When I wrote about the lack of good craft shows on television, I mentioned The Fiber Factor briefly. It’s a really fun web series that I’ve been enjoying. Skacel and Addi have come together to make a show that’s (sorry, I hate comparisons like these but!) kind of a Project Runway for knitwear design. Twelve contestants are given challenges with a range of yarns to work with and their pieces are judged by a panel of industry experts. It’s obviously done on a small budget, there’s a lot of great design going on and it’s so inspiring!
While I certainly haven’t had time to be swatching along, I am inspired by the challenges and themes. Nothing like a good theme to get me thinking. Throughout the first three competitions, I’ve really been routing for Meghan Navoy. I’ve admired her work before the competition but I’m loving her submissions to TFF. I love her style and simplicity.
I recently caught up with Meghan to find out more about her fiber follies.
Tell me a little about your background in knitting.
I started knitting in high school (so 5 years now) and I was really bad for the first like 2 years I learned. My first project was similar to many other beginner knitters of a garter stitch acrylic that was probably 6 inches at one end at 20 inches by the time I finished it! I would probably still be knitting very basic scarves and things if it wasn’t for my internship at Wool and the Gang freshman year of college. I learned a ton there (normal stuff like slip the first stitch of stockinette, etc) and got a glimpse into the design process.
Why did you decide to compete on The Fiber Factor?
The Fiber Factor sounded like a great opportunity to me when I first read about it because I had been wanting to design my own patterns more and this was the perfect push to get me to really do it. I have always struggled to find something on ravelry that I actually wanted to make because not many patterns are really my style or geared towards ‘younger knitters’. Now I have more ideas for knitwear than ever. I love having someone give me parameters of what to make. The hardest part of design for me is not even knowing where to start!
What’s the most challenging part of The Fiber Factor?
The most challenging part of the Fiber Factor is having to quickly decide which yarn you’d like to use for the project. Luckily they give us generous amounts so if you decide to go another direction you have some leeway. Generally we are given about 24 hours or less to hear the prompt and then not only decide what we are going to make but calculate how much yarn is needed for the project as well.
They definitely picked a variety of different knit designers for this competition, which I think has been interesting. I know I haven’t been doing great in terms of judging but I’m still really glad I did it and have learned a lot from being a contestant!
What are your post-Fiber Factor plans?
After Fiber Factor, I would really like to continue designing my own patterns. I’m hoping to start publishing some of my own patterns. I would also like to be able to devote more time to my Etsy shop A Wool Story which has kind of been put on hold while I work on the Fiber Factor.
Thanks for giving us a little insight into your competition process, Meghan! And good luck in the upcoming challenges! The fourth challenge will be announced on The Fiber Factor site tomorrow!
Have you been watching The Fiber Factor? Have you swatched at all?
Back in June, I stumbled on an exciting Olek yarnbomb in my own neighborhood! I’m obviously a big fan of her work and I’d always dreamed of happening upon some of it but I hadn’t expected to see anything so close to home since she’s always bouncing around the globe. But here it was! And there she was, walking down the street, wearing a crocheted skirt and embellished bag. I thought about running after her but I totally chickened out. Regrets, guys, regrets.
I took a few photos (including the one above which I’ve been using as a background on my phone). I was pretty psyched that I was up close and personal with one of her pieces.
But I am SO envious of everyone that’s gotten to see Olek’s newest creation: this yarnbombed train!
The train is located in Lodz, Poland. I can hardly imagine how many hours and yards were involved in this insane piece of art. It’s fantastic. I have no words, just so much respect!
Olek is quoted as saying “If the natural progression is to make bigger better pieces, what should I make next? Can someone give me a plane? Or should I go to the moon?” It reminds me of the Pendragon magicians (I was obsessed with becoming a magician in elementary school) who once disappeared a space shuttle (I was also obsessed with becoming an astronaut). Yarnbombed space shuttle, please!
What should Olek bomb next?
train photos via HuffPost
Things have picked up so much over the past few months! I can’t even explain how crazy it’s been and, frankly, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with it all! It’s all been worth it, though. And I can finally begin to reveal what I’ve been working on so feverishly!
I designed a sweater!
Monday morning, Allyson posted a few preview pics of my design for the Holla Knits Fall/Winter 2013 collection! I won’t get into any spoilers here but I will say that I am very proud of this design and I really look forward to seeing other people make and wear it! Writing this pattern was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve done in a long long time and I loved challenging myself.
It’s an odd sensation knowing that the sneak peeks are out. I’ve thought about this sweater for so many hours of my life, it’s crazy to think that people are checking it out for the first time. Maybe working on this has unraveled my brain a little. Probably.
See more photos of my design along with sneak peeks of the rest of the Fall collection over at the HK blog! What do you think? Are you itching for more?
I wasn’t expecting much when I heard about Jenji Kohan’s new show for Netflix Orange is the New Black. I loved Weeds (up until season 4, at least) but the premise of Orange seemed a little too similar (white ladies + drugs = surprise!). The posters also seemed a little too sit com-y and the trailer made me scared that it might be uncomfortably racist. But Jon loved Weeds, and we have a really hard time agreeing on what to watch. So we decided to give the first episode a try to see if we liked it.
We watched the whole first season in 24 hours. And in the same weekend, Jon had finished the first three chapters of Kerman’s memoir.
Since then, I can’t stop thinking about the show. I’m so excited to have a good excuse to write about it here.
Inspired by Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, OITNB would have you believe it is about artisenal-soap-making Park Slope blonde Piper Chapman. She is sent to prison for smuggling drug money during an ‘adventurous, post-college, lesbian’ phase. But the story is much more than the fish-out-of-water it’s billed to be. It takes a lot of time to really explore all of the characters with incredible empathy.
While I can’t speak to how accurate the show is, it is certainly moving. And it has to be commended for a diverse range of characters and fantastically off-beat female actors. I’ve never seen an ensemble drama spend so much time developing characters that were all so complex and real. It’s refreshing to see so many talented female actors carrying a series and I certainly hope it’s the first of many like it. Long story short, Jenji is my new hero.
I don’t want to get into any spoilers here so I’ll stick to the topic at hand: crafts. Having limited resources, these women are very creative. DIY isn’t just for recreation but is often a necessity of prison life. According to Kerman’s book (which I look forward to reading in full), crochet became the craft of choice for many of her fellow inmates. The show has done a great job portraying this from bedspreads, pillows, scarves, and hats, to rec rooms full of women hooking away while others play cards and Scrabble.
Badass prison chef/mother hen Red even wears her glasses on i-cord croakies. Ahem!
I did a little bit of Google-ing about prison knitting. (Apparently crochet hooks are considered less dangerous so it’s more common amongst inmates.) I came across a program in Maryland that has gotten a lot of press called Knitting Behind Bars. They teach knitting to male inmates as a form of recreational therapy. I think it’s amazing that these crafts can bring some catharsis and rehabilitation to them! (Does anyone have information on more programs like these?)
Have you been watching Orange is the New Black? Are you already looking forward to the next season? Does anybody want to talk about the show with me? I can probably go on for hours!
ps. Tomorrow is the drawing for the Metropolitan Knits giveaway! It’s not too late to enter!
So I just finished two big projects that I’ve been working intensively on for the past two and a half months! I can’t really talk details but stay tuned! It’s been a long two months. I’ve really obsessed over these pieces like nothing before so meeting my deadlines feels like I’ve really accomplished something big. (Go me!)
I have nothing on the needles right now. While I thought I’d feel sad saying that, I actually feel good. I feel like I’m reorganizing myself, figuring out the priorities going forward. It feels good!
Of course, I can’t sit still so I’m working on some other projects. The cross stitch, specifically. And, since I don’t have knitting projects distracting me, I’ve been able to get a big chunk of it finished. It’s hard to tell but for me, it looks like it’s on it’s way to being a real completed thing.
For some reason, I got really carried away on the rocks at the bottom. I was avoiding them for a while. I moved on the letters because those are much more glamorous. But when I got into the insanity of the bottom, it was hypnotic. I’m probably going cross eyed and slightly insane from it all but I’d love to have this thing done before Christmas.
That being said, I have no idea how I thought I’d be able to finish this in one month. I’m an idiot.
I feel kind of guilty working on a project that isn’t knitting but I think I deserve a break every now and then. Knitting will always be my number one.
What projects do you work on when you’re not knitting?
ps. Have you entered the Metropolitan Knits giveaway? There’s still time!
I recently got a copy of Melissa Wehrle’s new book Metropolitan Knits. I was really intrigued because the patterns are all inspired by New York, designed by a New York designer. Obviously, I love everything inspired by this city. While I thought the city would be hard to capture in knitwear, Wehrle’s designs are all beautiful and diverse! I love that there are a lot of different textures and shapes. I think she was able to really capture the feel of the city in the garments.
It’s really fun and exciting to think about New York as an inspiration for knitwear. The people here inspire me the most. I see a pattern or a shape or a color and it gets me thinking. The atmospheres of different neighborhoods give me great ideas, too, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever looked at the architecture and drama of New York with that kind of eye.
And there are so many pieces in this book that I like, I’m having a hard time choosing which one I want to make first. I love the Skyline tunic. It really reminds me of Hearst Tower with that diamond pattern. That’s definitely one of my favorite buildings! But I have really fallen in love with the Bleecker Street cardigan. It looks super comfortable, just what I’d want to wear on a crisp fall day, walking down Bleecker on my way to work!
And you’ll have a hard time choosing, too! Because Interweave has been nice enough to give away a copy of Metropolitan Knits to one lucky reader! Here’s how to enter: Check out the Ravelry page for the Metropolitan Knits book. Leave a comment below with your favorite pattern (and don’t forget to leave your contact info so I can get in touch if you’re the winner). (Only fine print: US only, sorry!) It’s that easy. I’ll be choosing the winner on August 1st!
So, which design is your favorite?
Sometimes. Not often. But every once in a while, I screw up. I’m just kidding. If you know anything about me, you’d know that I’m kind of a disaster but I don’t like to focus on my faults and, when it comes to knitting, I’m pretty good at making a stumble look like a dance. Usually, I don’t screw up in a big way so I can gloss over it. Nobody has to know. But sometimes I just get myself into a mess and I make mistakes.
Coming off of a knitting high of some recent knit-related ass kicking, I dove right into the BT Men’s lookbook, ready for a new challenge. Like I said, I was immediately itching to make a Timberline for Jon before the release day was over, I’d ordered a box full of Shelter. Since the sweater was for Jon, I asked him to help me pick out a color. I want to make sure he wears this damn thing. He liked the color of the Slade cardigan so I ordered Cast Iron. (I really thought he’d want a cream colored cardigan but he wasn’t excited about that anymore. Boys, always changing their minds!)
The yarn came in two days! I never order just one skein and swatch until I like the yarn and then get the rest later. I am all about instant gratification. I want to swatch for a maximum of 15 minutes and then I want to GET KNITTING. I can’t wait. I am not patient. Knitting is not for the patient! So I ordered 15 skeins.
I started getting into the pattern. It’s 24 pages long (a full page of construction notes, three pages of charts, two pages of cast on instructions, etc). To say the very least, it’s intimidating. I’m not sure why but looking over the charts made me feel dizzy and tired and then laugh maniacally.
But I’m very confident. I can knit anything. I’ve never doubted myself when it comes to following a pattern. I’ve certainly ripped out and messed up before but I can’t remember the last time I looked at a pattern and thought, “I can’t do this.” So I dove right in.
I swatched a little bit and I started working up the sleeve and then my worst fears came true. Two things happened: I screwed up some of the cables and I hated the color. I was prepared to frog the piece. It’s not like I haven’t ripped out two days of work before. (We’ve all been there, right?)
So I decided I’d go back and do a bigger swatch to really get a good feeling of the cables. I was really breaking a sweat doing these cables. It was certainly a knitting work out. But the whole time I was looking at the piece thinking that I just wasn’t happy. I know this feeling. I can’t knit a whole sweater with this feeling. The yarn was just too dark to show off the details. It was nice but it wasn’t stunning. I don’t want to put in days and days of work and not get stunning as a result. I won’t even be motivated to finish it.
Last week I decided to exchange the yarn. I’m impatient so it’s super frustrating to have to wait even longer to begin but I think it’s for the best. I’m going to go with Long Johns. I think it would be a better color way, still masculine but bright enough for the cables to really shine. I think it’s the right thing to do.
I made a mistake. Luckily, it’s easy to fix but it’s still a bummer that I have to wait longer before I can get started on this sweater. It’s probably for the best. I have a few projects with loose ends that need tying up (pun intended) before I jump into a big commitment. And, besides, maybe next time I’ll be more careful before I jump in, do more research and really get a feel for the yarn before making a big purchase. And, as always, I need to trust my gut. Jon really liked the dark grey but I knew deep down that it wouldn’t be what I wanted. I’ve got to trust myself!
Do you like to admit your knitting mistakes?
Have you picked up a copy of the fall issue of Knitscene? If you did and you read all of the wonderful articles and knit all of the pretty patterns, spoiler alert: you might find a picture of yours truly at the end!
Editor Amy Palmer was nice enough to interview me for the magazine’s first Blog Spotting feature!
I’m so honored to be part of the magazine! I’m really excited that Amy is introducing her readers to different blogs. It’s a really cool idea that is a great intersection of print meets digital! I hope to discover some bloggers myself!
What do you think?!
Did you see the new men’s collection from Brooklyn Tweed? Every time a BT collection is released, there’s certainly a lot of oohing and ahhing. But this one really got us into a frenzy. There was a lot of discussion around the blogosphere about men’s knits and it was really exciting!
Aside from swooning over the models and debates about whether sweater-wearing boys look better with beards or clean-shaven (I think my vote is with beards), there was a ton of talk about menswear, shape, taste, and knitwear design. Men’s silhouettes make for a very different canvas. I love how the BT Men collection plays with classic menswear themes (elbow patches, shawl collars, shoulder details).
There was a lot of excitement about new menswear patterns. Aside from a few books dedicated to the subject and some new Rowan patterns and a smattering of older Brooklyn Tweed selections, there just isn’t enough out there in terms of patterns for men. Even male designers are designing for women. Obviously this is because of the demand. I think we can all agree that it wouldn’t be profitable to design more menswear patterns than women’s. So there’s a bit of a drought there. I think that a lot of the menswear patterns I’ve encountered are not classic enough that I’d want to make them. They’re weird and experimental which is cool but (stereotype here) not something that a lot of guys want to wear. And there’s nothing like a dude in a simple raglan sweater.
We all want to see more patterns like these and we want to design more patterns like these but it’s just not really there right now. I’m not sure what would change that…I guess more men who want to knit for themselves? Maybe that’s just the way things are, that women own a greater variety of clothing. But I’d like to see more menswear. I just really love boys in sweaters!
Anyway, I wanted to talk about my favorite piece from the collection which is the Timberline sweater (above). It’s crazy gorgeous. And, if you’re a long time reader you’d know, it is almost exactly what I was looking for to make Jon a Don Draper cardigan. Oh yes! Finally a cream-colored, shawl-collared cabled sweater for him! Every time a new collection comes out with cabled menswear pieces, I’m looking for something that is close to the sweater from season 5’s finale. Now I’ve found it! It’s more modern and intricate and a bit bulkier but I think it’s exactly Jon’s taste. My search can finally end!
That being said, the Timberline sweater reminds me of Michelle Wang’s Exeter from BT’s Spring Thaw collection. (I actually thought for a moment about making Jon that sweater since it seemed big enough. I’m glad I didn’t do it because I probably would’ve been really disappointed.) Obviously, Timberline is different from Exeter. Timberline fits a man’s frame well, the cabling is different while Exeter is double breasted with a folded cuff.
I really like seeing both sweaters side by side. And I’m really tempted to make myself an Exeter to match Jon’s soon-to-be Timberline but I am generally against intentional matching. I’m not sure it’s a good idea since we always end up dressing similarly (“Oh, we’re both wearing striped t-shirts today? Cool.”) since I like to wear menswear-inspired outfits (read: most days I wear boys’ t-shirts with jeans because getting dressed is hard). And I need another cardigan like I need another ten pounds.
But I can dream…
Do you love menswear knits? Do you think more designers will be inspired to produce these patterns? Do you think Jon and I can wear matching sweaters and still be cool?
A lot of people are dissing the gown Maggie Gyllenhaal wore to the White House Down premiere. They are wrong. THIS IS THE BEST DRESS I’VE EVER SEEN!
Gyllenhaal wore this Christian Dior dress to the New York premiere. It’s got a cabled skirt with a crocheted peplum. It’s chic and crazy and I don’t think that anyone else could ever pull it off. In fact, Maggie looks psyched about it. High five, girl! Black and white knits are so in. It’s a great piece of knitwear that showcases a lot of different stitches and shows the versatility of knitted fabric
Here it is on the runway for the Fall 2013 collection.
I’m pretty sure the bottom is navy while the top and peplum are black. I’m not sure how I feel about that but I just can’t hate anything about it. This is a thing that I wish I’d made. It’s outrageous in the best way possible. What have I been doing with my life? I quit knitting forever.
What do you think? Do you love it or hate it?
photos via Tom and Lorenzo