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.

Today, guest author Sarah Pope shares some special tips on making the most of knitting for little ones – we hope you enjoy!

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Reveling in the delights of the new BT Kids’ collection, my mind went right to casting on—Berenice for my daughter in Blanket Fort or Postcard! Arlo in Hayloft or Button Jar for my son!—I expect many of us dove straight into fantasies of seeing our own little ones at play in those beautiful garments. Some of us may even have experienced an alarming itch to produce or “borrow” a child just for the pleasure of knitting these designs. But even though I have a pair of recipients at the ready, I’m going to take a moment for some savvy planning, because knitting for kids is an investment of time and capital and also something of a gamble.

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Saavy Knitting for Kids

 

Children are notoriously fickle giftees. The garment may be too hot. It may be too scratchy. It may be the wrong color—some kids let their favorites box the compass, while others remain faithful to purple or green for years at a time. The older they get, the more many children tend to fall in line with trends amongst peer groups. A child’s willingness to wear handknits may be utterly squelched for a few years if popular fashions have strayed in another direction.

The fact is, gifting a handmade item always means letting it go. It may be cherished or abandoned to the thrift shop. You’ve had the pleasure of the crafting it; this must be enough. But there are some clever moves you can make to position your handknits for a happy ending.

The best tactic I know is to involve the child herself in the planning and execution of the knitting. Let her hold the hank of yarn to her neck and judge the itch factor. A worsted-weight sweater may simply prove too warm for an active child in a temperate climate, so talk with her about the garments she likes to wear and make notes on their properties. She’ll probably be frank about style preferences.

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Savvy Knitting for Kids

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You’ll need to accept that a kid may not want to wear what you’d most like to knit. If your youngster lives in hooded sweatshirts, you’ll probably have to make him a plain zippered cardigan with a hood. It may bore you to tears, and your reward will be to see it dropped at the muddy sideline of the soccer pitch. But if your sweater receives this shockingly offhand treatment, you can pat yourself on the back. It has passed muster; the child has adopted it into his wardrobe and made it his own.

If the child is close by and old enough to learn, why not let him actually knit on his sweater during a plain stockinette section? Most children become deeply invested in things they’ve had a hand in making and will be proud to point to their wool-clad tummies and announce, “I knitted this part right here.” If they’re too young to knit, let them help wind the yarn, or give them a none-too-precious ball from your stash and some blunt needles to stab at it as they make believe they’re knitting alongside you.

Knitting for children—like pretty much every other aspect of life with them—involves ceding a certain amount of creative control. That can be hard for those of us with strong creative visions. (If I can’t sell my almost-four-year-old on the idea of Berenice, I’m just going to quietly cast it on for myself, in Shelter rather than Loft.) But seeing what strikes her in the collection, watching her form her own taste, is part of the fun of knitting for her. If I can produce something she really loves, my happy ending will be to listen to her bragging at preschool, “My mama made this for me!”

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

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

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

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

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

– Jared

School’s out in North America, and for many families that means a long summer stretches clear to the horizon. Summer can be languid or packed with adventure, but even for those of us grown-ups who still have to work, the pace usually feels gentler and more elastic this season. With any luck it’s even punctuated by vacations and free time to cast on new projects. We always like to release a design series in June to give you some fresh ideas for your summer knitting as you take advantage of a “lazier” timeline.

Knitters have been asking me for years if Brooklyn Tweed would ever do a children’s collection. Kids’ garments can be especially satisfying knitting, accomplished with small quantities of yarn and in less time, but with all the pleasurable details of adult-size projects. They make great gift knitting. And who can resist the aesthetic double whammy of a beautiful handknit sweater on a cute child?

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BT Kids // Lookbook

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Today I’m excited to answer a resounding yes(!) with the release of the first ever BT collection for kids. Our design team has spent just under a year planning and knitting the samples for this collection, so it feels especially gratifying to see things going public this morning.

We began with the notion of drawing on iconic knitwear from around the globe, styled for modern kids in the city or the country. Inspired by the Icelandic lopapeysa, Scandinavian stranded colorwork with steeks, cabled fishermen’s sweaters, delicate vintage cardigans of lace and cables, and more, we started sketching and swatching. We even added nods to classic stuffed toys and to the current intarsia animal trend as well.

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Berenice | Magnus | Atlas

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Our hope is that there is something for every knitter in this collection—sweaters worked in the round, sweaters worked in pieces and sewn together, hybrids of the two, innovative shoulder shaping, cables, lace, stranded colorwork, intarsia colorwork, home accent pieces, blankets, accessories, even hats sized up to adult dimensions if you don’t have any children to knit for. (We think you might even be tempted to scale up some of the designs for yourself, too!)

Essentially, we can’t wait to see what you all do with BT Kids.

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Bairn | Humphrey | Spore

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The garments in the collection are sized for young ones aged two to ten years. The new lookbook pairs each pattern with descriptive text that calls attention to construction details you might wonder about or possibilities that might get your creative gears spinning. You’ll also find some advice on choosing sizes and musings on the potency of crafting for your family from our house writer.

In the next few weeks we’ll use our social media avenues to visit clusters of designs from the collection—those with cables, those with colorwork, etc.—for a closer look, as well as delve into some of the practical aspects of knitting for children.

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Our whole team is excited about this new dimension for Brooklyn Tweed, and we hope you’ll thoroughly enjoy leafing through the lookbook.

Happy summer!
– Jared

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Resources: The BT Kids 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.

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

YH: Hi Jared – thank you for inviting me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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JF: Welcome back, Gudrun! Thanks for joining me again on the blog to talk shop! (I interviewed Gudrun in November about her “Little Wave” cardigan included in Wool People 6)

GJ: Hi Jared, great to be back!

JF: You have become somewhat of a Wool People regular and knitters respond so positively to your designs. I think they are such a great balance of design, process and wearability – a great combination for hand knitters! Aside from the overall appearance of the finished piece, what other things do you think about before you begin crafting a knitting pattern?

GJ: Well I often try to think of a way to include some of my Shetland background. More often than not this is a starting point. Sometimes it’s a particular colour that calls out to me too. In this case I may quite quickly know what I want it to become.

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JF: Your newest design for us is the Halligarth Shawl – and we can clearly see your signature Shetland-inspired style shining through. Where did the inspiration for this design begin?

GJ: As you know I like to use traditional Shetland Shawl constructions and also play around with them. For Halligarth I wanted to try the same method used at the initial shaping of the center triangle (with the yarn overs to increase sts) but instead of a plain center I chose to use a lace tree motif. I was drawn to this pattern for its nicely-defined lines and its ability to play nicely with my stitch counts!

JF: You often name your patterns after places in Shetland, or words from Shetland dialect. What is Halligarth’s namesake?

GJ: Halligarth is a woodland (and house) in Unst, Shetland that was planted by a naturalist, Dr Laurence Edmonston, in the early 1800′s. Due to using a tree motif in the design it seemed a good choice! My other connection to it is that my father wrote a book about the Edmonston family!

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JF: One of my favorite parts about this design is the construction method. I love the idea that the entire “field” of lace trees grows from a single stitch. Can you explain the overall architecture of the piece to our readers?

GJ: Indeed it begins with just one stitch! As with traditional Shetland Shawl constructions, the triangle shape grows by creating a yarnover at the beginning of every row and the lace pattern is incorporated as the stitch count grows. Once the center triangle is at its desired width you pick up the yarnovers down either side of the triangle, and in the case of Halligarth I chose to skip the border section and instead worked a knitted-on edging directly on to the center triangle. I also keep the top side of the triangle as live stitches that you return to once the edging is complete. These stitches, along with a few picked up stitches from the edging, are then worked for a few rows of garter stitch before binding off. The entire thing is completely seamless!

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JF: Projects like this really get me itching to cast on a new project. This seems like one of those projects that seems to knit itself, and leaves you wanting to try another in an alternate color or size. 

GJ: Well that’s definitely a good thing! I love seeing how different a piece can look in another color.

JF: I’m sure knitters will love knitting this – thanks again for another great design (and for sharing a bit more about the process today).

GJ: Always a pleasure!

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JF: Hello, Joji! Welcome and thanks for joining me this morning from Argentina!

JL: Hello Jared, it is an honor, thank you for having me!

JF: This was my first time working with you and it’s been such a pleasure. You started self-publishing knitting patterns in 2008 and have been quite active as a designer on Ravelry since then. Can you tell us a little bit about your history with knitting and designing?

JL: I got really hooked with knitting when I was in my mid-twenties… At that time I was improvising my projects with the help of my mother, trying to copy things that I had seen in magazines or movies. Being an Argentine knitter, we did not have access to beautiful pattern books, or special yarns, so we were making the best with what we had, until the internet arrived and knitting blogs and groups became popular here too.

I think that in a way, learning to knit like that helped me to be free. I was never afraid of working with a different gauge, or type of yarn, or to modify patterns to my taste.

However, publishing my own patterns was something that I would have never dreamt of doing. I think it was quite unexpected. My first published pattern was a tiny cardigan I made for one of my boys while I was pregnant. I published it just for the fun of it, but I never thought people would actually knit it! I guess that’s when I learned what a big world of knitters we really are.

Since then, all I can say is that I have been having more fun than I could ever have imagined.

JF: I notice that trend over and over in our industry – many now-established designers started off on the fringes of knitting, either not having access to patterns, or proper instructional materials, but making it work for themselves only to find later that they had gained invaluable skills later on. For me, it was similar – when I started knitting I couldn’t find any mens patterns that I really wanted to make, so I just started figuring out how to carve my own way. 

I think for a lot of designers, once they get the taste for that creative independence, it’s hard to go back to following someone else’s instructions. 

JL: Absolutely!  But it is always a good thing to go back to someone else’s pattern every now and then.  It helps you see things from different perspectives…

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JF: Your design work seems to favor clean and simple silhouettes with a modern feel. How would you explain your personal design aesthetic?

JL: Thank you! I think I am still trying to find a personal aesthetic. I struggle with two different trends when I design: On one hand I love minimalism and classic lines. I don’t think there’s anything more chic than an elegant woman dressed in the simplest clothes.

On the other hand, the fun about knitting is showing off your skills and techniques. So things are always more exciting when you work with a beautiful yarn that has a story to tell (a striking color or texture), when you add an edgy stitch pattern, or a cool construction.

I guess that my designs still reflect a mix between these two: the minimalist chic woman and the always curious crafter.

JF: Seacoast is a great example of your clean, minimal leanings – where did your inspiration and ideas for this design come from?

JL: When I closed my eyes and tried to find inspiration for a design for this collection, all the images that came to my mind were about a girl walking on the beach. The breeze moving the tips of her hair, bare feet, relaxed… I imagined her reaching for her dearest clothes before going out: some comfortable trousers and her favorite basic sweater.

I wanted to create a pullover that was very simple, but that still had a few secrets in its construction.

JF: Can you tell us a little bit about how the garment is put together?

JL: Seacoast is a classic sweater with a circular yoke, but new stitches are added to the yoke as you work, creating a series of vertical columns of slipped stitches. As I was working on it, I couldn’t help notice that these lines reminded me of those found in little shells in the sand. I guess it was all about the beach and the sea after all…

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JF: The sweater is worked from the top down as well. What made you decide to work the garment in this direction?

JL: I think there is a big part of the knitting community who have opted to work their sweaters always this way, and I think I have been very influenced by this preference.   I enjoy any kind of construction: bottom-up, top-down, seamed and seamless.  They all have their pros and cons.

But the great thing about top-down construction is the possibility of trying on the garment as you work on it from the very first stages.  You can decide whether you like the fit, whether the size you chose is the right one for you.  In this particular design, with its relaxed fit, I think it’s great that you can choose to make longer/shorter body or sleeves just by knitting to the desired length, without any alterations of the pattern.

JF: You said you started with a visual of a woman on the seashore. Do you use these types of visual stories a lot at the beginning of your design process?

JL:  Yes, almost every time.  I didn’t notice I worked this way at first, so it was rather unintentional.  Now I try to always make a visual image of who is wearing the garment, what other clothes he/she is wearing, where he/she is…  I find that the designs I love the most are the ones where the garment really is the way I pictured in this first image.

JF: It’s always so interesting hearing how different people work through the process of design. Thanks for sharing a little bit about your method of working with us today, Joji!

JL: Thank you so much, Jared, for this lovely interview!  It’s been an honor to be part of Wool People for the first time.

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JF: Welcome, Ann! Thanks for joining me today. 

AM:  Happy to do so!  Thanks for having me, Jared.

JF: You came to knitwear design from the world of dance and performing arts – can you talk a bit about that transition? 

AM:  I very much needed knitting in order to be a better dancer!  I re-discovered knitting (from childhood) on my first European tour.  The plane landed in Denmark and there was public knitting everywhere.  I started buying yarn and needles immediately.

There’s a lot of waiting in the performing arts – while traveling, during technical rehearsals, working with live musicians, etc.  Knitting eliminates waiting.  The small, subtle, intrinsic movement of knitting balanced the large, exaggerated, extrinsic movement of dance.  When I was performing, I knit other people’s designs, but I wasn’t always pleased with the final results.  As I shifted out of performing into teaching dance and other movement forms, space and time opened and I began to see that knitting was becoming the current creative outlet in which I could create my own designs for the results that I preferred.

JF: Do you feel like your experience as a dancer informs decisions you make when designing for women? 

AM: Elements that overlap between knitwear designs and dance are abundant for me.  The list includes shape, line, proportion, balance, form, theme and variations, composition, repetition, alignment, order, rhythm, spatial relationships and more.

JF: Sounds like no shortage of crossover there! I think musicians, too, could understand this type of intersection. 

AM: Yes! The significance of the arts and the art experience cannot be overstated.  The ancient Greeks even recognized the arts as a cure for depression.

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JF: One of the reasons I love working with you is your superior attention to detail and your beautiful execution of your garments. Are you self-taught as a designer or did you have formal training? 

AM:  Thank you, Jared, that’s quite a compliment coming from you!  I discovered in the dance world that attention to detail made a huge difference.  It’s really where nuance and style come from.  I think execution is best served by being as meticulous as possible.  I’m fond of saying lots of small details add up to make a big cumulative difference.  Detail and execution are honed the more we look at our knitting.  The more we look at our knitting the more we ‘see’ and are better able to ‘read’ our knitting.

I am primarily self-taught.  If I didn’t know how to do something, I would reference a knitting book or a knitting friend who did production knitting.

JF: Did you learn from knitting patterns designed by others as well?

AM: I always viewed knitting someone else’s design as taking a class.

JF: I know from working with you on several collections (this is your 5th design for Wool People) that you love swatching, and that you spend a lot of time really developing your hand knitted fabrics. How would you describe your design process when you are composing a new idea? 

AM:  For me, when we talk about the design process, we are talking about the creative process.  My experience is that the creative process can be a highly variable experience each time it occurs.  The one constant is that to initiate that process I have to allow myself the time to be in a very still and quiet space, and allow myself to observe what ideas are floating around in my thoughts.

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JF: That resonates a lot with my process as well – the need for a quiet, peaceful space to allow your mind to wander and pursue ideas that, when in a rush, you might not give yourself time for.

AM: Best case scenario is I visualize an entire sweater design in a flash.  Some designs start with a very clear visual image resulting in a smaller swatch.  Some take much longer to develop and on a few occasions, I have ended up with a swatch long enough to be a scarf, only it’s not a very pretty swatch.  It’s a jumble of different stitch patterns combined in different ways until I really start to like what I see.  It comes back to the visual, but I’m also not beyond asking my knitting what it wants to be.

JF: It’s a very fluid process at that point – adding things, taking them away, letting previously disparate ideas come together to create new solutions – and I think working in this way puts someone in the right “receiving” place for revelation. 

AM: Exactly, I think to design one has to love the process and maintain an openness within that process.  It’s always exciting to ‘stumble’ into a design direction that is unexpected.

JF: Arabella is a fun and unexpected shape. How and when was the seed for this design planted in your mind?

AM: Well, you know that the weight and drape of your Loft is irresistible.  It is such a lovely weight to wear year round.  It’s significant to match what a yarn will do with a design.  I had other ideas going for Wool People 7 until I happened to go shopping.  I was actually trying on clothes in a shop and the idea for Arabella spun off of combining elements from a few different garments coupled with some of my own preferences.

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JF: It’s a very flattering piece – with a fitted upper yoke/sleeve and a flowing A-line lower body.

AM: I like that it is a design that works well for different body types.  I always wear a garment at least for a day before I send it off, sort of like test driving it to see how it’s working.  When I test drove Arabella, it very much felt like a garment that is fun to wear.  It made me want to move and watch the way the fabric could swing and swirl.  We could have spelled it Air-abella!

JF: I had to laugh at our shoot – both of our models independently did twirls when they put it on – I told them both that the designer was a dancer! 

AM: I’m delighted that it makes the wearer want to move which is even more than I had set out to accomplish!

JF: Ann – this has been a pleasure! I’ve loved hearing about your thoughtful and detailed process. Take care and best of luck with your upcoming endeavors!

AM: Always a pleasure to interact with you, Jared!  Your inspiration spills over all of us in the knitting world.

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