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Our recent Foundations installment on Reading Your Knitting has had us thinking about our own developments as knitters, the things we’ve learned, and the things we continue to learn as we progress in our craft. So, we asked members of the Brooklyn Tweed Team to look back and share the moments that helped expand their skills, what marked a significant development in their knitting careers, and what finally made them gasp and say, “Oh, now I’m a knitter!”

Read on, laugh, and feel empowered by stories of our aha! moments — and share your own in the comments below!

 

I still have revelatory moments even though I’ve been knitting for a few years. There is always something new to learn with knitting, but my first of these moments happened when I finally figured out how to count my stitches and distinguish between a knit and a purl. When I first started, I couldn’t figure out how to do seed stitch because it kept becoming 1×1 ribbing. I was so confused and frustrated but that’s really how I learned to understand and read knitting. — Sara Cade, Wholesale Specialist

What finally made me gasp and say, “Oh, now I’m a knitter!” was when I learned how to fix lace by trying to figure out what Laura Nelkin was doing with her pinned out dropped stitches! — Kel Moore, Wholesale Manager

One of the things I made in my first year of being a “real” knitter was a large lace shawl. At the time I was in between teaching jobs and had a lot of time on my hands, which fueled a desire to experiment with patterns well beyond my beginner skill set so that I could expedite my knitterly growth. I dove right into that lace shawl pattern knowing full and well that it was beyond my abilities — but from that one single project I learned so, so much! I learned how to read a chart and how to read my stitches; I learned how to fix a mistake in a working row and a few rows below; and perhaps, most importantly, I learned how to let go and move on when things weren’t coming out perfectly. With every stitch I thank past Jamie for taking that leap early on and trusting herself to undertake such an unfamiliar (and at times scary) project. I continue to reap the benefits of her bravery to this day! — Jamie Maccarthy, Customer & Community Relations Specialist

I’d say that a significant marker of development in my knitting career came upon reading Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann. A good friend handed me a copy when she learned I was ready to move beyond hats and scarves toward knitting garments. EZ’s recipes were eye-opening in that they gave both instruction and permission to move beyond the printed pattern, allowing the knitter to create a knitted item of her own creation. My path toward knitting independence was furthered upon attending Schoolhouse Press’s Knitting Camps, originated by EZ and now led by her daughter Meg Swansen. Over the years I attended camp, I learned additional ways to make my knitting my own as well as methods and techniques that improved my knitting skills. Experiencing gauge or rowing out issues with stockinette stitch? Try knitting-back-backwards. Want a tidier-looking ribbing? Use the Norwegian purl. Learning how to manipulate my stitches forwards and backwards, regardless of which side of the work is facing me, has improved my ability to read my stitches in a way that makes for smoother and more confident knitting. — Jen Hurley, Office Manager

 

I learned how to knit from a friend in high school. We used a booklet that we bought at a craft store and I happened upon a plain text website that had some basic knitting instructions that helped me cobble together enough guidance to knit garter stitch scarves. I exclusively used the Backwards Loop Cast-On for about six years or so, diligently knitting my scarves and other basic projects. I wasn’t aware at the time that there are many, many ways to cast on. I would cast on my stitches very loosely and as I’d knit, my gauge would inevitably tighten, resulting in a bell-shaped fabric on the cast-on edge of my project. Eventually, I heard about the Long-Tail Cast-On method. By this time there were YouTube videos with instructional tutorials, so I watched a video of this technique over and over until I figured out how to do it — it took me a lot of time and patience to master. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling that I had when it finally clicked. I remember thinking that I could now knit anything and it would actually look how I wanted it to. For me, it marked the transition from homemade to handmade in my knitting journey and it opened the world of knitting wide open. — Christina Rondepierre, Marketing Manager

 

When I learned how to knit four years ago (while stuck in the dorms during the Portland Snowpocalypse of 2014), YouTube was my best friend. As a (shy) full-time student, I didn’t quite have many opportunities to seek out knitting groups or sign up for knitting classes at local yarn stores, so many of the resources that helped me gain my skills I had to find online. Now that I think about it, I’m actually quite lucky to have picked up the craft at a time when so many resources are easily accessible from the comfort of my electronic devices!

More recently however, I’ve found myself in a space and occupation where I get to talk and write about knitting all the timewhether via e-correspondences or with a team member a mere couple feet away from my desk. It’s amazing how trying to put into words how to perform a complicated knitting technique, how to perform a simple knitting technique, or even just expressing wonder at a pattern design can encourage one to think more deeply about what happens when you pick up two sticks and a string. So, by making these connections — in the mind and with fellow makers — the current (less shy) me has become very emboldened and eager to keep growing in this making journey. — Korina Yoo, Marketing Coordinator

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Our journey to the Madrona Fiber Arts’s Winter Retreat began on a snowy Valentine’s Day morning here in Portland, OR. As we all gathered at the Brooklyn Tweed Headquarters before setting off, we double- and triple-checked our lists to be sure that things would go off without a hitch once we arrived in Tacoma, WA.

With Luigi driving a U-Haul full of precious yarn cargo and Christina as co-pilot and navigator, the rest of the crew — Lis, Korina, and Jamie — piled into a car with everyone’s luggage and WIPs and their compass pointed north.

After the normal bustle that happens when setting up a temporary home in a hotel room and many a “hello” exchanged with other vendors, the crew quickly got to work setting up the Brooklyn Tweed booth in the Madrona Marketplace. The space filled up quickly with each of our yarns represented in a beautiful gradient along the wall at the back of the booth. To the right we hung a carefully chosen selection of sample garments — some from our most recent Winter 18 collection and other BT classics that have stood the test of time. To the left was our yarn wrapping and general help station where we had on display a slideshow of photographs highlighting some of our most favorite BT patterns from over the years. In the midst of it all, our printed patterns and books were organized atop a wooden table covered by a lovely linen cloth, sewn by Lis only a few days before, and flanked by two dress forms sporting the day’s outfit of choice.

The Brooklyn Tweed booth was located at the Marketplace entrance, which meant that we had the good fortune to see the many smiling faces of excited retreat-goers as well as a gorgeous array of shawls, sweaters, socks, and skirts throughout the weekend. Ideas for projects soon-to-be-cast-on in workshops and hotel rooms flowed as easily as the tide at Point Defiance only a few miles away. A special joy was seeing many a lovely knitter leave the BT booth with purpose and an accompanying armful of woolly goodness. Thanks to Christina’s talent and knack for selecting complementary yet exciting colorways to grace a yoked sweater or two, by next year we’re sure to see more #BTintheWild garments when tending to our wares at the Marketplace.

The joy of knitting wasn’t the only thing that left its mark on our spirits during the weekend. Our feelings of team camaraderie grew as we worked together to lift boxes and keep each other spry with mid-day coffee runs; what a privilege it was to have an occasion like Madrona to be with one another to learn and grow together as the BT crewIt was also spirit stirring to be surrounded by a collective of passionate small business owners who share in our love of wool, design, and community.

Other more utilitarian lessons learned in our five days at Madrona were to be sure to leave extra room in our bags for the treasures that would make their way home to Portland with us, as well as how wonderful the steam setting on a hotel room iron can work when needing to block a just finished sweater in a pinch!

All in all, Madrona was an excellent chance to meet with knitters face to face and share in our collective joy for the wonders of wool and fiber arts. We’re already planning on where we’ll be off to next, and hope to have a chance to meet more of you in person soon!

If you’d like to know where BT will be next, visit our events page here.

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Since our move to the crisp air and evergreen leaves of the Pacific Northwest in 2015, we established a yearly tradition of weighing in and voting on our favorite Brooklyn Tweed patterns from the past year. We greatly enjoy this staff activity as a way to look back and remember our work, in eager preparation for what’s to come next. However, as this year comes to a close, we decided to mix up this edition of BT Staff Picks by instead nominating each of our favorite knitting moments of 2017.

Our friends and family members often joke that we must knit quite a lot in the office. The truth is that here at BT Headquarters, our days are devoted to providing our wonderful community of knitters with support, resources, and plenty of wool and thoughtful patterns! Still, like most of you, we love knitting and making, and understand its many benefits — for uplifting the soul and connecting with each other, most of all. As such, this Staff Feature, in the spirit of our Outpost Newsletter, is a way for us to dedicate space to our stories and thoughts on our venerable craft — stories of reclaiming calm, connecting, learning, and carving out a place in the world through wool.

My favorite knitting moment of 2017 was finishing Grettir in January. The Brooklyn Tweed team was having a Lopapeysa KAL when I started work here in fall of 2016. It felt like a great way to get involved with the rest of the team. I often think that a KAL is a good idea and then change my mind somewhere in the process. However, this was an exception because I was able to work with Shelter, which I love, and knit a sweater for myself with colors and in a style (circular) that I really like. It was a win-win for me. — Stephanie Engle, Production Coordinator

Because so much of my knitting time is composed of designing for patterns — a process of diligent note-taking, precise planning and execution, and the prospect of grading a garment for multiple sizes — I’ve learned over time to give myself personal knitting projects that free me from the pressure of publication, and allow for a more playful and spontaneous process. My favorite sweater from 2017 was knit in this way. I totally fell for Norah Gaughan’s cabled Staghead motif — so different from anything I’ve seen before on a sweater — and knew that I had to knit one somehow. I started swatching the cable with different Brooklyn Tweed yarn bases; when I swatched the panel with Quarry, the width blocked out to precisely match the cross-back measurement for the garment silhouette I was planning, which seemed quite a serendipitous sign. Putting the Stag on the back of a cardigan suddenly seemed like a great idea. Knowing the back would now be the focus of the garment, I built out from there, wanting to keep the rest of the garment classic. I experimented with a few other details as I went, too: linework detailing using double increases within the broken rib pattern at the center of the sleeves and a luxurious double-knit shawl collar that splits from a densely-knit button band. (Stag horn buttons seemed like the obvious choice for this piece.)

It certainly turned out to be one of the most unique sweaters I own — and, for better or worse, the one that has proven most likely to spark conversations with strangers! — Jared Flood, Founder + Creative Director

Of all the knits I have made this year, my favorite was Svenson. I’m fortunate to have a partner who loves to wear the knitwear I make for him, so I truly enjoy supplying him with a new handknit sweater every year that he can add to his rotation. When I saw the sample for Svenson from the Winter 17 collection, I knew it was going to jump to the top of my queue. Knit in Arbor, it also allowed me to fully enjoy knitting with one of our newest yarns. The pattern was a breeze to knit — once the rhythm of the cabling was established, I didn’t need to refer back to the charts. It’s a classic pullover that can be dressed up or down, and now that it’s finished, I think I may need to make a second one next spring for myself — the only hard part is deciding which color to choose. — Jen Hurley, Office Manager

Knitting is a lot of things for me; it’s a way to keep warm, a way to share a part of myself with the people I love, and a way to connect with other makers. Most importantly though, knitting is my self care. In a year of many changes I’ve found myself often reflecting on these wise words from Elizabeth Zimmermann, “Knit on with confidence and hope through all crises.” No matter what my day-to-day looks like, or what the state of the world may be, I have knitting to keep me grounded. Stitch by stitch, my trusty needles carry me forward into the future with the promise of a new row, a new day, and a new project to cast on. — Jamie Maccarthy, Customer Service

This year I greatly enjoyed knitting Cline by Julie Hoover. It’s a true basic that involves well thought-out details, making it both easy to wear and interesting to knit. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the pattern by playing with yarn choices and making modifications — I knit Cline no. 1 with Shelter Marl and Cline no. 2 with Arbor and a laceweight alpaca yarn held together. The slightly different gauges mean that each version fits differently; Cline no. 1 is drapey and cozy, while Cline no. 2 (which I also modified with a hi-lo split hem detail) is slightly more fitted and cropped. I love and wear them both equally! However, the best thing about them may be that not many will think to ask if I knit them myself, but when I tell them I did, it makes them want to learn how to knit their own. — Anna Moore, Art Production Coordinator

This year I decided to relieve myself of the stress and burden of trying to knit all the things. Without worrying about how many garments I was going to finish before the end of the year, I was able to focus on knitting pieces that would wear well together in a cohesive outfit. I am particularly proud of my Cordova because I had envisioned knitting it for several years and learned how to seam in order to finish it; my Skiff with its generous pom-pom; and my Fretwork, which keeps me very warm when I’m walking my pup in the middle of the night. I’ve learned that knitting within a cohesive color palette makes your knits so much more wearable and allows for a polished outfit without effort. The small number of garments I made this year have already proven to be more utilitarian than most of my other hand knits combined. — Christina Rondepierre, Marketing Coordinator

I am surrounded by knitters, knitting, and yarn — night and day. Though I don’t call myself a knitter, I can knit and have knit a few things over the years, including a cardigan.

I have always wanted to knit Cobblestone by Jared Flood. I love that sweater. I find the design uniquely cool and within my skill level. The fact that I know the story behind the name and have seen the concept come to life from a paper sketch makes the choice even a bit sentimental. To treat myself, I chose Shelter in Long Johns, a color I have always associated with deep passion.

In picking up knitting again after a few busy years I was reminded of some key aspects of the knitting journey. First, time — the minute you cast on your first stitch, everything seems to slow down — your breathing, your thoughts, your goal-related anxieties. Second, silence — knitting is known as the perfect craft for introverts (something I am not); when I am knitting, I find it so easy to turn the volume of the mind down and to go into a no-activity inner zone. Third, learning — the number of different things one can accomplish by combining two basic stitches is absolutely remarkable. By contrast, it is so humbling to hear highly skilled knitters, like the ones I work with, comment on a new technique they had to master or a challenge they had to overcome. Knitting is a good reminder that we are eternal students. Fourth, striving for perfection — once you realize the amount of time you are investing in “making” something with your own hands, you start taking pride and become a very severe judge of your own mistakes. Far from being a perfectionist, I nonetheless can’t bring myself to knit on the next stitch or row if I see a mistake. The “undoing” of what you just did is the most effective (and painstaking) way to learn from your own mistakes.

In the last few weeks, I have made a habit to knit in the morning, when it’s still dark outside, helped by the light coming from the fireplace on one side and the Christmas tree on the other. The dogs seem to like this morning ritual, too, and are starting to hold me accountable, if I thought I’d skip a morning. I might have just found the motivation I was looking for to complete my Cobblestone by Christmas. — Luigi Boccia, Business Development

I’ve known how to knit since I was little, but it’s really only in the past few years that I’ve moved beyond the basics. I’m no longer just someone who knows how to knit — I’m a knitter. I can read my stitches, fix mistakes, change patterns for a better fit or to better suit my style, but beyond mere proficiency, I have found deep satisfaction in this craft and all the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

When Ondawa came out as part of Fall 14 I instantly fell in love, but couldn’t imagine actually being able to knit it myself. I thought it was far beyond my skills but this year I finally felt I was up to the task. Part of what makes this knit special is not that I’ve sailed through it without issue. In fact, there have been many mistakes so far. This knit is a milestone for me because any setbacks that have come up I’ve been able to overcome — after a deep breath or two, I calmly forged ahead. Even a year ago, a cable going off course or a chart read in reverse would have been cause for fits of frogging and a curse or two. But now I know how to spot mistakes before they become disasters, and can fix them with equanimity. My knitting is still far from perfect, but I no longer feel disheartened when a complex pattern tests my abilities. I feel ready for the challenge! — Lis Smith, Wholesale Specialist

What I love most about knitting is how there’s always something new to learn (no matter how experienced you may be) and how you’ll always have an astonishing amount of freedom to (re)imagine, (re)invent, and (re)create a piece to fit your needs and personal style. More importantly, there will always be lots of wonderful people in the knitting community who are more than happy to learn and explore the creative possibilities with you — hello, Ravelry!

My favorite knitting moment of 2017 is tied to these aspects of knitting. This month, specifically, I tackled my long-held fear of colorwork by knitting Junko Okamoto’s Yuri pullover. The determination to finally take on the challenge came when I saw this version on Ravelry. I realized that, when browsing patterns, I don’t take as much time to envision the piece in yarns or colors I prefer and that are different from those used in the sample. If there weren’t a strong knitting community in place dedicated to sharing their projects and processes to inspire and educate one another, I may not have considered the pattern at all!

And so, armed with plenty of wise words and encouragement from the rest of the Brooklyn Tweed team, I dove head-first into my first colorwork project and now I’m only two sleeves away from having a garment that I know I will love and cherish. I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone because it has not only allowed me to build confidence, take my craft to the next level, and connect with my team members, but it has also made me, a 100% product knitter, appreciate the process so, so much more. Turns out, both planning and executing colorwork is a whole lot of fun! Korina Yoo, Creative Coordinator

We hope that in reading our stories, you’ve recalled some of your own memories of knitting this year. We always love hearing from you, so feel free to share your thoughts below!

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In this season of gratitude and giving thanks, we at Brooklyn Tweed would like to extend our sincerest appreciation for your continued support and friendship. It’s because of all of you sharing in our passion for wool, knitting, and design that we can continue doing what we do.

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Every October we pause and ponder on slow fashion: what it is and what it means to us as a company and as individuals. Though you may be hard-pressed to find a concrete definition of what this movement is all about as it moves in and out of our collective consciousness, Karen Templer of the Fringe Association blog writes that the intention behind starting the slow fashion conversation in our modern maker community was to celebrate “the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe.”

Our vocation to continue supporting domestic textile production and empowering knitters with patterns that can become staples in their wardrobes feeds directly into the goals and outcomes of the slow fashion movement. Needless to say, all of us here at Brooklyn Tweed have a deep investment in slow fashion and thought we’d first share some thoughts on the subject from our staff and then invite you to join the conversation by commenting below.

Making one’s own clothing meant garments with higher quality fabric and craftsmanship, while exercising creativity and individuality. I continued to sew through high school and college and beyond. When my children were young, I made clothes, toys, and costumes.  The family was given matching pajama bottoms every year for Christmas. Eventually, I had less time due to family life, and then full-time work, to pursue sewing with the same passion and commitment. Quilting replaced sewing, then knitting replaced quilting. I still consider myself a sewer and a quilter but those activities require equipment and knitting is so very portable.

I feel that the pendulum is swinging and I’m interested in garment sewing again. It is like many activities in life — the more you do, the better you get, with the converse being true as well. Time away from the sewing machine has meant reacquainting myself with techniques and construction methods — not a bad way to spend one’s time.

The current Slow Fashion October trend doesn’t really speak to me because I was participating in slow fashion long before it was a thing. I wore hand-me-downs, bought used clothing, and made my own clothes as a way of life. While it’s interesting to see what people are doing for Slow Fashion October, I’m more inclined to keep doing my own thing which isn’t limited to a certain time period or social movement.

– Stephanie Engle, Production Coordinator

 

Slow fashion to me means being mindful of what I am choosing to wear, from considering who is making my clothes to the source of the materials to the working conditions of the maker. If I’m the maker, it also means taking time to pay attention to the design and being proud of creating something by my own hands that will be enjoyed by either myself or my loved ones.

– Jen Hurley, Office Manager

 

Fashion isn’t everything. But we all have to clothe ourselves, and I think how you choose to do that says a huge amount about your character. Many people don’t know the stories behind the clothes I wear: the hours it took to knit a sweater or charity shop in which I found my favorite woolly cardigan. And they don’t have to — but I do. 

– Anna Moore, Art Production Coordinator

 

To be honest, I’m still working on wrapping my head around the “slow” of slow fashion, specifically in the context of my making. I deeply respect its ethos, and after impulsively — and soullessly — dancing with fast fashion in my high school and early college years, I’ve learned the hard way exactly how crucial it is to tangibly exercise consciousness in the seemingly superficial act of clothing oneself. Thankfully, asking myself such questions as, “What is this? Where did this come from? How was this made? Will I wear it? Will I love it?” is every day becoming more and more an instinct. At some point in this learning process it just suddenly made a lot of sense to invest more in making my own garments, too.

And here lies the challenge for me. I do love knitting as a process, but I may actually be a 100% product knitter. Since I spend a lot of time thinking about how a project will fit in my rotation, as a matter of principle, the vision of the finished piece becomes the sole focus of my making, which quickly — defiantly — turns impatient. In other words, I value the slow of handmade, but still expect myself to work like a machine, to churn out pieces like a factory — hence the debilitating guilt when projects languish and incapacitating fear of failure or “wasted” time when planning a custom piece.

I don’t believe we should take garments at face value. Rather, I believe we should be constantly working to uncover the stories they tell about how they came to be and what those, in turn, say about their makers and their wearers. Yet for some reason I find it difficult to do this uncovering when it comes to my making. I find it difficult to accept my own processes as useful and illuminative in their own right.

Thankfully, I’ve recently found myself surrounded by amazing people who are actively pushing me to realize the value of the process in all of its unhurried, yet frighteningly spontaneous (to me), yet infinitely creative glory. So my work this month is to meet them halfway in this quest to understand “slow” by being kinder to myself, allowing mistakes, allowing room for “distractions” (sometimes a movie just begs to be watched without the stress to multitask!), accepting my limitations, and really, not worrying about failing too much.

– Korina Yoo, Creative Coordinator

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.” –  Mahatma Gandhi

There are so many elements of the fashion industry that are broken and harmful nowadays and I have always loved this quote for really stating this feeling so simply and strikingly. For me slow fashion means making my own clothes through sewing or knitting, buying from ethical producers, extending the life of a garment through mending, and resurrecting treasures from charity and thrift shops. It is not a frivolous privilege but a necessity.

– Lis Smith, Wholesale Specialist

 

Growing up in a family of crafters, sewing, thrifting, and embellishing clothes were just part of daily life. With three kids at home, figuring out how things were made and then making them ourselves was a necessity as well as useful entertainment. That early interest in craft led me to a degree in theatre with a focus in costume design and historical fashion — really digging into the process of how and why textiles and garments were created in the past and using that knowledge to create something new. I discovered the community aspect of crafting later, after ending up working in IT (like a lot of art majors). Finding a group of people to learn from, create with, and pass on skills to was hugely beneficial — and eventually allowed me to make a career jump to the knitting industry. So my introduction to slow fashion began in a communal, creative, knowledge-sharing environment.

From there, it was a natural progression from simply making things to learning about the real-world impact of the materials I was making things out of. How was this fabric or yarn made? Who is making it? Where is the fiber sourced from? Are the land and animals being managed ethically? Are workers receiving fair wages and working in safe conditions? What is the environmental consequence of commercial production? What materials can I use that support sustainability and ecologically sound practices? And realistically, how can I implement these considerations into daily life as a consumer and crafter, as well as encourage and enable others to do so?

The last, in particular, is a balancing act. Of course I want to make every new pattern I see, and to buy all the beautiful yarn and fabric I can get my hands on, but then I’m just back to fast fashioning my slow fashion — and how many of those projects will I actually finish? My goals for Slow Fashion October this year are to look before I leap (and purchase), to complete and use the things I make, and, I think most importantly, to explore how I can better share slow fashion with others who may not enjoy the same access to knowledge, materials, or simply time to craft that I am privileged to have.

– Kel Moore, Wholesale Specialist

 

I grew up wearing a uniform to school every day, so when it came time to dress myself in high school, and more importantly as an adult, I was at a bit of a loss. It’s taken me many, many years to realize that in making my own clothing, I’m able to identify how I want to dress and present myself to the world in a way that simply can’t be done with ready to wear clothing. Initially, I liked the challenge of making my own clothing, but what has become more meaningful to me is to be able to find my personal style through my creativity and handwork. 

— Christina Rondepierre, Marketing Coordinator

 

I have a lot of fraught feelings about Slow Fashion, mostly to do with how accessible it is. So often the rhetoric is about the individual: “This is what I am doing…” “My intentions are…” “These things matter to me…” While focusing on our individual actions is one step in the process of effecting change, it’s absolutely necessary to move beyond that at some point to consider “we,” “us,” and “our.”

More than anything else, Slow Fashion is about creating community and sharing knowledge. As makers, what are we doing to empower other makers and non-makers in our communities? When will we start hosting workshops on making, thrifting, and mending? When will we begin sharing our stashes and knowledge with those who don’t have the privilege to shop small or learn on their own?

It’s not enough to tell folks to not judge themselves if they are unable to legitimate their standing in this moment through the purchasing of known materials or garments, nor is it enough to linger on the sidelines cheering folks on. Let’s take to the streets arm in arm and work to inspire and share our knowledge with makers and non-makers alike. When we work together, we can make an impact on more closets than just our own.

– Jamie Maccarthy, Customer Service

Join us next week for Part 2 of this series, when we’ll share more about how Brooklyn Tweed’s story and business model reflects similar values as the slow fashion principles. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your own thoughts and responses to the above ideas and considerations.

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Welcome to BT Backstage, a series of posts introducing some of the folks who bring our patterns and designs to the knitting public. Once the concept for a new design is sketched and swatched, the work begins to translate the designer’s vision into a knittable pattern. Robin Melanson, our Senior Tech Editor, has been the linchpin in this process since we began producing design collections in 2011. We talked with Robin about the demands of her job and the skill set that allows her to bring to life more than 60 patterns for Brooklyn Tweed each year.

BT: Let’s start with a bit about your background… how did you become a tech editor?

Robin: I started working in the knitting industry as a freelance designer way back in 2003. I have had many patterns published with magazines and yarn companies over the years, I published a book with STC Craft in 2008, and I’ve made knitted costumes for several stage musicals (including a Broadway show). Nearly all of my work as a technical editor has arisen from relationships I made as a designer with technical or creative editors working in the industry. People who were familiar with my work as a designer would ask if I was interested in editing, or when they found out I was editing, they would be happy to add me to their team. What they liked about my work was that I was submitting well-written, logical patterns with excellent math and very few errors. At the time I thought that all designers had those skills, but as it turns out that is not always the case. I enjoy the imaginative aspect of designing, but I also take a lot of pleasure in solving the technical puzzle of an unexpected detail. Basically, I’m a Velma — the nerd who figures stuff out — and it suits me to edit pretty much full-time. My clients include yarn companies, magazines, book publishers, yarn shops, and independent designers. I think my path is a fairly common one among tech editors.

BT: What do you think are the most important skills for a tech editor?

Robin: In addition to having a great amount of knitting knowledge, a tech editor must be skilled in language, math (including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and occasionally trigonometry), design, grading, spatial reasoning, logic… it’s a long list. Most tech editors must also use Adobe Illustrator, so some graphic design skills are required. We must be able to cut to the gist of a document, figure out what is really intended and how to say it in the most logical way, and be able to do so in a timely fashion because we don’t have unlimited budgets or flexible schedules in this industry. My educational background is academic and language focused; I earned an Honours BA from the University of Toronto with a double major in English and Celtic Studies. I am also an avid sewer (as an English major I can’t use the word “sewist”), which gives depth to my understanding of garment construction. Tech editors are inventive problem-solvers; accumulated experience is a valuable asset when someone comes up with something you’ve never seen before and you need to use your previous experience creatively. We also occasionally need to be the voice of reason.

BT: At what point in a pattern’s development do you get involved? What’s the route a pattern has to travel before it’s ready for publication?

Robin: For Brooklyn Tweed Design Team collections, after the designers have created their concepts and the layout of their sample sizes, I write and grade the patterns for them from the charts and swatches they have provided. I communicate with the sample knitters to resolve any problems that come up (although the designers also work with the same knitters frequently and discuss the sample amongst themselves as the work progresses). I re-edit the patterns after receiving feedback from the sample knitters and any finishing notes from the designer. Our counter editors work with me to identify problems not discovered earlier; this is an important step because if it’s me who is doing the initial work on the patterns, then we also need additional eyes to check my work. (It would be nice if I were 100% perfect 100% of the time, but alas I am not Borg!) The process is many months long from start to finish for any given collection.

BT: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Robin: Quality alone-time with my spreadsheets.

BT: Thanks for taking the time to introduce your work, Robin! We’ll let you get back to those spreadsheets for the Winter 18 collection!

Robin has also designed for Wool People — her Themis cardigan in Loft is ideal for transitional weather.

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Greetings from wintry Portland! As we get ready to leaf over to 2017, we’ve enjoyed looking back on our work from the past year and remembering our favorite BT knitwear. All of our office staff have weighed in with their picks of 2016, and a Top Ten have emerged.

 

The striking poncho shape of the women’s version captured our hearts in particular — not to mention those luscious cables.

Originally knit in Quarry as part of our Ganseys collection, this hat got a whole new look when we released our worsted-spun DK Arbor last fall. Those cables really pop in a yarn built for stitch definition.

Melissa Wehrle knocked it out of the park with her modern interpretation of the Aran pullover in Wool People 10. We love the traditional cables updated with the vented hem and slim sleeves.

We all agree: classic cabled shawl-collar cardigans forever. Especially when they’re warm but light in quick-knitting Quarry.

Oh, those elegant lines! This beautiful cardigan is flattering on everyone.

This quick and satisfying knit uses Arbor to render the Tree of Life — one of our favorite traditional motifs — in stunning high definition. If you can part with it, this cowl makes a great gift.

We love the tailored fit and the bold, simple patterning against a background of reverse stockinette.

This layering piece is perfect for three-season wear, and the shawl collar really sets it apart.

The intriguing fabric of this scarf is such a delightful opportunity to play with color and yarn weight combinations.

 

Maximum coziness, beautiful cables. We love the oversized fit cleverly adapted to eliminate bulk under the arms.

What were your favorite Brooklyn Tweed patterns this year? Let us know in the comments!

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We’ve loved following along with the Slow Fashion October movement this month and thought we’d join in the fun with a group photo featuring our Portland office team in their handknits.

Regardless of whether or not you participated in Slow Fashion October, we appreciate that there is a time set aside to have these conversations, which can be continued throughout the year. Read more about Slow Fashion October on the Fringe Association blog.

And in case you’re wondering what we’re wearing(!), patterns from left to right are: Stasis (Loft), Rift (Shelter), Manzanilla (Arbor), Sous Sous (Arbor), Little Wave (Shelter), Timberline (Shelter), Hayward (Loft), Freeport (Shelter doubled), Grettir (Shelter).

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