Untangling Andrea Mowry of Drea Renee Knits

Unless you’ve been knitting under a rock, you’ve probably at some point this year encountered someone finding their fade. Since Andrea Mowry of Drea Renee Knits released her seven-skein shawl in December, and her So Faded sweater last month, Fade Fever seems to have taken over. Both patterns are the perfect match for hand-dyed yarn, and many a Fade kit can be found from the dyers who post on IU.

I decided to reach out to Andrea and learn more about the woman behind the Fade, as well as her other beautifully styled, casually elegant designs.

What did you do before becoming a knitwear designer and how does that inform your work?

Before designing I was a pastry chef! I actually got my first baking job (which eventually lead me down the path of culinary school) because the owner of the bakery loved that I included knitting under “other skills” on my resume! I have always loved creating and working with my hands, so when I left my job in the kitchen, it felt very organic to begin writing patterns instead of recipes.

How did you decide to become a designer?

I had been knitting for such a long time and always wanted to find a way to make a job of it. Finally, when I had more time to explore designing, thanks to being home with my first born, I thought, “What have I got to lose?” There were things I wanted to knit, and I figured maybe someone else would want to knit them as well! From there, I feel like my dreams have come true!

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned when I was about nine years old thanks to my amazing (and patient) Grandma Ginny! I am so thankful to her that she took the time to sit with me and wanted to share something she loved. It has brought so much joy to my life, and it is all thanks to her!

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

I am most inspired by yarn. For me, the design idea typically comes as I am looking at and swatching with the yarn I want to use!

How did Find Your Fade come about? Did you think it would take off like it did?

Every once in a while I like to do a “creativity experiment” where I just grab the yarn I most want to use out of my stash and I just cast on. I try not to give myself any constraints or expectations. I just knit what feels fun! Find Your Fade was one of my experiments. I had just had my son a few months earlier, and felt like I just need something selfish and indulgent on my needles. I had no idea it would take off! I am so thrilled and honored that knitters have been inspired by it!

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

Swatch! Well, sometimes I sketch first. But then I cake up the yarn and swatch.

What are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

I am continually drawn to pinks and yellows right now. I really love most colors though, and when I find myself constantly grabbing for the same colors, I try to switch it up. Grey will always be at the top of my list, along with mint and turquoise. And navy. And white. And gold.

You’ve created such a cool, laid-back aesthetic for your business. Did you come to designing with that particular look and feel in mind?

Thank you! I’ve tried to just be myself. I find that when I stick to what I love and what really inspires me and brings me joy, it seems to work. I think when we do that, our best work comes out and people can feel that.

Who are some of your favorite indie dyers?

There are so many amazing indie dyers out there! My absolute favorites include Hedgehog Fibres, Republic of Wool, Qing Fibre, Woolenboon and Peepaloo Fields, just to name a few!

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I love embroidery, and am a novice sewer. 🙂

What to stash this week: Another shawl in the sweater box

The latest design from Casapinka, called Another Brick In the Shawl is everything I love about shawls: it uses multiple colors and has plenty of mindless stitches and nice non-lace visual interest with mosaics. Bronwyn used a trio set of Yummy 2-ply from Miss Babs, but the color possibilities are endless.

Kayleen, the latest IU newcomer, transitioned over the last year from selling crocheted items to dyeing yarn out of her home in Marblehead, Massachusetts. For her new biz, Littlebean Loves Yarn, the bright speckled colorways, as well as semi-solids and self-striping sock yarn, are inspired by pop culture, with an emphasis on Harry Potter. She generally has shop updates at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, so head on over to see what’s outta the dye pots.

If you missed out on sign-ups for the 2017 Where We Knit Yarn Club, you’re in luck! A couple of spots have opened up, one of which includes the latest collaboration from Eden Cottage Yarns and Mindy Wilkes! Please fill out this form if you’re interested in snagging a spot.

Slipped Stitch Studios has stocked the shop with an awesome selection of craft-themed bags and supplies. The first 10 customers get a glitter ball stitch marker!

Untangling: Anne Hanson

When I first started knitting, Anne Hanson’s patterns were some of the first that I came across. I found that she had a talent for creating designs that look incredibly complex, but are simple enough for beginner knitters. The Aria Delicato I knit for my mom was stunning, but also easy TV knitting.

In 2014, when I was organizing the first Rhinebeck Trunk Show, I knew it was a sign that the event was going to be a hit when someone from Anne’s bespoke yarn company, Knitspot, asked if they could be a vendor. Anne has since gone on to collaborate with Kim of The Woolen Rabbit for the first installment of the 2017 Indie Untangled Where We Knit yarn club. Her club pattern, Shared Rib, is set to become available for sale to the general public.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit from my grandmother when I was 4 years old. Before that I would hang around and watch her knit and ask her to teach me (as far back as I can remember, I loved exploring knitted fabric with my fingers). She told me that when I could write my name, she would teach me. So I enlisted my older brother to teach me to write in the afternoons when he got home from school. I thought I’d be able to knit everything on the first day and was a little disappointed when knitting turned out to be hard and I couldn’t make cable stitches right away, haha. Those were my holy grail at the time…

Tell me about your work as a a patternmaker/draper, technical designer and costumer in NYC and how that influences your design work today.

I learned so much during my years working in the fashion industry, it’s hard to distill it all down to a few lines! But I think the most important thing I learned was to think beyond my own experience about how a design is worn and used by a broad cross-section of people. A good design not only expresses the voice and artistic vision of the designer, but is useful and flattering to people with a variety of lifestyles, body types, and preferences. Precision at the beginning is also essential as a design goes through production and is interpolated into a range of sizes, then cut and sewn. And finally, I learned the importance of being a good problem-solver, using my creativity to envision shapes and mold fabrics to get the results I wanted. I am so grateful to the designers, technicians, manufacturers, and stitchers who I was privileged to learn from and work with during those years!

How did you move into knitwear design?

I actually started designing knitwear as a teenager, well before working in the fashion business; it was something I did on my own, applying what I knew from sewing and tailoring, which I had also learned at a very young age. During my years in the fashion industry, many people encouraged me to “do something” with my knitwear design, but I didn’t really have access to the right outlets through my existing work. Once the internet became a more common tool, I was able to begin publishing my design independently and turn my “side” passion into a career option.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Oh, I really get inspiration from many directions… Obviously nature contributes a lot to the surface design in many of my pieces, especially in lace work. But I am equally inspired by the human form, by fabric behavior, and by the tactile/emotional effects of texture. Some inspiration is more abstract and some is more concrete. But all of it seems to funnel into knitted expression; it’s not unlike other of my artistic pursuits, such as painting and photography.

In the case of the Shared Rib cowl for instance, I was working from a desire to knit a particular cable that I had my eye on. But when I also realized that the pattern would be released near Valentine’s Day, I thought “hmm, shared rib has a kind of Adam and Eve theme and is very vine-like.” I brought up the idea of doing a color with the dyer that would be like dark red roses, which brought the concept back to the place I had chosen for my inspiration: the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. So many disparate threads came together in the concept for this simple cowl, but the knitter doesn’t need to know any of that for it to be appealing and knitworthy. The design would work equally well in any rich color with depth.

What’s the first thing you do when you start designing a pattern?

I almost always start by swatching; getting to know the materials and their limits, feeling the fabric they will make, and working out which stitches and textures interplay well with the fiber is essential to figuring out the geometry, shaping, and detailing in a design.

You seem to design in a variety of colors. Which are your favorites?

Color is truly relative — how a color “behaves” or appears really depends on what you put next to it and what fabric it will become. Of all the full spectrum colors, I really don’t have a favorite for that reason — they all change and become different with varying applications and moods. That said, the neutral range is endlessly fascinating for me; grays will always have a special place in my heart!

How did your Bare Naked Wool line come about?

When I became a hand spinner, I was exposed to a whole new world of variety in fleeces; I quickly gained a new appreciation and awe of the range of natural colors available. I started the Bare Naked Knitspot club to celebrate the knowledge I was gaining and it was through the club that I began producing bespoke yarns. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we had a full palette of single breed yarns and luxury blends on offer. I was excited to meet small production farmers and millers, then marry their talents. It just seemed that there were gaps to fill everywhere for knitters seeking a fresh, pure, and unique yarn product, beautifully prepared and free from dyes and chemicals. Farmers and millers had unique fiber and yarn to offer; knitters were ripe for knowledge and new yarn experiences — I wanted to bring them together!

What does designing those yarns entail?

Designing yarn is very interesting; one has to know about the individual fibers involved and how they behave to end up with a yarn that makes the most of their strong points. It’s important to put time and energy into research and development, testing it in stages with the mill to get just the right yarn structure. Many times the mill owners and operators are not knitters so working closely with them, communicating observations and results clearly is key. Another challenge is communicating to knitters how lovely a yarn can be without dye; unadulterated fiber is just softer, bouncier, with a natural sparkle that often gets lost when dye and chemical treatments are applied — even natural and organic ones. We are constantly working on educating our community and offering pattern support that inspires, to help make our customers’ experience the best it can be!

Where is your favorite place to knit?

We have a sofa in our dining room, which is a very quiet part of the house. I do a lot of knitting there while listening to audiobooks. I also knit while watching TV late at night; staying up long into the wee hours and knitting is my favorite thing, especially when my husband knits alongside me.

What to stash this week: Fetch this yarn ball

I’m excited to debut these custom IU stitch markers! Crafted by Maria of A Needle Runs Through It out of San Jose, California — who I discovered last year when she released Gilmore Girls stitch markers — these wooden accessories are the perfect way to show off your love of indie yarn.

IU newcomer Long Dog Yarns is named for, as you might suspect, a dachshund, specifically a wire-haired dachshund called Rufus. Dyer Brandy started dyeing a year ago after publishing her own designs and her yarns are of the bright, speckled variety that we’re all crazy about these days. She’s just restocked her shop, so head over for your summer knitting needs. 

Wingpoint, Pam’s latest design, is a bias triangle shawl with a twist. It’s decorated with stripes and bunting-like marled triangles that are a fun way to combine your main color and accents, whether they’re 75-yard mini skeins or scrap yarn. Best of all, it’s 25% off through May 31 with the code madmay.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Wildflower Button Studio is offering free shipping on any domestic orders over $25 through May 16 with the coupon code HAPPYSHIP.

Indie Untangled goes to MDSW

My trip to this year’s Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival started like most other fiber-related trips. I had a particular goal in mind — getting some of Middle Brook Fiber Works Vintage No. 2 — but nothing else in terms of stashing plans. While that kind of non-action plan can be a little dangerous, it can also lead to some pleasant discoveries.

The Knot House

My weekend started, of course, at The Knot House for the MDSW indie pop-up. Cathy and Heather brought together a fabulous group of indies, including a surprise appearance from Lisa of White Birch Fiber Arts.

The selection in the front of the store had a decidedly domestic vibe, with Dami of Magpie showing off her new Solstice, a blend of USA Superwash Merino, domestic cotton and silk, and Julie Asselin, who displayed her new Nomade sock yarn, which also uses USA Merino along with nylon.

I also enjoyed getting to chat briefly with Julie and her husband Jean-François.

I admired the event exclusive colorways, like this one from Skeinny Dipping, which Christine said used seven different colors (as opposed to her Rhinebeck color, which only used two).

I got to see some familiar favorites, including Indie Untangled regulars That Clever Clementine, whose colorful bags were a welcome site as soon as we walked through the door after our six-hour drive through the rain, and Spun Right Round.

I also finally got to see Swift Yarns in person and meet Carol, a dyer who lives not far from me in Queens, NY.

And what would an indie yarn event be without a line? It took me a while to check out, but the conversation with fellow knitters and admiring my haul in the beautiful early evening light that streamed through the windows made it worth the wait.

My totally unplanned purchases included Skeinny Dipping’s Merino Fingering in Hearth Tweed, a color I’d been admiring for a while, and Duck Duck Wool’s Silky Singleton in Don’t Be Ranunculus, Sandra’s flowery pun and show exclusive colorway, and also in Metalware. The fact that there were only two left of these colors might have had something to do with the impulse purchase, and the fact that they went with the hedgehog bag I’d picked up from Vicki right after I walked in certainly helped.

The Festival

I usually think of MDSW as more of a shawl festival, since its steamy spring weather is not ideal for showing off handknits. But, with temperatures in the 50s and a damp chill from the intermittent rain, this year’s festival had perfect sweater weather, so I was happy I finished my You Wear It Well from designer Mary Annarella.

I made sure to check out Jill Draper’s booth to get an advanced look at her collaboration with Kirsten Kapur, the soon-to-be-released Cozy Cottage Orchard Wrap, knit with Jill’s new Olana base, a blend of Cormo, alpaca, Cashmere and angora.

I also hung out with Alice and the crew in the Backyard Fiberworks booth, admiring people’s consistent color choices.

And, of course, I got what I came for. Anne’s new base, a blend of Cormo/Merino, Shetland, alpaca and silk, has her trademark rustic luxury. While it would make an excellent sweater, I’m looking forward to pairing the Cirrus and Bracken colors for Kirsten Kapur’s Abingdon shawl.

What to stash this week, whether you’re at MDSW or not

Following on the heels of her luxuriously rustic Vintage No. 1, Anne of Middle Brook Fiberworks has introduced Vintage No. 2. It’s a blend of hand-selected fleeces, including 40% Cormo and Merino from a sheep named Marshall in New York’s Hudson Valley and 15% alpaca fleece from Angel. There’s also 35% superfine Shetland and 10% cultivated silk. Anne has hand dyed this DK-weight yarn in five deliciously soft and bright colors. 

Speaking of pettable yarn, Siidegarte’s silk/cotton base looks absolutely divine. Called Siide-Gfroit, which is Swiss German for “enjoyable,” it comes in 10 colors inspired by the Pantone Spring 2017 palette and would be perfect for summer projects.

Calling all literature lovers: the Regency Collection from Pandia’s Jewels features yarn inspired by Jane Austen characters and novels. There are three-skein and four-skein kits, while three of the four colors are available individually. The collection is available to preorder until May 14.

Spencer Hill Naturally Dyed Yarn is welcoming spring with two new bases. Ruth is a Superwash Merino fingering-weight single that takes on her natural dyes beautifully, while Meg is a non-Superwash organic wool in what Barbara calls a “sporty/DK-ish weight.” Also new are naturally-dyed sock blanks.

Still looking for a Mother’s Day gift, or need to leave some hints? Go Knit Yourself’s Gift of Yarn program is the perfect solution. The way it works is you or your loved one buys the package and then the gift recipient chooses the color and fiber. Conveniently, Melanie is also celebrating Small Business Week with 15% off through tonight at midnight with the coupon code SMALLBIZWEEK.

A glimpse into knitting designer Kirsten Kapur’s inspiration

Kirsten Kapur is one of those designers who consistently impresses me. I marvel at her use of texture and color, particularly her color combinations. While I’ve knit only three of her more than 250 simple and elegant patterns, I have several more in my favorites. So, when I heard that Kirsten, a fellow New Yorker, had been invited by Paola Vanzo, the owner of mYak, to give a talk on her design inspirations over tea and knitting in the West Village, I RSVPd faster than you could say yarn.

The event took place in the library of the Trace Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes Tibetan culture where Paola is managing director, and which houses an appointment-only pop-up shop for her yarn line. It was through her work in Tibet that Paola came to create mYak in 2011, working with a cooperative of nomads from the Tibetan Plateau to harvest and mill the super soft, Cashmere-like yarn from the underbelly of the baby yaks that they herd. It’s a story that deserves its own blog post.

Kirsten recently collaborated with Paola on two designs using mYak yarn: The Wave Hill brioche cowl, named for the estate and public gardens in Riverdale in the Bronx, and a lacy two-color shawl called Acorns and Arches, crafted with colors created using a natural mushroom dye. The two patterns set the scene for Kirsten’s inspirations, essentially knitted interpretations of the natural world.

Before becoming a knitting pattern designer a decade ago, Kirsten worked as an apparel and textile designer in the garment industry in New York City, where she also lives. While the city may not seem like an immediately obvious place to get natural inspiration, there’s plenty.

“In this city we have some pretty amazing places we can go,” Kirsten said. “We have some fabulous parks, like the New York Botanical Garden, Central Park. I go to these places and find inspiration for color, texture, obviously the shapes of the plants.”

She also uses the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (near me!), Hudson River Park, Rockaway Beach in Queens — particularly in winter — and the aforementioned Wave Hill. After taking photos, Kirsten returns home and starts playing around with the yarn in her healthy stash, drawing on the colors from her images of flowers and leaves, water and animals — even seaweed.

Kirsten then pores over stitch dictionaries and then plays around with charting software, making the patterns work for the look she’s trying to achieve. A lot of her design work also happens once the yarn gets on the needles, with changes made when stitch patterns aren’t working.

While some of Kirsten’s design names are obvious, many are particularly clever. Her Reynard Socks, for example, are named for the fox character in fables, and feature a fox-like lace pattern when viewed upside down. Cladonia, one of Kirsten’s best-known patterns, is named for the lichen on a rock she photographed it on.

The photographs are also what draws me to Kirsten’s patterns, and she recounted what it took to capture this view of A View From the Hill, on Rockaway Beach on a freezing, windy January afternoon.

After Kirsten’s talk, and after we finished up our tea and pastries, there was also the opportunity to shop the mYak pop-up, which had such a beautiful display.

Of course I wore my own Cladonia to the event and Kirsten was nice enough to pose for a photo with me while wearing the sample!

What to stash this week: Faded away

Stephanie from Asylum Fibers has So Faded kits! The pictured kit is available for preorder, expected to ship on or before May 16th. Stephanie also plans to come up with some Chaos, AKA OOAK kits, to make your Fade even more unique. 

Melanie of Go Knit Yourself has curated two sets of eye-catching colors for the Joji MKAL, available on three bases, and today is the LAST DAY you can order them. If you’re in the mood to knit something a bit smaller than a 72-inch rectangle, she’s also offering her super popular sock yarn sets with coordinating mini skeins. 

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, Harry Potter or saltwater taffy — who am I kidding, you probably love all three — then you’re in luck. Katy of Wool & Two Sticks has mini-skein kits for GoT, Marauder’s Map HP-themed kits with a special stitch marker and a set inspired by the Phat Fiber Cupcakes & Candies theme.

If you’re a fan of grays, you might want to scoop up these skeins of The Woolen Rabbit BFL/silk before they wander into my stash.

There’s just one skein left (!) of Michelle’s exclusive Indie self-striping colorway and only three more days to get 10% off said skein, as well as yarn from The Woolen Rabbit, on Indie Untangled with the code IU3.

Meet you in Maryland

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for the stashing opportunities coming up at Maryland Sheep and Wool: first, at the indie pop-up at The Knot House next Friday night, where there will be yarn from Indie Untangled faves Duck Duck Wool, Skeinny Dipping, That Clever Clementine, Magpie Fibers, Spun Right Round and Canon Hand Dyes, and later at the festival itself, where Anne of Middle Brook Fiberworks will be debuting her Vintage No. 2 and Alice of Backyard Fiberworks will have a booth for the first time. But one of my favorite parts of the festival is the excuse to spend time with my dear fiber friends and meeting new people in a somewhat less frenzied environment than the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck.

(Don’t get me wrong — I love Rhinebeck. I mean, love it. But as far as fiber festivals go, it’s overwhelming, not to mention the insane amount of prep work that I have to do beforehand. I’m more than happy to head down south with only a small suitcase and some tote bags — yes, bags, plural — instead of a car full of boxes.)

Meeting new people? That’s where you come in. If you’re headed to the aptly-named Friendship, Maryland, next Saturday, stop by the Backyard Fiberworks booth — C4 in the Main Exhibition Hall — at 1 p.m. for an Indie Untangled meetup. I will have goodies on hand and Alice will have some special IU merch, along with her beautiful yarn. I hope to see you there!

What to stash this week: A Joji mystery

The interknit is abuzz over the latest mystery knit-along from designer Joji Locatelli. Several indie dyers have come up with kits to knit this. Here are just a couple:

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers has curated two beautiful sets, using Joji’s guidance, that include some new yet-to-be-named colorways. Each kit is comprised of five full skeins of Stephanie’s Madhouse fingering yarn, which is 100% Superwash Merino wool. Bonus: the kits are available at a discount!

Denise of Yoshi & Lucy also has some Joji mystery wrap kits available in softer, springy colorways. There are two, including Georgia Peach (pictured) and Under the Sea. They’re available on 100% Superwash Merino or a 75/25 blend of Merino and nylon.

Speaking of spring, Sydebascht from Siidegarte is the pattern to welcome the season. It’s a light and airy shawlette named for dyer Fides’s favorite spring shrub. She of course has kits with the silky Swiss gorgeousness needed for the shawl, including a complimentary mini skein for the contrast border, in luminous spring colors.
 

There are also only a couple skeins of the exclusive Indie self-striping colorway from Berry Colorful Yarnings available! And you have just about a week left to get 10% off Berry Colorful Yarnings, as well as The Woolen Rabbit, on Indie Untangled with the code IU3.