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’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.