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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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Lace knitting has a rich tradition in many cultures worldwide. Place-specific histories, techniques and garments are especially present in Shetland and Estonian knitting. While there has been much written about lace knitting, there are a few books in particular that come to the forefront when we are looking for lace knitting inspiration. Many of the stitches found in these books are heirlooms which have been used for generations and are rare to find in print. We’d like to introduce you to a few of our favorite lace knitting books here.

Most of these recommended books contain a substantial section of stitch motifs. Stitch dictionaries such as these are filled with charted stitch patterns, which can be used for inspiration while designing your own patterns or to substitute a motif in an existing design. If you’d like to replace a motif in a pattern, simply find a stitch that has the same repeat count, or modify the stitch count, as needed.

The Haapsalu Shawl: A Knitted Lace Tradition from Estonia (2009) by Siiri Reimann and Aime Edasi details the history of Estonian lace knitting in great detail. In this book you will learn how these lace knittings traditions have been passed down from generation to generation as well as the techniques used to master this type of knitting. We find particularly helpful the schematic information about how the Haapsalu shawls and scarves are constructed. Using this construction information, along with the accompanying examples of stitches, you can design a project that’s all your own.

Omas Strickgeheimnisse (in English, Grandma’s Knitting Secrets) (2008) by Erika Eichenseer, Erika Grill, and Betta Krön is a German stitch dictionary bursting with inspiration and information. The beautiful charts, which follow the tradition of German knitting and feature 200 stitch patterns, make this book worth every penny!

We hold a special place in our hearts for Shetland knitting traditions, and Brooklyn Tweed has published many Shetland-inspired patterns over the years. The hap shawls Shetland is known for provide warmth, comfort, and a fascinating history. Love Darg Shetland Shawls Centenary 1910-2010 (2010) and  Shetland Hap Shawls: Then and Now (2006), both published by Heirloom Knitting and written by Sharon Miller, are two of the best resources we’ve found that share the interesting story of lace knitting in Shetland.

That said, if we had to choose just one book about Shetland lace knitting to recommend, it would be Heirloom Knitting: A Shetland Lace Knitter’s Pattern and Workbook (2002), also by Sharon Miller. The breadth of information in this book is astounding. Miller systematically breaks down all of the steps to knit Shetland lace and provides practical assistance in the book’s “Knitting Advice” sections. Regardless of your interest in actually knitting traditional Shetland lace, for its breadth of topic and as an historical resource, we recommend this book for any knitter’s library.

With the plethora of resources available, we encourage you to learn more about the art of knitting lace. As you read, what have you found to be particularly fascinating about the history of knitting lace?

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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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This week we’re looking back on some of BT’s greatest garments of the year, polling our staff on their most-loved designs. Narrowing down our favorite sweaters to a Top 5 was incredibly difficult. From instant classics like Michele Wang’s Cordova (Winter ’15) to the big drama of Jared Flood’s Carpeaux (Winter ’15) to sharp modern shapes like Melissa Wehrle’s Truss (Wool People 9), there were so many more great designs we wanted to include. But the votes were finally tallied and five intriguingly different garments emerged.

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Few knitters can resist a classic gansey, and Jared’s feminine version was just what many of us had been looking for. Alvy’s set-in sleeves and waist shaping keep the silhouette trim, while the graphic coin cables on a ground of double moss stitch and welt details at the hems, cuffs, and shoulders add nautical flair.

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A bomber jacket worked in soft, doughy brioche stitch? Yes, please! We fell hard for Shield’s handsome distinctive charm. The swirling faux cables and pockets are perfect details for menswear, subtle but intriguing. Brioche fabrics get their cozy double thickness from some knitting maneuvers that may be unfamiliar, but we find the rhythm quickly becomes natural.

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Marshal was one of Norah’s first designs for BT, and we adored her stylish, edgy take on the military cardigan. This piece is all about shifts in texture: the brioche accents are worked in Shelter for extra heft against a light, tailored body in Loft. The effect is tough, smart, and totally wearable.

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We’re so glad we pushed Julie to design a stranded colorwork sweater! Filtering Fair Isle through her minimalist aesthetic produced a refined pullover with graphic peerie bands. The simple palette of Fossil, Hayloft, and Truffle Hunt is unexpected and so effective, bringing out the heathered depth of the colors. We love Ashland as an introduction to steeks, which allow us to knit both the body and the set-in sleeves in the round.

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It’s not hard to see why Rift garnered the most votes in our poll. We can’t tear our eyes from those gorgeous ribbed epaulets, which give the appearance of raglan shaping to sleeves that are actually set in. This staple sweater gets everything right, and the big charts for the shoulders give us something to chew on during the knitting as well as creating a fetching masculine detail.

We want to thank all of you for your adventurousness in embracing such a wide variety of designs, allowing us to flex our creative muscles and to push ourselves to work outside our own comfort zones! Don’t forget to chime in with your own 2015 favorites in the comments or on social media by using #BTfaves15. We love hearing your opinions and spreading the love to all the hardworking designers who contributed to Brooklyn Tweed this year!

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What a year it’s been for Brooklyn Tweed! A cross-country move, new team members, a new yarn, new print books… As we settle in with plenty of wool and tea to weather a week of chilly rain, it seems like the perfect time to look back on some of our favorite things from 2015. We asked the BT staff to vote on their favorite accessories from BT Winter 15, Wool People 9, BT Men 2, BT Fall 15, and of course Olga’s new Capsule Collection, and we’ve been counting down our staff picks on social media all week. From cabled hats to delicate lace pi shawls, our designers produced a lot to love!

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Jared’s densely cabled hat from BT Men 2 won our hearts with its timeless, unisex style. All those cables make it fun to knit and warm to wear, and Crag has such broad appeal that it’s a perfect gift knit for either men or women. Some knitters have been going down a needle size to achieve a snug beanie style with a shorter crown; if your recipient prefers this look you may want to try this modification.

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Olga made such fine use of the interlocking Swiss crosses motif in this cowl for her CAPSULE Collection—the effect is bold, graphic, and modern. We love imagining color combinations (have you played with our new color comparison feature yet?) and think Jujika would also be an excellent way to use up our Loft leftovers, shifting through multiple contrast colors. Wear this doubled and you’ve got a whopping eight layers of Loft wrapped around your neck, which sounds just about right for enjoying the outdoors this winter.

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Easy to knit and versatile to wear, Harper’s unusual fabric of twisted rib worked over gauge makes us want to knit more than one. The single-row stripes create an interplay of colors that’s intriguing in closely related shades or eye-catching in high contrast. Either way, we love this design from BT Winter 15 as the perfect light beanie or easy-going slouch to throw on for a bit of extra warmth or fashion.

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We love the classic elegance of Andrea’s pi shawl from Wool People 9, which would also make a beautiful accent as a throw in the living room or a special gift for a new baby. The concentric shifts in pattern keep the knitting interesting, and the finished piece is a true heirloom. The lace motifs are deceptively simple with easily repeatable stitch patterns, and the finished results look masterful. We also love the idea of sinking into a meditative project like Arbre as an antidote to the frenzy of the holidays.

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Our top vote-getter was Jared’s clever cap from BT Fall 15. Lolo is quick enough to knit up for last-minute gifting, but doesn’t skimp on engaging details. We love the aviator-inspired shape and the pure fun of knitting short-row garter segments sideways to form a cap. And there are so many options for personalizing this design: our own Jen knit one in stripes of Embers and Wool Socks, while Sarah is dreaming of a marled version in two colors of Loft… We love seeing all the Lolos cropping up on Instagram and Ravelry!

Please do play along — it wasn’t easy for any of us to pick just five, and we’d love to see your own favorites from the past year tagged #BTfaves15!

Next week we feature the second half of our “Top 10” for the year: Garments! Stay tuned on Instagram throughout the week and here on the blog for another wrap up next weekend.

 

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