JF's Notebook
Photo of Jared Flood

Notebook

Penned by Jared Flood

Hello and welcome! I'm a knitter, photographer, designer and the creative director at Brooklyn Tweed. I use this notebook as a space to record inspiration and write about my creative work both inside and outside of BT. Thanks for reading, and don't be a stranger—I love hearing from you!

I love books. I love the way they feel and smell. I love the tactile properties of different kinds of paper between my fingers. I’ve daydreamed about bringing printing into our offerings at BT for quite a long time, so I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to be holding a printed copy of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s CAPSULE Collection for Brooklyn Tweed in my hands today.


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Working with designers has become one of my favorite parts of my job over the last few years, both with our Wool People collections, as well as our in-house design team. As we’ve continued to produce design collections, however, I’ve often found myself wishing we could provide a designer with a broader platform to share more than just a single design at a time. Within my own design process I know that a single idea never exists in a vaccuum — it’s almost always accompanied by related concepts and variations which are often left unexplored.

The CAPSULE idea was born from my desire to facilitate a deeper collaboration with a single designer and to see what one person might do when given an opportunity to realize their own vision for an 8-10 piece “wardrobe” of knits. The name CAPSULE, of course, references the idea of a capsule wardrobe, a small collection of essential, timeless pieces that are versatile and interchangeable, giving the wearer options to create several outfits from a modest, well-edited collection of garments. This idea has always resonated with me — doing more with less — especially in this unprecedented era of fast fashion.

 

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When I started thinking about designers who might be the perfect fit for the Capsule idea, Olga was the first to come to mind. To me, she is truly a unique voice in the world of knitting and someone whose dedication and creative conviction I deeply respect. I remember being very excited to see what kind of beautiful knitted objects she would create as the first designer to be featured in this new series, and she did not disappoint!

Collaborating with others and incorporating a dialog into the creative process has become one of my favorite ways of working. As much as I require and adore solitary creative work, I’ve learned that opening yourself up to different perspectives and ideas throughout your process can be equally important, and almost always helps you make that extra creative leap when you find yourself stuck in your own head.

 

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In 2012, Olga and I started our conversations about what this collection might look and feel like. The work evolved slowly and organically through creative dialogue and spanned a couple major geographical moves for both of us (Olga from Japan back to the states in mid-2013, me from East to West Coast this year), getting pushed down the calendar further and further as we figured out how to make this new print format come together. New ideas always take time, and we both agreed to give this one as much time as it needed until it was right.

 

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Olga and I both love street fashion and thought it would be fun to highlight the funky flair of her pieces in this type of setting for the collections photoshoot. We were still in Brooklyn at the time, so on shoot day we set up camp at a friend’s home in an historic architectural district of Cobble Hill (the same location we used to shoot our BT Kids collection), and rambled around the neighborhood using the beautiful pre-war architecture, brick facades, and ornate details of the neighborhood as a backdrop. My love of the iconic NYC stoop is very much in evidence, as you’ll notice!

 

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It’s been such a new and fun challenge to design a book for print, making a beautiful object that can function as a source of inspiration in its own right as well as displaying Olga’s beautiful work. I worked closely with book designer Jenny Trygg on the print edition and we spent many happy hours geeking out over paper and cover finishes, typefaces and layouts.

As for the garments themselves, I think they’re so clever and unique. Apex has really stolen my heart. It’s one of those perfect sweaters that will turn heads while remaining super wearable. Dress it up, dress it down, throw it on over just about anything and run out the door looking fabulous. (I think it’s the type of garment that will elicit many “Where did you buy that?!” comments from strangers.)

 

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I’m looking forward to seeing what you all think about our first experiment with print. Here at BT HQ we’re definitely excited to be working on this new publication. And as ever, I’m looking forward to seeing how some of you will make Olga’s garments and accessories your own.

A very special thanks to my talented friend and colleague Olga Buraya-Kefelian for making this experience so memorable and rewarding. I know I speak for both of us when I say that we really hope you enjoy it!

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Thank you for your kind words about my Agnes post last week! I thought I’d keep the design-inspiration train going today and share some backstory on my second Met-inspired garment from Winter 15, Carpeaux.

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I spent a lot of time photographing sculptures on our day at the Met—especially those located in the beautiful Petrie European Sculpture Court (pictured above). One piece that especially caught my eye was a bronze monument to the great 19th-century French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. Modeled by a younger sculptor named Émile-Antoine Bourdelle in 1908-09, Carpeaux is shown wearing a voluminous coat with dramatic drapes and folds. I loved how the sculpture had a feeling of being simultaneously very solid and very soft, with the rough-hewn garment frozen in motion. The combination of structure and drape got my gears turning. I particularly loved the idea of translating inspiration from fabric to metal and back to fabric again.

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After seeing the piece and doing some freeform sketching, an idea for a blanket-front cardigan began to emerge. I like a garment that has an element of drama but can still maintain a sense of shape and contour. The bronze coat got me thinking about both drape and structure, and ways in which I might be able to play with these two themes in the same garment. I liked the idea of pairing voluminous fronts with a more tailored back. When casting on the garment at the hem edge, the width of the “back” piece is quite narrow. As the body is knit, the back increases rapidly to its full width. Shaping the garment in this way results in a pair of graceful arches (illustrated in the right photo below) that angle the drape-fronts forward for a more flattering, figure-friendly line. Since the garment has such a generous amount of fabric in the front, trimming out some bulk in the back would keep the silhouette from becoming overwhelming.

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Brioche is one of my favorite stitch patterns, and I often turn to it when I want to accentuate the shaping elements of a piece. When working in brioche all your shaping is worked in pairs (double increases and decreases) to maintain the ribbed appearance of the fabric. Traveling lines are quite apparent when working larger shaped passages within the fabric (Oshima’s yoke explores this idea as well). In the case of Carpeaux, the stitch pattern highlights the unusual back shaping (as well as adding Brioche’s characteristic plushness and squish for coziness!)

I was also thinking about stitch patterns that could be reversible, since the fronts of this sweater hang open to reveal both sides of the fabric. Brioche already looks identical front and back, but I had hoped to add a decorative element to the cardigan front and landed on  a few simple (and reversible) cables worked in the brioche pattern that would be as attractive on the wrong side as they were on the right.

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The body of the garment is worked in a single piece from hem to shoulder—illustrated in the above diagram. Note that the schematic is shown in exploded view, with dashed lines representing “seamless” areas. In the end I opted to forego closures on a garment like this, allowing the fronts to be treated more like a blanket or shawl when worn. It would easily be suitable for a single pin closure—or even belting—to give additional styling options. The sleeves are worked in Stockinette to balance out the bulkier nature of the brioche body and to give a little visual contrast to the garment as a whole.

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In the end, the goal was for something of a statement piece that didn’t swallow up the wearer—a bit of drama without feeling too over the top. And as always… something fun to make.

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Today I’m posting the final interview in my “Designer Conversations” series with Wool People 8 contributors. Alexis Winslow is an artist, textile designer and knitter based in Brooklyn, New York. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of interviews—thanks for reading! 

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Good morning Alexis! Thanks for joining me today as we wrap up our Designer Conversations from Wool People 8.

Thanks for having me! I’ve loved reading your designer chats in the past so it’s fun to be on the other side.

Escher is your fourth Wool People contribution—we’ve worked with you on Vega (WP1), the Arrowhead mittens (WP2), and the very popular Reine (WP3)—and we’re so glad to have you back in this collection. Can you tell us about how you got started as a knitter and designer?

I started knitting when I was about 16 years old. I had dreams of being a fashion designer at that time, and was already designing and sewing most of my own clothes. I thought knitting could be another great way to express myself through fashion. I typed “how to knit” into a search engine, and life was never the same after that! I just couldn’t get enough. I designed my very first sweater, a gauzy floor-length duster to go with my prom dress–also my own design of course. The ensemble was inspired by Cher, and was absurdly ambitious, but I pulled it off somehow. Even now, ridiculous self-created challenges are my idea of fun. I think that’s why I love being an independent designer so much.

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You have such a distinctive, graphic sensibility—in fact your latest collection is called Graphic Knits. Can you tell us a bit about what inspires your designs?

That graphic sensibility comes from a love of color and modern design. I probably I have my parents to thank for that. I’m the daughter of an architect who collected Navajo rugs and Pueblo pottery. (If you’ve never seen this kind of pottery, I strongly recommend you do a quick search because they are insanely beautiful.) I grew up in a fairly stark modern house that my father designed and built himself. I think this early exposure to life as a maker, high craft and beautiful decorative design had a big impact on my current design sensibilities.

You’re also a painter and you have a career as a printed textile designer, too. Does that work affect your knitwear design, or vice versa? How is your process different when the “canvas” is a wearable garment?

My art background definitely informs my current design work. All my paintings are figural, which might seem unexpected considering my graphic approach to knitwear design, but portrait painting has given me a really strong sense for color relationships. In art school, I studied painting which actually involved a great deal of drawing. Just like when I plan a painting, when I design knitwear, I rely heavily on my drawing skills. One of my favorite parts in my design process is creating the initial design sketch. Each one is like a little work of art for me.

(Your sketches are beautiful – I’m sharing one here so our readers can see!)

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I got into textile design to sort of combine my love for sewing and graphic design. Currently, my work as a textile designer is pretty different from my knitwear design–I design printed textiles for children’s bedding. I love this work because it really lets me explore the whimsical side of my aesthetic. All of that work is for commercial brands which is very disparate from my work as an independent designer. It’s interesting to experience the design industry from both sides. I think it gives me a different, more consumer centered perspective on my independent  work. I’m constantly thinking about the knitter’s experience as I write patterns, because I know that without the people who buy my patterns, I wouldn’t be able to do this wonderful thing that I love so much. Also, part of my job as a textile designer is to research fashion trends, which of course influences all my design work.

Escher has an unusual construction—the back shaping is so striking. How did you hit upon this shape, and what was it like figuring out how to bring the idea to life on your needles?

Escher was definitely a challenge for me. My original design concept didn’t have that beautiful V-shape–it was straight up and down like a stripe. I knitted the sample, and realized that I could achieve a much better fit if the armholes angled downward a bit. I went back to my sketchpad to work out solutions. There were a lot of different ways I could do this, but I decided the central triangle would be the most elegant way to solve this problem. As I continued to work on the design, I saw an opportunity to use angled ribbing texture in the shoulder to mirror the graphic V-shape in the main body. I really love it when things work out that way.

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Having played so much with geometric forms and unexpected lines and colorblocking for your recent book and your WP8 design, do you feel as though you’ve found a métier you want to keep exploring, or do you have new directions you’re excited about now? What’s inspiring you lately?

I think my past design work has been a reflection of my interests and curiosities as I continue to develop my craft, so I expect my future designs will continue in that vein. There’s still much for me to learn, but since the beginning my two great loves in knitting have always been color and construction. I love figuring out interesting new ways to put garments together, and incorporating color is a great way to accentuate those unconventional shapes. I think these things come together to create my “graphic” aesthetic. Lately I’ve been exploring steeks in my design work, so you can expect to see some interesting new work that utilizes color work and scissors (scary, I know!).

Sounds good to me! I’m a big fan of cutting the knitting if it makes for a better making experience overall.

Alexis, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today, it’s been fascinating to hear more about what makes you tick as a creative! I look forward to seeing where you are headed.

I always love to discuss design, so thank you, Jared! It’s been a pleasure.

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Curious to read more about this design or get your hands on the pattern? Visit Escher’s pattern page for details.

This has been Part 6 of a 6-part Designer Conversations series with selected creatives from our new Wool People 8 collection

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Dear Knitters,

September! It’s always been one of my favorite months. While summer may be psychologically over when the school bells ring, the season just seems all the more golden as the fair weather lingers, mellows, and starts to offer that refreshing autumn crispness in the mornings. While the lazy liberty of vacation may be over, falling back into the year’s routine has its own productive pleasures, too. (There’s still the possibility of weekend camping trips, after all!)

Fisherman-inspired knits for Autumn

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Most importantly, as we well know, Knitting Season is officially open. It’s no longer too hot to contemplate taking up that big cardigan you didn’t finish last winter. Or even if it is, you start to think how good that pile of pieces in your workbasket is going to look at your favorite autumn wool festival (if you can just knit a second sleeve and a collar and sew them all together…). Motivation kicks in.

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I can never resist the call to cast on new projects in September, and that’s why I’m excited to share our BT Fall 14 collection today: a whole fleet of garments and accessories inspired by the rich traditions of nautical knitwear. Our design team set out to reinterpret fishermen’s sweaters in ways we hope will surprise and delight you. From cables to geometric textural patterns to brioche, you’ll see classic elements enlivening completely modern shapes. Whether you like your sweaters generous or fitted, A-line or fashionably oversized, you’re likely to find something in the lookbook that will make your needles sing.

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Construction details and design features for each garment are highlighted directly within the new lookbook and give a great at-a-glance summary of what kind of knitting is in store for any given pattern. We’ve also included a new kind of written feature in this lookbook. Shooting the collection in Red Hook, Brooklyn got me thinking about our roots and mission as a company. Rather than just using Red Hook as an evocative backdrop, we felt compelled to share with you something of its history and its present. Feeling the energy that’s being generated there as community leaders try creative solutions to put their town’s unique resources and people back to work inspired all of us. It affirmed my own resolve to grow Brooklyn Tweed in a way that fuels local industry and helps keep American manufacturing traditions alive. I hope you’ll enjoy thinking about that aspect of our craft as you read our Red Hook essay and share your own reactions and ideas with us!

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I’m also looking forward to showing some of our Red Hook footage in a new BT Vignette video next week, and to turning the spotlight on some of the designs in BT Fall 14, so stay tuned for more to come. If there’s a garment you particularly want to see featured, please let us know!

For the moment, I hope you’ve got a few moments to settle in with the lookbook, enjoy the new collection, and dream up possibilities for your own wardrobe.

.Happy fall!

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JF: Welcome back, Kyoko! Thanks for agreeing to chat with me today.

KN: Hello Jared! It’s always a pleasure and thank you for inviting me back!

JF: We had you on the blog last November to talk about your WP6 design “Rook”. Your newest piece for Wool People 7 has such interesting construction that I felt we had to have you back to talk about this one, too!

Seine is a beautiful cardigan with draping fronts and a bold zigzag cable cutting horizontally across the entire body of the piece. Where did the idea for this cardigan spring from?

KN: Thank you! The main theme for the new ‘Seine’ design is modern simplicity with a fresh twist on cables. The name of the garment is perfect for reflecting the touch of French chic. The structure of the garment is very fun and knits into a versatile, modern-classic cardigan with beautiful drape. (After all, the excellent cut and drape of Frenchwomen’s clothes are what make them so classically stylish in my mind.)

Usually, cables are worked vertically, but during the design stage I thought it would be fun to have horizontal cables, which give a different look and feel to the garment. I’m quite keen on creating cardigans with a cleverly draped front for an appealing silhouette, possibly because I’ve just spent nine months with a baby bump! I wanted to design a versatile garment, which would be figure-flattering for all ages, shapes and sizes.

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JF: Come to think of it, it is a great maternity sweater too, isn’t it?

KN: Yes, absolutely. The width of each front section of the cardigan is the same width as the body, which means the cardigan would easily cover a bump during the cold season! It also makes for a discreet garment for breastfeeding, too, with the baby wrapped snugly inside the soft, bouncy wool!

JF: Although the cardigan is intended to be worn open – it seems to me that a nice shawl pin, vintage brooch or decorative fastener could easily be worn to add another styling method.

KN: Yes – you can wear Seine in a lot of different ways! It’s intended to be worn open to show the waterfall pleats, as pictured, but can also be worn with a leather belt to emphasise your waist (knitted belt loops could easily be added if a knitted belt was preferred,too), or with a shawl pin or pretty brooch to wrap the garment around the front. A knitter could further customize the look by adding a looped ‘buttonhole’ and a medium-large button in a matching or contrasting color at the front. There really are so many possibilities!

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JF: Aside from the garment’s obvious versatility, my favorite thing about it is the knitting process and construction. It’s an intriguing puzzle of a garment and seems like it would be very fun to work on. Can you explain the sequence of knitting that occurs throughout the pattern?

KN: Yes, the construction sequence of this garment is unique because different parts of the garment are knitted at 90 degree angles, allowing the zig-zag cable motif to extend around the entire body.

You start by working the sleeves from cuff to underarm, then placing them aside (leaving stitches live). The lower half of the Body is begun at center-back with a provisional cast on; the back is worked sideways from center out in two halves until the underarm gussets are reached.

At that point, the sleeves and lower back are joined onto a single circular needle to be worked concurrently to shape the upper body/yoke by way of a seamless raglan technique.

After the front raglan lines are shaped, stitches are picked up from the front raglan slopes and worked outward (together with the remaining live stitches from lower body) to create the draping fronts.

Finishing involves grafting the underarm gussets and working a garter stitch band around the entire cardigan opening.

JF: So, no seaming is required during finishing? Nice bonus!

KN: Except for the underarm gusset, no, you don’t need to seam during finishing at all.

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JF: In our last interview, you referred to yourself as a “creative puzzle-maker” and I think that is even more evident here with Seine. Do you have other garment “puzzles” that you are whittling away on behind the scenes? What is next for you?

KN: I am always drawing ideas in my little notebook from ordinary to completely unconventional garments and accessories. I always have a lot of weird-looking swatches building up in my studio that are still waiting to find their “home” in a new design.

My current project is a colorful baby collection of unisex projects for boys and girls. Im looking to break away from more expected pastel colors.  Since I’ve recently had my first baby, I wanted to make a very special collection that other mothers will enjoy seeing their ‘pride and joy’ wearing!  The designs are simple to knit and will give moms some stylish baby options with a contemporary twist.

JF: That’s great! No better time to be designing for babies than when you are living with one, right? I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

KN: Yes, living with my new baby is giving me so many ideas for better shapes and practical designs that are attractive and comfortable for everyday wear. I’m having a blast turning my ideas into real things to dress my little one…

JF: Thanks so much for spending some time with me today and sharing a bit about what you are working on, Kyoko! Best of luck in your upcoming endeavors (and congrats on your new status as mother!)

KN: It’s been a real pleasure. It will definitely be an exciting few years for me as a first-time mom! (I’m planning to knit the Seine cardigan again for myself in time for next winter). Thank you!

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JF: Hi Carol! Thanks for joining us from Ireland!

CF: Delighted to be here, it’s always so much fun to be part of Wool People.

JF: You began self publishing your own designs in 2007 and have amassed an impressive amount of design work in the 5 years to follow. Can you tell us a little more about what your day-to-day process looks like as an independent designer?

CF: My day is divided between designing and parenting. After dropping kids to school I start my workday at home with my mornings devoted to design work and social media. It’s hard to get a balance between the two; marketing and design occupy very different headspaces so I’ll often need a walk with the dog to switch gears. I usually don’t have time to knit in the mornings, that comes later in the day. My afternoons are filled with children’s activities. With 4 boys who are involved in more things than I can list there are some days that I could spend 3-4 hours driving in circles. Fortunately knitting is portable so an hour waiting in one place is a luxury!

Once the driving is over and the youngest in bed I get to have my knitting time. I’ve got a spot on the corner of the sofa that’s got all my projects lined up in different bags and a pile of stitch dictionaries on the coffee table that are threatening to tumble.  I knit almost all of my own samples (unless I’m very short of time) as I find that some of the best design ideas happen on the needles. Watching your work as you knit allows you to modify a good idea and turn it into a great one.

JF: I agree – it seems that the best design revelations happen when your ideas are taking shape in your hands.  

 Producing the amount of work you do while also mothering 4 boys is amazingly impressive! I would imagine you must be pretty organized to pull it off. How important is organization in your work, and can you share any tips for keeping on track and getting things done?

CF: Organization is very important to me, Im a big list maker! Before I finish at my desk each day I try to create a new to-do list for myself for the next day so that I can jump right into work rather than trying to remember where I was. This also helps with time management as my time is often broken up into small chunks; if I know I’ll be waiting in my car for an hour I’ll check my to-do list for a portable job that can be done in that length of time. It does mean that I’ve got overflowing lists everywhere, my desk, phone and even random notebooks in my handbag. I also try to break down my design work into all the steps that have to be done; so I’ll start with swatch/sketch, then move on to sizing and the basic pattern. Once that’s done I’ll knit the sample, rewriting the pattern as necessary. Finally, after blocking gauge is double-checked I finalize the pattern and draw the schematic. Each of these steps is written down and crossed out when done. This is extra important when working on a book so you can see at a glance if some step has been forgotten.

This organization doesn’t always come naturally to me. My desk is a towering mountain of paper and yarn and I eventually gave in this year and got some help with cleaning. I’ve come to accept that there are so many hours in the day and there is physically no way to do everything so you need to prioritize and get help when necessary.

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JF: How has your work changed since you began pursuing this career? What lessons have you learned that you might like to share with younger designers who are just starting out?

CF: I think my basic design aesthetic hasn’t changed dramatically over the years, although I am finding myself drawn increasingly to cleaner lines with interesting construction methods.

JF: (That certainly shows in your newest Wool People design.)

CF: The art of pattern writing is learned by trial and error. When I began designing there were sometimes ideas I had to abandon, as I didn’t yet have the pattern writing skills to write them as a multi-sized garment. This is something important to realize as a new designer, it takes a whole lot of practice! This means writing and re-writing patterns frequently.

Tech Editors are fantastic; they can really help you improve your pattern writing. Test knitters can also help in this, when a knitter is giving you feedback as they work through your pattern you see it through another persons eyes. So it is a constant process of evolution, learning from past mistakes and figuring out better (and clearer) ways to write.

JF: I definitely agree – whether it’s a tech editor, or a test knitter, once you are far enough along in the process you need a few pairs of fresh eyes to look at the work and give you feedback. After writing (and especially grading) a pattern, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees, as the saying goes.

CF: Writing for different publications helps with this as well. Every publication has a different style guide that you need to work with. While it’s time consuming it can also be a learning process, potentially improving your own self-published style guide.

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JF: Pente” is your third contribution to our Wool People series (Hathaway from Wool People 4 was your first, and Carpino from Wool People 6 your second, last Fall) and everyone here really loves this cardigan. Where did your inspiration come from for Pente?

CF: Over the past year I’ve been fascinated with biased fabric. It started with Vertex Cardigan for Interweave last Spring. The increase line at the center of the back creates an arrow effect with the lightly variegated yarn but I wanted to explore it further. The next biased garment I did last summer was Nishibi which used a biased central panel in ribbing that created a diagonal effect again with just increases and decreases. The idea for Pente came after that; I wanted to create a dramatic front drape on a cardigan primarily using biasing.

JF: The construction of the garment also makes this cardigan special – I love that you chose to use a subtle striping sequence to highlight the directionality of the fabric.

CF: The subtle color striping in the fabric really helps to emphasis how the direction of the fabric shifts from front to back; it makes it easy to see how the use of increasing and decreasing dramatically shapes the fabric.

JF: Can you give our readers a brief explanation of the overall garment construction? 

CF: I love seamless designs; to me they really utilize the flexibility of knitted fabric. This design is worked seamlessly in one piece from the bottom up. It starts with a clean turned hem at the bottom, which allows us to echo the stripe color. From here the front panels (which are extra wide to allow a flowing front drape), are biased using increases and decreases along the side seams. The stripe sequence is worked in subtle colors which make it quite understated. It would be very easy, though, to change the colors used for a more dramatic effect, even blending from one color on the bottom to a different one on the top for an ombre effect.

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JF: (That would be a beautiful variation!)

CF: Once the body is complete the front and back of the yoke are worked separately. I’ve used short rows to create shaping for the sleeves, so that both the cuff and top of shoulder fit well. Short rows are also worked along the front so that the biasing doesn’t impact the fit at the top of the front.

Finally this cardigan is finished using a Joinery Bind Off across the top of the shoulder in the contrasting color. I love the crisp clean line it gives that really feels like it finishes the garment off perfectly.

JF: It’s very smart and well thought out – in my mind, that is always the mark of good design – bravo! 

What is next for you? Any future projects you can share with us?

CF: Ive just recently signed a contract with Potter Craft for a new book that will be released in Fall 2015. The complete book is due in August this year so I’m very busy right now! I’m so excited to see this project in its finished form; it’s a topic I’m very passionate about and it should make a great book.

In a shorter time scale, I’m also getting ready for a Summer KAL with Briar Rose Fibers. I did a KAL with Chris in the Fall of 2012 and she was just lovely to work with so I’m really looking forward to the KAL. Now I just need to get time to write the clues between book projects!

JF: Sounds exciting – best of luck with your upcoming projects and thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today!

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JF: Hi, Bristol! We work together every day at BT, but it’s fun having a “public” chat about your design work – thanks for joining me here this morning.

BI: Hey Jared! My pleasure – I promise to keep my normally ridiculous emoticon usage to a minimum. 🙂 (Okay, couldn’t help that one.)

JF: Let’s jump right in – you are obviously interested in exploring non-traditional construction methods in your designs, and Svalbard is no exception. Can you give our readers a summary of how this garment is created from a construction standpoint?  

BI: Of course! Svalbard technically works like a normal top-down raglan cardigan, with a slight tweak: the fronts are removed at the start.  So, if you were to take a bird’s eye view of a raglan, it would look like four wedges (front, two sleeves, and back) radiating from the neckline, with 8 increases every other row.  Svalbard looks like three wedges (two sleeves and back), with only 6 increases every other row.  Once those increases are complete, you pick up and knit along the raglan line at the front edges, and those stitches become the fronts.  You put the sleeves on holders, you add gussets under the arm, and the fabric naturally creates the wide swoop you see in the finished sweater.  It’s entirely seamless, and everything is finished off with a wide mitered border that ties it all together.  I’ve found this shape is a great way to create a bit of drama and drape while still maintaining some serious wearability.  The Wool People 6 samples were here at our office for a bit, and I kept snagging this one when I got cold!

JF: I agree that it creates a nice balance of “flare” and wearability. The shaping detail at the center back is a really special moment on this garment. Early on you told me that you wanted to play with some of the shaping ideas that you began exploring with your last Wool People design contribution, Thorn. How are these two pieces related?

BI: One of the things I love about designing my own garments is the ability to integrate shaping within a stitch pattern or to make one pattern flow into another.  I love those little couture moments in knitting, where a lace pattern flows directly from the ribbing, or the decreases at the crown of a hat flow seamlessly from the cables in the body.  I’ve had a LOT of fun exploring this synchronicity in terms of increases and decreases in my design work, especially in pieces like Winnowing, Thorn, and now Svalbard.

JF: Ah, yes! Winnowing is a great example of this as well.

BI: Haha, Winnowing is an increase dork-out to a crazy degree.

With Thorn, the increases that form the curve of the shawl are hidden within the garter rib of the body, rather than sitting on the edges as you’d see in most traditionally shaped shawls.  With Svalbard, I had originally planned to work the back with typical raglan shaping and have a small decorative increase motif in the center, but when I figured out I could build the increases needed into that decorative panel, all bets were off. The increases in the back use a chevron shape to gradually change the stitch pattern from stockinette, to 1×1 rib, and finally to cartridge rib to match the rest of the body, just as the ribbing in Thorn gradually widens over the course of the shawl as stitches are increased in a radial within it.  This motif is repeated in the underarm gussets, which give the fronts of the sweater the ease and drape they need.  It was a really fun challenge to design!

Left: The Thorn Shawl from Wool People 4  |  Right: The Winnowing Shawl from Wool People 2

JF: Do you feel like you make your best discoveries in the middle of the process? I think it’s interesting how different designers approach their work – some like to refine and think through every aspect before they start creating with their hands. Others seem to get the general idea formed, then jump right in and let themselves be surprised by the discoveries they make. Where do you fall on that continuum?

BI: I almost always have the majority planned out before I start knitting, but there’s often-times a lot of tumbling the idea around in my brain before anything is settled.  When I first started thinking about the construction on Svalbard, I was doing a lot of treadmill running and I used thinking about knitwear design as a way to get my mind off what my legs were suffering through! And even after that point, the final shift to the integrated back shaping happened when I was working up my grading spreadsheet for all the sizes prior to starting knitting (you know my love of spreadsheets!).  So there’s a lot of exploration of technique and construction in my designs, but the crazy ideas typically get hashed out in my head before the yarn even touches needles.  Then, if need be, I start peeling some layers away as I knit; lines will sometimes simplify and clarify as I work on the sample.  It’s funny what becomes clear as the knitting progresses!

JF: I know that when I stumble upon a design idea or motif that really intrigues me, I like to explore ways of using it differently across a range of pieces. Do you feel this way about the radial shaping that is featured in both Svalbard and Thorn? Is there still more experimentation ahead?

BI: Oh my gosh, I will never get sick of radial shaping.  There is still so much more I want to do with it! Each new project I do leads to another awesome “what if?!” moment, and is pushing the boundaries of what I thought was possible with knitting.  And while these light-bulb moments aren’t always viable, the fact remains that knitting is an amazingly malleable and organic art form, as well as a concrete and tactile method of exploring geometry and spatial reasoning.  It’s so inspiring, and it’s such a logic puzzle.  I’ll never stop loving that about it.

JF: You’re preaching to the choir…

BI: Knitting nerds unite!

JF: Thanks, Bristol! I know I’m not alone in being excited to see what you dream up next. Keep up the good work!

BI: Thanks so much, Jared – it’s a huge honor to be part of the Wool People collections!

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Over the next two weeks, we’ll be presenting a series of designer interviews here on the blog that I have conducted with 6 selected designers from the Wool People 6 collection. I’ll chat with them a bit about their newest designs for BT, as well as what it is that gets their creative juices flowing. Today we start with long-time friend of BT, Gudrun Johnston. I hope you enjoy!  –Jared

JF: Good morning, Gudrun! I’m always glad to be able to chat with you about knitting – can you tell the readers where you are joining us from today?

GJ: Great to talk to you Jared! I am joining you from my home in the woods of Western Massachusetts!

JF: We’ve had the pleasure of working with you several times in the last two years that we’ve been publishing Wool People – you seem to have a knack for designing things with real wool that knitters love. Can you tell us a little bit about where you get your general design inspiration?

GJ: I find that ideas can strike from many directions but it is true that I often look to my Shetland roots first and foremost for inspiration.

JF: You live in Western Mass but are a native of the Shetland Islands in Scotland, one of the world’s great knitting “meccas”. How did your childhood in Shetland shape who you are as a designer?

GJ: Although I was born in Shetland I spent the majority of my childhood living elsewhere in Scotland. It has really been in the last decade that I have re-connected with Shetland, since my parents retired there. During that time I have had lots of opportunity to explore not only the physical beauty of Shetland but to also educate myself about the wooly traditions! As you already know my mother also designed knitwear in Shetland in the 1970’s. My siblings and I were clothed in her designs when we were very little. I even have a photo of myself as a baby in a traditional Shetland Hap (shawl)! So the connection to the rich knitting heritage was formed early on. My great grandfather was a Shetlander and I like to think some knitting mojo got passed on in the blood! It was only natural then for me to look to my Shetland background when I started to get into designing.

JF: When we first started talking about design ideas for Wool People 6, you had just finished knitting your son a beautiful prototype of Little Wave. How did the sweater come to be (before I begged for you to let us include it in the collection)?

GJ: Well it came to be because Sage (my son) was feeling a little put out that I hadn’t designed anything that he could wear! His sister ends up getting to wear a lot more of my work seeing as most of my designs are female oriented. So I promised him I would come up with something made especially for him! He LOVES it and looks very sophisticated when wearing it! [We’ve included photos below!] I ended up liking it a lot too so I’m glad that there will be another sample for me to wear. It also looks like I might have to knit one for David (my husband) too!

JF: David just might require one – I wore the men’s sample all throughout our September shoot (it was a foggy, chilly weekend – perfect for a shawl collar) and I have to say I got attached quite quickly! 

GJ: Well it’s true that David is also well overdue for a handknit garment from me, so yes, I think I will have to get one on the needles for him too! Although I have also been eyeing up your Timberline from the BT Men collection!

JF: You opted to design the sweater as a unisex garment, including graded sizes for both men and women. What kind of differences can knitters expect to find between the two?

GJ: The differences are fairly subtle to the overall design but I included a little waist shaping and adapted some of the measurements for a more feminine look.

JF: There are a lot of special details included in the sweater – it is one of those patterns that takes you on a bit of a journey. I know most knitters will learn at least 1 or 2 things as they are walked through. Can you elaborate on a couple of the details that might not be immediately apparent to people who have only seen a few images of the garment in the look book?

GJ: Well one of the first things knitters will encounter are the twisted stitches that are used to form that overall stitch pattern. I enjoy using textured stitch patterns that are worked a little differently from the norm but that aren’t necessarily complex to knit. The other detail that might not be obvious to many knitters is the construction of the yoke. I see it as part raglan, part set in sleeve and part saddle shoulder, but essentially it is Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Hybrid Method.  I think this was my favourite part to knit! Watching all the parts come together is truly like magic and extremely satisfying!

JF: I also have to interject that I love the knitted garter stitch “elbow patches”. They are a nice touch!

GJ: Thanks! Glad you like them! Of course they can easily be left out for those who prefer a simpler sleeve!

JF: What kind of design work are you plugging away on at the moment? Anything you can share that we can look forward to? 

GJ: Actually the current piece I’m working on will be for Wool People 7! After that the plan is to get going on a Shetland Trader Book 2 which I am very excited about!

JF: Great news for all of us – I look forward to seeing another self-produced book of knits by you! 

Well Gudrun, it’s been a pleasure – thanks for allowing me to bend your ear a bit this morning. Take care and thanks again for contributing this beautiful garment to our 6th installment of Wool People!

GJ: My pleasure! It was fun to chat!

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One of my favorite things to do is watch the number of Baby Surprise Jackets crawl higher and higher into the thousands over on Ravelry. It stands as a testament to the timelessness and genius of this pattern. Whenever I’m finishing one, that annoying Lays Potato Chip slogan always comes into my mind, you know it – betcha can’t eat just one? Yeah. Now that I’ve defiled the glory of EZ by comparing her to greasy snack food, I think we should move onto the knitting.

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Today is a two for one – two handspunBSJ’s – and represents a few things: my new found knitting time with the official end of my semester (glory!), spring cleaning and the finishing of way too many WIPS (I’m taking them down all around me), and what may serve as a good segue back to knitting from all that spinning talk.

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There’s not much to say about the pattern that hasn’t already been said hundreds of times. If you’ve knit one, you know. If you haven’t, you should. The pattern can be found in Knitting Workshop and The Opinionated Knitter, and is also available as a stand-alone pattern from Schoolhouse Press as well as a DVD walkthrough with Meg Swansen.

BSJ II (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

These are BSJ #2 and #3 for me (Fall Version and Spring Version seem more appropriate titles). The first was made last year in early summer, and happened to be the first time I ever officially knit with handspun. Domino effect?

BSJ III (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I think this pattern is a great match for handspun yarn – the self-striping nature of handspun accentuates the shaping of the garment and the slightly irregular texture suits garter stitch wonderfully. Not to mention you can knit a whole one using between 4-5 oz of yarn, and spinners usually have a lot of small batches of handspun lying around. They’re also great at classing up all your scraps. Very versatile.

BSJ II (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The Autumn (Red/Orange) Version was knit with merino fibers dyed at Spunky Eclectic. The colorway is Burning Bush and came out fantastic – it was a pleasure to both spin and knit. [Solo yarn shot here.] I actually knit this about 9 months ago. I remember because it was my portable knitting during that hellish move in September. I also remember channeling all my desperation for the onset of Fall into it. But alas, it sat completed and without buttons all of these months, until the other one came along and prompted me to get over to the button shop.

BSJ III (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The spring version is fine shetland dyed by Krista atPigeonroof Studios. I actually ran out of yarn right at the buttonband and subbed in some leftover merino from a previous spin, which also turned out to be Pigeonroof. [Both yarns here and here].

BSJ II (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Buttons were purchased at B.E. Yarn in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Everything was sewn up and photographed a couple of weeks ago. And I think that about exhausts these two for things that I can blather on about. Are you still with me?

BSJ III (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

As I said before, my schedule has taken a dramatic change this week, in favor of my knitting. I should have a normal life for a while, which means I can actually check e-mail (crazy, right?), read blogs, and best of all knit. I have a lot of catch-up to do, but things are looking up. Thanks to all of you for sticking with me through this sadly sparse year. Onward and upward.
 

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Well, I’m officially on Spring Break and feel like I can actually take a nice deep breath, knit profusely, and talk about it. So today I get to share with you some of the knitting fun that has been sporadically plodding along behind the scenes.

The most exciting undertaking to have begun in the last couple of weeks is the second project in the ongoing process of project provocation that Adrian and I seem to continually dish out, or as we officially call it, our 2-Person-Knit-a-long.

I think we’ve probably been waxing poetic about Alice Starmore’s Na Craga [via Ravelry] pattern for well over a year. Armed with lots of wool (this thing is a beast) it’s a wonder that we’ve finally taken the plunge and started the knitting. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have tweedy cables back in my life.

Gimme The Good Stuff

We’re both heavily modifying it from its sack-like origins. Since the fabric is thick like a jacket, and I’m pre-disposed to being warm, this is undergoing a full cardiganization. I also have hopes of making it hooded, the thought of which makes me positively giddy, but this of course all depends on how much yarn I have. Yarn which, as naturally happens, is discontinued.

Twisted Ribbing

I’m dipping into my last sweaters-worth of the lovely Skye Tweed from Classic Elite (may she rest in peace). This will be my third sweater with this yarn… wow, maybe it’s good that I’m being forced to move on?

I’ll be doing the standard seamless treatment on this one too, meaning lovely knitting done all in one piece, just the way I like it. Rather than steeking this time around, I’m knitting back and forth (all the cabling happens on even rows, so it’s nice and clean) with a buttonband worked in as I go.

Cables Everywhere

The cables in this thing are spectacular – those cheese-grater-like honeycombs not only run up the body, but also right up the center of the sleeves and flow into one of the best saddle-shoulders I think I’ve ever seen. The braided plait cables, while being the biggest hand-haters of any motif in the pattern, look so good I can’t complain (that much). And how about that twisted ribbing?! It really makes it.

Knitting a sweater like this is always an up and down saga, but so far we haven’t had any major snags, aside from sometimes being so brain dead at the end of the day that the thought of even looking at the thing sometimes seems outside of my human capacity. In these cases, it’s good to have a back up. To that end, I’m still plugging away on my ginormous garter stitch afghan which I can now safely use to keep me warm whilst I work on it – a huge bonus in my book.

Workhorse

I’m getting out of the city for the week and couldn’t be happier. For those of you who are lucky enough to get a break this week – I hope you enjoy! Tomorrow my knitting and I will be spending some quality time on a train speeding along the Hudson and away from Gotham. Have a great week!

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