It’s no surprise that fall is our favorite season (hello, sweater weather!), and we started the season with hosting monthly giveaways. Our September winner was selected (at random) from tagging her MK project on social media and Tara won! When we reached out to her about it she sent over some photos along with her heartwarming story…
“When lockdown hit, our daycare closed and my husband and I had to work from home while caring for our six month old daughter. We have no family in the area and it was the most stressful time of our lives, but an angel came to our aid. Donita helped us by watching our daughter every afternoon after her own shift was over, buying us a precious few hours of focus time. Donita had her own share of difficulties over the summer, her husband was hospitalized three separate times for complications related to a heart condition. His heart condition left him cold all the time, bundled up in layers but still unable to feel warm.
I imagine I’m not the only knitter that feels a sense of duty when they hear a loved one is cold! So I looked for a worsted weight cardigan that would knit up quickly, be easy to layer, with a little nice design details but neutral enough to wear anywhere with anything. Forest Park cardigan by Kay Hopkins fit the bill perfectly. Went to Monarch Knitting and chose the beautifully heathered Hudson + West yarn in Charcoal for the main color and Ash for the contrast color. It was such a joy to knit with these yarns. High squish factor, beautiful color. Also, the kind folks at Monarch Knitting helped me understand knitting up the button band (it was my first time) and it came out perfect as a result of their advice.
Anyway, finished the cardigan in 2.5 months, a personal record. He was beyond excited and, as he was showing it off kept saying “It’s like it was tailor-made for me!” and I kept saying “it IS tailor-made for you!” I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful LYS in Monarch Knitting that has a wide range of beautiful yarns, notions, sample knits. I can only imagine how hard it’s been to get through COVID but I’m so glad to see you still open.”
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.
Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 12th this year and when thinking of gifts to give for our dear ones, we thought of the perfect gift idea: a Monarch Knitting wish list! Have you started yours? It’s not too late! Start adding goodies and ideas to your list to share with your family and friends.
Then, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturday, May 4th, we’ll host a wish list event for those shopping for mom. We’ll have doughnuts, coffee and pretty gift wrapping, too. A perfect little outing for dads and kids to partake!
If your shoppers cannot make it in that day, not to worry – we will have your wish list available at anytime so they can shop for you at their leisure!
We’ve put together some ideas for you to share with your loved ones! Visit our web store anytime for a selection of kits, notions, yummy yarns and more.
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!
On most days at the shop, you will find a cheerful, smiling, loving manager who is always ready and eager to help. Even amidst the piles of patterns to organize, shipments of new yarns to check in, orders to go out, shelves to be sorted, teaching classes, the list could go on – Koryn is there with a warm greeting to any who walk into Monarch. After taking some time off to be with her new little one, she is back at the shop and has indulged us here on our blog. We’ve all missed her so!
How did you get started knitting/into fiber arts?
I have always been interested in any craft I could do with my hands. I did a lot of macrame and beaded jewelry. I even worked part-time for about a year with a Venetian glass jewelry designer. The first thing I ever did with yarn was a big crocheted afghan that took me about 2 years to finish! While walking through a craft store looking for other projects to get my hands on, I found myself very attracted to the look and feel of some knitted items. I bought some yarn, needles and my first knitting book (Knitting for Dummies, ha!) and taught myself to knit a scarf….I was hooked!!! I could not put my needles down! I was so excited when I discovered Monarch Knitting in 2006. I started visiting often looking for new pretty things. I visited so often in fact, that I decided to ask for a part time job. I was shocked when I got hired on the spot! I had very little knitting experience but I made it a goal to absorb as much knit-knowledge as I could. I learned a lot from my co-workers, books and tons of practice, practice, practice! Turns out I was a knitting sponge! I was obsessed with all of the colors, textures and the endless possibilities. I had no idea my part time just for fun job would turn into my full time passion. I have been a part of Monarch Knitting ever since.
What’s it like to work at every knitter’s dream job?
I’m so happy to come to work everyday! I feel constantly inspired by all of the colors and possibilities. I also really enjoy teaching and sharing all of my knit-knowledge. My absolute favorite thing about my job is all of the talented wonderful people I meet everyday. We really do have quite an amazing knitting community here. I feel so fortunate to be a part of it. I was lucky enough to have met our Ann years ago and have since had the opportunity to help build such a beautiful shop we have today. I feel so proud of Monarch and how it has grown and continues to grow! (See some of us with Shibui below at Stitches West!)
When you’re not being a boss at managing Monarch, what are some of your other hobbies/interests?
I do love spending time with my hubby, Patrick, and my family. I love doing anything outdoorsy like camping and hiking. Yosemite is actually one of my very favorite places in the world! We try to visit once a year. On the flip side, I can also be kind of a homebody. I do enjoy my Netflix and knitting!
How do you keep from not buying everything in the store?
Oh my! That is hard!! I want just about every little thing in this shop! I have accumulated quite a collection of yarns over the years just like most crazy knitters.
What are some of your most favorite yarns/patterns?
These days I am really into anything Shibui. I recently finished a beautiful pullover by Elizabeth Doherty called Dillion (shown here). It is Shibui Pebble and Birch, held double. The fabric has the most coziest feel!! I am in love with Elizabeth Doherty’s patterns! Not only are they fun and interesting to knit from start to finish, they fit just perfectly. Her designs make you feel like a million bucks when you put them on! I’m hoping to add more of her sweaters to my wardrobe.
Hedgehog Fibres has caught my attention these days too. I’m in love with their colors!! I cannot resist! I have been knitting cute little ankle socks (Rose City Rollers, shown below) out of Sock Mini skeins. Quick and satisfying! I also have a collection of sock skeins at home to knit Andrea Mowry’s So Faded pullover. In case anyone hasn’t noticed… I love Andrea Mowry!! I have knit several of her patterns. I love her style! I am a huge fan of Caitlin Hunter too. Her pattern called Marettimo has caught my eye recently.
Oh Spincycle how I love you!! I can’t stop knitting with this yarn! I have now knit 3 projects with Dyed in the Wool. Andrea Mowry’s Harlow hat and Shift cowl have been my most recent. Its such a unique beautiful yarn. The self striping colors just grab me. I will definitely be knitting more things with it in the near future. I’m thinking a fair isle yoked pullover for winter perhaps. So many great yarns. I can go on and on!
We love taking peeks into people’s knitting & notion bags! What’s in your notion bag?
A tin full of markers! I have a lot of Cocoknits accessories (love their Maker’s Keep!). Darning Needles, pom pom maker (I LOVE making pom poms!) crochet hook, cute scissors, waste yarn (for provisional cast on or holding stitches), & pens.
You’ve taught countless workshops and classes at the shop, do you have any favorites?
I really enjoy teaching just about anything. My absolute favorite thing is Fair Isle. I love working with color and showing others how EASY it really is! Watching my students eyes light up when they finally get the hang of it is the best feeling. Fair Isle makes you feel like a genius. I’m excited to be teaching the Gretta Fair Isle hat class in January.
Also, I am having fun teaching brioche these days – it’s a little more of a challenge but I love a challenge! It such a fun & beautiful stitch. It’s has been so popular I see it more and more on Ravelry and Instagram these days.
Congratulations on your new adventure into motherhood. We are all so overjoyed that little Reid is here. He probably holds lead for the largest handmade wardrobe! We just love his little knitted Baby Smiles hat you knit for him. So precious!
I just want to say a really big THANK YOU to everyone!! You have all shown me so much love and support. All the well wishes and wonderful gifts I have been given for little Reid really mean a lot to me and my little family. I’m so lucky to have so many amazing knitting friends! All is well and I have adjusted comfortably to being back at the shop full-time again. It feels so inspiring to be back!
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.