We’ve had a crush on Marie Greene’s sweater designs for quite some time; her style is classic yet modern with a focus on everyday wear, which we just love! So it is with great excitement that we will be hosting her this month at Monarch for two sweater workshops. Along with her visit, she has designed a special pattern just for us and has graciously taken the time to share a bit about herself…
How did you get started knitting/into fiber arts?
My grandmother taught me to knit when I was about 10 years old and I took to it immediately. I’d always been a crafty kid and loved embroidery and sewing, as well, so I’ve pretty much been a fiber artist as long as I can remember.
What led you to Olive Knits/designing full time?
Prior to pattern design I was a hospital finance project manager (and occasional freelance writer). I started moonlighting at a yarn shop just to support my hobby, and customers started asking about my sweaters. I’d designed them for myself and had never really written anything down, but was intrigued by the prospect of turning them into patterns. Before I knew it I had a willing team of testers that helped me hit the ground running.
Your sweater designs are so lovely! Where do you draw inspiration from or what inspires you the most?
I love classic, timeless style with modern features. I draw inspiration from my home near the Oregon coast, from my travels around the world and especially from architecture. I love clean, crisp lines and strategic details that showcase texture. Most of all, I design garments I really want to wear and that work in my wardrobe.
When you’re not traveling and teaching around the world, what are some of your other hobbies/interests?
I love to cook. If I’m really stressed, I’ll lock myself away in the kitchen with a glass of wine and some good music and just chop, simmer and whisk away an evening. Time alone in the kitchen, especially if I don’t have to hurry, is the most soothing thing in the world – it’s serious zen. I also love learning new things and am constantly on a mission to improve my French speaking skills (I’m really rusty).
What’s your most favorite fibers and colors with which to knit?
Lately I’m on a dusty pink kick, but in general I’m obsessed with grey, yellow and rusty oranges. I’ve loved orange and yellow since I was a child, so it’s really nothing new for me. But as I’ve grown up I lean toward sophisticated versions of these colors.
Current WIPs, FOs or any sneak peeks into what’s next for Olive Knits?
I’ve just finished writing my first book (Seamless Knit Sweaters in 2 Weeks), and have already embarked on book two with my publisher, so right now being an author is consuming the bulk of my time and energy. That said, I’m working on several new indie projects, including a series of fundamental sweaters for the capsule wardrobe. But I always have twenty designs percolating in my head, and it’s just a matter of needing more hours in the day so I can design and knit them all.
We love taking peeks into people’s knitting & notion bags! What’s in your notion bag? Or which bags do you like to use?
I love ALL THE BAGS. I think I was born a bag lady. My project bags house everything from extra hair ties to Starbucks instant coffee packets to extra pairs of earrings. You’ll also find ear plugs, ear buds, a Tuft lotion bar (Bay & Olive scent), lipstick, a notebook, Excedrin and and an extra phone charger. (Can you tell I travel a lot?) And of course there are at least two knitting projects and all the useful knitting tidbits I may or may not need.
Favorite thing to listen to/do while you knit … podcast/book/movie/show/etc?
I love to binge listen (or watch) true crime documentaries, Chef’s Table or Food Network Chopped.
You’ve taught countless workshops and classes, do you have any favorites?
I think my favorite class is The Pick-Up Artist. It’s actually quite demanding to teach because it’s so hands-on, but the content is incredibly unique and students always leave SO excited about the new ideas. I think all of my classes are terrific, but that one is just extra special. Ironically, it’s probably the hardest one to teach, too, because there’s so much one-on-one time, but the results are worth it.
Congratulations on your upcoming book! We bet you’re just so excited! Any sneak peeks? Where can our readers find details?
Many thanks to Marie Greene for indulging us on our blog! We cannot wait for her visit this month. If you didn’t get a chance to sign-up for her workshops, let us know so we can bring her back next year! And now for our something fun…
We got to chat with the wonderful Cecelia Campochiaro, the designer behind our September projects, the Corrugated Shawl and the Parallelogram Scarf. She’s also the creator and author of Sequence Knitting: Simple Methods for Creating Complex Reversible Fabrics, a brilliant book that “introduces a radical and simple approach for creating amazing fabrics by working a sequence of stitches over and over again.” We first met Cecelia while she was touring and teaching with her book and we’re now so pleased to host her here on our blog…
How did you start knitting? Have there been any particularly inspiring instructors along the way?
I learned to knit as a child, but didn’t really knit in earnest until around the year 2000. The most inspiring knitting instruction was surely Elizabeth Zimmerman and her books, especially Knitting Without Tears. It has been a privilege to work with Meg, Cully, Michelle at Schoolhouse Press, who distribute Sequence Knitting. I also took a workshop from Catherine Lowe in the early 2000s which was an amazing time of ahas and learning about what knitting really means.
How did your interest in Sequence Knitting begin, and how has it evolved?
When I was traveling a lot for work and wanted easy knitting, I made Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s One Row Handspun Scarf. It’s a 1-row pattern that repeats a simple sequence of stitches, but the fabric was surprising and beautiful. After that I just started experimenting to see what would happen…
We know your day job is in the tech industry, please tell us about your work and how it might have influenced your love of Sequence Knitting?
I worked most of my career on microscopes used to inspect computer chips. It was really interesting and involved many different aspects of engineering and science, including the use of algorithms to both control the microscopes and also to interpret the results. I almost called Sequence Knitting “algorithmic knitting” because an algorithm is just a rule, and sequence knitting is about following a rule to make a fabric.
When you’re not working and knitting, what are some of your other passions/hobbies?
Travel, food, photography – there are so many joys to pursue.
Your Instagram account is filled with some amazing travel photographs, is there any place that has inspired you and your knitting?
I’m not sure if a place has inspired me, but some people I have met on my travel have inspired me a lot. Two notables are Britt-Marie Christoffersson and her incredible geometric fabrics, Marianne Isager and how she uses inspirations randing from African textiles to manhole covers…
What are some of your favorite knitting tools that fill your notions bag?
I really like having sets of the same needles so I can optimize my gauge without changing anything else about the needle except its size. Interchangeable sets are nice, but just having a complete set of 24-inch non-interchangeables is really nice.
What’s currently on your needles and what have been some of your most enjoyable projects?
I’m making a scarf with a beautiful breed-specific yarn from Daughter of a Shepherd. I like projects that play with color or have strong graphic qualities. Colormill is the first pattern I published and I still love that piece and the memory of making it.
Are there any hints about what might lie ahead for you? Perhaps a new book in the works?
I retired from high tech at the end of May and I am focused on the next book, which is all about making marls. It has that element of color play, and I hope I have more to say this coming winter.
Wonderful! Thanks for being a guest on our blog, Cecelia! Follow along with her at her website, SequenceKnitting.com.
We thought it would be so fun and inspiring to get to know some members who make up our Monarch team. Jenn has been with Monarch shortly after its reopening in 2013 where she gradually moved on to behind the scene tasks. She handles our social media, assists with our webshop and helps curate our monthly newsletters. Last Fall she and her husband moved to Seattle and we were so glad to keep her on remotely! We’re excited to have her back in the shop working while our dear Koryn takes care of new baby Reid.
Tell us a bit about how you got started with fiber arts?
I’ve always dabbled in some type of artistic medium throughout my life. Photography, ceramics, oil pastels, paper making – you name it, I was either taking a course in the subject or president of its club. It wasn’t until I was gifted a sewing machine that I fell in love with textile arts!
When I moved to Monterey back in 2008, I was really into sewing garments and accessories. After creating a local crafting group to find other sewists, I started to meet crafters, many of them being crocheters and knitters as well. Around the same time, I attended an event where they had free knitting lessons. After wrestling with what looked like a clown wig, I decided knitting wasn’t for me. A couple of the gals from my group handed me a hook, and off I went to crochet everything you could possibly imagine (crocheted cat toys, anyone?). Of course I naturally became obsessed with yarn and anything to do it. This led me to give knitting another try as I just loved the look of a knitted fabric better, and with more and more online tutorials popping up, I was able to teach myself the basics. It’s been about ten years and we won’t talk about my knitting pattern stash…
Besides all things knitting and yarn, what are some of your other hobbies or passions?
Does trying out every coffee spot count as a hobby? You’ll find me doing that while listening to podcasts or audio books. I also love going to baseball games, attending the theater, and I’m currently obsessed with gaining experiences – cooking classes, kayaking, hiking, wine tours, motorbikes…anything that will fill a scrapbook. Oh and I love planning trips, especially if they involve knitting! Rhinebeck 2019, anyone?
Current WIPs, FOs, and/or favorite patterns?
I was recently selected to sample Woolfolk’s newest yarn base, Flette which I have been swatching and I cannot put my needles down! It’s so incredibly soft and I am loving the texture. This has taken precedence over my current project, the Clio pullover by Elizabeth Doherty. But I do hope to get back to knitting it because I would love to have it finished for this Fall. I jokingly say that I’ll have it done by Rhinebeck 2019, ha!
Also, I loved knitting the Lucerne hat by Jared Flood. Such a fun little knit that is totally addicting! Especially with Brooklyn Tweed’s Peerie yarn! Definitely this year’s Christmas knitting…
When Jana sent me her staff favorite for August, I immediately sent her all of the heart emojis and added it to my queue. The Esko Kimono by Jane Veitenheimer is definitely something I would love to have in my wardrobe!
Favorite thing to listen to/do while yo knit or work from home…
I usually have either a podcast like Pomcast or Woolful playing or a variety of music streaming while I work. I go through phases and most recently I’ve been playing a lot of classical genre. As for while I’m knitting, I generally have a show on (current favorite is Succession on HBO and I’m also slowly going through Outlander), baseball (go Red Sox!!!) or YouTube.
What are some of your favorite memories of working at the shop? Are you excited to be back for a bit?
There are far too many favorite memories to count! Monarch’s first anniversary is definitely at the top of the list – the overwhelming support from the community was so heart warming! I’d like to add that I am so grateful to still be apart of the Monarch team. So of course I am so excited to be able to help Ann and Koryn at the shop. I’ve missed my buddy Linus, the lovely ladies at the Tuesday morning knitting circle, being able to help clients and most importantly, my talented and wonderful teammates!
We know you’re mainly behind the lens here at shop, but can our readers find you elsewhere?
I used to have an active blog and be quite social on Ravelry, but I have since moved on to occasionally posting on Instagram, @heartsy.
It’s no secret that our next guest happens to be one of our favorite knitwear designers. Elizabeth Doherty’s patterns are classic yet modern, tailored, and just so much fun knit. We’ve had the privilege to get to know her over the years as she has taught several classes at our shop, and we are so glad to now call her a dear friend. We’re grateful she was able to join us here on our blog…
How did you get started knitting and what led to Blue Bee Studio?
I started knitting a few years after college when I was living in Brooklyn. I had been sewing for a long time, making my own tailored garments, and really enjoyed relatively complex patterns that resulted in clean simple designs. When a local yarn shop owner taught me to knit, I looked at the available knitting patterns, but couldn’t find any designs for sweaters that spoke to me. With a little advice, I was able to transfer from sewing what I knew about the kinds shapes needed to create a garment, and for years I just designed the sweaters I wanted to wear. It wasn’t until I discovered Ravelry that I became aware that there was a whole world of knitting patterns out there, and by then there were ones I wanted to knit!
What’s your favorite part about being a knitwear designer?
I love swatching for new designs. It is a process that captures all of the excitement of a cast-on while exploring new shapes, textures, colors, and so on. I really like all parts of the design process, and even find grading a pattern to be very satisfying. I love creating a comprehensive spreadsheet in Excel and seeing how all of the elements are going to work in different sizes.
Your pieces are timeless yet fresh. We simply admire your designs and overall aesthetic. Where do you draw your inspiration from or what brings out this style?
While I like to design things that look current, I try to find shapes that will flatter a wide range of body shapes and sizes. I want everyone to feel good in their clothes. When you feel good, you look good—so fit is critical.
My design process is pretty organic. There are so many choices made in the course of a design. When I’m knitting on the current project I often find myself mentally reviewing the roads NOT taken, and coming up with other design ideas that I want to explore.
My desk is covered in quick post-it note sketches that may take years to fully develop into a finished design. For example, the sketch for Bodie was attached to my computer screen for two years before I found the right combination of yarn and stitch patterns to take it further.
When you’re not Re-imagining Set in Sleeves… what are some of your other hobbies/interests?
I love road biking, hiking and paddling my kayak. Each of those activities is meditative in its own way, helping to quiet the constant hum of my mind—but also giving me time for mental knitting, where I am often able to solve design issues.
You have quite the library of designs. Do you have a favorite or two or maybe one you love to knit again and again?
The design I find myself wearing constantly these days is Helvetica. I’d love to knit myself another Donner, and I could knit Lineate a hundred times and still find it fun!
Current WIPs, FOs, or sneak peeks of future projects?
Right now I am over the moon about my two new designs in Shibui Reed, Westerly and
Westbound. I am loving how quickly these knit up, and one can’t ever have too many linen tees for summer. Both designs share a beautiful self-finished V-neck, yet offer different hem and sleeve options. The elegant braid across the shoulders creates the simplest back neck finish ever—I’m very excited about this detail!
Everyone already knows just how much we love your Bee Bins! Everything fits so nicely inside, including notion bags. Speaking of… what’s in your notion bag?
Many types of measuring devices and a lot of crochet hooks. I don’t really crochet, but they are infinitely useful. And hair ties!!
You’ve taught countless sweater and linen workshops which we value so much! What’s in store for Blue Bee Studios in the upcoming season?
This August, I’m super excited to be hosting a knitting and hiking retreat—and it’s practically in my own backyard! This intensive sweater-fitting workshop, called The Muslin Sweater, will be held at the historic Sugar Bowl Lodge in the Northern Sierra. Over five days, participants will learn how to make a perfectly fitted top-down set-in sleeve sweater with asymmetrical armhole shaping. When we aren’t taking measurements, customizing the shaping in the pattern, and knitting, we’ll be out enjoying the beauty of my beloved mountains.
Just for fun…
It’s always such fun and so inspiring to follow along with you on social media. Where can our readers find you?
Many thanks to Elizabeth for such fun Q&A! It was such a treat to get some sneak peeks of her two new patterns, Westbound and Westerly, launching the first week of July. Be sure to follow her on Instagram for those details.
Over the last few years, we’ve had the absolute pleasure to stock yarns and patterns from Brooklyn Tweed (our current project is with their newest, Peerie!). Committed to sourcing and producing 100% American yarns, they’re passionate about the fiber industry and community – two of the many reasons why we’ve been longtime admirers of the brand. We’re delighted to welcome them to our blog.
The story behind BT is inspiring, can you share a bit about its history and where the company is today?
Brooklyn Tweed started in 2005 as a knitting blog penned by Jared Flood. As he immersed himself in the knitting community, he eventually began to research the ins and outs of yarn manufacturing. As a knitter and spinner, Jared was taken with the idea of creating a yarn with an elegant yet rustic hand and a transparent supply chain — something that he wasn’t able to readily find on the market at that time. With this in mind, Shelter, Brooklyn Tweed’s first yarn, was born in October 2010.
Since then, the company has evolved to produce six core yarns, 3 worsted-spun and 3 woolen-spun, each manufactured in the United States with domestically sourced, breed-specific wool. We also recently released Ranch 01, our first yarn in an on-going series of single-batch releases that feature fiber from a ranch-specific source. This project allows us to work with smaller operations than is possible for a core yarn line and gives us the opportunity to highlight what are known as reputation fleeces from ranches around the country that are doing truly inspiring and noteworthy work. (The Rambouillet fiber used for Ranch 01 was sourced from The Bare Ranch in Surprise Valley, CA, spun at Jagger Brothers mill in Springvale, ME, and naturally-dyed at Green Matters Natural Dye Company in Lancaster County, PA.)
Brooklyn Tweed also releases knitwear patterns that are designed with polished details and knitting techniques that will help you grow your skills as a knitter. It’s important to us that the patterns we release are wearable and timeless so that you can enjoy many years wearing your handknits. The seasonal collections we release in fall and winter are designed by the Brooklyn Tweed Design Team members. We also release an annual Wool People collection which showcases the work of guest designers worldwide.
Today, we have a small but dedicated staff based out of our HQ in Portland, OR. Our team has a passion for wool and reviving our domestic textile system, as well as their own individual motivations for knitting and participating in the slow fashion movement. We consider ourselves very lucky to be able to work as a close-knit team surrounded both internally and externally by unique, talented, and motivated makers.
As we continue our work, we look forward to overcoming the unique challenges that present themselves while working within the constraints of the American textile industry, and are nothing but optimistic about the possibilities that the future holds for the knitting industry as a whole.
Along with beautiful yarns, you also have an extensive pattern library. How do patterns come about?
Pattern collections usually stem from an idea or theme first conceptualized by Jared, which is then translated into a mood board that is shared with the designers. The Brooklyn Tweed Design Team meets together in person for a design retreat once a year where they contribute their knitterly interpretations of the mood board and discuss their designs for the upcoming collections. This process allows them to collaborate and receive feedback from their colleagues, as well as an opportunity to get excited about each other’s creative work. The inspiration at these retreats often fuels ideas for future collections.
The Wool People collection starts much the same way, with an idea and a mood board, and also a call for submissions that we send out to those who have signed up for our Wool People mailing list. The patterns submitted to us are then carefully combed through by Jared and our Creative Coordination team. These collections are especially invigorating because of the range of design perspectives that the selected group of designers brings to the table.
Your Foundation Series on your blog is so resourceful – we love sharing them! Are you planning to keep that going?
As lifelong learners, we are very enthusiastic about the Foundations Series and have plans to go beyond the basics as we add resources in the future. Continuing the tradition of knitting is a core value of ours and we hope to provide inspiration to learn new techniques or skills as you grow as a knitter. Most of the Brooklyn Tweed team members knit and we each have a wealth of knitting knowledge that we are eager to share. We feel it is important for us to be generous with what we’ve learned in our own knitting journeys and wish to share those things with our wonderful knitting community. The Foundations Series posts are a way for us to do just that!
The posts are released as a component of our monthly newsletter, Outpost, on the first Wednesday of every month. Be sure to keep an eye out for the next installment of Outpost if you, like us, find the technical aspects of knitting to be incredibly interesting. We love to “geek out” with other knitters about the nuances of technique.
You’ve been going to more events as well as hosting some. What’s in store for BT this year?
There have been many exciting developments in our outreach efforts this past year, and we’re so excited to be out in the world more and more.
This past January we founded a non-profit in an effort to further build connections within our local maker community. Though Portland, OR isn’t lacking in creativity, the geography of the city can make it challenging for makers and creatives to gather together in one location. It’s for this reason that we wanted to start initiatives outside of the business aspects of Brooklyn Tweed that would help bring together our creative community in a real and authentic way. Our non-profit, The Brooklyn Tweed Foundation, is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of visual, auditory, and tactile art forms and we’ve seen our first initiative, Knitting Culture, well underway with an exciting line up of speakers who are making our mission to weave together people and ideas come to life. The Knitting Culture series is hosted on a monthly basis and is an opportunity to hold space for people in our community to connect, regardless of creative practice, and encourage one another creative growth. So far we’ve had the pleasure, and privilege, of hearing from many interesting individuals including Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed and Clara Parkes.
It’s always such fun and so inspiring to follow along with you on social media + your blog. Where can our readers find you?
Such an insightful interview! Many thanks to Brooklyn Tweed for taking the time. We’ve hoped you’ve enjoyed getting to know a little more about Brooklyn Tweed just as much as we have. We cannot wait for Wool People 12!
Brooklyn Tweed has just launched their newest yarn, Peerie and they’re celebrating with a knit-a-long for their Lucerne hat pattern. We’ve decided to join in on the fun! Peerie is an American sourced fingering weight 4-ply merino that is just so, so lovely and it’s absolutely perfect for projects like Lucerne.
Inspired by Swiss design, Lucerne features symmetrically-aligned pops of color with minimalist effort. A great project for beginners who are looking to add colorwork to their skill set, it’s a stranded colorwork pattern that is worked as easy 3-and-1 repeats. This enjoyable and intuitive motif can be knit with just two colors or with as many as four.
Brooklyn Tweed has added a fantastic coloring sheet to help you choose the perfect combinations. How sweet is that? And with an extensive palette of 45 brilliant shades, the possibilities for color-play are limitless! The coloring sheets are included with the pattern, but you can download them now by visiting their site: Lucerne Coloring Sheets.
The KAL is running from June 4-11, and those who purchase one or more skeins of Peerie receive the Lucerne hat pattern for free (offer is until June 30). Pop in our seaside shop or visit us online to select your colors for this fun KAL!
To follow along through social media with Brooklyn Tweed and Monarch, simply use the tags, #LucerneHat, #PeerieYarn, #BrooklynTweedKAL and #MKhappyprojects. For those who share their progress with us on Instagram and Facebook will be eligible to win a prize! Be sure to tag @monarchknitting so we can see them! We look forward to seeing your progress!
When Brooke Sinnes from the beautiful Napa Valley region, came into our shop a few years ago, we were so happy to meet her and her stunning hand-dyed yarns! We became instant fans. Naturally dyed, Brooke’s commitment to using locally sourced wool and fibers along with plants from Northern California are what make her yarns truly special. We’re so lucky to have such talent within driving distance from our shop! And extremely fortunate that Brooke is teaching her wonderful Natural Dyeing Workshop at Monarch. We thought it would be a great opportunity to get to know the maker behind her gorgeous brand, Sincere Sheep…
How did you get started with fiber arts? Your story behind Sincere Sheep is so inspiring. What motivated you to start dyeing yarn?
Initially I taught myself how to knit and crochet when I was about 12 years old. I kept it up through high school and at some point I must have said to my dad that I was interested in learning how to weave. The summer between high school and college I lived with my dad in Kansas City, Missouri and he noticed that the Kansas City Art Institute had an intro weaving class so I signed up. When I graduated college and moved back to Berkeley, California I wanted to keep weaving and found classes at the Richmond Art Center. From there I got interested in spinning and went looking for classes. The woman who taught me to spin was also teaching natural dye classes so I learned how to do that as well.
It was through the discussions that happened in those classes that Sincere Sheep was born. During that time I moved up to St. Helena and was exposed more to the wine industry. Also during that time the Slow Food movement was really gaining steam and I realized that concepts used to market wine and valued in food, such as terroir and local, could be applied to fiber and natural dyes. Additionally, at that time, American wool prices were really low. Many small sheep farmers in Sonoma County were choosing to compost, store, or even throw away their wool rather than buy the postage required to send their wool to the local wool pool. The price being paid was so low that it wasn’t worth it. Through my connections made in my spinning and dyeing classes I was able to purchase wool from local farmers and then I would send it to be processed at Yolo Wool Mill that was located just outside Davis. When the yarn and roving came back to me I naturally dyed it and then put the farm name and the sheep’s name on the label. Now, 15 years on, our primary focus remains single-source, breed-specific and custom-made yarns and fibers. The name of the ranch, location and breed is still identified on our label when it is traceable. We offer a diverse selection of custom made products from relationships with California and US wool growers, and small businesses. We buy our products from producers and companies who follow high standards and work in a sustainable way to support the local economy.
Your colors are beautiful! We love that you source local plants to dye your yarn, what are some of your favorites to dye with?
For my business, because I dye such a large volume, I don’t generally use foraged dyes though I do use some when teaching and for personal experiments. Locally fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, eucalyptus, and California pepper tree are all abundant and give nice yellows and even oranges, in the case of eucalyptus. I would love to partner with a local farmer to be able to use locally grown dyes in my work. Right now I have a small dye garden where I grow marigolds, weld, coreopsis, indigo, queen Anne’s lace, calendula, Navajo tea, Hopi sunflowers, artichokes, and madder. For Sincere Sheep I primarily use extracts since they are more efficient.
When you’re not dyeing, teaching and being an all around rock-star at running your business, what are some of your other passions and/or hobbies? Knit, crochet, weave or all of the above?
Even though knitting, crocheting, weaving, spinning etc. have to do with my business I still consider them my hobbies and would love to spend more time doing them! I really enjoy sewing and all forms of embroidery. Some of my non-textile interests are reading, seeing movies, and gardening. I love to play cards and board games too!
We’re always looking for pattern inspiration, what’s currently on your needles or in your queue?
What isn’t on my needles?!? I am trying to knuckle down and finish some projects before starting anything new. Right now I am finishing a sample of the Veronika Cardigan by Shannon Cook in Cormo Worsted and the Wildberry Shawl by Annie Rowden and Andrea Mowry in Cormo Sport. I’m teaching some knitting classes at my local shop in Napa so I will be casting on for a second Bousta Beanie (pattern by Gudrun Johnston) for my stranded knitting class, a Lambda Shawl (pattern by Julia Farwell-Clay) for a class on provisional cast on and short rows, and a Metronome Shawl (pattern by Julia Farwell-Clay) for a class on intarsia.
Wonderful! We’re so excited to host you this month! What’s in store for Sincere Sheep this year? We love sharing events!
My next show is Black Sheep Gathering in Albany, OR at the end of June. I’m also teaching a series of dye classes at my home studio this summer. This fall I will be a vendor at California Wool and Fiber Festival in Boonville, CA and Lambtown in Dixon, CA. Also in the fall we will open sign ups for our Made Here! 2019 yarn club.
That sounds like a great year ahead! It’s always such fun and so inspiring to follow along with you on IG + your blog. Where can our readers find you?
I’m on Instagram as SincereSheep and that is definitely my primary social media outlet. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter but less regularly. My newsletter subscribers always get the new news first!
So great getting to know more about you, Brooke! Thanks for indulging all of us – always such a treat!
Whenever Britt-Marie Brehmer calls us to schedule a visit to show off new yarns, we jump at the chance. Representing various brands within the fiber industry, Britt-Marie’s expertise and love of textiles helps us to select some great new yarns for the shop. Much like her aesthetic, she brings a classic yet fresh approach. We especially love it when she shares current yarns and samples from Shibui Knits! Along with that, she hosts Shibui Mix parties and has worked besides Sandy Barnes of Shibui in our Stitches West booth. It’s always so much fun having her in the shop! We’ve been so fortunate to get to know her over the past couple of years as a yarn rep, and to now call her a dear friend.
Tell us a little about how you got started with fiber arts and becoming a yarn rep?
I can remember my first knitting experience as a 3rd grader in Sweden, growing up with fibers in every corner, but not until now do I realize what a gift this was. I never thought I would be in sales, but I have realized that I’m not really selling, I’m sharing my love of yarn and all that comes with it. The people, the fibers, the knitting and all that other fun it brings.
What’s a day in the life look like for a yarn rep?
Well, I wake up and the first thing (even before coffee) I think about is…what do I knit today??? I knit a lot of samples to better understand the yarns I’m representing, so a lot of time is spent on picking projects for specific yarns. This is also happening when I’m not on the road visiting my stores. I’m so fortunate to be in this business, I really enjoy being with people that share my loved of fibers!
We just love your aesthetic! What influences your effortlessly chic and sophisticated style?
I believe in “less is more”, even in knitting I apply this to my work. There is so many beautiful yarns available today, and I want the design and the fiber to be happily married.
Knit, crochet or both? What’s your favorite thing to do while knitting/crocheting?
I have to say knitting, and I love doing this while watching my favorite show on Netflix, having morning coffee with my husband on the patio, or just hanging out with my family. I also need to say that I have not missed one episode of Espace Tricot and Kammebornia podcasts.
What are some of your other passions and/or hobbies?
I love cooking for family and friends, baking bread, and gardening. I have also lately enjoyed taking upholstery classes. One of these days you will see me with chickens, goats and a little barn somewhere in the wine country.
We’re always looking for pattern inspiration, what’s currently on your needles or in your queue?
I will very soon be casting on for Calyx by Elizabeth Doherty using Reed+Twig together, and in my queue I have Thea Colman’s Stillhouse Vest. I’m also planning to make another Cirrus by Nancy O’Connell in Pebble+Cima, it’s such a great piece!!!
What’s in your notion’s bag? Or what’s your favorite way to carry your projects/notions?
Right now my favorite project bag is from Blue Bee Studio. It’s super cute and handy.
It’s always so fun having you in the shop for Shibui Mix parties. What are some of your favorite Shibui mixes and patterns?
I’m a big fan of Pebble mixed with Cima, Silk Cloud or Lunar. Twig is also one I really like, the drape of this yarn is fabulous. I love them all, so it’s hard to pick favorites.
Now for a bit of fun…
Britt-Marie, thank you so much for being a guest on our blog! We look forward to hosting you in the shop this month.
*Dear reader, if you’d like to join Britt-Marie at the shop, we will be hosting her on Saturday, May 19th. We hope to see you there!*
Nearly five years ago this April, Ann Patterson saved our local yarn shop from being closed for good. She took some needles, kept the name and completely transformed the space into a beautiful new haven for knitters and makers alike. And we are forever grateful! Each of one of us from the Monarch team is so fortunate with her at the helm – it is such a joy to work with and for Ann! So it is with great pleasure that we got to sit down and ask her some questions for our blog…
It’s every knitter’s dream to own a yarn shop, what’s it like being an owner of one?
I have heard a number of people say that they would love to own a yarn shop. Well be prepared, it is not all knitting beautiful fibers with your friends! (Although there is some of that!) As business owners go, I am very fortunate. How many people actually get to work in a field they are passionate about? It is a great job as you get to use both the creative side of your brain and the business side. You meet a huge number of amazing people and learn something new every day. That said, being an owner of a Local Yarn Shop (LYS) is challenging in today’s marketplace. There are a lot of stresses that go with the fun, but it does get easier each year.
What do you think the most important element is in Monarch Knitting’s success?
That is the easiest question to answer… the people!
I can count my lucky stars regarding the team at the store. Koryn, Diane, Jana, Heather, Jenn and Alyssa are the most important element that makes Monarch Knitting what it is today. Their expertise and customer service bring our friends back to us and they are the people that build the community for our shop. Not many business owners get to work with such wonderful and talented people!
The loyalty our local clients and friends from out of town have shown us over the years has been so important. We would not be able to open our doors each day with out all of them. We are so pleased that they choose to shop with us, as we love being the LYS for so many!
The knitters that visit the Monterey Peninsula are an important element to our business as well. The visitors help to sustain the health of the business in combination with our local clients. I love welcoming people from all over the country, and the world at times, to the store. It is fun to chat with them to hear what brings them to the area. Monarch is lucky enough to see some of them from each year as they return to our beautiful Monterey Peninsula.
There is always so much going on at the shop, what’s a typical work week look like for you?
The last thing owning a yarn store gives you is a cookie cutter workweek! I am an early riser, so I start my day at about 5:30am. I love this time of morning. I make my latte and sit down at the computer to answer emails, do some accounting and take care of any writing or planning that has to be done for the store. If I am going into the store that day, I will wrap up at about 8:00am so I can take Linus out for a walk and get ready for work. If I am not heading into the store, I will continue to work throughout the day with breaks for errands and snuggles with Linus. Days that I spend preparing the newsletter or getting ready for an event, all bets are off. You take what comes you way when you are doing that!
Most vendors send out a weekly newsletter to their shops and I try to read most of them. You would be surprised at how much content that is. I gain a lot of inspiration for projects and classes from these emails as the ideas and photography are, for the most part, lovely. I also spend some time perusing Instagram and Ravelry each day to see what is popular and what the knitting community is talking about.
I like to sit and knit if I am home in the late afternoon. Something I hope to be better about in the year ahead. After all, it is work, isn’t it?
When you’re not working, what are some of your other passions/hobbies?
I love to spend time with friends and family. When my daughters are home for a few days, my work world stops and I try to capture every moment I can with them. They both live on the East coast for work and school so these visits are too few and far between. (My oldest has been transferred to Austin so she will be a bit closer to home!)
I love to cook and really enjoy baking bread. I have not done it much as of late and it is something I hope to get back to in the next few months. I adore taking long walks with Linus and my husband, especially along our stunning coast. I am an avid baseball fan and try to catch most of Giants games. My other passion is (surprise!) knitting. Sitting down to knit gives me great joy and is an important part of each day. It is my ultimate form of relaxation and something I do for my well-being.
We are always in such awe whenever you complete a project – you knit so fast and beautifully! What have been some of your favorite pieces to knit over the years?
One of my favorite pieces to wear is my Cambridge Shawl by Carol Sunday. It is simple but beautiful. That tends to be my theme! I have loved knitting and wearing Spark of Grey and Whiteout both by Melanie Berg, Multigrain by Antonia Shankland (I may knit it again in another color), Bodie by Elizabeth Doherty, Big Herringbone Cowl by Purl Soho and Architexture by Jennifer Weissman.
Spark of Grey
How do you keep your projects organized?
I love to organize so this arena is right in my wheelhouse! Each project has its own bag with yarn and pattern in a handy corner sleeve, of course. The other thing project bag has is its own notions bag. This bag has all the notions necessary for that project in either a Byrd & Belle or Walker pouch. Since I work on multiple projects at a time, I like to be able to pick up the bag containing that project and know that I will not have to search for a pair of scissors, a different needle size or a stitch marker. Each knitting bag is self-contained with everything I need for a project. Needless to say I have multiple of most notions!
I make notes on my patterns as I work on them and then I transfer everything into a notebook once the project is complete so I can keep track of any changes I have made. I have many sets of interchangeable needles and they are all contained in Della Q or Twig and Horn needle cases. My master notion bag is one that my daughters gave me for Mother’s Day years ago. I could go on and on… perhaps this should be its own blog post.
One can never have too many!
What’s currently on your needles?
I am finishing up Athos by Shellie Anderson for the shop. This cowl can be worn many different ways and is knit from one of my favorite yarns, Shibui Pebble. I am half way through the Maeve Scarf by Heidi Hennessy using a Lux Adorna Cashmere’s Loft Lux Braid. We had this piece at Stitches and I was always eager to wrap it around my neck. It is so soft and I love the bright colors; an unusual thing for me! I am just about to start a coat, Aspen by Michelle Wang, using Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. We had the piece in the shop for a couple of weeks and I kept coming back to it, so it must go on my needles. I am also slightly obsessed with Dohne by Gretha Mensen right now.
Current favorite books/music/podcasts/shows?
Alice Waters’ memoir, Coming to My Senses is on my night table right now. I enjoy listening to podcasts, especially when I fly, Making (formally Woolful), Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Stuff You Should Know, This American Life and The Splendid Table. My Spotify account is filled with everything from Mozart, The Hics, Sergio Mendez and the Brazil 66 (a nod to riding in my mom’s car as a child), Pearl Jam, Kaskade, Drake and a ton of single songs from a RANDOM group of artists.
I am a “Netflix Knitter”! When I sit and knit at home I will pop a show on and watch while I stitch. I love The Great British Baking Show, Grantschester, Grace and Frankie, The Crown, Chef’s Table, Sherlock and Wallander. (Gee, do you see any British programming theme in that sentence?) Anytime The Hunt for Red October is on, I stop everything and watch it. It is one of my favorite movies. Of course, if the Giants are playing that is on the TV!
The shop is celebrating five years this month as the new Monarch. How does this make you feel/what are your thoughts?
I just cannot believe it has been 5 years! My decision to purchase Monarch was made fairly quickly as the store was going to close if no one had purchased it. With my husband’s help we put together a business plan and tried to understand the realities of owning a local yarn store. I am most proud of how much I have learned over the last 5 years and continue to do so. It has also been wonderful to have my daughters watch me build something from the ground up later in life. Hopefully this will teach them that taking calculated risks are a good thing. (Please note, the mother in me emphasizes “calculated risks”.) The best thing about owning Monarch is the relationships I have built. Whether it is with our amazing staff, talented vendors or lovely customers, the people are the best and most joyful part of this journey.
As we look ahead toward the upcoming Summer and Fall seasons, what’s in store for you and Monarch?
This question comes at the right time for me! With the 5-year anniversary of the store I have been thinking a lot about where I am personally. One thing that I am going to work on is personal wellness. Because I work from home so much, I tend to get lost in the tasks at hand and, before I know it, a 10-hour workday has passed. Part of my goal is to take some time for me each afternoon and on weekends. I am going to try to get back into doing some yoga and just slowing my life down a bit. We will see if those best laid plans actually work!
As for the store, between the team and me, we always have new ideas in the works. We are going to be a vendor in a knitting retreat in August and at Vogue Knitting Live in San Francisco this September. Both events will be a huge learning experience. We would like to feature a local hand dyer at the store in the near future and then extend that to highlighting the work of small batch dyers who come from different parts of the country. We will continue to search for interesting teachers and vendors to bring to the store and we will have some wonderful visitors over the next year. Then there will be events and opportunities that will come to us as a complete surprise. You have to be prepared for anything when you own a knitting store!
For a little fun…
Thank you so much for indulging us, Ann! Happy shop anniversary! We look forward to your future blog posts, new shop events, and more!