What We Knit: Sarah’s Nymphalidea Shawl

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 I have really enjoyed working on my Nymphalidea. It’s the second shawl that I’ve started, and I was in search of a burst of color. I found Noro Shiraito to be the perfect solution, and I combined this with Twirl’s Petals yarn in Twirling Ollie (black). The solid neutral tone of Twirl against Noro’s changing colors creates a nice contrast that I could see being a colorful accent to any basic outfit.

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As a newer knitter, I like that this shawl appears somewhat intricate, but is actually quite simple to knit! I enjoyed working with both yarns, particularly Twirl’s unique, raw handspun qualities, which have an interesting texture.

Noro is one of my favorite yarn labels. The way that the colors transition can make panels of basic stitches interesting and engaging to knit, moving me through the project quickly with the promise of a new reveal in every row. Many patterns have been based on Noro Yarns’ color changes, often using simple stitch patterns to let the colors speak for themselves. I thought it could be fun to explore some new possibilities with Noro’s Shiraito, a blend of angora, cashmere, and wool, spun at a delicate fingering weight.

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First, here is color 31, knit into a simple stockinette swatch. The color transitions are fairly wide, making it a great candidate for textured stitches or effects with stripes and colorwork. I love the way that the purple transitions into the green with a displaced, speckled effect, but has almost an immediate transition into the sage color. Just another fun aspect to using this yarn!

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It’s fun to highlight and increase this effect, or even break it up a little, by using a textured stitch that features slipped or crossed stitches (psso, anyone?). Linen stitch seemed like a great candidate in the Shiraito because it really upgrades the knitted fabric into something special, giving accessories a woven look. It translated so well in our swatch, I love the way it broke up the transitional bars and made the speckled portions carry on a bit longer than they normally would.

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Striping in Noro can be an easy way to get all kinds of awesome effects. If you wind your yarn into a cake and then knit from both ends, using one as your main color and the other as your “stripe” color, you can work the transitions against each other, creating a finished piece that has a ton of interest and movement. It’s almost like an optical illusion!

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Of course, you can go the more traditional route and stripe the Shiraito with a plain contrast color to make the transitions really pop. For stark results, pick a color not featured in the yarn but complimentary (a neutral like heather gray or brown can be a great choice). For more subtle striping, choose a color that matches a section of your Noro yarn. In this case, we played up the cream that already existed in the Shiraito skein.

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No matter what color, method, or project Noro Yarns inspire you to try, don’t be afraid to play around and swatch a few different options. You might surprise yourself in the process!

What We Knit: Shop Samples

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With the return of cooler days and longer nights we have lots of cozy seasonal samples planned for the store. Here are a few of the latest shop samples knit up in fantastic new yarns..

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Autumnal Mitts knit with Sage Bluff DK in Covelli, Blade, & Willow. A quick and plush knit.

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The Plimouth Hat in Swans Island All American Worsted in color Flint. The 25% Alpaca content of this 100% domestic yarn adds a touch of drape and smoothness to the sturdiness of the Rambouillet.

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The Wilson Hat shown in Herriot Grand from Juniper Moon Farms. Just one skein of this silky and drapey alpaca yarn makes a stylish slouchy beanie.

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Stop in the store to feel these amazing yarns in person, or give us a call and we’ll help you knit your own cozy fall accessories!

I have had many knitting spaces over the past few years, having moved frequently across country here and there. When you move as much as I have, you really learn what you require for a home office or studio space. Since I work out of my home 90% of the time, my space can’t just function as a craft studio, but it also has to fulfill all my needs for office space. Good lighting (natural when possible), clean flat surfaces, plenty of storage, and a small seating area for when I have a friend over to knit or discuss a project are all necessities.

My current studio has everything I could ever ask for in a space. The room, a converted screened in porch off of my bedroom, has bright light thanks to the wide bank of windows. I can work most of the time in natural lighting, which makes it wonderful for photography and brightens it up even when the winter grey skies hit.

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Yarn that I have a current plan for sits within easy reach, stuffed cozily into cubbies and flanked by pattern books and tools. (The awesome print is from Fringe Supply Co.)

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Project bags line up merrily on a peg hook along one wall, within easy reach when the moment strikes.

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Flanked by two vintage velvet tub chairs, my dad’s old media center makes excellent storage for knitting books and the small shoebox-bins I keep scrap yarns and tools in. The checkerboard boxes house samples, swatches and color cards from various companies.

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Some of my favorite tools are spirited away throughout the office, but I gathered them up for you: A Knitter’s Journal, my iPod Touch (wonderful for playing music or snapping shots for Instagram), a smattering of quirky, lampwork and handmade stitch markers, tapestry needles (I can never have enough) and a pair of sharp scissors. The needles are bone, from Fringe Supply Co. They are my absolute favorite for casting on hats!

I love this room and will be sad when eventually I’ll need to relocate from it, given that it’s in my parent’s house. But for now, it’s my small knitting oasis in the middle of every busy day.

 

 

While knitters are some of the most innovative and creative people I know, willing to take risks and experiment with new techniques and tools, in many ways, they are also some of the most resistant to change. We all have the things that we love most (and others that we avoid at all costs)! So when something new comes into the market, especially when it looks a bit foreign or different than what we’re used to, there is some level of risk involved with trying it.

While chain plied yarns have been around for a long time (spinners, especially, will understand them best referred to as n-plied yarns) they are still a relatively unusual product in the mainstream, manufactured yarn market. The structure of the yarn is similar to that of an i-cord—the strand resembles a chain, often hollow at the core, and these yarns sometimes take on a flat, cubed, and braided appearance. Many knitters, faced with a choice between a chain-plied yarn and a more standard, round yarn, will go with the one that seems the most familiar to them. In this post, I fully intend to take you outside of that comfort zone and explain why you need to try these yarns for yourself!

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Structure

Because of their construction, these yarns are able to fill and even improve upon two types of yarns: woolen yarns and fibers that have a lot of drape.

When a yarn is spun woolen, this means that the yarn is almost built like a tube, with the fibers misaligned around an air core. This method of spinning (whether by machine or hand) results in wooly, fluffy, lightweight and delicate yarns. While we love woolen yarns for so many reasons, they also have a reputation for being fairly delicate. Fibers may drift apart if pulled too hard during the knitting process, resulting in occasional breakages and extra ends to weave in (although, we must assure you, once knit, these yarns are wonderfully strong!) By using a super-soft fiber and then chain plying, we are able to get softness, loft, and an ultra-warm air core similar to that of a woolen yarn, with a stronger structure.

An additional benefit to chain plying is stability. Alpaca and linen (two of the fibers that Shibui Knits offers as chain-plied yarns) especially benefit from the added support, allowing for greater design flexibility and use in larger garments. Have you ever been told that a sweater in linen will sag? With a chain ply, the pull of gravity is slightly countered by a horizontal pull from the yarn’s structure, helping create the elasticity needed for garments that linen naturally lacks, and keeping your linen garments full of drape rather than droop.

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Stitch Definition

An added bonus of using chain-plied yarn is increased stitch definition. While a fuzzy fiber might blur the edges of a complex cable, or make a seed stitch field fade in a standard construction, chain-plied yarns are rounder than the typical yarn, filling out more space and creating neater, more defined stitches. While cables in alpaca add plenty of structure to a fabric with heavy drape, wouldn’t it be nice if they could be seen clearly as well? With a yarn like Maai, the chain ply pulls double and even triple duty, illustrating each springy stitch in high relief.


Snagging & Unraveling

Perhaps the biggest fear knitters have about working with these yarns is the worry that they will snag. There just seem to be so many loops that a needle or hook could get caught in! But the reality of working with them is quite different. Chain plied yarns do well with blunt or sharp needle tips, and you should choose your needle based on the fiber’s behavior and your own knitting preferences, rather than the yarn’s structure.

Another major concern is that the ends will come unraveled, resulting in a mess of tiny threads. As illustrated before, chain plied yarns are structured much like an i-cord, actually knitted together, so there are no tiny threads to come undone, but a single strand of fiber. As long as you weave your ends in carefully, you should be just fine! There is no more worry with a chain-plied yarn than with any other type of yarn. However, if it makes you feel better, feel free to tie a tiny knot onto the last bit of each end before weaving in.

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Are you ready, set, and willing try a chain ply yarn? Knit Purl has several in stock, including Shibui Linen, Rowan Truesilk, Ito Kouki, and the new Shibui Maai.

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While good tools are not the key to becoming a masterful knitter, you can certainly improve and ease a project along with the right accessories. We gathered a few of our staff members’ recommendations up for you to explore. After all, what would a workspace be without tools?

Keli:

This is my new favorite space to knit. Like Cait (see her blog here), I adore my Lantern Moon interchangeable needles. I’m excited that we’ve started carrying Fix-A-Stitches again – they make fixing garter and seed stitch so much easier!

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Marcia:

My favorite knitting tools are my handmade stitch markers and my new Stella light. I make the markers from old sock yarn remnants, to fit a variety of needle sizes. They’re colorful, soft, and don’t get in the way of my stitches!

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Sandy:

Like Marcia, I too love my Stella light! I knit under it daily – I love the fact that it doesn’t put off any heat. I’m actually saving for another one to go in the sewing room. Another favorite tool is a pair of Addi Turbo Rocket needles, while my favorite double-pointed needles are still the Lantern Moon hardwoods.

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Darcy:

I love the Knitter’s Keep from Julie Wiesenberger (CocoKnits). It’s beautifully designed.

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Hannah:

I have to admit that I love knitting tools, so I have accumulated quite a few. I have a pretty large lampwork stitch marker collection. There’s something about beautiful, beaded stitch markers that I love. Another thing I always have on me? A tapestry needle for weaving ends. You can never have enough tapestry needles!

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This month, we’ll be sharing our spaces with you, letting you into our world, to see our tools, accessories, and little studios.

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My little office space is in the living room. My desk, bookshelf, side chair, and tote bags full of yarn are nestled behind the couch.

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My vintage side chair and bonsai (it’s alive, just not in bloom!) are behind my desk, and close to the record player, which makes for cozy weekend knitting.

Craft and knitting magazines, and some favorite books, occupy my shelf. It also holds some art, as well as a lot of books about the sea—one of the loves I inherited from my dad.

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The chair, and my desk, face out a large, northern-oriented window. It overlooks a busy street, but there are big trees behind that, and a pleasant breeze in the evening.

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My favorite tools are my sketchbook and graph paper. I love designing colorwork, even if I don’t knit it! My pencils and colored pencils—as well as some DPNs—are stored inside some old cocoa jars.

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Other supplies, like scissors, tapestry needles, stitch markers, T-pins, and stitch counter, are in an old cigar box. The stitch maker is called “Kacha-Kacha,” which is Japanese for “click-click.” I love the onomatopoetic nature of Japanese, as well as the bright red color. The coilless bulb pins make really smooth stitch markers.

I have a set of Lantern Moon circular needles, as well as matching cable needles and a repair hook. They have definitely been worth the splurge, although they don’t go below a US 4. For smaller needles, I prefer the Addi Lace tips. The fine points make for quick knitting, especially when I’m working on lace fair isle.

My little work space can get a little messy (I need a dresser for all of my yarn and art supplies, instead of tote bags and boxes), but it is relaxing and organized, and well-suited to creative work.

Keep checking our blog this month for more shared spaces!

PinterestContest_pinterestgraphic_Thankyou-01We were thrilled with the response to our #knitspiration Pinterest contest. We had local entries, national entries, and entries from all over the world! Seeing all of the pins, and even the boards, was particularly moving for us, so naturally it was hard to choose our favorite.

We decided on this shell photo that was pinned by Linnea Pearson. To quote her, “Neutral graded color, perfect symmetry, beautiful texture and depth. I strive to create something this perfect one day.”

We couldn’t agree more. The natural movement and elegance of the shells, and the rich color that is deeper than white, spoke to us as much as a skein of yarn of the shelf would. Naturally beauty is a great source of inspiration for us at Knit Purl, and we try to recreate it whenever possible.

We asked Linnea to share a little more on her inspiration as a maker, and in her life in general. This is what she had to say:

I’m a marine biologist by day, and a crocheter by night. It’s my creative outlet. I can sit, relax, and crochet, but not feel guilty because I am still being productive. I think I’m drawn to fiber art in general because it still requires thought and precision, but allows for such a personal touch. It gives you the opportunity to express yourself in something tangible. Recently, I started sharing my work through my Etsy store, Sea and Sky Creations. It’s a collaboration between myself and my good friend, Veronica. Together, we hope to offer unique, beautiful, handmade items. It’s scary and exciting to put your work out there, since it’s really an extension of yourself.

I take a lot of my inspiration from the natural world. Color, texture (I’m a huge fan of texture!), intricate design—look no further than out the back door! Living in Alaska definitely helps that last part. Nothing is more profound or beautiful than nature and the complex evolution that led to that particular instant.

When I was thinking about inspiration after reading about Knit Purl’s #knitspiration contest, the image of the shells struck me in particular. It embodied everything that I love about nature—complex designs, colors, texture—that looks so effortless. I hope to express even a tiny part of this in my work.

In my projects, I tend to bounce between large, lace projects and quick easy instant gratification headbands and hats. It’s good to keep a balance.

We want to thank all of our #knitspiration participants, and we invite you to continue sharing your inspiration on Pinterest, and with us in person. Please check out all of the pins, and the boards that you created!

guest authored by Amy Herzog

This week, Amy Herzog joins me for an informative post about modifying and creating your perfect sweater. As an accomplished designer with more than 40 published patterns in both books and magazines, Amy has dedicated her design career to building the perfect sweater and can be found teaching her Fit to Flatter method at various shows and conventions around the world. Recently, she launched Custom Fit, a web-based design platform that helps you create your perfect sweater from the ground up.

Sweaters may not be the most technically difficult projects out there (if you can cast on, bind off, increase, and decrease, you can make one,) but they’re arguably the most intimidating. We’re often afraid that we’ll spend so much money and time on a single project, only to end up with a garment that gets relegated to a shelf.

The good news is, it’s possible to demystify the whole process and feel good about the modifications you’re making—without having to try the sweater on in the process! All sweaters, no matter how they’re constructed, are essentially 3 cylinders joined together at the top with some math:

The shoulders are the single most important part of sweater-fitting, and the good news is that if you start by selecting a size that fits the shoulders well, the rest of your modifications will be pretty simple. (They’ll also be worked in essentially the same way no matter what the construction style is – a definite bonus since they’ll be second nature by the time you knit your third sweater!) As you can see below, shoulder fit makes a big difference:

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Sweaters are sized for the fullest part of the bust, though. So how to pick a bust circumference that will fit your shoulders well? Essentially, you need to figure out a circumference on your own body that “matches” your shoulders, but can be treated as if it were your full bust for size selection. I call it the “upper torso”:

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Measure the circumference of the very top of your torso, in your armpits. On me, this looks like a high bust – but for those broad-shouldered, smaller-busted figures out there, take note! It’s really important to ensure that the measuring tape is as high in your armpits as it can possibly go since you’re essentially trying to measure those shoulders.

Add some ease to this number, based on what kind of fit you like in the shoulders, and select the the closest finished bust circumference to the result, without going below your actual upper torso.

• For a close fit, add between 0 – 1’’ (0 – 2.5 cm) to your upper torso.

• For an average fit, add between 1 – 2’’ (2.5 – 5 cm) to your upper torso.

• For a relaxed fit, add between 2 – 3’’ (5 – 7.5 cm) to your upper torso.

Voila! You’ve now selected a size that will fit your shoulders well, and you can forget about adjusting the pattern in this area. Of course, that still leaves the rest of the sweater! Don’t worry, the rest of the sweater is easy-peasy. The key is to recognize that the widths on the front and back of the sweater at the bust, waist, and hips don’t need to be the same. There’s no magic in those pattern numbers! And you can make them what you need to be.

Here’s an example of my own “base size”, with the numbers that are incorrect for my figure crossed out and corrected:

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Once you’ve selected your own base size you can do the same thing! Compare your body’s own measurements to the measurements of the base size, and then disregard any stitch (or row) counts in the pattern that are wrong for you, substituting your own instead.

For example, I need some extra width in the front of my sweater, to accommodate my larger bustline. I’ll use the pattern’s stitch count at the front waist, since it fits me well. But instead of going to the pattern’s stitch count for the bust, I’ll add enough stitches to make a 22’’ (58 cm) front instead of the written 19’’ (46.5 cm) front. This might mean I need to work 8 increase rows, for example, instead of 2 as written in the pattern.

To determine what your own widths should be, I recommend the following ease ranges for bust, waist, and hip:

• The garment’s finished bust circumference should be within -2’’ to +2’’ of your own (that’s -5 to +5 cm). If your sweater is tighter than 2’’ of negative ease, you’ll have problems with the front of your sweater riding up at the hem as the knit stretches to accommodate you! And 2’’ of positive ease in the bust is a pretty slouchy and relaxed feel, when worn.

• The garment’s finished waist circumference should definitely be larger than your own, by at least 2’’ (5 cm).

• The garment’s finished hip circumference for an average-length sweater should be within the same range as the bust: -2’’ to +2’’ (-5 to +5 cm). A smidge of negative ease in the hips won’t feel tight, but it will help the garment anchor itself properly. There’s a reason we use ribbing in the hips! (Longer sweaters that reach below your bum need to have substantial positive ease in the hips. I recommend 4 – 6’’ (10 – 12.5 cm). This helps them stay nicely away from your body as you move.)

Correcting any measurements that are wrong in your base size represents your modification list – with no try-ons required!

With the right approach and understanding, calculating what parts to edit and modify from a sweater pattern you like can result in a garment you love to wear. The next step in sweater modification is to build your own pattern from the ground up—join us in next week’s follow-up blog with Amy Herzog to discuss her newest project, Custom Fit, which takes the work out of custom sweater construction. (Think of it as hiring an architect to design your dream garment!)

photo courtesy k.johnstone / eco edge architecture

photo courtesy k.johnstone / eco edge architecture

It really comes as no surprise that so many knitting designers and yarn companies have developed from other creative industries. If you attend a trade show (say, The National Needle Arts show, which happens every year) and ask almost anyone on the floor how they started working in the yarn industry, chances are they are from some other creative field originally. Some jumps are easier to make than others (textile specialists, fine artists, and tailors seem to be in abundance.) Architecture might seem like a surprising connection at first, but after interviewing two architects who have branched into wool and yarn, it becomes easier to understand.

Antonio Gonzalez-Arano is the creative director and production team lead at Malabrigo Yarns, a favorite yarn brand famous for bright color and ultra-soft merino wool. Kirsten Johnstone, one of our favorite designers, is known for her simple and well-constructed garment aesthetic. I was able to ask them some questions about the parallels and process in transitioning from constructing buildings to creating garments and yarns.

How did you get started in the knitting industry, and how did you transition from being an architect?

Antonio: I went to school in Montevideo, Uruguay to study as an architect—at UDELAR (Universidad de la Republica), the Facultad de Arquitectura (School of Architecture.) My wife, Carla, and her family have a long history in architecture and are all active architects. I was looking for something different to add into my work. At the time, I didn’t know it would be yarn. When I started to join the yarn world I couldn’t find all of the colors and textures I was looking for. I knew Uruguayan wool was of the highest quality, but didn’t see it very often—it wasn’t being used to it’s full potential. So I started using it and dyeing it.

Kirsten:  I have always sewn my own clothing and have created my own sewing designs for years. When I took up knitting in 2007, it was only a matter of months before I was creating my own knitting patterns. Initially, it was purely to create knitted garments for myself. My first design was my Paper Crane cardigan, using Habu Textiles’ Linen. I sent a photo of my design to Takako at Habu Textiles, and she was extremely enthusiastic about it. It wasn’t a huge leap to realize that I could get the patterns profesionally sized and technically edited, and then release them as a self-published design.

How are architecture and knitting related/similar?

Kirsten: I’m laughing here as I’m sure some might suggest being anal with a meticulous attention to detail! And I am sure elements of this are indeed beneficial! However, in all seriousness, I personally prefer to seek an appropriate design response to the particular materials I happen to be using to provide an elegant yet timeless design that can be enjoyed for years to come, regardless of the design field. In addition, I always aim to stretch myself creatively each time I embark on a new design.

Antonio: The design process has a very important step, which you really don’t realize is happening until it does—you evaluate without all the elements in front of you, because it’s not finished, so it’s a more intuitive process, a moment of decision making without all the pieces. That part is similar—but the technical problems that arise are still very different.

For Antonio, what is your architectural style, and what is the Uruguayan architectural style?

Antonio: My style used to be minimal. Architecture, in my opinion, is a very unique problem, in which you have to solve a multitude of problems within the same action. Buildings need to be functional, structurally sound, and fulfill many needs—aesthetic, economic, and environmental, to start. Uruguay has a very rich and varied cultural heritage when it comes to architecture. There are more European influences than anything else—Spanish Neo Colonial, Art Deco, French Academic, Neo-Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Modernist and Modern are all found in buildings around Montevideo and Uruguay. My favorite style is Modern architecture. It is the best way to solve the whole of human architectural problems. It has a consistent aesthetic and it focuses on sustainable development.

In the end, materials are at the heart of any construction decision. In many ways, knitting is similar—while Antonio builds the yarn, choosing materials and colors that will entice use, designers like Kirsten are almost the “architects” of the industry, building blueprints that can later be used by the knitting “craftsmen” who will create finished garments with them.

Do you feel that your business history also influences your work as a designer and the way you approach building a garment?

Kirsten: I believe it does, yes. I keep a sketch book and magazine clippings/photos for my Architectural designs and another for my knitting ideas. I work hard to nut out the sketch design similarly to a building with sketches, drawings and sometimes mini paper models in addition to the swatching component. I draw up my knitwear design using Autocad, the same Architectural drafting program on my desktop computer. At this point, I sometimes print out the design at a full scale and make a prototype using fabric and my trusty old sewing machine. This helps with fit and proportion for my innovative garment designs. Only then will I cast on and get busy with the needles!

Do you choose building materials and knitting materials in a similar way?

Kirsten: To some degree, yes, I think I probably do. I really enjoy exploring a material or a yarn in ways to enhance or perhaps celebrate it’s own unique and inherent features or properties. And it feels like I give the yarn or building an integrity or honesty—not by being showy or flashy, but quietly considered. I want my designs to not necessarily be “of the moment” but transcend time or a current fad.

I prefer to use high quality materials that are natural with beauty and timeless features or characteristics. I am currently exploring more environmentally conscious materials to also limit the environmental impact of my choices. My recent travels have confirmed my desire to use quality over quantity in all areas of my professional and private lives. I abhor waste and try to make my own buying choices based on the old “less is more” principle. And in terms of knitting, I design garments I genuinely want to wear myself and as I know I develop such an attachment to things I have made, these are going to be in my wardrobe for many years so they need to be able to go the distance in both quality and style.

Do you seek yarns that are structural or determine structure based on stitches?

Kirsten: I would say usually the latter. I explore garment design options after swatching and the subsequent consideration of both the stitches and the knitted fabric these stitches have created. That said, I am genuinely intrigued by structural yarns and the challenge to provide a garment that can utilize this property but in a wearable way.

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new patterns from the Monochrome collection

Occasionally, a project comes along that seeks to combine both architecture and knitting. For Antonio, this project was Malabrigo Book 4. While the garments were varied, all of the images were taken in front of various architectural elements found throughout Montevideo. Antonio’s expertise and knowledge of various types of architecture throughout the city aided in selecting the best location for each garment.

Kirsten’s architectural background comes out often in patterns she constructs, including those that have been included in several recent Shibui Knits collections. Geometry, a collection that focused on the angles and construction of garments, features Radii and Trapezoid. And the newest collection, Monochrome, was entirely constructed by Kirsten, featuring a variety of structured and angular shapes offset by softer lines and materials.

Neither talent has walked entirely away from the architectural field. Antonio shared that whenever he misses creating beautiful buildings, he simply stops by his wife’s studios (located in the same building as Malabrigo’s order offices.) Kirsten still works as an architect, and has a current project, Eco/Edge.

Kirsten: My own Architectural practice originally began from a dissatisfaction with working in Architecture. Not from an ideological perspective; more because after 6 years of study and another 2 years to become a Registered Architect, I felt creatively dry. Working for myself allows a direct connection with the Clients and an exploration of their design needs and then my design response. I strive to provide a hands-on service, with a focus on elegantly modern Architecture. This means a very personal design response that is tailored and unique to each project.

It’s no wonder that architecture and knitting have so many parallels. While it’s interesting to delve into the past of both Malabrigo Yarns and Kirsten Johnstone’s work, like all architects (and knitters), our interest also lies with the future. I’m excited to keep following the development of both of these talented individuals and the brands they represent—and to see what they keep building for many years to come.