Archives for category: Sweaters

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!

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I always jump at the opportunity to design a new Icelandic pullover or cardigan. After returning from my summer trip to Iceland in 2012, my love of the traditional Lopapeysa has been at an all-time high. My first swing at a traditional Icelandic sweater design was Grettir in our BT Winter 13 collection, with a more recent follow-up design – Atlas – in BT Kids.

One of the most enticing aspects of Icelandic sweater design is the opportunity to play with color. It’s truly amazing how a wide range of results can be produced from a single colorwork chart, based solely on the use (or abuse!) of hue and value. Choosing yarns for colorwork, however, can be discouraging if you aren’t familiar with a few fundamental rules about color theory. This week I wanted to share some tips with you that every colorwork knitter (or designer) should have in their arsenal.

In today’s post (Part 1), I’ll talk about the difference between hue and value and how these two attributes of color are intimately linked to the success of your final project. On Thursday (Part 2), I’ll show you how these theories were applied (with varying degrees of success) during my own design process for the Atlas pullover and cardigan. My hope is that these simple colorwork rules will keep you from the heartbreak caused by muddy, hard-to-see colorwork motifs in your knitting.

Hue & Value

When talking about color, there are two important terms to understand: Hue and Value. Every color under the sun (with the exception of  pure black and pure white, depending on who you ask) has a hue and a value. These two words describe the two basic “ingredients” of color, and understanding their distinction is key to successfully combining color in knitting.

Hue refers to the attribute of a color by virtue of which it is discernible as red, green, blue, etc. The word “hue” is often used interchangeably with the word “color”.

Value refers to a color’s relative degree of lightness or darkness.

The easiest way to think about value is by visualizing color on a greyscale spectrum. Remember that every color has a value – though it may sometimes be difficult to discern depending on how saturated a color’s hue is. The diagram below shows a range of values from pure white to pure black, with equal intervals in value from one shade to the next.

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Value Scale

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Why is value important? Because it helps our eyes discern between colors by way of their contrast. The greater the difference between two colors’ values, the more contrasting they appear to our eyes and hence the easier they are to “read”.

Using Value When Choosing Color

With stranded knitting, value is especially important because colors are “mixed” as the fabric is created, with single stitches of one color neighboring single stitches of another. (Value is less of an issue with broad stripes or colorblocked fabrics because the surface area of a single color is large, making it easy for the eyes to distinguish between even subtle shifts of hue and value. Not so with stranded colorwork. If your value structure is not sound, all your careful handwork may result in a muddy motif that is difficult to see (and appreciate!).

Your best course of action is to “value test” your colors before you begin knitting. The easiest way to test your values is with the squint test. Place your potential colors on a flat, well-lit surface and huddle them next to one another. Squint your eyes and study how squinting causes the colors to become more or less similar in value. When squinting, values are easier to recognize. If – once squinting – your colors become MORE similar, you likely are working with colors that are too similar in value and should consider pulling in something with more contrast.

The second, more high-tech method, is to take a snapshot of your colors on a digital camera (smartphones are wonderful for this purpose) and convert the image to greyscale. A black and white image removes all hue information and leaves only the values of each color to compare. This is a fantastic trick that takes all the guesswork out of the equation. 

Below, I’ve shown two different color schemes for a 3-color Icelandic yoke. The photograph on the left shows the colors as they appear to our eyes; the photograph on the right has taken all hue information away, leaving only values to be contrasted. It’s pretty easy to tell right away which of these two color groupings would make a more successful finished piece:

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Value_01

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Value Combination 1 uses colors “Woodsmoke”, “Tent”, and “Artifact” and represents a true light-medium-dark value relationship. (Squint at the screen and look at the greyscale image on the right – the values become even more obvious than they are to the naked eye).

By contrast, Value Combination 2 uses three colors that look beautiful together upon first glance (“Thistle”, “Wool Socks” & “Homemade Jam”), but when the hue information is stripped away, these colors look virtually the same. (Squint again to double-check.)

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Value_02

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If both color combinations were used to knit the same colorwork motif, you would quickly notice  a drastic difference in the overall effect on the finished fabric. Combination 1 would have a graphic effect that enhances the angular motifs found in Icelandic yokes, while Combination 2 would cause the motifs to fade into a much less discernible configuration.

When choosing colors for colorwork patterns, the assessment of value should always be your starting point. I keep a trusty snapshot of our BT Shade Card – converted to greyscale – readily available. When I begin a new colorwork design and start pulling potential color combinations, I assess their value before deeming them worthy of swatching.

You can see below how quickly the palette separates itself into light, medium and dark values with a simple black and white conversion:

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Shade_Card_01

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In the next post, we’ll take these fundamental rules for a test drive by looking at my design swatches for Atlas – examining why some are more successful than others due to their internal value relationships.

Stay tuned for more colorwork geekery later this week!

– Jared

 

This morning we’d like to introduce you to three of the colorwork designs in BT Kids: Jared Flood’s Atlas, Véronik Avery’s Magnus, and Julie Hoover’s Carson. These very different garments offer a chance to sink your teeth into techniques you may not have tried, so we’re glad to have the chance to talk about them in more detail. We thought you might also like to learn about the designers’ inspiration for these pieces.

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BT Kids: Colorwork Spotlight

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A visit to Iceland two summers ago cemented Jared’s love for the lopapeysa, the quintessentially Icelandic patterned yoke sweater, and led him to design Atlas. The lopapeysa tradition isn’t as old as you might imagine—it was invented in the 1950’s as a vehicle to bring the distinctive Icelandic wool and bold design sense of Icelandic artisans to an international market. The sweaters are so beautiful and useful that they quickly became iconic. Viewed from above, the yoke creates a sunburst effect that lets the designer play with simple combinations of shape and color. Jared loves how effortlessly lopapeysa sweaters come together—they’re seamless, with a lot of meditative stockinette, and just when you start feeling you could really handle something a little more interesting, along comes the glorious colorwork yoke, which is neatly finished before you feel overwhelmed by it. The lopapeysa is traditionally worked with bulky-weight wool, though Jared has always wanted to try one in a fingering weight. BT Kids seemed like the perfect opportunity, especially because the yoke motif could then be scaled back up for larger sizes just by substituting heavier yarns.

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Atlas by Jared Flood

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Atlas is offered as a pullover for knitters who want a seamless garment that’s quickly finished, but Jared added a cardigan variant for those who prefer more versatile styling options. The knitting process doesn’t change, but if you’re working the Atlas cardigan, you’ll cast on extra stitches to form a steek at the center front and then cut the fabric open when the sweater is complete. This clever shortcut is part of the knitting tradition across Scandinavia, the Shetland Islands, and Iceland, and it lets knitters create stranded color patterns while always looking at the right side of the work and never having to carry floats in front while purling—a slower and more awkward process for most of us.

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Magnus by Véronik Avery

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Steeks can be used to open the whole front of a sweater, as in Atlas, but they can also be used for shorter spans like armholes and neck openings. That’s how Véronik employed them in Magnus, her handsome interpretation of traditional Scandinavian handknits. If you’ve never tried a steek before, Véronik recommends cutting a swatch of your project yarn—it doesn’t even have to be a stranded swatch. If you’re nervous about the cut edge unraveling or if you’re using a non-wool fiber, a line of machine stitching ensures that nothing will come undone. (Tip: Place a piece of tissue paper under the knitted fabric for stability so the machine’s feed dogs won’t stretch out the seam.)

Véronik thinks the design quality of Scandinavian knits is particularly well suited to children, being both modern and traditional. Magnus is intended to be truly unisex, perfect for handing down through the family. The hood is a modern touch, added for the simple reason that kids love hoods!

Carson by Julie Hoover

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And if you’re too impatient to wait until the yoke for your colorwork, try Carson. Julie had been playing with this diamond motif for a long time, auditioning it for at least two different collections before it found the perfect home in BT Kids. She cleverly placed the colorwork at the hems and cuffs of the pullover so knitters can work it in the round without worrying about steeks, and all that eye-catching detail in the lower portion of the piece invited some special treatment at the top for balance. Julie’s answer was to expose the seams where the sleeves are set in, which makes the seam visually prominent, and that drove her decision to work some unusual shaping through the yoke as well. She used a combination of full-fashioned decreases and a sloped bind-off to create a saddle shoulder in the front and an innovative hybrid shape in the back. She says it does take extra care to ease the sleeve into the front yoke correctly—you may want to use safety pins or split-ring stitch markers to secure at least the seam ends and the point of the shoulder before you start to sew. Julie also advises wet-blocking both the individual pieces and then the finished pullover for the most successful result.

Thanks for stopping by today to meet Carson, Magnus, and Atlas! Jared will be back next week with a post on choosing colors to help you take the next step if you’re considering any of these designs.

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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JF: Hello Yoko! Welcome to the blog – so glad to have you (all the way from Tokyo!)

YH: Hi Jared – thank you for inviting me.

JF: You’ve led quite a long and successful career in Japan as a hand-knitwear designer – can you tell our readers a little more about your history as a designer?

YH: I started working in the early ’70s, when many women began entering careers in design, advertising and fashion. They looked so independent – it was inspirational to me. Eiko Ishioka (who designed many costumes for Hollywood movies), was becoming a well-known art director, and I wished that I could be working with a creative purpose like her.

I chose to study design for my degree at Musashino Art University, but my schooling fell amidst the middle of the major political movements among students at the time and I eventually dropped out of the program in hopes to pursue my creative vision on my own.

I always liked to make things with my hands, even as a young child. I began crochet & crochet lace-making first when I was very small, then picked up knitting in high school. My first knitted garment was a U-neck vest – at the time I could only knit and purl, so stockinette (or reverse stockinette) were the only fabrics I was using!

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I began designing by making garments for myself, because my budget for clothing was small, yet I desperately wanted an interesting wardrobe, regardless.

After dropping out of college, I started making knitted garments and brought them to the boutiques in Harajuku. I also had purchased a knitting machine to make my garments more quickly.

After a while, one of my friends introduced me to a hand knit designer who was regularly publishing in pattern books and magazines. She put me in touch with her editors and shortly after I started publishing patterns for hand knitters – this was in 1973.

JF: When did you first begin publishing patterns in the US? Does your process change at all when designing for foreign knitters, rather than your design work in Japan? Do you think there are certain trends that are more popular in Japan than elsewhere in the world?

YH: My first design in the US was for “Crochet Today” in 2007, I think. After that I began gradually submitting more work for Vogue Knitting and other US magazines.

Nothing much changes about my design process for US publication vs. Japanese publication. The difference is mainly the yarns and colors that the editors choose, which can sometimes be unexpected, though it often turns out as a pleasant surprise.

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JF: Do you study trends in Japan to inform your work?

YH: In general, I prefer classic and timeless design with high-quality yarns (to me these things are never out of style!). Especially when it comes to hand knitting, the yarn choice is the absolute key. If you choose quality yarn, your hands will be happy as you work.

JF: Natsumi” is your fourth design for Brooklyn Tweed (you’ve also contributed “Ando” for WP3, “Tilda” for WP4, and “Fleur” for WP5). Can you talk a bit about your design inspiration for your new pullover?

YH: The main feature of this design is a sideways knitting construction and a curved hemline. The garment utilizes both increasing and decreasing concurrently to create the silhouette as you work. A wide cable stands out in simple stockinette stitch, and the zigzag eyelet gives a touch of lightness, which seems very appropriate for this yarn/fabric.

The garment is virtually seamless, as both sleeves and hemline are picked up and worked in the round directly from the finished body.

JF: You are an incredibly prolific designer. I’m always in awe of the amount of work you produce every season in Japan. Can you tell us a little more about what kind of design process is required for such high output?  

YH: In Japan I regularly contribute to many different magazines, books, and yarn companies. This is only possible due to my highly capable and trustworthy team of knitters who help me create my designs after I get the concepts into a usable form.

I have several knitters who have worked with me for a long time – they understand my work and the fabrics I try to achieve – that is a huge advantage for me.

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JF: Do you tend to lean more towards simplicity or complexity with your work?

YH: I always try to make pattern relatively easy to knit or crochet, though I do enjoy working on complicated designs for special occasions. To me it is important to find ways of making fashionable, quality clothing that is still accessible to a wide range of skill levels among knitters. I find that even people who can knit very complicated work often like to have something simpler to work on as well, if they need to really relax during their knitting. If I or my sample knitters don’t enjoy making something – I take that as a sign to really question if it is worth putting out in the world. The knitting experience is very important to the overall success of a garment.

JF: Yoko, this has been fantastic – thank you again for sharing with our readers more about who you are as a designer and your inspiring story!

YH: It is my pleasure – I love talking with other creative people. Thank you.

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JF: Hi Olga! Thanks for joining me today – glad to have you!

OBK: Hi Jared! I am really excited to join you and thank you so much for having me!

JF: You are well revered in our industry as an innovative designer with a signature style. Everyone knows when they are looking at “an Olga”, which I think is a great testament to both your vision and your skill. Can you tell us a little bit about your regular sources of inspiration?

OBK: First of all, thank you! These kind of statements always baffle me when I hear them from others, especially from well-established designers like yourself. I truly admire your meticulous work and your genius behind the BT brand.

Throughout the years I think I have found better ways of collecting and recording the inspiration sources via various means of modern technology, but I think a lot of my inspiration has to deal with my thought process. Being a highly observant person I see inspiration all around me, from the most mundane objects of every day life – tile patterning on the floor or the texture of a paper napkin – to other design cross-disciplines like architecture and industrial design.

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Travel is also hugely inspirational. I like to think when we travel away from our regular environment our minds are more receptive to new information and new inspiration. This was the case for me when I moved to Japan over 4 years ago. Though every city is different, Japan filled me with so much inspiration, almost to the point of oversaturation. Their different “non-western” way of thinking had a profound impact on me and gave my mind a staggering wealth of ideas, which is proving well for filling my notebooks, even years later.

JF: As a designer, I often think about the balance between concept and utility – the purity of the idea and how it will translate into everyday use as clothing. Your work plays with geometry, architecture and form – how do you approach the conceptual side of your work in reference to the end user, or in our case, the finished pattern? 

OBK: That is a really great question! I know we all have our own methods, but the way this process works for me is a bit backwards. Since a lot of my inspiration comes not from clothing or knitwear related areas, I usually start with the (often seemingly unrelated) source. The first step is to attempt to find or design from scratch a stitch pattern that resembles the actual inspiration in the most accurate and interesting way. This process probably takes the longest, at times even years and at least a dozen swatches. Some ideas work out, some don’t, some need more time to sit in my ideas bank or binder until I can look at it with a different set of mind.

JF: This all sounds so similar to my own process. Sometimes the best ideas have been sitting on your side table for months (or even years) and they all of a sudden seem new and exciting again.

OBK: You never know when you will get the right one. Call this the puzzle game I love solving (when I can). Once I am happy with the swatch, I think of the yarn and what fibers it needs to contain and what color and dye technique used for the pattern to complement each other. Only then do I start thinking of what this newly created fabric is going to be – an accessory or a garment or something else.

The planning for the actual item is the second biggest and time-consuming stage because there is a list of pro and cons for a certain design to veto. Maybe I take this part a bit too seriously, but the blueprint is such an important element. And the closer I get to finalizing the construction is when I start getting ideas for perfecting finishing details.

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JF: What are you general thoughts about finishing?

OBK: I don’t like to over-complicate construction; if there is a certain technique I use here or there, it always has a list of reasons backing it up. I also love using techniques that can educate knitters; if you can learn a new technique from a pattern that is such an added value.

It turns out that, within the entire design process, knitting takes me the least time!

JF: I think that says so much about you as a designer, and is one of the reasons your work really stands out!

After the design is formed – then comes the pattern writing. How do you approach that?

OBK: The pattern writing is an entirely different dimension. I think every knitwear designer should be commended on their pattern-writing skills as it’s another facet to the job, as it is a mixture of creative and technical writing that needs to stay laconic yet clear.

JF: I completely agree – talk about double duty!

OBK: It has taken me years and yet still my patterning process is evolving as I learn new ways to perfect my writing (English is my second language, so that is a factor as well).

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JF: Coda” is such a cool pullover. I love that it looks like a classic raglan when seen from the front, and the arched yoke at the back gives you such a surprise when it is revealed. How and when was the seed for this design planted?

OBK: Ever since I saw the emerging trend for convertible clothing items several years back, it has been my goal to create more knitwear transformable garments when possible, or, as I call them, transforms. Versatility is the drive behind all of those for me. It covers a lot of present-day aspects – from downsizing one’s wardrobe to fewer but functional pieces, helping to reduce the need for more clothing, thus becoming environmentally conscious. And, since living in the Internet age we have less time to spend crafting, I think when you can style your finished knitted garment more than one way is a bonus. Same way “Coda” has emerged. The idea for front and back being interchangeable is what started this “Coda” puzzle. I love using Shelter, for it gives great stitch definition for cables. I was aiming for a minimalistic-style pullover with delicate cabled trim, the purpose of which was to accentuate the actual lines of the construction. Since this time it was a construction puzzle, I spent days agonizing about the best possible way of making it work. I believe I have gone through three possibilities, but the one that was actually used came to me almost in a dream. You know how they speak of the cusp of almost falling asleep but not dreaming yet? Afraid of sounding a bit like a cliche, but upon releasing the grip on my mind it sprung back with this idea of literal puzzle. So relinquishing control worked out great in this case. “Coda” consists of only two pieces that merge just like two pieces of a puzzle and connect with one continuous seam.

JF: The sweater is reversible, too! Do you have a preference for which direction it is worn? 

OBK: I really love how you photographed Coda in a way that it is actually a surprise when she turns the back. I like seeing cable-accentuated raglan lines flanked by a tiny bit of the eyelet working almost as vents – it adds texture to the overall look. But having come across so many body types and knowing that some people just can’t wear raglan shaped sweaters and some do, Coda’s reversibility or interchangeability will work just great for that purpose. For example, from personal experience for those of us who are a bit chesty will benefit by wearing raglan as front, but others who have wide shoulders know that raglan only brings attention to that part of their figure, so wearing arched as front will not only take away the unwanted attention from the shoulders, but will visually soften the squareness of the shoulders, as well.

To me, this sweater gives the wearer options that can be chosen on both their needs and likes. That’s my hope, anyway!

JF: It’s always an inspiration working with you – thanks for your time this morning, Olga!

OBK: And it’s always exciting to be part of Wool People and work with such talented people as yourself! Thank you so much for having me over and giving me a chance to share my work and inspiration with your readers.

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JF: Hello, Joji! Welcome and thanks for joining me this morning from Argentina!

JL: Hello Jared, it is an honor, thank you for having me!

JF: This was my first time working with you and it’s been such a pleasure. You started self-publishing knitting patterns in 2008 and have been quite active as a designer on Ravelry since then. Can you tell us a little bit about your history with knitting and designing?

JL: I got really hooked with knitting when I was in my mid-twenties… At that time I was improvising my projects with the help of my mother, trying to copy things that I had seen in magazines or movies. Being an Argentine knitter, we did not have access to beautiful pattern books, or special yarns, so we were making the best with what we had, until the internet arrived and knitting blogs and groups became popular here too.

I think that in a way, learning to knit like that helped me to be free. I was never afraid of working with a different gauge, or type of yarn, or to modify patterns to my taste.

However, publishing my own patterns was something that I would have never dreamt of doing. I think it was quite unexpected. My first published pattern was a tiny cardigan I made for one of my boys while I was pregnant. I published it just for the fun of it, but I never thought people would actually knit it! I guess that’s when I learned what a big world of knitters we really are.

Since then, all I can say is that I have been having more fun than I could ever have imagined.

JF: I notice that trend over and over in our industry – many now-established designers started off on the fringes of knitting, either not having access to patterns, or proper instructional materials, but making it work for themselves only to find later that they had gained invaluable skills later on. For me, it was similar – when I started knitting I couldn’t find any mens patterns that I really wanted to make, so I just started figuring out how to carve my own way. 

I think for a lot of designers, once they get the taste for that creative independence, it’s hard to go back to following someone else’s instructions. 

JL: Absolutely!  But it is always a good thing to go back to someone else’s pattern every now and then.  It helps you see things from different perspectives…

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JF: Your design work seems to favor clean and simple silhouettes with a modern feel. How would you explain your personal design aesthetic?

JL: Thank you! I think I am still trying to find a personal aesthetic. I struggle with two different trends when I design: On one hand I love minimalism and classic lines. I don’t think there’s anything more chic than an elegant woman dressed in the simplest clothes.

On the other hand, the fun about knitting is showing off your skills and techniques. So things are always more exciting when you work with a beautiful yarn that has a story to tell (a striking color or texture), when you add an edgy stitch pattern, or a cool construction.

I guess that my designs still reflect a mix between these two: the minimalist chic woman and the always curious crafter.

JF: Seacoast is a great example of your clean, minimal leanings – where did your inspiration and ideas for this design come from?

JL: When I closed my eyes and tried to find inspiration for a design for this collection, all the images that came to my mind were about a girl walking on the beach. The breeze moving the tips of her hair, bare feet, relaxed… I imagined her reaching for her dearest clothes before going out: some comfortable trousers and her favorite basic sweater.

I wanted to create a pullover that was very simple, but that still had a few secrets in its construction.

JF: Can you tell us a little bit about how the garment is put together?

JL: Seacoast is a classic sweater with a circular yoke, but new stitches are added to the yoke as you work, creating a series of vertical columns of slipped stitches. As I was working on it, I couldn’t help notice that these lines reminded me of those found in little shells in the sand. I guess it was all about the beach and the sea after all…

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JF: The sweater is worked from the top down as well. What made you decide to work the garment in this direction?

JL: I think there is a big part of the knitting community who have opted to work their sweaters always this way, and I think I have been very influenced by this preference.   I enjoy any kind of construction: bottom-up, top-down, seamed and seamless.  They all have their pros and cons.

But the great thing about top-down construction is the possibility of trying on the garment as you work on it from the very first stages.  You can decide whether you like the fit, whether the size you chose is the right one for you.  In this particular design, with its relaxed fit, I think it’s great that you can choose to make longer/shorter body or sleeves just by knitting to the desired length, without any alterations of the pattern.

JF: You said you started with a visual of a woman on the seashore. Do you use these types of visual stories a lot at the beginning of your design process?

JL:  Yes, almost every time.  I didn’t notice I worked this way at first, so it was rather unintentional.  Now I try to always make a visual image of who is wearing the garment, what other clothes he/she is wearing, where he/she is…  I find that the designs I love the most are the ones where the garment really is the way I pictured in this first image.

JF: It’s always so interesting hearing how different people work through the process of design. Thanks for sharing a little bit about your method of working with us today, Joji!

JL: Thank you so much, Jared, for this lovely interview!  It’s been an honor to be part of Wool People for the first time.

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JF: Welcome, Ann! Thanks for joining me today. 

AM:  Happy to do so!  Thanks for having me, Jared.

JF: You came to knitwear design from the world of dance and performing arts – can you talk a bit about that transition? 

AM:  I very much needed knitting in order to be a better dancer!  I re-discovered knitting (from childhood) on my first European tour.  The plane landed in Denmark and there was public knitting everywhere.  I started buying yarn and needles immediately.

There’s a lot of waiting in the performing arts – while traveling, during technical rehearsals, working with live musicians, etc.  Knitting eliminates waiting.  The small, subtle, intrinsic movement of knitting balanced the large, exaggerated, extrinsic movement of dance.  When I was performing, I knit other people’s designs, but I wasn’t always pleased with the final results.  As I shifted out of performing into teaching dance and other movement forms, space and time opened and I began to see that knitting was becoming the current creative outlet in which I could create my own designs for the results that I preferred.

JF: Do you feel like your experience as a dancer informs decisions you make when designing for women? 

AM: Elements that overlap between knitwear designs and dance are abundant for me.  The list includes shape, line, proportion, balance, form, theme and variations, composition, repetition, alignment, order, rhythm, spatial relationships and more.

JF: Sounds like no shortage of crossover there! I think musicians, too, could understand this type of intersection. 

AM: Yes! The significance of the arts and the art experience cannot be overstated.  The ancient Greeks even recognized the arts as a cure for depression.

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JF: One of the reasons I love working with you is your superior attention to detail and your beautiful execution of your garments. Are you self-taught as a designer or did you have formal training? 

AM:  Thank you, Jared, that’s quite a compliment coming from you!  I discovered in the dance world that attention to detail made a huge difference.  It’s really where nuance and style come from.  I think execution is best served by being as meticulous as possible.  I’m fond of saying lots of small details add up to make a big cumulative difference.  Detail and execution are honed the more we look at our knitting.  The more we look at our knitting the more we ‘see’ and are better able to ‘read’ our knitting.

I am primarily self-taught.  If I didn’t know how to do something, I would reference a knitting book or a knitting friend who did production knitting.

JF: Did you learn from knitting patterns designed by others as well?

AM: I always viewed knitting someone else’s design as taking a class.

JF: I know from working with you on several collections (this is your 5th design for Wool People) that you love swatching, and that you spend a lot of time really developing your hand knitted fabrics. How would you describe your design process when you are composing a new idea? 

AM:  For me, when we talk about the design process, we are talking about the creative process.  My experience is that the creative process can be a highly variable experience each time it occurs.  The one constant is that to initiate that process I have to allow myself the time to be in a very still and quiet space, and allow myself to observe what ideas are floating around in my thoughts.

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JF: That resonates a lot with my process as well – the need for a quiet, peaceful space to allow your mind to wander and pursue ideas that, when in a rush, you might not give yourself time for.

AM: Best case scenario is I visualize an entire sweater design in a flash.  Some designs start with a very clear visual image resulting in a smaller swatch.  Some take much longer to develop and on a few occasions, I have ended up with a swatch long enough to be a scarf, only it’s not a very pretty swatch.  It’s a jumble of different stitch patterns combined in different ways until I really start to like what I see.  It comes back to the visual, but I’m also not beyond asking my knitting what it wants to be.

JF: It’s a very fluid process at that point – adding things, taking them away, letting previously disparate ideas come together to create new solutions – and I think working in this way puts someone in the right “receiving” place for revelation. 

AM: Exactly, I think to design one has to love the process and maintain an openness within that process.  It’s always exciting to ‘stumble’ into a design direction that is unexpected.

JF: Arabella is a fun and unexpected shape. How and when was the seed for this design planted in your mind?

AM: Well, you know that the weight and drape of your Loft is irresistible.  It is such a lovely weight to wear year round.  It’s significant to match what a yarn will do with a design.  I had other ideas going for Wool People 7 until I happened to go shopping.  I was actually trying on clothes in a shop and the idea for Arabella spun off of combining elements from a few different garments coupled with some of my own preferences.

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JF: It’s a very flattering piece – with a fitted upper yoke/sleeve and a flowing A-line lower body.

AM: I like that it is a design that works well for different body types.  I always wear a garment at least for a day before I send it off, sort of like test driving it to see how it’s working.  When I test drove Arabella, it very much felt like a garment that is fun to wear.  It made me want to move and watch the way the fabric could swing and swirl.  We could have spelled it Air-abella!

JF: I had to laugh at our shoot – both of our models independently did twirls when they put it on – I told them both that the designer was a dancer! 

AM: I’m delighted that it makes the wearer want to move which is even more than I had set out to accomplish!

JF: Ann – this has been a pleasure! I’ve loved hearing about your thoughtful and detailed process. Take care and best of luck with your upcoming endeavors!

AM: Always a pleasure to interact with you, Jared!  Your inspiration spills over all of us in the knitting world.

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Naming your patterns can be a tricky business – finding just the right word that conveys the mood and feel of your design is a very important part of the design process.

Sometimes when you find the perfect name, you learn later that that same name is already in use elsewhere, and in rare cases has been previously trademarked by another party. We do our best to properly vet all of our pattern names, but once in a blue moon find out that we’ve inadvertently stepped on the toes of another person’s trademarked word.

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Sundottir by Dianna Walla

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So was the case with Dianna Walla’s Skydottir pullover from Wool People 6. Dianna was recently contacted by a business in Seattle who has trademarked the name Skydottir and requested that we change the official name of the pattern. We were happy to oblige.

Dianna has chosen to change the garment name to Sundottir – and as of today we are reflecting this change on our Ravelry listing as well as brooklyntweed.com.

Thanks for listening (internal housekeeping doesn’t always make for the most exciting blog content), and happy weekend to all!

Amirisu released their fourth issue last week, which highlights Brooklyn Tweed as the magazine’s featured brand. We had a lot of fun working with Amirisu, contributing both design and written content throughout the issue. If you aren’t familiar with this online publication, it is the passion project of a Tokyo-based knitting/editing duo whose shared goal is furthering the online knitting culture in Japan. The magazine’s content is presented in both Japanese and English.

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Amirisu 4

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Last Fall, editor Meri Tanaka interviewed me about US-yarn production and my history as a designer. Within the article I talk a bit about how I got my start developing  and manufacturing yarns, as well as my start as a knitter. See pages 50-57 for the full article (excerpts shown below).

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I also contributed a short written piece for the magazine entitled “Elizabeth For Beginners”. Though Elizabeth Zimmermann is a national icon to us American knitters, Amirisu informed me that her work is not well-known in Japan and requested I contribute a piece that would act as a sort of gateway to EZ’s work. Within the article I give a very brief version of Elizabeth’s story and suggest some of her most beloved patterns for folks who are just discovering her work (pages 68-71).

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Last but not least – patterns and yarn! Brooklyn Tweed’s own Michele Wang and Leila Raabe contributed designs to the collection using BT yarns. Michele’s Tsubasa Top is a fun, spring-ready pullover worked in Shelter (color Blanket Fort) with arrowhead lace panels and dolman-style cap sleeves. Leila’s Preble Hat is worked in Shelter (color Snowbound) and features a woven texture pattern and twisted-stitch cable insertion. Both patterns can be downloaded directly from Amirisu (pattern info is also available on Ravelry).

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Tsubasa by Michele Wang | Preble by Leila Raabe.

A big thank you to the editors of Amirisu for featuring our work throughout the issue!

– Jared