Archives for category: Sweaters

BURAYA_wp7_blog_conversation_01

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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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BURAYA_wp7_blog_conversation_04

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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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LOCATELLI_wp7_blog_conversation_03

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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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MCCAULEY_wp7_blog_conversation_02

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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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MCCAULEY_wp7_blog_conversation_03

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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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MCCAULEY_wp7_blog_conversation_04

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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

The first weeks of January can sometimes be difficult; the holidays have passed, and along with them, the romance of early winter. The weather is cold and dark, and we feel cultural pressure to make resolutions in an effort to craft better versions of ourselves. For these reasons, I like to schedule things for this period that are really worth looking forward to. Positive anticipation is always a great antidote for those “slump” times!

When working on the 2014 calendar, I thought early January seemed like the perfect time to release our Design Team’s winter collection, hoping it could be just the thing to chase away some potential post-holiday blues.

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Our yearly winter collection is one of my favorites. It seems like the most appropriate time to indulge in any and all types of knitwear design, be it classic, modern, traditional, heavy-duty or lightweight. Anything goes when everyone needs something wooly to wear outdoors (and even indoors for those of us in drafty historic buildings)!

For this collection, we created pieces for two different stories. The first – Elements – focuses on clean, modern knits in a palette of neutrals (three of which are pictured below). These knits are cool and comfortable wardrobe items that can be dressed up or dressed down with ease. Casual sophistication is the name of the game here – from boxy, striped “boyfriend” sweaters (Benton at center) to luxurious cabled scarves that – with the simple addition of wooden buttons – convert to stylish and toasty cowls (Frieze at right).

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Our second design story – Shingle and Copse – was inspired by walks on a winter coastline. While I love a beautiful summer day on the beach soaking up the sun just as much as the next person, a solitary walk on that same beach during winter is my true love. The muted color palette, the powerful winter waves, the atmospheric horizon line – these things make my introspective heart go pitter-patter.

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These knits are intended to be thrown on with other layers for a cozy, bundled-up style that is perfect for windy walks (be they city or country). Our creative team traveled to beautiful Cedar Point, Long Island for the shoot where both models and crew got to test the effectiveness of these knits in the brisk conditions of the coastal marshlands there.

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The full collection releases today, with each pattern available for instant download via Brooklyn Tweed or Ravelry. Our newest lookbook features extensive photography of the design collection, as well as detailed pattern diagrams and descriptions, a special essay written for us by Portland author Sarah Pope, and peeks behind the scenes from our days shooting in Cedar Point.

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Throughout January, we’ll be sharing more stories and details about this collection here on the blog, as well as our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, so stay tuned. For now, though, I invite you to pull up a chair and enjoy exploring the lookbook!

I hope this collection brings you inspiration as we look forward to the coming year.

–Jared

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Resources: The BT Winter 14 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.

JF: Hi, Bristol! We work together every day at BT, but it’s fun having a “public” chat about your design work – thanks for joining me here this morning.

BI: Hey Jared! My pleasure – I promise to keep my normally ridiculous emoticon usage to a minimum. :) (Okay, couldn’t help that one.)

JF: Let’s jump right in – you are obviously interested in exploring non-traditional construction methods in your designs, and Svalbard is no exception. Can you give our readers a summary of how this garment is created from a construction standpoint?  

BI: Of course! Svalbard technically works like a normal top-down raglan cardigan, with a slight tweak: the fronts are removed at the start.  So, if you were to take a bird’s eye view of a raglan, it would look like four wedges (front, two sleeves, and back) radiating from the neckline, with 8 increases every other row.  Svalbard looks like three wedges (two sleeves and back), with only 6 increases every other row.  Once those increases are complete, you pick up and knit along the raglan line at the front edges, and those stitches become the fronts.  You put the sleeves on holders, you add gussets under the arm, and the fabric naturally creates the wide swoop you see in the finished sweater.  It’s entirely seamless, and everything is finished off with a wide mitered border that ties it all together.  I’ve found this shape is a great way to create a bit of drama and drape while still maintaining some serious wearability.  The Wool People 6 samples were here at our office for a bit, and I kept snagging this one when I got cold!

JF: I agree that it creates a nice balance of “flare” and wearability. The shaping detail at the center back is a really special moment on this garment. Early on you told me that you wanted to play with some of the shaping ideas that you began exploring with your last Wool People design contribution, Thorn. How are these two pieces related?

BI: One of the things I love about designing my own garments is the ability to integrate shaping within a stitch pattern or to make one pattern flow into another.  I love those little couture moments in knitting, where a lace pattern flows directly from the ribbing, or the decreases at the crown of a hat flow seamlessly from the cables in the body.  I’ve had a LOT of fun exploring this synchronicity in terms of increases and decreases in my design work, especially in pieces like Winnowing, Thorn, and now Svalbard.

JF: Ah, yes! Winnowing is a great example of this as well.

BI: Haha, Winnowing is an increase dork-out to a crazy degree.

With Thorn, the increases that form the curve of the shawl are hidden within the garter rib of the body, rather than sitting on the edges as you’d see in most traditionally shaped shawls.  With Svalbard, I had originally planned to work the back with typical raglan shaping and have a small decorative increase motif in the center, but when I figured out I could build the increases needed into that decorative panel, all bets were off. The increases in the back use a chevron shape to gradually change the stitch pattern from stockinette, to 1×1 rib, and finally to cartridge rib to match the rest of the body, just as the ribbing in Thorn gradually widens over the course of the shawl as stitches are increased in a radial within it.  This motif is repeated in the underarm gussets, which give the fronts of the sweater the ease and drape they need.  It was a really fun challenge to design!

Left: The Thorn Shawl from Wool People 4  |  Right: The Winnowing Shawl from Wool People 2

JF: Do you feel like you make your best discoveries in the middle of the process? I think it’s interesting how different designers approach their work – some like to refine and think through every aspect before they start creating with their hands. Others seem to get the general idea formed, then jump right in and let themselves be surprised by the discoveries they make. Where do you fall on that continuum?

BI: I almost always have the majority planned out before I start knitting, but there’s often-times a lot of tumbling the idea around in my brain before anything is settled.  When I first started thinking about the construction on Svalbard, I was doing a lot of treadmill running and I used thinking about knitwear design as a way to get my mind off what my legs were suffering through! And even after that point, the final shift to the integrated back shaping happened when I was working up my grading spreadsheet for all the sizes prior to starting knitting (you know my love of spreadsheets!).  So there’s a lot of exploration of technique and construction in my designs, but the crazy ideas typically get hashed out in my head before the yarn even touches needles.  Then, if need be, I start peeling some layers away as I knit; lines will sometimes simplify and clarify as I work on the sample.  It’s funny what becomes clear as the knitting progresses!

JF: I know that when I stumble upon a design idea or motif that really intrigues me, I like to explore ways of using it differently across a range of pieces. Do you feel this way about the radial shaping that is featured in both Svalbard and Thorn? Is there still more experimentation ahead?

BI: Oh my gosh, I will never get sick of radial shaping.  There is still so much more I want to do with it! Each new project I do leads to another awesome “what if?!” moment, and is pushing the boundaries of what I thought was possible with knitting.  And while these light-bulb moments aren’t always viable, the fact remains that knitting is an amazingly malleable and organic art form, as well as a concrete and tactile method of exploring geometry and spatial reasoning.  It’s so inspiring, and it’s such a logic puzzle.  I’ll never stop loving that about it.

JF: You’re preaching to the choir…

BI: Knitting nerds unite!

JF: Thanks, Bristol! I know I’m not alone in being excited to see what you dream up next. Keep up the good work!

BI: Thanks so much, Jared – it’s a huge honor to be part of the Wool People collections!

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

DW: Thanks for having me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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JF: What was your dream job as a child? 

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

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

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

JF: Good morning, Grace! Thanks for agreeing to chat with me today about Trestle!  

GAF: Thank you for inviting me! And, as ever, thank you for photographing my work so beautifully.

JF: It’s really my pleasure! I first encountered your work when I saw your book “The Fine Line” in a yarn shop in Austin, TX, in 2009. The book is packed full of amazing, colorful, mitered creations and had me immediately marveling at how your brain works. Having been following you since, and getting to know you personally, you clearly have a flare for geometry and clever construction in all your work. Can you talk a little bit about what sparks your inspiration when you are designing? 

GAF: I love a puzzle. Always have. Starting with jigsaws and then Tetris (which I would obsessively play as a tween to the point of dreaming about it!) and now the apps Dots and Strata. Sequences and tessellations inhabit my happy place. I have an unhealthy love of graph paper.

JF: I think we would’ve gotten along well during our teenage years! I was a Tetris fiend, too… and in my present-day life have more stacks of graph paper (in several varying gauges) than I care to admit!

GAF: Oh yes – grids feed my love of right angles and integers, which tend to draw me towards chevrons. They just have a logic that aligns beautifully with the concept of the knitted stitch. So I sketch and sketch and sketch. Which leads to unconventional, but hopefully knitterly, constructions that exploit the fact that we knitters make the fabric as we shape the garment.

JF: To me that is always the true essence and magic of knitting – the simultaneous creation of fabric and shape. The possibilities are just endless…

GAF: Yes! I feel like I could spend a lifetime exploring that. I need to dedicate some serious study to the knitters who have already grappled with it. Elizabeth Zimmermann comes to mind, especially since Trestle is garter stitch, though I have yet to conceive of anything that rivals her genius. My first successful Baby Surprise Jacket was game changing – such a great puzzle.

JF: Speaking of puzzles, Trestle is a brilliant one. Can you give us a quick summary on what kind of adventure knitters are in for who take this sweater on? (I’ll include a diagram below to help everyone visualize this process!)

GAF: It is an all garter project (no purls!) but full to bursting with unusual elements. Because the entire sweater is knit on the bias (technically two biases that form the main chevron), you don’t shape the sweater in the usual way. The front and back begin in the same manner – casting on at the corners and making two separate triangles that are then joined once they are half the desired width. Then the garment is worked “straight” which is to say with an increase for every decrease until the desired length, and placed on holders. This was that part of the sample that was truly meditative to knit.  The bottom hem is picked up and worked down with decorative stripes.

The sleeves are also worked on the bias (though there is a bit more going on at the beginning in terms of “foundation triangles”– as you can see from the diagram). I reworked this section a few times both on the needles and off. In the end I went with making the main part of the sleeve first with unbalanced increases (increases with no corresponding decreases) to shape the sleeve within the bias pattern. The decorative element at the sleeve cuff is picked up and worked after in the stripe pattern, then the cuff is picked up and worked down.

The yoke is done in one piece maintaining the bias pattern as established on both Body and Sleeves. If you have worked a traditional raglan sweater you’ll recognize the decrease rate, though I have shifted their placement to be aligned with the pre-existing biases. The stripe pattern that is echoed on the sleeves and hem is clearest here on the yoke.

I’ll admit that this initially seems like a lot of acrobatic construction, but I assure you it is more straightforward when you are knitting it! You will be knitting plain every wrong-side row and only ever doing 4 things at the most on the right side rows. Trestle is great when you are in the mood for garter stitch but need a little more to keep it interesting.

JF: Those are often my favorite types of projects.

GAF: I must admit to feeling very satisfied seeing it come together. Some designs, no matter the preplanning, require a leap of faith between casting on and casting off. To be honest, those are the designs I am most drawn to and find myself returning to again and again, so it is always satisfying when they work out the way you intended.

As an aside, when my husband (who is extremely conservative in his taste in woolens) saw the sample blocking he said that it would make a good man’s sweater. Though that was his thinly veiled request for a sweater, he does have a point. Thankfully you have published sizes up to 49″ at the chest/bust, so I only have to lengthen the body and sleeves for his version.

JF: You live and work in Los Alamos, New Mexico, but are a Philadelphia native – that’s quite a change of scene! How has your change in environment changed your knitting or design work? 

GAF: Completely! My relationship to woolens had to change coming from PA to NM. I don’t think that I considered shawls much at all while in Philly, but the changeable nature of the weather here makes them much more necessary. I think that I also am drawn to fine gauge knitting, more so than before. In Philly the needles in my hands got larger the colder it got, but in Los Alamos I almost never venture thicker than DK. So I really had a chance to tighten my focus to fingering – lace weight yarns and how garments made with them fit onto my needles and into my wardrobe. I was also thinking about these more graphic designs that you can see in “The Fine Line” while being drawn to the regional weaving traditions. For such a small town, there is a high density of Techs, Engineers, and Scientists here in Los Alamos because of Los Alamos National Labs that I am being exposed to ideas and images that I never considered before, having pursued an art-focused education. All of these elements inform my current design process.

JF: Sounds like a pretty inspiring place to be! I remember New Mexico as having such a mystical quality about it. 

GAF: Mystical! That is a good word for it. I don’t think that I understood “purple mountains majesty”  as more than colorful language until I moved here. I think I might be spoiled now to expect to always see a mountain range on the horizon; without them it would seem lonely somehow.

 JF: And for a bit of fun, my last question for the day: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

GAF: Rainbow Brite. Though I think that if I had known that creative jobs like ours existed I might have set my sights on a more reasonable target.

JF: Grace, this has been excellent. Thanks for letting me pick your brain this morning – take care and keep up the inspiring work!

GAF: Thank you, Jared! Working with you, your team and your yarn is always a pleasure.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be presenting a series of designer interviews here on the blog that I have conducted with 6 selected designers from the Wool People 6 collection. I’ll chat with them a bit about their newest designs for BT, as well as what it is that gets their creative juices flowing. Today we start with long-time friend of BT, Gudrun Johnston. I hope you enjoy!  –Jared

JF: Good morning, Gudrun! I’m always glad to be able to chat with you about knitting – can you tell the readers where you are joining us from today?

GJ: Great to talk to you Jared! I am joining you from my home in the woods of Western Massachusetts!

JF: We’ve had the pleasure of working with you several times in the last two years that we’ve been publishing Wool People – you seem to have a knack for designing things with real wool that knitters love. Can you tell us a little bit about where you get your general design inspiration?

GJ: I find that ideas can strike from many directions but it is true that I often look to my Shetland roots first and foremost for inspiration.

JF: You live in Western Mass but are a native of the Shetland Islands in Scotland, one of the world’s great knitting “meccas”. How did your childhood in Shetland shape who you are as a designer?

GJ: Although I was born in Shetland I spent the majority of my childhood living elsewhere in Scotland. It has really been in the last decade that I have re-connected with Shetland, since my parents retired there. During that time I have had lots of opportunity to explore not only the physical beauty of Shetland but to also educate myself about the wooly traditions! As you already know my mother also designed knitwear in Shetland in the 1970′s. My siblings and I were clothed in her designs when we were very little. I even have a photo of myself as a baby in a traditional Shetland Hap (shawl)! So the connection to the rich knitting heritage was formed early on. My great grandfather was a Shetlander and I like to think some knitting mojo got passed on in the blood! It was only natural then for me to look to my Shetland background when I started to get into designing.

JF: When we first started talking about design ideas for Wool People 6, you had just finished knitting your son a beautiful prototype of Little Wave. How did the sweater come to be (before I begged for you to let us include it in the collection)?

GJ: Well it came to be because Sage (my son) was feeling a little put out that I hadn’t designed anything that he could wear! His sister ends up getting to wear a lot more of my work seeing as most of my designs are female oriented. So I promised him I would come up with something made especially for him! He LOVES it and looks very sophisticated when wearing it! [We've included photos below!] I ended up liking it a lot too so I’m glad that there will be another sample for me to wear. It also looks like I might have to knit one for David (my husband) too!

JF: David just might require one – I wore the men’s sample all throughout our September shoot (it was a foggy, chilly weekend – perfect for a shawl collar) and I have to say I got attached quite quickly! 

GJ: Well it’s true that David is also well overdue for a handknit garment from me, so yes, I think I will have to get one on the needles for him too! Although I have also been eyeing up your Timberline from the BT Men collection!

JF: You opted to design the sweater as a unisex garment, including graded sizes for both men and women. What kind of differences can knitters expect to find between the two?

GJ: The differences are fairly subtle to the overall design but I included a little waist shaping and adapted some of the measurements for a more feminine look.

JF: There are a lot of special details included in the sweater – it is one of those patterns that takes you on a bit of a journey. I know most knitters will learn at least 1 or 2 things as they are walked through. Can you elaborate on a couple of the details that might not be immediately apparent to people who have only seen a few images of the garment in the look book?

GJ: Well one of the first things knitters will encounter are the twisted stitches that are used to form that overall stitch pattern. I enjoy using textured stitch patterns that are worked a little differently from the norm but that aren’t necessarily complex to knit. The other detail that might not be obvious to many knitters is the construction of the yoke. I see it as part raglan, part set in sleeve and part saddle shoulder, but essentially it is Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Hybrid Method.  I think this was my favourite part to knit! Watching all the parts come together is truly like magic and extremely satisfying!

JF: I also have to interject that I love the knitted garter stitch “elbow patches”. They are a nice touch!

GJ: Thanks! Glad you like them! Of course they can easily be left out for those who prefer a simpler sleeve!

JF: What kind of design work are you plugging away on at the moment? Anything you can share that we can look forward to? 

GJ: Actually the current piece I’m working on will be for Wool People 7! After that the plan is to get going on a Shetland Trader Book 2 which I am very excited about!

JF: Great news for all of us – I look forward to seeing another self-produced book of knits by you! 

Well Gudrun, it’s been a pleasure – thanks for allowing me to bend your ear a bit this morning. Take care and thanks again for contributing this beautiful garment to our 6th installment of Wool People!

GJ: My pleasure! It was fun to chat!