In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.
So if you read this blog, you know what a huge admirer I am of Jared Flood, his knitting designs, and his illustrious company, Brooklyn Tweed. And I’m obviously far far from alone in that. I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with Jared in recent months, first at Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle and then again at Squam, where he was the “knitter in residence.” (My new goal in life is to be dubbed “knitter in residence” somewhere other than my own illusory front porch.) While those encounters were just brief conversations in crowded venues, I was struck by what a pleasant and genuine person he seems to be, as I’m sure you’ll see by his answers to my Our Tools questions. I also hope you’ll love the photos (Jared had the clever idea to photograph his worktable at various moments over the course of a few weeks) and that you’ll join me in wishing him HAPPY BIRTHDAY today. Thank you, Jared!
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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?
Yes, I have some experience with all of these things, but my primary interests are knitting and sewing. Knitting is obviously my main “bread and butter” — both as a hobby and now as my career! Sewing is something I’ve picked up later in life, particularly after falling into a career path as a knitwear designer — learning to sew has been a natural outgrowth and feeds my interest in shape, textile architecture and fabric. Slippery slope there …
I’ve dabbled in weaving and dyeing, but would not consider myself anything other than an amateur in each area! I recently took a card weaving class, which was completely amazing. Add it to the growing list of hobbies I wish I had extra time to pursue!
I got bitten by the spinning bug in 2007 and was very actively spinning during that year. It taught me a lot about yarn (a subject that I am very passionate about!), and was probably one of the first steps toward my future as a yarn producer.
I would consider myself a pretty good crocheter, but I tend to gravitate to this hobby more for the structural nature of the craft rather than the resulting fabric/garments. I love crochet as a sculptural medium. I also have a very geeky interest in Japanese crochet charting. (If you’ve never seen these charts, they are beautiful works of art in their own right!) I’ll admit to much of my crocheting being an excuse to study and appreciate those charted illustrations!
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.
The tools I regularly use for knitting are very simple — my general preference is to use as few tools as possible to do the maximum amount of tasks. I do 90% of my knitting work with interchangeable circular needles (I am an Addi devotee!), a tapestry needle, rust-proof (coilless) stitch markers, a large gridded blocking board and blocking wires (I absolutely adore my Handworks NW hand-burnished blocking wires – couldn’t live without them) and my smartphone (calculator and camera are in regular use!). I may have occasional use for an odd tool like a pom-pom maker or sharp scissors for steeking, but in general this simple list of tools gets all the work done that I need.
I’m probably a little bit more obsessive about the tools I use for design. I have been a lifelong lover of pens and notebooks, and my notebook collection is one area where I probably seem like a hoarder. Though in recent years, I’ve found a specific brand of Japanese notebook that I use religiously: spiral binding, hard plastic cover, perfectly sized sheets and — most importantly — a dot-rule grid. I love working on grids (which thankfully I need to do often in knitwear design), and a dot-rule grid allows me the presence of the grid without a large amount of visual clutter coming from traditional gridlines on graph paper. It’s the perfect marriage of graph paper and blank sketching paper — again, the more versatile the better.
I’m also very particular with my writing and sketching tools. I like precision tools, so tend to use Japanese writing utensils — both pens and mechanical pencils — with tip fineness in the range of .3 to .4 mm. (Now my inner geek is really coming out!)
The other tool area that I remain uncompromising about is software. I spend a lot of my time doing design and photography work on-screen, and over the years have honed in on those tools that are most well-designed and efficient for my own workflow. I spend a lot of time working in Adobe Illustrator (an absolutely amazing piece of software!) working on design mock-ups, pattern drafting, chart and schematic illustration, etc. Illustrator is seriously powerful, and having spent the time to figure out specific ways it can work for my needs has been totally worth it over the years. For digital photography, I am completely reliant on my Wacom tablet, which transforms photo processing (at least in my own head) from something mechanical to something much more painterly. It allows digital photography to feel more like hands-on work in a darkroom, which I really love.
A few other pieces of software that I can’t live without are PathFinder for Mac (a browser replacement for Finder that is incredibly feature-rich and geared towards power-users who manage a wide variety of files, folders, directories, servers, etc.), OmniPlan (a beautiful solution for project management, which I rely on for all sorts of project planning, most notably scheduling for all of our overlapping collection schedules at Brooklyn Tweed), and Curio (a “mind mapping” software that I use for visual planning and organization — when curating or putting together a design collection, color story or pattern roster, for example).
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
I’m a very organized person in general, and I like for my tools and supplies to have a good system of order. First, I am constantly trying to whittle down my tools to only the most essential things I need. If I haven’t used a tool for a year or more, I most likely will donate it or give it away. I find the constant process of editing my tools very liberating – and a sort of meditative practice, like constantly reassessing yourself and your needs for your current situation.
For the tools that I do use regularly, I like compartmentalized organizers or other custom-sized vessels. (I have a weakness for the Container Store.) I keep my circular needles organized in hanging case with sizes clearly marked. Circular needles are by far my most beloved tool for knitting.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
With my knitting, I’ve been working hard for the last few years to minimize both my stash and the number of unfinished, outstanding projects that I have languishing. It’s certainly been an exercise in self-control, as any avid knitter can probably understand — but it’s been a very rewarding payoff. For the first time, I have only a handful of in-progress projects in my life, and as such can store them in very simple ways. I love woven baskets, so store most of my projects in various corners of my living space in baskets that I’ve been collecting over the years.
My ultimate goal would be to have 1-3 projects “in-process” at any given time. I haven’t gotten there yet, but it’s a goal that I’m slowly but surely moving closer to.
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
I inherited my mother’s sewing machine — a Japanese machine from the late ’70s that works wonderfully. I love knowing that I’m working on the machine that churned out tons of awesome, neon children’s clothes for my brothers and me in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Do you lend your tools?
Not usually — but I think that has more to do with the fact that I am a very solitary maker; my crafting pursuits and social life don’t intersect much. (Aside from my day-to-day interaction with my team at Brooklyn Tweed, which provides plenty of creative stimulation!)
When it comes to lending tools, I usually prefer to give something away instead — it’s all part of my constant effort to pare down my tools to only the essentials. As I get older, I notice that I tend more and more towards a minimalist approach to my tools and possessions in general.
What is your favorite place to knit?
I like knitting really late at night when the world has gone silent. I find that this is the best time to let my mind wander and to really enjoy the process of making stitches.
What effect do the seasons have on you?
I am a fall and winter creature to the core. I have a quiet, pensive personality – and I find that my innate personal traits seem more at home in the colder months, when the weather forces us to slow down, stay indoors, and contemplate the inner workings of our lives.
Spring and summer can be lovely, of course, but as a Pacific Northwest native, I am severely ill-equipped for East Coast heat and humidity in the summer, even after almost a decade living here!
I do, of course, knit year-round — and very happily. I don’t discredit the role my air conditioner plays in my ability to knit with wool even during the hottest days of summer, however.
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?
While I don’t think it should be considered a “quirk,” I absolutely love swatching. I know I am in the minority of knitters with this, but there it is!
I love spending time and care on my swatches, getting a feel for a new stitch pattern and a new fabric, studying the behavior of the yarn at a certain gauge, and getting to know the essence of my garment before I begin work on it. A lot of people seem surprised or shocked that I finish my swatches with the same care I do any other knitted item (charting them, wet blocking, weaving in ends, squaring all the edges, etc.) but to me it just seems like good sense. Plus, I love having perfect little swatches around me — they give me inspiration and help fuel new ideas.
What are you working on right now?
For Brooklyn Tweed, I am working on my designs for our Winter 2015 collection, scheduled for release in January of next year. In my personal knitting, I’ve been playing around with some linen yarns, and am working up an open-gauge linen pullover for myself that will be a great summer “knock around” item. I absolutely love linen — and especially love that I can throw it in the washing machine and it will get softer and more worn-in with time. It’s also such a huge contrast to my true love — wool — that it feels nice to change it up and explore new fibers when I have the time.
PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew
Photos © Jared Flood