Beyond New Favorites: Marlisle

Beyond New Favorites: Marlisle

The most astonishing thing about knitting — this thing people have been doing for centuries! — is that not only is there always more to learn, but there are still clever people coming up with new ways do things all the time! New shaping and construction methods, smoother increases/decreases, original stitch combinations and motifs. You can argue that there’s actually nothing new under the sun — that every idea has been had before; maybe we just don’t know about it. But it doesn’t matter! It’s the constant flow of creativity that thrills me. And Anna Maltz’s new book, Marlisle: A new direction is knitting, is a superlative example. The book released on Saturday (our copies are going quickly!) and I can’t remember being so excited about a brilliantly simple idea or a collection of patterns.

It occurred to Anna (aka @sweaterspotter) awhile back that if you were knitting with two yarns held together — creating a marl — and you dropped one of them from time to time, carrying it as a float in the back for a few stitches, you could suddenly do all sorts of intriguing things, with none of the fuss of intarsia. She calls the idea “marlisle” — marl crossed with Fair Isle — and it first appeared on her Humboldt sweater, which has been in my queue ever since. With this new book, though — and the 11 patterns it contains — she’s really pushing the envelope, and applying the idea in a variety of ways. There are simple but very effective applications like the hat above, Hozkwoz, or the cover sweater, Midstream, with vertical stripes up the front and back. There are slightly more complex ones, such as the drop-dead stunning yoke sweater, Trembling, with its 3D facet motif. And there’s the incredibly meticulous pair of mittens, Delftig, with an intricate tile-like design achieved by alternating between holding one color, the other, or the two together. So she’s covered a range of surface designs — from bold and graphic to allover flame patterning to gingham and plaid and trompe l’oeil effects, and used them on everything from hats and cowls to shawls and sweaters. The whole thing is truly stunning, and I’m sooooo excited and inspired by it all. I cannot wait to cast on.

You can see all of the patterns at Ravelry and order a copy at Fringe Supply Co. (Our stack is dwindling but we’ll have more any minute!) There’s a fresh interview with Anna on the East London Knit podcast, and you can also read more about the Ricefield Collective here and her appearance in Our Tools, Ourselves here.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Colorwork mitts

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Our Tools, Ourselves: Anna Maltz

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.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Anna Maltz

I’ve sung Anna Maltz’s praises before, and if you follow her on Instagram — where she’s well-known as @sweaterspotter, originator of #fairislefriday — you already know she’s a true original and a yarn fiend par excellence. (If you don’t already follow her, be sure to take a stroll through her colorful feed.) I love the way the world looks to her, so naturally I wanted to hear her responses to the Our Tools questions and get a closer look at her London creative space, and she did not disappoint. Thanks so much, Anna!

Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

All of the above! I am constantly picking up new skills from other people, books and online – I love it! I also learn a lot through the teaching I do: by coming into contact with the skills, enthusiasm and imagination of my students. It is inspiring to work alongside experts and newbies, as both push creative boundaries in quite different ways. Of all the craft skills I use, I am most committed to knitting. I learnt from family and friends when I was 5 and took to it seriously in my mid-teens, half a lifetime ago.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I am very project specific about the knitting needles I use. It doesn’t just depend on the shape and construction of what I’m making; colour, temperature and location all factor in. Circular needles are especially great for travelling, as it’s easier to not have the stitches escape en route – they pack well. However, I actually find a good pair of straights more forgiving on my wrists. I have a big collection of vintage ones and I do like to have the colour of my needles compliment my yarn choice. I generally prefer metal needles, except if I plan to knit at the cinema (or in a lecture or meeting), where wood, bamboo or plastic is a must. Metal would just be downright anti-social!

Those little removable stitch marker clips that Clover makes – the ones that look like stumpy plastic safety pins in turquoise and orange – LOVE THEM! They used to be unavailable in England, so I’d stock up on my travels. And I love their pompom makers.

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

I share a studio. It’s my biggest extravagance, even though it’s an essential. It’s my main organisational tool as it is where I store all my other tools. The temptation to organise and archive runs strong through my veins, so much so that it can steal time away from making things. I try to go easy and admit that colour sorting my button collection is for the greater part a pleasure, rather than a necessity.

I like to use what’s at hand rather than spend lots (money and time) in the quest for perfect solutions. That said I couldn’t live without shelving, drawers and boxes. My circular needles are stored in recycled envelopes by individual size, marked on in mm/US/UK. Crochet and latch hooks are stored in reclaimed tins (aka cans) either with the paper labels ripped off, or ideally tins that have a nice print on. I keep my regular and short DPNs by individual size in little cases I got in Ifugao. They are sewn from fabric woven by local women who are now friends.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Anna Maltz

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

Only my WIPs are allowed in the flat, everything else stays at the studio. It’s small and cosy, so we need to stay on top of tidying or else it gets crazy. I have rescued a number of woven wicker baskets from the bins that conveniently fit under the couch and two armchairs; that is where my projects go.

I annotate my WIPs with little swing tags (like for prices or luggage). Invariably when I return to a project after a few weeks (having thought I wouldn’t put it down till it was done) I won’t remember the details I thought I would never forget. Notes really help. They are quicker than reverse engineering.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

I keep a beat up old Texas Instruments calculator in my Take-With-Me-Tools Pouch. I have had it since secondary school. It has a holographic sticker on it, applied by a friend, from a guarana cola bottle (words well worn off by now). I’m not quite sure I would call it ‘prized’, but I would miss it and it would be weird without. I bought myself a proper knitting calculator, but haven’t actually started using it.

Items that truly are prized … I have a filing cabinet with letter-sized drawers from my New York grandparents. It’s where all my buttons, ribbons, rikrac, dyes, glitter and googlie eyes are kept. My Dutch grandmother’s loom is in pieces right now, but I hope to set that up and use it one day. She was a professional weaver.

Do you lend your tools?

Yes. I try to keep track of what’s out on loan with a sort of library card system. Of course I need to be pretty sure I won’t need whatever it is until it’s returned, but hey, I know where you live … . The quality of what I lend will be based on what I think your skill level/need is and how much I like you/likelihood of you returning it. When I lived in San Francisco for 5 years, it was really nice to know my sewing machine was being used by a good friend, rather than gathering dust. These things are all made to be used and often hold up better if they are.

What is your favorite place to knit/crochet/whatever?

A big part of the reason why I started using knitting at art school was the fact that it is an inherently social practice. Rather than being an archetypical artist, suffering alone in a garret with my paintbrush and at most a naked lady or vase of flowers to keep me company, I wanted to do something that was portable and social. Knitting is generally taught to us by friends and family and worked on in good company over juicy conversations. What we make is often for someone else.

I have measured the increase in my knitting skills over the years by where I can knit – starting with needing to give it my full attention, I’ve risen through music to talk radio, then television and on to subtitled films at the cinema. Of course it depends on what I am knitting, not just because of how complex it is. What I take on the bus or train will be something I am happy to answer questions about. I don’t always feel like explaining it’s a gorilla, or lying that it isn’t one. If I am knitting in company, I will try to work on something that requires less attention: no counting through big repeats. For this reason I think of garter stitch as the social stitch: it is fab for when the conversation flows thick and fast.

All that said, if I am working on a pattern, I do need some quiet.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

Temperature is definitely a consideration — a giant hot fluffy pile in your lap is ideal in the winter, but a major sweaty drawback when it’s sunny. I still love knitting in the summer, when I can take it out to sit on a park bench and people watch. If I’m lucky, someone will sit next to me and pull out their knitting.

I love doing stranded colourwork in cotton, or open knits in linen. Dyeing is also something I prefer to do in the summer, when I can splash it around outside.

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

I really don’t like following patterns, but I love looking at the pictures.

What are you working on right now?

Where to start!? I am trying to wrap up loose ends on all the patterns I have half complete, so that I can publish them and start on new things with a clean slate. I am thinking about the next patterns for Ricefield Collective, excited to be working on a music video with Nina Miranda, looking forward to writing regularly for PomPom magazine, and … I really should start blogging.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Anna Maltz

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Noelle Sharp (Aporta Textiles)

New Favorites: Bobble hats

New Favorites: Bobble hats

It’s raining bobble patterns. I had fun knitting the nupp rows on my Trillium (which I am THIS CLOSE to finishing) and between the last two months of sweater knitting and all the talk around here of smaller projects for the warmer months, I’m eager for hats. So much the better if they’re bobble hats, and this week the universe presented a few options:

Diode by Erica Smith is the restrained entry in the field. Relatively tiny sport-weight bobbles create an overall texture, and I love the doubled brim. York Bobble Toque* by Tara-Lynn Morrison is characteristically chunky but also written for aran weight — above is the chunky version pictured on her way-too-cool daughter. And last but far from least is Anna Maltz’s Archipelago. which I’ve been waiting for ever since she posted it on Instagram and was begged by many to write the pattern. Like everything Anna is involved with, it looks like a ton of fun.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: everything Leila Raabe

*pattern sent to me by the designer

Ricefield Collective knitting school, Ifugao Philippines

Ricefield Collective knitting school Ifugao Philippines

There’s a chance I’ve said some version of this before, but my favorite thing about Instagram is being able to travel the globe every morning without even getting out of bed. I stowed away on @lilystockman‘s recent trip to Bagru to visit the artisans who print her scarves (for Block Shop Textiles). I routinely greet the glorious bulls on @benjaminhole‘s breathtaking British farm. I stumbled across the lovely @sarahgenelle a couple of months ago, just as she declared that she was leaving Portland for Uganda, and I soon figured out that she was taking up my friend Doug’s former Peace Corps post (talk about a small world), so now I watch as she meets and works with his old friends, some of whom I “know” through his photos and stories. But the big event lately has been the photos coming from the amazing women behind Ricefield Collective@sweaterspotter (Anna Maltz) and @weknit4life (Meredith Ramirez) — as well as their guest instructor, @westknits (Stephen West). As promised in their funded Kickstarter campaign, they have been in the Philippines teaching the women of Ifugao to knit hats to support themselves. And between the yarn, the dye pots, the scenery, and the apparently immense good cheer of everyone involved, it’s been an amazing trip to get to witness. Meredith, Anna and Stephen have left the village for Manila at this point, with “a trunk full of hats,” so make sure you scroll through their feeds ASAP, before the village photos get pushed too far downstream. (Just click on the linked usernames within this post and you can view them on the web.)

Also, if you’re not following me on Instagram (@karentempler) today might be a good day to start. I’m doing a little giveaway …

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Photos by Anna Maltz/@sweaterspotter, used with permission