Archives for category: Cardigans

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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Since the launch of BT Fall 14, we’ve been getting some great questions streaming in over e-mail and social media. We thought it would be great to present a short Q&A today to answer some of the more common queries we’ve heard so far.

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BT Fall 14 Q&A

 

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The fashion world loves oversized sweaters these days, and we at BT appreciate their coziness (and also the extra large canvas for beautiful handwork). That said, we also know that these garments can be tricky to wear/style for many – so we’re focusing on that topic today (as well as the big question we’ve been getting from our male knitters!)

Q: I like my sweaters to have just a few inches of positive ease, creating a more classic fit. Which of the designs in BT Fall 14 can I knit, and how should I make adjustments if I need to?

A: Spinnaker, Docklight, Backbay, and Crosby are all designed for a standard fit bust circumferences down to 32-35”, which should allow even petite women a slim silhouette. Wake is also intended for 2-4” of ease, though we chose to show it worn with 6” for a more casual effect.

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Classic Fits from BT Fall 14

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Bellows and Zenith are styled in our lookbook with a lot of positive ease—9 or 10”. But again, the smallest sizes given are 35-36”, so even very slender knitters should be able to work up a sweater with a more traditional 4-5” ease. Keep in mind that both designs are intended as outerwear, with room for other layers beneath. If you are knitting a smaller size than is usual for you, consult the schematic closely to determine if you’ll need to add length, particularly in the sleeves.

Only Rowe is really intended for pure oversized drama; the smallest size in the pattern is 40¼” with the fronts touching…but don’t forget to picture those fronts overlapped and snugly bundled around you before you start plotting to scale it down even farther.

Q: I’m curious about oversized sweaters, but I’m not sure they flatter my body. How can I wear them?

A: Whenever you are increasing the scale of one garment, it’s usually a good plan to keep the rest of the outfit slim: pair wide-leg trousers with a tailored sweater or a boxy pullover with skinny jeans. Likewise, choosing a garment with slim sleeves and shoulders that fit you well will help keep a wide silhouette from looking simply baggy. Hawser and Ondawa both use this principle.

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BT Fall Styling Tips

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If you’re petite and large clothes tend to swamp your frame, consider an open-front cardigan like Rowe that can swing to reveal your slender shape within.

A few pitfalls to avoid: A garment that ends at the widest point of your body usually won’t be flattering. If, like many women, your hips are your widest point, make sure the hem falls at your high hip or extends to mid-thigh. Split-hem styles like Crosby may be flattering for you, too.

Q: What, no garments for men in a collection inspired by fisherman sweaters?!

A: Stay tuned – BT Men Volume 2 is in the works! In the meantime, Bellows is handsome for either sex, as are the scarves and hats in the Fall collection. And a variation on Wake could integrate into a contemporary masculine wardrobe with ease.

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We hope you enjoyed today’s Q&A session – please feel free to keep the questions coming. We love hearing from you!

Dear Knitters,

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

Fisherman-inspired knits for Autumn

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

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BT Fall 14

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I can never resist the call to cast on new projects in September, and that’s why I’m excited to share our BT Fall 14 collection today: a whole fleet of garments and accessories inspired by the rich traditions of nautical knitwear. Our design team set out to reinterpret fishermen’s sweaters in ways we hope will surprise and delight you. From cables to geometric textural patterns to brioche, you’ll see classic elements enlivening completely modern shapes. Whether you like your sweaters generous or fitted, A-line or fashionably oversized, you’re likely to find something in the lookbook that will make your needles sing.

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BT Fall 14

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Construction details and design features for each garment are highlighted directly within the new lookbook and give a great at-a-glance summary of what kind of knitting is in store for any given pattern. We’ve also included a new kind of written feature in this lookbook. Shooting the collection in Red Hook, Brooklyn got me thinking about our roots and mission as a company. Rather than just using Red Hook as an evocative backdrop, we felt compelled to share with you something of its history and its present. Feeling the energy that’s being generated there as community leaders try creative solutions to put their town’s unique resources and people back to work inspired all of us. It affirmed my own resolve to grow Brooklyn Tweed in a way that fuels local industry and helps keep American manufacturing traditions alive. I hope you’ll enjoy thinking about that aspect of our craft as you read our Red Hook essay and share your own reactions and ideas with us!

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BT Fall 14

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I’m also looking forward to showing some of our Red Hook footage in a new BT Vignette video next week, and to turning the spotlight on some of the designs in BT Fall 14, so stay tuned for more to come. If there’s a garment you particularly want to see featured, please let us know!

For the moment, I hope you’ve got a few moments to settle in with the lookbook, enjoy the new collection, and dream up possibilities for your own wardrobe.

.Happy fall!

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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

Wee Levenwick

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Every once in a while, a design comes along that becomes an instant classic. It’s the perfect combination of wearability and knit-ability: both effortlessly flattering and at the same time so engaging to knit that you can’t put your needles down. Long-time Brooklyn Tweed collaborator Gudrun Johnston truly has a knack for this fine-tuned balance, and we knew the second we saw Levenwick – her sweater design for our very first Wool People collection – that it was a perfect example.

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We love the combination of classic Old Shale lace with clean, simple reverse stockinette in this sweater, and we’ve loved seeing the more than a thousand projects on Ravelry (!!) come off the needles over the last few years.  So when Gudrun approached us about adding a version for the wee ones in your life, we thought it was a brilliant idea!

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We’re happy to announce that Wee Levenwick, sized for children (ages 2-10 years), is now available through for download at Brooklyn Tweed as well as on Ravelry. We can’t wait to see all the adorable, pint-sized variations to come!

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Resources:

The Wee Levenwick pattern can be found on BrooklynTweed.com or Ravelry.com. Shelter yarn for this project is available for purchase online here.

Photos of Wee Levenwick in this post have been graciously provided by Gudrun Johnston/The Shetland Trader.

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!

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!