and sew for the doll she bought me and that’s where it all began. A bag of knitting has always been by my side, and I think my love for it just grows as I continue to improve the techniques I use.

Do you still own you first knitted project?

Somewhere in the loft is my doll with her knitted jumper and scarf. She was called Lise Lottchen.

Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?

I am a very basic designer – mainly accessories. My inspiration is usually something quite graphic. I spotted a ceremonial robe at The British Museum recently, from Tonga or Fiji. It is woven from palms but has an amazing zig zag design that has inspired a hat design.

Can you share three knitting tips with our readers?

1) Always swatch to check your tension.
2) Sew or bind in your ends as you go.
3) Don’t be afraid to unravel or frog a project if it is just not working for you.

What are your favourite yarns?

My all-time favourite is Rowan’s Felted Tweed which is the ultimate yarn for Fair Isle knitters. My other favourite is Yarn Stories Merino DK but I have to declare an interest in this yarn. I helped to develop the product and the brand with Spectrum Yarns. It is such a fantastically spun yarn and the colours are delicious.

What do you look for in a good yarn?

Personally, I look for a bit of life or bounce in the yarn but I don’t like a yarn that splits. The second thing I look for is a well-balanced colour palette so that I can use it in Fair Isle designs.

What projects are you currently working on?

I have just submitted a couple of designs to The Knitter for the Autumn and I am putting together some hat kits for Black Sheep Wools. This year I am on a yarn diet so I am working on a couple of blankets to use up yarn.

How do you switch off in the evening and leave work behind?

It just doesn’t feel like work when I pick up my needles but I do try to leave my work knitting in the office and work on something I want to knit in the evening.

What books or magazines are on your bedside table?

My Kindle. I am currently reading Gods without Men by Hari Kunzru which was recommended to me. I love reading but knitting has taken me away from books so I tend to buy audio books so I can knit and ‘read’ at the same time!

You’ve been leading Stitchtopia tours for several years now you and have travelled to some amazing destinations. What destination would you love to travel to and why?

My husband likes hot, steamy climates but I am drawn towards Scandinavia. I would love to visit Iceland.

Describe your perfect day.

Binge watching on Netflix with a big pile of knitting to get through followed by a long walk with my husband and dogs.