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JF: Welcome, Dianna! Glad to have you on the blog today! 

DW: Thanks for having me!

JF: Your design work seems heavily inspired by Scandinavian traditions and culture. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Do you have a family history in that region of the world?

DW: There’s definitely a lot of Scandinavian influence, but I don’t have any family background in that part of the world! I’m just drawn to it, for whatever reason. I have several friends from Norway who I initially met online, some as long as a decade ago, and they initially got me interested in it. The language drew me in first, and then the more I learned about the culture, the more I fell in love with it. I’ve been fortunate to travel to Scandinavia several times now, and meet those friends who I still keep in touch with.

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JF: Can you give me some back story about the design of Sundottir? I know when we first started talking about a design submission you had an old, beloved version of the sweater that you were wanting to refine into a finished pattern. When and how did the idea begin?

DW: I knit that old, beloved sweater in 2010. I’d been working on stranded colorwork for awhile, but only on accessories. So I decided, being so into Scandinavian design and culture, I really wanted something along the lines of the beautiful traditional sweaters from Norway and Iceland. Looking back, I think I wanted something a little more modern, too, that felt more like me, because none of the patterns out there were jumping out at me. So I decided to come up with a design myself. It’s been a thrill to return to that design and work on how to turn that idea into a pattern.

JF: I am always a fan of mixing the modern with the traditional – I think that’s what works so nicely about this design. A classic yoke motif, fluffy wool and traditional color combo paired with a fitted shape that feels current. The other nice thing about this sweater is that making custom alterations is pretty straight forward. Any tips for knitters who might want to tweak the garment slightly to suit their own body types and ease preferences?

DW: Absolutely! The yoke chart begins on a multiple of 8 stitches, so as long as the number of stitches on the needle is a multiple of 8 when it’s time to start the colorwork section, almost anything else goes. Some folks may want to eliminate the waist shaping – I’d use the number of stitches after the bust increase section as the number of stitches to cast on. Others may want more defined waist shaping, in which case adding decrease rounds and increase rounds would be pretty straightforward. Knitters could also turn it into a cardigan by steeking and picking up stitches to knit button bands. Or you could use multiple contrast colors in the yoke for a more colorful sweater. There’s a lot of possibility there. Seeing the modifications that creative knitters make is one of my favorite parts of publishing patterns!

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JF: Are there any specific details in the pattern that you might like to point out to our readers? Anything that might not be immediately obvious from looking at the photos? 

DW: Like many of my designs, Sundottir is completely seamless, right down to the underarms. Everything is worked in the round, and when the knitting is done, the underarm stitches are grafted together using Kitchener stitch (there are instructions in the pattern for those who haven’t used Kitchener before). Fit-wise, one of the differences between the pattern and my original prototype was the addition of short row shaping to dip the yoke in the front, so that the neckline fits more comfortably.

JF: You live and work in Seattle, Washington – are you a native or a transplant? 

DW: I’m a transplant! I grew up in North Carolina and moved out here in 2009.

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JF: How does the weather and lifestyle of the city affect your design work?

DW: In general, I love the weather and the lifestyle of this city, and I can definitely see it influence my work. For one thing, some years you can wear wool year round!

JF: As a Washington native, I sometimes miss that! 

DW: Like many people in this city, I tend to gravitate toward clothing that’s practical and functional, and I see that in my knitwear, but I also want it to look good, too. I design things I’d want to knit for myself, because that’s how I got started, so I’m always thinking about how I’ll actually wear or use a design. I’m not always designing things I could wear on my bike commute to work in the rain, but it’s nice when my design work does fit that bill.

Being in Seattle keeps the Scandinavian influence up front, as well, because that’s a big part of this city’s history. There were so many Scandinavian immigrants to this city and this part of the world. My studio is in Ballard, which was historically the Scandinavian neighborhood, just down the road from the Nordic Heritage Museum (which puts on the Nordic Knitting Conference every two years). There’s a parade every year for Syttende Mai, Norway’s Constitution Day, and it’s the biggest one outside of Norway. Being in a community with that kind of heritage means I’m always thinking about it.

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JF: What was your dream job as a child? 

DW: I grew up in classical ballet and for a long time I wanted to do that professionally. I still take classes, from time to time, but I got really burned out by the end of high school. I think I gave up on that dream around the time I started high school, actually, which was around the same time I hit six feet in height. Most ballerinas aren’t anywhere near that tall, which makes it hard to be in a corps de ballet. I think I always had an internal struggle between my creative side and wanting to pursue creative pursuits on the one side and going a much more straight-laced stable route on the other. My mother has certainly always supported my creative pursuits – she started my hometown’s city arts program – but she also encouraged routes that would lead to more financial stability than a career in the arts. That’s a struggle that I still feel sometimes.

JF: This has been great – thanks for taking the time to chat a bit this morning, Dianna!

DW: Thank you for the opportunity! I’m truly honored to be a part of the collection.

JF: Good morning, Grace! Thanks for agreeing to chat with me today about Trestle!  

GAF: Thank you for inviting me! And, as ever, thank you for photographing my work so beautifully.

JF: It’s really my pleasure! I first encountered your work when I saw your book “The Fine Line” in a yarn shop in Austin, TX, in 2009. The book is packed full of amazing, colorful, mitered creations and had me immediately marveling at how your brain works. Having been following you since, and getting to know you personally, you clearly have a flare for geometry and clever construction in all your work. Can you talk a little bit about what sparks your inspiration when you are designing? 

GAF: I love a puzzle. Always have. Starting with jigsaws and then Tetris (which I would obsessively play as a tween to the point of dreaming about it!) and now the apps Dots and Strata. Sequences and tessellations inhabit my happy place. I have an unhealthy love of graph paper.

JF: I think we would’ve gotten along well during our teenage years! I was a Tetris fiend, too… and in my present-day life have more stacks of graph paper (in several varying gauges) than I care to admit!

GAF: Oh yes – grids feed my love of right angles and integers, which tend to draw me towards chevrons. They just have a logic that aligns beautifully with the concept of the knitted stitch. So I sketch and sketch and sketch. Which leads to unconventional, but hopefully knitterly, constructions that exploit the fact that we knitters make the fabric as we shape the garment.

JF: To me that is always the true essence and magic of knitting – the simultaneous creation of fabric and shape. The possibilities are just endless…

GAF: Yes! I feel like I could spend a lifetime exploring that. I need to dedicate some serious study to the knitters who have already grappled with it. Elizabeth Zimmermann comes to mind, especially since Trestle is garter stitch, though I have yet to conceive of anything that rivals her genius. My first successful Baby Surprise Jacket was game changing – such a great puzzle.

JF: Speaking of puzzles, Trestle is a brilliant one. Can you give us a quick summary on what kind of adventure knitters are in for who take this sweater on? (I’ll include a diagram below to help everyone visualize this process!)

GAF: It is an all garter project (no purls!) but full to bursting with unusual elements. Because the entire sweater is knit on the bias (technically two biases that form the main chevron), you don’t shape the sweater in the usual way. The front and back begin in the same manner – casting on at the corners and making two separate triangles that are then joined once they are half the desired width. Then the garment is worked “straight” which is to say with an increase for every decrease until the desired length, and placed on holders. This was that part of the sample that was truly meditative to knit.  The bottom hem is picked up and worked down with decorative stripes.

The sleeves are also worked on the bias (though there is a bit more going on at the beginning in terms of “foundation triangles”– as you can see from the diagram). I reworked this section a few times both on the needles and off. In the end I went with making the main part of the sleeve first with unbalanced increases (increases with no corresponding decreases) to shape the sleeve within the bias pattern. The decorative element at the sleeve cuff is picked up and worked after in the stripe pattern, then the cuff is picked up and worked down.

The yoke is done in one piece maintaining the bias pattern as established on both Body and Sleeves. If you have worked a traditional raglan sweater you’ll recognize the decrease rate, though I have shifted their placement to be aligned with the pre-existing biases. The stripe pattern that is echoed on the sleeves and hem is clearest here on the yoke.

I’ll admit that this initially seems like a lot of acrobatic construction, but I assure you it is more straightforward when you are knitting it! You will be knitting plain every wrong-side row and only ever doing 4 things at the most on the right side rows. Trestle is great when you are in the mood for garter stitch but need a little more to keep it interesting.

JF: Those are often my favorite types of projects.

GAF: I must admit to feeling very satisfied seeing it come together. Some designs, no matter the preplanning, require a leap of faith between casting on and casting off. To be honest, those are the designs I am most drawn to and find myself returning to again and again, so it is always satisfying when they work out the way you intended.

As an aside, when my husband (who is extremely conservative in his taste in woolens) saw the sample blocking he said that it would make a good man’s sweater. Though that was his thinly veiled request for a sweater, he does have a point. Thankfully you have published sizes up to 49″ at the chest/bust, so I only have to lengthen the body and sleeves for his version.

JF: You live and work in Los Alamos, New Mexico, but are a Philadelphia native – that’s quite a change of scene! How has your change in environment changed your knitting or design work? 

GAF: Completely! My relationship to woolens had to change coming from PA to NM. I don’t think that I considered shawls much at all while in Philly, but the changeable nature of the weather here makes them much more necessary. I think that I also am drawn to fine gauge knitting, more so than before. In Philly the needles in my hands got larger the colder it got, but in Los Alamos I almost never venture thicker than DK. So I really had a chance to tighten my focus to fingering – lace weight yarns and how garments made with them fit onto my needles and into my wardrobe. I was also thinking about these more graphic designs that you can see in “The Fine Line” while being drawn to the regional weaving traditions. For such a small town, there is a high density of Techs, Engineers, and Scientists here in Los Alamos because of Los Alamos National Labs that I am being exposed to ideas and images that I never considered before, having pursued an art-focused education. All of these elements inform my current design process.

JF: Sounds like a pretty inspiring place to be! I remember New Mexico as having such a mystical quality about it. 

GAF: Mystical! That is a good word for it. I don’t think that I understood “purple mountains majesty”  as more than colorful language until I moved here. I think I might be spoiled now to expect to always see a mountain range on the horizon; without them it would seem lonely somehow.

 JF: And for a bit of fun, my last question for the day: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

GAF: Rainbow Brite. Though I think that if I had known that creative jobs like ours existed I might have set my sights on a more reasonable target.

JF: Grace, this has been excellent. Thanks for letting me pick your brain this morning – take care and keep up the inspiring work!

GAF: Thank you, Jared! Working with you, your team and your yarn is always a pleasure.

JF: Hi, Kyoko! Thanks for joining me today on the blog for a chat about your new sweater design.

KN: Hi, Jared! Thanks for inviting me to this chat. I’m so excited!

JF: This is your first contribution to a Wool People collection (and I think it’s a great one) – can you tell our readers a little bit about your design philosophy? What interests you about designing for handknitting, specifically?

KN: I really enjoyed working on Rook for WP6. My core design philosophy is to offer unique knits which have timeless style.

I also think of myself as a “creative puzzle-maker”, and it pleases me to think that those who knit my patterns will enjoy the making process, on top of creating something that they love to wear (or giving it to someone they care about).

I really enjoy using my creativity to come up with each unique, new design, then writing up the patterns in a way that is thoughtful for knitters.

JF: I think that is so key – to think of a design not only as an end product that looks good and fits well, but also as an experience for the maker. The experience should be thoughtful and appropriate. This is unique to handknitting design.

KN: Yes! My aim is always to pleasantly surprise knitters. First visually, when they see my designs, and then through the creative process of knitting them. I’m always happy and humbled to see how many people knit my designs – not just for themselves – but also for their children, relatives and friends. This is one of the key motivations as a hand-knitting designer.

JF: You started your brand of knitwear design for handknitters, Cotton and Cloud, in 2009. What would you say is your brand mission?

KN: My brand mission is to keep surprising knitters and provide fresh inspiration that fits with a fun, ethical and creative outlook. I want to design unique knits which are timeless in style. This could include incorporating unusual or novel techniques, adding some quirky new patterning, or designing a uniquely shaped garment.

In terms of my specific interests, I love to work with yarns from independent companies. I am deeply committed to contribute to a better future for our children, by supporting the independent suppliers of eco-friendly and ethical raw materials. In a world where there is so much cheap, mass-produced clothing available, I want to share and spread the idea of living a happier, ‘slow life’ – even in a busy city like London – by creating a garment you love stitch by stitch.

JF: That concept resonates strongly with me as well, and I am noticing a broader movement away from “fast fashion”. As handknitters, this already seems second nature, but it is a very important topic in our society at this time, don’t you think?

KN: Definitely. We live in the most ‘throw-away’ society in history. And this applies to many products from food to fashion clothes. But as a consumer myself, I know how hard it can be to resist the temptation to throw away stuff that’s cheap and easily available. As one of millions of global knitters, I feel very lucky to have the skill to design and make useful and stylish garments by hand from high-quality, eco-friendly yarns. I think the ‘slow life’ movement is very important in encouraging a happier and more balanced way of living for the individual and families; as well as having a hugely positive impact on society in general.

JF: You are Japanese born but live and work in London. Can you talk a little bit about how each of these places has shaped who you are as an artist and designer?

KN: Japan is such a beautiful country and the language we speak and write is, to me, very visual. I first learned how to knit as a small child, using Japanese patterns which are generally chart-based.

I came to the UK when I was 12 and have been living in England, more recently in London, for the past 15 years. Being away from my family from a young age has made me resourceful. Being creative in any subject was appreciated by those around me and I was given the freedom to explore novel and different hobbies, which I really enjoyed.

So the mix of experiences from my childhood, and then my adult life in Japan and London, have left me with a very versatile approach to designing.

I can mix logical and rule-based methods with my own original thinking, without being afraid to break new ground and create innovative designs that haven’t been seen before.

JF: Sounds like a knockout combination to me!

KN: :) Well, I hope so, because I try to offer knitters something fresh and interesting in my design collections.

JF: Rook is a pullover I’m sure a lot of women would like to wear, and also one that I think is very fun to knit. Can you talk a little bit about how the garment is created on the needles?

KN: When you first see the sweater it looks quite traditional. When you look more closely, however, you realize that the construction for the round yoke is a noticeable break from tradition.

This sweater is created with a top-down, seamless construction, knit circularly. In order to create a height difference between the front and the back neck, you use a ‘wrap and turn’ short-row technique to work more rows at the back and sleeves first, before eventually joining to work the remaining yoke in the round. This adds a subtle depth to the front neck which to me is perfect for a garment that is cosy and winter-proof, as well as versatile enough to style with different undershirts (like a crew-neck top or a collared shirt underneath, as pictured).

The increases for the yoke shaping are worked in between the cable patterns. The textured diamond motif is encircled by stockinette stitch instead of a vertical line of purl stitches, to keep the whole design clean and simple. In addition, the cable pattern never changes in size or placement during the yoke shaping and throughout the sweater, giving an attractive visual illusion.

JF: Any special tools needed in working this type of yoke?

KN: The use of stitch markers is essential in this pattern, as they will help guide your correct positioning within the pattern, especially during yoke shaping. Once the yoke shaping is done, the rest is straightforward and will be an enjoyable knit for everyone, I hope!

JF: It’s definitely a fun and different approach to knitting a pullover that I think knitters will enjoy. For me, good design is directly related to the amount of thought that goes into it – you clearly think a lot about your work as you are designing and that is much appreciated! 

KN: Thank you, Jared! I do spend a lot of time on the planning stage of each new garment design.

First of all, I do a mental run-through of the ideas that I’m considering and then start to focus on one in particular.

I then think about the design from the point of view of the knitter, to ensure my patterns are always accessible and enjoyable to make. For example, when my design is going to contain a new technique that may be unfamiliar to most knitters, I try to shape the design carefully to ensure the new technique is only used at the beginning of the project. After that, I make sure the rest of the knitting pattern is straightforward to do, which is what I did for Rook.

When I was designing Rook, I had in mind the short-row neck shaping technique and a special pattern placement to create an interesting visual illusion. The texture and density of Shelter was perfect for the effect I had in mind. When all the technical ideas and the yarn were put together with a traditional sweater-shape with a double-folded neckline, it all seemed to come together really well!

JF: Thanks again, Kyoko! It’s been a pleasure getting to work with you and I hope to do so in the future! 

KN: Thank you, Jared! It’s been great fun for me, too. And I’m looking forward to sharing more new designs through BT in the future!

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

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

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

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

JF: I completely agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GJ: My pleasure! It was fun to chat!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, we hope you enjoy!

All my best,

Jared

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Resources: The Wool People 6 look book is now available for viewing on our website here, or download the free PDF for viewing on your tablet or device.

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

We wrap up this week’s blog posts with our third and final interview with Design Team member Véronik Avery. Véronik joined our design team in the Fall of 2012 – this collection marks her first year of working with us at BT. We got together this morning to chat a little about her Coal Cardigan design.

JF: Happy Friday, Véronik! Thanks for joining me today.

VA: Hi, Jared! Thank you for inviting me to join you here. I’ve been looking forward to it.

JF: I have always loved the way you combine a sensibility for traditional, classic knitwear with a modern (sometimes unexpected) twist. How would you describe your aesthetic when designing sweaters?

VA: I think my aesthetic is always evolving, but certain elements do return time and time again. I like having a sense of history as well as a story, which probably stems from my past costume design aspirations. Because of it, I don’t dress myself as much as I dress characters – whether real or imagined.

JF: What was your inspiration for the Coal Cardigan design?

VA: With the Coal Cardigan, I began as I often do with sketches. Sometimes a garment is already in mind before I pick up a pencil, but other times I simply start by playing with silhouettes and filling them in in various ways before an idea starts to take shape. With Coal, the idea was quite abstract and as the sketch started to take shape, it began to look like a knitted motorcycle jacket. Since I am not a big fan of literal renditions – especially knitted ones – I continued to strip it down to the elements which interested me most, such as the asymmetrical closure.

JF: There is some shaping on the back panel as well that contributes to the overall fit, yes?

VA: Yes there is – because I wanted to simplify the front shaping, I opted to flare out the back side seams, borrowing from shoulder shaping that is worked with twice as much angling in back so as to keep the front shoulder straight.

JF: Can you tell our readers a little more about the knitted details featured in the design?

VA: The traveling cables on the fronts necessitated several rounds of swatching; I tried increasing and decreasing, but my fabric formed such a bias that I worried that only enthusiastic blocking could straighten it. I then tried a more richly cabled surface knit with traveling stitches as in the final version, but all drape was lost. In the end, I opted for a more minimal amount of cabling and diagonal lines of knitted stitches against a reverse stockinette background.

JF: Where and how do you envision this garment being worn “in the wild”?

VA: Oh, there are so many options! One could style it in a streetwise way, and pair it with a slim fitting skirt or pants – perhaps leather ones. I know my daughter will probably wear it with one of her several pair of brightly colored mens-style trousers once it returns home and perhaps a pair of white Doc Martens.

JF: And how about styling for yourself?

VA: Were it in my size, I’d probably opt for an interesting skirt and tall leather boots. 

JF: Versatility is such a great quality in knitwear – it’s one of the things I love about the genre.

The design is great – thanks again for chatting more about it with me today, V!

VA: Anytime, Jared. Have a great day!

Today we continue our Design Team Conversations series with Julie Hoover. Julie joined our team in the Fall of 2012 and has been designing regularly for Brooklyn Tweed since. Today Julie and I talk a little bit about her design aesthetic and her new garment Jules from our Fall Collection.

JF: Good morning, Julie! Thanks for joining me in blog land. Ready to talk shop a bit?

JH: Good morning, Jared! I’m ready – fire away!

JF: You definitely bring a clean, sophisticated aesthetic to our team. When it comes to designing knitwear, how would you describe your style?

JH: While the answer is somewhat nuanced in my head, I would say my style is the intersection where modern meets classic.  To me, that translates to a style that feels very fresh and contemporary but will still remain at home in your closet over time.

A minimal aesthetic reads consistently throughout all my work – whether it’s putting together an interior space or designing print packaging – and clearly, this translates into my knitwear designs: simple, perfected details, nothing too fussy or overcomplicated.

JF: Jules is a fantastic shape and both comfortable and flattering when worn. What was your inspiration for this piece?

JH: I love how Jules came together.  My starting point for this piece was the cocoon shape.   I’ve been somewhat obsessed with non-traditional hemline treatments as a design feature, and I think the cocoon shape is one of the most flattering on most figures.  I’ll experiment more with this shape, for sure.

Even though I envisioned short sleeves, I also wanted to create a piece that could be worn from fall through winter, so I chose to go with Shelter instead of Loft to create a warmer fabric.  Even with the short sleeves, it’s still warm enough to be worn alone.

The cable detail was also part of my original plan, although it wasn’t until I started thinking in terms of construction that I decided to put some of the shaping inside (between) the cables to enhance the silhouette. Visually, it widens the cables from hemline to shoulders rather than having them travel straight up vertically.

JF: I love that detail. It works as a sort of slimming optical illustion too, which is great on a boxier shape like this. We all knew you loved this garment from the very beginning – you were psyched to get started on it in our initial concept meeting for the collection.

JH: Any garment I’m keen to give my own nickname has to be a personal favorite, right!?

JF: You like designs that feature a healthy amount of wearing ease, and often have an oversized fit or feel. Can you talk a little bit about that?

JH: Oh yes, guilty.

If you were to look in my closet, the majority of my wardrobe fits into two camps. I have dozens of tailored button-up shirts, men’s style slacks and skirts from my agency work days. I also have a large pile of casual linen tops and boyfriend jeans for my mom and work-from-home life.  When it comes to my collection of knitwear, those pieces create the perfect opportunity to bridge the gap between those two worlds – easily layered, stylish, comfortable, and appropriate either place.  An oversized fit just works for putting a tick in all of those checkboxes. It’s the fit I gravitate toward, almost every time.

JF: (You’re preaching to the choir here – you know I love a good oversized woolly sweater, too!)

Our collections often include subtle details that can sometimes be overlooked or missed when viewers are looking at the images alone. Are there special details about the Jules pullover that you’d like to highlight for our readers?

JH: I think the photos used for this collection capture the details of Jules very well.  Perhaps the only thing that doesn’t come across is the dolman sleeve shaping.  The same goes for Idlewild.  If the model had been captured in a pose with her arms outstretched, it would have given a better idea of the width and shaping through that area that doesn’t translate with her arms close to her body.  The ribbing bands with tubular bind-offs are a thing of beauty, too.  And of course, photos can never capture the awesome smell of the wool…

JF: If only!

This has been great – thanks so much for taking some time to share more about your process with our readers, Julie!

JH: My pleasure, Jared. Happy fall knitting to everyone!

 

 

This week I’ll be conducting a few short Q&A sessions with our design team to allow them to talk candidly about some of their new pieces from the Fall collection. Today we start with Michele Wang who has been a member of our in-house design team since Fall 2011.

JF: Hi, Michele! Thanks for hopping on the blog today to share a bit about your work with us!

MW: Hello there! I love this opportunity to be able to talk about the work I’m able to contribute to our team. Very exciting!

JF: To me your knits are always recognizable. You definitely have a “signature” quality in your sweater designs, particularly in your use of texture and ornamentation. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MW:  Texture is something I’ve always tried to work into my art.  When I painted, I love to incorporate huge dollops of paint to add more life to the surface. When I would sketch on newsprint, I loved to crumple up the paper first, then draw on it using the hills, valleys and bends in the paper to lend some direction.  For me, texture not only adds interest visually, but also tactilely.   So when it comes to hand knitwear, I think building texture into a piece is especially exciting.  Not only do you get to appreciate it when it’s worn, but as the knitter, you can experience it as you’re creating, too.  I often find myself running my fingers over my fabric as it comes off of the needles every inch or so.

JF: We’ve been calling your Stonecutter pullover a “Symphony of Cables” around the studio. Can you share a bit about your inspiration for this piece and the process you underwent to execute the design?

MW:  I had started noticing elements of biasing in knitwear design.  I don’t know if this is something new, or just something I have been tuned into lately.  But, what was catching my eye was the creative use of biasing on one portion of a garment to exaggerate shaping, or to give a contrasting drape to a particular section of a design.  With cabling in mind, I wanted to use biased cables to change the shape of the pullover’s silhouette, instead of traditional increasing, decreasing or short rows.

I had a lot of false starts with Stonecutter.  The angle of the cable was either too steep or too flat, or the cable wasn’t beefy enough, or it was too thick and unflattering.  The biggest challenge was finding the right fabric for the areas below and above the biasing.  I knew I didn’t want anything overly flared at the sides like a traditional peplum silhouette, and my first attempts were just that.  So when I thought about which stitch patterns bring in and control fabric, I decided to simply carry up the 2×2 ribbing.  A classic example of overthinking a problem, only to arrive at the simplest solution.

As for the center panel, I initially wanted a cable motif that would fit between the start of the biased cables.  My main concern was the pattern writing.  After working out the angles and the sloping, however, I knew the center motif would have to grow out of the biasing in the same way the the side cables did.  This added a layer of complexity to the pattern writing, and how we were going to best express that.  In the end, I’m so happy that I didn’t let the challenge of the writing get in the way of the design.

Overall, what I really wanted was a symphony of cables.  A pullover that was completely adorned with twists and turns, keeping your eyes and hands busy while knitting, viewing or wearing. (Charting the design was obviously a huge help!)

JF: And at the risk of sounding like a complete nerd, the charts within the pattern are completely beautiful in and of themselves!

MW: OK, let’s nerd out. I love love love that chart. I love it almost as much as the sweater itself.

Usually, I do a lot of swatching, then I hit Illustrator and build out the charted fabric, and  finally knit it up. This sweater, however, required me to go back and forth quite a few times. When working on a chart, I (and I suspect most designers) am so focused on each stitch and row. Once I was able to sit back and look at the chart in its entirety, though, I honestly did a little jiggle in my chair out of sheer excitement. There is something so satisfying in seeing a technical rendition of the stitches in black and white. It’s second only to seeing the stitches come alive while you’re knitting.

JF: Stonecutter has already been a big hit with knitters on Ravelry. What design details do you think make this sweater special?

MW:  I do love the biased cable detail.  It gives just a touch of flair and waist shaping that I find so flattering.  I also love the rollneck.  It’s not very unique or different, but I had originally planned to do a simple 2×2 ribbed neckline.  Once I got to the top, though, I realized the simple tubular shape of the rollneck itself would mimic a cable and that was really the only way to go.

It’s also no secret that I like faux cables.  With increases and decreases you can easily imitate the shifting of stitches as if you were performing traveling cables.  But, how does one imitate a twist?  By using a smocking detail when two traveling cables meet, the illusion of a twist appears by wrapping the yarn around those stitches.  It’s only used once in the center panel, and I love it because it’s a little hidden gem the knitter will come across when they get to that row.

JF: Any tips to share with knitters who would like to undertake this project?

MW:  One tip, which would go for any project, is to read over the entire pattern and take a look at the charts.  The main chart is very large and can seem intimidating, but it’s really straightforward, and the knitting is quite easy.  The two sides of the chart are mirrored, which makes memorizing the chart much easier than you might think. If you’ve cabled before, you won’t have any problems.   (And if you’ve never cabled without a cable needle, this would be a good project to start!)

My other tip, which is also universal, is to swatch – and make a big swatch.  When fabricating a garment, there is nothing more important than making a swatch and accurately measuring gauge.  It would break my heart hear that someone had to frog this sweater because it came out too big or too small. Along those same lines, when determining which size to make, always err on the side of more positive ease, rather than less.  Cabling makes for a very thick and bulky fabric and you’ll also probably be wearing a layer underneath.

JF: Great advice, for everyone really. Thanks again Michele for joining me today!

MW: Thank you for having me! We should definitely do this more often.

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Stay tuned this week on the blog for more conversations with our in-house design team!

Have I had lace and cable combinations on the brain? Yes. Yes, I have.

When designing, I like thinking about macro versus micro: how the small details (which are often the original fodder for a concept) co-exist within a larger “environment”. In garment design this often involves thinking about how shape, silhouette and fit integrate with smaller details (be they technical or aesthetic) in order to achieve harmony across the whole. The process always feels like a negotiation to me: the further along a design gets, reigning in small details in service of the whole (or vice versa) is often a requisite process.

With Bray we have what I like to call a “three bears” situation: one large cable, one medium cable, and one small lace motif, combined in a single fabric and arranged in a way that applies to a broader “macro” application within a garment. The larger cables are placed along “suspender” lines and are the boldest vertical element, while the medium horseshoe and small lace insertions fill the remaining areas. I love how the heaviness of the cables is in contrast with the see-through eyelet columns, which contrast a feeling of lightness against the chiseled horseshoe cables.

The sleeves are worked in reverse stockinette to keep the focus on the body fabric (without overwhelming the wearer with texture overload). The yoke of the garment is a hybrid between a raglan and saddle shoulder: the first two-thirds of the sleeve cap is shaped as a true raglan until the width of the saddle is achieved. At that point the saddle is worked back and forth and shaped at the very top with a graduated bind off to give a more graceful curve to the finished neckline. The upper body pieces are also fashioned with two different sloping rates. This shaping keeps the shoulders from becoming too pointy or angular, as is sometimes the case with a saddle that does a 45° turn over the shoulder. (I’ve included the schematic below to show these different areas.)

On Wednesday I wrote about falling in love with a stitch pattern and not feeling “done” with it after finishing a single iteration of a design. This situation definitely applied to the Bray design as well. After wrapping up work on the pullover, my play with this fabric still felt incomplete, so I translated it into a hat design as well. Such fun!