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Today we’re excited to announce a new addition to Brooklyn Tweed’s permanent stable of yarns: an airy Rambouillet laceweight from the softest fleece we’ve ever offered. Vale has been in development since last year and it’s been hard to keep it under our hats! Like all its BT cousins, this breed-specific yarn is 100% American made, from sheep to dyepot. Vale will be available for purchase on May 17. Ready for a sneak peek?

The Fiber

Rambouillet sheep are also known as French Merinos; two hundred years of careful breeding developed a fleece with even more crimp and bounce than the merino that’s widely available today. In the United States, Rambouillets are a favorite finewool breed on the western plains. The growers we work with in Wyoming achieve wool with a micron count of 21.5, the softest fiber we’ve used to date.

The Process

The same partners who help us produce Arbor bring our Rambouillet bales from raw fleece to finished skein. Chargeurs, based in South Carolina, scours it clean and combs it into the smooth and consistent top that’s required for worsted spinning. The fiber is shipped on to Maine for worsted spinning at the Jagger Brothers mill, and then travels a short distance to the Saco River Dyehouse for eco-friendly skein dyeing.

The Colors

Vale’s 14 custom shades augment some touchstone colors from the Arbor line with sophisticated softer tones. Dusty rose shades, glacial blues, and lichen yellows form a focused palette that offers both neutrals and brights.

The Knitting

We’ve handpicked a selection of favorite lace pieces designed by Jared Flood from the BT archives to re-knit in Vale. (Any guesses which they are?) We love the polished, even spin of this yarn, which shows off stitch motifs to maximum effect.

Mull over the palette and the pattern options and get ready to join us for a summer of lace! We’ll be hosting our first-ever knitalong starting in early July and posting our favorite tips and tricks for lace success. If you’re lace-curious but haven’t tried this beautiful form of knitting yet, it will be the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet.

Join us this week while we discuss Vale and all of its project possibilities on the BT Ravelry forum.

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Our latest collection, BT Yokes, offers even the most seasoned colorwork knitter lots of opportunity for experimentation. We had fun playing with color options for Schulz, a unisex pullover designed by Michele Wang. Try Cinnabar or Thistle for a bright pop of vintage nostalgia, or a neutral like Cast Iron or Pumpernickel for a slightly more subdued effect. These are just a few ideas — we can’t wait to see what you come up with!

The colorways as shown in the photo above:

1 — Almanac (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

2 — Tent (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

3 — Thistle (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

4 — Cast Iron (C1 & C3), Fossil (C2)

5 — Pumpernickel (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

6 — Embers (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

7 — Hayloft (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

8 — Cinnabar (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

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Sunbursts, trees and stars, reindeer and snowflakes, mutable landscapes of blended color. In vivid hues or in natural sheep shades, figural or geometric in design, the yoke sweaters of the North Atlantic are distinctive and enduring. The story of their creation in the 20th century is one of enterprise and canny marketing as knitters leveraged traditional skills to make ends meet in a rapidly changing and newly global economy.

The Icelandic lopapeysa, the Scandinavian and Shetland yokes, and the sweaters of the Bohus Stickning cooperative in Sweden may all have their roots in a Greenlandic ornamental accessory called the nuilarmiut that has nothing to do with knitting — it’s an element of traditional formalwear made of glass beads that cover the shoulders and bust in a large collar of brightly patterned geometric designs. The nuilarmiut’s appearance in a 1930 Danish film and, later, on members of the Danish royal family seems to have inspired several Scandinavian knitwear designers to imitate the effect in wool. Three of the earliest known circular yoke patterns bore the name “Eskimo,” suggesting their common inspiration. In the 1940s, the Bohus Stickning company in Sweden made the yoke sweater a mid-century status symbol. The designers’ innovative and masterful color play broke entirely with traditional motifs and methods to create subtly shifting forms and juxtaposed hues, all rendered at extremely fine gauge in luxurious angora-blend yarns. Bohus sweaters were worn by royalty and cultural icons — and commanded prices to match. The knitters’ earnings supported many families during an economically difficult time. Cottage industries in Shetland and Iceland were also quick to capitalize on the international taste for yokes, channeling their potent knitting histories to create garments that became lucrative exports more accessible to the average pocket book.

The strategic position of the patterning on a circular yoke serves two purposes. The designs ring the throat and shoulders like jewelry, drawing attention to the face. The plain body and sleeves heighten this effect while slyly achieving a second end: all that unadorned fabric is easy and relatively speedy knitting. In the case of the famous Shetland yokes, many of which featured tree and star designs borrowed from neighboring Norway, the jumper bodies and sleeves were knit by machine and then passed to the handknitters for the colorwork portion. The sweaters could then be completed at a cracking pace to achieve a successful commercial scale, and the knitters could develop one beautiful variation after another by skillfully shading both the background and foreground colors. The Bohus sweaters were always knit entirely by hand, but even at 8 or 9 stitches to the inch, the plain bodies allowed the most accomplished knitters to complete a couture garment in just a few weeks. Icelandic production knitters still work by hand, but take advantage of their native sheep’s long-stapled fleeces to work at a loose large gauge that supports strong geometric motifs and rapid sweater completion.

Yokes have climbed to the height of fashion, plunged into outmoded fustiness, and ascended once again in recent decades. Across the North Atlantic, a resurgence of admiration for these powerful symbols of national identity has led younger generations to embrace them. Knitters around the world have been quick to appreciate the joy of crafting yokes; a basic circular yoke is one of the most foolproof sweaters to knit, and the possibilities for elaboration are endless.

Brooklyn Tweed pays homage to the bold beauty and variety of yoke designs in five sweaters and two accessories that tip the cap to history, but hew to modern fit principles and allow each designer to explore original ideas. In these pages you’ll find seamless construction (both bottom up and top down), stranded colorwork, cabled texture, and even a wink at classic cartoons. Welcome to BT Yokes.

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Winter is lingering long in Portland this year, but we’re choosing to see these days of near-freezing drizzle as a prompt to make the most of our knitwear. Warm weather still feels so far away that we’re more than happy to contemplate casting on another sweater, especially with the lure of a just-right portion of decorative stitchwork. That’s what we love about yoke designs: their perfect balance of carefree stockinette seasoned with a dash of colorwork or textural patterning. They’re fun to knit, easy to integrate into any wardrobe, and endlessly inviting when we want to experiment with color or cables. To share our enthusiasm, we’re releasing our themed collection for 2017 today: BT Yokes.

We drew inspiration from the sweaters of Iceland, Shetland, and Scandinavia — a history we enjoyed researching for a feature in our lookbook. Jared Flood’s Atlas (now sized for the whole family) nods to the lopapeysa; Véronik Avery elevates her Frostpeak colorwork with cunningly placed purl stitches, an idea pioneered by the Bohus Stickning designers of Sweden; Michele Wang’s Morse cowl stacks bands of small geometric motifs common to Shetland and Norway.

The beauty of yokes has always been their versatility as a canvas for anything a designer can dream up, so we haven’t been too faithful in our interpretations of the form. Some garments apply inventive shaping principles (wait till you see Julie Hoover’s newest take on raglan decreases) and motifs that owe more to Charlie Brown than to anything ever knit in the North Atlantic regions. Norah Gaughan’s flights of cabled fancy are iconic in and of themselves, and her full powers are on display in Tundra and Pyry.

A surprise storm system meant we had to be creative about staging our photoshoot for BT Yokes, but is there a more perfect backdrop for a collection of cozy woolens than a fresh blanket of snow? We hope you’ll enjoy browsing the new lookbook and making the most of the knitting weather.

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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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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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The season of twinkly lights, eggnog, and snowball fights is the most wonderful time of the year — for woolens!  Some of us are trying to calculate how many hours of sleep we can exchange for crafting time to eke out a few more handmade gifts; others are blissfully escaping the chaos by casting on a long-term project that has nothing to do with the holidays and stresses of the wider world. If you’re in either of these camps, or simply dreaming of your next adventure in knitting, we have a surprise for you today: BT Winter 17, dropping early this year!

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Our house designers have decked the halls with twelve new garments and four accessories that use all four of Brooklyn Tweed’s core yarn lines. This collection includes our very first garment designs for Arbor, our worsted-spun DK Targhee wool. We’re so excited to show you what this new yarn can do on a larger canvas! Jared Flood’s masculine Svenson pullover, Norah Gaughan’s Shoji cocoon cardigan, and Véronik Avery’s Nila lap-front pullover were designed to make the most of Arbor’s vivid stitch definition and drape.

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If you need gift-knitting inspiration, Winter 17 offers up several unisex accessories. The Lancet hat can be worked in chunky Quarry for soft, tweedy, practically instant results or in Arbor for crisply defined chevrons and a full, nuanced palette. The Proof hat and Proof scarf can be paired for perfectly matched winter warmth.

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If your world needs a meditative still point, the soothing stockinette of Julie Hoover’s Rivage coat or the hypnotic shifting textures of Michele Wang’s Binary scarf may do the trick.

This collection is all about cozy comfort trimmed with distinctive details and innovative textures. We hope you’ll find something in the new lookbook to brighten the season for yourself and your loved ones. Happy knitting!

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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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We’re thrilled to unveil an all-new 100% American yarn today! It’s long been our goal to expand the range of Brooklyn Tweed offerings, but a great deal of planning, care, and time are required to build lasting partnerships, source everything domestically, and make sure our supply chain is robust enough to meet customer demand. Arbor has been in the works for more than a year — it’s entirely different from our woolen-spun core lines and its journey from sheep to skein is wholly new.

The fiber

Arbor comes from purebred Targhee sheep grazing the rangelands of Montana and South Dakota. The Targhee is an American breed, based on Rambouillet stock but augmented with Corriedale and Lincoln longwool for strength. Targhee yarn knits up as supple, long-wearing fabric that’s luxuriously soft but everyday durable.

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The Milling Process

We send our Targhee clip to the historic Jagger Brothers Spinning Mill in southern Maine for worsted processing. This yarn is not the rustic jumble of lightly twisted fibers you’ve come to expect from Brooklyn Tweed. Worsted spinning involves combing all the fibers into smooth alignment before spinning to produce a perfectly even roving. Arbor is a bouncy, round 3-ply yarn with a tight twist for superior stitch definition and strength.

The Palette

We wanted Arbor to be a celebration of color with a deep, nuanced range of hues. From the velvety depths of Nightfall and Dorado to the blaze of Firebrush and the tang of Tincture, our custom-dyed solids span the spectrum. The neutrals offer unexpected twists — the faded black denim of Porter, the subtle warm tones of Humpback, the lichen green of Gale, the barely-there blush of pink in Degas. A few of our favorites from the Plains palette — Morandi, Rainier, and Treehouse — now have a permanent home in the Arbor line. These colors are created with minimal impact on the environment by the master dyers at Saco River Dyehouse, the country’s only organically certified yarn dyeing operation.

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The Collection

To introduce this new yarn, Jared Flood has created a tasting menu of accessories that will let you sample Arbor in bite-size projects or wrap yourself in rich color at a larger scale. Some of the patterns are familiar favorites from the Brooklyn Tweed archives reworked for Arbor’s gauge and unique characteristics; others are fresh offerings. The Arbor Collection includes nine patterns for hats, scarves, shawls, and cowls that sing the yarn’s praises in cables, twisted stitches, and textural motifs. With gift knitting season upon us, we hope you’ll find inspiration in our new lookbook for treating your knitworthy loved ones.

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We’re so excited about our new partnerships in the U.S. textile industry that have allowed us to bring you Arbor, and we hope it will find a home in your workbasket. We can’t wait to hear what you think and to see what you’ll make.

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We were so pleased to finally reveal the his and hers collection for Fall 16; the designs had been in development for almost a year and we eagerly anticipated their release into the wild. We love designing menswear and we’ve been gratified to hear your requests for more of it!

Producing a dual collection like this required some new thinking about how to offer the patterns for sale. We ultimately decided to bundle the patterns for which the two versions are similar enough not to require double effort on the part of the designer and editing team, but to sell the others separately. We’ve gotten some questions about why we didn’t bundle the two patterns for designs like Carver or Tamarack, which don’t differ markedly at first glance. We realize the details in the guts of a pattern that complicate the production effort may not be readily discernible when you’re viewing the modeled garment. So, since we love to geek out over construction and fit at any opportunity, we’ll turn the spotlight on Julie Hoover’s Cricket to talk about the planning that goes into ensuring a great fit and a longer garment life. (We’ll spare you the trigonometry. Promise.)

Cricket is a sporty crewneck with set-in sleeves and waist shaping for a tailored fit. Both versions have waist shaping — the women’s has the carefully weighted hourglass curve you’re used to seeing, while the men’s is narrower at the hips than at the chest to create a trim silhouette that’s more flattering on most gents. But even when you’re looking closely, the two Crickets look awfully similar. So why didn’t we package them together? The secret is in the shoulders.

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The human shoulder needs a lot of freedom to move, both up and down and fore and aft. When a sweater is designed to fit loosely, the shoulder doesn’t require any special treatment. You can knit a traditional drop shoulder with the sleeve projecting at a right angle, you can work a basic raglan with double decreases at each joining point every other round, you can decrease concentrically for a round yoke, and the ample ease will allow comfortable movement without distorting the sweater fabric. But a slimmer fit complicates the situation. You can’t join a narrow sleeve to a narrow body at 90 degrees, because when you lower your arm the fabric will bind over your shoulder and bunch at your underarm. You can get away with a basic raglan scheme to an extent, relying on the elasticity of knitted fabric to give you the extra ease when and where you need it, but it’s hard to achieve an anatomical fit and you put strain on the fabric. A round yoke worked with minimal ease will often look good across the back, but leave a pooch of extra fabric near each underarm in the front as the shoulders naturally round forward. So when designers who really understand human anatomy create a tailored sweater, they often choose to modify the raglan shape, changing the rate of decrease to make the lines more sinuous. They might hybridize a raglan style with a round yoke. But quite often they turn to the set-in sleeve.

The set-in sleeve, with its bell-shaped sleeve cap and armscye shaped like an exponential equation graph, gives the designer total control over the amount of fabric assigned to the body and to the sleeve. But deploying it correctly requires quite a bit of know-how. A slim-fitting garment needs a taller, narrower sleeve cap, while one with more ease should have a shorter, broader curve. For Cricket, Julie designed the women’s version for a small amount of ease — 2-4 inches — but gave the guys a more relaxed fit with 4-6 inches. Men typically have proportionally larger shoulders and more mass through the sleeve cap area, which also affects how much fabric Julie allows there.

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Grading the curves of the armscye and the sleeve cap for a full range of well-fitting sizes requires a lot of careful math on the part of our tech editors. When we double the number of sizes and change the geometry of those curves, we’re giving Robin and Sue the workload of two separate patterns — hence the decision to offer the two versions of Cricket separately.

Where there’s a salient detail that differs between the unbundled his and hers patterns, we’ve given you options to mix and match features. The women’s Tamarack includes directions for the shawl collar shown on the men’s sample, for instance. Both Carvers have instructions for the turtleneck option or the crew neck, and the yardage estimate includes the extra yarn you’ll need to extend the ribbing.

Wondering about further modifications to customize one of these patterns? Contribute to the collection thread in the Brooklyn Tweed Fan Club Ravelry group, where there’s an active community ready to discuss all kinds of pattern adaptations. And if you’re curious to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at Brooklyn Tweed to bring these collections to life, watch this space for an interview with Robin Melanson about her work as a tech editor.

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