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!