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.

Untangling: Pom Pom Quarterly

Pom Pom Quarterly co-founders and editors Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes.

Pom Pom Quarterly co-founders and editors Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Although I run a knitting website, I still do a lot of writing for print, and so I have always appreciated the joy of flipping through a paper publication. When it comes to knitting magazines, Pom Pom Quarterly is by far one of my favorites. It has the feel of a small book and features beautiful patterns (my Waterlily, a design by co-founder and editor Meghan Fernandes, is one of my favorite garments), gorgeous photographs and illustrations and unique articles, such as a recent one on the science behind dyes.

Launched in 2012 by Meghan, an American in London (she has since moved back, and now lives in Austin, Texas) and Brit Lydia Gluck, Pom Pom is available four times a year via subscription and also at more than 250 locally-owned yarn and craft stores around the globe. There’s also a popular Pom Pom blog and podcast. Unfortunately, Meghan and Lydia won’t be able to make it to the Rhinebeck Trunk Show, as they will be busy preparing their display at the NY Sheep & Wool Festival, but I was thrilled when they agreed to be a sponsor. I chatted with them about the magazine and some of their favorite things:

Tell me all about how Pom Pom Quarterly got started.

Meghan + Lydia: We met while working at Loop, the gorgeous knitting shop in London, and found we had a shared love of knitting and craft, and of magazines too! We both felt that there wasn’t a knitting magazine around at the time that really spoke to us, or reflected the way we felt about craft and the plethora of indie dyers that had sprung up around the resurgence of interest in knitting and crochet. We decided to have a go ourselves at creating the publication we felt was missing, and after brainstorming in cafes and pubs the idea for Pom Pom was born. We designed all the patterns and wrote all the articles, friends helped out with modelling, photography and design, and somehow it all came together into a magazine we loved. We were so happy that other people loved it too! Now we are a slightly bigger operation of course, and work with designers, editors and writers and all sorts of brilliant people to make Pom Pom.

Why did you decide to go the print route?

Meghan + Lydia: We decided on print because we both love owning a beautiful magazine as a physical object, and we suspected that other knitters would feel similarly. It makes sense that people who spend time making lovely handcrafted things would appreciate the paper and quality of printing, and the fact that the magazine is printed in the UK. Because the mag is quarterly we think of it as collectible, and we try to make each issue timeless. For that reason we have no off sale date (until they sell out of course!), and we think of our print copies as little treats for knitters and crocheters, an investment that they will return to time and again… Of course we have digital versions available too for those who like wrinkle proof pages!

pom-pom-issue-6-autumn-2013

What would you say are the most important skills that each of you bring to the magazine?

Lydia: Meghan says I have good business sense, and I think she has a real knack for innovation. She is always the one wanting to mix things up and try new things, whereas I tend to get stuck in my ways. Meghan has tended toward the social media side of things, she always knows about what’s going on in the craft world way before I do! I am often happier hanging out with Excel, but we both love to chat and meet new people, which definitely comes in handy for what we do! We’ve both learned so much in the last five years, and I think we can both safely say we feel more confident now as stylists and editors. The one thing we definitely bring is enthusiasm for craft, and a love of print as a medium.

When and how did you each learn to knit?

Lydia: I learned to knit from a book one rainy Welsh summer about 10 years ago. A housemate of mine at university was a knitter, and after seeing her making things I was inspired, and decided that if I was stuck indoors while the weather was bad I might as well learn something new!

Meghan: My boyfriend’s mom taught me to knit when I was a teenager. I got really lucky because she was a great teacher and even bought me a sweater’s worth of yarn for my first project as a birthday present.

Who are some of your favorite indie dyers?

Lydia: Oh there are so many I love! I think Viola is definitely a favourite, and Uncommon Thread, Shilasdair and MadelineTosh… and I have always been a fan of Old Maiden Aunt too. But there really are so many brilliant dyers out there!

Meghan: They are changing all the time, and there are too many to count, but I love The Uncommon Thread, Camellia Fiber Company and Julie Asselin a lot at the moment.

pom-pom-issue-18-autumn-2016

Tell me about one of your most memorable FOs.

Lydia: Hmmm, really memorable ones would probably be disasters like the first jumper I ever made, which did not fit the intended recipient. But memorable successes are the first pattern I ever wrote, my Overbury mitts from the first issue of Pom Pom, and my Quadrillion jumper, which was Meghan’s design, and is still my favourite jumper.

Meghan: My most memorable is probably so because it’s my most worn — my Beatnik sweater by Norah Gaughan. I remember finally getting to grips with cables on that project and having to drop and correct cabled stitches for the first time. It’s so wearable and classic Norah — timeless, clever and so wearable.

Which crafts, in addition to knitting, do you enjoy?

Lydia: I also crochet, and do a little embroidery from time to time, but I’ll have a go at anything! If darkroom photography counts then that is definitely a craft I was very into when I had access to a darkroom! I just loved the magic of seeing the image appear. Without a darkroom on hand I have been experimenting with cyanotypes, which are so easy!

Meghan: In addition to knitting, I love crocheting and calligraphy, and recently I learned to weave which is such a cool way to use the amazing yarns we have access to.

What is your favorite music to knit or craft to?

Lydia: Oh wow, I don’t know if I can pick a favourite. But recently I have been crafting to Emmlylou Harris, Joanna Newsom and Sia. Patty Smith and The Velvet Underground have always been big favourites of mine too. When I tried to do some sewing a few years ago I was really into The Moldy Peaches and Jeffrey Lewis so they always remind me of threading a sewing machine. When I’m drawing I have to listen to something with a beat.

Meghan: Like favourite indie dyers, the music I enjoy knitting to changes all the time too. In the iTunes/Spotify age, I still love listening to the radio — the station KUTX in Austin is a fave, as is the UK-based BBC Radio 6 which I still love to listen to two years after having moved away!

Untangling: Stephannie Tallent of Sunset Cat Designs

SunsetcatCherty

I didn’t know very much about Stephannie Tallent of Sunset Cat Designs when I started working with her as part of the inaugural Indie Untangled yarn club, other than the fact that she does wonderful things with lace, cables and textured stitches and that she is a fan of craft beer.

So, I did a little reporting before sending her some questions and discovered she had quite an interesting pre-designer history. As a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, AKA West Point, she served in the Army for four years. It’s quite a nice parallel with Christine of Skeinny Dipping, the dyer I paired Stephannie with for the club, who also has a history of service, with the Peace Corps.

I spoke to Stephannie about her background, her design inspirations and, of course, her favorite brew.

When and how did you learn to knit?

A neighbor taught me the basics, and I learned from books and magazines from there. The internet wasn’t around then!

How did you decide to go to West Point and join the Army?

It sounded interesting, lol. I had no idea what I was getting into with West Point! I do tell folks it was a valuable experience.

I served for four years in the Army as a Military Intelligence officer. I was stationed in Germany, which I loved; I got to live in southern Germany, including Munich. I was able to do some traveling around Europe as well.

I deployed with 1st Armored Division for Desert Storm as well.

Did you meet others in the military who knit?

No; though I knit a little bit when I was stationed in Germany, I didn’t meet any other knitters.

Sand-Ripples-Shawl-6
What made you decide to become a designer?

I started modifying designs then took the next step in creating my own! The Knit Picks IDP was just starting up, and Ravelry was really in gear, when I first started designing. Those two things made self publishing very accessible. I also realized I loved a lot of the tasks ancillary to designing: learning about layout, graphic design, and so on.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Anything! Nature to include plants (especially California native plants) and animals, architecture, geology, the ocean, towns and cities, stitch patterns, fabrics…

Caridwen-480-1

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

It really depends on the particular pattern and the reason and inspiration behind it. If I’m answering a call for submissions, I usually brainstorm what I would like to design that fits the call.

If it’s a single pattern to be self published, I generally have an idea of what I want to do (i.e. a cabled cowl) and I start by playing with stitch patterns.

If it’s a pattern for a collection, I brainstorm palette, yarn types and yarn companies, types of patterns, techniques to be used, etc. first before narrowing down individual patterns.

SunsetCat Beer

What’s your favorite beer or brewery?

My favorite brewery is The Bruery in Placentia, California. They do a really interesting mix of beers. Before going to their tasting room, I’d seen some bottles in stores, but they were primarily the Belgian-inspired beers like Mischief. I had no idea of the range of barrel-aged beers they did until we visited the tasting room. I was in barrel-aged beer heaven. They also do a lot of sours, and I’m starting to drink more of those. They’ve just opened a second tasting room (The Bruery Terreux) that focuses on farmhouse wild and sour ales that we’ve not yet visited.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

At home. I usually knit on my couch.

Untangling: Toby Roxane Barna

Toby Roxane Barna

I discovered Toby Roxane Barna when I came across her London Underground collection of shawls (I still need to knit Highgate, which was my tube stop when I did a semester there in 2001) and was very excited when she posted to Indie Untangled last year.

Soon after posting to the Marketplace, Toby expressed interest in participating in the Where We Knit yarn club. Both she and Margaret of French Market Fibers decided to draw inspiration from rivers — the Hudson in Toby’s case, the Mississippi in Margaret’s — so it seemed fitting to match them up.

Toby’s designs are classic, with a modern twist, and pretty much exclusively use indie-dyed yarn — and she recently started dyeing yarn herself! I spoke with her a little more about her time across the pond and her thoughts on color.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned how to knit a little later than most people, I think — and it’s kind of a long story. I graduated from college in 2009 and there were no jobs to be had. So, I moved back in with my parents and started working at a local cafe. The owner of the cafe was a knitter, and on Saturday mornings she hosted a little knitting group. Since my mom is also a knitter, I told her about it, and she started going. Once the knitters found out I was the daughter of a knitter and didn’t know how to knit, they decided I needed to learn. They taught me, and it turned out I was good at it — actually, it turned out it was, like, what I was supposed to be doing all along. I’d always done all kinds of art and crafts because I find that if I’m not making something I’m not happy. Knitting turned out to be my perfect medium.

How did you end up studying knitwear design in London?

Once I got good at knitting and began working at yarn shops, I realized I wanted to find a way to make a career out of knitting. Designing seemed like the best way to do that, and I thought about going back to school. After doing a bunch of research, I found a summer course in knitwear design at the London College of Fashion… I had never been to Europe and I really wanted to do some travelling, so I saved some money and went. I LOVED it! I would love to go back one day.

TobyRoxaneBlueShawl

What did you learn in school that translates into designing patterns for hand knits?

Well, ninth grade geometry turned out to be shockingly useful! I go through graph paper like you wouldn’t believe. The course I took in London was focused mainly on designing knits to be mass produced, which isn’t the direction I’m going in right now, but I did learn a lot about planning and creating a cohesive collection from start to finish. Now that I’ve begun dyeing my own yarn (stay tuned for more news on that front…!) I’m excited to be able to design palettes of colorways to use for designing knits.

TobyRoxaneRedGold

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

A lot of time, it’s the yarn. I’m all about hand-dyed yarn, and I find that it often tells me what it wants to be. I also like to read fashion and runway magazines and look for silhouettes that might lend themselves to interesting interpretation in knitwear.

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

That’s a really good question… I’m not sure it’s ever the same! It depends a lot on the pattern. For accessories like shawls, which don’t require specific measurements the way sweaters do, I usually just start knitting. I sometimes don’t know how a pattern will turn out when I start it. For sweaters, I do a ton of planning before I even touch the yarn. I’ll make a swatch, and then do a schematic on graph paper and decide what sizes would make sense to include in the pattern, then I calculate all the relevant numbers for all the sizes using an Excel chart, and THEN I start knitting. Then I usually translate the Excel chart into a written pattern, either as I’m knitting or after it’s finished.

How have your color preferences changed since becoming a designer?

You know, I’d never really thought about it until now, but my color preferences and — how to phrase it… color awareness? — have definitely changed since I became a knitter. I’m not sure it changed when I started designing, but when I started knitting and fell in love with hand-dyed yarns, I became SO much more aware of color. I used to (and still kind of do) wear mostly black and gray—I had a major goth phase in high school and they say you always carry with you vestiges of the first style you ever thought was really cool. Anyway, I still wear a lot of blacks and neutrals only because they’re perfect starting points for layering a really colorful shawl or cardigan. 🙂 I find I’m drawn to jewel tones and colors with a lot of depth—you can really only get that depth from hand-dyeing. It requires some layering of colors.

TobyRoxaneCicada

I understand that you weld. How did you start and what other crafts do you engage in, aside from knitting?

Oh man, what art media HAVEN’T I tried? I have done varyingly extensive work in pencil, charcoal, oil paint, acrylic paint, piano, cross-stitch, pen & ink, marker, sewing, watercolor, print making, clay molding, crochet, book making, spray paint, crayons, oil pastels, and that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I learned how to weld in a sculpture class in college and to be honest, I spent more time chiseling off things I’d accidentally welded to the table.

Where is your favorite place to knit?

At the moment, my favorite place to knit is at a little park by the river, here in Saugerties. It’s quiet and lovely and full of trees and I find it very rejuvenating.

Indie is the new black

Cease and Desist

Recently, when my almost-5-year-old nephew requested a black hat to go with his school uniform, I was at first a little disappointed. Like most knitters, I’m generally drawn towards vivid colors — black is for boots and store-bought cardigans, amiright? — and I figured I’d also have to go with a very plain pattern because any interesting detail would get lost in black yarn. Then I remembered that a bunch of dyers have black colorways, so I went clicking through the Indie Untangled marketplace to see what I could find.

I ended up contacting the lovely Christine of Skeinny Dipping, who had actually, a few months ago, suggested her new Cease and Desist color as one of the stripes for my Nangou (I ended up going with pink and teal to match Duck Duck Wool’s Night Bokeh). Christine dyed up two skeins of C&D on her Journey Worsted base, one of which I’m using for Stephen West’s Windschief — it’s just complex enough without having anything go missing in the darkness.

Since I thought black was such an interesting color choice for a dyer, I decided to ask Christine a few questions:

What made you decided to create a black colorway?

If you look in my closet you will find a lot of black. My dresses are black (or a really dark color), my store-bought cardigans are black, etc. My husband says I always look like I’m ready for a funeral. I like it because it matches everything easily and the last place I want to spend time at is a clothing store. But while there’s black everywhere in store fashion there isn’t a lot of black in the yarn world — certainly not enough for me. Ask me to pair two colors together? I can do it but I’ll really want black to be one of them. Three colors? Impossible (this is why I still haven’t knit a Color Affection). I need one of them to be black so the scarf goes with my cardigans and dresses. Voila! Cease and Desist was born.

Without giving too much away, how does one actually create a shade of black? Do you use black dye, or is it a combination of other colors?

Like any other colorways it depends. My Cease and Desist is very simple — one dye. But you can create very beautiful blacks — just have a look at Blue Moon Fiber Arts. They have an amazing line of blacks in their Raven Clan series.

Is it challenging to give a black colorway “depth”?

Again, it depends. Are you going for a semi-solid black, a tonal, or something using a resist? I feel like tackling a black color presents the same challenge as any other color.

What pattern suggestions do you have for black yarn, with it either as a main or accent color?

For an accent color, I love Aileron by Dieuwke van Mulligan. Colorwork projects are also great for black, like Pointy Pointy Mittens by Adrian Bizilia or Jazz Hands by Kate Davies. Stripes are great, too: Accelerating Stripes Fingerless Gloves by the Churchmouse Yarns people, Mon Petit Gilet Raye by Isabelle Milleret. And anything brioche. I also use black for the heels on a lot of my hand-knit socks.

Here are some of my other favorite black colorways by IU’s artisans:

Slick by Dark Harbour Yarns

Black is Black or Black Pearl by Dragonfly Fibers

The Pit by Invictus Yarns

Baby Got Black by Magpie Fibers

Peter’s Shadow by Duck Duck Wool

Untangling: Janina Kallio

1

Janina Kallio 600px

I first learned of designer Janina Kallio when I spied one of her ads at the bottom of the French Market Fibers Ravelry group almost a year ago. I contacted her right away about posting to the Marketplace, and then I took advantage of her Buy Two, Get One Free New Year’s sale (it was actually hard to narrow it down to three patterns). I was thrilled when, a few months later, Janina expressed interest in participating in the Indie Untangled yarn club, the first installment of which shipped out this week.

I figured it would be challenging to decide who to pair Janina up with for the club, since her simple, elegant patterns let any hand-dyed yarn shine. I asked the dyers and designers pick the top three people they wanted to work with, and Janina made it easy, expressing interest in partnering with Ami of Lakes Yarn and Fiber. And the rest, as they say, is yarn club history. Their Drops of Honey collaboration, which should be arriving in mailboxes starting today, is stunning, and I can’t wait to knit this shawl. Read on to find out where Janina’s inspiration comes from and what her all-time favorite TV show is — which seeing as she’s from Finland, this New Yorker was quite (happily) surprised by!

When and how did you learn to knit?

Knitting and crocheting is taught in schools here in Finland from a young age, and I’ve been knitting basic socks and scarves with bulky market yarn on and off ever since. But the tipping point for me was discovering Ravelry with its inspiring knitting community and luxury yarns. It literally changed my life. I’ve met amazing people both online and offline, discovered the limitless possibilities of knitting, and left my day job to pursue career as a full-time designer and entrepreneur. And most importantly, I’m definitely never going back to market yarns. 🙂

What made you decide to become a designer?

I published my first Ravelry pattern in October 2012 just for fun, and then a few others in Summer 2013. The response was so encouraging that I threw all caution to the wind and left my soul sucking day job in September 2013. That was a crazy move, but I haven’t regretted it for a second. I sometimes have to pinch myself to believe that this is really happening. The only thing I miss from my “pre-designer” life is work colleagues as being a solopreneur can be lonely, but fortunately the awesome community of fellow knitters on Ravelry and social media more than make up for it.

MelodiaByJaninaKallio5
Tell me about what inspires your minimalist designs.

I believe that simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication. And with luxury hand-dyed yarns you really don’t need any bells and whistles from the pattern. For me, knitting is meditative, relaxing experience, and the pattern should be simple enough to follow while watching TV or chatting with friends and family. I aim to design Netflix-friendly patterns that are simple yet interesting to knit with drop-dead gorgeous results.

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

Every design starts with a sketch. My sketchbook is full of scribbles and funny looking sketches, and big part of the design process is deciding which ones to follow through with. Next step is calculations and drafting the instructions. But the knitting part is where final design decisions are made, or sometimes the entire design rejected. No matter how thoroughly I plan in advance, sometimes the yarns just have a mind of their own.

Marrakesh-by-Janina-Kallio-2

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

I get requests for garment patterns with my design aesthetics from time to time, and it’s certainly something I’m intrigued to dip my toe at some point.

I see you’re a big fan of Netflix and wine. What are your favorite shows and what’s your favorite red varietal?

With wines, I’m an annoying snob with a soft spot for French and Italian, but when it comes to Netflix, I’m not that picky. Hubby’s always mocking me — lovingly, of course — with all the ridiculous shows I watch while knitting. I guess the better ones would include Suits, White Collar, The Americans, Downton Abbey and House of Cards, but I’ve also been caught watching shows like The Glades and lately (don’t judge!) The O.C.

My favorite show of all time is Seinfeld and if it ever comes to Netflix I’m never leaving the couch.

Drops of honey3 600pix

Where is your favorite place to knit?

At home on the couch watching Netflix and sipping red wine or sweet tea. 🙂