Next weekend I’m heading back out on the road for the continuation of my Woolens book tour — this time in my own PNW backyard. Hope to see some of you at these three great stores!
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!
Next weekend I’m heading back out on the road for the continuation of my Woolens book tour — this time in my own PNW backyard. Hope to see some of you at these three great stores!
Next week I’ll be heading back East for a week-long book tour to celebrate the release of Woolens! If you’re located in any of the cities above and would like to purchase a copy (or get a pre-purchased copy signed), please stop by and say hello!
At the final stop on the tour — the SQUAM Art Fair in Holderness New Hampshire — I’ll be joined by my colleagues Olga Buraya-Kefelian and Norah Gaughan. The three of us will be meeting, greeting and signing books at the Brooklyn Tweed Authors table throughout the event, alongside several inspiring vendors who will be setting up shop at the Art Fair.
I look forward to meeting some of you on the tour!
I’m excited to announce today’s release of a new book of my work that we’ve published here at Brooklyn Tweed! Woolens is a project that I’ve been knocking around in my head for quite a while, but it wasn’t until I visited Japan last year that I was inspired to get the project off the ground. Looking back now, I can definitely see the influence of that trip in both the projects and the imagery inside these pages!
The book is dedicated to the humble knitted accessory – small, portable projects that are meditative to knit and accessible to adventurous beginners. Inside you’ll find a mix of all of my favorite knitting traditions: colorwork, cables, lace, and textured stitches.
We’ve put together a book preview (see below) if you’d like a sneak peek at what you’ll find inside — and if you’d like to check out each individual project more in depth, you can find them all here. The book is available in print, as well as a print + e-book combo, and I’ve signed the first 250 copies that will be shipping from our Portland HQ today!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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!
I don’t think I’ll ever tire of playing with Brioche stitch—its beautiful definition and “squishiness” make it so fun to knit and to wear. Elizabeth Zimmermann lovingly referred to Brioche stitch as “Prime Rib”—I can’t think of a better nickname for such a juicy stitch pattern, can you?
We’re in the throes of our big move(!), but today I was able to carve out a little time to sit and reflect a bit about one of my new sweater designs—the Rift pullover. This was a really fun piece to design (and had quite an entertaining evolution), so I thought I’d talk a little bit today about how it came to be.
For some time I’ve been playing around with different ideas for shoulder epaulets—I think it started back when I was working on the Fort pullover for BT Men Volume 1 in late 2012. Originally that design had a single shaped shoulder patch on one side (see an old sketch below)—imagined as a little extra padding for a messenger bag (or any other type of shoulder strap) that might be worn regularly and protect that area of the garment from wear. After having added the garter patches to Fort’s elbows, however, I felt that another patch on the shoulder was overkill, so pulled that element from the design.
Since I wasn’t able to get my epaulet fix then, I’ve been tossing various shoulder-detail ideas around in my sketchbook ever since. I liked the idea of an epaulet that was angled and followed the shape of the shoulder more anatomically, but didn’t love the extra bulk that resulted from affixing a separate knit piece as a patch. That made me start thinking about ways I could integrate the shoulder epaulet idea into the sweater fabric through a simple change in stitch patterning. This would also solve the excess bulk problem, especially when working on a design for worsted-weight yarn.
I burned through some of the more traditional ways of working a stitch-pattern epaulet pretty quickly (like horizontal welts seen on the shoulders of traditional ganseys—I love those details on classic fisherman sweaters) but still felt something was missing. I then began experimenting with getting more angled, shapely epaulets through a combination of short rows and welts, but it just felt too fussy. As I continued sketching one epaulet after another, they eventually began looking like raglan sleeve tops, as the slanting lines came down lower and lower on the yoke.
My next thought was to work a traditional raglan and just change the stitch pattern to a rib or welt once I reached the sleeve cap. Before long though I realized I was sketching something very similar to one of Véronik’s pullovers (also from BT Men volume 1), Barrett. So again, the idea sailed onto the back burner to simmer some more.
Then one day I saw a woman on the subway wearing a sweater that looked like a raglan, but was actually a set-in sleeve with patterning that mimicked raglan shaping. The lightbulb moment I had been waiting for was here! I grabbed my sketchbook and made this sketch.
The faux raglan allowed me to play with the depth of the raglan shape without actually affecting the neat fit of a set-in sleeve—something I hadn’t been willing to sacrifice. I started playing around with how deep the “raglan” lines would start, and how I could incorporate a full-fashioned rib pattern within the modified epaulet idea.
From that moment on my inspiration was really sparked. I made several charted variations, ultimately coming up with the version that you see in Rift. Once the shoulder detailing was decided, a nice opportunity for an integrated side detail to the body presented itself, too—a traveling rib that splits at the underarm and flows seamlessly into the detailing on the yoke. I love that a special detail like this brings something unexpected to what is otherwise a very classic silhouette. From a knitting perspective, I also felt like it arrived at that beautiful balance between lots of stockinette knitting and just enough stitch play to keep things fun and interesting throughout the process.
Pattern writing and grading on this piece was definitely a hard nut to crack! Since the shoulder details would have specific idiosyncrasies based on the size of the finished garment, no specific set of rules or written instructions worked very well. So I opted for the more “bespoke” route of charting out the front and back yokes for each individual size. The end result included 6 total sizes with finished chest measurements ranging from 39.25” to 59.25”. (A big thanks to our tech editor Robin for being a great sport and indulging my charting neuroses!) The pattern is quite long as a result, but don’t be fooled—most of the pages are charts for additional sizes and you’ll only need to print the two that pertain to yours.
The treatment of the neckband was kept very minimal, letting a ridge of purl stitches set off a simple rolled stockinette edge with a sewn bind-off. This integrates well with the busier epaulet ribs.
I love how this simple sweater turns out to be just enough of a head-turner to seem fresh but not showy, which is a balance I think a lot of guys like to strike in their attire. Something as comfortable and easy to wear as a sweatshirt but just fancy enough to work when dressed up for the office, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s Notebook is devoted to Agnes, my second design from our Met Museum collection from Winter ’15. One part of the Met that I really love is the modernist wing. The early 20th-century was such a rich and interesting time of change in art history, so it was a treat to go trawling for inspiration there. The simplicity of much of the abstract work in this portion of the museum makes it a common occurrence to hear visitors saying things like, “That painting is famous? But I could do that!”, though that reductive, spare quality is actually imbued with a huge amount of struggle and meaning for the artist, and I find that a subtle interplay of color and form can actually be powerful despite its often “simple” appearance.
One of my favorite minimalist artists is the painter Agnes Martin (she’s also the namesake for this design). Her approach to art was probing, individualistic, and even spiritual. The particular painting of hers that really resonated with me—an Untitled work from 1984 (shown above left)—is all about composition with barely any color whatsoever. Though it might seem like an odd place to find inspiration to some, the piece got me thinking about boxy silhouettes and bands of subtle color, ultimately serving as the baseline for the final concept.
Just a few steps away is Jasper Johns’s White Flag from 1955 (shown at right)—a perfect example of tone and texture adding beauty to a monochromatic surface. These two works got me thinking about the subtle use of warm and cool tones, and I wanted to capture something of that subtle richness with my own interpretation. I love a temperature-based approach to color and honed in our three palest neutral shades for the first variation of the pullover. Notice how the Snowbound (grey) band at the bust appears cool (almost blue) due to its proximity to the warmer tones of Fossil and milky brown Woodsmoke.
Any time I design with stripes or colorblocking, I begin by illustrating countless variations of the garment digitally to assess proportion, balance, hue and value. Here are a few variations of this design that I was playing with during the initial phase (Version C being the final version).
Before too long, I realized that it might be fun to work up an additional variation with bolder colors and a different layout sequence (it also meant I could pull from a few more works of art at the Met!). The second version of the sweater also allowed for some variation to the fit of the garment. I really like the combination of a skinny sleeve with a boxy silhouette but know that a lot of people prefer a more relaxed fitting sleeve, so I wrote the pattern with two sleeve options: slim and classic. In our photographed samples, the bolder version (colors Cast Iron, Long Johns & Fossil) is the slim sleeve and the tonal “Jasper Johns” version is the classic (a wider upper arm and slightly deeper armhole).
The higher-contrast palette of the second sample was inspired by two other paintings in the modernist wing, each Untitled works from painters Al Held (1959, left) and Clyfford Still (1960, center). I also stumbled upon the Young Woman Peeling Apples painting (1655, right) by Nicolaes Maes (over in Dutch Masters…) which fit perfectly into the theme, too. I loved that this one was from a completely different era but related so perfectly to the concept.
• • •
I also wanted to talk about a few tips that might be helpful for any of you knitting this design but wanting to experiment with your own colorblocking palette/layout. When working with fields of color, a key thing to keep in mind is that darker values will visually recede while lighter values “come forward”. This rule is obviously more relevant for a high-contrast palette; you’ll notice that if you squint at my pale version it reads more or less as a single hue, and this will be true of any combination of colors that are close in value (read more about color and value from my earlier posts here and here). I did choose to arrange the pale colors from darkest to lightest moving up from the hem, which gives the garment more visual weight at the bottom and fools the eye into thinking the shape is longer than it really is. This is generally flattering on the figure.
With pullovers, you typically want to downplay the appearance of width in the waist area (particularly true of boxy oversized garments), so in the higher-contrast version I chose to place a wide block of Cast Iron covering the mid-section, covering the bust with the darkest shade to create a more androgynous form by de-emphasizing the curves there. By contrast, the pale version has a narrower stripe at the bust with the skirt worked in a single color, which has more of an empire waist feel to it. Knowing that the less graphic nature of the pale palette side-stepped the “widening” issue, I thought it would be more fun to play with some subtle front-back changes too, so I flipped the placement of Fossil and Snowbound from front to back, which makes for an interesting detail when viewing the garment in profile (the left photo above gives a nice visual of the difference between front and back).
The yoke color block is the most fun to play with in terms of how tall it is, since it interacts with the neckline as well as highlighting the angled shaping of the shoulder and the intersection with the armhole. I like the idea of a shallow block there to look more like epaulets or shoulder patches, but in the end, I wanted it to be deep enough so as not to bisect the neckline.
And that’s probably about all the nerdy design talk you might be able to handle for one day! The bottom line is that Agnes is a modern, comfortable sweater that’s easy to wear and a fun canvas for your own original creation. For those of you who choose to knit this, I hope you’ll share your own take on the design!
Although collection launch days always feel super exciting around here, this one feels especially fantastic since we can finally publicly welcome Norah Gaughan as the newest member to our in-house Design Team!
I remember my first encounter with Norah’s work. I had a job on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and I often spent my lunch break soaking up all the knitting knowledge I could absorb in the Barnes & Noble that used to occupy the corner of 66th and Broadway. (This was also where I picked up most of my intermediate-to-advanced knitting knowledge, hunkered down among the bookshelves sponging up as much technical info as I could between my morning and afternoon shift…)
One day I spied a beautiful new hardcover face-out on the shelf: Knitting Nature. Leafing through it was mind expanding. Not only were the garments unlike anything I’d ever seen—swirls and polygons and fractal shapes cunningly transformed into wearable art—but the styling and production quality were totally arresting. It was the first time I realized how much was possible in melding the arts of knitting and photography which, in hindsight, was a pretty major moment for me.
For eight years since, I’ve been following Norah’s design career, marveling at her prolific and agile brain. I couldn’t possibly be more thrilled to now call her a colleague at BT. Working with her in the past few months has already been a complete joy. Check out Norah’s first few designs from our Winter Collection— Chainlink (pictured above), Marshal, and Nomad—and please join me in welcoming her to the BT family!
My very talented cousin, Craig Flood, is a videographer in Portland, Oregon. Back in November, he was visiting NYC and staying with me as a houseguest during photoshoot week for our Winter collection (coming tomorrow—so excited!). When I began telling him about the concept for the art history-inspired shoot I was working on for the collection, he thought it sounded like the perfect subject for a video story—and so we decided to do a cousin collaboration!
Craig tagged along with me on the days leading up to the shoot and captured a nice look at the process involved in weaving it all together.
I’ve had the idea of doing a collection of designs inspired by art historical references for years. I loved the idea of bringing my post-academia love of art history together with our work at Brooklyn Tweed in some way. In college I spent 9 months abroad in Rome studying art history and fell in love with the lighting and composition of paintings from the Baroque period, especially those of the Dutch Masters like Vermeer and Rembrandt. I thought it would be a fun creative challenge to create imagery inspired by this genre of painting for a knitwear collection, and to use art historical references as a springboard for our designers to begin concepts for their garments. Last November, when our Design Team convened in NYC for our regular design retreat, we took a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to gather inspiration for some of our newest patterns in the Winter 15 collection.
Craig’s video is a nice glimpse into our process for putting a shoot together; I hope you enjoy it! (I’m much more comfortable behind the camera—leave it to my little cousin to get me to sit for an interview!)
A huge thanks to Craig for making this beautiful video and enhancing my own creative journey on this project!
And of course, stay tuned for the new collection tomorrow morning! (You’ll get an early peek at the designs in our “History of Art” story at the end of the video.)