Post-Rhinebeck Untangling: Debra Gerhard of Spruce Lane Designs

Debra Gerhard of Spruce Lane Designs in gray sweater with a pink and red geometric yoke

Debra Gerhard models her Once Again sweater.

This is the 17th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Debra Gerhard of Spruce Lane Designs has a background as a designer, but not in fashion. For years she worked as an environmental engineer, addressing environmental impacts. These days, her design work involves taking hand-dyed yarn and turning them into colorful geometric sweaters and shawls with stripes, lace, cables and other textured stitches.

How did you decide to become a knitwear designer?

I was never one to follow a pattern exactly as written. I would usually use the pattern as a “guide” and then add my own shaping, motifs, edgings or other personal touches. A number of years ago after I left engineering to be home with my son, I started sample knitting for a few yarn companies which subsequently lead to technical editing of patterns. Around this same time, I took a few knitwear design classes at the Rhode Island School of Design.

I released my first design, Checks Mix Cowl, which was based on a swatch I had done for one of my classes. However, I didn’t release anything else for about two years after this initial design and instead spent my time doing more technical editing for a number of designers and yarn companies. I finally made the leap to mostly designing around 2017 and now I find myself struggling at times to turn out all the ideas I have in my head. I love the process, and I especially enjoy seeing knitters’ interpretations of my patterns and their use of color combinations and various yarn bases.

How has your background as an environmental engineer informed your work?

As an environmental engineer, I would be charged with designing and applying the best remedy for addressing environmental impacts. And just as each impacted site presented a unique set of issues, I find that the processes I used to identity these issues and form a solution are very similar to the processes I use in my designing. I have also found that my love of math is deeply ingrained in designing and grading. I love to see the numbers unfold, and I enjoy applying geometrical concepts to some of my shawl designs.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

I take my inspiration from a variety of sources: an architectural detail, a colorful sunset, a spider web I may spy when out for a hike, bark on a tree, nature, found objects and many other sources. I have been known to tell my hubby to “pull over” so that I can take a picture of something that inspires me. I am drawn to color and patterns. I like to create colorful knits that fuel the imagination of each knitter and hopefully inspires them make my pattern their own.

When and how did you learn to knit?

My mom taught me how to knit when I was 10. My mom knits continental style, which suited me fine as I am left handed. I started with the garter stitch scarf and seamed hat as my first knitting items and continued with more hats and a few mittens. I didn’t knit much during junior high and high school, but in college I picked it up again and knitted the “boyfriend” sweater. I started to seriously knit in my late 20s after getting married, and I haven’t stopped since that time.

A pink speckled lace shawl.

Sunrise Over Bryce for Knitting Our National Parks.

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

After deciding on yarn, I will make a large swatch of the design/motif that I have in mind to see how the colors play together and to get gauge. Once I’ve gotten gauge, I will work up the numbers and write out a draft of the pattern, including any charts, if needed. I like to have the pattern completed as much as possible before I begin knitting so that I am in a sense, “testing” my own design and I have the ability to make edits as I knit.

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

My favorite colors are purples, reds and other rich, saturated colors, and that hasn’t changed much. I also like the playfulness of speckled yarn with the surprising pops of color. Additionally, I am just starting to explore the color and textural effects of working with two strands of yarn, specifically a mohair/silk base coupled with a Merino base.

Post-Rhinebeck Untangling: ‘I Knit San Francisco’

The cover of I Knit San Francisco

This is the 15th in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Designer Kathleen Dames and Alice O’Reilly of Backyard Fiberworks have taken us to New York and Paris through their Knit Like A Local series of bookazines from One More Row Press. Recently, they launched I Knit San Francisco, a fiber journey through the Bay Area, which is available to preorder. Here’s more about their latest trip.

How did you decide to include San Francisco for your latest book?

We started talking about San Francisco after attending Stitches West a couple of years ago. There is a vibrant knitting culture in Northern California, lots of great yarn shops, local designers and dyers, and, as we all know, the weather in San Francisco is such that having something woolly on hand is always a good idea. Plus, we both have connections to the area: Alice’s grandparents lived south of San Francisco (and her brother lives in the city now), while Kathleen worked for two different publishers, one in Sebastopol and the other in Pacific Grove, so she has spent working time in the area, in addition to more touristy visits.

Which designers do you have lined up for I Knit San Francisco?

We are thrilled to have Vilasinee Bunnag (founder of The Loome) in collaboration with Kathleen, Faina Goberstein, Juliana Lustenader, Audry Nicklin, Sonya Philip (100 Acts of Sewing), Yvonne Poon (Gamer Babe Knits), Sloane Rosenthal (co-founder of brand new Hudson + West yarn company with Meghan Babin), Heatherly Walker (the Yarn Yenta), Julie Weisenberger (founder of Cocoknits), and Kelly White, plus yarns from Bay Street Yarns, The Dye Project, Hudson + West Co., Little Skein in the Big Wool with help from Seismic Yarns, Love Fest Fibers, Sincere Sheep, Speckled Finch Studios, Twirl Yarn, and A Verb for Keeping Warm. Getting to know the designers and dyers is the best part of this job.

A yellow knit rug.

What are each of your favorite designs from the book?

We love them all (of course)! Seriously, every book we publish is a whole new wardrobe we want to knit.

So far Julie’s rug, Half-moon, made with Love Fest Fibers crazy cool and crazy big yarn, and Sloane’s Ferry Building pullover in WELD from brand new yarn company, Hudson + West Co. (Sloane’s bicoastal partnership with Meghan Babin, former editor of Interweave Knits) have been most popular on our Instagram feed.

Aside from designs, what will the book include?

We interview each designer, so you will learn a little about their design journey and, of course, their favorite local things, particularly places to go that you might not know about and restaurants to try. Then, we take you on our three-day Yarn Crawl from Santa Rosa up in Sonoma County all the way down through Napa County to the East Bay and San Francisco itself down through Santa Cruz to Pacific Grove on Monterey Bay. We definitely recommend taking more than three days, if you want to do the whole tour – we had to be ruthlessly efficient in our research trip due to time constraints, but our doing so means you can take your time and enjoy everything a little more thoroughly.

Woman models a gray sweater on a beach.

What surprising things did you learn about San Francisco while doing your research?

That walking around is no joke! Coming from the east and being used to walking everywhere (New York City and Washington, D.C., for us are walking and subway-riding cities), the hills of San Francisco are deceptive. What seems like a doable walk is an intense workout. We also were surprised/not surprised to notice the quality of the light. As intensely visual people, we were both struck by that West Coast golden light, and we think Alli did a great job of capturing it in our photos.

There has been an explosion of local “bookazines,” such as the By Hand serial and Nomadic Knits. How would you say One More Row Press is different?

We start with the question “Where shall we (as knitting people) go next?” Then we work hard to find local designers, some new and others more established, who design across many categories and for varying skill levels, and then we collaborate with them to find yarn partners that make each project sing.

Beyond the interviews and yarn crawls, we also seek out local photographers and models who bring the designs to life on location. We focus on curating a collection that is rooted in place with additional information that allows you to go to that place and make your own personal connections (or be an armchair travel knitter).

Woman models a white sweater with pom poms.

What other cities or places are next for your series?

That is the question we are asked AND that we ask everyone we meet! Our “To Visit” list includes: Chicago (where Kathleen grew up), Kyoto (or Tokyo), London, Detroit (people keep mentioning it, and there are a lot of yarn stores in the area, so we are totally intrigued), and Los Angeles. We have also talked about Italy, Cuba, Australia, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, though we have been focused on individual cities thus far.

It’s a matter of finding the right people (designers, dyers, LYSes) and making the timing work for everyone (including us with our own jobs and families to manage). We are also in talks to do a crochet book with a handful of designers using their favorite buildings as inspiration for elegant, wearable crochet garments and accessories.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Pom Pom Quarterly’s Sea Change issue

An African American woman models a blue and sand textured wrap on the cover of Pom Pom Quarterly

The cover features Seelig by Katrin Schubert, modeled by Arrish Wol. All photos by Shingi Rice, with make-up by Eleanor Hammond.

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

Pom Pom Quarterly‘s autumn issue focuses on the conversations about racism and white supremacy in the fiber industry that have been taking place since January. Called “Sea Change,” it includes sand- and surf-inspired garments by designers and makers, including some who were brought to editors Lydia Gluck and Meghan Fernandes’ attention due to the movement for more diversity and inclusion in the knitting community.

Over its seven-year history, Pom Pom has featured models of diverse races and ages, and has plans to continue working with a larger range of designers. I asked Lydia how she and Meghan tackled this topic in the issue, which was released August 30, and how they plan to continue to address inclusivity going forward.

How did you decide on the sea as a metaphor for the ongoing discussion about diversity and white supremacy in the fiber industry?

We had been thinking about a sea-themed issue for a while, as it’s almost an obsession for me; I grew up on the Welsh coast and will always go for a salty dip if I can. The sea is also part of Meghan’s father’s background. He is from the tiny seaside state of Goa in India, and that heritage really resonated for Meghan at this time. I guess the sea has always been a source of solace and inspiration, but we hadn’t quite found the right time to do the issue. When we were thinking about putting together this autumn we realised it was the perfect time for the sea theme. We think that the outward-looking feeling that the shore gives, along with the place for reflection it provides is a great way to embody the expansive feeling of trying to create a genuinely inclusive and welcoming space. The sea is always changing, and we hope to carry on growing and changing too.

How was your approach to this issue of the magazine different than previous ones?

We had been spending a lot of time following and engaging with the racism, diversity, and inclusion conversations that have been more present online in the knitting world and felt that we had to start putting what we were learning into practice. We want to make Pom Pom a good option for people who feel that they aren’t represented in the knitting world at the moment. For this issue we put more time into making sure our line-up of contributors and collaborators was more diverse in various ways, and we hope that through diversity will come inclusion and we know Pom Pom will only be richer for it.

Our approach has also been different in terms of layout; we added pages to the magazine so that we could increase the font size – something we have wanted to do for a long time and finally have been able to because we have changed the way we ship the magazines (yay logistics!). We also added sizes to make our sizing more inclusive. We owe so much to the BIPOC and other marginalised voices who have been bringing to our attention what needs to change to make publications accessible and inclusive and we couldn’t be more grateful that they have done such difficult and dangerous work to make our world a better place. They are the heroes in this story.

A woman models a mosaic sand and blue sweater

Trove by Emma Ducher, modeled by Gina Patch.

What does diversity and inclusion look like for Pom Pom?

Diversity and inclusion looks like the magazine being accessible, welcoming to, and representative of anyone who wants to be part of our community. We want to work with and amplify the voices of people whose perspectives and experiences aren’t usually included in and reflected by the media.

Who has most inspired the Pom Pom team as you’ve taken on anti-racism work?

The team behind Unfinished Object have been particularly inspirational. Without those voices, we don’t think the movement would have burst forth in January in the way that it did. We are all making progress, and continuing to make progress now thanks to their work.

A sand colored cabled sweater modeled by the sea

Fata Morgana by Sylvia Watts-Cherry

What advice would you give to crafters and fiber business owners looking to take on anti-racism work?

Remember that whether racism exists in the knitting world is not a debate. That’s step one. Then educate yourself; we would say visiting Unfinished Object is a good place to start, and the anti-racist educators @rachel.cargle and @laylafsaad have plenty of resources. Make sure to be respectful when you are visiting spaces held for and by marginalised people, and check whether an answer to your question already exists before asking it.

The most important thing is to be ready to learn and get things wrong. There’s a lot of fear around saying the wrong thing, but we think it’s important to make sure that fear doesn’t come from a place of defensiveness or thinking that people will deliberately misinterpret you. If you get something wrong and receive critique from the community, it’s vital to listen and make sure you take feedback on board. No one is expected to be perfect, but we think it’s worth holding yourself to a high standard, while being kind to yourself. We can and must do better as a community, and in order to do that we have to be ready to rigorously examine our deeply embedded biases and our unequal societies.

And, if it’s possible for you, do pay people for the education you have received from them. Ko-fi is a great way to do that. Again we want to emphasise that we are following the lead of others in this regard, and we advise doing the same.

I’ve noticed this is the first published design for a few of the designers in the magazine. How do you work with designers who haven’t self-published a knitting or crochet design before? How are you finding new designers and dyers?

We have always worked with designers who haven’t been published or self-published before. Most issues of the magazine have had an open call for submissions because we are always interested in finding people who are not yet part of the knitting scene. We try and provide as much support as we can when we are working with new designers. We know there’s a lot about the process that might be new, so we are on hand to answer questions and can provide help with technical aspects, for example getting assistance with grading if needed. We are always honoured when someone entrusts their vision to us, whether they are a new designer or not, so our main concern is making sure we do their creativity justice.

We also spend a lot of time looking for new designers and dyers online through social media, and if appropriate reach out to people who we think would be interested in working with us. Sometimes people email us too! If we go to shows we make sure to go and check out stands that we don’t yet know.

A peach hat with cables

Timbre by Meghan Fernandes

Have either of you knit any of the designs from the issue (aside from Meghan’s Timbre hat, of course!) or do you plan to knit them?

I am working on Astragal by Ainur Berkimbayeva in some beautiful avocado-dyed yarn from Hey Mama Wolf, and I’m planning to make Eventide by Inyoung Kim next. Meghan is waiting to get her hands on some of Ocean Rose’s yarn to make Fata Morgana by Sylvia Watts-Cherry. If we had time we would make every pattern… but at least we get to live vicariously through our reader’s projects online!

Speaking of Timbre, how did you decide to include a pattern from Meghan in this issue?

When Pom Pom first started we both designed a lot of the patterns (we did all of them for Issue 1!) but as the business has grown we’ve had less and less time to design. Turns out running a magazine is pretty time-consuming! And of course we love making the patterns that we publish. But every now and then, if we have time, we like to design, and if we feel we have an idea that fits the brief then we’ll pitch it to the other and to the team. Meghan’s hat was perfect for this issue because the mohair cables skim over the surface and look like little rivulets, and the rhythmic quality of cables made us think of the sound of waves. I designed a sweater (Woodwardia) for Issue 28 this year which I loved, but we both feel that one design a year is probably plenty for us!

Are there plans for a plus size issue?

We don’t have plans for a specific plus size issue at the moment. We have increased our sizing, so we are intending for every issue to feature a larger range of sizes so that our patterns are accessible to more bodies. We plan to continue featuring a range of models of different sizes too.

What to stash this week: A sweet end to summer

Colorful yarn cakes on a cake stand with the words The Great British Baking Shawl

The Great British Baking Shawl MKAL from Mary of Lyrical Knits is a homage to the lighthearted reality TV competition. And just like the show, Mary promises it will be “calorie free, campy and lots of fun!”

An ombre of 7 hanks of blue yarn on a piece of weathered wood.

Meg of Nutmeg Fibers is debuting Meadow, a 75/25 cotton/linen base that comes in a 3-ply DK weight and 2-ply sock/sport weight. You can preorder it until midnight Central time on September 25.

A silver stockinette stitch motif ring with a pair of wooden knitting needles.

Accessorize your fall outfits with some of Jen of Porterness Studios’ latest designs, including a yarn cake ring and yarn cake and knitting needle pendant. Take 20% off through Monday, September 23 with the code Rhinebeck20IU.

A bag with black, red and yellow Stranger Things fabric.

You thought you escaped the Upside Down? The Slipped Stitch Studios Stranger Things Bag of the Month extras are on sale and ready to ship today at 9 a.m. Pacific time.

Skeins of purple and grey yarn.

The next Eden Cottage Yarns update will go live today at 7 a.m. UK time and will include yarn packs for the Woodbine pullover from Issue 9 of Laine magazine.

A pink lace scarf with beads.

The new beaded Faerie Fire scarf or stole from Joan of White Lies Designs is knit in 100% Mongolian Cashmere, and includes the addition of Czech glass beads.

Signups for October House Fiber Arts’ fourth quarter Sock Club are now open.

The Knot House gets ready for Indie Untangled and Rhinebeck

A woman with light brown hair, pearls and a pink sweater takes a selfie with a woman with gray hair and a black shirt.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

You can always depend on Heather and Cathy, the owners of The Knot House yarn shop in Frederick, Maryland, to stay on top of trends in the fiber world. Their shop always features the hottest indie dyers and they themselves are prolific sweater knitters.

I asked them to walk us through their preparations for Rhinebeck and Indie Untangled, and give a look at what’s new for their in-house yarn line.

Who are you both most looking forward to seeing at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show?

I don’t think there is anyone specific we look forward to seeing. The biggest treat is meeting the customers that don’t live locally that support us! We get to put faces with names and hopefully get to see some of their FOs. I love it when Mom and I are separated and people say, “Oh, hi, Heather, where’s your Mom?” Everyone loves Mom. We also love to see other LYS owners, indie dyers, podcasters and designers.

Tell me about some of the most recent dyers that you’ve stocked your shop with.

This past summer we added Hu Made, Lichen and Lace and Life In the Long Grass. Of course we have some new things we will be adding this fall such as a Western Sky Knits worsted, Skein and a few others we are working on.

Are there any indie dyers and designers that you think should be on knitters’ radars?

Yes! As for indie dyers, I think knitters should pay attention to Swamp Bunny and Murky Depths Dyeworks. There are so many talented dyers…

Designers: Tara-Lynn Morrison (I love her recent Frid Sweater). I like Tamy Gore‘s recent patterns. We also think Lily Turner of Wishbone Yarn creates magnificent yarns and designs. We are also watching others such as Denise Bayron, Handmade Closet, Christina Danaee and Camilla Vad.

Multicolored yarn in a large pyramid.

What’s new with your in-house yarn line?

Thanks for asking about our Knot House Yarns line! I have added La Di Da Worsted base for the 2019/2020 season. It is a 4-ply (plied twice) 100% Superwash Merino (same as the La Di Da DK). Mom and I are currently looking at new bases to add in the spring.

I should also add that Mom and I will be vending at the Black Mountain Indie Extravaganza the weekend following Rhinebeck! It will be our first event out of The Knot House and we are both excited and nervous. Dates for the event are October 25th and 26th it will be held during SAFF at Black Mountain Yarn Shop.

What are your favorite projects that customers have made with your hand-dyed yarn?

Oh my. There are a couple of favorites. I don’t know how many people have made the Ranunculus, but it has been a favorite this summer, along with the Soldotna Crop. It is so fun to see the color combos.

A link and taupe sweater in front of shelves stocked with a rainbow of yarn.

What are you each planning to wear to both Indie Untangled and the New York Sheep & Wool Festival?

Mom will be wearing her Black Thorn and Tweedside, both Lily Turner designs.

I will be wearing Andrea Mowry’s The Daydreamer, Thea Coleman’s Violet Aster and Caitlin Hunter’s Ghost Horse.

Tell me the projects that are currently on your needles.

Mom is working on Stonecrop and a couple of other test knits. I am working on the Feeling Groovy Cowl by JumperCables and Campside Drop by Alicia Plummer.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Asylum Fibers

Stephanie of Asylum Fibers in a pink sweater

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

It’s been incredibly cool to see how Stephanie Jones of Asylum Fibers has grown her business since launching in early 2017. I met Stephanie when she was organizing a knitting group in midtown Manhattan, and just this spring saw her yarn all the way in New Orleans at the Quarter Stitch.

I’m excited to have her back at the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show for the third year in a row! I’ve interviewed Stephanie before, so asked her to share a bit about how her business has evolved and what she has planned for the event.

How has your business and aesthetic changed at all since launching two years ago?

I think my colorways have become more cohesive as I’ve learned more about how I want to see the yarn work up. My focus is much more on what the finished object will look like as compared to when I first started dyeing. I still have a lot of fun with the process, though!

Purple variegated yarn

Forbidden

Which of your colorways are your favorites?

This is always changing, but right now I do really love Forbidden and Absolem. I’m also digging a brand new color called Aura. It reminds me a little of an oil slick. I tend to gravitate to bright or saturated colors with muddled speckling.

Have your favorite colors changed since you became a dyer?

Yes and no. Despite my tendency to wear a lot of black, I’ve always been someone who appreciates a bright pop of color, usually in pink or blue. That’s still true, but sometimes I dye a color that I wouldn’t have normally been drawn to, and suddenly I’m intrigued. This happened recently with Shocked (a neon yellow), and I actually enjoy wearing that color now. I’ve also gotten more into green and orange lately.

An aqua to dark blue fade of yarn

What are some of your favorite FOs you or your customers have made with your yarn?

I have seen some amazing Soldotna Crops recently. I’m especially loving the ones using my sparkle DK base in unexpected color combos. Another great FO I saw recently on Ravelry is a Half Moon Oracle shawl, knit in Creepy Graffiti and Vacant Stare along with a very light grey yarn from another dyer. The contrast is striking. As a dyer, creating fade sets is a ton a fun. There is a Chevron Shenanigans shawl knit in a golden yellow to hot pink fade kit that I absolutely love as well.

A box of orange, purple, pink and green yarn.

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

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to trust my instincts. It’s great to see what everyone else is up to, but I think being true to one’s self is where true success lies. Also, you don’t have to be for everyone. Do what you really like and what you’re good at, and don’t worry about everything else.

I have also find that having the right tools can make all the difference. I remember when I first purchased kitchen prep tables for my setup, the height of the table totally alleviated the back discomfort I had experienced with my original setup. The skein twister is another favorite tool of mine. It saves time from twisting so I can spend more time on the fun stuff! Even my shipping label printer made a huge difference in my efficiency.

Can you share some of your plans for Indie Untangled?

I have a deep, moody event colorway planned, which I’m very excited to show everyone. In addition, Melissa Alexander-Loomis (aka skeinanigans) is designing a sweater with really unique construction and fun use of color. I’m looking forward to displaying that and preparing kits for the new design. I’m bringing lots of brand spanking new colors with me, too.

What to stash this week: come together

A maroon hat with a yellow geometric pattern

Woolly Wormhead, a self-proclaimed hat architect, has just released her latest collection that challenges the idea of how a colorwork hat is constructed. Called Convergence, the collection of six hat patterns brings together a range of creative techniques — short rows, mosaic knitting and all-over patterns — in Woolly’s unique sideways construction. Woolly covers the techniques in depth, with detailed photographic tutorials in the eBook, so you get a knitting lesson in each pattern.

Plum, plum and aqua and aqua skeins of yarn

The WayfaringYarns quarterly Yarn Grab is up on the Sweater Sisters site! Selena’s taking preorders for the fall palette colors on four different bases through Saturday, September 14, with free shipping in the U.S.

A green floral bag with a gray Downton Abbey lining

Laura of Slipped Stitch Studios has a ready-to-ship Downton Abbey tribute going live today at 9 a.m. Pacific. Bring your project bag and knit in the theater during the Downton movie!

Green, blue and plum hats with fur pom poms

Marian of Marianated Yarns has a new base, a 2-ply bulky Superwash Merino called Gusto. It’s currently available for preorder and is perfect for quick-knit accessories, like the Hunterdon Hat by Katy Carroll.

Blue, pink and yellow variegated yarn untwisted

Rachelle of Moondrake Co. is prepping for fall and winter with some rich and dark colors. This IU newcomer also takes requests for sweater quantities, so you can really get ready for sweater weather.

Orange and cream colored yarn

Heather of the appropriately-named Pumpkins and Wool has a new fall collection with five new colorways that are ready to ship.

What to stash this week: yarny birthday

Long silver earrings with knitting needles and yarn balls

Jen of Porterness Studio is celebrating her 25th (or is it?) birthday with 25% off through August 25 with the code Bday25IU. She has a lot of fun new goodies, including long knitting needle and yarn earrings, a new line of sterling silver stockinette stitch motif blanket rings, knitting needle fan girl necklaces, Knit Life rings and more. And if you make a purchase over $40 you also get a free There Will Be Cake sticker and black and gold Edison stitch markers.

A set of miniskeins with the word Chamomile

Sheila of BigFootFibers has sets for Casapinka’s Perfect Blend MKAL available in three different colorways: Earl Grey, Chamomile and Tropical Hibiscus on her Divine Sock base. The sets come with a tea-themed notions bag and stitch marker set by RandomFandomBags.

Today’s the last day to preorder The Highest Peak, inspired by Naches Peak at Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park. And speaking of birthdays — I love it when a newsletter theme comes together! — Sunday is the National Park Service’s birthday, so entrance to all parks are free! As always, 10% of sales of this colorway are donated to the National Park Foundation. 

Skeins of pale pink yarn

Ten new batches of Askham Lace, baby alpaca/silk blend, are now up on Eden Cottage Yarns website. Victoria and Co. are also having a summer sale, with 20% off most hand-dyed yarns through Monday, August 26.

A cake of purple gradient yarn

Mona is hosting an Autumn Rain mystery knit along for October, with a triangular shawl designed for gradient yarn. Mona is holding a BOGO pattern sale through September 30 with the code Autumnbunny.

Pre-Rhinebeck Untangling: Stephen West

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Stephen West holds up a pink striped shawl

Stephen models his Mohairino Medley shawl. Photo by Darren Smith.

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of the 2019 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

If you were asked to compile a list of rockstar knitwear designers, Stephen West would most likely be at the top of it. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native, who has a background in dance, brings a performer’s creativity to his work, and has seen Bowie-esque transformations, starting with subdued designs like his Boneyard Shawl, transitioning to edgier pieces, such as Transatlantic from his Westknits Book Two, and then to Shrowls and Ribbed Dickeys, and more recently to incredibly complex brioche lace.

Recently, Stephen collaborated with Malia Mae Joseph, the co-owner of the Stephen & Penelope yarn shop in Amsterdam, which Malia originally founded, to release West Wool, a line of non-Superwash yarn comprised of Falkland Merino and Texel, a breed of domestic sheep originally from the island of Texel in the Netherlands.

We’re also excited to have Stephen as the special guest for the Indie Untangled after party at the appropriately-named Dutch Ale House in downtown Saugerties! He’ll be at the 6 p.m. dinner seating to hang out and take photos. Tickets are limited and available here.

How did you decide to become a knitwear designer?

I began designing knitting patterns ten years ago after the owner of my first local yarn shop, Klose Knit, in Urbana, IL, asked me to write a simple pattern during the local Boneyard Arts Festival. I named that first shawl the Boneyard Shawl and started designing simple hats and shawls during that first year of designing patterns. I love the interaction of sharing a design and seeing the colorful variations when knitters customize the patterns and make them their own. I began by modifying patterns which taught me a lot about construction and simple math modifications to existing patterns. Once I started to design my own patterns, my mind couldn’t stop racing with ideas so it was a great fit for me.

How does your background in dance inform your work?

I was very improvisational as a dancer and I also improvise most of my designs while I knit. Sometimes I start a piece thinking it will be a hat or a cowl and it evolves into a modular shawl or sweater. I always loved to create and compose my own dances and that joy and passion for creating something from scratch translated into all of my knit shawls and sweaters. When I was dancing and performing more, I always had down time between rehearsals and performances which I filled with knitting.

Stephen West models a multicolor striped shawl

A collage of Stephen modeling his Cozy Corner Shawl. Artwork by Stefan Gunnesch.

Your aesthetic has changed since your early days of designing, transitioning from neutrals, greens and mustards to bright pops of color. How did that transformation come about?

I have always been fascinated with color, but I started embracing more vibrant colors after I moved to Amsterdam and started collaborating with other artists like my friend Alexandra Feo, a talented photographer, dancer, and knitter from Venezuela. We began collaborating on Westknits photos and approached them with a more mindful planning process. We ebraced fashion, styling, and makeup combined with the knitwear to produce more dynamic images. That was around 2013. That year sparked a joyful shift in my approach to combining colors and I was also traveling much more after that collecting inspiration around Europe and during my visits to Iceland. Soon after, I encountered the work of Belgian fashion designer Walter van Beirendonck. He continues to be an inspiration to me with his vivid use of color and unapologetic style in the fashion world. Yarn companies and hand dyers are always coming out with new colors. I start most of my designs with the yarn first, so yarn heavily influences my evolving design style.

On a related note, what are your favorite colors and have they changed at all since you started designing?

I love yellow, especially golden yellow. Currently, my favorite color is anything fluffy. I love mohair and brushed alpaca yarns.

A model shows off a lacey brioche shawl.

Stephen’s Suriously Holey shawl. Photo by Yunfei Ren.

Tell me about what inspires your designs.

Yarn yarn yarn. I have a colorful cabinet of yarn at home where I start most of my designs. Quite often I’ll create the first prototype of a design with a dozen or more colors. Then, I’ll look at the design and rework it with a more focused color palette. I play a lot with theme and variation so many designs are based off of previous explorations in short rows, and graphic striped effects.

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

I try to write down the pattern while I knit. I used to not write my patterns down the first time so I always re-knit them a second time. I’m getting better at writing patterns down while I knit to save time.

West Wool Bicycle yarn in grey, light blue, gold, light pink and bright blue.

West Wool Bicycle yarn. Photo by Darren Smith.

How did the development of West Wool come about?

Malia and I wanted to create a yarn for our store in Amsterdam and one that we could take to shows as well and something missing from our shop collection was an extensive solid range of non-superwash wool. We wanted a soft fiber that maintains structure and stitch definition so we chose a Falkland Merino blended with 10% Texel which is a Dutch sheep breed. Texel wool is quite toothy and give a little bite and loftiness to the soft merino wool. We debuted West Wool earlier this year in Bicycle, a fingering weight yarn with two plies gently twisted around each other, and a more bouncy DK weight yarn called Tandem. I particularly love Tandem because the stitch definition is so crisp and squishy. We can’t wait to release more colors and bases in the future.

What are some interesting things you learned when creating your yarn line?

We learned that two people with totally different color tastes can put a beautiful collection of yarn together. Malia has a super sophisticated approach to color and loves gray so you will see six shades of gray and some subtle and saturated tones throughout the palette. I always love a vibrant color pop so we injected some statement colors to balance out the neutrals. We are excited to expand the color range to make even more complex color combinations for stranded knitting and striped projects. We both had some yarn production ideas years ago that were never fully realized so we’re glad we waited until now to create our dream yarn just the way we wanted to do it.

We’ve learned to be very patient and thoughtful throughout the process to not rush anything too quickly. I try to carry these lessons through into my design work these days too. I used to be more quick and immediate with my decisions and design process, but now I let ideas simmer and cook longer until they are more mature and developed. The end result is always something I’m more proud of and I have fewer regrets these days. I rarely regret not doing something these days. Developing big projects like West Wool together with Malia or creating my Westknits books is an exercise in patience because there are so many components that go into the final product, but the beautiful result is always worth it in the end.

When and how did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit when I was sixteen years old from some friends in high school while we were rehearsing a school musical. I carried knitting with me everywhere from the beginning and became the knitting guy in high school. I haven’t put my needles down since.

What to stash this week: Last call

Three skeins of orange yarn

Jennifer of Spirit Trail Fiberworks is sadly closing the doors on her indie dyeing operation after 18 years (!). She’s having one final shop update that’s going on now. The skeins are going fast, so head over to her site ASAP!⁣

A grey T-shirt that says K1FU in aqua with a stockinette stitch pattern

Fellow sailors, Cooperative Press made a thing for us. A few things, actually. Their K1FU T-shirt, which particularly comes in handy when you’re counting, is available to preorder through August 31, along with two other fun designs. T-shirt sales go toward helping indie publishing thrive.

A skein of orange red yarn

Judging by Heather of Sew Happy Jane’s dye pots, which are full of cinnamon, caramel, brown sugar, red wine, pumpkin, crunchy leaves and golden light, she’s ready for fall!

Three skeins of dark green and blue variegated yarn

While we’re a ways off from Mardis Gras, Mardi Gras Nights is one of IU newcomer Jennifer of Bugbear Woolens’ favorite colorways. It’s available on any of her yarn bases or spinning fiber.

A collage with a snow-covered mountain and purple sky, and pale purple yarn

You have one more week to preorder Earl Grey Fiber Company’s peak purple colorway, inspired by Naches Peak at Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park.

Christmas lights and the alphabet and the words Fabric by the yard and the Stranger Things logo

Join Slipped Stitch Studios in the Upside Down today at noon Pacific time. Four indie-designed tributes to Stranger Things will be available for preorder through Monday only.

Four golden skeins of yarn

Julia of Pandia’s Jewels is also in a fall state of mind and her Fall into Halloween Collection will debut on her website starting today at 10 a.m. Eastern.

A white mug that reads, I turn coffee into sweaters with a teal sweater and cup of coffee pictured

Amanda of Handmaine Knits has debuted yarn and knitting-inspired mugs in three exclusive designs with original artwork.

Skeins of plum and orange variegated yarn

Patricia of BeesyBee Fibers had her first shop update in a while with plenty of hand-dyed yarn and spinning fiber.

A picture of a downtown street and the words Hometown Comfort MKAL with Crafty Flutterby Creations and Destination Yarn

Join Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations for a Mystery Knit A Long inspired by a few favorite locations in her hometown. The KAL, which runs from September 2-30, includes cables, lace and slipped stitches.

Skeins of solid purple and blue and orange and pink, blue and yellow variegated yuarn with the words Back to school sale, 20% off entire store

As Lisa The Knitting Artist begins her fourth year of teaching art, she’s celebrating with a back-to-school yarn sale! All yarn and prints in her Etsy shop are 20% off through the end of August, no code needed.

Preorders for Stash Yarn Club’s September shipment, which features Forbidden Fiber Co., are open now.

Preorders for the Lambstrings Yarn Spooky Holiday Advent Calendars are now available.