Along with hosting Julie Hoover at Stitches this month, we got to sit down with the lovely creative behind some of our most favorite designs.
How did you get started knitting/into fiber arts?
As long as I can remember, I’ve had an affinity for fiber. As a youth, my mother had a rule that if we (my sisters) wanted to watch television, we had to be doing something useful at the same time, so there was always a craft project in my hands. I learned every form of fiber craft you can imagine, except hand knitting. It wasn’t until I was nearly 40 that I picked up knitting needles and discovered that I was a knitter.
What led you to designing?
I think designing is in my DNA, and it has played a role in every part of my professional and private life. I have a BA in Clothing & Textiles, which gave me a broad range of exposure (to chemistry, design, marketing, etc.) and has been useful in the other careers I’ve pursued before this one (all involving designing in one way or another). Once I began knitting, I realized the skills I had assembled up to that point had closed in a perfect circle around what I’m doing now.
We love your modern knitwear aesthetic! Where do you draw inspiration from or what inspires you the most?
I find a lot of inspiration from textures, patterns, and colors found in nature and architecture. The aspects that inspire me most are the subtle details and the negative spaces that draw the eye in quietly and celebrate a sense of proportion.
We’re completely smitten with you latest collaboration with Shibui Knits, can you share how the partnership came about? What inspired the beautiful colors and designs?
The collaboration began over lunch with Sandy Barnes, Shibui’s head sales manager, one day when she was visiting Ann Arbor. (I’ve known Sandy for over a decade, and she has always been so generous with her time and encouragement.) I threw out the idea of me developing a few colors that they might put in their yarn lineup, and she said it sounded like a great idea. Within a day, I put together a mood board and sent it to her. The colors I initially presented (except Glacier) went through a shift as we dug deeper into their customer and which bases to concentrate on; however, each one is a color I felt was worthy of a fashion-forward handmade wardrobe.
What piece in the collection do you find yourself reaching for the most? (We wear Post all of the time at the shop!)
I had to send all the samples away for trunk shows, so it’s hard to answer this question! I think when they come back to me at the end of the year, I will be reaching for Hahn and Layton, most.
When needles aren’t in your hands, what are some other hobbies/interests?
The one thing I look forward to most is when I have time to cook. (Surpassed only by my love for eating!) I also love to sew, but sadly it doesn’t happen often. We have a demanding weed situation around our property, so I am outside pulling them most of the year. Thankfully I enjoy being outdoors, and it’s often the only form of exercise (besides yoga) that helps keep me moving.
Favorite thing to listen to/do while you knit … podcast/book/movie/show/etc
Spotify is almost always playing on the speakers (Women of Acoustic, Roots Rising are two of my favorite playlists). When I’m knitting samples, I admit to curling up and binge-watching TV (political/spy thrillers or gritty detective series are particularly hard to resist). I listen to the NYTimes “The Daily” religiously and other news-related podcasts in the car. There’s an ever-growing list of audiobooks in a wishlist queue that I compete with my husband to download (currently listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers”).
Current WIPs, FOs or any sneak peeks into new designs?
I’m currently knitting a rectangular wrap in Shibui Knits Tweed Silk Cloud that will be released later in the Spring. My biggest priority after that is deciding what to do for Sweater Club 2020 (many swatches in the works), but I also hope to have time for a few other things as well.
Stitches West is this month! We’re so honored to host you in our booth alongside Shibui. Are you ready for a weekend of fun with our local knitting community?
Yes, I am looking forward to that!
After Stitches, what’s next up for Julie Hoover?
I have two retreats coming up and planning another for late Spring in Spain, plus a sweater workshop series at my local yarn shop. I keep my events page updated here: juliehoover.com/events.
Want more from Julie? Follow her Instagram feed – it’s always so inspiring! Julie Hoover
We’ve admired Sloane Rosenthal’s designs for quite some time now – classic knits with a modern flair that are wearable, wardrobe staples. She’s become known for her love of cabling, as well as her penchant for using thoughtful and inspiring yarns. Her latest endeavor, Hudson + West Co. is a product of that care. Grab a cup, pull up a chair and read all about her start into designing, her latest & beautiful collection, and her current favorites. (She’s certainly one of ours!)
How did you get started knitting/into fiber arts (background)?
I’m actually a bit of a late-comer to knitting, despite having a mom who knit and a grandmother who crocheted, and (later) a mother-in-law who knits as well. I started knitting shortly after my daughter (who is now 8) was born. I was pretty anxious as a new mom, and I desperately needed something to do with my hands. The meditative aspects of knitting really appealed to me initially and, like many things in my life seem to, it escalated pretty quickly.
We love your classic take on knitted sweaters and accessories! What led you to designing? Where do you draw inspiration from or what inspires you the most?
Thank you! I think, like a lot of designers, I started because I found a lot of things that were close-but-not-quite to what I wanted on Ravelry (and, when I was practicing law full time, a lot more time spent fantasizing about what I wanted to make than time actually making it). I did a lot of modifying, and eventually started working from a blank page myself.
Honestly I’m really most inspired by things I see in ready-to-wear. I do draw a lot of inspiration in terms of texture from our beautiful natural environment, but a lot of the silhouettes, the concepts, the overall drive behind the work really comes from what I see people wearing in real life and what I observe about how they interact with their clothes, and what they need them to do. I try to really take a step back in my design process and have a sense of what the overall finished garment will be and why it will or won’t work in my life (or “my knitter”’s life) before I get too into the details of how I want the stitch patterning to work. It has to have a “why” before the stitch patterns can really drive the math and the rest of the process — otherwise you end up with cables that look really cool but a garment you aren’t really sure what to do with.
Your latest endeavor, Hudson + West is stunning. Can you share more about the start of H+W (and why it is so special)?
Thanks so much! It’s been a really amazing project. Hudson + West was founded almost a year ago, right after Rhinebeck 2018. Meghan Babin and I knew each other from her days at Interweave Knits, and both of us were looking for our next projects. I had been doing a lot of freelance design work and teaching, but had been thinking about doing a yarn project for a long time. Meghan and I were both separately talking to Mary Jeanne Packer, from Battenkill Valley Fibers, about developing a new yarn, and MJ connected the two of us and said, “why don’t you do this thing together?” We have a really great combination of experiences—Meghan has a publishing background and I practiced law for a while before I started designing and publishing—so we’re fortunate that we have a lot of the foundational non-design-related skills to give the project legs.
Both of us have worked with a lot of different yarns over the years, and in my personal design work, I’ve been particularly focused on helping knitters learn how yarn choice and design go together, and how their yarn choice influences what their FOs turn out like. We had a lot of ideas about kinds of yarns interest us, but both of us were really drawn to making a really great garment yarn that would balance softness and wearability with texture, visual interest, and durability, and we wanted, for a variety of reasons, for it to be U.S. sourced and produced from sheep to skein. It took a little bit of trial and error, but we ended on a heathered blend of 70% merino, 30% corriedale that’s in our first two yarns, Forge and Weld.
There are a lot of things I love about our yarn in terms of the way we make and source it, how it feels and looks in the skein, and the colors we landed on, but to me the thing that’s most exciting about it is how it knits up, and how the finished garments look and feel. As we were getting the collection ready to shoot, I was getting all of our samples in from the independent designers we’ve worked with, and the texture was just this unbelievable balance of stitch definition, softness, and identifiably wooly charm. The heathering shows up really beautifully in the finished objects, but they look sophisticated and modern and totally at home in your closet, and while they’re soft enough to wear, they’ve held up incredibly well (seriously — the Weld sweater I wore at Rhinebeck is barely pilled after having been worn under my vest and backpack all weekend). You use your best judgment and experience about how a yarn is going to behave when you design it, based on what you know about structure and fiber blend and spinning technique and what have you, but it’s still been super exciting to see how the actual projects have turned out and how they’ve worn in the real world, and that we ended up pretty much exactly where we hoped we’d be.
What’s the process to create an American-made yarn line like?
Not a straightforward one, unfortunately. The reality is that there just isn’t a huge range of yarn and textile manufacturing resources in the U.S. right now (though we very much hope that’s changing, and that we’re helping support that resurgence). But, we’ve been incredibly fortunate in our manufacturing partners, who have not only helped us produce a yarn we really love, but have shared insights with us along the way that have been invaluable.
MJ Packer and her team at Battenkill Valley Fibers spin our yarn, and MJ also helps is with sourcing fiber. We’re hoping to operate at a scale that would make single sourcing (that is, buying fiber from a single farmer) would make sense, so we buy pooled fiber that meets our specifications as to breed, micron count and staple length, from sources that remain traceable. In our case, this means Corriedale from New York, and Merino from Colorado and New Mexico. Because Merino needs special equipment to scour and card, we source our Merino as what’s called “combed top,” which is then combined with Corriedale later in the process. The raw Corriedale fibers are processed directly at the mill. Our yarns are then dyed by Kim Livingston at Caledonian Dyeworks in Philadelphia, a family-owned dyehouse that’s been in business since 1911.
American wool — and the farmers who produce it — are amazing, and we want to be able to honor both that raw material and our values by turning it into the best yarn we can as traceably, sustainably, ethically, and environmentally responsibly as we can, and to us, this means doing it right here at home. We’re always trying to figure out how to streamline our process, minimize shipping, and be more efficient where we can.
It is not the cheapest or the easiest way to make yarn, but to us, the benefits of ending up with a product that both feels amazing to touch and that we can feel amazing about are worth it.
We’re so excited over the launch of this beautiful yarn. We’d love to know more about the H+W designs and the inspiration behind them.
We really, really wanted to build a collection of knitwear that was at home in knitters’ real lives.
I think both of us, like a lot of people in their early knitting lives, had a lot of what I used to call “Saturday morning sweaters,” the sweaters that you’ve knit and you’re excited that you knit them, but that never really fit into your day-to-day life because they don’t match the environment you really live in. You know the ones — they’re not formal enough for your work or they’re in colors that don’t match anything you have, or because it turned out that particular texture really wasn’t something you wanted to wear every day, or they’re the wrong silhouette for your life, or whatever, and so you end up wearing them with your PJs while you walk the dog, or while you lounge around, but they don’t get worn and lived in in your everyday life. And those are great to have, but we wanted to build a collection that was a little bit more in conversation with the ready-to-wear world, that had the kinds of sweaters that would make people say, “where did you get that?” And we wanted to do it using beloved knitterly techniques like cables and textured stitches, but to use silhouette and stitch pattern placement thoughtfully to keep the overall vibe really modern and wearable and sophisticated. We shot the Autumn/Winter collection in the DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and I really love how effortless and at home the garments and accessories look there (even though, real talk, it was 90 degrees on the day of the shoot).
When needles aren’t in your hands, what are some other hobbies/interests.
Honestly I’m usually working out, at the barn, or with my family! I rode horses seriously as a kid and came back to the sport a couple of years ago, which has been an amazing (and also super humbling) experience. My daughter also rides, so some decent chunk of the weekend usually involves some mother-daughter barn time. We’re still pretty new to California (we moved here in 2015), so we try to spend some of the weekend out exploring new-to-us places that are within driving distance, going on hikes, etc.
Favorite thing to listen to/do while you knit … podcast/book/movie/show/etc
I’m totally a podcast person! I’ll watch TV while I knit, but there’s so much really great TV on now that I’m trying to actually watch enough to appreciate the visual storytelling in a way that I can’t always do if I’m staring at my needles (and every now and then, I need some single-tasking in my evening, even if it’s just to watch TV!). My faves are The Ringer’s Binge Mode, NYT’s The Daily, Radiolab’s More Perfect, and The West Wing Weekly and Passenger List from Radiotopia/PRX.
Current WIPs, FOs or any sneak peeks into new designs?
I’m on a hat kick lately, it seems—I’m working on a new freebie cabled hat pattern for our H+W Newsletter subscribers in Forge, and I just finished a colorwork hat for our winter collection. I’ve got a couple of sweaters I’m working on finalizing the math for for both our winter colorwork collection and Spring 2020, so I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to keep for myself and what I’m going to have to farm out to sample knitters. It took unbelievable restraint not to immediately bust open the skein of Forge in Red Feather that arrived at my house for product photography the other day, so there’s a good chance that might turn into a quickie hat for the holidays, too.
What’s next for you and H+W? Any shows/events/workshops?
We’re gearing up for our online and in-store launch in November, and working with our Flagships on trunk shows for late 2019 and early 2020. We’re also hard at work on our deep winter collection, which will feature a range of colorwork designs, and our spring collection, which features relaxed, textured knits perfect for life here in Northern California!
SEASON: Summer! Definitely not when I was in D.C., but summer is pretty fabulous both here in Northern California and where my folks are in Wyoming.
COLOR: Navy, grey, and cordovan
FOOD: Butter chicken
SIPS: Zinfandel from Grgich
YARN GAUGE: I was totally a worsted weight person until I knit with Weld! Now I’m torn.
PLACE TO KNIT: Our yard at home.
YARNS: Wools and wool-blends. I love a wool-silk two-ply for neck accessories, in particular.
We were so delighted that this month we got to chat with Shannon Cook, well known knitwear designer and creator of the stunning Songbird shawl. Read all about her start into knitting, her current favorites and what’s in store for Very Shannon, her beautiful brand…
How did you get started knitting/into fiber arts?
I got started knitting from my mom and Omi (my grandma) when I was a young girl. I’ve been hooked ever since.
What led you to Very Shannon/designing?
I started as a full time blogger after my first daughter was born 11 years ago. That led me to start designing sewing patterns and then into knitting patterns and that’s what I’ve been lucky enough to still be doing to this day.
We love your fresh take on knitwear and accessories – your designs are so lovely! Where do you draw inspiration from or what inspires you the most?
Thanks so much! I tend to find myself more and more inspired by my life if that makes sense. Certain things I’m experiencing or dealing with in my life I’ve now been using my designing as an outlet for healing or artistic expression. I’ve also always been heavily inspired by music, books and sometimes even storylines of tv/movie characters.
When you’re not busy with your little ones and cute pup, what are some of your other hobbies/interests?
I’ve recently gotten very into baking and have fallen in love with it. I started to learn to cook / meal plan for my families sanity (I was a complete newbie and dinnertime in our household was stressful) a while ago and slowly but surely I’ve come to enjoy and love it more and more. We’re currently getting ready to move in a few days as I type this and this summer was very stressful so baking became quite the soothing outlet for me. I also live with adult onset life threatening allergies to tree nuts (& peanuts) so eating out is not easy and learning to cook has helped me to regain control back over my meals and to make some of the yummies I had been unable to eat for years.
I also really enjoy sewing, reading (I’m a huge bookworm), drawing, photography, and other crafts like macrame, embroidery, and quilting. I also love yoga and a good cup of coffee…lol.
What are your most favorite fibers and colors to knit with?
I looooove wool. I’ve got a real soft spot for any wool that is great for texture (my fave!). I enjoy loft and squish factor for sure! As for colours, I’m a gemini so one day I crave gorgeous neutrals and the next I’m yearning for golden deep mustards and tones of turquoise and blues.
Current WIPs, FOs or any sneak peeks into new designs?
The last few months have been very hectic for our family so I have hardly had time to knit or design too much. I do have plans in the works for a sweater based on my Courage shawl as well as a few other accessories for next year. As for WIP’s I have a top and a pair of socks for myself on the go.
We love taking peeks into people’s knitting & notion bags! What’s in your notion bag? Or which bags do you like to use?
My current FAVE is my Project Tote from Bookhou – I take it with me everywhere! I also recently got the Moon Pouch from Ritual Dyes (my notions pouch is from her as well) and am so smitten with it as well as my Fringe Supply Co. bags etc for project storage. In my notions bag you will find stitch markers in a cute little flip open compartment container along with my darning needles, a wooden needle sizer/ruler, tape measure, my fave mechanical pencil, small dot journal, pen, my fave scissors and way too much more to type here…lol – I fill it to the max!
Favorite thing to listen to/do while you knit … podcast/book/movie/show/etc.
I’m a die hard tv/movie buff while working (esp while knitting) but I also read while knitting – I find I do that the most though when my kids are at classes or waiting for appointments etc. I do enjoy podcasts as well. When I have a lot of computer work or things like grading (I go with music…I’m a big music lover as well).
What’s next for Very Shannon? Any shows/events/workshops?
I don’t have many travel plans at the moment but what’s next for me is settling my family into our new home and continuing to work on finding balance in my life and more self-care. This helps to inspire and motivate my creativity & work life. It’s been an ongoing process after finding myself burnt out a few years ago from working too much for too long.
It was an absolute pleasure to spend some time getting to know Kjerste, the powerhouse mixologist behind Wax&Wool. Read all about her start in the world of candle making, where she’s headed, and what’s currently on her needles…
What led you to start Wax&Wool?
Wax and Wool really grew out of a hobby that revealed itself over time to be a viable business option. When we needed to add a second income to support our family of seven, I knew I wanted to work from home. Candles (and originally hand-knits) were a natural choice for me. They were both outpourings of my creativity that had a marketable value. The added benefit was knowing I would love my job. It was (and is!) a win:win proposition.
From ocean breezes (hello, Pebble Beach!), to floral hints from cherry blossoms to complex sophisticated aromas… how did you develop a love for candles?
I still remember the first time I walked into a candle store as an adolescent. I was captivated by the beauty of the pure white soy wax candles, and by the ability to capture a particular scent that brought back so many memories and feelings, and could transport me to anytime and anyplace. I walked out of that store with a small travel tin candle that I could take anywhere with me, and with a deep love for candles.
Do you have an absolute favorite scent?
Amber Noir, hands down. Runners up are Tobacco, Evergreen State, and Brown Sugar & Fig.
We love sneak peeks of your workspace! What’s a typical day like in your Studio?
Derek, my husband, aka The Shipping Department, fills Big Bertha, our wax melter, at 6 am. I wander out at 8am to get the heaters running and check in on what needs to be done for the day. Pouring starts just after 9am, and continues off and on through school pick up runs and nap time and after school activities. After 8pm when the kids go to bed, we start labeling stock, pulling orders and shipping. During slow season, we try to be done for the night by 9 or 9:30. During Busy Season (fall, holidays, and early winter), we try to make 11:30 our cutoff, but that doesn’t always happen.
When you’re not busy being the mixologist and hand pouring wax in your studio, do you find time to knit? Current WIPs, FOs or next knitting project?
I’m an obsessive knitter and never leave the house without a project. I even have an emergency sock project in my minivan! I knit when I’m standing in line or waiting for the kids, sitting at the library and the park, and always before bed. It’s a regular part of my every day, and I often tell people I depend on it for my sanity. I’ve recently branched out into pattern design, and I’m excited to be working with some magazines and stores to get some patterns published in the next 12 months.
What are some of your other hobbies/interests?
I love to entertain, and regularly host the neighborhood over for dinner. We eat together every Monday night, and I love feeding my people! Someday I want to publish a cookbook based on the recipes I’ve developed to feed a crowd.
Favorite thing to listen to/do while you work/knit …
I love audiobooks and British television: Current audiobook is The Hate You Give, Favorite shows are Foyle’s War and Father Brown.
You’ve hosted several pop-ups over the last year, so exciting! What’s in store for Wax&Wool next? (If you’re ever in Pacific Grove, we’d love to host you!!!)
I would love that! Our upcoming events include Knit City Live, Indie Untangled (fingers crossed!), Stitches West, and Vogue Knit Live Seattle.
We’d like you to join us in welcoming Candice English, the brilliant creative behind The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers. We are so overjoyed to now carry a selection of her yarns at the shop: Squish Fingering, Craggy Tweed DK, and Squish Worsted. It’s been such a pleasure working with and getting to know Candice! We hope you’ll find this wonderful post just as inspiring as we have…
Your story behind your brand is rooted in history. How did you get started with fiber arts? What motivated you to start dyeing yarn?
My paternal grandmother did about every fiber art you can imagine, her craft room would put all of us to shame! I grew up doing a lot of cross stitching with her and I think the fiber arts was pretty embedded in me. It wasn’t until my early 20s when a friend taught me to knit, I was pregnant with my daughter and I became immediately obsessed. My Mom, sisters, and cousins are all extremely artistic – they can turn nothing into something beautiful. Whether it’s food, buckskin, wood, painting, beading, we all use an instinctual guide to our art. I knew almost nothing about dyeing yarn besides some plant dyeing I had experimented with, but woke up one day to find myself 30 something years old, working 60 hours a week in a corporate job, never seeing my kids, and my marriage kind of falling apart. I had this vision in my head how to put all of this creative energy I had pent up, and knew my color palette was fairly unique. So I dove head first into creating The Farmer’s Daughter Fibers. It was all out of place of desperation, cultural heritage, instinctual creativity, and a passion for knitting and yarn!
Your yarns are beautiful! Can you tell us a little more about Squish Fingering, Squish Worsted and Craggy Tweed?
Thank you! Squish Fingering and Squish Worsted are great workhorse yarns. They will basically do just about anything you ask of them. I love them for gift knitting, because they are easy to care for. Craggy Tweed is one of my favorite yarns to knit with, the little tweedy neps are so fun to work up.
Which patterns do you recommend for these yarns?
There are just so many to choose from these days! My current favorite in my closet and in my queue are Caitlin Hunter’s Ninilchik Swoncho for the Craggy Tweed. I wear that sweater at least three times a week, and I think everyone needs a swoncho! I also have some Squish Fingering stashed away for Caitlin’s Marittimo, it is going to be my Spring time knit! I am also dying to cast on the Nightshift Shawl by Andrea Mowry with some Squish Worsted. Too much to knit, so little time!
When you’re not dyeing, creating and being all around stellar at running your business, what are some of your other passions and/or hobbies? Knit, crochet, weave or all of the above?
Knitting of course, I still like to cross stitch once in a while and weaving is so relaxing. I am an avid reader and try to get up to the Mountains as much as I can to hike and explore! It’s my happy place.
We’re always looking for pattern inspiration, what’s currently on your needles or in your queue?
Right now I am currently working on the Rug Sweater by Junko Okamoto, not in FDF yarns but I think it’s important that I do some selfish knitting! Also, I’m desperate to knit everything in the new Winter issue of Pom Pom!
Favorite thing to listen to/do while you work and/or knit?
I typically watch TV shows and movies when I am knitting and I have been watching a lot of oldies lately. I think it must be the weather! John Wayne and the Cowboys is my current favorite, Lonesome Dove is another classic I watch every December. I just watched Urban Cowboy for the first time last weekend, now I want to take some two-step lessons! And while working, I typically don’t have a lot of background noise, boring but effective for me to stay focused.
It looks like you’ve had quite the busy last year (we love your studio space!), what’s in store for FDF for next year?
2018 was such a crazy whirlwind! We have a lot of fun events planned in 2019, our upcoming ones are VKL NYC, Stitches West, another trip to the East Coast in May, and our retreat in June. I am also super excited about some upcoming collaborations in 2019 with my near and dear fiber friends, stay tuned!
We can’t wait for your upcoming announcements! It’s always such fun and so inspiring to follow along with you on IG – always gorgeous shots of your yarn, projects, and Montana! Where can our readers find you online?
Thank you! We are so excited to be apart of the Monarch Knitting community!
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.
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!
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!