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 did a double-take last month when someone on our team at BT Headquarters mentioned that we were coming up on the 10th anniversary of the Cobblestone Pullover, the first pattern I ever designed. Despite my initial feelings of surprise and disbelief, checking the calendar proved this fact to be true. It’s been a full decade since I cautiously put my toe in the water of pattern design, creating this comfortable sweater that now feels like an old friend and remains a staple in my closet.

With 3,084 knitted versions of the pattern on Ravelry today, I’ve had a great walk down memory lane checking out all the ways people have made this sweater!

To honor the day, we thought it would be fun to release a 10-year anniversary edition of the pattern featuring a fresh new version worked up in Shelter. It turned out to be quite a lovely marriage of pattern and yarn, so much so that I’m already thinking about how I can fold this cozy grey pullover into my wardrobe rotation when fall hits.

With our pattern update today, anyone who has already purchased a digital version of this pattern from Ravelry or BrooklynTweed.com will receive a free update in their downloads library.

I’m very humbled to take a moment today to think back on the earliest days of my design career and I’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you for your continued support for my work over the past 10 years. I hope I’ll be at it for another 10!

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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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I’m super excited to be able to offer Oshima now as a pattern for both men and women. Of all my past designs, this is one that I’ve most often wished I could wear myself…

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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’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.

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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.

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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.

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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 IronLong Johns & Fossil) is the slim sleeve and the tonal “Jasper Johns” version is the classic (a wider upper arm and slightly deeper armhole).

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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.

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Tips for Your Own Version

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.

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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!

 

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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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Happy Sunday! Today I’m conducting our penultimate Designer Interview for Wool People 8 with Hannah Fettig from Portland, Maine. Read on for more about Hannah’s design process for Gable, and news about her new app for knitters.

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Hi Hannah! It’s great to have you back in Wool People with your Gable pullover—we worked with you for Wool People 3, and your Walpole cardigan was one of the most popular garments in that collection. What are your favorite elements of your new design and how did it come into being?

I’m not just saying this – Walpole is one of my favorite designs.  I wear it all the time!  When I first put together my submission for Wool People 8, I said to Bristol “Can I just design Walpole again?!”  I was concerned if I stuck with a cardigan I would in fact have a hard time breaking away from that original design, so a pullover seemed like a good idea.  I do love the stitch definition of the twisted rib in Walpole, so I thought it would be interesting to use that as a recurring design element here.  Also, I wanted the sweater to read like a sweatshirt: comfortable.  At first, with sporty in mind, I considered sticking with my go-to raglan yoke, but once the twisted rib design and the short-row-shaped hemline were in place, a round yoke made more sense to me.

(No complaints there – round yokes are one of my favorite things to knit!)

In the end, I think all the elements complement one another rather than fighting for attention.  (A funny side note, at the time I designed Gable I was sharing an office with Pam Allen.  I think we were sharing at least part of a brain; without knowing it we were both designing short row shaped hemline pieces.  Her finished design is Togue Pond, which I love.)

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I really like your clean aesthetic. Your designs are simple and wearable; you never overdo it with too much texture or fussy detail, and the result is always a garment knitters know they’ll be able to for many seasons to come. Can you tell us about your design process?

Starting with the Whisper Cardigan, which is the design that got me on the map, my foremost consideration has always been wearability.  I’m the same way with ready-to-wear. When I shop for my own closet it needs to be a piece that fits in with other things I have and that can be worn comfortably on a regular basis. As a result, most of my designs are fields of Stockinette Stitch.  Rocky Coast Cardigan is the only exception, but since that cable pattern is worked at quite a loose gauge it has a calming effect, it almost reads flat to me.  I’m always editing myself. Early on in my design work I’d second guess myself on this front, like, can I really get away with designing something so basic?  I’ve learned to trust my instincts, basics are what I’m all about and my audience seems to be okay with that.  I will still follow trends, for instance my most recent design for Knitbot is a Moto Jacket.  But I tried to execute it in a way that it could fit into a knitters closet for years to come; it’s not too trendy.

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How did you get started as a knitter and designer?

I’ve knit on and off since I was a teenager.  My grandmother was a huge crafter and of all the crafts she did knitting was the one that rubbed off on me.  When knitting started getting really popular again 10 years ago, I totally jumped on the wave.  I started working at our local yarn shop and was knitting everything I could get my hands on.  Somewhere in there I started designing my own sweaters, in fact I did a design for The Fibre Company in their early days.  Their original warehouse was on the waterfront here in Portland, Maine.  The turning point was when—last minute—they asked me to attend TNNA with them to assist in their booth.  I went, and they had my sweater on display.  A book editor saw it and asked if I had considered writing a book which I laughed off.  I had never considered that, and did not feel qualified!  She followed up with me several times after that, and just like that I had a book contract and was designing 30 pieces for it.  That seems like another lifetime; I’ve come a long was as a designer since Closely Knit was published, but it did serve as a major stepping stone in my career.  When Eunny Jang, then editor of Interweave Knits, reached out to me to design for the magazine, I had been playing with knitting lace weight yarn at a loose gauge in Stockinette Stitch, trying to mimic jersey. And so came Whisper, and then Featherweight which remains my most popular pattern to date.  I was fortunate enough to be launching my career in the early days of Ravelry, I do feel that it would be different if I were trying to do so now, with so many great designers self publishing.

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You’ve got an interesting knitting-related but non-woolly project on the front burner now, too: your new StashBot app. It’s been fascinating to see how technology has sparked such rapid change in the knitting world, and how savvy knitters have been about embracing it. What inspired you to build this tool for knitters, and what’s exciting about seeing it out in the wild now?

In a market so saturated with knitting patterns I wanted to try something new.  Pam (Allen) and I talked about focusing more on education, but neither of us are in a position to travel.  So we started the  knit.fm podcast.  The overwhelming response from knitters to our humble podcast verified that people are hungry for help!  That gave me the idea to create a “stash buying” guide.  You’re in a yarn store and find a yarn you can’t live without, but you don’t have a pattern in front of you.  How much should you buy?  I wanted the guide to be as specific as possible and then provide a general yardage and meter estimate.  And I wanted the estimates to be based on something real, not made up or overestimated.  So taking actual body measurements plus 2” of ease for sweaters, and a 10% pad for all garment types we came up with yardage and meter estimates for a wide range of sizes.  I created charts and made a print booklet (this was something within my realm of skills since I self publish patterns for print regularly).  But the question was then, what is the best way to present this data digitally?  An interactive app seemed like a fantastic idea!  My husband, Abe, is a software developer.  We were able to collaborate on this project together which was a lot of fun.  It took us 9 months from start to finish to get it just right, and we’re both really proud of the results.  When you’re publishing digital goods, you never know what’s going to happen in terms of sales.  Within the first week we sold as many apps as we had hoped to maybe sell ever!  Knitters sent messages like: ‘StashBot fills a real need’, ‘This is a game changer’, and so on.  So we are certainly on to something here.  The next steps are to develop StashBot for Android, and to work on future updates.  Knitters have sent many suggestions for things the app could also do, and some of them are really good, like, why didn’t we think of that?  It’s all very exciting, and really what I had dreamed about.  While I love designing patterns, and I always will do it, I was ready to work on something new and here I have it!

That’s wonderful—I look forward to giving the app a more in-depth try myself, aside from the preliminary trial I got from you last summer before the app went live. Thanks so much for dropping by today Hannah and I wish you all the best as you continue with your work!

Thank you, Jared, for the opportunity to be part of Wool People again!  It’s an honor.

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Gable (4 of 5)

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

This has been Part 5 of a 6-part Designer Conversations series with selected creatives from our new Wool People 8 collection. Stay tuned here for more; two interviews will be posted each week!

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Today I’m talking shop with New York City-based designer Melissa Wehrle as we continue our Designer Conversations series with creatives from the Wool People 8 collection. Read on for more! –Jared

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Hi Melissa—thanks for popping by today for a quick chat. It’s great to have you. 

Hi Jared! It’s a pleasure to be here.

You came to knitting with a background in fashion, and now you have a foot in both worlds, designing sweaters for commercial manufacture as well as for handknitting. Can you tell us how the design experience is different? What do you like about each industry?

Well, on the commercial side, designing is a lot less hands-on and moves a lot quicker than in the hand knitting world. We begin for each market by gathering together inspiration, yarns, and information about trends. Once our themes are set, we begin sketching. Once we get down enough bodies on paper, we meet as a team to narrow down the designs that work best for our customer. Once the designs are organized, we sketch them up in Illustrator, put together detailed tech packs (includes measurements and how each piece is made) and send everything over to a factory in China. It usually takes about 3-6 weeks to receive our prototype samples back here in New York. If the design happens to be for a large order, we can expect sample turnaround to be about one week. The samples are then organized in the showroom and shown to our store buyers during market week. There are 10 markets per year and we show anywhere from 50-100 new styles each market.

Wow, that’s some crazy output! Definitely a different pace and style from our handknitting industry, eh?

Yes! The amount of sweaters we can bring to market each month is staggering. I certainly appreciate the slow aspect of the hand knitting world! Even though it’s nice to be able to produce every good idea that pops into my head without having to prioritize due to time constraints, it’s hard to feel passionate about what you’re producing sometimes. Hand knitting gives me the time and space to reconnect with making. I don’t have to worry about how long it will take to knit, how much the yarn costs or if adding a particular stitch will make the cost soar. (Deadlines, however, are a different story!)

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That touches on something I think about a lot—how handknitting (and home sewing, by the same token) is such a dramatic departure from the “fast fashion” of our consumer culture. I think once you slow down and start making garments with care, you really start to see some of the benefits of creating your own wardrobe pieces. And also, being more invested and passionate about them as a result.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as well. I embarked on a little experiment in which I was not allowed to purchase new clothing for one year. (The irony isn’t lost on me, since people buying clothing is what allows me to keep my job and pay the bills!) If I wanted a new piece of clothing, it was up to me to knit or sew it. Taking the time to make my own garments for an entire year really forced me to sit down and analyze my style and plan my projects carefully. Having a solid plan has not only kept me on track, but has provided me with some great original pieces that I feel proud to wear. Now that I’m coming to the end of the year, I feel it’s been a great success. Not once have I said, “I have nothing to wear.” Feeling more connected to what I wear everyday has made a huge difference in my world.

How do you decide which ideas to develop for handknitters and which to channel toward your fashion work?

I have a loose set of requirements that help me sort designs into each place. For fashion, it’s a little easier since, sad to say, it’s a throw away culture in the Junior world. The design has to be cost effective, work with our limited range of affordable yarns, and be on trend for our customer. Longevity is not a concern. For handknits, I ask myself two questions: will the styling hold up over multiple years and is it interesting to knit?

Yes! That’s one of my favorite parts about designing for handknitting too—you are designing an experience that an individual will have, and you must think about how intuitive and enjoyable that process can or should be for the knitter. 

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Tell us a little bit about your process for designing Eaves for Wool People 8. At first glance it looks like a basic striped pullover with a really comfortable silhouette, but it has some clever details that I just love.

Typically, I begin each design with a simple silhouette which acts as my canvas. I then look for interesting details, textures, or colors to bring it to life which will make the piece interesting for me (and hopefully others) to knit. When I was designing Eaves, I was particularly interested in shoulder details and thin stripes. I experimented with a few shoulder yoke treatments, the first being some sort of crazy textured nonsense that would not have been very flattering at all to wear! Once that was out of my system, I let the stripes and short rows do all the talking for a simple, but much more pleasing effect. In this case, the short rows do double duty. In addition to adding an interesting design element, they also help shape the curve of the front armhole.

The design is also a mixed-gauge garment—you use both Shelter and Loft to create the piece. Can you explain more about that to our readers, since this is a wonderful detail that isn’t conveyed as easily in photo as it is when you feel the garment in hand?

The mixed yarns were a part of Eaves from the very beginning. I love the fact that Shelter and Loft come in the same color range which open up a world of possibilities! I kept my enthusiasm to a minimum here using Shelter only for the ribbed trims. I love the look of thick ribbing in contrast with the lighter gauge body, which is understated and unexpected.

It adds a nice weight and finish to the trims, which I think is a very classy detail.

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Your 2013 book Metropolitan Knits was a whole collection of garments inspired by New York City. May I ask what’s inspiring you now?

Right now, I’m in a bit of a learning cycle while I refill the creative well. Whenever I feel a little tired creatively, learning about something new helps me get going again. Mainly, I’ve been sewing a lot and studying Couture techniques that I never learned in school. I find them so interesting! While putting together Metropolitan Knits was a great experience, putting my entire heart and soul into the project resulted in a bit of burn out.

I think most working creatives have all been there at some point or another!

Taking up sewing again was a nice change. I’ve also been supplementing my fiber education. I’ve recently taken up spinning, brought on by the purchase of my first fleece at Rhinebeck this year. Learning about the preparation of fiber and how different yarns are made is fascinating! Even though I’m not putting out the same amount of designs I have in the past, I’m sure this little educational break will lead me to something new and exciting!

It sounds like you’re definitely keeping yourself on your toes—I look forward to seeing how your new explorations will inform your design work. Thanks so much for coming on the blog today, Melissa – it’s been great!

Thanks so much for having me Jared!

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

This has been the Part 3 of a 6-part Designer Conversations series with selected creatives from our new Wool People 8 collection. Stay tuned here for more; two interviews will be posted each week!

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Today I’m kicking off the first of a six-part series of interviews I’ve conducted with selected designers from our new Wool People 8 collection. I’ll be posting the remainder of the Designer Conversations here on the blog throughout the next three weeks. I loved getting to know these designers better and hope you enjoy reading the interviews as much as I enjoyed conducting them! –Jared

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Hello, Sarah! So happy to have you joining me today on the blog, thanks for stopping by.

Thanks, Jared! It’s such an honor to be part of this gorgeous collection and always a delight to chat with you.

So lets jump right in – how did you come to knitting and design?

I like to think it was lurking in my DNA. I didn’t grow up around knitting, but my family is full of creatives. As a kid I was always making and building and tinkering, and I briefly learned to knit from my grandmother, but I only saw her a couple of times a year and it didn’t stick. (I think I moved into a woven potholder phase instead.) Then I got busy with school and college and intellectual work, as so many of us do. It wasn’t until I landed in New York City and made a start in editing children’s books that I realized I still had an innate drive to be working with my hands. So I bought a book, a couple of skeins of yarn, and some needles and taught myself to knit again. I had a partner who worked long hours and not many other friends in the city, so I went all in with my new craft. Fortunately it was the advent of the knitting blog era and I was able to get a great sense of possibility from following the work of talented knitters around the globe.

Sounds like a very familiar story to me! My own evolution as a knitter was forged here in NYC —starting with blogging—right around the same time. It’s amazing to see how the industry has changed online in just 10 short years. How did you use that period to hone your skills?

Mostly by reaching beyond my grasp. Learning is intoxicating, and knitting was just so much fun. I chose projects that taught me something new every time. I found Katharina Buss’s Big Book of Knitting, which has charts for creating basic patterns based on gauge, and that was a revelation: winter was coming, but I could invent my own mittens. I could even adapt a tuck stitch detail I’d seen on a sweater in another book to decorate the cuffs! And that was it. From then on I never doubted that I could knit whatever I could imagine. Soon after I found Elizabeth Zimmermann and she said I was perfectly right and gave me the education in the architecture of knitted garments I needed to forge ahead. She also introduced me to the great historical knitting traditions of Scandinavia and the British Isles, which are a bottomless well of inspiration.

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Oh yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you on those sources of inspiration! Flight is a product of those historical genres, as well as Zimmermann’s construction methods. Can you tell us about the genesis of this design?

I went to Meg Swansen’s Knitting Camp in 2008, and that’s where I first met with the beautiful Bohus Stickning designs created in the 1930’s-60’s.

Bohus sweaters are stunningly beautiful, aren’t they? Especially when viewed in person—I remember my own shock and awe the first time I was able to see Susanna Hansson’s collection of these amazing sweaters.

They’re international treasures. Totally breathtaking. Last winter I had the opportunity to take Susanna’s Bohus class at the Madrona Retreat and learned more about the incredible social history behind them. It only deepened my appreciation to know these amazing couture garments were knit by farm wives and daughters in whatever spare time they could find amid their duties to family and food production and animal husbandry, and to understand what those sweaters represented in allowing women to support their families financially in times of war and post-war hardship. And the Bohus designers were such visionaries, such rulebreakers. They probably originated the colorwork yoke, weren’t afraid to work with five colors in a round, intentionally embraced asymmetry, and uniquely incorporated purl stitches to enrich the texture and interaction between colors. Their innovations really fired my imagination. I wanted to play with some of those techniques, but at a larger scale. I have too much respect for the original designers to tread near the brilliance and complexity of the Bohus Stickning yoke designs, but I couldn’t resist the idea of a garment a skillful farm girl could knit and actually wear herself from day to day. A simple flight of chevrons in a palette of browns came quickly to mind. And I know of nothing so practical as Elizabeth Zimmermann’s seamless circular yoke formula. Her folded hems and cuffs were perfect for the clean look I wanted, too. So this sweater is as much an homage to EZ as it is to Swedish design.

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I think it works out to be a pretty perfect marriage myself! You did some updates to the shaping, though. Can you tell us about that?

I noticed years ago that I’m never very satisfied with the way sweaters fit me when the shaping is at the sides. I’ve been following the work of contemporary designers who place the shaping at dart points to customize the fit to women’s anatomy and I opted to give it a try for Flight. I weighted the waist decreases to remove more fabric from the back, where most bodies curve in, and then stacked the increases toward the front to accommodate the bust. Brief raglan shaping on the front removes the extra fabric above the fullest part of the bust and rebalances the stitch count. EZ’s decrease scheme for a circular yoke yields a fabric that ruffles gently at the first decrease round if you don’t give it a very stiff blocking. She and her daughter, Meg Swansen, later made alterations to the formula to correct that. But I find the effect sweetly feminine, especially at a fine gauge, so I kept the original proportions.

You and I are both Pacific Northwest natives – how have your roots in that distinct part of the country shaped your identity as a designer?

My island childhood instilled a firm belief that clothes are for keeping you warm while you’re out riding horses or climbing trees or catching minnows in the tidepools. I was lucky to have a lot of sturdy wool hand-me-downs, which must have lodged in my subconscious! Northwest natives know there’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s just bad clothing. And there’s a strong appreciation for artisans of every stripe, so it’s a great climate and culture for handknits. Now I try to knit and design garments with practical elegance that work in the city and up home. I’ll always find inspiration in the natural beauty of this part of the world, too.

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This has been wonderful, Sarah – thank you for taking the time to chat today and share more about the beautiful Flight.

Thanks to you for your help in bringing the design to maturity and for taking incredible photographs! And thanks to the BT editorial staff for their care with the pattern. It’s just tremendous to work with all of you.

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

This has been the Part 1 of a 6-part Designer Conversations series with selected creatives from our new Wool People 8 collection. Stay tuned here for more; two interviews will be posted each week!

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