Archives for category: Collaboration

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

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BT Kids: Colorwork Spotlight

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

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Atlas by Jared Flood

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

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Magnus by Véronik Avery

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

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

Carson by Julie Hoover

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

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

Our photoshoot for BT Kids has to rank as one of our most entertaining times on set, ever. We shot the collection with 6 beautiful (and hilarious) children – ranging in ages from 2 to 8 – in a Cobble Hill (Brooklyn) brownstone, as well as the surrounding neighborhood blocks.

Shooting a collection is always a wild experience. Despite the epic amount of planning that happens beforehand, variables like weather, location idiosyncrasies, models and collection size make each shoot unique and different in its own way. One thing is always a definite – it’s a process that consistently keeps you on your toes!

We have a lot of fun on set bringing a vision to reality; watching the magical process of a pattern coming to life in front of the camera after months of work is gratifying, indeed. Knowing this shoot was going to be particularly entertaining, we brought a couple video cameras along to document the process and have edited the footage into a fun behind-the-scenes video to share the story of our weekend.

Working with these kids was an unexpected reward (not having children of my own, I was slightly nervous about the idea of shooting with 6 of them!) – in the end, though, I really loved it.

So pull up a chair, and enjoy this glimpse into the action!

– Jared

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.

On the eve of our newest collection launch – Wool People 7 (seven!) – I’m excited to share a short but fun behind-the-scenes video from our two day NYC-based photoshoot.

We brought a camcorder to the shoot and passed it around as we worked. The resulting video will give you a glimpse into our Creative Team’s process on shoot day, and hopefully get you excited to see the new designs tomorrow!

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Stay tuned tomorrow morning for the launch of our newest – we can’t wait to share it!

– Jared

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

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

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

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

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Tsubasa by Michele Wang | Preble by Leila Raabe.

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

– Jared

 

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During the end of January, I was invited to photograph Knit, Purl, Sow – an art exhibition of knitted floral and plant sculptures on view at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The show featured knitted works from artists Tatyana Yanishevsky, Ruth Marshall and Santiago Venegas. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about this wonderful show until the very last week that it was on view, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to document it in pictures in hopes of sharing it with other knitters who wouldn’t have a chance to view these amazing works of art in person.

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While at the gardens, I was able to sit down with Sonal Bhatt, the Vice President of Education and Interpretation, to learn a bit about the show and how her original idea was realized over a 2-year process of planning.

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One of the goals of the exhibition team at the Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery is to provide visitors with unexpected ways to experience the subject of plant life. Translating a variety of flowers and plants into larger-than-life knitted sculpture was certainly a delightful way to achieve that!

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Upon first seeing the show, I was particularly struck by the artists’ commitment to “botanical correctness”, sometimes going to great lengths to preserve the smallest details and interpret them into knitted fabric. This was an integral part in the direction of the show, and I think it really takes these pieces to another level.

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Each of the three artists featured in the show was asked to interpret the subject of plants through their own unique knitting voice. As knitters, texture plays a huge role in our process of creativity. I loved seeing all the different ways stitch patterns were used to mimic, enhance and interpret the plants that served as the inspiration for the final sculptures.

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Ruth Marshall’s “Lotus” (pictured above) installation was definitely one of the show-stoppers of the exhibition. The work is comprised of several different knitted plants and flowers, mounted together as a wide wall-hanging. I love the knitted veins on the large circular leaves.

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Bhatt shared with me that attendance for this show has been particularly high. She attributes this to the fact that most patrons to the gardens have a broad appreciation for art (and “beauty” in general), but also for needle arts and hand crafts. Viewing the pieces, you are immediately aware of how much detail and handwork has gone into even the smallest pieces. According to Bhatt, the show has attracted larger-than-average crowds for exhibitions at Steinhardt. It’s no surprise that a show like this would do so well in a crafty mecca like Brooklyn.

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Below I’ve included a link to a Wall Street Journal article talking about the show, in case you are interested in further reading.

A big thank you to the BBG for allowing me access to this show with my camera! I hope that I’ve been able to give you, our readers, a sense for this very interesting and unique display of knitwear here in Brooklyn!

–Jared

Resources:

“Knit, Purl, Sow” was on view in the Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery from October 1, 2013 through January 22, 2014.

The Wall Street Journal featured this article about the show in January 2014. 

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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!