Archives for category: Cables

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!

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Today we’re talking about Ondawa, Michele Wang’s architectural cropped pullover from BT Fall 14. This piece is a wonderful mix of modern and traditional – with luscious stitch motifs adorning a clean, contemporary silhouette. Michele adopted panels of travelling twisted stitches and strongly linear cables found in some Aran-style sweaters and applied them all over her design to create a fabric that wants to move and fold. Even though the garment is cropped, the thoughtful arrangement of motifs and all those slanting lines draw the eye vertically and create lengthening, flattering shapes on the body.

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Love the sweater but not the length? Here are some suggestions for making the garment work for you:

We know cropped sweaters aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. You may feel more comfortable in a garment that reaches your high hip or even hangs to tunic length. But because the shapes are so simple, it’s very easy to lengthen Ondawa for a more traditional silhouette. A wide Bateau type garment is a simple rectangle – one of the easiest shapes to modify.

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After the ribbing of the front and back are complete and the cables are established, you’d simply work from the charts to a few inches shorter than your ideal total length and then finish off the piece with 1×1 twisted rib (worked at the top of the Body pieces) as indicated by the pattern. Ondawa’s geometric composition of two rectangles and a pair of trapezoids means you have great latitude in customizing the fit to your own dimensions, too. Since the width of the boatneck is determined by your seaming, you can adjust the way the garment sits on your shoulders after the knitting is complete. You can also easily mix and match torso and sleeve sizes to get a comfortable fit everywhere. Measure your arm circumference at the biceps to determine which size sleeve will give you a slender fit that’s not too restricting.

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Ondawa

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A word of caution, though: twisted ribs, cable motifs and wide shapes consume more yarn than the average sweater, so if you’re planning to lengthen Ondawa, make sure to plan on having plenty of extra yardage on hand!

We can’t wait to see how you’ll fit Ondawa into your winter wardrobe. There are already some beautiful interpretations taking shape on Ravelry!

[Read more about all the specifics of this pattern on Ondawa's information page!]

I wanted to take some time today to share a bit about Hawser – one of my new designs in BT Fall 14. When I first started working on this garment, I hoped to adapt some of the qualities found in traditional fisherman sweaters into a more modern and flattering wardrobe item for women.

Sometimes design ideas behave really well – doing exactly what you think they’ll do from concept to execution – while other times, it’s more like a wrestling match. Hawser was one of those, and went through a few different iterations on its journey. Perhaps sharing some info about the design’s evolution will give you some modification ideas of your own!

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Hawser

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An A-line silhouette is one of my favorite sweater shapes, especially for cozy, knock-around, fall and winter garments, so that’s where I began. The super-sized rope cables are quite large (A “hawser” is a thick rope or cable used for mooring or towing a ship, and is derived from the French word haucier – “to hoist”) and needed to be handled carefully to avoid overwhelming the wearer. I started with 4 – which immediately looked like too much, so took one out and went for a 3-cable arrangement. I originally drafted the garment with a traditional set-in sleeve yoke placing the two outer cables flush against the armholes. It turned out to be an unflattering, bulky fit at the shoulder, and looked to me like an awkward meeting of sleeve and body. So that idea was out. I wasn’t necessarily feeling like a raglan or round yoke would work here either, so took some time to chew on other ideas for a few days (giving an idea time to marinate is essential for me to find solutions to design problems, I’ve learned).

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To leave some extra room for the allover double moss stitch at the shoulder (rather than having the cable fall right on the seam line) – a drop shoulder seemed like a viable option, though I wanted to avoid the bulk of extra fabric at the underarm that a traditional drop shoulder provides. To make the upper yoke more fitted, I gave the shoulder line a more dramatic slope and added an outward-leaning slope on the armhole edge; with this new shape, the sleeve would join the body well below the shoulder, all the while avoiding an excess fabric problem of a standard drop shoulder. Things started feeling better at this point!

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The change for a (modified) drop-shoulder combined with the A-line shape threatened to created an overly boxy garment, so adding a slim sleeve that fits directly into the armhole seemed like an appropriate final touch for the fit. A bonus of having a sloped armhole opening also meant that no sleeve cap shaping would be required – the sleeve couldn’t be simpler! The results still hint at that boxy look, but with a more anatomically friendly silhouette. The final shape also allows the double moss stitch to go over the shoulder (see the photo #2 above), which kept that area of the garment from becoming a visual eyesore like it was in the original. The schematic below shows the final shape (and knitting direction) of the garment – which is worked circularly from hem to underarm with the front and back of the yoke worked flat; sleeves are worked circularly in their entirety.

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Aside from shape and fit (the foundation of every garment) – you know I love the subtle details! There are a few little things stashed away in this design that I thought I’d highlight, as they’re sometimes less apparent in photographs. There is continuation of the 1×1 hem ribbing running up along the sweater’s side “seams” in a band, creating a visual detail that also hide the garment’s A-Line shaping (double moss stitch can start looking a little messy when shaping is worked directly into the stitch pattern). You can get a little peek of that in photo #1 above – look just below the the lower portion of the left arm. The large cable crosses – occurring over a total of 17 stitches – utilize a special yarn over technique on crossing rounds to provide a little extra slack for the working yarn as it carries across the wide cable; this keeps the finished cable from distorting or buckling. Finally, a doubled collar (knit to twice the desired depth then folded in and tacked down to the inside of the garment) gives a sturdy finish to the wide crew neck and balances out some of the bolder effects of the deep hem and large vertical motifs.

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Hawser Design Swatch

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Here is a photo of one of my first swatches for the design, hanging out under another design swatch (this one didn’t make it into the final collection, but I have plans for her still!).

All in all, it was a fun process from start to finish. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this sweater’s journey, and I can’t wait to see what sort of variations start popping up out in the world!

Thanks for reading and all my best,

Jared

 

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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JF: Hi Olga! Thanks for joining me today – glad to have you!

OBK: Hi Jared! I am really excited to join you and thank you so much for having me!

JF: You are well revered in our industry as an innovative designer with a signature style. Everyone knows when they are looking at “an Olga”, which I think is a great testament to both your vision and your skill. Can you tell us a little bit about your regular sources of inspiration?

OBK: First of all, thank you! These kind of statements always baffle me when I hear them from others, especially from well-established designers like yourself. I truly admire your meticulous work and your genius behind the BT brand.

Throughout the years I think I have found better ways of collecting and recording the inspiration sources via various means of modern technology, but I think a lot of my inspiration has to deal with my thought process. Being a highly observant person I see inspiration all around me, from the most mundane objects of every day life – tile patterning on the floor or the texture of a paper napkin – to other design cross-disciplines like architecture and industrial design.

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Travel is also hugely inspirational. I like to think when we travel away from our regular environment our minds are more receptive to new information and new inspiration. This was the case for me when I moved to Japan over 4 years ago. Though every city is different, Japan filled me with so much inspiration, almost to the point of oversaturation. Their different “non-western” way of thinking had a profound impact on me and gave my mind a staggering wealth of ideas, which is proving well for filling my notebooks, even years later.

JF: As a designer, I often think about the balance between concept and utility – the purity of the idea and how it will translate into everyday use as clothing. Your work plays with geometry, architecture and form – how do you approach the conceptual side of your work in reference to the end user, or in our case, the finished pattern? 

OBK: That is a really great question! I know we all have our own methods, but the way this process works for me is a bit backwards. Since a lot of my inspiration comes not from clothing or knitwear related areas, I usually start with the (often seemingly unrelated) source. The first step is to attempt to find or design from scratch a stitch pattern that resembles the actual inspiration in the most accurate and interesting way. This process probably takes the longest, at times even years and at least a dozen swatches. Some ideas work out, some don’t, some need more time to sit in my ideas bank or binder until I can look at it with a different set of mind.

JF: This all sounds so similar to my own process. Sometimes the best ideas have been sitting on your side table for months (or even years) and they all of a sudden seem new and exciting again.

OBK: You never know when you will get the right one. Call this the puzzle game I love solving (when I can). Once I am happy with the swatch, I think of the yarn and what fibers it needs to contain and what color and dye technique used for the pattern to complement each other. Only then do I start thinking of what this newly created fabric is going to be – an accessory or a garment or something else.

The planning for the actual item is the second biggest and time-consuming stage because there is a list of pro and cons for a certain design to veto. Maybe I take this part a bit too seriously, but the blueprint is such an important element. And the closer I get to finalizing the construction is when I start getting ideas for perfecting finishing details.

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JF: What are you general thoughts about finishing?

OBK: I don’t like to over-complicate construction; if there is a certain technique I use here or there, it always has a list of reasons backing it up. I also love using techniques that can educate knitters; if you can learn a new technique from a pattern that is such an added value.

It turns out that, within the entire design process, knitting takes me the least time!

JF: I think that says so much about you as a designer, and is one of the reasons your work really stands out!

After the design is formed – then comes the pattern writing. How do you approach that?

OBK: The pattern writing is an entirely different dimension. I think every knitwear designer should be commended on their pattern-writing skills as it’s another facet to the job, as it is a mixture of creative and technical writing that needs to stay laconic yet clear.

JF: I completely agree – talk about double duty!

OBK: It has taken me years and yet still my patterning process is evolving as I learn new ways to perfect my writing (English is my second language, so that is a factor as well).

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JF: Coda” is such a cool pullover. I love that it looks like a classic raglan when seen from the front, and the arched yoke at the back gives you such a surprise when it is revealed. How and when was the seed for this design planted?

OBK: Ever since I saw the emerging trend for convertible clothing items several years back, it has been my goal to create more knitwear transformable garments when possible, or, as I call them, transforms. Versatility is the drive behind all of those for me. It covers a lot of present-day aspects – from downsizing one’s wardrobe to fewer but functional pieces, helping to reduce the need for more clothing, thus becoming environmentally conscious. And, since living in the Internet age we have less time to spend crafting, I think when you can style your finished knitted garment more than one way is a bonus. Same way “Coda” has emerged. The idea for front and back being interchangeable is what started this “Coda” puzzle. I love using Shelter, for it gives great stitch definition for cables. I was aiming for a minimalistic-style pullover with delicate cabled trim, the purpose of which was to accentuate the actual lines of the construction. Since this time it was a construction puzzle, I spent days agonizing about the best possible way of making it work. I believe I have gone through three possibilities, but the one that was actually used came to me almost in a dream. You know how they speak of the cusp of almost falling asleep but not dreaming yet? Afraid of sounding a bit like a cliche, but upon releasing the grip on my mind it sprung back with this idea of literal puzzle. So relinquishing control worked out great in this case. “Coda” consists of only two pieces that merge just like two pieces of a puzzle and connect with one continuous seam.

JF: The sweater is reversible, too! Do you have a preference for which direction it is worn? 

OBK: I really love how you photographed Coda in a way that it is actually a surprise when she turns the back. I like seeing cable-accentuated raglan lines flanked by a tiny bit of the eyelet working almost as vents – it adds texture to the overall look. But having come across so many body types and knowing that some people just can’t wear raglan shaped sweaters and some do, Coda’s reversibility or interchangeability will work just great for that purpose. For example, from personal experience for those of us who are a bit chesty will benefit by wearing raglan as front, but others who have wide shoulders know that raglan only brings attention to that part of their figure, so wearing arched as front will not only take away the unwanted attention from the shoulders, but will visually soften the squareness of the shoulders, as well.

To me, this sweater gives the wearer options that can be chosen on both their needs and likes. That’s my hope, anyway!

JF: It’s always an inspiration working with you – thanks for your time this morning, Olga!

OBK: And it’s always exciting to be part of Wool People and work with such talented people as yourself! Thank you so much for having me over and giving me a chance to share my work and inspiration with your readers.

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JF: Welcome back, 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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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


I love a good cabled scarf in the winter. If I had it my way, I’d wear them year-round, though I no longer live in a climate where that is possible.

Frieze is my newest scarf design from the BT Winter 14 collection. Named for it’s relief-like texture and staggered motifs, the fabric reminded me of the ornate marble friezes I studied as a young art student living in Rome. I remember being drawn to these decorative, patterned entablatures that adorned Roman and Greek temples, with their curved lines and repeating motifs. I was struck by how such delicacy and lightness could be achieved in carvings using a material as unforgiving and solid as marble.

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When I wear scarves, I prefer a bit of volume. When it’s really cold, I like being able to burrow into a scarf, and use it as a sort of face mask to block the windchill when necessary. To me the perfect scarf looks good worn alone (simply, over a shirt, blouse, dress, etc. as shown) or paired with outerwear. The addition of buttons and buttonholes along the top and bottom edges is a fun detail that adds versatility to the item. When buttoned, the scarf becomes a loop that can be worn in multiple ways. By playing around with how many buttons are used, or which button-to-buttonhole pairing you choose, a wide array of styling options becomes available. Why not have a little fun with it?

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Frieze incorporates three large medallion cables – each nested with smaller, wrapped eyelet crosses (commonly seen in Japanese stitch dictionaries) – which are staggered over the length of the piece. Traditional 4-stitch “rope” cables are used as separators between the larger motifs as well as trimming the selvedge edges; these four cables are also mirrored over the center line of the scarf (cable crosses lean away from each other for perfect symmetry).

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In terms of knitting geekery: the reinforced buttonhole method used within the pattern is relatively new to me, and an incredibly exciting technique that I learned from my friend Catherine Lowe. I’ve never seen this method anywhere else before, and am not sure if there is an official name for it. After working the buttonhole bind-off row, the return row has you cast on the number of buttonhole stitches + 4 to a spare DPN (or cable needle), then work the pair of scarf stitches preceding and following the buttonhole together with the first and last two stitches of the cast-on row by way of directional double decreasing. Difficult to summarize here, but not at all difficult to execute, and the results are so worth it! Finished buttonholes remain both flexible and stable (more deftly avoiding the common problem of stretching out of shape after continued use).

It’s a fun knit for cable lovers, and one that I look forward to wearing myself!

– JF

 

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Resources:

The Frieze pattern is available for download at Brooklyn Tweed or on Ravelry. The Shelter yarn used in the photographed sample is available here.

 

 

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.