Some inspiration from Agnes Martin dressing my studio wall this morning. What a woman.
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!
Some inspiration from Agnes Martin dressing my studio wall this morning. What a woman.
It’s been such an exciting week here at BT—we’ve introduced our Fall ’15 collection as well as the newest member of our American-sourced and spun yarn family: Quarry. This yarn has been in the works for quite some time; yesterday I checked back over my notes to see just how long we’ve been kicking the idea around behind the scenes: my first discussions with the mill in Harrisville about developing a chunky weight date all the way back to late 2013!
I’ve always loved working with “unspun” yarns (the most well-known unspun yarn in the industry is probably Plötulopi in Iceland) for their unique lightness and spongy hand. When I first started working with the Wyoming-grown Targhee-Columbia wool that we use in our Shelter and Loft lines, I loved the character of the fleece and thought that it would be fun experimenting with an unspun version that would allow the intrinsic qualities of the wool to shine. Since the staple length of Targhee is on the shorter side (especially when compared with longer, coarser wools that are traditionally used for unspun yarn construction), I knew we’d probably need to come up with something more creative to give the look and feel of a roving yarn without sacrificing structural integrity.
In the end, we landed on what’s called a “mock twist” in the spinning industry—a type of yarn construction that creates a faux single-ply look by way of combining separate plies of sliver (a single ply of unspun wool fiber with no twist whatsoever) together with a gentle ply twist. When I learned about this type of spinning, it really got my gears turning (no pun intended).
After some trial and error with ply count, twist strength, and so on, we ended up putting together a chunky mock-twist yarn composed of three individual (unspun) plies. The result is a yarn that looks like a roving-style “singles” but maintains some desirable qualities from a 3-ply yarn construction: a round structure (great for stitch definition—Quarry really loves cables and brioche) as well as more tensile strength than a single-ply roving yarn. It’s still quite softly spun of course, but has a built-in structure that makes it behave more interestingly on the needles than other non-plied prototypes we tested.
And what about the name? Quarry?
When the first tests of the final prototype were happening at the mill last summer, I happened to be on a trip to Arizona visiting the Grand Canyon (oh the beauty of that place!—that’s a subject for another post entirely) and was experiencing color inspiration overload (I’ve included a few of my photos from that trip here). One of the unexpected surprises in developing Quarry was the way that the the mock-twist construction affected the appearance of the blended colors. The heathering that comes from mixing pre-dyed wool before spinning appears differently in Quarry than it does in Shelter and Loft. Rather than creating traditional tweedy flecks, the colors mix in a more painterly, striated fashion (see the first photo in this post for a good example). This beautiful texture really reminded me of the tonal colors and layered patterns that abound in the canyon—and the concept for a palette inspired by geology was born.
I’m excited to finally be able to share this new yarn with you, and introduce it to you with some of my current knitting projects. This week I’m starting in on a Cowichan-inspired colorwork “camping vest” for my first rainy season back here in the PNW using three colors of Quarry. If you’re curious to see how the yarn knits up, I’ll be sharing my progress here on the blog and on my shiny new Instagram feed (@jared_flood) as well.
I hope you enjoy this new yarn we’ve created—I look forward to seeing what you’re knitting with Quarry, too!
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.