A Conversation with Grace Anna Farrow
Posted by Jonathan on
... 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. 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.