Andrea Mowry, aka Drea Renee Knits aka @dreareneeknits, burst onto the knitting scene with great force in the past few years. I remember her sweet “Man on the Street” segment on the Woolful podcast when it was new (2014) confessing that she wanted knitting to be her life and she was taking the leap, and now she’s arguably one of the most popular pattern designers around. She is a major, major Fringe Field Bag devotee (here she is knitting out of one in Labor and Delivery), and there’s a certain charm in the fact that her wildly popular Find Your Fade shawl and the Field Bag seem to be a remarkably popular combination. If I had a dollar for every photo on the #fringefieldbag feed of a Field Bag and a Fade …
Anyway, she’s also an absolutely lovely person, who I had the pleasure of meeting and teaching with at Squam this June. And I found myself wanting a peek into her knitting life. Thanks for answering my questions, Andrea!
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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?
I definitely identify mostly as a knitter. I was taught as a child by my grandma, and there is very rarely a day that passes without yarn in my hands. But I also bake and embroider, and I have big dreams of becoming as familiar with my sewing machine as I am with my knitting needles. I had a very brief affair with spinning, but now I have found that my knitting is a jealous mistress and doesn’t appreciate sharing any of my time. I have big dreams that once my littles are in school I will be able to really jump more into my fringe crafts. Which may explain my ever-growing collection of sewing patterns to outfit my whole family in a handmade wardrobe. One can dream, right?
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.
In all my years of knitting, I have become pretty opinionated on my favorite tools. I wish when I had first started that someone had pointed me in the direction of a high quality interchangeable needle set. I think I have pretty much tried them all by now, and my favorites are Chiaogoo and Lykke. My Chiaogoo are my workhorse needles: pointy tip, sleek metal, and a fabulously flexible cord. My Lykkes are my “Andrea it is time to slow down and just revel in your knitting” needles, the smooth driftwood relaxes me and is gorgeous to look at. I think the best things to look for are sharp tips so you can maneuver your stitches, a flexible cord that won’t kink, and a smooth join. I only knit with circular needles, so having a set of interchangeables means I always have what I need! I also prefer the shorter tips, as I find they are more practical for every application. My other “must have with me at all times” tools include my little sheep measuring tape, tapestry needles, small metal round stitch markers, sharp embroidery scissors and a row counter. And of course notebooks and pens, but that is a whole other post!
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
Since I use interchangeable needles, they come organized for me! I have dreams of having this gorgeously organized and decorated studio, but if I am being honest, I really use everything I have invested in, and as I work I tend to spread out and jump around from project to project. I find that I am always searching for balance, and this always comes out in my work by doing a lot of tasks all at once. Computer work here, pieces being blocked there, different types of projects on my needles with different amounts of complexity. A little finishing work, a little swatching and sketching. I think to an outsider it would look like total chaos, but to me it actually just feels really organic, my own little hive of activity.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
Well its no secret that I have a nice little collection of Fringe Field Bags! They contain all of my WIPs. My yarn collection is organized on one wall of my studio on big shelves that my husband put up for me. My project bags are the end cap for each shelf. I really like having my yarn, projects and tools out and in view. I find that when things are hidden away, they are just too easy to forget about. Having everything displayed out in front of me is really inspiring, and I think it helps promote finishing projects as they are staring me in the face until I get them done!
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
I have found that finding tools I really love using, and that really do their job well, makes my work so much more enjoyable. I have taken the time to try out different styles, so I could find what is best for me. I try to only hold onto what I use and truly enjoy using. So all of my tools are pretty special to me. I think my biggest splurges are probably my cameras, Fringe Field Bags and Twig & Horn wool needle cases. Each has played an important role in my work, even if just by bringing a smile to my face or helping me to stay a little bit more organized.
Do you lend your tools?
Yes, or even better: I give them away! For those of us lucky enough to have been bitten by the knitting bug, once you become obsessed, I think it is a very natural transition to begin using higher quality tools and yarn. In the beginning I tried out different things as I figured out what really worked for me. Now I love to pass on knitting needles and yarn to other knitters. I also always seem to have an abundance of tapestry needles and stitch markers, so if you are ever caught short, just come find me and I will help you out!
What is your favorite place to knit?
Cafés. Preferably with a friend. Even better if it is outdoor seating in the autumn. And if it is near water, life is really good. But you can find me just as happily stitching away alone in my room, or on a family walk, or on the bus, or a plane, or out to dinner, or at a bar.
What effect do the seasons have on you?
I am a year-round, all-season knitter, but I do find I crave different yarn at different times of year. As it warms up, I want all the bright and speckled yarns, but as it cools, the woolier the better!
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?
I unabashedly love yarn. I think sometimes we tend to feel more comfortable if we can put ourselves neatly under a label, but I have found that when I do that, I just rebel against it. Ha! I think sometimes people are surprised by my equal love of speckled brights and earthy, woolly natural yarns. But I just love it all! My two favorite yarns are Brooklyn Tweed and Hedgehog Fibres. They inspire me in different ways, and I’ve realized thats a good thing. I jump around and I don’t judge what’s inspiring me. I try to just listen and go with it. While today I am totally gaga over a one-of-a-kind skein from an indie dyer, tomorrow I might go all in on some unknown farm yarn that just feels so right in my hands! Either way, I am one happy little knitter.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished up a cardigan and am working on some woolly slippers for fall. I’ve always got a shawl on my needles, and that is usually my knitting happy place. But I think I’m headed towards a new season in my work. All I can think about these days are sweaters, and I have ideas just pouring out of my head. So yeah, lots more sweaters are in the works!
PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Anna Dianich
Photos © Andrea Mowry, used with permission