Some inspiration from Agnes Martin dressing my studio wall this morning. What a woman.
Hello and welcome! I'm a knitter, photographer, designer and the creative director at Brooklyn Tweed. I use this notebook as a space to record inspiration and write about my creative work both inside and outside of BT. Thanks for reading, and don't be a stranger—I love hearing from you!
Some inspiration from Agnes Martin dressing my studio wall this morning. What a woman.
It’s been a few years since I’ve done the holiday gift knitting thing. At some point it started to feel more like a burden than a joy, so I made the decision to take deadline pressure out of the equation, which helped me to enjoy the holidays much more in recent years. This year though, I had a strong urge to spend the month of December doing some “vacation” knitting (i.e. not writing a pattern, taking measurements, planning shaping details, or any of the other technicalities that so often accompany my knitting time) with a low-commitment, pre-existing design. Hats are one of my favorite things to knit, so I picked a pattern and started stitching. I figured I’d see how many I could complete within the month of December without setting any sort of “achievement metric” — if it turned out I was only able to finish a single hat in the month, I’d still consider it a win.
The irony about time-pressure is that when you release yourself from it, you often produce more than you may have if kept on a strict output schedule. (This is at least true for the way my brain works.) In the end, I got so into the swing of hat knitting that I finished seven of them in four weeks. Definitely a personal record!
I chose to work with my Burnaby hat pattern, which coincidentally gave me the opportunity to knit with several shades of Arbor that I hadn’t yet gotten to try out (at least on anything more substantial than a swatch).
Repeating a project over and over again has a meditative appeal for me. Along with the satisfaction of committing a pattern to memory (a fun party trick…depending on the party), I also enjoyed making subtle tweaks to each version: varying hat length and adjusting fit and fabric density through the use of different needle sizes (sometimes 3-4 different sizes in a single hat). Small details, to be sure, but seriously satisfying.
Another thing I forgot: how rewarding it is to watch friends and family open up a wrapped handknit gift.
I’ve listed the colors of Arbor that I used for each hat above. Though I picked colors based on my best prediction for each recipient’s tastes, the hats actually came together to make a nice little color story of their own! I’ve included links to the pattern and yarn below in case you get the Burnaby bug too.
Wishing you all a very happy new year — I’m looking forward to what 2017 has in store!
Next weekend I’m heading back out on the road for the continuation of my Woolens book tour — this time in my own PNW backyard. Hope to see some of you at these three great stores!
Next week I’ll be heading back East for a week-long book tour to celebrate the release of Woolens! If you’re located in any of the cities above and would like to purchase a copy (or get a pre-purchased copy signed), please stop by and say hello!
At the final stop on the tour — the SQUAM Art Fair in Holderness New Hampshire — I’ll be joined by my colleagues Olga Buraya-Kefelian and Norah Gaughan. The three of us will be meeting, greeting and signing books at the Brooklyn Tweed Authors table throughout the event, alongside several inspiring vendors who will be setting up shop at the Art Fair.
I look forward to meeting some of you on the tour!
I’m excited to announce today’s release of a new book of my work that we’ve published here at Brooklyn Tweed! Woolens is a project that I’ve been knocking around in my head for quite a while, but it wasn’t until I visited Japan last year that I was inspired to get the project off the ground. Looking back now, I can definitely see the influence of that trip in both the projects and the imagery inside these pages!
The book is dedicated to the humble knitted accessory – small, portable projects that are meditative to knit and accessible to adventurous beginners. Inside you’ll find a mix of all of my favorite knitting traditions: colorwork, cables, lace, and textured stitches.
We’ve put together a book preview (see below) if you’d like a sneak peek at what you’ll find inside — and if you’d like to check out each individual project more in depth, you can find them all here. The book is available in print, as well as a print + e-book combo, and I’ve signed the first 250 copies that will be shipping from our Portland HQ today!
I love books. I love the way they feel and smell. I love the tactile properties of different kinds of paper between my fingers. I’ve daydreamed about bringing printing into our offerings at BT for quite a long time, so I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to be holding a printed copy of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s CAPSULE Collection for Brooklyn Tweed in my hands today.
Working with designers has become one of my favorite parts of my job over the last few years, both with our Wool People collections, as well as our in-house design team. As we’ve continued to produce design collections, however, I’ve often found myself wishing we could provide a designer with a broader platform to share more than just a single design at a time. Within my own design process I know that a single idea never exists in a vaccuum — it’s almost always accompanied by related concepts and variations which are often left unexplored.
The CAPSULE idea was born from my desire to facilitate a deeper collaboration with a single designer and to see what one person might do when given an opportunity to realize their own vision for an 8-10 piece “wardrobe” of knits. The name CAPSULE, of course, references the idea of a capsule wardrobe, a small collection of essential, timeless pieces that are versatile and interchangeable, giving the wearer options to create several outfits from a modest, well-edited collection of garments. This idea has always resonated with me — doing more with less — especially in this unprecedented era of fast fashion.
When I started thinking about designers who might be the perfect fit for the Capsule idea, Olga was the first to come to mind. To me, she is truly a unique voice in the world of knitting and someone whose dedication and creative conviction I deeply respect. I remember being very excited to see what kind of beautiful knitted objects she would create as the first designer to be featured in this new series, and she did not disappoint!
Collaborating with others and incorporating a dialog into the creative process has become one of my favorite ways of working. As much as I require and adore solitary creative work, I’ve learned that opening yourself up to different perspectives and ideas throughout your process can be equally important, and almost always helps you make that extra creative leap when you find yourself stuck in your own head.
In 2012, Olga and I started our conversations about what this collection might look and feel like. The work evolved slowly and organically through creative dialogue and spanned a couple major geographical moves for both of us (Olga from Japan back to the states in mid-2013, me from East to West Coast this year), getting pushed down the calendar further and further as we figured out how to make this new print format come together. New ideas always take time, and we both agreed to give this one as much time as it needed until it was right.
Olga and I both love street fashion and thought it would be fun to highlight the funky flair of her pieces in this type of setting for the collections photoshoot. We were still in Brooklyn at the time, so on shoot day we set up camp at a friend’s home in an historic architectural district of Cobble Hill (the same location we used to shoot our BT Kids collection), and rambled around the neighborhood using the beautiful pre-war architecture, brick facades, and ornate details of the neighborhood as a backdrop. My love of the iconic NYC stoop is very much in evidence, as you’ll notice!
It’s been such a new and fun challenge to design a book for print, making a beautiful object that can function as a source of inspiration in its own right as well as displaying Olga’s beautiful work. I worked closely with book designer Jenny Trygg on the print edition and we spent many happy hours geeking out over paper and cover finishes, typefaces and layouts.
As for the garments themselves, I think they’re so clever and unique. Apex has really stolen my heart. It’s one of those perfect sweaters that will turn heads while remaining super wearable. Dress it up, dress it down, throw it on over just about anything and run out the door looking fabulous. (I think it’s the type of garment that will elicit many “Where did you buy that?!” comments from strangers.)
I’m looking forward to seeing what you all think about our first experiment with print. Here at BT HQ we’re definitely excited to be working on this new publication. And as ever, I’m looking forward to seeing how some of you will make Olga’s garments and accessories your own.
A very special thanks to my talented friend and colleague Olga Buraya-Kefelian for making this experience so memorable and rewarding. I know I speak for both of us when I say that we really hope you enjoy it!
It’s been such an exciting week here at BT—we’ve introduced our Fall ’15 collection as well as the newest member of our American-sourced and spun yarn family: Quarry. This yarn has been in the works for quite some time; yesterday I checked back over my notes to see just how long we’ve been kicking the idea around behind the scenes: my first discussions with the mill in Harrisville about developing a chunky weight date all the way back to late 2013!
I’ve always loved working with “unspun” yarns (the most well-known unspun yarn in the industry is probably Plötulopi in Iceland) for their unique lightness and spongy hand. When I first started working with the Wyoming-grown Targhee-Columbia wool that we use in our Shelter and Loft lines, I loved the character of the fleece and thought that it would be fun experimenting with an unspun version that would allow the intrinsic qualities of the wool to shine. Since the staple length of Targhee is on the shorter side (especially when compared with longer, coarser wools that are traditionally used for unspun yarn construction), I knew we’d probably need to come up with something more creative to give the look and feel of a roving yarn without sacrificing structural integrity.
In the end, we landed on what’s called a “mock twist” in the spinning industry—a type of yarn construction that creates a faux single-ply look by way of combining separate plies of sliver (a single ply of unspun wool fiber with no twist whatsoever) together with a gentle ply twist. When I learned about this type of spinning, it really got my gears turning (no pun intended).
After some trial and error with ply count, twist strength, and so on, we ended up putting together a chunky mock-twist yarn composed of three individual (unspun) plies. The result is a yarn that looks like a roving-style “singles” but maintains some desirable qualities from a 3-ply yarn construction: a round structure (great for stitch definition—Quarry really loves cables and brioche) as well as more tensile strength than a single-ply roving yarn. It’s still quite softly spun of course, but has a built-in structure that makes it behave more interestingly on the needles than other non-plied prototypes we tested.
And what about the name? Quarry?
When the first tests of the final prototype were happening at the mill last summer, I happened to be on a trip to Arizona visiting the Grand Canyon (oh the beauty of that place!—that’s a subject for another post entirely) and was experiencing color inspiration overload (I’ve included a few of my photos from that trip here). One of the unexpected surprises in developing Quarry was the way that the the mock-twist construction affected the appearance of the blended colors. The heathering that comes from mixing pre-dyed wool before spinning appears differently in Quarry than it does in Shelter and Loft. Rather than creating traditional tweedy flecks, the colors mix in a more painterly, striated fashion (see the first photo in this post for a good example). This beautiful texture really reminded me of the tonal colors and layered patterns that abound in the canyon—and the concept for a palette inspired by geology was born.
I’m excited to finally be able to share this new yarn with you, and introduce it to you with some of my current knitting projects. This week I’m starting in on a Cowichan-inspired colorwork “camping vest” for my first rainy season back here in the PNW using three colors of Quarry. If you’re curious to see how the yarn knits up, I’ll be sharing my progress here on the blog and on my shiny new Instagram feed (@jared_flood) as well.
I hope you enjoy this new yarn we’ve created—I look forward to seeing what you’re knitting with Quarry, too!
I don’t think I’ll ever tire of playing with Brioche stitch—its beautiful definition and “squishiness” make it so fun to knit and to wear. Elizabeth Zimmermann lovingly referred to Brioche stitch as “Prime Rib”—I can’t think of a better nickname for such a juicy stitch pattern, can you?
We’re in the throes of our big move(!), but today I was able to carve out a little time to sit and reflect a bit about one of my new sweater designs—the Rift pullover. This was a really fun piece to design (and had quite an entertaining evolution), so I thought I’d talk a little bit today about how it came to be.
For some time I’ve been playing around with different ideas for shoulder epaulets—I think it started back when I was working on the Fort pullover for BT Men Volume 1 in late 2012. Originally that design had a single shaped shoulder patch on one side (see an old sketch below)—imagined as a little extra padding for a messenger bag (or any other type of shoulder strap) that might be worn regularly and protect that area of the garment from wear. After having added the garter patches to Fort’s elbows, however, I felt that another patch on the shoulder was overkill, so pulled that element from the design.
Since I wasn’t able to get my epaulet fix then, I’ve been tossing various shoulder-detail ideas around in my sketchbook ever since. I liked the idea of an epaulet that was angled and followed the shape of the shoulder more anatomically, but didn’t love the extra bulk that resulted from affixing a separate knit piece as a patch. That made me start thinking about ways I could integrate the shoulder epaulet idea into the sweater fabric through a simple change in stitch patterning. This would also solve the excess bulk problem, especially when working on a design for worsted-weight yarn.
I burned through some of the more traditional ways of working a stitch-pattern epaulet pretty quickly (like horizontal welts seen on the shoulders of traditional ganseys—I love those details on classic fisherman sweaters) but still felt something was missing. I then began experimenting with getting more angled, shapely epaulets through a combination of short rows and welts, but it just felt too fussy. As I continued sketching one epaulet after another, they eventually began looking like raglan sleeve tops, as the slanting lines came down lower and lower on the yoke.
My next thought was to work a traditional raglan and just change the stitch pattern to a rib or welt once I reached the sleeve cap. Before long though I realized I was sketching something very similar to one of Véronik’s pullovers (also from BT Men volume 1), Barrett. So again, the idea sailed onto the back burner to simmer some more.
Then one day I saw a woman on the subway wearing a sweater that looked like a raglan, but was actually a set-in sleeve with patterning that mimicked raglan shaping. The lightbulb moment I had been waiting for was here! I grabbed my sketchbook and made this sketch.
The faux raglan allowed me to play with the depth of the raglan shape without actually affecting the neat fit of a set-in sleeve—something I hadn’t been willing to sacrifice. I started playing around with how deep the “raglan” lines would start, and how I could incorporate a full-fashioned rib pattern within the modified epaulet idea.
From that moment on my inspiration was really sparked. I made several charted variations, ultimately coming up with the version that you see in Rift. Once the shoulder detailing was decided, a nice opportunity for an integrated side detail to the body presented itself, too—a traveling rib that splits at the underarm and flows seamlessly into the detailing on the yoke. I love that a special detail like this brings something unexpected to what is otherwise a very classic silhouette. From a knitting perspective, I also felt like it arrived at that beautiful balance between lots of stockinette knitting and just enough stitch play to keep things fun and interesting throughout the process.
Pattern writing and grading on this piece was definitely a hard nut to crack! Since the shoulder details would have specific idiosyncrasies based on the size of the finished garment, no specific set of rules or written instructions worked very well. So I opted for the more “bespoke” route of charting out the front and back yokes for each individual size. The end result included 6 total sizes with finished chest measurements ranging from 39.25” to 59.25”. (A big thanks to our tech editor Robin for being a great sport and indulging my charting neuroses!) The pattern is quite long as a result, but don’t be fooled—most of the pages are charts for additional sizes and you’ll only need to print the two that pertain to yours.
The treatment of the neckband was kept very minimal, letting a ridge of purl stitches set off a simple rolled stockinette edge with a sewn bind-off. This integrates well with the busier epaulet ribs.
I love how this simple sweater turns out to be just enough of a head-turner to seem fresh but not showy, which is a balance I think a lot of guys like to strike in their attire. Something as comfortable and easy to wear as a sweatshirt but just fancy enough to work when dressed up for the office, too.
The passing of time has a funny way of delivering insights. It’s hard for me to believe that four and a half years have passed since that fateful day in October 2010 when I introduced my yarn project to the handknitting community, and even harder to believe that 10 years have passed since I packed up my life in the Pacific Northwest and set out for New York City with little more than a longing for new adventures.
To say that I’m grateful for having taken both of those exhilarating and somewhat scary steps in my life would be a colossal understatement: coming to New York and developing Shelter have been two of the most defining moments of my personal journey. My “accidental” run-in with creative entrepreneurship has been an extraordinary roller coaster ride thus far. What I anticipated to be a short-term creative experiment that would buy me some time after finishing graduate school—developing a small batch of US-produced wool yarn—revealed an unanticipated opportunity to build a meaningful venture around my passion for knitting and design. When I think back on the last decade, it’s those bold, inspiring, take-a-chance decisions that come forward in my memory as the most meaningful and instructive experiences—those that I hold the most dear.
Shepherding Brooklyn Tweed through its infancy as a yarn and pattern house has been more educational than any formal schooling I’ve ever had, and it’s taught me more than I ever expected—about people, about business, about creativity, and most notably about myself. Operating a creative business and leading a team of talented people in working toward a shared vision has turned out to be something that gives me deep satisfaction and joy. It’s something I hope I am able to continue doing for years to come.
These realizations have hurled me deep into Soul Searching mode during the past year. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about who we are at Brooklyn Tweed, where we are going, and how to continue ensuring a healthy, engaging experience for every member of the company along the way. I’ve reflected on the choices and experiences that have worked well for us—and on those needing further exploration. Calling the NYC area home for BT’s first four years has brought unique joys and challenges. Living and working in the concrete jungle has been an inspiration on so many levels, and it’s taught us how to survive and thrive in a city where most would say nothing comes easy. As my vision for Brooklyn Tweed has come into crisper focus this year, I’ve continued to examine the question of whether our current East Coast home is still the best place for us to do what we do, in the best way we are able; and I’ve decided the time has come to embark on a new adventure once again.
I’m very excited to announce that this spring Brooklyn Tweed will be officially relocating to a place very near and dear to my heart—Portland, Oregon. This change in scenery is one that I know will let us continue our work in a way that feels authentic and inspiring (as well as allowing us to serve our friends, fans and customers even better). And though saying farewell to the Big Apple will be a bittersweet moment for me, I couldn’t be more excited about starting a new chapter in a wonderfully rich creative community like Portland.
As I stand at the beginning of a new phase of life, I want to thank everyone who is reading from the bottom of my heart: for believing in us and what we do, for the years of support and encouragement you’ve given me and my team, and for keeping us company along the way as we move forward. I can’t wait to continue sharing the journey with you.
All my very best,
A Note for PDX Locals (or those looking to relocate): We’ll be touching down in Oregon on May 1st and have a few job openings available at our new headquarters in Northeast Portland. If you’re interested in exploring a career with us, check out our Jobs page to read more about these opportunities. See you on the West Coast!
[Photo above courtesy of my brother Ryan Flood.]