The ten of you who’ve been reading this blog since the beginning might remember that my very first Blog Crush post (Jan 2012) was an ode to Jenny Gordy’s now-dormant-but-still-readable blog. Jenny and her webshop, Wiksten, were a huge inspiration to me in starting Fringe Supply Co. — I still have the original printed Wiksten Tank pattern I ordered from her, which contributed to so many of my opinions about what receiving an online order should feel like. And of course she and her patterns and her personal style have been referenced here many times over the years. So it’s a real treat for me to get to run this interview with her today. And I know a lot of you are equally huge fans, so I hope you’ll enjoy this peek into her studio and her knitting and sewing life.
For more of Jenny, follow @shopwiksten on Instagram; check out her current blog here (here’s her daughter, Iris, wearing my dream outfit); and see all of her patterns and fabric bundles in her shop. And for those wondering about the Kimono Jacket pattern pictured above and mentioned below (with modifications and variations since it first appeared in Making), Jenny says it’s coming in June! So the wait is almost over.
Thanks for doing this, Jenny! Here we go—
. . .
Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?
I have the most experience with sewing, which I’ve done since I was a child. I’ve always found it incredibly empowering to be able to dream something up and then literally stitch it into existence that very day (like the time my best friend and I decided we just HAD to make a wedding dress for her hamster so that it could get married). Growing up, I spent afternoons and evenings with anyone who would teach me — from my grandmother and mother to my friends’ mothers.
I loved sewing clothing so much that I ended up going to fashion school in New York to study patternmaking. In school, I had to figure out how to construct garments by myself, and I got to take couture sewing classes. Going to class every day made me feel so giddy that I was bouncing off the walls. I felt very lucky.
When I was in my late twenties I learned how to knit, and it opened up a whole new world to me. I still can’t believe I wasted over twenty years of my life NOT KNITTING! I’m happiest when creating, and this was a relaxing way I could do that just for fun with no pressure or deadlines. I still love sewing, but for me it’s work. Knitting isn’t. It’s comforting and cozy, portable and easy.
Although I’m able to read and write patterns well enough, I don’t consider myself an experienced knitter. I only want to wear things in very simple styles, so I’ve never learned how to do more complicated pieces. In my knitting work I tend to focus on perfecting simple things by doing them over and over again, so I’d say I’m very experienced with a few things and not much else.
I haven’t done much dyeing in recent years, but when I had my clothing line I used to do a bit of fabric dyeing. I did just indigo-dye a Kimono Jacket sample for the pattern cover, which turned out really lovely and made me hungry for more. My friends and I are constantly talking about wanting to dye things with avocado pits, but I still haven’t done it.
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.
There are 3 sewing tools I’m obsessed with: (1) a sleeve board for pressing narrow things like sleeve cuffs and underarm seams, (2) a seam gauge for hemming, and (3) an edgestitching foot (for a sewing machine). If you know my patterns well or have taken classes from me, that last one might make you laugh since I can never shut up about it. I have no interest in sewing without these tools. I think everyone probably knows about a seam gauge, but I’m shocked that so many people endure sewing without those other two.
I also have to have two Zirkel magnetic pin holders — one at my cutting table and one next to my sewing machine. Fiskars Razor Edge spring-assist shears are the only scissors I’ve found that don’t fatigue my thumb after constant cutting. Fiskars doesn’t make the style I like anymore, but you can get the old ones on Etsy. People think I’m crazy for using them on both paper and fabric, but they’re so sharp it doesn’t even matter.
As far as knitting tools go, I’m pretty into using Addi Turbo Lace circular needles for most projects, and I like using wood double-pointed needles for socks or tiny baby things.
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
I bought a label maker last year and put lots of things into labeled clear plastic bins with lids, which makes it very easy to find things. My cutting table has shelves on the backside with massive space for storage, so I tuck the bins away since the plastic isn’t so attractive. I have an assortment of wood caddies, baskets, and handmade ceramic cups and dishes around my studio that hold various tools and supplies. One of my favorite things I’ve recently installed is a Shaker peg rail with shelf above the cutting table for hanging patterns, scissors, rulers and other patternmaking supplies. It’s freed up a lot of table space.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
I have a nice collection of beautiful woven pouches with zippers or drawstrings for holding my knitting projects. I keep these, along with some needles and yarn, in a drawer of the credenza below our living room TV for easy access.
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
I was very close to my grandmother, who taught me how to sew. When she died, I inherited her vast collection of vintage fabric scraps and crafting tools. I will basically never need to buy hand-sewing needles ever again. She loved to travel and would collect thimbles from all over the world, and my mom recently let me have a sweet handmade ceramic one from her collection in our favorite colors, blue and white. The whole look of it just really reminds me of her.
Do you lend your tools?
Always! I want everyone to share the joy that I get from knitting and sewing, so I actively try to convert people into crafters if they show the tiniest bit of interest. I always offer to give my friends free lessons and lend tools if they’re into it. If I get the tools back, great. If not, no worries!
What is your favorite place to knit?
I love to travel, so I would say my most pleasurable knitting is done on a plane, in the car on a road trip, in a hotel room, or in a beautiful setting outdoors. However, most of my knitting is done on the couch while watching my daughter play or while watching a movie, preferably covered in cats. Sometimes I knit in bed with headphones and an audiobook while my husband reads next to me. I love knitting at friends’ houses when we have knitting night. There are too many favorite places! I love them all.
What effect do the seasons have on you?
I knit and sew year round. I’m definitely one of those people who knit at the beach.
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?
Nothing too interesting. I’m pretty monogamous when it comes to knitting projects. I usually stick to one at a time. Also I no longer buy yarn unless I’m going to start on a specific pattern immediately.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve been working on the same knitting project for 5 months! It’s the West End Cardigan by Hannah Fettig in Quince & Co Owl in Cinnamon. I’ve been really distracted by some things going on in my life, and I keep messing up and having to rip back and do sections over. Although not a particularly difficult pattern, it’s just been a real struggle to finish. I typically do not give up though.
Over the winter, I worked on sketching and swatching women’s cardigan and pullover knitting pattern designs that I’m really anxious to start writing. So many other projects have been getting in the way, but I’m going to have some time this summer to devote to it. I’m sure I’ll end up trying to do a kid’s version too if I can find the time.
In sewing projects, I’ve just finished up the Kimono Jacket pattern. I’m always sewing Wiksten samples to both test things out and create content for Instagram. I love sewing my own designs, because I’ve done them so many times that it’s a breeze. It’s just really satisfying to do the same thing over and over again, getting better each time. I’m going to take a week or two to have fun sewing samples and give myself a break before diving head first into the next pattern. I have a list of pattern ideas that I want to develop in the next year, and I’m just so excited about them.
PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Niree Noel