Archives for category: Collaboration

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!

JF: Good morning, Leila! So good to have you on the “public” side of the blog today, rather than helping me proof my writing behind the scenes at BT! 

LR:  Thanks, Jared! I’m guessing this is what it might feel like when you find yourself on the lens side of the camera. And I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for any typos that have slipped past me.  ;)

JF: Bough is a really sweet hat and cowl set – I started my own Bough hat immediately after you submitted the pattern because I wanted one for myself! I love the mix of traditional motifs with modern shapes and styling – would you say that this mixing of new and old is a steady feature in your work?

LR:  It really is. I can (and will, often) just sit and pore over old knitting books and stitch dictionaries for hours. It’s cliché, but they’re my go-to source of inspiration and I return to them again and again. There’s something to be said for stitch patterns that stand the test of time and can be seen in designs from ten years ago, twenty, and even further back.

JF: I completely agree.

LR: Japanese stitch dictionaries and pattern books are also particularly fascinating, in large part because my favorite authors (Yoko Hatta, Toshiyuki Shimada, Michiyo, to name a few) seem to have as much of an obsession with the classic motifs as I do. And they’re masters at turning stitch patterns we’ve all seen over and over into something completely new.

JF: The Arbor Vitae (Tree of Life) motif is one of my favorite traditional cable motifs – I know you love it too. Was this stitch the “seed” that grew into the rest of the design? Or did you start from a different inspiration point? 

LR:  It was! I’ve come across different variations of it and have been wanting to include it in a design for years. I also wanted to change up the repetitive structure of the traditional motif a little bit —  making the progression slightly less stamp-like over the course of the knitter’s project –  and eventually, many swatches later, ended up with a shapely little tree. I  tend to start with one primary element or idea, and then have a lot of experimentation to figure out how to best support that element. The tricky part is balancing it all without going overboard with too many random details. I’m learning that restraint can make the difference between an okay design and a really strong one.

JF: It’s so true. Bringing an editing eye to your own work is essential. I think when we are creating knitwear by hand, because it takes a significant amount of time and effort, it is easy to try to pack too many ideas or details into a single design.

LR:  Taking a balanced set of motifs from one type of project (a hat) to its complement (a scarf) is an interesting exercise, too. Proportion and scale against the shape and dimensions of the finished piece is an important thing to keep in mind. I cheered when I read your blog post about striving for harmony in the details of your Bray pullover — music to my ears. We could probably talk about this for weeks.

JF: Because I work with you every day, I get the pleasure of witnessing the evolution of your design work in real time. I know you’ll often create prototypes, or multiple versions of something as you work towards a completed idea. Can you talk a little bit about this process? Do you feel that there is a sort of “searching” aspect that you require to bring out your best work?

LR:  Whenever I complete a project I think about all the million different things I’d change about it, if I were to knit it again. Bough started with a hat I made for a gift last year – that one featured the Tree of Life along with a few gansey patterns and small, squiggly cables. Still obsessed with the Tree pattern, I then cast on for a cowl, ditching the gansey and squiggles in favor of simpler seed-stitch columns and framing. I never finished that one, because I started another hat, which eventually became the final version of Bough. After completing the hat I decided to revisit the cowl to see how I could make the trees and cables work in a long, circular loop.

JF: It feels kinda like stumbling down a pathway in the dark, eh? You know you are headed in the right direction, but aren’t sure how many steps it will take to arrive. And once there, it also leaves you wondering “Could I take this further? Should I take it further?”

LR: If I showed you the number of Illustrator files of different chart “mock-ups” I have for this hat, you would probably laugh.

JF: It would be a laugh of solidarity, for sure! 

LR: And there are probably twice as many for the cowl. I’m grateful that we have tools like these at our disposal to help with the design process; otherwise, I’d have a bigger pile of unfinished prototypes than I already have, and meeting deadlines would be much more challenging.

JF: Yes, technology is so incredibly helpful for design. Do you work primarily in Illustrator when developing knitwear? Do you use any other programs?

LR: I have a strong preference for charts over written instructions in a knitting pattern, so Illustrator (which, as you already know, is my default program for creating charts) is always open during development of a design. I’ve also found spreadsheets useful, though I like to keep things on the simpler side—a lot of what I do builds off of pretty basic shapes and construction methods that don’t require a lot of number-crunching. I focus mainly on playing around with stitch patterns and motifs, and what I hope are pleasing combinations. I will sometimes use Photoshop to cobble images of my swatches together to help get a visual for how something would look over a larger area of fabric.

JF: This has been fun – thank you, Leila! 

LR: Thanks so much for sharing your space with me, and for including my design in this volume of Wool People! I hope knitters find their projects enjoyable to make and wear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GJ: My pleasure! It was fun to chat!

It’s hard for me to believe that the calendar is already declaring our arrival at mid-November(!), and even harder still to believe that today we release the 6th volume of patterns in our ongoing Wool People series. These collections are always wrapped in a refreshing spirit of collaboration and mutual excitement from day one, but the best part comes today as we get to watch the new patterns make their way out to all of you knitters.

Our team gets so deeply involved in the process of nurturing design collections onward from start to finish that by the time we launch publicly, it feels almost impossible to see the work with objective, fresh eyes. But watching our friends and followers experience a new collection for the first time always brings back that thrill and enthusiasm that sparked the collection in the first place.

Not only that – I love seeing which patterns people respond to, which details strike your fancy, and best of all, the creative variations on each design that soon start popping up on Ravelry and in the blogosphere.

Wool People 6 is a perfect collection for late fall that focuses on cozy, intuitive-to-work sweaters. This time around, I asked the designers to think especially about the knitting process as they were generating their ideas. I was delighted to see so many submissions that were worked circularly, seamlessly, or both – and the majority of the sweaters in the final collection fall into one of these categories. (For you finishing fiends, we have a couple “assembly required” pieces as well!)

You’ll see a few familiar faces on the designer roster as well as some wonderful new-to-us names, too.

To photograph the collection, the BT creative team and I traveled to the beautiful Shawangunk mountains for a weekend at Losee Cottage in Cragsmoor, New York. With the increased altitude, the colors of the leaves on the timeworn oaks and maples were much further along in their metamorphosis in mid-September than our low-lying city trees were.

The collection look book is now on view below (or page through it here and download a free copy of the hi-resolution PDF to take with you on your device). Be sure to check out our new “Shoot Notes” feature at the end of the book: a photo collage of behind-the-scenes photos that will give you a peek at what shoot days look like “behind the curtain”.

In the coming weeks we’ll have some exciting collection-related content coming your way. On the blog, I’ll be hosting a series of conversations with selected designers from the collection for a more in-depth look at their new work. We’ll also be featuring new photos and notes from the collection on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, too.

There’s always so much packed into a collection, we continue to seek ways in which we can tastefully share as many facets with you as possible.

As always, we hope you enjoy!

All my best,

Jared

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Resources: The Wool People 6 look book 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.

One of my favorite parts about developing yarns is seeing how they inspire other designers – what textures and color combinations other people are inspired by always gets me thinking about the yarns that I use every day in new and different ways. Last year, Stephen West approached me to say he was interested in doing a full design collection using Shelter and Loft – I was flattered, and very excited by the idea of seeing what he would cook up. As we further discussed the project,  we decided we’d also collaborate on a special photoshoot of the finished work the following summer.

Last July, after Stephen had finished designing and knitting his pieces, we met in Iceland for the shoot. It was my first time visiting this beautiful country, and I was completely intoxicated by the dramatic, natural beauty that the country is literally bursting at the seams with. Surrounded by such a visual feast of nature, I barely made it through the exit doors of the airport before my camera was out and firing away.

Stephen has been releasing his designs from this collection over the past few weeks on Ravelry, and I wanted to take a moment to share some of the images from the shoot that I particularly like. Summer light in Iceland (as was the case in Shetland, the year before) is almost too good to be true. Soft, ambient, sometimes dramatic, other times ethereal. Suitable shooting conditions also last about 20 hours a day! It was such a joy to explore and work in this place.

It was amazing to see how the colors of the yarns melded so well with the surrounding colors in the landscape – like the blue-green waves of the ocean on a black sand beach (pictured above). In my mind, mother nature is the very best inspiration for color!

We had fun styling and shooting several of the samples on both the male and female model.

The Hófsos Pullover (also showed at the top of the post on our male model, Diddi) combines large stripes and marl effects in some of my favorite colors of Loft.

Stephen has a great color sense – I loved some of his playful, unexpected combinations, like Nest, Sap, Button Jar and Woodsmoke (in the Kex Scarf, seen below in Shelter).

Looking over these images again has been really enjoyable and reminds me of what a great experience we had there. I often daydream about a return to the Icelandic countryside for future photography work. I’d love to go at a totally different time of year to do some night photography during the “dark season” as well…

All the patterns pictured above are available for purchase here on Ravelry. Each pattern’s page includes extended yardage and color information. Stephen also did a great write-up about our shoot, with several behind-the-scenes pictures that give readers a glimpse of what a shoot looks like on the other side of the camera!

I’m happy to get to share a new design with you that I created earlier this year for Tanis Fiber Arts – the Guernsey Triangle. This pattern is a special design for TFA’s Year In Color Club, and has now been released for that project.

Ever since designing the Guernsey Wrap in 2010, I’ve wanted to work up a triangular companion piece, so when Tanis and I first began discussing this project I thought it was the perfect opportunity.

The task was to create an enjoyable-to-knit and easy-to-wear handknitting design that was suitable for a single skein of yarn – in this case TFA’s Red Label Cashmere Silk Fingering (75 cashmere, 15 merino, 10 silk; 420 yards). Because club members would be getting a limited amount of hand-dyed yarn, I was sure to include detailed swatching instructions in the pattern and accounted for swatching yardage as well, so that no one is left hanging!

The triangular shawl is worked from the top down and features knit-purl patterning from traditional guernsey fisherman sweaters (I never tire of them). The pattern also gives instructions on blocking the finished piece with wires to get the clean, crisp edge that suits the geometric nature of the whole. The slanting ribs of patterning are mirrored over the center spine of the shawl.

Tanis and I collaborated on the development of the custom colorway “Smoke” – a beautiful silvery grey that features the subtlest of variegation in tone. Just enough to attest that the yarn has seen the careful hands of a talented dyer, but not enough to distract or mask the delicate patterning of the fabric. Just right.

Currently the pattern is only available as a club exclusive – click here if you are interested in joining or would like more details – and I will be making the pattern available as a Brooklyn Tweed PDF at the beginning of 2013. So if you’re not a club member but want to knit this, you’ll have access to the pattern at that time.

The wrap is pictured with our Bedford Pullover by Michele Wang – I thought the pieces looked great together. Then again, grey layers are my fashion “happy place”. For those of you wishing to queue the pattern on Ravelry for later, click here.

Hope you enjoy!