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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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JF: Hi Carol! Thanks for joining us from Ireland!

CF: Delighted to be here, it’s always so much fun to be part of Wool People.

JF: You began self publishing your own designs in 2007 and have amassed an impressive amount of design work in the 5 years to follow. Can you tell us a little more about what your day-to-day process looks like as an independent designer?

CF: My day is divided between designing and parenting. After dropping kids to school I start my workday at home with my mornings devoted to design work and social media. It’s hard to get a balance between the two; marketing and design occupy very different headspaces so I’ll often need a walk with the dog to switch gears. I usually don’t have time to knit in the mornings, that comes later in the day. My afternoons are filled with children’s activities. With 4 boys who are involved in more things than I can list there are some days that I could spend 3-4 hours driving in circles. Fortunately knitting is portable so an hour waiting in one place is a luxury!

Once the driving is over and the youngest in bed I get to have my knitting time. I’ve got a spot on the corner of the sofa that’s got all my projects lined up in different bags and a pile of stitch dictionaries on the coffee table that are threatening to tumble.  I knit almost all of my own samples (unless I’m very short of time) as I find that some of the best design ideas happen on the needles. Watching your work as you knit allows you to modify a good idea and turn it into a great one.

JF: I agree – it seems that the best design revelations happen when your ideas are taking shape in your hands.  

 Producing the amount of work you do while also mothering 4 boys is amazingly impressive! I would imagine you must be pretty organized to pull it off. How important is organization in your work, and can you share any tips for keeping on track and getting things done?

CF: Organization is very important to me, Im a big list maker! Before I finish at my desk each day I try to create a new to-do list for myself for the next day so that I can jump right into work rather than trying to remember where I was. This also helps with time management as my time is often broken up into small chunks; if I know I’ll be waiting in my car for an hour I’ll check my to-do list for a portable job that can be done in that length of time. It does mean that I’ve got overflowing lists everywhere, my desk, phone and even random notebooks in my handbag. I also try to break down my design work into all the steps that have to be done; so I’ll start with swatch/sketch, then move on to sizing and the basic pattern. Once that’s done I’ll knit the sample, rewriting the pattern as necessary. Finally, after blocking gauge is double-checked I finalize the pattern and draw the schematic. Each of these steps is written down and crossed out when done. This is extra important when working on a book so you can see at a glance if some step has been forgotten.

This organization doesn’t always come naturally to me. My desk is a towering mountain of paper and yarn and I eventually gave in this year and got some help with cleaning. I’ve come to accept that there are so many hours in the day and there is physically no way to do everything so you need to prioritize and get help when necessary.

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JF: How has your work changed since you began pursuing this career? What lessons have you learned that you might like to share with younger designers who are just starting out?

CF: I think my basic design aesthetic hasn’t changed dramatically over the years, although I am finding myself drawn increasingly to cleaner lines with interesting construction methods.

JF: (That certainly shows in your newest Wool People design.)

CF: The art of pattern writing is learned by trial and error. When I began designing there were sometimes ideas I had to abandon, as I didn’t yet have the pattern writing skills to write them as a multi-sized garment. This is something important to realize as a new designer, it takes a whole lot of practice! This means writing and re-writing patterns frequently.

Tech Editors are fantastic; they can really help you improve your pattern writing. Test knitters can also help in this, when a knitter is giving you feedback as they work through your pattern you see it through another persons eyes. So it is a constant process of evolution, learning from past mistakes and figuring out better (and clearer) ways to write.

JF: I definitely agree – whether it’s a tech editor, or a test knitter, once you are far enough along in the process you need a few pairs of fresh eyes to look at the work and give you feedback. After writing (and especially grading) a pattern, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees, as the saying goes.

CF: Writing for different publications helps with this as well. Every publication has a different style guide that you need to work with. While it’s time consuming it can also be a learning process, potentially improving your own self-published style guide.

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JF: Pente” is your third contribution to our Wool People series (Hathaway from Wool People 4 was your first, and Carpino from Wool People 6 your second, last Fall) and everyone here really loves this cardigan. Where did your inspiration come from for Pente?

CF: Over the past year I’ve been fascinated with biased fabric. It started with Vertex Cardigan for Interweave last Spring. The increase line at the center of the back creates an arrow effect with the lightly variegated yarn but I wanted to explore it further. The next biased garment I did last summer was Nishibi which used a biased central panel in ribbing that created a diagonal effect again with just increases and decreases. The idea for Pente came after that; I wanted to create a dramatic front drape on a cardigan primarily using biasing.

JF: The construction of the garment also makes this cardigan special – I love that you chose to use a subtle striping sequence to highlight the directionality of the fabric.

CF: The subtle color striping in the fabric really helps to emphasis how the direction of the fabric shifts from front to back; it makes it easy to see how the use of increasing and decreasing dramatically shapes the fabric.

JF: Can you give our readers a brief explanation of the overall garment construction? 

CF: I love seamless designs; to me they really utilize the flexibility of knitted fabric. This design is worked seamlessly in one piece from the bottom up. It starts with a clean turned hem at the bottom, which allows us to echo the stripe color. From here the front panels (which are extra wide to allow a flowing front drape), are biased using increases and decreases along the side seams. The stripe sequence is worked in subtle colors which make it quite understated. It would be very easy, though, to change the colors used for a more dramatic effect, even blending from one color on the bottom to a different one on the top for an ombre effect.

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JF: (That would be a beautiful variation!)

CF: Once the body is complete the front and back of the yoke are worked separately. I’ve used short rows to create shaping for the sleeves, so that both the cuff and top of shoulder fit well. Short rows are also worked along the front so that the biasing doesn’t impact the fit at the top of the front.

Finally this cardigan is finished using a Joinery Bind Off across the top of the shoulder in the contrasting color. I love the crisp clean line it gives that really feels like it finishes the garment off perfectly.

JF: It’s very smart and well thought out – in my mind, that is always the mark of good design – bravo! 

What is next for you? Any future projects you can share with us?

CF: Ive just recently signed a contract with Potter Craft for a new book that will be released in Fall 2015. The complete book is due in August this year so I’m very busy right now! I’m so excited to see this project in its finished form; it’s a topic I’m very passionate about and it should make a great book.

In a shorter time scale, I’m also getting ready for a Summer KAL with Briar Rose Fibers. I did a KAL with Chris in the Fall of 2012 and she was just lovely to work with so I’m really looking forward to the KAL. Now I just need to get time to write the clues between book projects!

JF: Sounds exciting – best of luck with your upcoming projects and thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today!

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It feels like spring has been such a long time coming here in the Northeast. Late April has finally begun rewarding us with warmer, lighter days as the long winter fades to memory. With a backdrop of blossoming trees and soft white flowers, we bring you the seventh volume in our ongoing Wool People guest designer series – a collection that was very much inspired by the color and light of spring.

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Wool People 7 lookbook

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My knitting friends know that I am somewhat of a hoarder of Japanese knitting books – I love their light, airy aesthetic and their precise visual approach to pattern writing. This clean, spare aesthetic has an essential quality to it that I love. My bookshelves are overrun with titles whose names I can’t even read – books I’ve collected over the years spent hidden among the quiet shelves at Kinokuniya.

These beautiful books from Japan served as the primary source of inspiration for Wool People 7  – with designers from 4 continents responding to our submission call for garments and accessories that are beautiful in their simplicity.

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This collection’s lookbook includes the addition of descriptive texts within the spreads that we hope share more about what lies “under the hood” of each pattern. We make an effort to pack as much value into your patterns as possible and know that sometimes not all of the details are apparent from photography alone. I hope that these additional descriptions will enhance your viewing experience and better inform you about which projects would give you the most satisfaction.

.Seacoast // Yane

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Over the coming weeks we’ll be introducing specific designs from the collection in more detail on our social media channels. I will also be conducting a series of interviews with seven of the collection’s contributing designers here on the blog (starting next week), which I’m very excited about.

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Vector // Merle

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For now, please enjoy paging through our newest lookbook – I hope you find something that you love!

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Resources: The Wool People 7 lookbook is now available for viewing on our website here, or download the free PDF for viewing on your tablet or device.

Each pattern in the collection is available for instant download here, or on Ravelry.com. Brooklyn Tweed yarns used in the collection are available for purchase online, or at one of our 16 flagship retail locations.

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

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

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

– Jared

Wee Levenwick

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

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

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

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Resources:

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

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

Naming your patterns can be a tricky business – finding just the right word that conveys the mood and feel of your design is a very important part of the design process.

Sometimes when you find the perfect name, you learn later that that same name is already in use elsewhere, and in rare cases has been previously trademarked by another party. We do our best to properly vet all of our pattern names, but once in a blue moon find out that we’ve inadvertently stepped on the toes of another person’s trademarked word.

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Sundottir by Dianna Walla

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So was the case with Dianna Walla’s Skydottir pullover from Wool People 6. Dianna was recently contacted by a business in Seattle who has trademarked the name Skydottir and requested that we change the official name of the pattern. We were happy to oblige.

Dianna has chosen to change the garment name to Sundottir – and as of today we are reflecting this change on our Ravelry listing as well as brooklyntweed.com.

Thanks for listening (internal housekeeping doesn’t always make for the most exciting blog content), and happy weekend to all!

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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Amirisu 4

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

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

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

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Tsubasa by Michele Wang | Preble by Leila Raabe.

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

– Jared

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Jared

Resources:

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

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


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.

 

 

The BT Winter 14 lookbook featured our first knitting-inspired essay.  Writer Sarah Pope of Portland, OR, penned this beautiful piece about the passage of knitting from one generation to the next. In case you missed it, I’m re-posting the essay below. I hope you enjoy! – Jared

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Winter Words

Essay by Sarah Pope; Images by Jared Flood

Knitters’ history begins in the cold, with mornings of snapping frost, fire in the hearth, breath smoking in the chill air, fingers numbly fumbling through the first chores of the day. Animals tamed and tended meant warmth in our ancestral crofts—wool on the doorstep to spin and fashion into cloth that might mantle the thin flame of our human heat. Knitting meant and still means a measure of comfort against the musts of the winter outdoors: ice to break on the water trough, firewood to split, nets to haul from the winter waves, provisions to fetch home.

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Personal knitting histories tend to spring from the cold months, too. Winter is the time to gather the clan, to snug loved ones closer, to wrap them in family lore and craft. We light the long dark with stories and music, with cider and soup and bread hot and fragrant from the oven, with candles on the windowsills, with color wherever we can find it—plucked from the hedges, forced from winter-blooming bulbs, wound into bright balls and heaped in a basket beside a favorite chair. Winter is the time to draw an eager child into the lap, to curl her fingers around the smooth wooden needles, to guide those first clumsy thrusts of tip through loop and catch and coax and whoops! try again.

This is how I began—the first of three beginnings before the craft caught my heart and clutched it for good—nestled against my grandmother in her blue chair in a house on a hill in the Connecticut woods, the winter I was nine. Granny was not the knitting grandmother of popular imagination, all ample lap and sugar cookies beyond the pointy sticks. She had no permanent wave, no gold-plated baubles, no lipstick or sweater sets or collection of porcelain angels. Granny was boldly original. She was devoted to modern design. She’d been to art school with the Eameses and Eero Saarinen and Harry Bertoia. Her house itself was a sculpture, a constellation of brightly painted pods cantilevered off a knoll and connected by sloping corrugated tunnels with carpet runners the orange of kabocha squash. She was fearless and opinionated about color—about everything, really. Her knitting bespoke her taste for clean shapes and simple but effective construction—garter-stitch Jaeger jackets for my grandfather, fine-gauge vests with Aran patterning, cross-front sweaters for her newborn grandchildren (orange for the girls, never pink), whole families of densely knit overmitts with vertical stripes. New England raised, Granny knew the worth of knitting as necessary protection against the elements. But her craft always served her family in taking to the frozen outdoors for pleasure, too.

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The Connecticut winter was a revelation to a child born to the drizzly evergreen of the coastal Northwest. I saw snow on skiing trips and in rare flurries deemed menacing enough to close school and commerce on our little island, so the very fact of it on the ground kindled in me a holiday high-heartedness. The bare trees were sky-raking sculptures with names that delighted my tongue—pignut, butternut, shagbark, mockernut, hornbeam, chinkapin—and if I watched patiently from the great glass alcove I might spy wild turkeys, deer, a fox, even a bobcat going about the business of survival amongst them.  Flashes of scarlet and sky blue lit the woods—a cardinal, a jay, outlandishly vivid birds we didn’t have at home. Such wonders demanded bundling into woolen layers and bounding out for a closer look. We tramped through the snow-covered garden, following the tracks of the turkeys and the dainty prints of the deer. Granny had appointed herself caretaker of every tree in the village, so we made the rounds to the venerable giants she watched for signs of disease and the tender saplings that might need insulation around the roots. Best of all, we followed the old railroad to the base of the slope where the ski jumpers came hurtling off Satre Hill, melding with the sky, soaring motionless as albatrosses and then touching gracefully down.

Back indoors, we hung mittens and hats sodden from snowballs to drip on the flagstones. We warmed ourselves with tea and a crackling fire. And Granny brought forth a ball of russet wool and a short pair of wooden straights and beckoned me near. Her hands were surprisingly sturdy for a small woman’s—hands that had raced sailboats and driven army trucks and turned numberless spadesful of double-dug garden earth—and now they deftly tensioned the yarn around my fingers and led my hands through the slow dance of finger tips and needle tips that dipped up loop after loop, each cunningly interlocked with its neighbor. Each day of our visit I worked a few more rows, finally producing a wobbly quadrangle of tipsy stitches, and then a second in cadet blue, this time with a purl side and fewer beginner’s singularities. Granny sewed up my little swatches, cinched the ends, and stuffed them with white fluff—a pair of soft toys for my kittens.

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This winter day it is as if that first ball of wool has rolled out of my grandmother’s chair and across the floor, across the country, across twenty-five years. I take my small daughter into my lap. My mouth is full of her curls as I cast on twenty stitches of good rustic sheep’s wool. She cannot wait patiently for her try; her little fingers pull more working yarn from the cake we wound together, dart out to touch the needle as it ducks amongst the strands. Her questions tumble and frisk like spring lambs. I anchor the new row with a few stitches, and then with her native confidence she takes the needles. Her grip is natural, neither tight nor tentative. We take in turns the work of needle holder and wool thrower so she doesn’t have to coordinate all the motions. We begin a swatch. As my new knitter grows dexterous enough to manage the needles alone, this scrap of fabric will grow into a richly cabled pullover for her father. It will warm him when he takes her to school on his bicycle on frosty mornings. Perhaps I’ll knit a matching one in miniature. It will take all winter, but we know how to make the most of the season.

 

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Sarah Pope is a writer, knitter, and wool lover based in Portland, Oregon. She logs her knitting adventures at whistlinggirlknits.com.