Birdie Parker goes beyond metal

An orange leather bracelet on a light-skinned arm.

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled, taking place from October 15-24, 2021. Tickets are now available!

Kristi Jensen of Birdie Parker Designs is known for her metal stitching-themed jewelry — she even has a BFA degree in Metalsmithing from California State University Long Beach — but her most recent designs have veered away from the shiny medium. They include enamel, acrylic and leather, which you’ll be able to purchase at our online show, as well as the Beautiful Syster booth at the in-person show, and The Perfect Blend Yarn & Tea shop in downtown Saugerties, in about a week!

Since you studied metalsmithing, how did you decide to move to other materials, such as enamel, acrylic and leather?

Enameling was actually my first love in metalsmithing, but it’s a rather time-consuming process so it’s been on the back burner until now. I’ve been fortunate enough to find an amazing assistant this year, and she has freed up time in my schedule for me to explore adding small-batch enamel items to my collection. As for the acrylic and leatherworking… I’ve always intended for Birdie Parker to offer a wide assortment of items other than just jewelry. About two years ago, I started exploring combining leather with my etched metal pieces and quickly realized that cutting and finishing those leather items by hand was slow work. That’s when I added a laser printer to my process. Then, I started seeing all this beautiful acrylic in a wide range of colors and effects and the wheels started turning in my brain and soon after I had a whole line of acrylic stitch markers. I’m definitely a person who loves learning new techniques and the addition of the laser has opened so many new avenues in the business.

A light-skinned woman with red dyed hair and black glasses.

How does it change your process to work with other materials?

Working with metals can take a lot of steps and time and, for the most part, it can only be done by me. The leather and acrylic is pretty hands off once I do the designing, and my assistant can finish the assembling and packaging process. By working with new materials, I’m not limited by the properties of metal and can make more of my visions a reality.

A necklance with a silver stickinette stitch pattern and an aqua enamel oval.

Can you share some of your plans for this year’s Indie Untangled Everywhere?

I’m really excited to offer colorful enamel pieces, some new useful leather accessories and show off some of the new items released over the past year.

Do you have ideas for other types of products in the pipeline?

So many items! I’m working on a line of rings, some with enamel. There are several new earrings in development, and some bangle bracelets. Leather project bags! I just need more hours in the day to make them come to fruition.

Round earrings with etched knitting stitches.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

I always have several sock tubes waiting for finishing, and I’m currently working on a beautiful stripey rainbow version of the Sunset Shawl by Meghan Babin of Hudson and West Co.

Indie Untangled Everywhere Untangling: Birdie Parker

A woman with red dyed hair and black glasses.

This is the 10th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Untangled Everywhere, taking place from October 15-17, 2020.

Metalsmithing doesn’t seem to have much in common with the fiber arts, but Kristi Jensen of Birdie Parker Designs has pulled both together seamlessly. After earning a BFA in Metalsmithing from California State University Long Beach in 2016, Kristi turned her skill into a fiber-focused jewelry business. Her jewels have donned many an ear, wrist and shawl, and she’s expanded into other unique items, such as light switch plates, all bearing her signature stitch designs.

How did you decide to study metalsmithing in college?

I originally intended to major in sculpture, but found that the program at my school wasn’t a good fit for me. A friend suggested that I check out the metalsmithing program and I instantly fell in love. I get to play with hammers and fire? Sign me up!

What led you to turn that skill into a fiber-focused jewelry business?

Like many fine arts majors, once I graduated I was faced with trying to figure out how to turn my new knowledge into a marketable skill. I played around with different ideas and mediums but nothing really fit. All throughout my time in the metalsmithing program, I was avidly knitting and padding my schedule with classes from the Fibers department, and it finally occurred to me: the fiber world didn’t have much going on in the way of jewelry at the time. I turned my focus toward trying to replicate the stitches of fibers arts in metal. After much experimentation, I developed a technique with electro-etching that eventually became my signature element.

Leaf shaped earrings with etched knitting stitches.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled Everywhere?

I plan to introduce a few new products that I’ve been working to perfect with the help of my laser printers: new mirrored acrylic stitch markers, and silicone watch bands for Apple Watches.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned running your business?

I think the number one thing is that from day one I have treated Birdie Parker like a business, not a hobby. This has allowed me to grow exponentially, to the point where I have recently moved operations to a large warehouse and I’m beginning to take on employees to help with the workflow.

A silver bracelet with stockinette stitches etched into it.

When and how did you learn to knit?

The first time I picked up the needles, it was from a little kit that I found at Costco, of all places. I later realized that I spent the first handful of projects knitting through the back loop! Life then got in the way and I didn’t knit for about a dozen years. One day I was freezing at the bus stop and I thought, I really should knit myself a hat! I visited the nearest LYS, watched a lot of youTube videos, figured out how to properly execute that knit stitch, and off I went!

Do you enjoy other crafts in addition to knitting?

Around the same time I started that hat, I started to wonder how hard it would be to learn to spin yarn. Within a span of about three weeks, I had built myself a drop spindle, visited an alpaca farm and ordered myself a spinning wheel! In addition to spinning, I learned to weave when I inherited my husband’s family loom. I dabble a bit in sewing, embroidery, cross stitch and sashiko. Since starting the business, my free time has become quite limited, so I seem to have focused my efforts on hoarding yarn. I’m quite good at it.

A leather cuff with silver stitches.

What are your favorite skeins in your stash?

I have a terrible weakness for self-striping sock yarn and rainbow gradient sets.

A leather tray with the image of a yarn ball.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Too many! I have 3/4 of a Love Note sweater, a half finished Rift tee, a pair of striped socks, a Junction Shawl and I’m sure a few others that I’m forgetting. The pandemic has been great for getting me to cast on projects but finishing them seems to be another issue!