Knitwear Designer Lindsay Degen

An established top designer in the contemporary high fashion knitwear scene, Lindsay Degen will be giving a presentation about her work at Knitty City on Thursday, August 3rd from 6-8pm. Lindsay attended the Rhode Island School of Design as well as the prestigious Central Saint Martin in London. After graduating from RISD, she moved to NYC and founded her own knitwear fashion label called DEGEN.

Lindsay also teaches Knitwear Design at Pratt and Parsons here in NYC. Recently, she has been producing patterns for the hand knitwear industry and we thought it would be nice to tell you a little bit more about this talented designer who has a quirky, colorful and fun aesthetic.

We visited Lindsay in her Brooklyn based studio where she was kind enough to give us a tour of her work space. She calls it her "adult playground". Cones of colorful yarn stacked on top of each other, a cool circular knitting machine and a flatbed knitting machine are lined up in a small space where Lindsay creates her beautiful work.

When Lindsay was only three years old, she was taught how to knit by her grandmother. "I always loved it", Lindsay recalls. "I even started a knitting club in high school. I was this tall and skinny girl and was always wearing knits. It gave me the freedom to move around and be myself."

After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2010, Lindsay launched her own fashion brand and named it DEGEN. She cleverly utilized social media and funded her endeavor with Kickstarter. Since then, she has found success in the high fashion industry and became a sought after knitwear designer. She even designed a full section of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in 2014.

During the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Lindsay was interviewed by a videographer who featured people of all walks in the high fashion industry. This connection finally led her to a job at Parsons where Lindsay has been teaching hand knitting and machine knitting. She guides students with their senior thesis and tells them to "pursue who you are and what you want to create to the greatest extent of your ability". Lindsay explains, "the journey is all about exploration and being true to yourself. Play and explore!"

Lindsay Degen - 4.jpg

Recently, Lindsay has been producing and publishing patterns for the hand knitwear industry. After a presentation during Vogue Knitting Live in New York last January, she decided to give it a try, "I never thought that there would be any interest in my designs in the hand knitwear industry."

The first pattern Lindsay published on Ravelry is called "Squiggle Kite Shawl" and is made with fingering weight yarn. 

Squiggle Kite Shawl

Squiggle Kite Shawl

Another gorgeous shawl pattern is "Wonderous Moth", also made with fingering weight yarn.

Wonderous Moth Shawl

Wonderous Moth Shawl

Lindsay also has a free pattern on Ravelry called "Degen Eyez":

Degen Eyez

Degen Eyez

We are excited that such a talented designer in the high fashion industry is now gracing our crafty world with her colorful and quirky designs. We are always on the lookout for new and exciting patterns and we feel that Lindsay's work will be warmly embraced by our beautiful community.

When you step into Lindsay's studio and you observe all the colorful and fun items, you cannot help but feeling lighthearted and happy. We are sure that when you try one of her patterns, it will leave you with the same sentiment.

Find Lindsay on Instagram: @degen.us

Website: Degen.us

Ravelry: Lindsay Degen

 

Craftivism Panel with Sandra Markus and Pink Persistence

July's theme at Knitty City is Craftivism! As you may well know, we have been huge supporters of the Pussyhat Project and we are also supporting the Welcome Blanket Project. With our social and political stance, we foster community and hope to create positive social change. Many a crafter has flocked to Knitty City to knit, crochet, weave or sew in order to make their voices heard.

But what is this exactly what we have been doing? Together with you, our community, we would like to have a meaningful discussion about "Craftivism". Help us define what Craftivism is, let us come together and talk about why we feel compelled to use our craft in order to make Social Change happen.

Craftivism Panel with Sandra Markus and Pink Persistence

Join us on Thursday, July 6th from 6-8pm for an evening of meaningful discussion regarding the intersection of craft and social activism aka Craftivism. This event will feature Sandra Markus, Professor at FIT and Pink Persistence, a local activist group.

Sandra will discuss the history of Craftivism and Pink Persistence will discuss their current advocacy work. In this blogpost we would like to give you a short introduction to both Sandra Markus and Pink Persistence.

Q and A with Sandra Markus Professor in the School of Art and Design at FIT

Q: Who are you?

A: Hi, I am an Upper West Sider but born and raised in Cananda. And yes, I do still have my Canadian passport. I am a Professor in the School of Art and Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I teach digital literacies for designers, helping students to navigate the digital environment. There is a design activism component to the course, and Pink Persistence came to the class this Spring to talk about their work.

Q: What do you do?

A: I am currently working on my doctoral degree at Teachers College, Columbia University where my research looks at Craftivism in the digital age.

Q: What is your purpose and message?

A: I am hoping that women use craft to advocate for social and political change. Knitty City has been really instrumental in supporting women being crafty, blending activism with craft.

Q: What is your purpose and message?

A: I think craft is very connected to feminism. I grew up during the second-wave of feminism in the 60s, and have always had a very complicated relationship with crafting. Although I have always been very passionate about making, it never seemed "important" enough. I have changed my perspective on this and believe that crafting and making are important ways to have your voice heard.

Q: What craft do you do? Crochet, knitting, spinning or weaving?

A: I really love all types of craft. I just spent last weekend at a rug weaving workshop with Crispina French which was awesome. But my main craft is sewing, and I have taught that at FIT for almost two decades. I would say knitting is a newer interest, but I am really trying to learn how to knit well. Growing up in Canada, everyone knew how to knit and my mother was a particularly gifted knitter. Writing about the history of activist knitting has really inspired a renewed interest.

Pink Persistence NY

We would like to share with you who Pink Persistence is in their own words:

"Pink Persistence , a "makers" collective found by a group of New York City women, creates and shares with others at no cost the means for impactful, visual protest. We utilize many different kinds of materials, including yarn (knitting and crocheting, fabric, paper, ribbon and whatever strikes our fancy.

We give everything we make without asking for compensation - usually on the streets of NYC; our aim is to produce creative and visually impactful symbols and make them available to anyone who wishes to utilize them."

Harlem Needle Arts

A few weeks back - the first Thursday in May to be exact - we were fortunate to have Michelle Bishop, the Director of  Harlem Needle Arts, come to the store for a presentation. We we were fortunate to first meet Michelle in the "early days", right after Knitty City opened. The following year, 2007, Michelle began to form HNA, which is now a full fledged non-profit organization, dedicated to the preservation of  textile, design and needle art of the African Diaspora.  As members of the needlework community and as neighbors, we have benefitted from one another's presence in New York. 

This quote from Michelle Bishop, sums up the passion that drove (and drives) her forward in her mission:

'Cease the opportunity of the unmet need.' 

"That message stared at me as I worked and developed  the vision of Harlem Needle Arts some twelve years ago. I knew our history in textiles needed to resonate beyond small pockets of communities. I knew our existence as Africans in the world had centuries of meaning which would influence our contemporary life structure. I knew our stories had depth beyond the small label in a museum or gallery wall. I wanted to revolutionize the way the world saw the art forms of knit, crochet, weaving, spinning, quilting, signs, symbols, fiber fusion as well as manifest a community of cultural stakeholders. HNA has just scratched the surface with our work.  The revolution will continue." -Michelle Bishop, Director, Harlem Needle Arts

 Harlem Needle Arts provides an invaluable service for those of us who are intrigued by the history of crafts as seen through various cultures. Since 2007, HNA has reached out to educate and inform through art, educational services, lectures and funded projects and events, In addition, as the pool of artists grows, Harlem Needle Arts provides them with professional and technical assistance by sharing knowledge of the "business of art" through resources such as funding, portfolio development, corporate acquisitions exhibitions and publishing opportunities.

A recent example of a sponsored event, and one still in place, is an exhibit at the LeRoy Neiman Art Center. Curated cooperatively by  Arts Horizons/LeRoy Neiman Art Center and Harlem Needle Arts, this exhibit displays the work of Nigerian Artist Chief Nike Okundaye. Titled "An Odyssey through the Years", it demonstrates one artists work  to emancipate herself, and give voice to others, by empowering families through their Nigerian roots. 

We were fortunate enough to go to the opening exhibit and to meet the artist, her daughter and her family at the reception. Without the generous work of Harlem Needle Arts and tthe LeRoy Neiman Art Center.  we would never have discoveredt Chief Okundaye's work. 

Harlem Needle Arts will be celebrating its 10th year with an on-going series of events and workshops Here's a look at what they are planning for the upcoming Summer-Fall 2017 Season. Specific dates and details will be available online at www.harlemneedlearts.org shortly. (HNA is in the process of rebranding  their website so check back if at first you don't find all the information.)

Coming June-October 2017

"Diaspora Rise" -                                                                                                                                                                  A Festival  of Events and Workshops to include:

"The Textile Nation - Then & Now"

"Africa is the New Black"

"The Cultural Landscape of Textiles & Design"

"Sanctuary" - A Community Textile Project

In addition to these upcoming events, Harlem Needle Arts will continue to provide its community members with inspiration and support through their "Mantra Monday's" programs. Held at the LeRoy Neiman Art Center, these ongoing programs teach and support people at all ages and stages in the creative process. For further information on this program, go to www.harlemneedlearts.org and/or info@harlemneedlearts.org. 

 

 

 

The Independents Part II

Hope Horn

Hope Horn

This week we continue to look at some of the independent businesses and people who make our industry thrive. Science posits that the universe is constantly expanding. Such is certainly the case when it comes to the universe of fiber and yarn. 'Locals" such as Xenobia Bailey, Kristen Kapur, Mason Dixon Knitting, Josh Bennett and Jessie Ksanznak, to name just a few, keep us involved with their blogs and enthused with their Ravelry pages. In addition, the businesses that cater to the kindred crafts, such as weaving and spinning, continue to grow the field. Knitty City's weekly (Sunday, 4-5P) spinning group, headed by Mary Hayne, is a testimony to the growth of that artistry. For a look at a store that's devoted itself to the art of spinning and life on the land, come take a look at Hope's Favorite Things

We discovered this store by good luck - traveling the back roads of Pennsylvania - on our way from a yarn and fiber show and headed back into NY. When we entered Hope's Favorite Things, we were greeted by the store owner and transported into her world. Hope grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania where she learned to appreciate a life that is attuned to nature. Surrounded by family treasures and the antiques her parents found in their explorations, Hope's love for all things handmade led to an interest in spinning yarns. She raises a small herd of Teeswater and Wenslydale Sheep,  breeds known for silky, long fleece, plus  Angora Goats, so materials were close at hand.

After a number of years working in a business that was not personally fulfilling, Hope decided to follow her interests. and create a shop that sells the things she loves: hand spun yarns, spinning equipment (drop spindles, Ashford Wheels) and merchandise and goods that complement her country lifestyle. She Included a variety of charming antiques, artisanal items and fresh eggs (from her own chickens)  and she had the makings of a special retail and craft shop.

When speaking with Hope, it was hard to stop my eyes from wandering all over her store. At first, it was the amazing hand spun yarns that captivated me. In addition to the output from her own flock, she also stocks colorful roving and yarns that are suitable for beginners. She conducts classes on the art of spinning, knitting and crochet, and, every week, a group of kindred spirits gathers at the store for a few hours of communal making. For those interested in dyeing, Hope will be hosting a class on indigo natural dyeing on June 29 and 30th. It will be, taught by Vermont fiber artist, Jane Woodhouse. For information, contact Hope at 610 599 1615

Spinning Afternoon @ Hope's Favorite Things

Spinning Afternoon @ Hope's Favorite Things

Hope grew up in a family that appreciates the heritage of their land, and it shows in her establishment. Originally a general store that sold a wide variety of items, it's a natural environment for functional antiques that work in conjunction with yarns and hand created goods. Farm values are reflected in the type of merchandise the store offers. Hand milled soaps are nestled in wonderful old bowls and antique bakery displays are used to showcase yarns and crafted items. Special contemporary items leave no doubt about the passion Hope has for whimsical collections and practical products.

Hope's Favorite Things is located in Bangor, Pa., which is approximately 90 mins. (by car) from NYC, and only 21 miles from the Delaware Water Gap, a National Park located on the NJ/Pa. Border. The area is beautiful and the trip is well worth making if your love is for things natural. Hope is on hand, Wednesday through Sundays. Click on the titles of the pictures below for more information.

www.hopesfavoritethings.com

www.hopesfavoritethings.com

Please let us know if you visit this special place. We love hearing about your travels and the discoveries you make. In the world of making beautiful things, it's always fun to spread the joy. If you pick up any Teeswater locks or roving, be sure to show Mary Hayne at the store. It's one of her favorite wools. 

 

 

 

 

Oh Canada! Oh Canada!

Julie Asselin & Partner/Business & Life: Jean Francois

Julie Asselin & Partner/Business & Life: Jean Francois

It's a known fact that Canada produces some exceptional knitting designers, and as you would expect from a country that knows about the cold, they also produce some special yarns. Case in point: Julie Asselin - a business owner who produces both.

We first heard about Julie's fab yarn a few years ago when a KC colleague visited Montreal, and discovered her yarn in a local yarn shop. A little exploration led us to this ebullient and creative young woman and her wonderful line of yarns. Since then, it's been a happy partnership.

Julie will be coming to Knitty City, on Friday, May 12, for a meet and greet and a trunk show. We thought the time was right to fill you in on what makes her so special, besides her yarns. 

Canadian by birth, she grew up in a home filled with creative stimuli. An artistically inclined mom and grand- mothers who knitted and crocheted set the stage for early learning. Julie credits her "grand-maman" for her foundation in the crafts. "My knitting is as steady as a train", she says with justifiable satisfaction. A mother with a strong creative aesthetic gave her good grounding in form, color and design.

Her father's expertise as a builder and craftsman gave her an appreciation of the importance of methodology and doing a job to perfection. Maybe it was that influence  that led to her first career as a technician of prosthetics and orthotics, where precision is the name of the game.

The lure and enjoyment of knitting, however, led to a curiosity about all aspects of the craft: the mills, fiber, spinning, dyeing. In turn, this brought out her experimental side, and soon she was dyeing up a storm. Shortly, she was turning out extra product and, as she began to share with friends, word got out. The first order came next. There was no "grand plan". The road unfolded before her and, and after a few years, she began selling to yarn and fiber stores professionally.

A passion for quality has resulted in her working with mills to create yarns that are strong, but luxuriously supple, yielding fine stitch definition and good wear. She takes pride in the fact that her fibers are spun in either Canada or the USA. Sourcing "local", whenever possible, is an important factor for her business.

Currently, her company produces a range of weights, from fingering (Fino)  through chunky (Zetta) and all the weights in between. Following is a preview of the yarn Julie will be bringing to the store next week. She's planning on dropping them off in advance of her appearance at the store, so you will have a chance to come and see (or shop) on the Thursday before.

A "bouquet" of Merletto

A "bouquet" of Merletto

In addition to her established yarns, Julie is bringing her newest entry into the market: Nomade. This new sock weight has been over-dyed on top of a grey heathered base, which results in what Julie describes as " 3 dimensional colors".

New Yarn: NOMAD

New Yarn: NOMAD

Julie will be appearing at Knitty City on Friday, May 12, from 4:30-6:00 PM. There will be a trunk show, featuring shawls and designs. She will be bringing yarn for  two currently popular shawls: Joji's Mystery KAL and for  "Find your Fade". Count on lots of color options. Click on the pictures to learn more about each project.

Julie's humor is as contagious as her excitement about beautiful yarns. Here's a picture she sent us that illustrates both. What do you want to bet that her pup, "Lonely", is anything but lonely when Julie and Jean-Francois are around? 

Julie's Dog, "Lonely"

Julie's Dog, "Lonely"

The Independents

We tend to  like small businesses.... a lot!  We are one and we know what it takes to make one run: hard work, great energy and a lot of support. It's one of the reasons that we often showcase small yarn companies, independent designers and privately owned companies related to the fiber industry. We also get around a lot and often meet interesting people in our travels. Today's blog will begin a series of features on individual businesses and artists  that serve the fiber and "making" communities. All are worth a look.  So come along with us, please!

SEVEN SISTERS ARTS

       

       

We first met Karen Grover when we were exploring the coastline of Maine. We drove up to Blue Hill, mostly because we wanted to see the area in which E.B. White had lived, and, lo and behold, we were thrilled to discover her studio.. There she sat, in her old and beautifully restored place of business and there we managed to spend 3 hours of bliss. Deciding on color was the largest challenge - so much so that, after departing, we turned around and drove back to buy more. 

That trip began an acquaintanceship that is valued. When we would see her at various shows or events, we would always have a good time. So much so, that we decided to share knowing her with you. 

Like many of us, Karen had a childhood in which she learned to value handmade things. She  started dyeing her own raw fiber to spin over 30 years ago, and she has been dyeing since then. With a  degree in Plant & Soil Science and one in Nursing, she brings much of what she learned about science and methodology to her dye studio. 

Pursuing her interest in women's health and her earned degree, she worked for 13 years as a delivery room nurse.  "I loved witnessing women being empowered, strong and vulnerable at the same time: the raw power, intimacy and emotion of it all. It was really a privilege and an honor to be an integral part of that process," 

After 13 years, a changing medical scene and personal needs gave rise to her exploring the next chapter, and she left medicine  to pursue her interests in fiber and dyeing. She and a friend started "String Theory Yarns" and opened a yarn shop. Eight years later, after an amicable dissolution of the partnership, she began her own business, Seven Sister Arts, which was launched in 2015. 

Seven Sisters is named after the constellation Pleiades, and many of the yarns have names of stars or other astronomical words. The name was chosen to signify community as well as the heavens. Take a look at some of her yarns. 

                                        A gradient Set

                                        A gradient Set

Just click on the individual box to be transported to the specific yarn that is pictured, as well as the other hues available in that weight. You will also find a description of the yarn content and the yardage and gauge specifications. Likewise for the gradient set pictured on top. Gradients can most often be offered in more than one weight.

Not for the meek of spirt, Maine tends to attract strong souls with a love of the earth and its elements. Karen gets a great deal of her inspiration from the natural colors of the sea and land. "Living on the coast of Maine provides easy access to the rhythms and patterns of nature which continually inspire every facet of my life and work." 

Another great interest of the Seven Sisters owner is Shibori Dyeing. Shibori is a Japanese tradition that offers a body of knowledge and techniques to explore pattern, texture, and color on fabric, sometimes all at once, in a way that can be as controlled or as spontaneous as you want it to be.

To see " Indigo wave"  and other  scarves, visit www.sevensistersarts.com  Just click on the search button and enter shibori scarves. 

To see " Indigo wave"  and other  scarves, visit www.sevensistersarts.com  Just click on the search button and enter shibori scarves. 

Karen learned from two exceptional artists and teachers,  Ana Lisa Hedstrom and Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, during several different intensive workshops. She makes these scarves and other special garments on an "as possible" basis, so if you see one you like, you might want to snap it up.  

We asked Karen to summarize (if that is possible) her love of the process of dyeing and providing finished products. Here's what she had to say:  "In regard to dyeing yarn, my favorite aspect is experimenting with new color combinations. Sometimes they come into fruition with lots of thought and calculations and other times from pure play. I love coming up with themes and naming the colors that incorporate words or ideas from other cultures as well as nature and mythology. My favorite part of the business is actually being on the road at shows around the country, I find enormous pleasure in seeing how other knitters and designers combine colors and textures, it’s fascinating and endless." 

We found scores of pictures on her website, as well as the various forms of social media that Seven Sisters employs. We suggest you follow her there at www.sevensistersarts.com, where you can join her mailing list.

Karen will be in Hartford, Ct., at Stitches United on April 27-30,( Booth 502-504). We will also be showcasing her work this fall at Knitty City on September 7, the first Thursday of the month, from 6-8 PM. We hope you can join us. In the meantime, we close with one of the images we found on her Instagram page. It sums up her work and her spirit perfectly.

 

      www.instagram.com/sevensistersarts  

      www.instagram.com/sevensistersarts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Two Way Street

Giving is always a two way street:  The recipient(s) benefit and, often, the giver feels a connection has been completed. We believe that is especially true when the gift is one that is made by hand. For a number of years now, Knitty City has been fortunate enough to have a chapter of "Care to Knit" meet at the store once a month. A devoted group, it has had dedicated coordinators since its inception. The group is faithful in attendance, and comprised of a variety of knitters. This year, we received a new coordinator, Carol Drucker. The group has expanded and it is not uncommon to see a big crowd of like-minded people gathered round the front table.  We thought it was high time to find out more about Care to Knit and our newest coordinator.

Carol Drucker & Family

Carol Drucker & Family

Carol and her family recently moved to the UWS from Long Island. Her two sons are in college and it just made sense to leave suburban life and "come to town".  Her involvement with work that benefits others is something that she enjoys and is reflective of her attitude in life. A little research on Care to Knit groups in Manhattan brought her to Knitty City, and her request to join and coordinate the group was happily accepted. She had taught herself to knit via u-Tube after receiving one lesson. Its portability and the resultant useful product came together and suited her desire to create.

Carol's generosity was evident in our conversation. First she credited the philosophy of the store for creating an atmosphere in which sharing is emphasized. She also spoke of her respect for the group into which she was welcomed. "We have great diversity and a fun range of ages, from grandmothers to a 9 year old." 

The group has grown in size recently and Carol thinks it's due to good word-of-mouth. They meet on the third Thursday of every month (next up: April 20) from 6:30-8:00 PM. They change the beneficiary of their knitted projects regularly, with the group voting on likely recipients. Recently, they contributed to Samaritan Village, an organization dedicated to doing "good" for New Yorkers in need. March was devoted to Hospice of New York. Donations take the form of finished goods, such as blankets, hats, scarves, and are given directly to the people who need them.

Many knitters will tell you that there is a lot of communal pleasure derived from knitting in a group. Regular show-and-tell sessions allow the Care to Knit Group to share their projects and learn from others. It's the embodiment of community.

in addition to her involvement with Knitty City and the Care to Knit Group, Carol has also found great satisfaction in her volunteer work with JINSPIRE,  a grassroots organization that seeks to promote Jewish identity through inspirational, educational, and social programs.

For further information about Knitty City's "Care to Knit" group, contact Carol at caroldrucker@gmail.com. The date (third Thursday of every month) is always posted on our monthly calendar. Drop-ins are welcome, as are donations of finished projects. Contributions of knitted or crocheted items can be left at the store, addressed to Carol Drucker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Drucker, Flanked by her family!

Carol Drucker, Flanked by her family!

Carol is a recent arrival on the Upper West Side, having raised her family in Long Island. Now that her sons are in college, however, she and her husband decided that city life was what they wanted. 

 

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Carol came to Knitty City as a recent UWS resident.

A Letter from Krista Suh -

Krista Suh sent us this newsletter in advance of her appearance, along with Connie Lim (MILCK), at Knitty City this Friday, April 7, from 4:30-6:00PM. Please join us, if you can, and don't forget to bring your knitting. Read on to learn about Saturday's event in Washington Square Park at 1 PM.

Happy April! I'm so excited to connect with you and fill you in on some "pink hat related opportunities"
When I created "the pink hat project" in November with Kat, Jayna, Aurora and the millions of other women and men who joined the cause, I had a very good friend alongside me. She is the first person I spoke out loud to about my idea, and we all know how special that is -  that moment you first give voice to an idea, when it's still so young and unsteady on its feet. My good friend is Connie Lim and her musician name is MILCK. You may have seen MILCK on the Samantha Bee show with her women's rights anthem that went viral at the Women's March #ICANTKEEPQUIET.

A lot of people cannot believe that "the woman who created the unofficial uniform of the march" and "the woman who created the unofficial anthem" are In Real Life actual honest-to-goodness friends! Connie and I call each other "Sister Goddesses". She knows about my every hope, dream, fear, and guy crush of the moment (G-Eazy, the rapper who dresses like a young Elvis).  

Sister Goddesses: Krista & Milck

Sister Goddesses: Krista & Milck

Our creations have merged in beautiful ways! All around the world, people are standing up for their beliefs by wearing pink cat ear hats while singing MILCK's beautiful song "I Can't Keep Quiet." Here's an example of a flashmob in Sweden!

MILCK and I are excited to invite you to join us on April 8, 2017 on I Can't Keep Quiet Day. Please check the link for all the details - you can participate from wherever you are in the world! It can be as simple as taking a photo of yourself in your pink hat and posting it to social media with #icantkeepquiet.  

If you'd like to join us in person, we will be in New York City, at Washington Square Park at 1pm on April 8th!  I have been madly taking daily voice lessons trying to learn how to harmonize, but my voice teacher. Claire, who says that while learning technique is great,  I just gotta let go and sing my little heart out :)

I'm LA-based, but will be traveling over the next few months. First stop is New York City. You can come meet me, and MILCK, at Knitty City this Friday at 4:30pm. I used to live in New York (while attending Barnard College) so I have a ton of dreamy memories of the city. With artist Aurora Lady, I created a special MAP of my favorite places in New York!  It will be a free download on my website, but just for my newsletter subscribers. I am giving away 100 of them, and I will sign them to a specific person, if you wish.  (The first 10 people to write in and then 90 chosen at random/on whim.) I'm a stationery nerd, so I am drooling over these prints. They are printed on beautiful watercolor paper that you have to touch to appreciate.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 11.01.09 PM.jpg

All you have to do is write back to me at this email address: heyitsme@kristasuh.com. You can write about what your perfect day in NYC would be OR what you are curious about right now: A hobby? A book? A political issue?  A person? It can be one sentence long or a manifesto. I'm personally trying to cultivate my curiosity. I think the beautiful thing about New York is that there's always something to be discovered. It's a city that rewards curiosity. 

AND BY THE WAY - if you're a friend of mine on my mailing list and you're thinking 'Oh I don't need to write in to get a watercolor print, I see Krista everyday, Krista will just give me one.'  NOT TRUE! You have to write in like everyone else, because I like the attention

I am filled with that insane deep welling feeling of joy for you right now, "Gratitude" doesn't even begin to cover it.

All my love,

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 11.17.23 PM.jpg

 



 

 

Max Alexander

One of the great things about having a "passion" is that it keeps you exploring.  A lot of us are constantly on the look-out for new and interesting people, places and things in the world of fiber.. The upside is discovery; the downside, is that you find so many interesting people and things that you become overwhelmed by the desire to meet and talk with them all. Nonetheless, one persists!!!

When we found the artist, Max Alexander, it was one of those "sweet finds".  She has a combination of whimsy and talent that results in charming and beautiful products that resonate with those that share her interests. Located in London, she's easy to reach online. We did. She responded, and now we have the fun of introducing her to you. Read on to learn about Max's World.

Since time is money for an independent artist, we figured it might be easiest for us to send her some questions. Off they went and, true to a disciplined nature, back came the answers along with a lovely selection of pictures.  

A quick read of her CV revealed an art college education plus a course in stop motion animation. The latter resulted in a wonderful video that is most entertaining. - to be revealed further on. Max was home schooled in the early years, received a diploma in 3D design from her first college and then went on to University for a degree in Sculpture. It was then that she started to incorporate yarn into her work and went on to do knitted animations and large sculptural pieces.

Like many artists, she grew up in a family filled with them. Here's her answer to a question about influencers in her childhood: "I grew up surrounded by fun artworks. My grandma, Sue Jackson, ran Cabaret Mechanical Theatre in London, which was an exhibition of automata and moving sculpture made by lots of different artists (cabaret.co.uk). Nearly every piece had a joke or something amusing about it so I’ve always associated making with fun. I’ve never got on with exceptionally serious art."

Although she didn't learn to knit until she was 20, it is not surprising that she immediately took to it. Her love of fine knitting, plus her fascination with moths, was what arrested our attention from the first. Although none of these beauties are "cloth eaters", for the wool-loving uninitiated among us, it seemed an almost perverse subject matter. It was one of the first things we asked about. We wondered whether it was their beauty or the irony of using knitting as the medium with which to produce her works of art.

"It’s a bit of both really. A friend suggested that I knit a rosy maple moth. I wasn’t particularly interested but then I saw that it was bright pink and yellow and thought it could be fun. Then I started researching moths and I saw how many different and amazing varieties there are. It quickly became addictive!"

"I was working part time in the yarn shop/gallery, "Prick Your Finger", and the owner, Rachael Matthews, offered me an exhibition there. That was in November 2014, it was great to show them off and I was delighted by how popular they became."

I think it would be tempting fate to include any "cloth eaters" in my work, but I’m also interested in highlighting endangered species. One of the most spectacular moths that I’ve knitted is the Urania Sloanus which went extinct in the early 1900’s. Here's a replica that I created as a brooch."

Max began making jewelry as a "warm weather" way of demonstrating her love of knitting. She opened a shop on ETSY, where her line took off quickly. She also sells in yarn stores and craft fairs where fiber people care to congregate. 

In addition to her moth brooches and pendants, she creates earrings and necklaces with knit and crochet focused themes. Another round  of creative energy goes into the creation of stationery products.  This one is particularly close to some knitter's hearts.

You can find a selection of her cards on her website here.  

Since Max has a talent for stop animation, as well as the education and training to back it up, we couldn't help but include this strictly tongue-in-cheek video she created as a student. We hope it's highly imaginative and irreverent look at frustration is more humorous than shocking.  She's a perfectly charming woman to chat with, we assure you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh The Places We Go!

If you love hand made things, the world has a lot to offer you these days. Unless you've been napping somewhere, you will have noticed that fibrous materials, and the attendant arts, are capturing a lot of attention. Whether it's pink hats in the knitting studios of Manhattan or self expression on the runways, "made by hand" is going full tilt on the domestic and international fronts. Case in point: The Edinburgh Yarn Festival. So, come hang with the "Wool Tribe" and see some of what we saw last weekend in Scotland.

The Edinburgh Yarn Festival bills itself as "The UK's Premier Urban Hand-Knitting Show".  No one we saw (or heard) challenged that title., as scores of people descended on the "Corn Exchange", a conference center outside of the city center, last Friday.  From all over they came - the Highlands, the Shetland Isles, The Isle of Skye, London, Paris - even the US  - and they brought their beautiful yarns with them:  Blue Faced Leicester, Merino, Targhee, Shetland, Alpaca, Cashmere, Silk, Mohair. Angora, and then some. The yarns were there in full force: Spun, blended, unspun, dyed, natural and every variation under the sun.

Some of the vendors, well known in the fiber world, included: Kate Davies, Jared Flood, Susan Cropper, Ysolda Teague, Di Gilpin, and Marie Wallin. Large and small concerns were on hand, including well recognized brands, such as Brooklyn Tweed, John Arbon, Old Maiden Aunt, The Icelandic Knitter, Baa Ram Ewe and Tin Can Knits. In all, there were over 100 vendors. Most were selling yarns and a select group of purveyors were showing buttons, ribbons, baskets and knit and crochet implements to swoon over. It was impossible to see it all on one day, so we made the trek out to the show two days running- not that we are complaining, mind you.

It was fun to see a few familiar faces.  Brooklyn Tweed's booth was beautiful, featuring Jared Flood's yarns in all their colorful glory. He had words of gratitude for the warm welcome he received from show organizers, Mica and Jo, who, it should be said, did a stellar job of producing this event. 

Another must-see was the booth for Loop London, an absolutely"gorgeous" knitting store in London. Loop stocks yarns from all over Europe, as well as a good supply of American brands, including Madeline Tosh and Quince. The store owner, Susan Cropper, is a former New Yorker who knows the best and the beautiful in the yarn universe. The list of stocked yarns is large, and given the limited space she had within the booth, we determined that it would be necessary to visit the store as soon as we got to London - which we did. It is a trip well worth making.

As you would expect, there was a Knitter's Lounge set up, adjacent to a food hall where tables were filled to maximum capacity.  Good food, plus wine, was on hand. Between the knitting, the noshing and the gabbing, it was hard to find a spare seat. 

Nonetheless, we corned the owners of Blacker Yarns, a well regarded UK brand, who were a major sponsor of the show.  They were launching a new yarn, Samite Silk Blend, and were happy to provide us with some lovely samples.  

The spinning sector of the yarn world was not neglected. A number of booths had wheels set up and an assemblage of unspun fibers, in a collection of open tubs, invited one to dive in. Another display of dyed roving was arranged as a skirt. 

There's no doubt that this will continue to be an annual event, and it's safe to assume it will only grow in popularity. Edinburgh is an incredibly beautiful city.  The venue is perfect, the people are warm and welcoming and the food is great. It's well worth considering next year. We recommend it heartily!

Hook & Matter

It's no secret that we love small businesses. After all, we are one and when we can support one another, we make it our business to do so.  When Barbara Pinto, one of our KC long-time friends and a regular, told us how something we do helps another small enterprise, we asked her to tell us about it!  Here's what she had to say.                                                                                                          

A Tale of Small Business Support

I’ve often wondered how small businesses are able to survive and thrive. Aimee and Sara Schiwal of Hook and Matter jewelry design, a Brooklyn-based business, have found a partial solution. There are many ways, but success demands originality and resourcefulness.

When these designer sisters create their fine crafted metal and fiber jewelry, it's not just about making something new. They have an appreciation for using recycled and found materials. To that end, you can see them utilizing yarn ends that would ordinarily be wasted.

At Knitty City, and many knitting stores, there is a bowl near the ball winder for yarn ends – those bits of yarn that come from wrapped skeins or ends left after a project's completion. When yarn is wound, those extraneous knots and ends are deposited there and often get tossed at the end of the day.  At Knitty City, there's another fate for this "waste yarn".  Thanks to the cooperation of Pearl and the KC staff, yarn ends are saved.

On a regular basis, they’re scooped into a recycled plastic bag (rice cake or bread bags work particularly well), and delivered to the Schiwal sisters by me, Aimee's mother-in-law. The regulars at KC call them "Aimee-ends" Many knitters have brought small balls and ends of yarn directly to me for this mission. You know how it is: Knitters don't waste ... and this "waste yarn" doesn't get wasted!

Often a knitter will ask, "Barbara, what do you do with those bits?" Hook and Matter uses them to make colorful ties for their gift boxes.  

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Smaller pieces get sent to a weaver or spinner friend, an independent yarn maker, a crochet designer, or they are re-used for pillow stuffing. Currently they've been trying to find a way to use all the waste – even the knots. One idea is to make collage or other artwork. Maybe Aimee's 3-year-old daughter or Sara's 2-year-old, will have some ideas on that.

Besides helping the budget, Aimee gets rave reviews on the "personality" of her packaging. One time a knitter and friend of mine (Stacey) ordered a necklace and received it in a box tied with a bright, plump fuchsia yarn. She immediately recognized it as the same yarn from her last knitting project -  the very yarn she had donated to the Aimee stash. Needless to say, she was excited by the providence of that occurrence.

Without the cooperation of all, this bonus yarn would get wasted. So when my friend Michele Wang, knitting designer, flew back to NY after moving away, in her suitcase was a large plastic bag of yarn ends and swatches. It was a stash of Aimee-ends for the cause. I repeat: Knittters don't waste!

To learn more about Hook & Matter and their line of jewelry and accessories, visit their website at www.hookandmatter.com or their Etsy shop.

 

 

 


 

 

SAHARA BRISCOE

(Self Portrait, Sahara Briscoe)

Sahara Briscoe is an internationally renowned textile developer and fabricator. For close to three decades, Sahara has engaged in a wide spectrum of textile-related activities from curating fiber art shows to costume design for theater, product development for fashion houses, plus writing about art fabrics for magazines and her own blog. Commissioned textiles, developed and produced by Sahara, have been shown at the 2010 Shanghai World's Fair, the Stedelijk Museum, The Netherlands and in galleries in New York, Dublin, London, Amsterdam and Sweden. This February, we requested that some of our respected local artists contribute to the Knitty City blog and tell us about how their combined interests and talents have influenced their current work. This is Sahara's answer to our question.  

What IF?

A lot of folks believe that "true creativity" is a form of magic: A supernatural power that a divine ancestor has bestowed upon you. A force that can be called up at whim and SHAZAM––a beautiful object appears. It is not. While I have certainly felt the power, it wasn't brought forth by magic, but by asking a magical question––what if?

Questions

As the descendent of generations of custom dressmakers and tailors, spanning from New Orleans to Harlem, drawing and sewing was the skill set I inherited. Back then, it was favorably looked upon as respectable employment, or, even better, a business that provided the more fashionable members of the local community  with personal style, not obtained by shopping "downtown". I was fine with my family's trajectory for me until middle school. I had a vision, exposing me to my first what if moment.

(Photo: Shishi Yiming Dyeing & Weaving Co., Ltd.)

Walking home from school in the Bronx on a warm afternoon, I turned along a block of textile manufacturers and small factories. Many had their windows or garage type doors open for air. It was a dye house that caught my attention. There were rows of giant pressure cookers (kettles). Above each, was a circular rack containing many fat cones of natural-colored yarn. A timer sounded and the cones descended, then the lids closed. I was transfixed; punishment for being late wasn't gonna stop me from seeing this show! Some minutes later, another timer sounded. The lids of the pressure cookers opened and the cones ascended in a bevy of spectacular colors! After that moment, the question became, what if––I could do that?

 Answers

Embracing the myriad answers and influences to this question has since led me down a sometimes studious, sometimes serendipitous road that has included the following: formal training (from high school to college) in sewing, design, couture techniques and art,  frustrating garment jobs, and success at selling my accessories to Upper West Side boutiques, like Lynn Dell's Off Broadway.

(Photos from left: Off Broadway Boutique; Lynn Dell)

Asking another "what if" question landed me a job at School Products, where I learned machine knitting, hand-knitting, weaving, and spinning under the Kleins, the shop's influential owners at the time. I discovered that hand knitting is a supernatural power—it only requires needles, yarn and math, a process far less expensive than clothing design. Machine knitting can create fabrics both shaped or flat that can be cut and sewn. Weaving is an act that can produce fabric with or without using a loom: totally supernatural! And hand-spinning? Well, without fiber, there IS NO fashion!

From left: Sahara Briscoe (fire escape spinning in the Bronx); machine knitting; multi-textured hand-woven scarf

What started out as home skills––sewing and crochet––became joined by numerous strands of fiber-related crafts: machine knitting, embroidery, hand-knitting, weaving, spinning, printing, dyeing, fulling, writing words, photography and technology. These crafts and their mediums, their visual influences and influencers (of which there have been many) are flexible strands of knowledge that allow me to arrange and form large scale textiles that have been commissioned from my studio, now eight years old.

How Now

Knitty City was central to my greatest "what-if" moment of all. When internationally renowned artist Jennifer Tee needed a textile collaborator, the store referred her to me. Her series of commissions were pivotal to the growth of my creative identity. These helped to formalize my studio and allowed me to branch out, using the full gamut of my powers to produce a diverse array of projects united by the use of textiles.

"Gridding Sentences," Sculpture/performance piece; The Stedelijk Museum, The Netherlands.

From left. "And On The Seventh Day, They Rested" quilted pillow; "Modern Shunga" a Japanese inspired pillow book for a wedding gift, private commission. 

"Now" Now

A recent project, The Mondo Bouclé Cowl Kit,  distills a number of techniques into a simple project. Together, in a recycled bedding container, are a hand-spun, complex bouclé paired with a smooth, sport weight Shetland yarn. Both are richly dyed, and inspired by photos of New York City landscapes. A clearly written pattern and ring stitch markers complete the package.

I create my projects to be easy, creative pick-me-ups that show off big results. This kit was the answer to what if  I combine a beautiful, hand dyed and spun yarn, with an easy technique? Can I produce an elegant, luxurious cowl  that can be  knitted over a weekend? It worked,  and it answered my question.  I hope you enjoy the answer, as well. 

Please note:  To find out more about the current  availability of these kits, please contact Sahara directly at: saharabriscoe3@gmail.com. We also have it on good authority that more kits will be available at Knitty City very soon.  Not surprisingly, the original collection sold out quickly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mari Tobita

Mari Tobita with one of her designs at TNNA

Mari Tobita with one of her designs at TNNA

I first heard about Mari Tobita from Pearl Chin - a source of many good things, as we who know and love Knitty City are aware. She suggested that the readers of our blog might like to learn about knitters who have talents that complement their love of fiber arts, and went on to tell me about Mari Tobita. Mari is a gifted knitwear designer whose work is featured in a variety of knitting magazines and on Ravelry. Here are a few examples of her designs.  Many more can be seen on her page. Mari particularly cited Shirley Paden as one of her treasured mentors in the art of knitting and design.

Photo credits: Left to right (upper): Soho Publishing; Left to right (lower):Knit Simple Spring/Summer 2012, photo by Paul Amato for LVARepresents.com; Sixth&Spring Books

While I loved her knit patterns, I wanted to know  more about Mari and her work on the entertainment front. On   her Facebook page she shares her fascination and involvement with film and animation. She often works as a behind-the-scenes artist on projects in production. One of her recent jobs found her working on the animation feature:"Kubo and the Two Strings".  To date, the film has garnered  19 awards, and it has been nominated for 2 Academy Awards, one for special effects and one for best animation feature.

Winner of over 19 awards & nominated for two Oscars  

Winner of over 19 awards & nominated for two Oscars  

I contacted Mari recently, and had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about how she came to be involved. She had some interesting  things to tell us about her work and her creative passion - one and the same thing.

Mari is part of a talented group that works in a specialized atmosphere, and while all are integral to the finished product, many work behind the scenes to make it come alive.  An animated  film such as "Kubo"  takes thousands of hours of production and attention to detail that can only be accomplished by those who have the patience and dedication to fine tune the smallest aspect of a project. Usually, they work under strict security so the artists are not allowed to take pictures of their work or even have cameras on hand.  When I asked her about her contribution to the effort, she was quick to explain that while her work was needed, it is not obvious on screen. It's her support to minute details that adds to the fine finished product  that one sees in the background in the film. She also developed some of the mock-ups that enable individual departments to create the special effects and features that have made this animation so worthy of notice and award.

We were curious to learn about her education and training since her work is so specialized. Mari attended Hokkaido University of Education where she was an  Art major,  as well as The Art Students League of New York. On the job experience has also contributed to her ongoing growth as an artist. Considering the rapid pace of technology, it's obvious that she's an adept learner. While she modestly stressed the fact that her work is not specifically seen within the film, we thought it would be neat to show you a trailer from the work, where you will see the results of her collaborative efforts.

Mari was kind enough to send me some additional pictures of origami birds and a spider that were influences for the wings and characters that made it into the film. She often employs origami while working on projects, and I also discovered that she was a puppet maker with the Jim Henson Company, once upon  time. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

Photo Credit for above images:  Two Strings LLC

It's obvious that her love of multiple crafts have led her to find expression in many forms.  As knitters, we are grateful she's part of our crowd. As film goers and enthusiasts, we also benefit from her abilities. I was fortunate enough to see "Kubo and the Two Strings".  I did so because I knew of Mari's involvement. It's a magical delight!  

 

 

 

 

GUEST BLOGGER: JESSIE KSANZNAK

To say that Jessie Ksanznak is multi-talented is an understatement. Jessie is the designer and dyer behind Yarn Over New York. When not creating in her Harlem-based home-studio, Jessie travels the world as a stage manager for dance, circus, events and television. Her designs have been published in various knitting books, magazines and collections including Garter Stitch Revival by Interweave Knits, Rockin’ Sock Club 2015 and 2016 by Blue Moon Fiber Arts, Sweet Georgia Yarn, Knit Now magazine and Knittin’ Little. 

We were not surprised to learn that she is a good writer and conceptual thinker, as well, so we asked her to be this week's Guest Blogger.  We were thrilled  when she accepted.

Inspiration in Knitting Design

SPARK – CONNECT – CREATE

Did you go to Vogue Knitting Live in early January? I did and it was fantastic. I’ve been to fiber trade shows before, but this one was special. The knitted and crochet artwork that adorned the halls, stage and booths was amazing. Brilliant artists and designers found inspiration from literature, nature and geometry and, through their skills, transformed these visions into spectacular works of art and fashion.

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Not everyone needs to make a life-size Queen Bee like Gina Rose Gallina or a Miniature Wonderland like Anna Hrachovec of MochiMochiLand. However, you can follow the exact same process and take your creative abilities to the next level in your own crafting. 

Knitters, crocheters, spinners and weavers can discover their own spark of inspiration and connect with the fiber and tools available to create a unique finished object. Let me tell you the story of my Fioritura Shawl and its journey from spark of idea to stunning wearable art.  

Last summer, Pom Pom Quarterly put out a call for submissions for their Spring 2017 issue.  I was blown away by the colors and textures of the floral and anthropoid images in their mood board, and I simply fell in love.

SPARK

                                                                                                                  Pom Pom’s mood board

                                                                                                                  Pom Pom’s mood board

MY SKETCH

The idea for my Fioritura Shawl was born!

CONNECT

To transition from idea and images to a concrete knitted shawl, I needed to find the appropriate selection of stitch work, shaping, color and texture. I knew that I wanted to combine a selection of stitches to create a light and airy shawlette that would wrap the wearer in that feeling of spring’s potential for new growth.

I originally selected a skein of RainCityKnits sock yarn in the color Electric Coral.  The glowing peach shade of this yarn screams spring to me.  The fingering weight, plied wool yarn has lovely stitch definition and is light enough to create a lacey shawl.  The color and texture of this yarn can show off the rich textures and lace stitches I wanted to include in the design.

I used a stitch dictionary and the internet to find a mix of textured solid and lacey open stitch patterns to capture the feeling of the mood board.

CREATE

After sample knitting, test knitting and tech editing, I had a design ready to send to the magazine. 

I was so proud of the  design and was sure the magazine would love it too! Unfortunately, they decided not to select my proposal. Knowing that I could turn disappointment into success, I needed to revisit the chain of inspiration: 

SPARK – CONNECT – CREATE

The feedback loop of getting rejected by the magazine presented me with an opportunity to push my creativity to the next level. I was given the chance to make the shawl better and create a bigger pay-off for my hard work. I was very happy with the shaping and patterning, so I reconsidered the yarn. 

Speckles and sparkles are both very trendy right now and are a great way to accentuate a variety of stitches in knitted fabric. I decided to re-knit the shawl in my own Yarn Over New York "Broadway". It is fingering weight, and plied yarn Stellina, with an irresistible glimmer. I dyed up a batch of my rainbow-speckled tonal blue colorway “Care Bear Stare” and got to work.

Create the perfect pairing of yarn and design by following the process of SPARK-CONNECT-CREATE.

Create the perfect pairing of yarn and design by following the process of SPARK-CONNECT-CREATE.

INSPIRE

You can use this simple loop of SPARK-CONNECT-CREATE in your crafting and art. Remember that you can find inspiration anywhere. Look to nature and nature, arts and literature and entertainment. Listen to your yarn.  Embrace the community and share your ideas with your fellow crafters. It is amazing how inspiration can spread from person to person and create a whole new level in creativity. Don’t be afraid. And ... remember that there is no failure. There are simply opportunities to follow this inspiration cycle and find a new clearer direction.

I hope to see many of you at my Young Designer workshop at Knitty City on March 2, from 6;00-8:00PM.  I will be exploring Inspiration in Knitting Design. I would LOVE to hear your ideas and questions. Let’s work together to discover our sparks and move forward to connect and create successful designs and amazing finished objects. Please bring photos, sketches, swatches, and questions and be ready to be inspired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sea of Pink Hats

Knitty City has been supporting the Pussyhat Project ever since its inception early December 2016. When we heard that these pink cat-eared hats were being made for the Women's March, we wanted to be a part of this amazing movement.

We were in awe by the response of our incredible community. Many of you were immediately inspired by the Pussyhat Project and you came out to buy yarn in all shades of pink.

We provided a safe place for our community to come together and work diligently on the Pussyhats. We got newbie knitters on their way and we offered help on how to make the hats.

Before long, knitters and crocheters started to drop off finished hats and marchers started to come to the store looking for pink Pussyhats. Hundreds of hats were donated and hundreds of hats were picked up.

It didn't take long before the media knocked on our door. Magee Hickey from Pix11 News did a segment on Knitty City's Pussyhat Knitters, we were featured the New York Daily News and we were mentioned in the New York Times. Also, we were captured by the French, German and Italian media. Thank you for your willingness to be interviewed!

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It was truly beautiful to see our community come together as one. We gathered, worked on our pink hats, voiced our concerns and overcame our fears and anxieties. It was far more than "just making hats". It was a much needed process of healing and empowerment.

We would like to thank each and every single one of you for your dedication, passion, determination and generosity. You made it happen. Because of you, we saw a sea of pink hats during the Women's Marches!

A Knitter's Story

At Knitty City, we love stories, and one of the things we particularly enjoy is learning about how a knitter came to the craft. So, when we met Wallace Boyd, we couldn't wait to ask him about his own journey. He did more than tell us, he agreed to be a guest blogger...... 

My Knitting Story

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Wallace Bass Boyd

 

Raised in the Heart of Dixie, I am first and foremost a southern storyteller. It began early: On cool summer evenings and warm winter nights, my father and I often found ourselves on the porch of our small green house in West Point, Georgia, talking about everything from politics to the Bible. Sometimes those discussions would have a gentleness to them that allowed us to watch each car pass out of view; at other times, they would be so intense that neither one of us saw anything but our own anger, and one of us ended up walking away from the conversation in a huff. Let’s just procrastinate it,” my father often said when he was through talking.

My mother was not a porch sitter. With her gardening, cooking, sewing, and working her two blue-collar jobs as a maid and a factory worker, she was too busy to tell stories on the porch. She saved her stories for the Ladies Savings Club meetings that she hosted at least once a month. It was there that my mother told her tales of family struggle, work troubles, and clever financial management to her lady friends who would either erupt into laughter or nod in quiet, respectful agreement.

Although I was forbidden from contributing to these “grow folks” conversations of my mother’s, I listened as much as I could, especially when my mother would summon me to play the piano to entertain her friends.

My mother and great grandmother sewed. I learned color theory by accompanying my mother to the fabric store.  While she shopped the fine paisley, cotton, and seer-sucker offerings, I tunneled my way through cathedrals of fabric bolts leaning against one another. This is how I learned about colorways. 

I started knitting seriously in 1997 after I finished Florida State University's Masters of Mass Communications program in Tallahassee, Florida. Suddenly in possession of a degree that was personally unfulfilling for me, it was a time of personal upheaval and starting over. Seeing my angst, a long-time friend turned me on to Julia Cameron’s seminal self-help creative recovery book, "The Artist’s Way", in which she counsels blocked creatives to get a hobby as part of her 12 week program. I chose knitting.  

So, in time, when I was looking for an inexpensive way to quickly improve my knitting skills, after moving to Washington, DC in January 2001, a knitting-crochet support group seemed a perfect fit for me because of its potential for social circle storytelling. Shortly after arriving in Washington, I posted a call for help on a Washington area knitter's listserv, with the intention of starting a face-to-face knitting group. I connected with a Takoma Park, Md. woman who wanted to form such a group, Together we decided to call it "Knitting-n-The-City",  after the popular television show “Sex and the City.”

Starting with a monthly meeting on the 4th Tuesday of each month, the now-defunct free support group began meeting in Takoma Park in February 2001. It eventually spread  to each of the DC quadrants, with groups meeting monthly, on different days of the month. By 2005, the email list had almost 250 subscribers who supported each other on-line and in-person, sometimes several times a month.

 While I came to Washington with basic knitting skills and excellent manual dexterity, thanks to piano studies and manual typing skills, it was Knitting-n-The-City that allowed me to flourish. 

Today, I am making a name for myself in the fiber arts world under my brand “That Brother Can Knit!”.  In my early days of knitting, people were so fascinated by seeing me knitting in public that I decided to capitalize on it. 

Now, I sell my self-published book and stranded knitting designs under that moniker. The name brand grabs people’s attention, and it reflects my awareness of the novelty of my fiber arts practice. In addition, I tell inspirational and transformational stories about knitting. “Knitting My Father Breath” is my favorite.

Author of That Brother Can Knit: A Creative Memoir of A Black Gay Man From Alabama (lulu.com), Wallace Bass Boyd is a creative writer, multicultural storyteller, and folk fiber artist. He has taught knitting classes at the prestigious John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina and in craft stores in Washington, DC.  He also enjoys empowering others to tell their story. He has taught memoir writing workshops to New York City elders at the Riverdale YHA and the JASA Coop City senior centers. Look for his knitwear designs at quality yarn shops and on Ravelry.com. Following is a brief slide show of some of his designs. Wallace will be appearing on First Thursday, Feb. 2, at Knitty City, from 6:00-8:00PM.  Please join us.