Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

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: the Purl Bee crew

Before I had any idea who she was, it was an encounter with Joelle Hoverson’s book “More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts” that led (within hours) to my learning to knit. You probably already know she’s the co-owner of Purl Soho, that lovely NY store (and webshop) that also supplies us greedy makers with the amazing resource known as The Purl Bee. Having gotten to know Joelle a little bit through Instagram and Pinterest, I asked if she’d be willing to answer my Our Tools, Ourselves questions, and it turned out the whole wildly talented Purl Bee crew wanted to weigh in. So here’s a collective glimpse into the crafting lives of Joelle and Page along with Whitney, Laura, Molly and Corinne, whose names you’re sure to recognize from their copious Purl Bee patterns. Thanks for playing along, ladies!

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

In our private lives, everyone who works on the Purl Bee does a lot of some things and a little of everything else, but publicly, Joelle knits, crochets and sews; Page sews; Whitney knits and crochets; Laura knits and needlepoints; Molly sews and embroiders (and makes friendship bracelets!); and Corinne sews and embroiders … Unless Molly’s crocheting and Laura’s sewing!

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

One thing you’re sure to see at a Purl Bee meeting is a table littered with Purl Soho Zip Bags from Baggu. We all store our projects in them because the zippered opening keeps everything safely inside, no matter how carelessly we treat the bag. And we love the colors!

Another popular tool around here is Sajou’s incredibly beautiful scissors. Half of us vote for the Ciseaux Lievre and half of us are Ciseaux Tour Eiffel fans, but bunnies or monuments, both pairs of scissors are very sharp, very precise and very lovely!

The knitters all agree on a few indispensable tools: Skacel’s new Addi Rocket circular needles have nice, pointy tips and super fast shafts. The combo makes a world of difference when you’re working with lace weight yarns or knitting up fancy stitch patterns. We’re all also newly in love with Fringe Supply’s Brass Stitch Markers, a small detail that adds so much pleasure to knitting!

The sewists on the Bee have some favorites too: We love Merchant & Mills classic tailoring tools: their Pin Magnet, Bodkins and whole collection of straight pins. And we all use Purl Soho’s Hand Sewing Needles which come in a sweet wooden case and are as easy as pie to thread.

And we can’t not mention a few other favorites: the Addi Turbo Needle Gauge (very handy), Clover’s Bias Tape Makers (a must-have), and Ka’s Aluminum Stitch Holders (can’t beat the colors!).

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

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

We all seem to “organize” our vast collections of supplies in a vast collection of containers! From vintage enamel pots to candy tins and from plastic bins to woven baskets, we all agree that the chaos is only tenuously under control.

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

The entire Purl Bee team agrees on this one: Baggu Zipper Pouches! Joelle, as a rule, keeps her most current project in the Purl Soho version, which we all think is a pretty smart idea.

Are there any particular prized possessions amongst your tools?

Laura still hangs onto the crochet hook her mother gave her when she learned how to pick up dropped stitches. It’s banged up and battered at this point, but definitely treasured. And we all consider our Sajou scissors pretty special. Since we use them to snip final threads and tails, they’re the tool that comes in to finish the job with style!

Do you lend your tools?

We’d be pretty pathetic craft emissaries if we hoarded all of our tools for ourselves! We all tend to “lend” our tools with no expectation of getting them back. “Just keep it!”

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

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

The sewists on our team use their kitchen tables, and since they’re all moms, late nights are their witching hours. The knitters and crocheters are, of course, more mobile: airplanes, couches, floors, subways, parks and movie theaters are some of their favorite spots for sneaking in a few rows.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

We craft year-round, but we definitely use seasonal materials: cotton, bamboo and linen in the summer and cashmere, alpaca and wool in the winter. And in preparation for the winter holidays, we always design a few extra-special things!

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

We all have an embarrassingly large amount of fabric and yarn stashed in the closets, drawers and dark corners of our homes. And like all crafters, we have piles of unfinished projects, dating back to the last century!

What are you working on right now?

Since everything we work on ends up on the Purl Bee, you’re about to find out!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Naturally, all of the team’s favorite tools are available at Purl Soho. And I’m thrilled to announce that now includes the full line of Fringe Supply Co. original goods!

Our Tools, Ourselves: the Purl Bee crew

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Anna Maltz

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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)

Our Tools, Ourselves: Noelle Sharp (Aporta Textiles)

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.

Behind the scenes with Noelle Sharp of Aporta Textiles

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!

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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.

Behind the scenes with Noelle Sharp of Aporta Textiles

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.

Behind the scenes with Noelle Sharp of Aporta Textiles

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.

Behind the scenes with Noelle Sharp of Aporta Textiles

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!

Behind the scenes with Noelle Sharp of Aporta Textiles

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Jade and Aurelie (Wool and the Gang)

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Photos © Noelle Sharp

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jade and Aurelie (Wool and the Gang)

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.

Behind the scenes with Jade Harwood and Aurelie Popper of Wool and the Gang

The first time I remember seeing the name Wool and the Gang was when some of their beautifully bagged knitting kits were being sold at Madewell, before I knew how to knit. I still remember the little pang when I saw them. Obviously I’ve paid closer attention since learning to knit, but I confess I really started zeroing in when they recently began selling their patterns individually. Co-founders Jade Harwood and Aurelie Popper get worlds of credit for helping to bring the art of knitting to a new audience over the past several years, and their creativity extends beyond their knitwear designs to inspired collaborations and charitable campaigns. So I’m really pleased they agreed to give us a look into their worklives as knitters!

They’ve also offered up an amazing giveaway for you guys — check the end of this post for details! And make sure to follow @woolandthegang on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.

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

We knit a lot and sew sometimes. We’ve knitted since we were 7 years old, both learning to knit from our grandmothers. We met at Central Saint Martins where we studied Textiles Design covering Weave, Print and Knit. We specialized in Knit, learning skills in both hand knit, domestic and Dubied machine knitting.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

We love to knit using wooden needles — working with wood creates a lovely tension. Circular is our preference because who enjoys to weave in ends. :)

Wool and the Gang

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

We love to use clear jars to store our needles. It keeps them organised but creates a nice decorative feature in the office or home.

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

We pin our swatch samples to big mood boards and keep our works in-progress around the office. We like to wear them a lot mid-development to get a feel of the shape, fit and style.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

Lots of llamas — from stickers to little llama dolls.

Wool and the Gang

Do you lend your tools?

Yes we lend them and they spread everywhere — from our studio to our bags, to our kitchen draw. It’s kind to share needles. :)

What is your favorite place to knit?

In front of a good series like Homeland or Breaking Bad.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

We pretty much knit all year around, however we do always get sooooo excited when wool season comes around where you can cosy up in all your knitted layers. In the summer we like work with our Jersey Be Good T-shirt yarn to make fun summer accessories.

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

We use the leftover yarn for birds to collect to make their nests.

What are you working on right now?

Right now at work we are developing our summer collection — watch this space. However on the personal side of knitting, we are monogramming a lot of hats to gift, using this technique.

Jade Harwood of Wool and the Gang

NOW ABOUT THAT GIVEAWAY: Wool and the Gang wants to give one of you the knit kit of your choice — up to $150 in value! All you need to do to enter is fill out this entry form. The contest is open to Fringe Association readers worldwide (except Russia, sorry) and the winner will be contacted by Wool and the Gang once their name has been randomly chosen.

Good luck!

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PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Kathy Cadigan

Photos © Wool and the Gang

Our Tools, Ourselves: Kathy Cadigan

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.

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

I’m enamored of Seattle photographer Kathy Cadigan‘s taste in knitting. (You’ll recall her Jón hat. See also Monochrome Tolt, Pembroke, Volcanic Maren, etc.) And I am also a fan of her photography, as experienced via Instagram. So naturally I wanted a peek through her lens at her own knitting life. I had no idea what I was in for — you’re going to love this.

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

I’ve tried my hand at all of the above; knitting and spinning are the two I’m most committed to. I first decided to learn to knit 13 years ago after seeing a copy of the now obsolete Martha Stewart Baby Magazine. The first issue featured a beautiful knitting tutorial for a little jacket, knitted on straights, 7 rectangles pieced together. The knitting went just fine but the seaming part was a disaster for me. After that, I sought help at the craft store and have been knitting ever since. Like many knitters who began in the ’90s, I started off knitting with novelty yarns and synthetic blends. Today, my preferences involve only the woolliest and most rustic-y of yarns, thanks in large part to the owner of my LYS, Anna Dianich.

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I’ve haphazardly collected all sorts of needles over the years: plastic, metal, wood, straights, circulars … you name it. Now I knit almost exclusively on Addi metal circs.

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

The majority of my old needles are jumbled together in a plastic  zip-up storage bag.  I dig through it on the odd occasion that I need a US size 50. ;)  Tape measure, darning needles, etc., I keep in an old school pencil box.

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

They’re kind of organized … in a disorganized sort of way.

I like leaving new skeins of yarn out in baskets or on trays because seeing them makes me smile and dream of the new projects they’re intended for.

I “store” works in progress out in the open on wooden trays and also now in Fringe Supply Bento bags! The Bento bags are brilliant because they act like little baskets for display, then they tie up neatly away for travel. Perfect. [Editor’s note: I swear I don’t even anticipate people saying these things, much less prompt it!]

Eventually, all woefully unfinished projects and far-too-long unbroken skeins of yarn go into under-bed storage totes. For the most part, I’ve been pretty good about keeping my stash down.

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

My most prized fiber tool is a recently acquired Sid Sharples/Jack Daniels California Bulky Spinner. It’s solid walnut, crafted in the 1970s.  A lovely knitter/spinner from the Bay Area answered my call on Ravelry when I was searching for that rare bird.

Also, I love collecting books on historical textile traditions. I sort of have books stacked everywhere! It makes me happy to be surrounded by them. I recently picked up a copy of a fabulous book called Knitting in Art. I’d like to try graphing out a beautiful Alaskan motif pictured (under magnifying glass).

Also, also, I love my old cameras. (I’ve included one of my favorite captures: an image of Solfar, the Sun Voyager in Reykjavik, Iceland. I shot it on very unstable instant film. My family had the image enlarged on canvas for me. The result is surprisingly painterly.)

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

Do you lend your tools?

I don’t usually lend.  I just give. Mostly needles and a Rasmussen table loom. ;)

What is your favorite place to knit?

When I knit with my beloved knit group I knit to socialize, catch up on the latest, receive counsel on knitterly things and life in general.

When I need to get down to serious knitting business, my favorite spot is at my desk. Next favorite spot is our window seat. Favorite knitting uniform: swants! and mocs.

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

What effect do the seasons have on you?

Here in Seattle, I find myself knitting almost year-round. I love it even in the summer months! The youngsters at the pool are always curious about what I’m knitting.  I make sure to bring stash yarn and pompom makers with me. The pompoms are always a big hit.

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

Yes. If given the choice between purchasing a knitting kit complete with required yarn and pattern or purchasing the finished knitted object, I choose the FO. Without even blinking.

Except when I went to Iceland. I brought home both.

What are you working on right now?

I’m experimenting with different fibers to spin bulky singles for a Cowichan-style sweater vest. I really don’t know what I’m doing. But I’ve been so inspired after a trip to see Andrea Rangel in Cowichan Bay with my friends Anna and Paula.

I brought home a Cowichan Sweater made by a Coast Salish knitter as reference for construction. It will be quite the learning curve!

Photographer Kathy Cadigan's knitting life

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Lauren (of Süsk and Banoo)

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Photos © Kathy Cadigan

Our Tools, Ourselves: Lauren (aka “Süsk”)

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.

Interview with Lauren of Susk & Banoo

You all remember the “mantastic” cowl from way back last week, I know, knitted by the charming miss Lauren of Süsk and Banoo. From the minute I saw her blog, I knew I wanted to see and hear more about her life as a knitter (in Helsinki), so of course I invited her to participate in Our Tools, Ourselves. Her answers and photos are just as colorful and charming as I could have expected. Kiitos paljon, Lauren!

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

I am just a knitter. I took a sewing class in high school and promptly forgot everything except how to sew on buttons, and after trying to learn to crochet and making a right mess of things, I stuck to the safety zone of knitting. My Mum taught me how to cast on and do the basic knit and purl stitches about seven years ago, and the rest I picked up from books and lurking online and following patterns. I’m still a little uncertain about officially calling myself a knitter, since I still panic when a stitch drops or something is twisted or not right, and have to grab a book to try to figure out what I’ve done wrong!

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I have to sit up straight. I can’t “lean-knit” or anything — especially on circular knitting needles, as my stupidly-long arms get uncomfortable and I get huffy and throw the knitting down. Seating position is paramount! I also much prefer knitting on straight needles than circular, but I just like the way they look, I think! This could be an odd graphic designerism — we do love a straight line!

Lauren of Susk & Banoo knitting needle storage

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

I have this bright mustard ceramic jug that my Mum always used when we were little to serve the custard she had made for on our mashed bananas. (Real England poor-folk pudding!) We were joking some years ago about how she was going to leave it to me in her will (we’re an odd bunch) but instead she surprised me a few years ago by giving it to me sooner. It now is my dedicated needle jug, and it always makes me happy to see it. Other bits and bobs get shoved in a little weird cloth suitcase I found in Paris in a children’s shop, and I keep my wool in two wire baskets I found in a shop here in Helsinki.

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

Since discovering Fringe Supply Co., I use the cute Bento Bags for smaller projects, and the handy Project Bag for bigger knits when I’m out and about. If I’m at home, projects are usually strewn about on various surfaces or tucked into a basket.

Lauren of Susk & Banoo knitting needles

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

The first needles I ever knit on are a horribly ugly pair of grey Aero 6mm needles. They’re the pair on which my Mum taught me — one is shorter than the other and discoloured and warped, but they’re my old buddies. I also have a tiny pair of childrens needles with little happy faces on the end that I rather like. In fact, I used them so much while sitting through boring University lectures that when we had to design a personal identity for a school project for our fellow classmates, the guy who designed mine used the shape and face of the needles as the basis to my business card shape, and whole identity’s look. I suppose they were always with me — so it worked!

Do you lend your tools?

Nobody around me knits really, so they’re all mine! I do try to get my husband to knit a few stitches sometimes though — he is a mathematician, and I keep telling him knitting is like meditating (and also is very mathematical) and he might get some new abstract results if he gave it a try!

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

Often when I sit in cafés around Helsinki. I like to people watch while I knit, and also like to hear the buzz of the people around me while I sip a coffee and stitch away. Or on the couch at home — it’s the perfect arm-bend/sit-up-straight level for my height, super important when you’re 6’2″!

Lauren of Susk & Banoo knitting

What effect do the seasons have on you?

Since living in Helsinki and having to deal with the kaamos, or dark season, I knit a lot more in winter. The sun comes up only for a few hours, and then not even very high in the sky. There is nothing nicer than a pot of tea, some wooly knits, and the snow falling outside. I still knit during summer months, just not as intensely as in winter. This year though, everyone I know seems to be having a baby, so the mini-knits have been non-stop!

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

Apart from fondling all the wool and making pervy ooooh noises that I’m certain creep out the saleswomen in my local wool shop? Not really. I do have a soft spot for baby alpaca though — I want to knit a giant onesie out of it and just wear it all day, every day!

What are you working on right now?

Since finishing my Dad’s Christmas gift cowl, my husband has insisted I make one exactly the same for him, so that’s my pre-Christmas mission. I can’t wait to be done with the k2,p2!

Lauren of Susk & Banoo wood knitting needles

PREVIOUSLY  in Our Tools, Ourselves: Carrie Bostick Hoge

Photos © Lauren/Süsk & Banoo

Our Tools, Ourselves: Carrie Bostick Hoge

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: knit designer Carrie Bostick Hoge

Yay, Our Tools, Ourselves is back! Sorry for the unintended hiatus, but I’ve got lots of great makers lined up for the coming months, and I’m so pleased to be able to get things going again with none other than Carrie Bostick Hoge. You may know Carrie as an independent knit designer, as the photographer and art director of Quince and Co., or as the woman who does all of the above under her own brand, Madder. Carrie was one of the first people whose work I gravitated toward when I took up knitting, and I’ve always enjoyed the glimpses of her barn-studio on her blog. But having now seen the images she sent for this interview, I’m wondering if there’s some way I could secretly take up residence in there, like the kids in the “Mixed-Up Files.”

Be sure to follow Carrie’s blog, Swatch Diaries, and find her as “madder” at Pinterest and as “maddermade” on Twitter and Instagram. And thank you so much, Carrie, for this:

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

I am a knitter and beginner sewer. My mom gave me several knitting lessons in my teens, but it wasn’t until my early twenties that knitting finally stuck and I became obsessed. I played at sewing even before I held a pair of needles. The birth of my daughter in 2011 reignited my desire to learn for real. I want to sew little clothes for her! I’m determined to become a more confident sewer.

Swatches and baskets of knit designer Carrie Bostick Hoge

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I am very attached to my straight wood needles. (Although my cats love to chew on them—so naughty!) In fact, it was a pair of wood needles that changed my view of what knitting could be. My mom had plastic or metal needles, so that’s all I knew in regards to knitting tools. But one day I saw my boss-at-the-time’s wife knitting some raw single-ply wool with wood needles. This resonated with me — from that day on I knew I wanted to commit to learning to knit. I will use metal needles depending on the project, but I always begin with my wood straights if possible.

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

I have a basket for my circulars and fabric organizers for my DPNs and straight needles. But, honestly, the fabric organizers quickly become unorganized because my daughter is drawn to them like magnets and is constantly pulling the needles out and using them as drum sticks. Between my cats and my kid, it’s very hard for me to preserve order with my needles.

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

I’m a basket lover, so there are lots of baskets in my studio and at my house. In the basket I usually store the project in a plastic bag to keep it protected. My barn-studio, sadly, has mice so if the plastic bag doesn’t seal, I might still be in trouble. I recently found a bag of yarn with acorns in it! Not good.

Buttons, needles and tools of Carrie Bostick Hoge

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

I have my grandmother’s sewing machine and a lot of her sewing notions that I treasure. I have a tin of her buttons, too, that I relish.

Also, I feel a little funny saying this, but I like knitting bags. I splurged on a tote that my friend Karen Gelardi designed and sold on Quince earlier this year. I also have a vintage bag that my mom used as her knitting bag and she passed it down to me. This one is really dear to me. I also have a small project tote that I made in a sewing class that I like.

Do you lend your tools?

Yes, I’m happy to share what I have with others.

What is your favorite place to knit?

I’ll knit anytime of day, anywhere. My favorite place to knit is at home on my couch, or in bed is nice, too. I love that knitting is portable — it’s one of the aspects of knitting that really sealed the deal as I was learning. Coming from photography, where you need expensive equipment and a darkroom with chemicals, it was such a relief to find the simplicity of knitting. You don’t need much — a pair of needles and some wool. So I try to make the most of knitting’s portability as much as possible. It makes me less anxious, too, when waiting, for instance, at the dentist’s office.

In Carrie Bostick Hoge's barn-studio

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I do a lot of planning, dreaming, thinking and playing in the spring and summer. This past summer, I collected quite a bit of fabric. Fabric inspires knitwear design ideas — I try to imagine the perfect handmade sweater for the piece of apparel I’m planning to sew. (Or dreaming that I’d like to sew.) With the first hint of cool weather, I’m usually back on the needles working on the ideas that brewed over the summer. I love Autumn; it’s my favorite time of year. And winters are quiet and meant for knitting.

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

My guilty pleasure is fabric. Definitely fabric. And yarn, too, I have an enormous yarn stash that is quite overwhelming at times. Yarn that I’ve had for years from past jobs, from past Rhinebeck trips (!), and some hand-me-down yarn from friends and family. But, this coming year I’m going to try to knit and sew with what I have and will try, try, try not to accumulate any more for a while. I’ve run out of baskets.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on so many projects for Madder at the moment! Right now I am working on finishing up a pattern called Uniform Cardigan. It is one pattern with several variations, so the knitter can build their own cardigan. Hopefully I’ll be able to release this in a couple weeks. In January I hope to release a small collection of sweaters for Ladies and Little Ladies. I’m pretty excited about this project and look forward to sharing more in the new year.

Desk and yarn of Carrie Bostick Hoge

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Kristine Vejar

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Photos © Carrie Bostick Hoge