I'm a big fan of City Arts magazine, so I am especially pleased to be featured in their May issue. Click here to hear about my local heroines, style inspirations and my next big project 💋 CR
Is anyone else feeling like it's New Year's Day all over again? Spring is kind of a moody slog for most of us, and I am definitely ready to shake off that feeling. Before moving forward though, I'd like to thank Fringe Association again for choosing my L'Arbre Hat pattern for their second Hatalong. I decided to join in and knit one using Zealana Yarns Kauri. I blog for Zealana as well and you can read my post on yarn selection here.
I used a really clever 1 x 1 Ribbing cast-on that I learned from my friend and mentor Norah Gaughan. You can see her use it in her Creativebug Cabled Hat Class. I've also done some Creativebug classes if you're looking for a new project. I knit the ribbing on a US size 6, a common technique that somehow didn't make it into this pattern (you'll see that mistakes are a theme with this one...)
I started my hat with Zealana Kauri K13 Ashen, a lovely dove gray-blue. I often knit in the semi-dark while watching movies or television and...well, when I ran out of yarn, I accidentally grabbed K01 Natural to finish the crown shaping. When I noticed my error in daylight, I actually decided that I really loved the subtle colorblocked effect. While I was knitting the last few rows I discovered ANOTHER tiny error (sigh): Rnd 1 of the crown shaping should read *K1, s2kp2, k1, p3..." to maintain the garter pattern. I also worked Rnd 14 as ssks because I thought it looked better than the k2tog I originally called for. WTH, past me?
You might not know this but patterns for books and magazines are tech edited, but usually not test knit. Test knitting is a relatively new phenomenon in the knitwear design world, most commonly used by indie designers. Knitting up this hat showed me the value of test knitting, and while it's often not possible within the time constraints of traditional publishing, it's clearly a valuable process.
Moving on to new business! It's been a busy year for me so far, but most of the work is sadly behind the scenes, to be revealed later this year. Much of it forced me to set aside fun projects like the Loro KAL. A handful of really great Loros have been finished, and I'm hoping to get mine done in the next few weeks as well, in time for TNNA. I've decided to work a cropped version (read more here), so I feel like that's a reasonable goal. Fingers crossed!...
As the years pass I find myself with less and less time to read blogs, but hers is one I try to keep up with. Karen is a researcher, a compiler, an educator and a zealous knitter. She also happens to sell some of my favorite knitting supplies through Fringe Supply, a sister site she runs alongside the blog. They're no nonsense and starkly beautiful. Karen has taste for days, so I'm tickled she picked my hat out of the zillions out there.
Real talk: books take a long time to make. My book took an especially long time to make. I designed L'Arbre in 2011. It was one of the very first book pieces I finished. When I design something so simple, I do a thorough Ravelry pattern search to see if a particular stitch pattern or technique has already been covered before. At the time, this one (Little Tent from Barbara Walker's 1st treasury) hadn't been used for a hat. I was shocked, and proceeded with what is one of the simplest designs in the book.
Since there is such a long lead time between designing book pieces and seeing them in the world, I knew that a parallel design was probably going to happen. Norah used to call this "the ether." If someone published a design that looked a lot like one we were working on, she'd just say, "it's in the ether," meaning we're all working from the same sources.
I consider knitting a shared language, and I no longer concern myself with reinventing the wheel every time. I love homage, and bricolage and anyone who reads my book will gain a deeper understanding of that. Some designers intentionally avoid looking at other people's work, but I don't. I look at as much as I can, every day. If someone or something inspires a piece, I'll cite my sources. I didn't finish my master's degree, but I kept that habit.
For me, the originality lies in the combination and execution of whatever elements I've gathered. That said, I did reach out to the people who published very similar hats in between the time I knit mine and when the book hit the shelves [Citadel by Beata Jezek, LiftOff by Julie Hart, Blythbourne Hat by Susie Allen] . I sent them messages letting them know and apologizing for any inconvenience it might cause. So far, there have been no issues, and everyone had a wonderful attitude about the unfortunate coincidences.
And, proving my point, our hats all have slight differences! Contrast cast-ons, linings, brim patterns, crown decreases, embellishments, construction--all different. The only thing we really have in common is "hat" and that stitch pattern. There is room for all of us.
P.S. I'll be knitting up a new L'Arbre, too! Find my yarn pick on the Zealana blog.
I wasn't able to attend Hönnunarmars / DesignMarch this year so I was elated to see the charming Arctic Sun Hat in Brooklyn last month. I found it on display at BÚĐIN, a Nordic themed cafe. I'd heard that this humble hat designed by knitwear design collective Vík Prjónsdóttir had taken Reykjavik Grapevine's Product of the Year title, and it was a treat to see it in person. Their work is all over Iceland (and on sale at BÚĐIN), loved by tourists and locals alike. Their atelier is a lean one, comprised of three main product designers, all women (meet them here), which is why their name is roughly translated as "knitting daughters of the inlet (in this case, capital city Reykjavik)."
Their palette is fresh and bright but not eye-searing. There is always a grounding neutral nearby. It seems borrowed from the cityscape of corrugated steel homes with colorful roofs. They've traditionally worked exclusively with Icelandic wool using Icelandic knitting mills to produce their collectible products, but the Arctic Sun hat marks a departure from that model. The hats are made with 100% Yorkshire lambswool, the decidedly soft first shearing of a sheep's life. The knitting was outsourced as well, which left me wondering how Iceland factored into this piece.
As I read more, I found that the simplicity of the design was deceptive. Basic ribbing and color blocking actually holds a story about the extremities of Icelandic light throughout the year. Colors represent months, the first batch of four inspired by May, June, July and August. I find the August color way (shown above) particularly interesting. At 66˚ above the equator, Iceland enjoys "endless sun" in the summer. It never gets entirely dark, but the sun dips low on the horizon around 3 a.m. The complex gradations seen at that dusky time are distilled down to three shades here, but the feeling of that strange bright night comes through clearly. The Arctic Sun Hat is a welcome reminder that simplicity can speak volumes.
My first encounter with Björk was in 1993 when I saw the Michel Gondry directed video for Human Behavior. I remember feeling instant recognition--beyond a physical resemblance, this was a woman who was unstudied and raw, completely creative with a childlike bravery for expressing that.
I later learned that Björk composes while walking and intentionally matches the beat of the human footstep, which lends a comforting familiarity to even her strangest songs. She identifies with the volatility of the Icelandic climate saying that she often feels conflicted between wanting absolute quiet and wanting to communicate "900%." While places like Norway may rival the beauty of Iceland, the constant movement of the pulsing island country has an energy and mystery second to none. Her music contains so much of what I love about the country, the unnamable qualities especially.
She's often a punchline, accused of being esoteric, but my visit to her "mid-career retrospective" at MoMA confirmed that I'm no where close to alone in my veneration. Her lyrics tend to be immediate and deceptively simple, especially so on her latest work, Vulnicura. The emotion resides in her primal delivery. Watching the video for Lionsong opened old wounds with these simple words: "maybe he will come out of this loving me, maybe he won't."
I had to laugh as well. 50 this year, I don't think she's ever been more beautiful, a thought I had again while watching the 10-minute long Black Lake (I sat through it twice, it was so good). Björk has always been a holistic performer. The visual components of every release are just as important as the music, and this was no exception. Delicate and heartrending, it's her simplest but most affecting work, using Iceland as a backdrop in a way that recalls one of one of my favorite videos, Who Is it? Celebratory and effervescent, the dirge of Black Lake is its powerful corollary.
My friend Hardeep Phull reviewed the exhibit for the NY Post and wondered why anyone would pay money to see what they could find on YouTube for free. He isn't the only critic who has panned the retrospective, most of them calling it slight. It was, but as a megafan, it was still a thrill to be amongst iconic Alexander McQueen dresses and notebooks full of scrawled lyrics. The bluetooth technology developed for the exhibit was fun as well and fostered an effortless, organic experience. There were tactile thrills throughout--a rumbling room and a cave covered in ersatz 3-D stalactites and stalagmites for the screening of Black Lake. The last bit of the exhibit is a large cinema with cushions scattered on the ground and a 50 ft. screen playing her formidable archive of collaborative music videos. I relished this chance to see and hear my favorite artist with a befitting sound system. The black box theater provided total immersion, a sensation never offered by ubiquitous iDevices. I left elated, elevated and more devoted than ever.
This is where you'll catch your dumb mistakes, but it's also where you'll feel that awesome sense of pride, and pure enjoyment as you revel in your chosen materials. Or maybe you'll decide you need to switch gears entirely. Better to realize that now, no? I love Maggie.
While we settle into the busiest bit of the holiday season, I thought I'd share a few Loro related treats. The first is the namesake for the comforting sweater that's hardly more than a scarf. Loro by Pinback is one of my favorite songs. It's thought-provoking, rhythmic and dreamy all at once, qualities I felt while working on the vest. This is a fan-made video, by the by, but you can find much more Loro on Spotify and the like.
Bonus! Here are some images that were on my mood board while I designed the pieces for the Homebodies chapter of my book. Keywords were languid, warm and (ever-so-slightly) coquettish.
Have a lovely holiday season, home-bound or otherwise!
Hello! We're ready to cast-on for Loro! If you're been following along so far, you'll know that I swatched five yarns in preparation for today. I forgot to mention that I picked up four of them at Tolt Yarn and Wool, my semi-local LYS (Cascade Ecological Wool, Madeline Tosh Vintage, Peace Fleece Worsted, and Quince & Co. Osprey Heathers). They should all be available online soon, or you can call and place an order over the phone. I've decided to use Zealana Tui, a soft single-ply which is slightly too heavy at 3 stitches to the inch knit on size 9 needles. Lucky me, as Zealana's Brand Ambassador I was able to get this gloriously fluffy possum/merino/cashmere blend on a cone, meaning I'll have very few yarn ends to weave in (truth be told, I swear by spit-splicing, so I rarely have many ends).
The fabric on 9s is already rather firm, and to get to the stated gauge of 4 stitches to the inch, I'd have to drop at least a needle size, which would probably yield a cardboard-like fabric. I decided to do a bit of tinkering on my calculator, coming up with a new cast-on number that would work with my gauge. It was very easy, and I'll walk you through what I did in case you're having trouble getting gauge, or, like me, you fancy yourself a rebel.
Oh! One more note: in my last post I said that matching row gauge isn't all that important and that's not exactly true. I'm shortening my vest, and since the pattern calls for decreases every 12 rows (approximately every 2"), I needed to figure out how many decreases will be eliminated in the shortened version so I can adjust my stitch count accordingly.
I'll be knitting a medium, which measures 21.5" across at the lower hem. The medium back as written is 29" long and I'd like to shorten my vest to about 21", which means eliminating 4 decreases. First, I need to find my new cast-on number. I know that the original back measures 21.5" across at lower hem, so I multiply this number by my new gauge and get 64.5. I need a whole, even number to work Moss Stitch and the built-in garter selvedge, so I round down to 64. I subtract the decreases I'm omitting and get 60. This is my new cast-on number. I'll cast on 60 and proceed with the pattern as written.
Leaving a 16-18" tail of yarn when casting-on is a great way to facilitate neat seaming later, but that long tail can get in your way while you're knitting. I wind it into a small bundle called a yarn butterfly, a technique that can also be used in lieu of bobbins when working intarsia. The whole process is pictured below:
Good luck with your cast-on! Let me know if you have any questions, or if you're making any mods of your own. Comment here or in our Loro KAL Ravelry thread, and be sure to hashtag #LoroKAL on Twitter and Instagram so we can all keep tabs on each other's progress. Have fun!
The initial planning stages of any sweater project play a large part in its eventual success, especially if you're substituting yarns. Swatching is hugely important, but I've always agreed with the Yarn Harlot that it isn't an ironclad contract. There are many variables that only reveal themselves later down line, but that doesn't mean you should skip the "first date," as Stephanie calls it. You need to see if you can get in the ballpark of your pattern's required gauge, and if you like the fabric and how the yarn behaves.
I swatched 5 yarns and used a US size 9 needle for all 5 swatches. The Loro Vest calls for 16 stitches and 26 rows over 4 inches in Moss Stitch on US size 9 (5.5 mm) needles.*It's important to remember that needle sizes listed on ball bands and in patterns are only a suggestion. The phrase "change needle size if necessary to obtain correct gauge" means that you might need to go up or down a few needle sizes to achieve the right number of stitches per inch for your chosen pattern.
I should also point out that for this particular pattern, row gauge in not terribly important. The pattern instructs you to work to specific lengths and since there are no sleeves to worry about, it's not absolutely vital that you match the pattern's row gauge, which is 26 rows over 4".
Because the pattern gauge is taken from a non-curling stitch, I decided to forgo the usual garter edge stitches and just cast on 16 sts, knitting until the cast-on edge could be folded towards the live stitches on the needle, making an isosceles triangle. I bound off in pattern and measured the swatches. After a quick dunk into warm, Soak-laced water, I let the swatches dry and remeasured them, noting any major changes to the feel or gauge.
- Quince & Co. Osprey Heathers: pre-blocking: 3.75” (4.25 sts/inch); post-blocking: 4” (4 sts/inch). The stitches are nice and even and the fabric is soft and cushy. The stitch definition is good and there were pleasant tweedy flecks in the heathered colorway.
- Cascade Ecological Wool: pre-blocking: 3.75” (4.25 sts/inch); post-blocking: 4” (4 sts/inch). This is spot on for gauge and feels perfectly wooly. This is an economical choice for me since I already have the required amount stashed. It's also lightweight, which means it isn't lightly to stretch out of shape.
- Madeline Tosh Vintage: pre-blocking: 3.25” (5 sts/inch); post-blocking: 3.75” (4.25 sts/inch). This is a dramatic change, and I'm not surprised! Superwash merinos have a tendency to splay wildly when they hit the water. If I wanted to tighten this up and get back to the original gauge, I could toss this in the dryer on low heat. But, the gauge is far from what I need, entirely too light.
- Peace Fleece Worsted: pre-blocking: 4.5” (3.5 sts/inch); post-blocking: 4.75” (3.25 sts/inch). This yarn blooms beautifully and the mohair content provides a soft halo that obscures the stitches somewhat.
- Zealana Tui: pre-blocking: 5” (3 sts/inch), post-blocking: 5" (3 sts/inch). The possum content bloomed, making the surface look and feel soft and cozy with a taupe brown halo. The stitch pattern is somewhat blurred, but the overall effect is quite nice, and feels luxurious.
While there are two yarns that match my desired stitch gauge exactly, and I could change my needle size to coerce other yarns toward my goal, I'm temped to use Tui, which is a bit too chunky. You can sometimes get away with this by knitting a smaller size, or vice versa, knitting a larger size with too-light yarn. I only recommend this when a garment has very simple construction. Loro fits this description!
To see if I could pull this off, I flip to the schematic. I see that the size I was going to knit, a Medium, should measure 21.5" across at the Back lower hem. If I use the Tui at 3 sts to the inch and follow the pattern as written, my Back lower hem would measure about 29" across--close to 8" more than what I need. If I follow the directions for size Small, the piece will measure approximately 25" across. That's still almost 4" wider than what I need. I have some thinking to do! Either I can tinker with the pattern or use a yarn that is closer to the gauge of the yarn used for the original, Madeline Tosh Merino.
I'll reveal my final choice on the 15th (with a quick post about shortening Loro on the 10th) when we collectively cast-on, but in the meantime, here is a little swatching tip if you're like me and never remember what needle size you used to knit your swatch. If you're working stockinette, you can use yarnover eyelets to make a tangible, permanent note of what size you used. Alternatively, you can tie knots in the tail hanging from your swatch.
Use a needle to "slide" a simple overhand knot into place and repeat until you have enough knots. US 9 needle, 9 knots, no need for notes!
Comment below or chime in here on our Ravelry thread to share your swatching and sizing thoughts. The 15th will be here before we know it!
*there have been some questions about yarn amounts. They are as follows:
- Small (31" at bust) 1260 yds of heavy worsted/Aran weight yarn
- Medium (37" at bust) 1470 yds of heavy worsted/Aran weight yarn
- Large (41" at bust) 1680 yds of heavy worsted/Aran weight yarn
There is some skepticism about the seemingly high yardage but the vest is tunic length, much longer than most sweaters which hit at the top of hip. While it doesn't have sleeves, it requires nearly the same amount of yarn as a garment with sleeves. I plan to shorten my vest which will cut down on the yarn required. More on that on the 10th!
My book has been out for about a month now. It's always fun to watch the heart tally on Ravelry. While I know it isn't 100% accurate, it's a good indicator of what people are responding to, and it's nearly always surprising. The Loro Vest has emerged as a clear favorite, and I'll admit, I may have tried to engineer this!...
It can be a fool's game to try to predict what will be a hit with knitters. So-called wildfire knits can take on a life of their own. This was certainly the case with my Aidez Cardigan, a free pattern that has been knit thousands of times. When I try to dissect the appeal, I land on a few key points. The basic construction is blessedly simple, and the neck-hugging shawl collar is universally flattering. Secondly, it was an easy knit. Macro cables were speedy and dramatic when knit with a round, outsized yarn.
It felt wonderful to revisit these elements here with a buoyant hand-dyed merino. I've simplified the back, which is now a clean swath of moss stitch, putting all focus on the deeply tactile plaited cables on each front. These dramatic braids are flanked by a simple column of easy lace.
[excerpt from Magpies, Homebodies and Nomads: A Modern Knitter's Guide to Discovering and Exploring Style, published by STC Craft | Melanie Falick Books]
I've decided to host my very first knit-along to celebrate the book and the warm reception this particular garment has gotten. It's a really easy knit, and it made me fall in love with vests. A lot of knitters tackled Aidez as a first sweater project, which impressed me to no end! Loro is even easier--it's two scarves with a lot of interest and a very simple moss stitch back. I have some tricks to share along the way, but mostly I envision the knit-along as a way to virtually hangout with you. I can't wait to see finished versions of Loro popping up on Ravelry.
You can find updates here and in my Ravelry group. The general schedule is as follows:
- December 1st: scheme and swatch! I'll be discussing yarn substitution and modifications.
- December 15th: cast-on for the back. It's the perfect bit of mindless holiday knitting and will fit easily into stolen moments.
- January 1st: we'll kick things into high gear with the super fun multi-textured fronts.
- January 31st: finishing time! I know it's not everyone's favorite task, but I happen to love it, and have some special plans for this part of the process...
There are no special rules for joining. If you have the book and an urge to have a cozy new piece of knitwear come January, knit along!
I'm back from a wonderful trip to Rhinebeck. It was great to be back on the East Coast while it was at its finest. I was there to sign my brand new book Magpies, Homebodies and Nomads: A Modern Knitter's Guide to Exploring and Discovering Style, but I did manage to take a few laps around the fairgrounds.
I found all my usual favorites, adorable outspoken sheep, delectable fried foods and happy, happy knitters. This time I channeled my inner Garance Doré and took quick snapshots of my favorite style moments. They weren't always handknit or even knit but they all celebrated wool, fiber and fun. Some standout trends were mixed media scrap projects, vintage inspired Americana, classics gone neon and art yarn as jewelry, the last one completely bolstered by spinning instructor and imagination ignitor Esther Rodgers. I was remiss in not getting people's names so speak up in the comments if you spot yourself or a friend (I DID let them all know I'd be posting their amazing knits on my blog). Enjoy! (click to see my Rhinebeck snaps)
P.S. Bonus: find my Rhinebeck video footage on the Zealana blog!
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.