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As we hunker down for the knitting season, we’ve taken a moment to share our thoughts on the beloved tools that carry us through our making — from the repair hooks that lend their helping hands, to the measuring tapes that mark our humble triumphs, and to the heirlooms that remind us of our roots and strengthen our branches.

We invite you to reflect on and share stories about your own essential and sentimental tools as you read on below!

While utilitarian by nature, some tools embody more than just the suggestion of a helping hand. A special bag purchased to both support an independent maker and commemorate a fiber event; a needle sizer that’s used less for its practical purpose and kept more for its inherent beauty; a stitch marker tin, and stitch makers inside, gifted by friends and loved ones; coilless pins in constant and myriad use ever since recommended by a knitting guru; simple thread and waste yarn at the ready to mend or assist with a provisional cast on — these simple objects embody not only their private, respective purposes but also their projected, future potential for participating in the crafting and making of something other, something rich and warm and woolly, something greater and bigger than the mere sum of its parts. — Jen Hurley, Office Manager

The brown puppy pouch was a sweet gift from a friend, and it’s housed all of my tools for quite some time now. Inside of that pouch are many useful treasures given to me over the years — some washi tape, a pair folding scissors, darning and cable needles, repair hooks, chapstick, and an assortment of measuring gadgets. The little red pouch was sent to me by my youngest brother while he was living in South Korea; that’s where I store my mish-mash of stitch markers, at least when I remember to put them away. My tool kit perfectly represents my “sentimental utilitarian” maker identity; each thing has a purpose, a place, and a story (though, I’m not so sure how the bobby pin made it in there). — Jamie Maccarthy, Customer & Community Relations Specialist

I inherited my grandmother’s scissors almost a decade after she passed. I like to think that they were waiting for me and that there’s some maternal magic in them, encouraging me to keep working with my hands as she did and her mother before her. — Christina Rondepierre, Marketing Manager

I’m a firm believer in always having the right tools. In knitting we focus foremost on the yarn, what it feels in our hands while we are knitting with it and thinking about what it will be like to wear. It could be a special skein from a trip or maybe we even spun it ourselves. But I think the tools we use to bring our projects to life should be equally considered and carefully collected, they often spend just as much time in our hands as the yarn does and they play many important roles.

My notions pouch itself was a gift, and is a perfectly sized waxed canvas carry-all made in Colorado. Cable needles and stitch fixers, in a range of sizes. Always pencils and erasers, as I’m a print-copy-with-tons-of-notes type of knitter. Multiple ways to measure, multiple ways to cut and snip. There are a few special items — a rosewood stitch marker case, fragrant skin salve, and scissors that belonged to my mother. But mostly it’s just the basics, every item making it’s way into the pouch for a reason and staying because it’s proven itself useful time and time again. — Lis Smith, Design Coordinator

Sentiment and I are good friends indeed, but I also like to travel light! Nowadays, I leave my tender things at home and walk out the door with only my bare essentials and just-in-case items (see: one Eucalan stain wipe). I will say though, that I have a strong, perhaps unreasonable attachment to those tiny hinged cases (found at The Container Store) wherein my stitch markers now live. — Korina Yoo, Marketing Coordinator

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There is often a sense in our knitting community that each of us fits neatly in one of two boxes — the process-oriented or the product-oriented. While there are indeed knitters who knit for tactile joy and those who knit to fulfill a certain vision for a finished product, there are also many knitters who fall somewhere else on the spectrum. One of these knitters is Korina Yoo, the Marketing Coordinator here at Brooklyn Tweed. Korina sees value in both process- and product-oriented perspectives and applies a balanced approach of both to her making practices. In this balancing act, Korina has created her own internal creative space wherein she works toward honing her skills through process, while enjoying the curatorial powers afforded by the production of a slow fashion wardrobe.

Korina happened upon knitting quite by accident during her first winter here in Portland, Oregon. At the time, the crafty renaissance was well underway, with online knitting resources, patterns, and yarns easily within a beginner’s reach. Having come from a family of generational makers, it was only a matter of time before the world of fiber arts would draw her in. “I find a lot of strength in making with my hands,” Korina says after reflecting on her introduction to the world of handmaking as a child — which comes as no surprise considering the legacy of talent that exists in her family.

After years of exploring a range of hobbies, Korina really didn’t expect much when she first took up knitting. The first few things she made after watching instructional videos on YouTube were scarves and cowls for other people, usually close friends. But this craft suddenly became so much more than a transitory activity when Korina realized that she could, like her grandmother, make nice clothes by hand. After having finished her first, actual garment, Korina thought, “Hey! I made a top and it actually looks pretty all right.” It was in this moment that she found the confidence to really dive into her knitting and begin making more garments for herself.

Korina’s go-to basics, from left to right: two of Julie Hoover’s Cline Pullover (Shelter in Cast Iron and Newsprint) and Junko Okamoto’s Yuri Pullover (Loft in Soot, Fossil, Fauna, and Sap).

Product by Process

When considering process- and product-oriented making habits, Korina is swift to point out that there is not any inherent value in prioritizing one or the other. “It depends on the kind of experience you want out of it,” Korina notes, acknowledging that some knit to soothe, some knit to fill holes in their wardrobes, and some knit for reasons that fall somewhere in between. At one point in Korina’s making process she was making to make, which is why many of her first projects were gifts for other people.

In the short few years Korina has continued on with her knitting practice, this focus on process-only knitting shifted to product-focused as her skillset grew. The things she enjoys making now are often garments that have clever details requiring a more thoughtful and skilled approach.

But this growth didn’t happen overnight, nor did it happen in isolation. The shared knowledge that circulates through our making community are ever present and ever valuable to new and veteran makers alike. Korina explains that “hearing other people’s stories was so influential to [her] growth,” since she “learns best by example.” Makers like Melody HoffmanEva of The Charm of It, and her fellow members of the BT Team introduced her to quality materials and a deeper understanding of how process- and product-oriented practices dovetail into the creation of a single handmade garment.

Korina sporting Jared Flood’s Mawson Hat (Shelter in Newsprint) and Sonobe Cardigan (Arbor in Porter), which she affectionately calls her Geiger!

There are many reasons why we make our own clothes. For Korina, the inherent value of making and the opportunities presented to hone her skills through practicing her craft are ever present when she sits down with a project. While external factors, like ethical and environmental reasons, ring true for Korina, the majority of her drive to make comes from the empowering internal knowledge that she can.

Skill-Building Wardrobes

Korina’s focus on both process (developing quality craftsmanship) and product (working towards quality garments) has naturally developed into a curatorial, slow fashion approach to her making and wardrobe. She has learned exactly how much time and work handmaking requires and often has clear ideas on what kinds of educational challenges she wants to take on next, and so, carefully plans how a project will fit into her life well before casting on. When asked about her feelings on the current state of her slow fashion wardrobe, after a little over a year of focused making and refining her tastes and preferences, she is happy to state, “I’ve reached a point where I’m really good with what I have and where I am.”

When thinking of newly-finished makes and future projects, now that “the basics are covered,” Korina finds herself wanting to incorporate projects that are still utilitarian, but more fun, with interesting stitch patterns, shapes, and clever construction that keeps her mind engaged — like Jared Flood’s Sonobe Cardigan and Scott Rohr’s Ellsworth Wrap. As a very recent convert to stranded colorwork, she’s also eagerly diving back into the world of colorful yokes.

Korina’s current project: a mash-up of Marie Wallin’s Raven Fairisle Yoke Pullover and Tin Can Knits’s Strange Brew Round Yoke Recipe, knit using six colors of Loft (Cast Iron, Soot, Pumice, Yellowstone, Sap, and Cinnabar).

Thanks to a clever ratio, Korina feels confident moving forward with her plans to incorporate these quirky items from project basket to closet. For Korina, the trick is to pick a neutral color to form the foundation of your wardrobe, and then select two or three other “pop” colors for variety: black, rust, and ochre are her choices. The same idea can be applied to garment types for outfit-building as well. For example, Korina has a profound love for clothes, but what she enjoys most are pants with interesting construction details like asymmetrical tie waistbands, voluminous pleats, or clever pin tucks (“I’m a pant connoisseur!”). So, her favorite recipe is “to pair an outlandish pant with a basic top and coat.” Regardless of how minimalist or adventurous the individual pieces in her closet may be, following a ratio of 2 neutral colors to 1 pop color, or 2 basic pieces to 1 adventurous piece keeps an outfit looking balanced and cohesive.

This summer, Korina refocused her efforts into sewing as well, and has enjoyed exploring ways to incorporate bold patchwork — which she loves (“It’s like knitting; you’re making your own fabric as you go!”) — into unassuming utilitarian garments. She put her 2:1 ratio to good use in the above project, a black-and-red patchwork kimono jacket.

All shades, except Newsprint, found in both Shelter (Korina’s favorite) and Loft; Newsprint available only in Shelter.

Solenn Pullover in Loft (Cast Iron), Ellsworth Wrap in Loft (Fossil, Cast Iron, and Soot), and Naos Hat in Shelter (Yellowstone)

Follow Korina’s making journey on Instagram and Ravelry!

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What began as Jared Flood’s personal blog has evolved over the years into Brooklyn Tweed, a company guided by its core team members’ collective passion for wool, knitting, and design. This passion continues to be nurtured, shaped, and made more nuanced by the unique perspectives that these team members — we — each bring to the table. Staying true to our voices has always been the hallmark of our strength as a company, and as we grow forward together, we always keep in mind that magic happens during the journey, not just upon arriving at a final destination.

Each day at Brooklyn Tweed is filled with the beautifully mundane and the ordinarily amazing. To shed some light on how we work behind the scenes, how we think about the products we make, and how we approach the craft of making clothing as a whole, Jamie Maccarthy, our Customer and Community Relations Specialist, will be sitting down with members of our team, sharing with you why we deeply care about the work that we do, as well as more about our quirks, our humanness, where we are now, and where we’re heading.

Say hello to Christina Rondepierre, the Marketing Manager here at Brooklyn Tweed.

Christina — whose thoughts are never far from slow fashion conversations taking place in our making community at large — began building her slow fashion wardrobe nearly a decade ago. What started as a bubbling urge to knit and knit and make and make has, with time, simmered to a steady focus on sourcing, sustainability, and cohesion in her craft. 

Sourcing

Of paramount importance in Christina’s slow fashion wardrobe is sourcing, both in where a garment is sourced and where the materials to make that garment are sourced. If a slow fashion wardrobe means making a conscious decision about what enters one’s closet based on the ethics of its production, it would follow that the choices around what is included should take into account where those things are coming from.

During her first few years as a knitter, Christina didn’t have the context to question the roots of the materials she was working with. Instead, the desire to fill her closet with me-made garments drove her parallel desire to accumulate yarn.

Christina’s exposure to Brooklyn Tweed early on in her knitting journey played a large role in her realization of the importance of known-sources wool. Each skein of Brooklyn Tweed’s woolen-spun yarn passing through her fingers encouraged a new thoughtfulness — where are the sheep who made the fiber that would become this yarn? Who are the ranchers, the millworkers, the dyers? As she learned about “new techniques, fibers, and tools, [there came] a natural response to want to dive deeper, to elevate [her] craft and to learn as much as [she could].”

Given the pervasiveness of mass production, to be able to point a finger at a map and name the ranch, mill, or dyehouse where a yarn is made is truly something special. Knowing the where of a garment and its materials affords a unique ability to support the communities that continue to keep our domestic textile supply chain alive. As many of us wool lovers know, “it’s really difficult to keep a sheep’s fleece clean, and the quality of the wool is dependent on the living conditions of these majestic animals. Purchasing quality fine-wool ensures a market share for the ranchers who spend their time and effort and pour their hearts into tending to their flocks.” Christina consciously, and actively, seeks out yarns that contribute to the growth of the deeper economies inhabited by ranchers and other domestic supply chain partners.

Christina sporting Carol Feller’s Carpino Pullover from Wool People 6 (left; Loft in Wool Socks) and Jared Flood’s Skiff Hat (right; Shelter in Soot). Cameo role: her lovely pup, Riley!

Sustainability

In looking at the where and how of a garment or material, inevitably the question of resources comes into play. If we can point to the location of production, as well as to the people and animals producing, we also need to consider how often the production is happening and at what costs. Succinctly put, “the goal of sustainability is to make sure that the resources you’re using are able to be replenished instead of being depleted.”

Brooklyn Tweed’s ranch-specific yarn line opened up a new space for exploration in Christina’s personal making practice. In speaking with Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed, the realization that yarn can be the end product of a larger, sustainable practice was eye-opening and connected many threads that Christina had come across in her academic experience studying agriculture, permaculture, and globalization. She says, “When you start incorporating other ways that sheep can help increase the health of the land on which they are grown, those sheep add a whole new level to the sustained productivity of their landscape.”

There’s an additional layer that often goes without acknowledgement in larger conversations about sustainability — whether or not something is sustainable for an individual maker to produce. When considering sustainability in her own wardrobe, in addition to considering the environmental costs of the materials being used, Christina asks herself: “Do I have the ability and am I willing to care for this item for 5 years (or more)? How much do I need?” If she were to knit 12 sweaters each year for the next 5 years, that would be 60 sweaters to wash, mend, and wear — with a full time job, a family, and other obligations, it wouldn’t be sustainable to keep producing and tending to handmade garments at that rapid of a rate.

Now that Christina is at the point where she’s content with the foundations of her slow fashion wardrobe, she finds herself exploring ready-to-wear garments produced by companies and artisans that share her values. We live in a moment where many ready-to-wear garments are produced in the slow fashion spirit with varying degrees of success. These companies make rounding out a wardrobe that balances the handmade and the readymade possible, and something that Christina is happy and excited to be constantly working towards.

Christina in Joji Locatelli’s Manzanilla Pullover (Arbor in Dorado).

Cohesion

With the right ingredients, a capsule wardrobe hits all the right notes for Christina and invites a cohesion into her closet that would otherwise be wanting.

Instead of focusing on a seasonal capsule wardrobes, Christina incorporates a few different mini capsules into her rotation throughout the year. This approach to season-less capsules not only maintains Christina’s consistent aesthetic, but also increases the affordability of a slow fashion wardrobe. With fewer pieces of high quality that mix and match well, Christina can feel good about the slow fashion wardrobe that she is creating and nurturing. Before she begins a new project, she always asks herself how she can wear it with existing items in her wardrobe, and what color choices will allow her to wear the new-to-be item throughout the year.

“What I’m excited about most right now are designer specific capsules,” she says, as knitwear designers with strong points of view create garments that blend together harmoniously through the years. With a Jared Flood capsule wardrobe already in heavy rotation, Christina’s next focus is on Emily Greene‘s designs. In addition to her wardrobe picks below, she’s currently knitting the Kaare Cardigan in Quarry (Obsidian) and the Prism Hat in Shelter (Yellowstone)!

While many of us makers share common goals in regards to our making practices, Christina’s perspective welcomes us all to ponder more on sourcing, sustainability, and cohesion as we curate our own slow fashion wardrobes. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on slow fashion throughout the month of October, and can’t wait to share more perspectives from the BT team with you.

Freja Cardigan in Quarry (Moonstone), Fretwork Cowl in Quarry (Alabaster; discontinued color, but Sandstone is a lovely substitute!), and Skiff Hat in Shelter (Soot)

Tensile Pullover in Loft (Artifact), Divide Pullover in Arbor (Fleet), and Hatch Hat in Arbor (Humpback)

Follow Christina’s making journey on Instagram and Ravelry!

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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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The designers we selected to contribute to Wool People 11 were among the first knitters to sample our new Rambouillet laceweight, Vale. Today we share their impressions of the yarn as we feature their beautiful stoles.

Natalie Servant contributed Prism to this collection. Printed with diamonds and rhombuses, this geometric design can be a lace stole or a cowl. The charted shapes are filled with shifting textures — knit, purl, garter — so there’s more solid fabric than in many lace accessories, which puts Vale’s smooth and balanced preparation on display.

Natalie wrote, “I really enjoyed knitting with Vale. I found it easy to produce even stockinette and reverse stockinette. The surprise for me was when I washed and blocked the swatch: the drape was fantastic. The hardest part about working with Vale was having to send back the unused skeins!”

Sandhya Shadangi’s Ravine is patterned with rivulets of branching, shifting, straightening eyelets. A good stretch on blocking wires evens the long sides and opens the organic motifs to stand out against the stockinette background. Despite Vale’s elasticity, it’s a biddable yarn that accepts blocking to become fluid and drapey.

Sandhya’s impression of Vale was that it’s crisp, soft, and springy. Her fabric blocked beautifully to yield clean and even stitches with good definition, and it retained the crisp softness that had first struck her when handling it in the skein. “Overall, I think it’s perfect for lace. And I can imagine it being great for super-light garments that would also hold their shape nicely,” she concluded.

Amy van de Laar had this to say after creating Leadlight, a stole with a pattern of geometric tracery radiating from a pinhole cast-on:

“Vale is springy, light and soft, but substantial and full of personality. It’s next-to-the-skin soft, and it blocks easily and drapes beautifully — just perfect for lace knitting. The colour Heron is a calm, neutral, mid-toned grey with a subtle sheen to it.”

Fans of Plains, a limited edition yarn that we produced in collaboration with Mountain Meadow Mill in Wyoming, have been asking how Vale compares. Our customer service specialist, Jamie Maccarthy, describes the distinction between them this way:

“In spite of their commonalities (Vale and Plains are both two-ply, worsted spun, breed-specific laceweight yarns made from Rambouillet fleece grown on the plains of Wyoming), they do differ. Plains is a slightly rustic yarn, spun a bit thick-and-thin with a lot of spring in its step. While Vale maintains some of the bounce that Plains has, it is a polished yarn with an even weight and twist, which would be lovely knit up into a light top or sweater.” Read more about the development and characteristics of both Vale and Plains here.

What are you making with Vale? We’d love to know your impressions of it! Don’t forget to tag your project photos with #ValeYarn so we can follow your progress. We’ll be reposting some of our favorites on our Instagram account in the coming weeks.

@jess_schreibstein, @looplondonloves, @softsweater, @knitgraffiti, @minib, @jen_beeman

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We were delighted to release Michele Wang’s Capsule last week. This book represents a tremendous amount of labor and love, and we think Michele’s beautiful aesthetic truly shines in this focused collection. We chatted with her about this project for today’s blog post.

 

 

You’ve been designing for Brooklyn Tweed for six years, preparing an amazing 59 pieces for the seasonal collections. Did planning your Capsule book feel different from your usual design process?

It definitely felt different because there was the pressure of being the only designer. For the seasonal collections, the planning is collaborative and what we end up designing depends greatly on what the other designers are contributing. For the Capsule, it was nice to be able to design all the pieces I wanted to for the collection, but it’s also a lot of pressure — more pressure than I like or am used to! After this solo effort, I appreciated working with a team so much more.

You’ve created a lot of iconic garments that have helped to define the house style at BT; you’re especially known for your cables, and they figure prominently in this collection. What do you love about cabled texture and where do you find ideas for new motifs?

There are so many things I love about cables! I think I always come back to cables because they transcend time and trend. The same cable used in one way feels traditional, but in another setting can yield an updated, trendy look. I also love cables because they’re so much easier to knit than they look! They’re visually impressive, yet all you’re doing is working stitches out of order. To design new motifs, I depend greatly on stitch dictionaries. They’re an endless source of inspiration for me. I love flipping through them as you’d peruse a catalog, imagining where I would use a certain cable or what it would look like in a particular yarn. From there, I’ll usually play off of one motif and grow some supporting cables, changing the scale or introducing a mirroring effect.

The theme of your Capsule is loungewear. Did you know that would be the focus from the outset, and can you tell us what inspired that choice?

I did know that would be the focus and theme. I presented a mood board to Jared way in the beginning and he liked it, so we went from there. For me, hand knits are all about loungewear. Like Mr. Rogers, I love coming home and throwing on a big cardigan. There’s something about it that feels like a hug, and it grounds me. There’s nothing better than putting on a handknit (or many), some fuzzy slippers, making yourself a hot beverage and settling in for the evening. Handknits are a necessity for lounging!

Do you have a favorite piece from this collection? How do you imagine wearing it?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I guess the obvious answer would be Aspen. It’s everything a piece of loungewear should be: cabled, robe-like, with a shawl collar and waist tie. I envisioned a knitter reaching for this cardigan when she plans on staying in her jammies all day!

We confess we may have done a bit of working from home in jammies during Portland’s successive snowstorms of late, and Aspen (or Radmere, her masculine counterpart) would have made the experience so much more glamorous!

How about you, knitters? Do you have an early favorite from Michele’s new collection? How would you wear it?

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One of our favorite aspects of curating Wool People collections is the chance to collaborate with designers we haven’t worked with before. Our submissions call is open to everyone and we love seeing fresh ideas. Stacey Gerbman, Nadia Crétin-Léchenne, Rebecca Blair, Christine de Castelbajac, and Kerry Robb contributed designs to Wool People 10 for the first time, and we were smitten by their beautiful work. We wanted to feature these newly minted Wool People on the blog today and hope you’ll enjoy following them as their design careers unfold.160604_NEWS__Header

What’s your favorite detail about your WP10 design contribution?

Stacey: I am attracted to patterns that can be easily memorized because it’s meditative for me to truly relax while my hands move through the process of creating a garment. I fell in love with the simplicity and rich texture of cables, knits, and purls from the moment I finished the first swatch for the Migration cardigan.

Nadia: The fabric. I’m very fond of garter stitch. Knitted with Plains, the Scalene shawl has such a nice drape. It’s soft and springy — all that I like in a spring garment.

Rebecca: Kierson’s braided cable panels come in mirror-image pairs for a subtle touch of symmetry.

Christine: My favorite detail of Loess is the different sizes of pattern strips. They create a modern effect so people will never be bored of knitting this elegant shawl.

Kerry: Aquinnah has many little details I love, though I’m partial to the long lines of twisted rib. I think they separate the cabled elements nicely and draw the eye along the length of each piece.

 

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Any interesting techniques in the design you’d like to tell knitters about?

Stacey: Migration was the first time I used a sloped bind-off, and I am so happy with the result. This technique gives a perfectly angled shoulder seam, avoiding the stair- step effect that can happen when binding off stitches traditionally at the shoulder and underarm.

Nadia: Scalene is “beginner friendly” — all the techniques I used are really simple.

Rebecca: Substituting garter stitch as the background for a cable design is a simple but effective way to change up the look — it lends a lightness to the finished appearance, as the cables appear to float above the furrows.

Christine: You will love Indian Cross Stitch. It’s an unusual technique, but you will have a lot of fun knitting it and the subtle effect of transparency is stunning.

Kerry: I’m especially happy with the selvedges that run along the long sizes of Aquinnah. I swatched (and swatched!) and eventually landed on a version of an I-cord selvedge that suits the design very well, and it’s also fun to knit.

 

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What’s your favorite place to knit?

Stacey: I wish I could say a special corner of my studio or on my porch swing. The honest truth is most of my knitting gets done on my couch in front of my TV after my 3-year-old son is in bed. Lots of late nights watching Netflix seems to be where the majority of the work gets done!

Nadia: I’m not a “knit everywhere” person. I like to knit on the couch, in the garden or even in my bed, but I don’t knit much outside my house. I’m a homebody.

Rebecca: At my kitchen table, in the morning, with a fresh pot of coffee to hand.

Christine: My favorite place to knit is in my living room near my fireplace when the leaves are red outside.

Kerry: I do most of my knitting at home after my kids go to bed in the evening. But I think my favorite place to knit is in my studio, curled up in a wrap, and sitting in front of my sturdy little space heater. I have some nice Christmas lights draped over my workspace, and it feels like winter even in the middle of summer, thanks to the building’s always being cold.

 

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Who inspired you to start designing knitwear?

Stacey: My mother taught me how to crochet at age 8 after much begging and pleading. Once she saw how much I enjoyed the craft she fully supported me — we went on many after-work shopping trips to the local craft store so I could buy yarn to make my dolls new clothes. That never-ending belief in my creativity led me pursue a career in textile and knitwear design.

Nadia: I could name many designers, but I have a sort of “golden triangle:” three ladies that I’m admiring for their work, their creativity, sensibility and experience: Veera Välimaki, Gudrun Johnston and Ysolda Teague. I wish to be as good as they are, one day.

Rebecca: It did not occur to me until I read Sharon Miller’s magnificent reference book Heirloom Knitting that it is totally possible to rearrange and recombine different stitch patterns into any configuration, to fit into a given space or create a particular effect.

Christine: My mother. She was a wonderful woman and taught me most of my knowledge. She disappeared too early and I miss her. She would be proud of me.

Kerry: Honestly, it was yarn that inspired me to start. I taught myself to knit a couple of years ago, and everyone was talking about how much they loved superwash, so that’s what I used. But as I learned more about fiber and different breeds, I began to appreciate wool and other fibers in a new way. I’m a very tactile person, and as I began to fall in love with certain fibers and yarns, I yearned to create something new in homage to the people and animals whose work had gone into each yarn. I’m particularly passionate about yarns produced in the US, and I’m so proud to have designed something for Brooklyn Tweed.

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We are so gratified by your warm response to Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s Capsule Collection for Brooklyn Tweed. Last week Jared shared the story of developing the Capsule idea and inviting Olga to participate; now it’s Olga’s turn to tell you about her journey into knitting design and her work on this special project.

 

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Your body of work speaks for itself, but can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you come to knitting design?

Growing up in Belarus, I learned a set of crafting skills — knitting among them — from my mother and grandmother. Those skills were necessities of our daily life during that period. During my teens my grandmother taught me how to crochet, and it seemed much easier than knitting at the time. My mother taught me some fundamentals about knitwear design, but mostly how to calculate knitwear based on gauge, as we didn’t have access to many knitting patterns. She is a professional seamstress, so you could say an interest in fashion was passed with the milk. I remember earning my pocket money by tracing patterns for her in different sizes, and that also helped develop my knowledge and understanding of basic clothing construction. But it wasn’t until my early twenties that I turned to knitting as a hobby and a distraction to cope with the hardships of military life. Living overseas and not having an opportunity to work can be quite challenging; knitting has really been therapeutic. As my nomadic lifestyle provided me with inspirations, knitwear design became a way to channel those artistic urges. During the past decade, my passion outgrew hobby status and became a full-time job, my profession.

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We’d love to know more about your time in Japan. How did the environment and culture influence your development as a designer?

We had a choice for my husband’s last tour overseas prior to returning to civilian life, and Japan was in the cards. We decided upon it with excitement — at that time I was working on a self-published title with my friend and co-author Vanessa Yap-Einbund featuring all Japanese yarns. I’d been dreaming of having a chance to live there and experience the unique culture. Japan seemed so different to my European/Westernized mind and mentality, but I credit those differences with helping me absorb and appreciate even more. Being naturally very curious and observant, I found myself elated that every mundane thing there was full of thought and detail. I filled my notebooks with ideas and numerous designs, which I love perusing now when I am working on something new. Inspiration is everywhere and to me Japan provided a lot of it; it also taught me to notice even the tiniest details now that I am back in the States. Our four-year post allowed me to concentrate on establishing my pattern brand olgajazzy, sold via my website and Ravelry. And now I have moved on to wholesaling my printed patterns directly to yarn stores worldwide.

You’re known for your ability to create fabric with sculptural qualities and to make unexpected shapes wearable. When you design a piece like the Tatara armwarmers, what’s your thought process? 

My design process may sound a bit backwards to many people, since I prefer to begin with designing or customizing a stitch pattern rather than setting out to create a new hat or a new sweater. Oftentimes, it’s a matter of desiring a certain movement of stitches and fabric and then testing the idea in a swatch. The natural next step is picking the right yarn to highlight the features of the stitch pattern, and that does take much longer than one might think. Swatching and blocking numerous choices allows me to anticipate the effect in a finished garment. Once I’m satisfied with this stage, I try to imagine the best possible way to display the stitch pattern — as a collar on a sweater or a hat or an all-over fabric on a cardigan. It’s a very long and tedious vetting process, but I’ve found this is what works best for me. The Tatara armwarmers were a marriage of technique and a goal for a finished look — I wanted a scrunched-up style that wouldn’t produce an awkward volume of fabric. And I personally love the geometric shape the Tataras acquired as a result. When laid out flat, they almost become objets d’art.

 

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Do you have a favorite garment from the Capsule collection? 

That is such a hard question; I love all of them! I have devoted a significant amount of time to develop each one with a lot of precision and attention to detail. But if I have to name one that I am most proud of, it would be Tetrapods — my first original lace stitch pattern. And the Nobu pullover has quite an elaborate construction that I admire; it’s just full of architectural texture.

 

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What’s inspiring you nowadays?

I’m always looking back through my notebooks. Throughout the years I have disciplined myself to record ideas and stitch patterns and even color pairings. And I tend to go back to my earlier work as well, trying to catch a train of thought that moved me toward a certain design and looking for other ideas I can attach to make something new.

Thanks so much for sitting down with us today Olga! We feel so grateful to have gotten the chance to collaborate with you on this project, and wish you all the best in your next design adventure(s). 

Thank you!

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What’s your favorite detail about your WP9 design contribution?
Decreasing and increasing give Imago an interesting hemline that scoops down over the hips.

Any interesting techniques in the design you’d like to tell knitters about?
It may not be obvious, but the increasing stitch is an eyelet stitch. Those tiny eyelets give a crisp edge that sets off the geometric shapes in this sweater.

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What’s the most beloved (and well-worn) hand knit in your closet?
My most well-worn knit is a navy blue chunky cardigan. I designed this garment 15 to 20 years ago for one of the knitting pattern books. It’s in simple stockinette stitch with long rib finishing.

Three things that are inspiring you right now?
Walking early in the morning. Taking a trip to London, New York & Hong Kong. Swimming as much as I can.

 


 

This interview is part of our Take 5 series—a collection of bite-sized interviews with designers about the inspirations behind our newest collection—Wool People 9 .

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What’s your favorite detail about your WP9 design contribution? 
When working on something relatively simple in silhouette, I try to pay special attention to details; they become key attractions against the canvas and help to balance the entire look. In Koto‘s case the overall patterning is rather minimal, but I am particularly pleased by how the hem and neckline arches correlate without interrupting the general flow of the patterning.

Any interesting techniques in the design you’d like to tell knitters about? 
This design utilizes short rows, but since there are so many techniques for working them, I have chosen a relatively new-to-me method of shadow short rows. This curious method allows the short rows to become invisible, as the wraps are hidden within the stitches and then integrated into the canvas of knitting afterwards—which also renders this fabric completely reversible. So if you are ever planning to wear your knit with both sides as public, this technique is perfect to learn.

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What’s the most beloved (and well-worn) hand knit in your closet?
Ever since I got my Shadow pullover from Wool People 1 back I have worn it religiously every winter. With jeans or skirts, even wool shorts. The cabled texture on that sweater is just so balanced with the lightness of Shelter—it just can’t be beat, whether layered or worn on its own. Plus it’s in my go-to color: grey.

Three things that are inspiring you right now? 
Just three? Architecture, urban and industrial design, kirigami—to name a few that I turn towards of late while researching for my designs.

 


 

This interview is part of our Take 5 series—a collection of bite-sized interviews with designers about the inspirations behind our newest collection—Wool People 9 .

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