Anyone who knows me knows that Iceland occupies a large place in my heart. What started as a mystical, remote place with an elusive language has gradually become a place I consider an adopted home. I’m lucky to have a growing circle of Icelandic friends and the tiniest grasp on their beautiful language. I keep coming back to Iceland, but I feel slightly guilty being so singular with my travel attentions. As Iceland becomes more and more familiar, I’m reminded that I still haven’t seen its equally beautiful inverse--New Zealand.
Well--I’m GOING. While I will most definitely be stopping by the Shire, my ultimate destination is Woolyarns! I’m excited to announce that I’ve accepted a position as Brand Ambassador for this incredible mill. They’re responsible for Zealana possum yarns, as well as many others that you may already know and love.
I first came across Zealana yarns at Churchmouse Yarn and Teas on Bainbridge Island. A simple ribbed scarf made with Rimu DK in Kiwicrush caught my eye because the intense chartreuse color was softened by a moody haze. Closer inspection confirmed that the smoky taupe halo felt as soft as it looked, while adding depth to the rich color. Even at a generous size, the scarf was improbably lightweight. I’d truly never felt or seen anything like it. I’m tickled that this exact yarn ended up on the cover of my upcoming book!
Zealana is just one arm of a multifaceted mill. My job will also entail developing yarns with the Woolyarns technical and product development teams. We've worked together previously to develop a best-selling tweed yarn that stands out in an already crowded marketplace. While I happen to believe that there can NEVER be too many tweeds, it never makes sense to replicate when you can innovate, and Woolyarns share this ethos. They created a soft, complex blend that could be sold at a competitive price point. Once the fiber blend, weight and put-up were all solidified, a name was chosen and a palette selected. This is arguably my favorite part, and it’s here where the yarn’s personality is finally realized. I look forward to making many new fiber friends this way.
I'll be visiting Wellington next month but after that I'll be working from Seattle, the perfect portal to the US yarn world. I'll spend the rest of this year traveling to promote my book and attend some VERY exciting events. I have lots of plans and ideas, the first of which includes heading back to school this fall (a bit scary, but mostly thrilling).
Thanks for coming along on my crazy global yarn quest! I’m just getting started…
Now that the Winter issue of Twist Collective has been released, there is no denying it--winter is here. That's perfectly fine with me. As you'll see in my very first Twist Notebook, I happen to relish the season of silent snowy walks and cold early sunsets. That is, of course, if I'm swaddled in wool! That was the guiding principle behind the Fólki tunic and cowl I designed for this issue of Twist.
I was inspired by an outsized tunic that I bought in Iceland. Its proportions are generous and the sleeves abbreviated. The neckline is slightly Flashdance, which invites clever layering (the one of a kind shawl shown here is by the incredible Liber, an Icelandic fiber lover and pattern mixing phenom). I can never anticipate how much I'll love any given item I buy, but this one shot to the top of the list. With tights and boots it is an effortless, unique uniform for the coldest, darkest days.
I was also inspired by Iceland's next door neighbor, Greenland. After spending so much time obsessed with Iceland, I realized I knew little about Greenland. I'd only skimmed the surface when I noticed their incredible national costume. The intricately beaded cowls, embroidered boots and warm dresses and tunics were so striking in stark neutrals and the boldest primaries. I especially love this photo of beautifully badass teens.
I won't lie to you--this isn't a quick knit! But it's a massively enjoyable one when knit with Kenzie, the yarn I developed with a friend from another far away place, New Zealand. The lightweight worsted has a bit of all my favorite fibers--merino wool, alpaca, silk, nylon and angora, which lends a gorgeously subtle insulating halo. It's soft and knits up quickly, and even the dark shade has a complexity that can only be appreciated in person--the faintest glimmer of emerald green heathering brings a spark to otherwise pitch black yarn. If you just can't bear to knit with such dark yarn, take comfort, we've just expanded the range to 20 shades.
One of my favorite features of Twist is the way they quiz their contributors. I love reading strange little factoids about my fellow designers. Click here to see what keeps me warm in winter (besides giant wool tunics and furry cowls)...
I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite knitters in the PNW, Andrea Rangel. I met Andrea very soon after I moved to Seattle in 2011, but I’d followed her career for years before that. I’ve always loved her aesthetic, which is rooted in practicality. Her commitment to wearability is verified every time I spend time with her—she is often clad in multiple handknits, and manages to not look like a schlumpy mess (always a risk when you’re wrapping yourself in yarn, let’s be honest).
Andrea has a spark for life that is fueled by travel, exercise and a passion for self-improvement. I find her working in the areas most people avoid, working with plant fibers to create figure baring dresses, or knitting insulating, masterfully detailed leggings. Her tenacity and energy are inspiring, so grab a cup of genmaicha (she’s a lil’ crunchy) and a croissant (her husband is a baker).
By the way, Andrea would love to give one lucky reader a copy of her latest collection, Woodsmoke and Ash: Knits for Men. To enter take a look at Andrea’s designs and leave a comment to let us know which one is your favorite, AND, as a tribute to this active, utilitarian lady, let me know what activity you’d wear it for! I’ll pick a winner on 5/15.
Andrea shows off her cabled Kalaloch Leggings.
AR: “Aggressively plain” means that an REI rain jacket can be worn with any outfit, be it sporty or dressy, for work, or on the weekend. The implication is that you’re ready for anything, and won’t let fashion norms stop you if a garment is functional. After all, we might go hiking later. We probably won’t, but we’d be ready if we wanted to.
I think Seattle fashion is driven by practicality, but also by a desire to be seen as sporty and outdoorsy. It’s okay to be unfashionable as long as you’re fit and adventurous. I pretty much dress this way, except that I wear wool sweaters instead of my rain jacket unless it’s really raining because I am a knitter, and because wool is miraculous.
AR: Definitely! Of course it’s a huge oversimplification to suggest everybody dresses that way or for those reasons, and there are lots of more fashion-conscious people in the city. The outdoorsy thing is a Seattle cultural norm, but lots of people don’t fit into it, and would rather look good than prepared. But with boots, leggings, and that bright-colored rain jacket, you’ll blend right into the crowd. (Accessorize with a yoga mat to raise your Seattle status even higher.)
It is exciting how much knitting history there is in this area too. The Cowichan sweater is part of a major knitting tradition that I think hasn’t gotten as much attention as other traditions because it really hasn’t been written down in the same way that Fair Isle or Aran traditions have.
AR: I love the sweaters in The Matrix. That ragged, dropped-stitch look is the perfect post-apocalyptic fashion, especially in combination with the plain fingerless gloves some of the characters wore. And there was this kids’ movie from a few years ago called City of Ember that was just packed with really colorful knitwear. I was drooling through the whole movie. It’s a good movie on its own merit, but I’d watch it just for the knits.
The Dude, Andrea’s most well-loved pattern on Ravelry.
AR: My environment definitely impacts my work, but mostly in subtle ways. My new home has so much natural beauty, and now that I’m riding my bike for transportation, I get lots of opportunities to take it all in.
Getting the chance to be outside and be active quite a bit makes me want to design things that will work for that. I’ve always designed garments and accessories that are visually appealing to me but also practical, and now practical is starting to mean: good for bike riding. That being said, I can’t bring myself to specialize; Orixa, for instance is a very dressy lace shrug - more for evening wear than outdoor wear.
Cowichan Bay, Andrea’s new home in the Pacific Northwest
Being in such a quiet, tucked-away place has also allowed me to really invest in my designs. I feel like I’ve had more opportunities to give as much time as an idea needs, and to trash ideas if they don’t turn out as expected.
CR: Where to next? Any dream destinations?
AR: I’d like to teach more, both locally and abroad. Traveling to events like Rhinebeck, Squam, Madrona, and the various Vogue Knitting Lives and Knit Labs would be amazing. And I’d love to teach in Iceland and New Zealand. Places with that many sheep are definitely on my list. I’m also dreaming of an extended bicycle tour down the west coast of the States (stopping at yarn shops, farms, and festivals along the way, of course!)
Andrea’s first design, Bamboo Agave.
AR: I guess you’ve noticed that I definitely don’t stick to a theme in my design work. I like to make everything. Right now I’m feeling really drawn to loose-fitting garments like shrugs and over-sized sweaters. I think my fashion aesthetic is evolving and I’m excited to try some more relaxed shapes.
AR: I love having that mix. Independent publishing gives me a fantastic amount of freedom to do work that I feel strongly about and to have control over every step in the process, which I really like. But, working with a publisher helps me to stretch in creative ways I might not otherwise do or even think of. Publishers choose colors and ask for modifications to design ideas, which requires a different kind of creativity. And it’s nice to get a break from being responsible for photography, layout, and editing.
The downside of independent publishing is that I take the whole risk myself. If a design doesn’t sell, I don’t get paid for my work. With publishers I get a flat fee without having to invest in photography and editing. On the other hand, if a design does really well, I get less of the reward if I worked with a publisher. Doing both spreads the risk and brings me a little steadier income.
Visit Andrea’s website to learn more about her process and to see her full pattern line.
Travel is a soul-bolstering, character-building endeavor, that’s a given. I happen to delight in one of the more frivolous side effects, the opportunity for wardrobe expansion and sartorial inspiration. A recent trip to the Netherlands meant plunging headlong into a situation that could only be called gezellig, a Dutch word that encompasses a feeling of well-being that comes from seeking delights with loved ones (view many more photos here).
I landed in Amsterdam and took a tram to meet my fiber-obsessed friends and colleagues Ragga Eiriksdottir and Stephen West. After trading presents and gorging on local candy and beer, we collaboratively composed outfits for our first strut around town.Rozengracht was our first stop, a street in the Jordaan district filled with craft supplies, professional grade cosmetics and my favorite find, The New Label Project. Stephen is a regular at the boutique, calling it a “real-life Etsy,” greeting Italian curator/owner Giulia Elena Bessone with a big hug and rapid fire inquiries about new products.
Later we ambled over to Penelope Craft, a thriving yarn store owned by American expat Malia Mather. The store is a cozy enclave full of delightful oddities like a macro friendship bracelet made with super-bulky yarn. Custom products like neon tapestry needles and Netherlands-themed kits designed by Mather herself round out the well-edited selection of American and European yarns. I can’t wait to knit my Noordermarkt Mittens.
After refueling with some street frites, we headed into the dizzying People of the Labyrinths showroom where the sun-soaked palette of spring enveloped us. Sugary pastels cut with pulsing touches of neon gave us a collective buzz. Affordable? No, but when it comes to wearable art, frugality is harder to uphold.
Before we could empty our wallets in exchange for their tie-dyed silk dresses, we moved onto Laura Dols a well-stocked, incredibly organized vintage store. Creaky narrow stairs connected colorful rooms organized by theme: childrens, wedding, Feestkleding or party clothes, linens, outerwear, etc. I limited my treasures to fur collars from the 1940s, but I was very tempted by a stack of fluffy mohair throws and a fur jacket that just happened to resemble a lopapeysa.
It was only a handful of hours and a skimming of what the city has to offer, but the Amsterdam vibe stuck with me. Carefree but considered, the locals look self-assured and colorful. This is a city that revels in classic design executed with exuberance. It makes total sense that Mr. West has landed on such stimulating stomping grounds. Wherever you are, grab some friends and get your gezillig on.
(expanded version of my Style Spotting column first published in Knitscene Magazine Summer 2013; reprinted with permission).
As a hand-knitting designer, I usually admire fashion from afar. There is something esoteric about couture that makes a humble DIY enthusiast feel solidly on the other side of the velvet ropes. Not so in Iceland, where I recently attended HönnunarMars and Reykjavik Fashion Festival, two effusive, egalitarian celebrations of Icelandic fashion and design, especially items made with local materials from fish bones to wool. There is no risk of sailing over anyone’s head when designers are so rooted in the land and there is no risk of boring anyone when that land is as singular as Iceland. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the weekend (view the entire set here)…
I am already looking forward to next year…
P.S. …can you spot me?…
This Icelandic band was like a balm for me this morning. Spring is creeping in, and all sorts of good with it…
Goodwill Glitter Sale Haul! With mad Macklemore love.
If anyone can peer pressure me into participating in a fashion blog, it’s these two! Ragga and Stephen are two of the liveliest, most exuberant people I know and I have a daily pity party about the fact that I only see them a handful of times a year. We live in very different cities but we all love having fun with what we wear, so Ragga had the brilliant idea for us to start a Tumblr where we can share our outfits and discoveries and basically hang out online.
It is called RAGGAROSEWEST and I’m super happy to have an excuse to be a bit more adventurous. Here in the Pacific Northwest it is all too tempting to retreat into a comfortable cocoon of grayness and practicality, and while you’ll still see plenty of that from me, I hope you’ll find some novelty as well. Welcome!…
Hello! It’s almost November and I’m in the Windy City for Vogue Knitting Live, one of my very favorite knittish happenings. I love Chicago, and I love exploring it on foot. I especially love its blustery reputation because it all but REQUIRES a hat!
How many times have you heard someone declare, “I’m not a hat person”? I’ve always found this idea ridiculous, since there are SO many styles of hats to choose from. While its true that finding a hat that flatters you can be a bit trying, knitters are uniquely equipped to do this, and Wooly Wormhead’s latest collection is just another tool in our arsenal.
Taboosh © Woolly Wormhead/R. Paisley 2012
Available now in print and digital, Classic Woolly Toppers is a collection of wearable, diverse hats that will also help you build your skill repertoire. Woolly has included clear illustrations that walk you through some of the more complicated techniques, as well as a helpful guide to the art of hat pairing. Face shape and hair style come into play, and I’d like to add “a dose of confidence” to the list. If you decide you ARE a hat person, you are!
© Woolly Wormhead/R. Paisley 2012
© Woolly Wormhead/R. Paisley 2012
I’d love to donate some of my favorite yarns so that you can knit these patterns, too. I’ve hand selected a Skacel Collection yarn for each of the hats in Woolly’s book (on-trend shades from Schulana, Schoppel-Wolle, Zitron and HiKoo). Leave a comment below with your favorite hat style or Woolly pattern and I will choose one grand prize winner on November 5th (the winner will also receive the Classic Woolly Toppers e-book, of course). And if you don’t win this time, stay tuned, I just might offer a second prize package at Skacel Fiber Studio…
Happy hat knitting, everyone!
Back-to-school book haul! Part one is above, part two is here. I owe you some more posting about Iceland. To be honest, I’ve found it quite difficult to write about my time there. It was so amazing that nothing I write feels adequate. Still, I’ll get to it eventually. Lots of knitting in the meantime, some that I can share and lots that I cannot. More soon, XO CR
Well. I have been back from Ísland for three weeks now. You may have already watched my ebullient haul videos, but I’ve been putting off writing an actual blog post. I don’t know why, exactly, it could be because I’m really and truly sad that this wonderful visit is behind me now. I have so much to share, I’ll be breaking this into several posts and you can be sure that I will return to Ísland as soon as possible…
I arrived just after 6 in the morning and stocked up on Brennivín and Gull Lager (check out the stockinette stitch background on the logo) at the duty-free shop. Ragga, my friend and the founder of Knitting Iceland informed me that Brennivín is sort of the malt liquor of Ísland. Whoops! I’d tried some of the caraway flavor schnapps on the plane and really enjoyed it…
After a brief nap I met up with Stephen and Marc, two darlings I don’t see nearly enough of in America. We walked over to a café that we would positively haunt for the next 2 weeks, Kaffismiđja Íslands. Besides incredible amenities (ahem, nail polish, knitting, music on vinyl) and a constant parade of beauty and style, the coffee and pastries put Seattle’s to shame. They roast their own beans, their baristas win awards, and the pastries seem to be 85% Icelandic butter, and they’re served with even more butter on the side.
I was thrilled to learn that the word “og” meant “and,” not “or” as I’d assumed. It was breaking my heart to choose just one for my daily brioche: “sultu og smjöri.” They probably had a polite little laugh until I finally figured out that I could have my fill of BOTH.
After a good long, Euro-style sit and knit, we set out to do some shopping, for our photoshoots, ourselves, for inspiration. Marc and Stephen picked up new Campers at Kron but I struck out. The cookie-like scalloped flats I wanted were sadly out of stock.
Our view of Hallgrímskirkja from our borrowed balcony…
More errands! Stephen doesn’t stop knitting for anything.
Next stop was FARMER’S MARKET! I’d known about this design company for some time now, so I was thrilled to be visiting the flagship with Stephen, looking for items to use in our upcoming shoots. They have helped to increase the popularity of Icelandic wool both locally and abroad; even the non-wool items they carry seem to exist to heighten the beauty of hand knits.
My first day ended at Kex Hostel (you will hear plenty more about this wondrous place in future posts). We met up with dear Jared, aka Mr. Brooklyn Tweed himself and we all feasted on salted cod with arctic thyme with plenty of Icelandic beer on the side.
(Ragga on the left, Jared on the right, beautiful Reykjavik behind them)
Jet-lagged and blissed out, I set to knitting…
We arrived back at our apartment to witness a killer sunset…
When Jared Flood asks you if you’re a Wool Person, you say YES!
Kidding and Ghostbusters references aside, I am over the moon to share a little project I came up with using Loft, the gorgeous fingering weight wool from Jared’s line Brooklyn Tweed. I’ve long been a fan of Jared’s and I’m honored to be a sometimes collaborator. I styled the first Wool People collection last summer in the Pacific Northwest. This summer, I knit up a lightweight cowl for Wool People 3 and shipped it off to New York. Bicoastal, transcontinental, it doesn’t matter, wool works for me wherever, whenever.
I submitted several ideas, each playing on a theme of lightness and utilitarianism. Since this collection was set to debut in summer, I wanted to promote the idea that wool is a part of daily life throughout the year, not just in blustery winter. Jared picked up on a simple ticking stripe, coaxing me through fears about its plainness. He reminded be that good stripes are shockingly difficult to design, and the swatching process verified that…
Traditional ticking fabric was used for mattresses and for upholstering furniture. The densely woven striped fabric contained feathers or straw and prevented painful pokes. The clean lines and simple palettes have kept this a decorators favorite. The versatile look is practical and pleasing, with a reassuring homey feel.
While the Ticking Cowl imitates these traditional fabrics, the light, airy hand of Loft knit at a loose gauge has nothing in common with upholstery. Worn doubled or even tripled, it is a floaty layer of warmth that adds interest and a bit of textile history to whatever you’re wearing.
ticking cowl photo used with permission, © jared flood / brooklyn tweed
Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom opened this past weekend. While I haven’t seen it yet, I already know that I’m going to love it. Besides being a devoted fan of this aesthetics obsessed auteur, the film was shot in a location that is very dear to my heart. Seeing my beloved Rhode Island Lincoln Woods in the trailer is a surreal feeling. To know that a director I admire so much enjoyed the same landscape that sustained me through 3 trying years of my twenties, and to know that it will be immortalized in his trademark style…well, I’m over the moon about it!
I spent a lot, a LOT of time in these woods and I loved watching them change every day. Here are a few of my favorite memories, more on view here.
The only cinematic excitement that will top this is watching Safety Not Guaranteed, where a few of my favorite actors shot scenes in Discovery Park, my Seattle counterpart to Olney Pond.
Buffalo Exchange Haul
Red Lipstick Quest