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!

 

Our BT Summer of Lace Knitalong has been a great motivator for me to finish up a couple of lace projects that have been laying low in forgotten places for an embarrassing amount of time (cough — years). The brawniest offender was a worsted-weight Permafrost Shawl that I cast on nearly five years ago!

 

 

I’m very happy to say that she’s finally finished and — thank you, Wool — she looks just as good as she did when we began our journey together. She’s tagged along with me through multiple cities and on more moves than I care to mention, taking up final residence on my knitting chair here in Portland… the last place I’d have guessed she’d end up when I cast on that small circle of stitches so many years ago.

 

 

That’s one of the things I love most about knitting  — the layers of memory and meaning that get stitched in, especially on monumental projects that span so many months, years, faces, and phases.

 

 

Project Specs

Pattern: Permafrost shawl, originally designed and knit for the launch of Loft in 2012

Yarn: Shelter in color “Fossil” — the design took beautifully to a light and woolly worsted-weight

Needles: 5 mm (US 8)

Skeins Knit: 11; my finished shawl clocked in at about 515 total grams and measures 64″ in diameter after blocking

 

 

I’ve loved seeing all the lace that’s being knit this summer and am happy to be able to share some of my own knitting as well from the #BTLaceKAL17. Thanks to all of those who have participated!

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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.

01_rift

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.

02_rift

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.

03_rift

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.

SKETCH_rift

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.

04_rift

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.

05_rift

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.

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I wanted to take some time today to share a bit about Hawser – one of my new designs in BT Fall 14. When I first started working on this garment, I hoped to adapt some of the qualities found in traditional fisherman sweaters into a more modern and flattering wardrobe item for women.

Sometimes design ideas behave really well – doing exactly what you think they’ll do from concept to execution – while other times, it’s more like a wrestling match. Hawser was one of those, and went through a few different iterations on its journey. Perhaps sharing some info about the design’s evolution will give you some modification ideas of your own!

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Hawser

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An A-line silhouette is one of my favorite sweater shapes, especially for cozy, knock-around, fall and winter garments, so that’s where I began. The super-sized rope cables are quite large (A “hawser” is a thick rope or cable used for mooring or towing a ship, and is derived from the French word haucier – “to hoist”) and needed to be handled carefully to avoid overwhelming the wearer. I started with 4 – which immediately looked like too much, so took one out and went for a 3-cable arrangement. I originally drafted the garment with a traditional set-in sleeve yoke placing the two outer cables flush against the armholes. It turned out to be an unflattering, bulky fit at the shoulder, and looked to me like an awkward meeting of sleeve and body. So that idea was out. I wasn’t necessarily feeling like a raglan or round yoke would work here either, so took some time to chew on other ideas for a few days (giving an idea time to marinate is essential for me to find solutions to design problems, I’ve learned).

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JJF_140706_1566_BLG

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To leave some extra room for the allover double moss stitch at the shoulder (rather than having the cable fall right on the seam line) – a drop shoulder seemed like a viable option, though I wanted to avoid the bulk of extra fabric at the underarm that a traditional drop shoulder provides. To make the upper yoke more fitted, I gave the shoulder line a more dramatic slope and added an outward-leaning slope on the armhole edge; with this new shape, the sleeve would join the body well below the shoulder, all the while avoiding an excess fabric problem of a standard drop shoulder. Things started feeling better at this point!

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JJF_140801_1219_BLG

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The change for a (modified) drop-shoulder combined with the A-line shape threatened to created an overly boxy garment, so adding a slim sleeve that fits directly into the armhole seemed like an appropriate final touch for the fit. A bonus of having a sloped armhole opening also meant that no sleeve cap shaping would be required – the sleeve couldn’t be simpler! The results still hint at that boxy look, but with a more anatomically friendly silhouette. The final shape also allows the double moss stitch to go over the shoulder (see the photo #2 above), which kept that area of the garment from becoming a visual eyesore like it was in the original. The schematic below shows the final shape (and knitting direction) of the garment – which is worked circularly from hem to underarm with the front and back of the yoke worked flat; sleeves are worked circularly in their entirety.

SCH_hawser-01

Aside from shape and fit (the foundation of every garment) – you know I love the subtle details! There are a few little things stashed away in this design that I thought I’d highlight, as they’re sometimes less apparent in photographs. There is continuation of the 1×1 hem ribbing running up along the sweater’s side “seams” in a band, creating a visual detail that also hide the garment’s A-Line shaping (double moss stitch can start looking a little messy when shaping is worked directly into the stitch pattern). You can get a little peek of that in photo #1 above – look just below the the lower portion of the left arm. The large cable crosses – occurring over a total of 17 stitches – utilize a special yarn over technique on crossing rounds to provide a little extra slack for the working yarn as it carries across the wide cable; this keeps the finished cable from distorting or buckling. Finally, a doubled collar (knit to twice the desired depth then folded in and tacked down to the inside of the garment) gives a sturdy finish to the wide crew neck and balances out some of the bolder effects of the deep hem and large vertical motifs.

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Hawser Design Swatch

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Here is a photo of one of my first swatches for the design, hanging out under another design swatch (this one didn’t make it into the final collection, but I have plans for her still!).

All in all, it was a fun process from start to finish. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this sweater’s journey, and I can’t wait to see what sort of variations start popping up out in the world!

Thanks for reading and all my best,

Jared

 

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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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BT Fall 14

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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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BT Fall 14

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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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BT Fall 14

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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!

JF_SIG_printed

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School’s out in North America, and for many families that means a long summer stretches clear to the horizon. Summer can be languid or packed with adventure, but even for those of us grown-ups who still have to work, the pace usually feels gentler and more elastic this season. With any luck it’s even punctuated by vacations and free time to cast on new projects. We always like to release a design series in June to give you some fresh ideas for your summer knitting as you take advantage of a “lazier” timeline.

Knitters have been asking me for years if Brooklyn Tweed would ever do a children’s collection. Kids’ garments can be especially satisfying knitting, accomplished with small quantities of yarn and in less time, but with all the pleasurable details of adult-size projects. They make great gift knitting. And who can resist the aesthetic double whammy of a beautiful handknit sweater on a cute child?

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BT Kids // Lookbook

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Today I’m excited to answer a resounding yes(!) with the release of the first ever BT collection for kids. Our design team has spent just under a year planning and knitting the samples for this collection, so it feels especially gratifying to see things going public this morning.

We began with the notion of drawing on iconic knitwear from around the globe, styled for modern kids in the city or the country. Inspired by the Icelandic lopapeysa, Scandinavian stranded colorwork with steeks, cabled fishermen’s sweaters, delicate vintage cardigans of lace and cables, and more, we started sketching and swatching. We even added nods to classic stuffed toys and to the current intarsia animal trend as well.

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Berenice | Magnus | Atlas

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Our hope is that there is something for every knitter in this collection—sweaters worked in the round, sweaters worked in pieces and sewn together, hybrids of the two, innovative shoulder shaping, cables, lace, stranded colorwork, intarsia colorwork, home accent pieces, blankets, accessories, even hats sized up to adult dimensions if you don’t have any children to knit for. (We think you might even be tempted to scale up some of the designs for yourself, too!)

Essentially, we can’t wait to see what you all do with BT Kids.

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Bairn | Humphrey | Spore

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The garments in the collection are sized for young ones aged two to ten years. The new lookbook pairs each pattern with descriptive text that calls attention to construction details you might wonder about or possibilities that might get your creative gears spinning. You’ll also find some advice on choosing sizes and musings on the potency of crafting for your family from our house writer.

In the next few weeks we’ll use our social media avenues to visit clusters of designs from the collection—those with cables, those with colorwork, etc.—for a closer look, as well as delve into some of the practical aspects of knitting for children.

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Our whole team is excited about this new dimension for Brooklyn Tweed, and we hope you’ll thoroughly enjoy leafing through the lookbook.

Happy summer!
– Jared

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Resources: The BT Kids lookbook is now available for viewing on our website here, or download the free PDF for viewing on your tablet or device.

Each pattern in the collection is available for instant download here, or on Ravelry.com. Brooklyn Tweed yarns used in the collection are available for purchase online, or at one of our 16 flagship retail locations.

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NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_01

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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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NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_02

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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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NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_03

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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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NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_04

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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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NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_5

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I love a good cabled scarf in the winter. If I had it my way, I’d wear them year-round, though I no longer live in a climate where that is possible.

Frieze is my newest scarf design from the BT Winter 14 collection. Named for it’s relief-like texture and staggered motifs, the fabric reminded me of the ornate marble friezes I studied as a young art student living in Rome. I remember being drawn to these decorative, patterned entablatures that adorned Roman and Greek temples, with their curved lines and repeating motifs. I was struck by how such delicacy and lightness could be achieved in carvings using a material as unforgiving and solid as marble.

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When I wear scarves, I prefer a bit of volume. When it’s really cold, I like being able to burrow into a scarf, and use it as a sort of face mask to block the windchill when necessary. To me the perfect scarf looks good worn alone (simply, over a shirt, blouse, dress, etc. as shown) or paired with outerwear. The addition of buttons and buttonholes along the top and bottom edges is a fun detail that adds versatility to the item. When buttoned, the scarf becomes a loop that can be worn in multiple ways. By playing around with how many buttons are used, or which button-to-buttonhole pairing you choose, a wide array of styling options becomes available. Why not have a little fun with it?

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Frieze incorporates three large medallion cables – each nested with smaller, wrapped eyelet crosses (commonly seen in Japanese stitch dictionaries) – which are staggered over the length of the piece. Traditional 4-stitch “rope” cables are used as separators between the larger motifs as well as trimming the selvedge edges; these four cables are also mirrored over the center line of the scarf (cable crosses lean away from each other for perfect symmetry).

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In terms of knitting geekery: the reinforced buttonhole method used within the pattern is relatively new to me, and an incredibly exciting technique that I learned from my friend Catherine Lowe. I’ve never seen this method anywhere else before, and am not sure if there is an official name for it. After working the buttonhole bind-off row, the return row has you cast on the number of buttonhole stitches + 4 to a spare DPN (or cable needle), then work the pair of scarf stitches preceding and following the buttonhole together with the first and last two stitches of the cast-on row by way of directional double decreasing. Difficult to summarize here, but not at all difficult to execute, and the results are so worth it! Finished buttonholes remain both flexible and stable (more deftly avoiding the common problem of stretching out of shape after continued use).

It’s a fun knit for cable lovers, and one that I look forward to wearing myself!

– JF

 

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Resources:

The Frieze pattern is available for download at Brooklyn Tweed or on Ravelry. The Shelter yarn used in the photographed sample is available here.

 

 

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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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JF: Welcome, Dianna! Glad to have you on the blog today! 

DW: Thanks for having me!

JF: Your design work seems heavily inspired by Scandinavian traditions and culture. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Do you have a family history in that region of the world?

DW: There’s definitely a lot of Scandinavian influence, but I don’t have any family background in that part of the world! I’m just drawn to it, for whatever reason. I have several friends from Norway who I initially met online, some as long as a decade ago, and they initially got me interested in it. The language drew me in first, and then the more I learned about the culture, the more I fell in love with it. I’ve been fortunate to travel to Scandinavia several times now, and meet those friends who I still keep in touch with.

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JF: Can you give me some back story about the design of Sundottir? I know when we first started talking about a design submission you had an old, beloved version of the sweater that you were wanting to refine into a finished pattern. When and how did the idea begin?

DW: I knit that old, beloved sweater in 2010. I’d been working on stranded colorwork for awhile, but only on accessories. So I decided, being so into Scandinavian design and culture, I really wanted something along the lines of the beautiful traditional sweaters from Norway and Iceland. Looking back, I think I wanted something a little more modern, too, that felt more like me, because none of the patterns out there were jumping out at me. So I decided to come up with a design myself. It’s been a thrill to return to that design and work on how to turn that idea into a pattern.

JF: I am always a fan of mixing the modern with the traditional – I think that’s what works so nicely about this design. A classic yoke motif, fluffy wool and traditional color combo paired with a fitted shape that feels current. The other nice thing about this sweater is that making custom alterations is pretty straight forward. Any tips for knitters who might want to tweak the garment slightly to suit their own body types and ease preferences?

DW: Absolutely! The yoke chart begins on a multiple of 8 stitches, so as long as the number of stitches on the needle is a multiple of 8 when it’s time to start the colorwork section, almost anything else goes. Some folks may want to eliminate the waist shaping – I’d use the number of stitches after the bust increase section as the number of stitches to cast on. Others may want more defined waist shaping, in which case adding decrease rounds and increase rounds would be pretty straightforward. Knitters could also turn it into a cardigan by steeking and picking up stitches to knit button bands. Or you could use multiple contrast colors in the yoke for a more colorful sweater. There’s a lot of possibility there. Seeing the modifications that creative knitters make is one of my favorite parts of publishing patterns!

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JF: Are there any specific details in the pattern that you might like to point out to our readers? Anything that might not be immediately obvious from looking at the photos? 

DW: Like many of my designs, Sundottir is completely seamless, right down to the underarms. Everything is worked in the round, and when the knitting is done, the underarm stitches are grafted together using Kitchener stitch (there are instructions in the pattern for those who haven’t used Kitchener before). Fit-wise, one of the differences between the pattern and my original prototype was the addition of short row shaping to dip the yoke in the front, so that the neckline fits more comfortably.

JF: You live and work in Seattle, Washington – are you a native or a transplant? 

DW: I’m a transplant! I grew up in North Carolina and moved out here in 2009.

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JF: How does the weather and lifestyle of the city affect your design work?

DW: In general, I love the weather and the lifestyle of this city, and I can definitely see it influence my work. For one thing, some years you can wear wool year round!

JF: As a Washington native, I sometimes miss that! 

DW: Like many people in this city, I tend to gravitate toward clothing that’s practical and functional, and I see that in my knitwear, but I also want it to look good, too. I design things I’d want to knit for myself, because that’s how I got started, so I’m always thinking about how I’ll actually wear or use a design. I’m not always designing things I could wear on my bike commute to work in the rain, but it’s nice when my design work does fit that bill.

Being in Seattle keeps the Scandinavian influence up front, as well, because that’s a big part of this city’s history. There were so many Scandinavian immigrants to this city and this part of the world. My studio is in Ballard, which was historically the Scandinavian neighborhood, just down the road from the Nordic Heritage Museum (which puts on the Nordic Knitting Conference every two years). There’s a parade every year for Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day, and it’s the biggest one outside of Norway. Being in a community with that kind of heritage means I’m always thinking about it.

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JF: What was your dream job as a child? 

DW: I grew up in classical ballet and for a long time I wanted to do that professionally. I still take classes, from time to time, but I got really burned out by the end of high school. I think I gave up on that dream around the time I started high school, actually, which was around the same time I hit six feet in height. Most ballerinas aren’t anywhere near that tall, which makes it hard to be in a corps de ballet. I think I always had an internal struggle between my creative side and wanting to pursue creative pursuits on the one side and going a much more straight-laced stable route on the other. My mother has certainly always supported my creative pursuits – she started my hometown’s city arts program – but she also encouraged routes that would lead to more financial stability than a career in the arts. That’s a struggle that I still feel sometimes.

JF: This has been great – thanks for taking the time to chat a bit this morning, Dianna!

DW: Thank you for the opportunity! I’m truly honored to be a part of the collection.

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JF: Hi, Kyoko! Thanks for joining me today on the blog for a chat about your new sweater design.

KN: Hi, Jared! Thanks for inviting me to this chat. I’m so excited!

JF: This is your first contribution to a Wool People collection (and I think it’s a great one) – can you tell our readers a little bit about your design philosophy? What interests you about designing for handknitting, specifically?

KN: I really enjoyed working on Rook for WP6. My core design philosophy is to offer unique knits which have timeless style.

I also think of myself as a “creative puzzle-maker”, and it pleases me to think that those who knit my patterns will enjoy the making process, on top of creating something that they love to wear (or giving it to someone they care about).

I really enjoy using my creativity to come up with each unique, new design, then writing up the patterns in a way that is thoughtful for knitters.

JF: I think that is so key – to think of a design not only as an end product that looks good and fits well, but also as an experience for the maker. The experience should be thoughtful and appropriate. This is unique to handknitting design.

KN: Yes! My aim is always to pleasantly surprise knitters. First visually, when they see my designs, and then through the creative process of knitting them. I’m always happy and humbled to see how many people knit my designs – not just for themselves – but also for their children, relatives and friends. This is one of the key motivations as a hand-knitting designer.

JF: You started your brand of knitwear design for handknitters, Cotton and Cloud, in 2009. What would you say is your brand mission?

KN: My brand mission is to keep surprising knitters and provide fresh inspiration that fits with a fun, ethical and creative outlook. I want to design unique knits which are timeless in style. This could include incorporating unusual or novel techniques, adding some quirky new patterning, or designing a uniquely shaped garment.

In terms of my specific interests, I love to work with yarns from independent companies. I am deeply committed to contribute to a better future for our children, by supporting the independent suppliers of eco-friendly and ethical raw materials. In a world where there is so much cheap, mass-produced clothing available, I want to share and spread the idea of living a happier, ‘slow life’ – even in a busy city like London – by creating a garment you love stitch by stitch.

JF: That concept resonates strongly with me as well, and I am noticing a broader movement away from “fast fashion”. As handknitters, this already seems second nature, but it is a very important topic in our society at this time, don’t you think?

KN: Definitely. We live in the most ‘throw-away’ society in history. And this applies to many products from food to fashion clothes. But as a consumer myself, I know how hard it can be to resist the temptation to throw away stuff that’s cheap and easily available. As one of millions of global knitters, I feel very lucky to have the skill to design and make useful and stylish garments by hand from high-quality, eco-friendly yarns. I think the ‘slow life’ movement is very important in encouraging a happier and more balanced way of living for the individual and families; as well as having a hugely positive impact on society in general.

JF: You are Japanese born but live and work in London. Can you talk a little bit about how each of these places has shaped who you are as an artist and designer?

KN: Japan is such a beautiful country and the language we speak and write is, to me, very visual. I first learned how to knit as a small child, using Japanese patterns which are generally chart-based.

I came to the UK when I was 12 and have been living in England, more recently in London, for the past 15 years. Being away from my family from a young age has made me resourceful. Being creative in any subject was appreciated by those around me and I was given the freedom to explore novel and different hobbies, which I really enjoyed.

So the mix of experiences from my childhood, and then my adult life in Japan and London, have left me with a very versatile approach to designing.

I can mix logical and rule-based methods with my own original thinking, without being afraid to break new ground and create innovative designs that haven’t been seen before.

JF: Sounds like a knockout combination to me!

KN: 🙂 Well, I hope so, because I try to offer knitters something fresh and interesting in my design collections.

JF: Rook is a pullover I’m sure a lot of women would like to wear, and also one that I think is very fun to knit. Can you talk a little bit about how the garment is created on the needles?

KN: When you first see the sweater it looks quite traditional. When you look more closely, however, you realize that the construction for the round yoke is a noticeable break from tradition.

This sweater is created with a top-down, seamless construction, knit circularly. In order to create a height difference between the front and the back neck, you use a ‘wrap and turn’ short-row technique to work more rows at the back and sleeves first, before eventually joining to work the remaining yoke in the round. This adds a subtle depth to the front neck which to me is perfect for a garment that is cosy and winter-proof, as well as versatile enough to style with different undershirts (like a crew-neck top or a collared shirt underneath, as pictured).

The increases for the yoke shaping are worked in between the cable patterns. The textured diamond motif is encircled by stockinette stitch instead of a vertical line of purl stitches, to keep the whole design clean and simple. In addition, the cable pattern never changes in size or placement during the yoke shaping and throughout the sweater, giving an attractive visual illusion.

JF: Any special tools needed in working this type of yoke?

KN: The use of stitch markers is essential in this pattern, as they will help guide your correct positioning within the pattern, especially during yoke shaping. Once the yoke shaping is done, the rest is straightforward and will be an enjoyable knit for everyone, I hope!

JF: It’s definitely a fun and different approach to knitting a pullover that I think knitters will enjoy. For me, good design is directly related to the amount of thought that goes into it – you clearly think a lot about your work as you are designing and that is much appreciated! 

KN: Thank you, Jared! I do spend a lot of time on the planning stage of each new garment design.

First of all, I do a mental run-through of the ideas that I’m considering and then start to focus on one in particular.

I then think about the design from the point of view of the knitter, to ensure my patterns are always accessible and enjoyable to make. For example, when my design is going to contain a new technique that may be unfamiliar to most knitters, I try to shape the design carefully to ensure the new technique is only used at the beginning of the project. After that, I make sure the rest of the knitting pattern is straightforward to do, which is what I did for Rook.

When I was designing Rook, I had in mind the short-row neck shaping technique and a special pattern placement to create an interesting visual illusion. The texture and density of Shelter was perfect for the effect I had in mind. When all the technical ideas and the yarn were put together with a traditional sweater-shape with a double-folded neckline, it all seemed to come together really well!

JF: Thanks again, Kyoko! It’s been a pleasure getting to work with you and I hope to do so in the future! 

KN: Thank you, Jared! It’s been great fun for me, too. And I’m looking forward to sharing more new designs through BT in the future!

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