Archives for category: Loft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Knitters,

Welcome to late fall! We’ve had some glorious autumn days here on the east coast, with blue skies and red-gold leaves. My local farmers’ market has been bursting with crimson apples, dark leafy greens, and truckloads of colorful winter squash. But let’s face it, the season when we’ll have to start making our own color is at hand!

Thank goodness for yarn. I never feel ready to let go of these brilliant fall hues as late autumn sets in, and color selection for my own knitting usually reflects that (earlier this week I cast on for a new hat with a rich shade of golden umber wool). I’m craving plenty of cozy texture, too. Surely my closet needs one more cabled cardigan, right? After liberating my winter sweaters from storage, I can find a few holes in the lineup that could accommodate a new handknit garment… why not? And in case your own knitting basket isn’t fully loaded already, I’m excited to offer a healthy dose of inspiration with our eighth Wool People collection, which goes live this morning!

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Last winter when I first started thinking about this collection, I had an image of country weekends in an old, creaky house upstate. A little hideaway in the Catskills where one could hole up for a few days of wool and solitude. When putting out the official submission call to designers, I asked for garments and accessories that contributors envisioned for this cabin-friendly daydream. We focused on seamless construction and modern shapes that could be styled for rustic comfort, but also dressed up for more elegant occasions. Designers from seven different countries contributed twelve sweaters and four accessories that fit the bill for a weekend in the country, soaking up the last of the fine weather outdoors or getting cozy by the fire as the first snow flies.

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These designs run the gamut of construction techniques, from traditional to innovative. There are pieces here for the adventurous novice as well as for the expert knitter. The collection includes snuggly turtlenecks, easy pullovers, flattering yoke designs, and an array of open-front cardigans with clever shaping. There are quick projects for gifting season and challenging knits to keep your needles busy all winter.

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We’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the pieces in this collection—and the knitterly details you’ll find within the patterns—over the coming month both here on the blog as well as on our social media channels. I’m most excited to feature the interviews I’ve conducted with six of the contributing designers from the collection about their work and their inspirations.

Please feel free to share comments and questions with us about any of the new designs—we’d love to feature another Q&A post for Wool People 8 here on the blog to address inquiries from knitters—we so enjoy hearing from you.

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As always, I hope you find some inspiration here to take along with you as we head into the colder months. Thank you for your continued support of what we do here, and happy knitting!

All my best,
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Dear Knitters,

September! It’s always been one of my favorite months. While summer may be psychologically over when the school bells ring, the season just seems all the more golden as the fair weather lingers, mellows, and starts to offer that refreshing autumn crispness in the mornings. While the lazy liberty of vacation may be over, falling back into the year’s routine has its own productive pleasures, too. (There’s still the possibility of weekend camping trips, after all!)

Fisherman-inspired knits for Autumn

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Most importantly, as we well know, Knitting Season is officially open. It’s no longer too hot to contemplate taking up that big cardigan you didn’t finish last winter. Or even if it is, you start to think how good that pile of pieces in your workbasket is going to look at your favorite autumn wool festival (if you can just knit a second sleeve and a collar and sew them all together…). Motivation kicks in.

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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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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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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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On Tuesday we talked about some of the fundamental “rules” of color theory as it pertains to knitting stranded fabric with multiple colors of yarn. Today I want to share some of my own design swatches for the Atlas pullover/cardigan that illustrate these concepts.

When I begin a new design, the first major block of time is spent making several swatches. This is never truer than when I am combining color (where swatching may comprise over 50% of the entire design process!). Knitting stranded colorwork is a very specific applied use of color, and it takes a lot of practice to begin understanding how colors work together in this format. More often than not, a color choice you were sure would be perfect doesn’t come together the way you thought it would, or better, a combo that you didn’t feel too terribly excited about ends up working beautifully. The only way to know for sure is to knit up your motif and see what happens! (Bonus: Knit your swatches on varying needle sizes to test what kind of fabric options you have; remember that stranded knitting is virtually twice as thick as single-color stockinette, so a more relaxed gauge is often preferable.)

For Atlas, a total of seven colorwork swatches were made (6 of which are shown in the following image; the 7th is used as an example below to illustrate what doesn’t work).

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Atlas’s yoke motif requires the use of 3 colors and is intended for use with three contrasting values of color: Light, Medium and Dark. For me, the choice of value is the first and most important step in choosing a trio of color, followed by the selection of hues. In this case I chose triads of color that live in similar color families (browns, blues, greys, etc.), but you can just as easily mix hues from all parts of the color wheel, as long as you keep the value relationship in place.

Swatches 04 and 06 were eventually chosen as final colorways for the knitted samples (click here to see the final result for each colorway), though most of these options would have made perfectly adorable finished garments for children.

Looking at the six swatches above – one of them jumps out at me as being slightly less successful than the others (at least relative to what my original goal was). Care to venture a guess? In my opinion, Swatch 05 is the least successful (though not a failure). Do the “squint test” at all 6 of the swatches above and see how the motif on Swatch 05 fades to darkness more readily than the others, particularly in the upper “elongated diamonds” section. This is because Colors 1 and 3 are closer in value to one another in Swatch 05 than they are in the others.

Another interesting item to note: in all six swatches, I prioritized the darkest value for Color 3, since it held the most “heft” in terms of defining the overall yoke motif. For Colors 1 (sweater color) and Color 2 (yoke contrast color), however, I played around with swapping the position of the Light and Medium values. For example, swatches 02 and 06 use the Light value as the sweater color, and the Medium and Dark values for the yoke motifs. The other swatches use the Medium value as the sweater color and have Light and Dark contrasting in the yoke. Both results are pleasing. The take-away: when your value structure is solid, you’ll find success in just about any configuration of Light, Medium and Dark (and! even more swatching possibilities)!

Below is an example of how quickly low-contrast color combos can turn muddy; I encountered this situation when I was swatching with shades of brown:

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The upper swatch was my first attempt combining browns from our palette. Tuesday I mentioned that you’ll sometimes be surprised at how similar values can appear in the finished knitted fabric, even when they seemed sufficiently different “in the skein”. When you work two shades onto a “grid” of knitted fabric, mixing color stitch for stitch, the colorwork fabric puts the value relationship to the true test. In this case, “Nest” (color 1, which would be the body of the sweater) appeared plenty different from “Truffle Hunt” (Color 3, the darkest shade) when I held the skeins together, but looked much less so when knitted. (Try the Squint Test here too.) So, it was back to the drawing board.

The second brown swatch shows how dramatically different the motif is when just a single color was swapped out for a darker value. The High Contrast swatch subbed “Pumpernickel” for “Truffle Hunt”, a much darker shade of brown. The results speak for themselves!

I’d like to make one final comment about all of this before wrapping up today’s post. When it comes to design and color, I don’t mean to insinuate that there are hard and fast “rules” for success. As in any creative endeavor, that author/artist/designer’s vision and intention are what should guide the decision making process from start to finish. In some cases, a lower-contrast, tonal colorwork palette might be your goal and in that case, choosing colors with similar values can get the job done (in this case, I recommend choosing wildly different hues with similar values, which can result in some very interesting combinations). I’ve structured this post with a more traditional approach, assuming that the goal is to easily see and decipher the graphic motifs featured on Icelandic yokes – and with that goal in mind, a “light-medium-dark” approach will automatically give you a strong foundation to begin your color pairings.

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Though only two colorways made it into the final BT Kids collection, I wanted to post a few more options here for anyone who may have seen a combo featured today on the blog that they might want to run with – on Atlas, or any other 3-color stranded project you might be planning. We’ll also be posting these alternate colorways on Atlas’s pattern page for reference as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little soirée into color theory for knitters! It’s a subject I love talking about — many thanks for letting me indulge!

– 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!

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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: 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: Welcome back, Gudrun! Thanks for joining me again on the blog to talk shop! (I interviewed Gudrun in November about her “Little Wave” cardigan included in Wool People 6)

GJ: Hi Jared, great to be back!

JF: You have become somewhat of a Wool People regular and knitters respond so positively to your designs. I think they are such a great balance of design, process and wearability – a great combination for hand knitters! Aside from the overall appearance of the finished piece, what other things do you think about before you begin crafting a knitting pattern?

GJ: Well I often try to think of a way to include some of my Shetland background. More often than not this is a starting point. Sometimes it’s a particular colour that calls out to me too. In this case I may quite quickly know what I want it to become.

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JF: Your newest design for us is the Halligarth Shawl – and we can clearly see your signature Shetland-inspired style shining through. Where did the inspiration for this design begin?

GJ: As you know I like to use traditional Shetland Shawl constructions and also play around with them. For Halligarth I wanted to try the same method used at the initial shaping of the center triangle (with the yarn overs to increase sts) but instead of a plain center I chose to use a lace tree motif. I was drawn to this pattern for its nicely-defined lines and its ability to play nicely with my stitch counts!

JF: You often name your patterns after places in Shetland, or words from Shetland dialect. What is Halligarth’s namesake?

GJ: Halligarth is a woodland (and house) in Unst, Shetland that was planted by a naturalist, Dr Laurence Edmonston, in the early 1800′s. Due to using a tree motif in the design it seemed a good choice! My other connection to it is that my father wrote a book about the Edmonston family!

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JF: One of my favorite parts about this design is the construction method. I love the idea that the entire “field” of lace trees grows from a single stitch. Can you explain the overall architecture of the piece to our readers?

GJ: Indeed it begins with just one stitch! As with traditional Shetland Shawl constructions, the triangle shape grows by creating a yarnover at the beginning of every row and the lace pattern is incorporated as the stitch count grows. Once the center triangle is at its desired width you pick up the yarnovers down either side of the triangle, and in the case of Halligarth I chose to skip the border section and instead worked a knitted-on edging directly on to the center triangle. I also keep the top side of the triangle as live stitches that you return to once the edging is complete. These stitches, along with a few picked up stitches from the edging, are then worked for a few rows of garter stitch before binding off. The entire thing is completely seamless!

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JF: Projects like this really get me itching to cast on a new project. This seems like one of those projects that seems to knit itself, and leaves you wanting to try another in an alternate color or size. 

GJ: Well that’s definitely a good thing! I love seeing how different a piece can look in another color.

JF: I’m sure knitters will love knitting this – thanks again for another great design (and for sharing a bit more about the process today).

GJ: Always a pleasure!

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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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It feels like spring has been such a long time coming here in the Northeast. Late April has finally begun rewarding us with warmer, lighter days as the long winter fades to memory. With a backdrop of blossoming trees and soft white flowers, we bring you the seventh volume in our ongoing Wool People guest designer series – a collection that was very much inspired by the color and light of spring.

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Wool People 7 lookbook

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My knitting friends know that I am somewhat of a hoarder of Japanese knitting books – I love their light, airy aesthetic and their precise visual approach to pattern writing. This clean, spare aesthetic has an essential quality to it that I love. My bookshelves are overrun with titles whose names I can’t even read – books I’ve collected over the years spent hidden among the quiet shelves at Kinokuniya.

These beautiful books from Japan served as the primary source of inspiration for Wool People 7  – with designers from 4 continents responding to our submission call for garments and accessories that are beautiful in their simplicity.

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This collection’s lookbook includes the addition of descriptive texts within the spreads that we hope share more about what lies “under the hood” of each pattern. We make an effort to pack as much value into your patterns as possible and know that sometimes not all of the details are apparent from photography alone. I hope that these additional descriptions will enhance your viewing experience and better inform you about which projects would give you the most satisfaction.

.Seacoast // Yane

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Over the coming weeks we’ll be introducing specific designs from the collection in more detail on our social media channels. I will also be conducting a series of interviews with seven of the collection’s contributing designers here on the blog (starting next week), which I’m very excited about.

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Vector // Merle

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For now, please enjoy paging through our newest lookbook – I hope you find something that you love!

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Resources: The Wool People 7 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.