Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Kitterly

From left to right: Kitterly co-founders Elizabeth Rowen and and Mari Bower.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I often like to get creative by pairing yarns and patterns, and putting colors together, but sometimes it can be much easier to leave it to the professionals: the dyers, designers and the folks at Kitterly. The Los Angeles company, launched by Elizabeth Rowen and Mari Bower in 2015, works with several indie businesses to put together knitting and crochet kits. Indie Untangled regulars they work with include the designers Casapinka and Anne Hanson and dyers Spun Right Round and The Uncommon Thread.

I spoke to Liz and Mari to learn more about their operation:

How and when did Kitterly get started?

Mari was a customer of Liz’s store in Los Angeles, Knit Culture Studio. We came together in 2015 to combine Mari’s background in digital media, tech and ecommerce, and Liz’s experience in the fiber community as owner of Knit Culture Studio and create Kitterly as you see it today. We launched in January 2015, and we have been building our community of amazing designers, dyers and makers, one kit a time!

How do you decide on which designs to offer kits for?

We like to create a broad mix of styles and skill levels to ensure that we have a perfect selection for our customers to find their next perfect project. We are always coming the Ravelry design charts to find what’s new, but we also find that there is an amazing catalog of perennial favorites to choose from. You will find anything from Andrea Mowry’s latest Fade, to gorgeous classics like Melanie Berg’s Ashburn shawl.

It’s been really fun to find something that may have been designed in a yarn that is just no longer available, and revisit it in a new fiber.

Casapinka Koi Pond Kit

How do you pair up the yarn, including colors, and patterns?

We spend a lot of time researching designs to ensure that we can either offer it in the original yarn (down to the colors if we can), or find the perfect substitute. When we launch a collection with a designer or dyer, there was a considerable amount of time spent on pulling it together to ensure we have the right mix of new, classic and skill level. Once we settle on the collection, we then collectively will select color palettes that we review and even vote on at times. It’s a really fun process, and everyone gets involved!

Can you talk about any new dyers or designers you’re planning to work with?

Yes! We’re super excited to be adding Anthony Casalena, Carol Feller, Miriam Felton, Asa Tricosa, Christopher Salas, Berangere Cailliau/lilofil, Hanna Maciejewska/Hada Knits, Yellow Cosmo, Lesley Anne Robinson/Knit Graffiti and Bristol Ivy to name a “few”!

New dyers coming on board are Stolen Stitches (Carol Feller’s yarn), YarnLove, Hue Loco, Spun Right Round and we hope to begin working with Uschtitia in early 2018.

We’re always on the hunt for new dyers and designers!

ANKESTRICK Walk Along Kit

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Liz: my grandmother taught me to knit, crochet and sew when I was 7.

Mari: I learned around 10 years ago, when my mother-in-law gave me a cute knitting kit set for Christmas. I taught myself how to crochet when I was around 8, since my mom couldn’t figure out how to show me since I’m left handed.

Do either of you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Liz: crochet, sewing, quilting, rubber stamping and card making, needlepoint, embroidery. Unfortunately since starting Kitterly I’ve only had time to knit and crochet but I have a fabulous collection of rubber stamps waiting for me!

Mari: I’m a serial crafter! I’ve been sewing since I was a small child, and I love to make pretty much anything! I love to cook and bake, and I can my own jam/pickles every summer. I also design jewelry (wire wrapping, beading, even some silversmithing), and I have been known to do some serious home DIY (I installed my own hardwood floors in a previous house). I’ve even done some welding, thanks to high school metal shop!

Tell me about each of your most memorable FOs.

Liz: My spiderweb lace shawl in Jade Sapphire Lacey Lamb — but I’m afraid to wear it. But my two favorites are Andrea Mowry’s FYFHaha and Casapinka’s Sari not Sari!

Mari: My Om Shawl by Andrea Mowry. I fell in love with the pattern and had to make it! It was quite the endeavor, as it’s a rather large piece, but it turned out magnificent. Thankfully Fall weather is coming soon, so I can show it off!

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Knitting Outside the Box with Bristol Ivy

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Pom Pom Quarterly is one of my favorite knitting magazines, if not my very favorite. Aside from publishing four magazines a year, the team there also partners with some very talented designers to publish pattern books. The latest is Bristol Ivy’s Knitting Outside the Box, which just became available to preorder this week. If you’re going to Rhinebeck, you can also preorder it to pick up from the Merritt Bookstore booth.

The book originates from Bristol’s Knitting Outside the Box workshops and provides an insight into her design process as well as 15 garment and accessory patterns using plenty of hand-dyed yarns. I asked Bristol to tell me a bit more about it.

What inspires the designs in Knitting Outside the Box?

The designs in Knitting Outside the Box were all inspired by wanting to push boundaries. With each, I wanted to explore certain techniques and see what that method of manipulating stitches could do to create a garment that made knitters think about knitting in a new way. Whether that was starting from a different direction, combining techniques to get the result I wanted, or asking a simple “what if?” s I wanted to make sure that the way the garments worked would open new doors of exploration and thought. I also wanted to make sure that they did this while maintaining wearability and knitting interest. I hoped the garments would feel like things that I would want to knit, AND want to wear!

What makes this book different from other pattern collections?

I spend a lot of time in the book going into not just the “how” of the knitting patterns, but the “why.” Why have I chosen to use this stitch pattern? Why did I use this increase rate here, and a different one there? I talk through the process of how I use what technique where, and I hope by doing so I give other knitters the license to experiment and play with the structure of their knitting.

Which special techniques did you use and why?

The book is divided into three different sections, one of which explores exercises to help you jump-start your creativity, one of which goes through a series of ways to manipulate your fabric to get the end result that you want, and one that talks you through the design process from start to finish. Within this, I concentrated on three big areas of manipulating your fabric: increases and decreases, short rows, and stitch patterns that can change your gauge. I think each of these has so many possibilities for restructuring how we think about knitted fabric, and I really wanted to highlight them. That way, we can see how even these simple techniques that we know and have used for our entire knitting careers can make something entirely new.

Do you have any tips for knitters who are intimidated by certain techniques?

Just go for it! I think one of the best things about knitting is that it can be undone and you can start again. There’s no risk factor—at the end of the day, if what you tried didn’t work, you still have the same materials you started with, PLUS a wealth of new knowledge on what works and what doesn’t. So there’s no risk at all in trying something new, or trying something that you thought would be intimidating. Give it a go!

Why did you chose the dyers and producers that you did?

I am lucky enough to know some amazingly talented yarn dyers and producers, and it was a definite struggle narrowing down the list to just the ones used in the book! (I have my fingers crossed that someday I’ll write another book just so I can use the yarns I didn’t get to use in this one.) We had a very specific color palette that we were working with, and that dictated a bit whose yarn would work for the book. I also wanted a healthy mix of nationalities represented, since the audience for PomPom is so international. And I also chose yarn that I was just plain excited about working with! I love every garment in this book to bits and a good portion of that is that they’re all knit in AMAZING yarn.

Do you have a favorite pattern from the collection and, if so, why is it your favorite?

It changes daily! The Lillemor Shawl, the Pina Cardigan and the Arbus Pullover are always high on the list, but there’s also the Wislawa Cowl, the Carr Shawl, the Yayoi Pullover, the Mailou Mitts… it took me a long time to put together the list of designs for this book because I wanted to make sure none of them felt like throwaways or filler. I wanted each one to be significant in and of itself, and to feel true and authentic to how I feel about fabric and design. And I also wanted them to feel like something I would want to wear and never take off! My only hope is that other people will feel the same. 🙂

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: One More Row Press

This is the second in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Alice O’Reilly, the dyer behind Backyard Fiberworks, and I have an ongoing text conversation, and a few months ago she shared news with me about an exciting project: she and Manhattan-based designer Kathleen Dames were collaborating on a series of books on knitting around the world, starting with my home of New York.

I’ve admired Kathleen’s elegant designs for a while (her Sotherton pullover has been in my favorites ever since I saw a sample a couple of Rhinebecks ago at the Spirit Trail booth) and I’ve long been a fan of Alice’s yarn. They’ve put together an amazing collection of designers for the book and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy when it’s published next year. I recently asked them to tell me more about the project:

How did the idea for I Knit New York come about?

When Kathleen started designing a mini collection for Backyard Fiberworks, she made the mistake of telling Alice that she had always wanted to do a collection inspired by New York City. Alice picked the idea up and spun it around. Then it started to grow. “What if it were bigger? What if there were more designers? What if we did more of them?” So, now we are One More Row Press with plans to visit cities around the globe.

Aside from designs, what will the book include?

We will have profiles of our New York designers, our favorite places in the city to find yarn and notions, and where to knit, plus all the inspiration that New York City has to offer.

Which designers do you have lined up for the book?

Brittney Bailey, Kathleen Dames, Kirsten Kapur, Xandy Peters and Lars Rains, plus an introduction by Kay Gardiner [of Rhinebeck Trunk Show sponsor Mason Dixon Knitting, with all the yarns from Backyard Fiberworks.

Will the designs themselves be inspired by New York City?

Yes! We were inspired by Washington Square, Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the phenomenon of Manhattanhenge and more.

Which other cities or places will you be including in your series?

Our flights of fancy so far have inspired thoughts of Paris, Tokyo, Buenos Aires and more New York. Of course, we are open to suggestions.

Backyard Fiberworks Sock in Walnut.

When and how did both of you learn to knit?

Alice: I don’t remember learning how to knit. I could always knit, just like I could always read.

Kathleen: My maternal grandmother taught me when I was young, but she lived far away, so it wasn’t until 2003 that I relearned with a friend from my publishing days, and we would knit at lunch. From the very beginning I was making changes to patterns to create the knits I wanted, so I was always on track to be a designer (being on the creative side of publishing as an art director helped, too).

What is your most memorable FOs?

Kathleen: An Aran for Frederick from the first issue of Jane Austen Knits (2011) — Inspired by Frederick Wentworth, Anne Elliot’s love interest in Persuasion (my favorite Austen novel), it’s a pullover that tells a story through cable patterns (Ensign’s Braid, Twin Waves, XOXO, Celtic Flourish), and the construction (seamless, in the round, from the bottom up, EZ hybrid yoke) makes it exciting to knit. I call it “knitting Sudoku” because you have to keep all these cables going *while* working the shaping that forms the yoke — it really keeps you on your toes.

Kathleen, where’s your favorite place to knit in New York City?

I can’t just say, “On my couch, with my cat George,” can I? On the subway (when I can get a seat), sitting on a park bench in Morningside or Riverside Parks, at my LYS Knitty City (shout out for their summer knitting lessons in Bryant Park — a fabulous place to knit). But most of the time when I am off my couch, I’m taking in the wonders of New York City because I’m not a native — I’m #tenyearsanewyorker, so I still find everything pretty fabulous: Grand Central Terminal, Patience and Fortitude (the lions guarding the NYPL), the Costume Institute at the Met, the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. And that’s the tip of the iceberg! I try to share my knitting and New York adventures on social media because I still find it all so exciting — the people, the architecture, the history, the geography. New York is a special place, so Alice and I are very excited to share it with I Knit New York.

Pre-Rhinbeck Untangling: Pam Maher of FiberCrafty

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2017 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

I decided to create Indie Untangled a few years ago after hearing from dyer and maker friends about how it was getting more and more difficult to stand out online. My initial idea was for a handmade marketplace just for yarn and fiber, but I was daunted by what it would take to launch such a site without having any programming skills whatsoever.

Well, Pam Maher had that same initial idea and ended up running with it, working with a developer and launching her site, FiberCrafty, this past May. FiberCrafty is a marketplace specifically for yarn, fiber and knitting-related accessories. Similar to other handmade marketplaces, like Etsy, FiberCrafty lets indie dyers and small farms list products to purchase and, in return for providing a platform, takes a small percentage of sales.

After she launched, I had a nice conversation with Pam about her goals for the site and she agreed to be a sponsor of this year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show. Recently, I asked her about the process of launching FiberCrafty and her background as a knitter:

Tell me about what inspired you to start FiberCrafty?

I was in software sales for about 20 years and didn’t want to continue for the next 20 years. I began trying to figure out a way to have a career in the fiber crafting industry and loved the idea of using my software and sales experience in the fiber community. I noticed that as I shopped indie businesses on existing platforms, I was frustrated because I wasn’t able to shop the way I wanted to, using “fiber” language. Having a platform that spoke our language made sense to me and as I talked to others, it made sense to them also.

Yarn from Luce Knots on FiberCrafty.

What are some of the features that set FiberCrafty apart from other handmade marketplaces?

None of the existing marketplaces are designed for a specific craft. They are all very general and broad in their offerings and some are so bloated it is hard to find what you want. We mirror a lot of the categories and attributes that are on Ravelry so they are familiar and meaningful. If shoppers are looking for something specific, they can use the filters to help narrow down their search.

FiberCrafty is a small business, owned by one person, just like most of the indie business in this industry. Not only can I relate to many other business owners, I am also able to be flexible in site enhancements that we make going forward. My goal is to evolve FiberCrafty based on community feedback.

As a small business owner and fiber crafter, I want other small businesses to succeed, especially in the fiber crafting space. I have tried to make our fee structure extremely fair and sustainable. I don’t have special interests or investors that I have to please.

What have been your biggest challenges in developing the site?

It was a very expensive project and my husband and I have taken a big risk, but one that we believe in. It’s a little scary sometimes! I had to make some very careful assumptions about what would be most helpful to a business owner, and also what would be most helpful to shoppers. I worked with a developer, but there were still a lot of pieces of the site that I had to learn along the way, like payment processing and shipping. Because the site is so complex, tweaking one thing affected something else so we had to be diligent while making decisions and look at the site on the whole, rather than just that one part.

Fiber from Shari Arts on FiberCrafty.

What are some of your favorite yarns or products on the site?

Oh, that isn’t a fair question! There are so many different items! I don’t process fleeces but I have really enjoyed seeing all the farm shops opening and learning about the different fibers and breeds. As a knitter and spinner, I am a sucker for beautifully dyed braids of fiber and yarns. Of course, there are also some really cute bags and stitch markers. It’s not hard to find favorites!

When and how did you learn to knit?

I have always been crafty and started cross stitching when I was very young. I also made jewelry and dabbled in other crafts. At some point, my brother gave me a Coats & Clark booklet that included a “How to knit” section and I found it intriguing. I was about 22 and decided to try it so I went to an LYS, bought two skeins of yarn, needles and a short-sleeve top pattern. I taught myself with the booklet and never looked back. I didn’t have enough money to buy all the yarn so I never finished the top. Thanks to Ravelry I was able to find three more skeins in the same dye lot 20 years later!

Stitch markers from Distracted Knits.

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

I do! I occasionally crochet and also have a Lendrum spinning wheel. I usually default to knitting because it is so portable and flexible in terms of the level of complexity. I also enjoy cooking, sewing (mostly straight lines) and once in a while will attempt a random Pinterest craft project. I would love to learn how to weave but am resisting for now.

What are your favorite projects to knit?

I really love knitting shawls and cowls but I have so many! Hats are fun because they are quick but I also enjoy sweaters. I have never made gloves and am getting ready to make my first pair.

What is your most memorable FO?

I can think of two projects that I especially love. I made four Christmas stockings for my family and think they are so pretty. It is special to get them out every year. They turned out quite large so I struggle a little to fill them! I also crocheted a giraffe for my daughter, which was a fun project. I gave her a color wheel, showed her how to use it and asked her to choose four colors, then I dyed all the yarn for it. It presented a nice challenge and it turned out beautifully.

Untangling Mindy Wilkes

When designer Mindy Wilkes first posted to my site in January of 2016, I was thrilled. I of course knew Mindy from her Holden shawlette, which was one of the first shawls I considered knitting (it’s still in my Ravelry favorites to knit… someday).

I was also thrilled when Mindy agreed to be one of the four designers for the 2017 Where We Knit yarn club. I decided to pair her with Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns, and I knew she would make Victoria’s soft colors sing. Her design for the club, The Magic Hour, is now available for sale. I still have to block mine, but it is the perfect spring/summer shawlette, and would look great in either a subtle color or a bold semisolid yarn. I recently spoke with Mindy about how she became a designer and what inspires her elegant accessories:

Your first design, Holden, was actually recommended to me by an LYS owner when I first started knitting! Can you tell me how the design came about and how it took off?

I designed Holden because I wanted to knit a shawl that was mostly stockinette with a wavy edge at the bottom. I searched Ravelry for almost a year thinking that someone had designed something like what I wanted, but I couldn’t find it. I ran across an online class called “Design Your Own Shawl” that was taught by Stephanie Japel, and Holden was the result of that class. I had no idea the pattern would become as popular as it did and that it would result in me working as a designer. I’m still kind of in shock now, almost seven years later, that the pattern took off like it did.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I taught myself how to knit from Debbie Stoller’s Stitch n’ Bitch book back in 2004. I had an odd work schedule with days off in the middle of the week, and I was looking for something to fill my time during those days and ran across the book one afternoon at a bookstore. I initially passed it by, but the next week I ended up buying the book. I had some old acrylic yarn and needles tucked away on a shelf already so I just started following the instructions in the book. I learned to knit and purl by knitting endless swatches. Swatch after swatch after swatch. I wouldn’t let myself start an actual project until I felt like I had “perfected” everything so I knit garter stitch swatches, stockinette swatches, ribbed swatches, moss stitch swatches, and on and on for several months.

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

After graduate school, I worked as a microbiologist in a consumer product testing laboratory for five years. When my son was born, we decided that I would stay at home instead of working at an outside job. I designed Holden when my son was not quite 3 years old. Writing a pattern is a lot like scientific writing. It’s all a form of technical writing, and I use those technical writing skills every time I write a pattern.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

It depends. Inspiration can come from a color or a picture. It can come from a TV show. Sometimes it comes from a stitch pattern in a stitch dictionary; one that I might have passed by a hundred times becomes just right the very next time I see it. Everything I do always has some draws from where I’m from. I’m originally from the Huntington, West Virginia, area, and I’m really inspired by and connected to Appalachia. There’s a very unique culture and tradition of handcrafts in Appalachia, and I’m exploring that more and more in my work.

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

I usually start with the charts. Sometimes it’s as easy as charting the pattern and casting on. More often than not though, I play around with the charts, switching up stitch patterns, altering shaping, until I think it will work. I might jot down a few notes on construction, yarn choices, and colors as I go, but charts almost always come first.

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

My favorite colors for knitting are always changing. When I first started designing, I loved deep jewel tones. I remember a short phase where I was really into dark greens. Right now, I can’t get enough pastels — light pinks, peaches, mint green. I like almost all colors, though. There are a few shades of yellow and orange that aren’t my favorite, but I’ll work with anything as long as it works for the design.

Do you have any plans to design sweaters or other garments, or do you prefer to stick with accessories?

I’m not much of a sweater knitter. I never have been. Accessory knitting has always been my preference so I’ll probably only do accessories. However, there is a sweater quantity of Green Mountain Spinnery Alpaca Elegance sitting next to me on my desk, and there’s a sweater idea that’s been hanging out in my head for a while. So never say never.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

I usually knit in the evening on the couch while I’m watching Netflix. That’s my everyday reality. My favorite place to knit is on the front (or back) porch, with a cup of tea, visiting my family at home. At my mom’s house, I try to knit on the back porch where you can hear the coal trains coming and going. I’d give anything to knit on my Grandma’s front porch in the evening, totally surrounded by the hills.

Untangling the Knit Petite Project

Those of you who have seen me in person know that I’m a little on the short side — 4’9″ to be exact. I barely reach Stephen West’s shoulders. So, when I heard about Teresa Gregorio’s Knit Petite Project, I knew I had to reach out.

Teresa is a designer under the name Canary Knits, who has published patterns for Knit Picks as well as in Knitscene, so she knows a thing or two about construction. Her project has started a fascinating conversation about petite sizing, common issues that petite knitters run into and altering patterns to get the best fit.

I chatted with Teresa about what she’s learned and what her goals are for the project.

What inspired the Knit Petite Project?

I started this project because, being petite myself, I’ve found there’s a lack of clear, centralized resources and discussion about the petite person and knitwear.

I love that in recent years the knitting community has opened up conversations about different sized individuals in a body-positive manner. We have a number of great resources that talk quite specifically about, for example, the plus sized woman’s body and options she has for knitwear from aesthetic choices to more inclusive size ranges.

A likewise petite-specific conversation about height and vertical measurements can create a community that knitters can go to and learn more about fit. I think it’s a conversation worth having, and that’s what I’d love for the #KnitPetiteProject.

What do you hope to achieve with the project?

I want us all to take the power into our own hands to shape our clothes to suit our tastes. We’re all makers, and that puts us in a fantastic position to achieve the modified fit we want.

To do that, I thought it would be great to have a thorough, in-depth discussion about sizing and its history, how we do or do not accept the sizes available to us, how petite people are catered to, what we want to change and how we can change it.

Ultimately, I think the most practical application of the Project is a community built around supporting each other through suggestions, conversations, a thorough online resource, and (hopefully!) a KAL later on this year.

If you feel you fit into the petite knitter category, join us! And please remember, for the #KnitPetiteProject, petite is a vertical concern and includes women of all ages, body shapes, and weights.

What have you learned so far and what has surprised you?

There has been SO much I’ve learned already! I’ve been quite careful in selecting resources, and have been steeped in scholarly papers over the last few months regarding sizing in clothing design. For example, the book Sizing in Clothing: Developing Effective Sizing Systems For Ready-To-Wear Clothing is filled with information from the history of “standardized” sizing (which isn’t that old of a history!) to specifics on grading and serving modern populations through computer-aided design software and 3D scanners that can produce data for a more representative, accurate fit.

I’ve also learned so much from discussions with other knitters about sizing; there’s a lively thread on Ravelry that in part inspired me to start a Ravelry group specifically for the #KnitPetiteProject. Hearing from others who have such deep expertise and first-hand experience has been very rich and rewarding! I appreciate their generous sharing.

Photo on left ©Knit Picks

How tall are you and how has that affected your sweater knitting

I’m 5’1”, and have been since I was 10 years old. I actually hadn’t given a lot of thought to my height (outside of those flares I used to wear in high school ALWAYS dragging on the ground and getting ripped up). I began considering fit a number of years ago when I started to design knitwear and sew garments for myself.

Seeing something I knit in “my size” on a person of the “same size” was VERY illuminating. My most recent post (May 2) for the #KnitPetiteProject gives a number of examples of how vertical measurements can affect the fit of a knit sweater.

For example, yoked sweaters extend a bit too far down my upper torso. This is a great example of how my shorter vertical measurements don’t line up with what the sweater assumes I’m measured, with results that I’m not happy with and are a bit more complex to alter than simply making it shorter.

I notice you reference Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit software. Have you used it? What do you think? (I’ve done a few Custom Fit sweaters and one “mashup” with Amy Christoffers’ Acer, and I have been very happy with all of them, but mashups can be tricky when using a particular design. A friend of mine Custom Fit Thea Coleman’s Ommegang, but she has a huge list of notes.)

I haven’t yet used Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit, but I love what I’ve seen of it and her Craftsy class on the topic. She’s thorough and body-positive, which is very important to me.

What I would really love is, if people are keen, we can hold a #KnitPetiteProject KAL later on this year. In it, we can each pick a sweater and work with each other through conversation and sharing online to consider what we would like to modify, and how we could achieve what we want. Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit software is perfect for this! And I’m very happy to hear you’re pleased with the results you’ve had from it.

What do you think knitwear designers can do better to accommodate a range of sizes? As a designer yourself, how is this a challenge?

Knitwear designers need size charts, and any size chart functions by averaging and assuming a body shape. So that’s a big challenge for designers. Creating a petite sizing chart would require thorough anthropometic data collection, which is a huge undertaking. I’ve been able to find size charts for petite women (up to a bust size of about 42”), but not beyond that. One size group that I’ve had a heck of a time locating detailed charts for is petite plus women.

A suggestion that’s come up during #KnitPetiteProject discussions is for designers to add, when appropriate, suggested lengthen/shorten notes within the pattern. Sort of like a sewing pattern would.

That said, row gauge and stitch gauge are tied to each other and sometimes it’s quite complicated to separate out, depending on the design elements and construction involved in the pattern.

What is crucial for knitters to know about fit and modifying patterns?

First, there’s NOTHING wrong with your body. Any fitting issues are simply a result of the fact that the shape of human bodies is very complex, and we are all going to differ from a sizing chart in one way or another.

And second, I want to encourage people to feel empowered to modify modify modify for THEIR own tastes, preferences, and body. This can be daunting, because sometimes I think it may be difficult to know why you dislike the fit of something, or why it’s fitting you in a displeasing way. It’s YOUR knitting, so change what you want, whenever you want to!

My hope is that the #KnitPetiteProject will help with this, as a resource and community filled with talented, kind, thoughtful, supportive, and body-positive individuals.

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.

Untangling: Asylum Fibers

Last month, I got to introduce you to Asylum Fibers, a brand-new dyeing operation started by Stephanie Jones, who I met via the knitting group she organizes here in New York City. I wanted to know a little more behind her inspiration for this new craft biz and share her story.

As I mentioned in my post about getting a behind the scenes look at her first shop update, Stephanie, who hails from Maine and now lives in Queens, N.Y., has a background as an opera singer — I actually got to see her perform a year ago and she is fantastic. While making her living in finance, Stephanie uses knitting and dyeing as her main creative outlets, along with crocheting and knitting. She creates bright and complex repeatable colorways, but her signature are unpredictable Chaos colors, which are OOAK and fleeting. Here’s a little peek inside the Asylum:

What made you decide to start your own dyeing business?

I love dyeing so much, and I can’t possibly use all the yarn myself. It only made sense to put it out there and see what the community would think. Every time someone purchases a skein, I feel justified in dyeing 5 more! I get so much joy seeing others knit with my yarn, and I really can’t think of anything quite like it!

A self-striping Chaos colorway.

How do you go about creating your colorways? Do you plan your repeatables ahead of time and improvise with the Chaos colors?

For the most part, my repeatable colorways have very specific inspiration. I have a word or phrase or idea that is translated into color within my mind. The next step is figuring out the recipe. Sometimes, the yarn comes out beautiful, but it’s not what I intended. In that case, we have a chaos colorway. I’ll let you in on a secret – Chaos 75 was my first attempt at Hydrotherapy. I absolutely loved it, but it was a lot greener than I wanted Hydrotherapy to be. Not all chaos colorways are failed attempts at a new recipe, though. Many are just for fun! I do use them for experimentation and find them to be extra special, since they’re essentially “limited edition”. Every chaos colorway is made up of no more than 5 skeins, so you know you have something special.

What are your favorite colors?

This depends so much on my mood. Black and grey are essential, but I also gravitate to blue, green, purple, and pink. Some days I’m all about yellow, and sometimes orange makes me really happy. ALL OF THE COLORS!

Bad Bad Girl on Golden Rule: Merino/nylon/stellina

What projects are you currently working on with your yarn?

Aside from a whole lot of swatching as I really settle on what bases I plan to keep long term, I have a couple projects going right now. I’m designing a two color brioche cowl in the round using Bedlam, my one ply super bulky base. I’m also doing a crochet along of the Movie Night Cocoon Cardi, using Errant Aran. I’m lucky to have some friends working on samples in my yarn as well. Anne is making a Waiting for Rain shawl using Golden Rule in Bad Bad Girl, while Devon is making a lace shawl using Lunacy Lace in a OOAK color I dyed special for her. Valerie is crocheting with Golden Age and Jenn has a skein of Bedlam Ombre that is soon to be a hat! I’ve seen some Instagram friends working with my yarn as well, which is so fun. I finally have Asylum Fibers up (at least in the most basic form) on Ravelry so we can all share our stash and projects there.

How did you learn to knit?

I learned at daycare when I was very young, but really started advancing in 2012 with the inspiration and motivation from other knitters in my Meetup group. When I ran into problems, I’d check Youtube for help. Since then, I’ve taken a ton of technique classes with great teachers including Lorilee Beltman, Steven Berg, Edie Eckman, Faina Goberstein, Franklin Habit, Amy Herzog, Felicia Lo, Nancy Marchant, Kristy McGowan, Alasdair Post-Quinn, Leslye Solomon, Debbie Stoller, and Stephen West.

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

I made a pink cotton sweater for my grandmother for her 80th birthday. The pattern was Peasy by Heidi Kirrmaier and is available on Ravelry. I used Debbie Bliss Bella, which was soft and pretty, but since it didn’t have much stretch, it made my hands tire very quickly. I’m glad I made this sweater, though, because my grandmother is extra knit-worthy and wears it all the time!

Do you enjoy any other crafts in addition to knitting?

Of course I do! Dyeing and knitting definitely dominate my craft time, but I also enjoy crochet, sewing, beadwork, painting, and scrapbooking. I’m planning to try soap making soon as well.

Any future plans for Asylum Fibers you can share?

I’d like to put together some fun blog posts discussing my color inspiration. I’m also planning to take my yarn on the road in the near future. Otherwise, keep an eye out for regular shop updates, and be sure to subscribe to my mailing list if you’d like reminders!

Untangling: Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia, author of ‘Dyeing to Spin & Knit’

Felicia Lo started SweetGeorgia Yarns in 2005 like many indies, listing a batch of her hand-dyed skeins on Etsy, the handmade marketplace that had also just launched. She eventually turned SweetGeorgia from a one-woman show into one of the best known artisan yarn companies.

While leading the SweetGeorgia team, Felicia has been traveling to share her wisdom with a new generation of indies — I was fortunate enough to take one of her classes at Vogue Knitting Live NYC back in January. She also recently published Dyeing to Spin & Knit (disclosure: this is an Amazon affiliate link), a comprehensive guide to color and dyeing techniques for yarn and fiber, and how best to use these works of art in your projects.

The book is a must read for anyone venturing into dyeing, as an expansion on, or alternative to, Felicia’s classes. It is also a fascinating look at how your favorite skeins come to life. Aside from a guide to dyes, dyeing safety and measurements, there are tutorials on specific techniques, including immersion dyeing, to produce semisolid colors, and low-water immersion dyeing, used to get gently variegated skeins. The book also includes a section on spinning techniques and — bonus! — several knitting patterns that work well with hand-dyed yarn.

I had the opportunity to ask Felicia some questions about the book and her journey from indie to “mega indie.”

What inspired you to start dyeing yarn?

I came to dyeing after I learned to spin my own yarn and so really, I was first inspired to dye wool fibre. All the spinning fibre that was available to me locally was ecru or raw, undyed, and I couldn’t fathom spinning yarn that was devoid of colour. I tried buying some dyed fibre off Ebay early on because Etsy didn’t exist yet and had a terrible experience of it. So I figured I had to teach myself how to put colour on fibre myself. I started blogging about dyeing fibre and then quickly moved to dyeing yarn as well.

Low-water immersion dyeing.

How did this book come about?

It’s been on my mind for years and years that I’d like to write a book about colour and textiles but it was always the wrong timing or exact topic was eluding me. So when Kerry Bogert, the acquisitions editor at Interweave Press, approached me about writing a book, it was the perfect timing and she helped me see how I could contribute my voice to this beautiful and creative industry.

What do you think it adds that other yarn and fiber dyeing tutorials are missing?

It’s true, you can absolutely learn to dye yarn and fibre from online tutorials and blogs, but often those resources only provide you with simplified instructions without a great deal of insight into why we do things a certain way. Coming from both a science background (I studied Pharmaceutical Sciences in University) as well as an arts background (I studied and worked in graphic design for over 10 years), I love combining the analytical with the aesthetic. So this book shows how you can get significantly different appearances to your hand-dyed yarns simply by changing different variables in your dye process like modifying the volume of water or changing the time at which you add the acid to the dyepot. Seemingly insignificant choices can produce significantly different results. I go into great depth to show those experiments.

Heat setting a skein dyed in sections.

When you started the book, were you worried about creating competition from new dyers?

I truly, truly believe that being worried about creating competition is a symptom of a scarcity mindset and have tried to live and work in a way where I share my knowledge generously with the community. These fibre arts need us to teach each other, share our experiences, and grow the knowledge base in order to endure. It is my heart that we encourage each other to become new dyers, new spinners, new knitters, or new weavers. Only then can we all experience the joy that colour and craft can bring.

What would you say has led SweetGeorgia to stand out in the fiber industry?

Over the years, SweetGeorgia has become known for rich, vibrant, and stunningly saturated hand-dyed colour. Even though dyeing trends come and go, it is my hope that SweetGeorgia also is known for our commitment to producing truly excellent handcraft colour. What I mean is not just colour that captivates but also colour that is consistent from batch to batch and colour that performs reliably in washing and wearing. I think, ultimately, if we stand out in the fibre industry, I hope it is because pursue our dye work passionately and professionally.

At the start of your book, you recount many of your own “color stories.” Do you have a favorite color, or favorite colors, and how has dyeing changed them?

I do have a thing for fuschias and plummy purples… but then I also have a thing for harvest gold and olive greens… and also limey chartreuse… and sea glass aqua. There are just too many colours that I love. But dyeing my own colours has allowed me to deconstruct colours into layers of other hues and rebuild them in a more engaging way.

What have been some of your inspirations when creating colors for SweetGeorgia?

Always music. Since the beginning, I’ve always been inspired by songs or bands and live music, especially. But I’ve also been enamored with telling stories through colour… ideas like, how do you tell the story of unrequited love through a colourway? How do you express wistfulness or longing in a colourway? Those kinds of things keep me going. For me, it’s not about creating pretty colour. It’s really about using colour to communicate a message.

Can you explain your role at the company and what a typical day is like (if there is such a thing!)?

Since I founded SweetGeorgia in 2005, my role has evolved and I’ve gone from being a one-woman show where I did all the dyeing, bookkeeping, website design, customer service, emails, and twisting, tagging, and packaging yarns (phew) to leading a team of amazing artisans and creative people in this fibre arts adventure. My official title is “Creative Director” so that encompasses my work in designing new yarns, colourways, and palettes for each season as well as coordinating with team on our knitwear design collections, trade shows, and marketing work. There is no typical day, between juggling two kids, working on our podcast, writing blog posts and plans, and communicating with our team from my home office, every day is different!

Untangling: Lara Smoot

As a designer, Lara Smoot was an “early adopter” of Indie Untangled, and I’ve loved getting word of her latest designs — from her Game of Thrones-inspired shawls to her incredible colorwork socks — on the Marketplace.

For the 2016 Where We Knit yarn club, I paired Lara up with Dami of Magpie Fibers and they came up with a simple, beach-inspired pair of mitts in an icy blue. I’m hoping to cast on soon to help me get through the winter.

I spoke to Lara about her background and how she starts work on some of her more complex pieces:

When and how did you learn to knit?

My grandmother taught me basic knitting when I was in my early teens. She didn’t teach me how to purl and I wanted the scarf that I was knitting to look smooth (stockinette) so I figured out how to knit backwards. I put my needles down after that scarf and didn’t pick knitting up again until about 12 years ago and this time it stuck!

What made you decide to become a designer?

I wanted to create something new and unique and be able to share it with other knitters. My goal is to create patterns with clear and concise directions that produce beautiful results. Knitting should be fun and I try to have that come through in my designs.

What did you do in your “pre-designer” life and how does that influence your design work?

I showed horses for many years and designed and sewed custom riding clothing during that time. Creating custom garments that fit people taught me a lot about sizing and, of course, measuring. Later on, I worked in marketing for a nationally known insurance company and after that I was the director of social media for a yarn company. Working for the yarn company taught me a lot about the yarn industry and gave me so much insight on what goes on behind the scenes.

The Game of Thrones-inspired Fire and Blood.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Oh my gosh, I’m inspired by so many things! Patterns that I see in nature, the beautiful colors in a skein of yarn, music that I’m listening to, my favorite characters in a tv series. All those things inspire me.

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

I love bright colors and speckled and variegated yarns to work with. Pinks, purples, blues and green are some of my favorites. I love gray too. It’s the perfect complementary color to go with anything bright.

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

Have a big cup of coffee! All kidding aside, it depends on the project. Sometimes I start with a sketch, sometimes I swatch before I sketch. With my colorwork designs, like Shark Bite and Fright Night, I create the chart first. I have an idea of what I want the piece to look like and keep tweaking the chart until it’s what I envisioned.

The Seacoast Mitts pattern from the 2016 Where We Knit yarn club.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

At home with my pugs in my lap and a good cup of coffee or tea while watching a knitting podcast.