Archives for category: Interviews

HATTA_wp7_blog_conversation_01

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

YH: Hi Jared – thank you for inviting me.

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

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

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

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

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HATTA_wp7_blog_conversation_02

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HATTA_wp7_blog_conversation_03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HATTA_wp7_blog_conversation_04

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

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

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

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

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HATTA_wp7_blog_conversation_05

NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_01

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JF: Welcome back, Kyoko! Thanks for agreeing to chat with me today.

KN: Hello Jared! It’s always a pleasure and thank you for inviting me back!

JF: We had you on the blog last November to talk about your WP6 design “Rook”. Your newest piece for Wool People 7 has such interesting construction that I felt we had to have you back to talk about this one, too!

Seine is a beautiful cardigan with draping fronts and a bold zigzag cable cutting horizontally across the entire body of the piece. Where did the idea for this cardigan spring from?

KN: Thank you! The main theme for the new ‘Seine’ design is modern simplicity with a fresh twist on cables. The name of the garment is perfect for reflecting the touch of French chic. The structure of the garment is very fun and knits into a versatile, modern-classic cardigan with beautiful drape. (After all, the excellent cut and drape of Frenchwomen’s clothes are what make them so classically stylish in my mind.)

Usually, cables are worked vertically, but during the design stage I thought it would be fun to have horizontal cables, which give a different look and feel to the garment. I’m quite keen on creating cardigans with a cleverly draped front for an appealing silhouette, possibly because I’ve just spent nine months with a baby bump! I wanted to design a versatile garment, which would be figure-flattering for all ages, shapes and sizes.

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NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_02

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JF: Come to think of it, it is a great maternity sweater too, isn’t it?

KN: Yes, absolutely. The width of each front section of the cardigan is the same width as the body, which means the cardigan would easily cover a bump during the cold season! It also makes for a discreet garment for breastfeeding, too, with the baby wrapped snugly inside the soft, bouncy wool!

JF: Although the cardigan is intended to be worn open – it seems to me that a nice shawl pin, vintage brooch or decorative fastener could easily be worn to add another styling method.

KN: Yes – you can wear Seine in a lot of different ways! It’s intended to be worn open to show the waterfall pleats, as pictured, but can also be worn with a leather belt to emphasise your waist (knitted belt loops could easily be added if a knitted belt was preferred,too), or with a shawl pin or pretty brooch to wrap the garment around the front. A knitter could further customize the look by adding a looped ‘buttonhole’ and a medium-large button in a matching or contrasting color at the front. There really are so many possibilities!

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NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_03

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JF: Aside from the garment’s obvious versatility, my favorite thing about it is the knitting process and construction. It’s an intriguing puzzle of a garment and seems like it would be very fun to work on. Can you explain the sequence of knitting that occurs throughout the pattern?

KN: Yes, the construction sequence of this garment is unique because different parts of the garment are knitted at 90 degree angles, allowing the zig-zag cable motif to extend around the entire body.

You start by working the sleeves from cuff to underarm, then placing them aside (leaving stitches live). The lower half of the Body is begun at center-back with a provisional cast on; the back is worked sideways from center out in two halves until the underarm gussets are reached.

At that point, the sleeves and lower back are joined onto a single circular needle to be worked concurrently to shape the upper body/yoke by way of a seamless raglan technique.

After the front raglan lines are shaped, stitches are picked up from the front raglan slopes and worked outward (together with the remaining live stitches from lower body) to create the draping fronts.

Finishing involves grafting the underarm gussets and working a garter stitch band around the entire cardigan opening.

JF: So, no seaming is required during finishing? Nice bonus!

KN: Except for the underarm gusset, no, you don’t need to seam during finishing at all.

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NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_04

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JF: In our last interview, you referred to yourself as a “creative puzzle-maker” and I think that is even more evident here with Seine. Do you have other garment “puzzles” that you are whittling away on behind the scenes? What is next for you?

KN: I am always drawing ideas in my little notebook from ordinary to completely unconventional garments and accessories. I always have a lot of weird-looking swatches building up in my studio that are still waiting to find their “home” in a new design.

My current project is a colorful baby collection of unisex projects for boys and girls. Im looking to break away from more expected pastel colors.  Since I’ve recently had my first baby, I wanted to make a very special collection that other mothers will enjoy seeing their ‘pride and joy’ wearing!  The designs are simple to knit and will give moms some stylish baby options with a contemporary twist.

JF: That’s great! No better time to be designing for babies than when you are living with one, right? I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

KN: Yes, living with my new baby is giving me so many ideas for better shapes and practical designs that are attractive and comfortable for everyday wear. I’m having a blast turning my ideas into real things to dress my little one…

JF: Thanks so much for spending some time with me today and sharing a bit about what you are working on, Kyoko! Best of luck in your upcoming endeavors (and congrats on your new status as mother!)

KN: It’s been a real pleasure. It will definitely be an exciting few years for me as a first-time mom! (I’m planning to knit the Seine cardigan again for myself in time for next winter). Thank you!

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NAKAYOSHI_wp7_blog_conversation_5

JOHNSTON_wp7_blog_conversation_01

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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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JOHNSTON_wp7_blog_conversation_02

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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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JOHNSTON_wp7_blog_conversation_03

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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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JOHNSTON_wp7_blog_conversation_04

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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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 JOHNSTON_wp7_blog_conversation_05

LOCATELLI_wp7_blog_conversation_01

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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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LOCATELLI_wp7_blog_conversation_02

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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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LOCATELLI_wp7_blog_conversation_04

 

MCCAULEY_wp7_blog_conversation_01

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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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MCCAULEY_wp7_blog_conversation_05

 

 

FELLER_wp7_blog_conversation_01

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JF: Hi Carol! Thanks for joining us from Ireland!

CF: Delighted to be here, it’s always so much fun to be part of Wool People.

JF: You began self publishing your own designs in 2007 and have amassed an impressive amount of design work in the 5 years to follow. Can you tell us a little more about what your day-to-day process looks like as an independent designer?

CF: My day is divided between designing and parenting. After dropping kids to school I start my workday at home with my mornings devoted to design work and social media. It’s hard to get a balance between the two; marketing and design occupy very different headspaces so I’ll often need a walk with the dog to switch gears. I usually don’t have time to knit in the mornings, that comes later in the day. My afternoons are filled with children’s activities. With 4 boys who are involved in more things than I can list there are some days that I could spend 3-4 hours driving in circles. Fortunately knitting is portable so an hour waiting in one place is a luxury!

Once the driving is over and the youngest in bed I get to have my knitting time. I’ve got a spot on the corner of the sofa that’s got all my projects lined up in different bags and a pile of stitch dictionaries on the coffee table that are threatening to tumble.  I knit almost all of my own samples (unless I’m very short of time) as I find that some of the best design ideas happen on the needles. Watching your work as you knit allows you to modify a good idea and turn it into a great one.

JF: I agree – it seems that the best design revelations happen when your ideas are taking shape in your hands.  

 Producing the amount of work you do while also mothering 4 boys is amazingly impressive! I would imagine you must be pretty organized to pull it off. How important is organization in your work, and can you share any tips for keeping on track and getting things done?

CF: Organization is very important to me, Im a big list maker! Before I finish at my desk each day I try to create a new to-do list for myself for the next day so that I can jump right into work rather than trying to remember where I was. This also helps with time management as my time is often broken up into small chunks; if I know I’ll be waiting in my car for an hour I’ll check my to-do list for a portable job that can be done in that length of time. It does mean that I’ve got overflowing lists everywhere, my desk, phone and even random notebooks in my handbag. I also try to break down my design work into all the steps that have to be done; so I’ll start with swatch/sketch, then move on to sizing and the basic pattern. Once that’s done I’ll knit the sample, rewriting the pattern as necessary. Finally, after blocking gauge is double-checked I finalize the pattern and draw the schematic. Each of these steps is written down and crossed out when done. This is extra important when working on a book so you can see at a glance if some step has been forgotten.

This organization doesn’t always come naturally to me. My desk is a towering mountain of paper and yarn and I eventually gave in this year and got some help with cleaning. I’ve come to accept that there are so many hours in the day and there is physically no way to do everything so you need to prioritize and get help when necessary.

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FELLER_wp7_blog_conversation_02

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JF: How has your work changed since you began pursuing this career? What lessons have you learned that you might like to share with younger designers who are just starting out?

CF: I think my basic design aesthetic hasn’t changed dramatically over the years, although I am finding myself drawn increasingly to cleaner lines with interesting construction methods.

JF: (That certainly shows in your newest Wool People design.)

CF: The art of pattern writing is learned by trial and error. When I began designing there were sometimes ideas I had to abandon, as I didn’t yet have the pattern writing skills to write them as a multi-sized garment. This is something important to realize as a new designer, it takes a whole lot of practice! This means writing and re-writing patterns frequently.

Tech Editors are fantastic; they can really help you improve your pattern writing. Test knitters can also help in this, when a knitter is giving you feedback as they work through your pattern you see it through another persons eyes. So it is a constant process of evolution, learning from past mistakes and figuring out better (and clearer) ways to write.

JF: I definitely agree – whether it’s a tech editor, or a test knitter, once you are far enough along in the process you need a few pairs of fresh eyes to look at the work and give you feedback. After writing (and especially grading) a pattern, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees, as the saying goes.

CF: Writing for different publications helps with this as well. Every publication has a different style guide that you need to work with. While it’s time consuming it can also be a learning process, potentially improving your own self-published style guide.

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FELLER_wp7_blog_conversation_03

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JF: Pente” is your third contribution to our Wool People series (Hathaway from Wool People 4 was your first, and Carpino from Wool People 6 your second, last Fall) and everyone here really loves this cardigan. Where did your inspiration come from for Pente?

CF: Over the past year I’ve been fascinated with biased fabric. It started with Vertex Cardigan for Interweave last Spring. The increase line at the center of the back creates an arrow effect with the lightly variegated yarn but I wanted to explore it further. The next biased garment I did last summer was Nishibi which used a biased central panel in ribbing that created a diagonal effect again with just increases and decreases. The idea for Pente came after that; I wanted to create a dramatic front drape on a cardigan primarily using biasing.

JF: The construction of the garment also makes this cardigan special – I love that you chose to use a subtle striping sequence to highlight the directionality of the fabric.

CF: The subtle color striping in the fabric really helps to emphasis how the direction of the fabric shifts from front to back; it makes it easy to see how the use of increasing and decreasing dramatically shapes the fabric.

JF: Can you give our readers a brief explanation of the overall garment construction? 

CF: I love seamless designs; to me they really utilize the flexibility of knitted fabric. This design is worked seamlessly in one piece from the bottom up. It starts with a clean turned hem at the bottom, which allows us to echo the stripe color. From here the front panels (which are extra wide to allow a flowing front drape), are biased using increases and decreases along the side seams. The stripe sequence is worked in subtle colors which make it quite understated. It would be very easy, though, to change the colors used for a more dramatic effect, even blending from one color on the bottom to a different one on the top for an ombre effect.

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JF: (That would be a beautiful variation!)

CF: Once the body is complete the front and back of the yoke are worked separately. I’ve used short rows to create shaping for the sleeves, so that both the cuff and top of shoulder fit well. Short rows are also worked along the front so that the biasing doesn’t impact the fit at the top of the front.

Finally this cardigan is finished using a Joinery Bind Off across the top of the shoulder in the contrasting color. I love the crisp clean line it gives that really feels like it finishes the garment off perfectly.

JF: It’s very smart and well thought out – in my mind, that is always the mark of good design – bravo! 

What is next for you? Any future projects you can share with us?

CF: Ive just recently signed a contract with Potter Craft for a new book that will be released in Fall 2015. The complete book is due in August this year so I’m very busy right now! I’m so excited to see this project in its finished form; it’s a topic I’m very passionate about and it should make a great book.

In a shorter time scale, I’m also getting ready for a Summer KAL with Briar Rose Fibers. I did a KAL with Chris in the Fall of 2012 and she was just lovely to work with so I’m really looking forward to the KAL. Now I just need to get time to write the clues between book projects!

JF: Sounds exciting – best of luck with your upcoming projects and thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today!

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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.

JF: Hi, Kyoko! Thanks for joining me today on the blog for a chat about your new sweater design.

KN: Hi, Jared! Thanks for inviting me to this chat. I’m so excited!

JF: This is your first contribution to a Wool People collection (and I think it’s a great one) – can you tell our readers a little bit about your design philosophy? What interests you about designing for handknitting, specifically?

KN: I really enjoyed working on Rook for WP6. My core design philosophy is to offer unique knits which have timeless style.

I also think of myself as a “creative puzzle-maker”, and it pleases me to think that those who knit my patterns will enjoy the making process, on top of creating something that they love to wear (or giving it to someone they care about).

I really enjoy using my creativity to come up with each unique, new design, then writing up the patterns in a way that is thoughtful for knitters.

JF: I think that is so key – to think of a design not only as an end product that looks good and fits well, but also as an experience for the maker. The experience should be thoughtful and appropriate. This is unique to handknitting design.

KN: Yes! My aim is always to pleasantly surprise knitters. First visually, when they see my designs, and then through the creative process of knitting them. I’m always happy and humbled to see how many people knit my designs – not just for themselves – but also for their children, relatives and friends. This is one of the key motivations as a hand-knitting designer.

JF: You started your brand of knitwear design for handknitters, Cotton and Cloud, in 2009. What would you say is your brand mission?

KN: My brand mission is to keep surprising knitters and provide fresh inspiration that fits with a fun, ethical and creative outlook. I want to design unique knits which are timeless in style. This could include incorporating unusual or novel techniques, adding some quirky new patterning, or designing a uniquely shaped garment.

In terms of my specific interests, I love to work with yarns from independent companies. I am deeply committed to contribute to a better future for our children, by supporting the independent suppliers of eco-friendly and ethical raw materials. In a world where there is so much cheap, mass-produced clothing available, I want to share and spread the idea of living a happier, ‘slow life’ – even in a busy city like London – by creating a garment you love stitch by stitch.

JF: That concept resonates strongly with me as well, and I am noticing a broader movement away from “fast fashion”. As handknitters, this already seems second nature, but it is a very important topic in our society at this time, don’t you think?

KN: Definitely. We live in the most ‘throw-away’ society in history. And this applies to many products from food to fashion clothes. But as a consumer myself, I know how hard it can be to resist the temptation to throw away stuff that’s cheap and easily available. As one of millions of global knitters, I feel very lucky to have the skill to design and make useful and stylish garments by hand from high-quality, eco-friendly yarns. I think the ‘slow life’ movement is very important in encouraging a happier and more balanced way of living for the individual and families; as well as having a hugely positive impact on society in general.

JF: You are Japanese born but live and work in London. Can you talk a little bit about how each of these places has shaped who you are as an artist and designer?

KN: Japan is such a beautiful country and the language we speak and write is, to me, very visual. I first learned how to knit as a small child, using Japanese patterns which are generally chart-based.

I came to the UK when I was 12 and have been living in England, more recently in London, for the past 15 years. Being away from my family from a young age has made me resourceful. Being creative in any subject was appreciated by those around me and I was given the freedom to explore novel and different hobbies, which I really enjoyed.

So the mix of experiences from my childhood, and then my adult life in Japan and London, have left me with a very versatile approach to designing.

I can mix logical and rule-based methods with my own original thinking, without being afraid to break new ground and create innovative designs that haven’t been seen before.

JF: Sounds like a knockout combination to me!

KN: :) Well, I hope so, because I try to offer knitters something fresh and interesting in my design collections.

JF: Rook is a pullover I’m sure a lot of women would like to wear, and also one that I think is very fun to knit. Can you talk a little bit about how the garment is created on the needles?

KN: When you first see the sweater it looks quite traditional. When you look more closely, however, you realize that the construction for the round yoke is a noticeable break from tradition.

This sweater is created with a top-down, seamless construction, knit circularly. In order to create a height difference between the front and the back neck, you use a ‘wrap and turn’ short-row technique to work more rows at the back and sleeves first, before eventually joining to work the remaining yoke in the round. This adds a subtle depth to the front neck which to me is perfect for a garment that is cosy and winter-proof, as well as versatile enough to style with different undershirts (like a crew-neck top or a collared shirt underneath, as pictured).

The increases for the yoke shaping are worked in between the cable patterns. The textured diamond motif is encircled by stockinette stitch instead of a vertical line of purl stitches, to keep the whole design clean and simple. In addition, the cable pattern never changes in size or placement during the yoke shaping and throughout the sweater, giving an attractive visual illusion.

JF: Any special tools needed in working this type of yoke?

KN: The use of stitch markers is essential in this pattern, as they will help guide your correct positioning within the pattern, especially during yoke shaping. Once the yoke shaping is done, the rest is straightforward and will be an enjoyable knit for everyone, I hope!

JF: It’s definitely a fun and different approach to knitting a pullover that I think knitters will enjoy. For me, good design is directly related to the amount of thought that goes into it – you clearly think a lot about your work as you are designing and that is much appreciated! 

KN: Thank you, Jared! I do spend a lot of time on the planning stage of each new garment design.

First of all, I do a mental run-through of the ideas that I’m considering and then start to focus on one in particular.

I then think about the design from the point of view of the knitter, to ensure my patterns are always accessible and enjoyable to make. For example, when my design is going to contain a new technique that may be unfamiliar to most knitters, I try to shape the design carefully to ensure the new technique is only used at the beginning of the project. After that, I make sure the rest of the knitting pattern is straightforward to do, which is what I did for Rook.

When I was designing Rook, I had in mind the short-row neck shaping technique and a special pattern placement to create an interesting visual illusion. The texture and density of Shelter was perfect for the effect I had in mind. When all the technical ideas and the yarn were put together with a traditional sweater-shape with a double-folded neckline, it all seemed to come together really well!

JF: Thanks again, Kyoko! It’s been a pleasure getting to work with you and I hope to do so in the future! 

KN: Thank you, Jared! It’s been great fun for me, too. And I’m looking forward to sharing more new designs through BT in the future!