Every time I invite someone to answer these Our Tools, Ourselves questions, my hope is to learn (and share) something new about them. Some of the respondents are people I/we know very well; some I know just a little; and others I know almost nothing about. In all three cases, the answers often surprise me. Take the case of Niree Noel here, who you may know as @niree_knits on Instagram. She came to my attention because she routinely shares jaw-droppingly great photos on the #fringefieldbag feed (quite a few of which are included here). Niree is gorgeous, stylish, well-traveled, and she apparently takes a Field Bag with her everywhere she goes — whether it’s some fashionable party, the desert, the flower shop, or the roof deck of MoMA. So I wanted to know more about her and her knitting life, and she graciously obliged.
What I learned is that she’s only been knitting two years, and that she took it up as a way to manage adult-onset anxiety, which she just recently wrote a piece about for Allure magazine. As someone who battled a crippling anxiety disorder throughout my teen years, and often wish someone had putting knitting needles in my hands at that time, I was especially touched to learn this about her. I always says in interviews how much it meant to me, when I did take up knitting, to be making something tangible again — to watch something spring into existence right in front of me. So I was particularly struck by this line from her Allure article: “When something grows in front of you, something you’ve created with your hands, you grow with it.”
I hope you’ll enjoy reading the interview below and the Allure piece. Thanks so much for doing this, Niree!
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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?
I’m a knitter, mainly. While I can crochet and certainly do on occasion, I reach for my knitting needles most often. I’ve dabbled in weaving a few times but always come back to knitting for the elegance and intellectual challenge of it. I used to sew when I was younger and would still love to, but between moving across cities and coasts, and navigating an unpredictable career as a freelance writer and editor, I just haven’t prioritized making time or space for getting back to the sewing machine. Even still, I associate both knitting and sewing with a nostalgia of my childhood; my grandmothers, one from Armenia the other from Iran, taught me those skills when I was growing up (even though I abandoned both by my teen years). Then about three years ago, I started knitting seriously. My grandmothers’ garments, always sophisticated in taste and impeccably made, have definitely inspired my perspective and sensibilities.
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.
When I first started knitting, I was a straight-and-bamboo type of lady. Then I tried circular-and-bamboo, and while it was awkward at first, quickly fell in love with the ease and efficiency of knitting off a cord. About a year in, I noticed my bamboo splintering and taking on the color of my yarn. I went to Purl Soho and picked up my first Addis, which were an absolute revelation. I have a set of the Lykke interchangeables that I like to use with certain projects, but my trusted go-tos are the Addi Turbo Rockets: fixed, 40-inch, perfect for knitting flat or in the round, and long enough for magic loop. In all these years, I have avoided DPNs, but despite joking about having a fear of them, I think I’m going to try them out to see what I may or may not be missing.
Does the Fringe Field Bag count as a tool? Because I have both the black and the natural and they are, by far, my most consistently used knitting-related item.
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
As far as organizing my tools, my Lykkes sit nicely in their beautiful case, on display on my shelf. The rest — my Fringe Supply Co. leather and brass stitch markers, Twig & Horn gauge ruler, Row House stitch markers (that come in jumbo sizes), measuring tape from Stephen & Penelope in Amsterdam, vintage bonsai shearers from a boutique in Petaluma, California, tapestry needles in a wood container from Pulp Soho, crochet hooks and neatly wound circular needles (if any are unused) — go in a canvas zip bag I picked up at a flea market in Park City, Utah. Oh and my Muji pens and Moleskine notebooks, too.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
In my Fringe Field Bags! Neatly folded up. I keep all my project notes in one notebook (that goes inside the notions bag), so I just move that bag between Field Bags, and I’m good to go.
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
These aren’t my tools per se but my mom has this retro sewing basket, and she has a thimble and green measuring tape in there that I remember from my childhood. I’m going to transition those into my arsenal one day when she’s not looking.
Do you lend your tools?
I taught my best friend how to knit and was lending her my needles and tools until I gifted her a set of her own for her birthday. If I were to teach anyone else how to knit, I’d of course share my things, but everyone I know who already practices the craft has an extensive collection of odds and ends.
What is your favorite place to knit?
My favorite and most productive place would definitely be my bed, next to my window, with a cup of coffee. It would only be more perfect if my dog, who currently lives in LA with my parents, were on my lap. I love meeting up with the various knit groups I’ve joined in New York, but that sometimes ends up in undoing more than doing. (Especially if we’re meeting over drinks!) There are a few outdoor spots I love as well, if the weather allows: along the shore of the East River, or somewhere lost in Prospect or Central Park.
What effect do the seasons have on you?
I’m a seasonally inappropriate knitter and have consistently failed to make anything in time for anything. I’ve missed birthdays, and ended up with an alpaca sweater in the spring and half a cotton tank in the fall. I buy wool year round, and finished a 9×16 foot-long wool blanket last July. I wish I planned ahead, or planned better, but I really just go with whatever I find or whatever I’m feeling in the moment.
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?
Even if the fabric is just plain stockinette, I obsessively count my stitches. On each and every row. I think part of it stems from the fact that I picked up knitting to ease some pretty serious adult-onset anxiety (I wrote about this for Allure), so the repetition forces me to focus and gets me into a calm rhythm. It’s slightly annoying when I’m trying to knit and watch a show, or knit and listen to an audiobook, and it can definitely look funny when I’m caught muttering to myself. Despite all that obsessive counting, I still make frequent and embarrassing mathematical errors. C’est la vie.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, on my needles, I have:
– the Needed Me cardigan in a vibrant orange mohair, courtesy of Wool and the Gang
– an improvised top-down v-neck crop raglan sweater in Madeline Tosh’s A.S.A.P. (Gentle Monster colorway)
– another improvised top-down v-neck situation, but a gray cardigan with set-in sleeves, made on size 0 needles in Shibui’s Cima yarn
– an amber/brown triangle shawl with lacework and floral motifs, designed on Jordstad Creek’s Cornwall courtesy of Row House
– Purl Soho’s Diagonal Pinstripe Scarf, in a cream alpaca and berry wool combination
– my first pair of socks in Oysters & Purls hand-dyed yarn (I’m stuck on the heels!)
Upcoming, I have:
– a bonnet for my cousin’s newborn daughter
– a sweater for a friend
– a sweater for myself, with Morris & Sons yarn my parents brought back from their travels in Australia
– a skinny tie for my brother
– a beanie for another friend
And the list goes on…
PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Andrea Mowry