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.
One of the most covetable things I’ve seen in ages is a rocking chair in progress. It’s by weaver, knitter and Aporta Textiles owner Noelle Sharp, and it’s specifically designed for knitters, with lower arms and … well, just look at it. I’ve been following Noelle on Instagram for a bit, in love with her freshly tied warps and striking accessory designs and photos of Iceland, etc. But that chair really got me wanting to see more of what her world looks like. And so here she is — thanks, Noelle!
. . .
Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?
I am a knitter and a weaver. My mother taught me how to knit when I was six, and I learned how to weave at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Fiber Materials Department, although my training there was mostly conceptual weaving.
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.
When I knit, I prefer to use bamboo or wooden needles. I like the weight of them as well as the easiness of the stitches sliding from one needle to another.
I have a variety of different weaving tools that I use depending on what projects I am working on. For larger scarves I like to use a shuttle that is large and can hold more yarn so when I am finishing the scarves I don’t have as many ends to sew down.
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
My collection of knitting needles is out of control, so I use a large folding needle case for my circular and short straight needles. My long needles I keep in a large porcelain vase. My weaving supplies are divided up by their function — all of my bobbins are together in a bag and my shuttles in a large white ceramic pot my potter friend made for me.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
With my woven goods, once they are finished they hang on wooden hangers on one of my rolling racks. My knit products are usually in abundance so I have large plastic bins for each product: beanies, scarves and so on. The yarn can get out of control, though right now I have three huge plastic storage tubs full of yarn for production that need to be knit and shipped. I like the bins to be clear so it serves as a reminder that I need to get some knitting done (ha ha). I have been looking for some nice USA handmade wicker storage baskets for my studio but have not come across any I like.
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
I just bought a beautiful Swedish swift that is made out of wood. It’s stunning. I like to keep it out all the time — it functions as a nice piece of decoration.
Do you lend your tools?
I will lend knitting tools but weaving tools usually stay in the studio. Most weavers I know have their own tools, although I have two bobbin winders and am always offering it for people to use since they are expensive to buy.
What is your favorite place to knit or weave?
Depends on my mood! I love to knit and watch movies at night. If I’m in the mountains or by nature, then outside or by the window. Whenever I am home my mom and I sit and knit — I always look forward to that.
What effect do the seasons have on you?
I am constantly knitting. Spring is when I design new additions to the collection, summer is crazy preparing for the fall/winter, and when winter rolls around I continue to knit to fill wholesale reorders and to prepare for markets. I go through fazes of wanting to only knit and wanting to only weave. But I have to force myself to take breaks especially with knitting. I have started to develop some issues with my left wrist where I won’t be able to use that hand at all if I knit too much. I have a knitting intern now so that has helped, strengthening my wrist muscles with weights helps too.
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?
I have a little bit of an OCD problem (ha ha) — it’s manageable. But as I mentioned above, I love having the clear bins to see all the materials that need to be knit or woven into product. It gets me motivated, kind of a game to see how much I can get though in a day. Right now I am obsessed with Icelandic Lopi yarn — I have a ton that I bought when I was living there and want to make a thousand sweaters. Long term projects!
What are you working on right now?
With Aporta, I am spending time doing more digital textile designs which will allow me to have lower priced products in my collection (since my handwoven scarves are on the high-priced side). I am excited to have some screenprinted silk scarves, which should be ready at the end of spring. I am collaborating with a fellow woodworker/artist, Patrick McGuan — we are designing home goods. So far we have a rocking chair for knitters made out of wood ash, an Icelandic sheep pelt and a handwoven Shaker seat. Soon I will be collaborating with a local Chicago boutique to weave custom wall hangings which will be a nice break from wearables. I also have a limited-edition series of necklaces that are now available online. So far the response as been great.
Personally, I am looking forward to some warm weather, although I love the winter. I really miss Iceland and am currently researching the possibility of moving there for a little bit. I’m itching to travel again and am planning my next big trip which will be taking the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Mongolia, so there are a lot of good things to look forward to!
PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Jade and Aurelie (Wool and the Gang)
Photos © Noelle Sharp