Gwen Bortner Interview

One of the best perks of working in the knitting industry is that I am fortunate to meet many of its stars. Gwen Bortner, author of Entree to Entrelac, is not only a star but she has become a great friend. I admire Gwen most for her dedication to knitting education. Her teaching success is due to her warmth, vast knowledge and careful presentation. Gwen is now taking her talents to Craftsy, the online craft education website. She is offering my readers a special discount for the class. Read the below interview to find out more and to see why I am her biggest fan!

You are known as the “Entrelac Queen”. When were you first introduced to the technique?

While I was still a pretty new knitter I started working at a yarn shop part-time. The owner knew I liked puzzles and plopped this blob of yarn down in front of me and said she thought I would like giving it a try. Well, it turn out the enclosed instructions were for basic entrelac. Because I was a newer knitter, I did not try and out-think the instructions and instead just did as it directed. And just like magic, a swatch of entrelac was formed. The owner was right, the technique totally intrigued me and I was pretty much hooked.

What do you enjoy most about Entrelac?

I like that with a little bit of practice, entrelac can be your mindless knitting, but the finish product never looks simplistic. I also love coming up with innovative solutions to issues that can be associated with entrelac. Most of all, I like that there are still new areas to explore. Unlike some of the other knitting techniques, fewer folks have really dug deep into the possibilities and I truly believe that there is still a lot more to explore!

What skills are required of a knitter to attempt Entrelac?

I have successfully taught entrelac to fairly new knitters. And in the Craftsy course, I basically only assume you have a strong handle on knit and purl and know the difference when looking at your knitting. All of the other techniques we actually cover in class. So really basic knitting skills, maybe a bit of a sense of adventure and an interest in learning a relatively straight-forward technique that actually looks really complex!

Do you have a favorite type of yarn to use for Entrelac?

I always prefer a yarn that has some wool in it regardless of what technique I am using. The wool content always makes the fabric more even and it is usually nicer to work with. That said, I have used all sorts of yarns in entrelac projects, many without any wool content at all. So it comes down to the standard question, “Is the yarn appropriate for the fabric being created and the project being made?”

I have personally seen many of your beautiful designs that incorporate Entrelac. Do you have a favorite?

Usually it is whatever I am currently designing and working on. But of those designs out in the world, the one I get the most compliments on is the Entrelac Flounce Duo from my book Entrée to Entrelac. When people see the picture on Lydia (the model) they figure it looks good on her because everything looks good on her. But then they see me in the “Gwen size” version and realize that you don’t have to have model dimension to wear a knitted skirt and still look attractive. And honestly, every version I have seen made up looks really great on the person it was made for!!!

You have been a renowned teacher for years and are now bringing your skills to Craftsy, the online education program. Tell us about your new Craftsy Entrelac series.

I am so excited to be working with Craftsy on this project because they produce a truly high quality, professional course filmed in HD. In addition, their platform really allows the students to develop their own community, asking questions, posting pictures and projects and sharing, much as they would in a live class. But some of the advantages of this environment over a live class include having access to the material 24/7 with NO EXPIRATION, the ability to see what I am doing up close and all the features of video that just can’t happen in class like pause and rewind! The series of lessons takes you through three projects with skills building on the previous lesson. The first project just focuses on the basics, the second project adds texture stitches into the mix and the third project touches on a number of slightly different things that can be done with entrelac. Although I still have lots more to share, it is a solid introduction to the technique!

I’m especially excited for the new pattern you designed for the program. Can you give us any inside info on the design?

Actually all three designs were specifically designed for the class, but the cape is the highlight project. It starts at the bottom in a non-traditional manner allowing students to start imagining other possibilities. We then combine lace and entrelac, a sometimes surprisingly wonderful combination. As we work toward the neck students learn about shaping in entrelac as well as alternatives for the edge triangles. We finish by discussing how to apply edgings that provide a smooth transition from entrelac to regular fabric. And that is only 3 of the 10 lessons included in the course!

How can knitters access these classes?

All they have to do is sign-up at And if they use this special link, they will receive a discount off the regular price! Once they sign-up they will have their own account so they can access the class anytime they have an internet connection. And they can sign up for other Craftsy courses as well. Not only do they have knitting and crocheting, but quilting, sewing, cake decorating, paper crafts, the list just goes on. It is kind of addicting…ask me how I know!!!

Sock Opus

What started as a way to use my leftover sock yarn has turned into a mini-sensation! My tights, Sock Opus, are featured in the current Knitter’s Magazine modeling Peek-a-Boots. The tights were also seen in the fashion show at Stitches and as one of the top patterns on Ravelry this week. The pattern includes instructions for making tights, calf or knee socks using sock yarn remnants. They are worked from the toe up and use expert shaping and striping for a one-of-a-kind creation. My tights stripe randomly and no yarn was repeated. Each stripe allows me to fondly recall its project and the lucky recipient. Knit your own sock history today with Sock Opus found in the Pattern Store.

Sock Opus

I am so excited to share my Sock Opus pattern with you! I began the tights odyssey several years ago after being inspired by Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Nether Garments. Using leftover fingering weight yarn and modern sock knitting techniques, I cast on for my tights. Each stripe is from a sock yarn I have used and no yarn is repeated. I can name each yarn and which sock I knit with that yarn. The tights are mostly plain stockinette interrupted now and then with some shaping. The easy design makes for perfect tv watching, group knitting or a delightful stress-relief.

The pattern includes instructions for Women’s Small, Medium and Large but can easily be customized for virtually any size. Make calf socks, knee socks or dare to go on to tights. Sock Opus is knit two at a time from the toe up using the Magic Loop or two circ method. Start knitting your own sock history today!