Our Tools, Ourselves: Kristine Vejar

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.

Kristine Vejar dye studio, quilt, spinning wheel

As you may know, I’m very lucky to have A Verb for Keeping Warm — one of the best yarn/fiber/fabric stores known to mankind — as my nearest yarn shop. It was just about a year old when I first entered its doors, and it’s been fun watching it fill in and grow, in so many ways, over the past two years. It’s also been my pleasure to get to know its owner, Kristine Vejar, a little bit, so I’m happy to get to introduce you to her in this way today. You can also find Kristine under the moniker @avfkw just about anywhere you look — e.g., Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter.

Thanks so much, Kristine—

. . .

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

My mom used to yell at me that she could tell every room I’ve been in as to the messes I left behind. Well, things haven’t changed much. My ideal day is one in which I begin, partake in, conclude, any or all of the above, in five to ten projects. The medium for these projects is vast, from spinning pygora to cleaning mussels. Though on a typical day a dab of indigo, a snip of cosmos, cutting carrots, threading a needle, casting-on, better even, casting-off.

My main fiber pursuits are natural dyeing, knitting, spinning, sewing and quilting. I really like embroidering and fit it in whenever I can. I know how to weave, though would classify myself an armchair weaver in that I know enough to follow along in conversation and can identify different types of weaves when looking at textiles but am not as proficient in practice. I don’t know how to crochet — and love that fact. I am so happy to sit and listen to people talk about it and have no clue what they are saying. It’s like listening to a different language.

I love to cook and am constantly exploring different styles of cooking, different methods, and cuisine from around the world. Cooking definitely counts as part of the daily explosion of making. I also enjoy gardening — and I LOVE to prune.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

My hands-down favorite tool are my Casabella rubber gloves. I wear them every day in the dye studio. They fit my hands perfectly, easy-on, easy-off, and are long enough to prevent water from running into my gloves.

My favorite needles are Addi Lace circulars. Although, I am very happy that Addi recently released their Addi Rocket circulars. It combines my favorite thing about Addi Lace — the sharp point — with the slick nickel plating of the Addi Turbos. So I will most likely be moving over to acquiring Addi Rockets.

I love DPNs. I use the sharpest metal DPNs I can find for sizes 0-2, currently ChiaoGoo, and use Clover bamboo DPNs for anything larger as they are light weight.

Kristine Vejar knitting and sewing supplies

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

I toss my needles in a series of Ball jars. And sometimes I file them all in the packages they came in. Really it’s a hot mess. Pretty much every ounce of my patience for organization goes into running the shop. So my workspace is pretty wacky. I try to keep everything in clear packages — jars, bags, boxes — so I can see everything really easily. But there can easily be a Tibetan meditational tool I picked up in Nepal alongside a tape measure I inherited from my grandmother, next to a set of sticker thimbles I just grabbed from the shop.

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

Ha! That’s funny. Organize my projects! I am working on an Alabama Chanin skirt that has taken over a year to complete because I keep losing track of where parts of it are. It’s driving me nuts. I find that half the time I forget my projects at work or half at home. Who am I kidding? I rarely get to sew or knit when I am at work so have been leaving most of my projects at home.

On a good day, each project has a designated bag that it lives in. We make at least two seasonal Verb cloth bags a year, so I tend to use those for my projects.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

I have four tools which I particularly adore.

Two are pincushions. One I received from my Mom about fifteen years ago. It is made of wool felt and is from a textile school named Sievers in Door County, Wisconsin. I love how it feels. And it reminds me of my Mom. The other pin cushion was my grandmother’s, who taught me to sew, and is in the shape of a turtle. This pincushion lived next to my grandmother’s chair in the TV room my entire childhood. In her house, located in a very small town in Illinois, everything was color coordinated — she took great pride in this. The pincushion is made of upholstery fabric which matched the TV room. I received this pincushion about a year ago, after my grandmother passed away. Funny enough, the tag of the maker of the pincushion is still tied around the turtle’s neck. It was made in Walnut Creek in 1979. I feel happy to have brought the turtle, except for a few miles, nearly full circle.

My other coveted tool is a handmade needle from Kyoto, Japan. My friend Marisa is a purveyor of fine sewing items and visited Japan last year. She had read about this store, run by a family for generations, where they hand make each needle, even hand punching the eye. I won’t sew with it for fear of losing it, which is unusual for me as I am a big believer in using your tools and textiles.

And for my last coveted tool, a croissure is an appartus made of copper pipe, in this instance, and is used in reeling silk, and it needs another tool, one that I need to have commissioned or have the luck of finding, a silk reel (zakuri). So the croissure is one tool that I drag along with me, studio to studio, until one day I find its sibling, and when I will get to practice reeling silk. About three years ago, I had the pleasure of learning to reel silk. (Everything from silk thread to use in my sewing machine to a lace-weight silk yarn made to the thickness of 180 cocoons.) While the samples I made are not exactly tools, they are certainly treasured items.

Kristine Vejar pincushion and handmade needle

Do you lend your tools?

I find it really frustrating to go to find a tool and have it missing, so don’t tend to lend my tools.

What is your favorite place to knit and sew?

Anywhere I can hang out with Cleo, my dog. I love spending time in the woods and making. I’ll put down a blanket, sit and knit or sew, and watch Cleo as she explores. Pretty much every night, Cleo sits by my side as I sew or knit (or both). We also have a really nice porch with a swing. It’s nice to sit out there.

A big impetus behind creating the shop was to create a space where people could come together to create. I learned to knit and sew in a community setting — with my grandmother and her best friends. Years later, when I found myself studying art and architecture in India, I drew upon my skills of making textiles (and cooking) to connect with others. Even though we had a limited amount of shared language, we could connect over the act of making. This made a great impression on me, and one that I wanted to continue exploring and expanding for an unknown duration. I love learning what others are making, how they see texture and color, and how they transform an idea into a usable object.

Kristine Vejar porch swing, pooch and embroidery

What effect do the seasons have on you?

At Verb, we have a lot of teachers from around the world who come and teach. I get super excited when they are there, and when they leave I want to make all of the things they make. Each teacher’s visit tends to have a bigger impact over my work than, say, a season — which ends up meaning that I sew and knit year round. Rebecca Ringquist, an embroidery artist from Brooklyn was just here, so I’ve been working on a new patch for my dyeing apron.

I’d say over the last year, I have had a particular allegiance to the work of Natalie Chanin. I adore sewing by hand and wearing knits – and her work embodies both of those aspects. For the past couple years, my knitting allegiance lies with Cocoknits. I like how flexible her patterns are in terms of how different they can look from one yarn to another, or through the modification of ease, how they can be a bit quirky or unexpected. Mishke is one of my favorite sweaters I’ve knit, and a favorite of mine to wear. I’m dying to make another.

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

Funny enough, I have a very small personal stash of yarn. Always have. It took me three years to get the guts to open our store on San Pablo, knowing that technically all of that yarn is my stash. I do have a particular weakness for fleece though — the texture, the sheepy smell, that first wash and seeing the true color of the fleece. There are so many texture and lock variations. Every time I say I’ll never buy another fleece, one lands in my hands. And if you think that a stash of yarn is hard to work through, imagine a fleece! It has to be washed, carded, spun, and then can finally be knit. I used to be extremely monogamous with my projects, though now as my projects are growing larger and more complicated, I have found myself working on many at a time, as some are good for when my shoulder hurts, or needs to be more transportable, or easy to work on in a crowd, etc.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I am working on an Alabama Chanin reverse appliqued skirt. I just drafted a new dress pattern, based upon a velvet cotton summer dress, which I’ve nearly worn to bits. I’ve indigo dyed Alabama Chanin jersey to make this dress out of. I’m almost finished knitting the Francis pullover by Olga Buraya-Kefelian. And I’m making a quilt, using fabric I indigo dyed, from the “Liberty Love” book. At the studio, I have a whole slew of dyeing recipes I am working on for upcoming colorways. My fingers are itching to cast on for a new fall sweater. Between the new arrival of Shelter, Quince Lark, and excitedly awaiting the next shipment of Pioneer, really there are three sweaters right there.

The tricky thing with making samples for the shop — which is basically all I do when it comes to making — is at least 50% of the samples need to be made by the book. What I mean is no modifications. We need projects that represent how the patterns are written line by line. I, and many people on staff at Verb, LOVE to modify things. So, when working to make the shop samples, I have to be particularly strict with myself. The reason for this is that people come to the shop, looking for a project, and really don’t want to think about modifying it. As we describe modifications, we watch as their eyes glaze over. So if we have at least half the shop samples worked without mods, then we can point the customer in the right direction towards a straightforward project. Many times, people are coming to the shop to make something simple, to get away from their complicated lives. It doesn’t do them or us a service to give them something complicated to do. At this point, these types of samples are made by the staff at Verb.

So while dividing my time between my work and personal projects is nearly impossible, I do get to make more samples with modifications. While this is great, as I learn more as a maker and there is more of me in the projects, I have found that making my own mods, or adding in more layers to the process, such as dyeing the fabric and then sewing it into a quilt or dress, definitely means more time in the process and longer periods of time without a finished object. I am extremely driven by product-oriented results. I will forever be the student of zen-type philosophy rather than a teacher. At the end of the day, everything I make is either a potential sample for the shop, sample for a class, or a lesson I would like to acquire so I can better help a customer. What I am extremely grateful for is the body of customers at Verb who like similar things to what I like, so I do get to explore somewhat obscure topics from time to time (like silk reeling or the making of an indigo fermentation vat), and they value that education — even if they don’t necessarily want to learn to reel silk or dye with indigo. It is still a value added to the shop and space of Verb. And in regards to the samples with mods, these are equally important for the customers who come in and want to be inspired who want to stretch their skills.

This upcoming year, I am writing a book which focuses upon the natural dyeing process and will incorporate sewing and knitting patterns. I am really excited to have this focus and to be creating the projects to which others can apply modifications — or not :) Recently on my blog, I talked a bit about the desire to be released from the production side of natural dyeing to spend a bit more time meandering and exploring. I am really excited that the book will allow me to do this — in the sense that it is about exploration and creativity rather than strict reproducibility.

Kristine Vejar sewing table

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Jess Schreibstein

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jess Schreibstein

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.

Jess Schreibstein knitting and spinning

Jess Schreibstein amazes me. She is the blogger behind Witchin’ in the Kitchen and the founder and organizer of DC Food Swap. She cooks and cans, writes, makes paintings and magic spells, does beautiful lettering and illustration work (e.g.), and also holds down a day job at NPR. Oh, and she knits!

In addition to her blog, be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram (among other places linked from the top of her blog). Thanks for taking the time, Jess —

. . .

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

I’m primarily a knitter, but I’ve really gotten into spinning this year, and I’ve worked with dyeing, batik, and weaving in the past. When I lived in Los Angeles for college, my aunt and I would travel to this fiber studio in the middle of the desert to weave on these massive, gorgeous looms that look like prehistoric beasts and dye fabric and roving using natural plant dyes with all of these kooky fiber ladies wearing crazy hats. It was really empowering to be surrounded by all of that craft and wisdom in the middle of nowhere.

My great grandma taught me to knit when I was in middle school. We’d sit in her living room in Delaware with the Weather Channel or Days Of Our Lives on the television and bowls of dried apricots within arm’s reach. Her mother was a Polish immigrant and she grew up very poor in a small Pennsylvania town. She learned to knit from neighborhood girls who taught her using metal nails as knitting needles. Pretty amazing. She spent her last years sitting in a big chair in that living room, knitting hundreds of baby hats for newborns, which she donated to a local hospital.

I am trained as an oil painter, but nowadays a lot of my creative work is on a smaller scale, like watercolor and pen illustrations, mostly due to time and space constraints. I also cook a lot. One of the reasons I love knitting is because it’s portable art – I can fit it into commutes and lunch breaks and the other nooks and crannies of my life easily. I don’t typically have the attention span or time for knitting anything beyond accessories, like hats, scarves, and fingerless gloves (LOTS of fingerless gloves).

Jess Schreibstein's handspun yarn

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

Bamboo needles all the way. I’ve tried working with metal needles, and the yarn always gets so slippery! And natural fibers are a must, even though they are so much more expensive than the acrylic yarn my great grandma knit with. They make the knitting process and finished product so much more pleasurable. My favorite comfort-food yarn is Malabrigo’s worsted merino wool. It comes in a brilliant array of colors and I love the way it looks and feels.

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

Most of my yarn stash is stored in a big grass basket in the corner of my room. It’s overflowing with beautiful yarn that I’ve held onto for years hoping that that one perfect project will come along for each one. The rest of the yarn that doesn’t fit in the basket is stuffed into plastic Tupperware bins.

My mom sewed me this fantastic fabric needle holder that keeps most of my straight needles pretty well organized. I’ve also inherited dozens of colorful metal needles from my grandmother that I’ll probably never use (because I don’t like knitting on metal needles) but can’t bear to part with, because they came from her, that I keep in a fabric-covered metal tube thingy that she also gave me. All of my circulars are tangled in a gigantic knot of love in a plastic container.

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

Um, I don’t? I’ve dropped lots of projects over the years that remain balled up in the corners of my dresser. The ones that I’m actually working on are typically in a tote bag by the side of my bed.

Jess Schreibstein's storage tube and scissors

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

I really love this one pair of scissors from India that are just beautiful to look at and work with. I’ve had them for a long time and I use them for everything, not just knitting. I also have this one skein of yarn that cost me $50, more than any other skein of yarn I’ve ever bought, that I acquired after college when I had no job or money but wanted it so badly. It’s still sitting in that stash basket, waiting for a project worthy of it to come along.

Do you lend your tools?

I’ll lend needles to my sister, but then I never get them back. I should probably stop doing that.

What is your favorite place to knit?

Most of the time when I’m knitting, I’m in bed, cross-legged, watching a TV series or listening to an audiobook (Game of Thrones is what’s up!). I also like knitting on the couch with my boyfriend or family, especially when they watch shows that I don’t really care for, because then I can still be sociable while also doing something productive and enjoyable for me too.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

Huge. The changing of the seasons affects me so deeply, and knitting is just one piece of how those emotional changes manifest themselves. Once the cool nights start creeping in and the shadows get long, I become more introspective, less social, and more drawn to my knitting needles. I can become pretty knitting-obsessive in the thick of winter when I really want a lot of alone time. Once spring arrives, I’ll typically put my needles away for the summer.

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

I only knit accessories. And it’s not that I don’t want to knit a sweater or some other bigger project – it’s just that I know that project will take a long time when I typically have some holiday gifts to whip up, and knitting a whole sweater or garment for myself feels kinda selfish. Even though I know it’s not? And I have a 90% finished sweater stuffed under my bed that’s been there for three years, and I haven’t mustered the energy to finish it. I’ll get to it eventually.

What are you working on right now?

I have a bag of Icelandic sheep fleece that I bought online and am spinning into a double-ply yarn on my drop spindle. I haven’t touched it since the spring, but the nights are getting cooler and it might be time to pick it up again. I also bought a big enamel pot at a thrift shop, and am excited to try my hand at dyeing my own yarn.

Jess Schreibstein's drop spindle

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Sandra Juto

.

Photos © Jess Schreibstein

Our Tools, Ourselves: Sandra Juto

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.

Sandra Juto in her illustration and crochet studio

I’ve been aware of illustrator and crocheter Sandra Juto for a while — dipping into her photo-rich blog and, more recently, her Instagrams — but when her Berlin apartment appeared on Freunde von Freunden last Fall, I made a note to myself to contact her about Our Tools, Ourselves one day. Her apartment is amazing but, naturally, I wanted to see and hear more about her life as a crocheter. Happily, she obliged —

. . .

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

Most of my yarn work is crochet, but sometimes I knit as well. I do everything by hand since there are no machines for crochet and also my knit work is 100% handmade. I like the slow process of it.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

My knitting needles are made of wood (bamboo). I prefer them as they are lighter and don’t make noise while knitting. Most of my crochet hooks are from Clover — I use the “steel soft touch” ones and I love them. Since I changed to them, from the traditional metal ones, my wrists feel much better. I also wear Wrist Worms while working as they keep my wrists warm and I can work a couple of hours more during a day than if I don’t wear them.

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

My tools are all over the place: in jars, in handbags, on desks, on the floor. Somehow my spare crochet hooks always get lost, strange!

Sandra Juto illustration and crochet studio

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

They are also all over the place — my studio is not very organized (as you can see in the pictures). I need to store everything visible; if I put them into boxes I forget they exist.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

No, yarn, needles and hooks are quite cheap to buy.

Do you lend your tools?

No, since they are cheap I tell my friends to buy their own or I give them a couple of hooks as a gift.

What is your favorite place to crochet?

Most of the time I crochet/knit in front of my computer, cross-legged on my chair, watching TV series, documentaries or movies. Another favourite place is to go to a coffee shop where I can people watch as I work. Having made over 3000 pairs of Wrist Worms by now I don’t need to keep my eyes on my hands anymore. The great thing about my Wrist Worms work is that I can bring it anywhere — sometimes I spend time with friends in a bar doing crochet and chat. It’s also perfect to bring on long journeys.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

When it comes to work there is no real effect to talk about, except for right at this moment (late July) when it’s actually too hot to dig into wool, especially the project I’m working on now — a granny-square blanket which is almost finished, so the whole thing rests on my lap while crocheting it together, and two kilos of alpaca doesn’t go too well with a heat wave.

Sandra Juto Wrist Worms and granny square blanket

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

I tend to feel empty on the inside when I don’t have any yarn available in my studio, it’s quite an addiction (luckily my only one).

What are you working on right now?

Right now I am stacking up Wrist Worms for the coming Fall as well as making a granny-square blanket of alpaca, I think it’s the 6th or 7th I’ve made. It will be available in my shop as soon as it’s finished. It’s such a great thing to know that my blankets are now living all over the world (Switzerland, Sweden, Hong Kong, USA, Australia, Germany etc).

[Editor’s note: That blanket has since been finished, sold right away, and went to live in Finland. Follow Sandra on Twitter for future announcements, and she also recently posted a granny-square blanket tutorial on her blog.]

Sandra Juto studio detail

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Elizabeth Yong (aka Primoeza)

.

Photos © Sandra Juto

Our Tools, Ourselves: Elizabeth Yong (aka Primoeza)

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.

Elizabeth Yong of Primoeza knitting

It would not be an overstatement to say that Australian knitwear designer Elizabeth Yong, with her independent label Primoeza, is one of the most inspiring people I’ve come across since I began to knit a couple of years ago. Not only is her work beautiful and thoughtful and creative while always remaining eminently wearable, she has incredible personal style and her blog routinely causes my jaw to drop with admiration. So I’m thrilled to have her as today’s featured guest in Our Tools, Ourselves.

You can also find Elizabeth on Pinterest and Instagram.

. . .

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

I am a machine knitter. I learnt how to use the machine when I studied Textile Design. I always loved knitwear but never expected to end up majoring in knit. However, during study, I found myself drawn to the process of forming the end piece at the same time as making the fabric. It really suits the way I think. I struggled with making small, abstract samples.

At the end of my studies I wasn’t that happy working in a routine 9-5 job so I decided to set up my label. It’s been a roller coaster ride and I’m just learning as I go, but I love what I do.

My knitting is not split between Primoeza and personal work. The division of a professional and personal life never interested me, I just wanted to discover what I loved doing and then do it all the time. I make things that I would like to wear myself and then I will spend time developing and refining them for my label.

As well as knitting, I sew a bit and enjoy free-form stitching, and I especially like to combine these techniques with knitwear.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

With machine knitting, you need to use all the tools that come with the machine. Each tool looks very strange, has a very specific purpose and sports a discoloured plastic handle, since they were manufactured in the ’70s and ’80s. I don’t get much aesthetic pleasure out of them so I indulge in all the other things: scissors, threads, buttons. I like things made from wood, steel, linen and vintage horn. Things that have a patina and a nice weight to them.

I am both a collector and a minimalist so I am in a constant struggle with myself! These days, though, I appreciate having both mental and physical space so I prefer to buy less and buy better quality.

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

I am a big believer in storing! I can’t think amongst clutter. I used to work for a Parisian man who imported luxurious fabrics from Europe and had beautiful furniture. One day he moved home and he gave me a big set of drawers that he used to keep all the fabric samples in. This treasured piece now houses most of my tools and materials. If that weren’t enough, I also have a small set of drawers from Ikea for little things I need to reach for daily.

Elizabeth Yong of Primoeza tools and storage

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

I have more shelving for my yarn and finished products but the projects I am working on are spread all over my bench, my ironing board, my floor, my dining table …

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

My knitting machines are my biggest splurges. They’re all vintage but they’re getting quite expensive these days. There aren’t many machines in Australia either, so I had to get one shipped from the UK. And I still use a sewing machine that I bought when I was much younger with the proceeds of some tote bags I made and sold to shops. That was a proud moment!

Do you lend your tools?

No. Machine knitting requires a very specific set of tools and you’re screwed if you’re missing something.

What is your favorite place to knit and sew?

My studio – I work from my home and I have my cat for company during the day. I have a space with white brick walls and lots of natural light and it overlooks an acacia tree and a school yard. We live in inner Melbourne and when I need a break or inspiration, I can step out the front door and immediately become immersed in the galleries, shops and characters on the street. At night I might sit and watch a film and darn in ends. But machine knitting is such a different activity to hand knitting — it’s not cosy; it’s sitting at a bench, operating a noisy machine.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I am an Autumn person but I knit all year round since it is my work. The only exception is in the height of summer when the heat and humidity affect the knitting so I have to ease up on it then. In that time I might do some sewing or planning for the months ahead.

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

I am very envious of hand knitters. My family and school were not crafty at all so I learned to knit as a mature age student. I feel like my skills are rudimentary compared to those who started knitting when they were young, but I work with what I have and I suppose it informs my style, which is a bit minimal and naïve.

What are you working on right now?

I have been working on lots of garment samples for a new collection. I became quite overwhelmed from so much knitting in the last year or two so I am trying to produce my pieces in a more sustainable way. It’s taking forever to get everything organised but I’m really excited about the next phase for Primoeza.

Elizabeth Yong of Primoeza supplies

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Jerome Sevilla (aka Gridjunky)

.

Photos © Elizabeth Yong/Primoeza

Our Tools, Ourselves: Jerome Sevilla (aka Gridjunky)

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 Q and A with Jerome Sevilla of Gridjunky

Ever since I first laid eyes on Jerome Sevilla’s Gridjunky hats, sold in his Etsy shop and detailed on his blog, I’ve wanted to know more. He’s a knitter and graphic designer living in San Jose CA, and I’m so glad he agreed to answer these questions—

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

I knit and I love it. I started knitting at the tail end of 2009, so that would put me in my fourth year of daily knitting. When I started, I really didn’t have much in the way of tools. I had some knitting needles and yarn tucked away. I don’t even know where they came from, but I dug them out one day and jumped right in.

That’s the great thing about The Internet Age, isn’t it? That we can look up a YouTube video on how to knit, and get thousands of relevant hits; it’s pretty empowering. After the initially torturous adjustment to the appropriate muscle motions of knitting, it just clicked. I’ve been knitting every morning ever since.

I also sew by hand and machine, and make necklaces out of beads and hemp.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadillos.

When I started knitting, I made this commitment to buy needles from the only LYS in my area, The Bobbin’s Nest in Santa Clara. They happened to carry a comprehensive selection of ChiaoGoo circulars. Whenever I could afford it, I’d ride my bike down there and buy a set. The store was forced to close, but by that time I had accumulated a modest range from US0 to US11. This set has served me quite well over the past three and a half years.

I’m a pretty meticulous guy, if you haven’t noticed. So I did my research before committing to an investment on needles. The question I kept coming back to in my observations was: Why would I use double pointed needles at all? And the only answer I could muster was: You can use them to knit cables, or point to things on Antiques Roadshow. And since I do neither of those things, I went with circulars.

So yeah, I use 40 inch circulars for everything, from knitting swatches flat, to bulky loop scarves in the round. There are a few sets of bamboo double points in there that never get used.

Gridjunky knitting sewing tool tins

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

ChiaoGoo circulars come in these tall, resealable bags. Part of why I chose the brand was because of this particular packaging characteristic, and I’d be pretty disappointed if they decided to change it. The card stock inside the bag has a unified design that indicates needle sizes towards the top, so flipping through them is quite intuitive. I keep them organized in a simple wooden box I picked up at Ikea.

I’m a big fan of tobacco tins. These ones I have are great for keeping notions and tools. Plus they just look cool. As a male knitter, it can be tough to find organization solutions that speak to a men’s aesthetic. I don’t have many, and I’m always looking out for them at flea markets. They’re just one of those things I’m drawn to, visually.

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

I’m very methodical. I don’t like not being in control. I’m ruthless when it comes to self-editing. So in terms of works-in-progress, I never have more than three projects. Most of the time I only have one. So keeping them (it?) organized is pretty easy. It just sits on the table. Work on it daily. Finish it. Start the next one. Dead Reckoning.

Most of my work involves combining multiple strands together, so in order to keep it tidy, I use bowls and boxes. If you’ve been following any of my posts, you may already be familiar with these objects. I always try to include them in my progress photos. They’re important little supporting actors to the primary subjects of each work in progress photo.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

I have a gigantic pair of fabric shears that belonged to my mother, and before her, my grandmother. They’re battle-scarred and bad-ass and I love them.

Gridjunky heirloom scissors

Do you lend your tools?

No, never. Well, I loaned out a tapestry needle once. Guess what? I never got it back.

What is your favorite place to knit?

I call it my office, but it’s just another room in my house. Gridjunky happens in this room. When I get up in the morning, I’ll make a coffee, come up here, and bang out the morning knitting. When it’s time to break out the sewing machine, it happens here. Most of the product photography happens in this room because the light is good, and the walls are bare. They could use a fresh coat of white though, now that I think about it.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I knit every day without fail. This past week has been hellishly hot, but hey. That’s why I knit in the mornings. It just means I have to get up earlier if I want to knit more during the hotter months. The ritual of it is important to me. I think the act of making something every day makes me a happier person.

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

Despite the polished photography and design-oriented aesthetics of my personal brand, I’m not a person of means. I come from a poor family, and I sacrificed a lot to do what I do, and share that creative journey with the world.

I recycle yarn from sweaters because I can’t afford to pay what other knitters pay for yarn. I’m not “eco-chic,” I’m just a poor guy with a design education but no job. I had one once, and I hated it. Nowadays I don’t make a lot of money, but trading paycheck for passion has definitely made me happier.

What are you working on right now?

Since my work takes forever to complete, it’s sometimes a challenge to do personal work. Most of the time I’m focused on evolving the pattern compositions of my hats, and getting them listed in my shop. But Summer is when I ease up on shop production, and work on personal work.

Lately I’ve been working on some design sketches for a Fall shop line, and a scarf for myself that I’ve been chipping away at for the past few months. I post exclusive first looks to my Facebook Page so check it out if you ever want to see what ridiculous projects are on the Gridjunky horizon.

[Editor’s note: You can also follow him on Twitter and Flickr.]

Gridjunky hat knitting

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Leigh Wells

.

All photos © Jerome Sevilla/Gridjunky

Our Tools, Ourselves: Leigh Wells

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know makers of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Leigh Wells knitting needles and sweater in progress

LEIGH WELLS is an illustrious illustrator and fine artist. Her studio also happens to be about 10 steps from mine, so you can see I kept this installment of OT/OS very close to home. In addition to being my first local knitting friend, Leigh hosts a monthly creative women’s gathering you may have heard me mention before, where these days most of the group of graphic designers, photographers and artists whip out their knitting needles. So to the extent that I have a knitting social life, I pretty much owe it all to Leigh.

You can see Leigh’s artwork at the Gregory Lind Gallery in San Francisco, and she’ll also be in a show at Portland’s PDX Contemporary Art opening June 6th. She’s only nominally on Ravelry and somewhat new to Instagram, so be sure to friend her up.

Are you a knitter, crocheter, weaver, spinner, sewer … ?

I am a knitter, in a remedial sort of way, thanks to having gone to Ecuador as an exchange student in high school. The dear mother in my host family taught me her technique, and people sometimes comment on how strange it is. I have no idea what they are talking about. My first project was a huge acrylic lavender pullover made of four rectangles. It fit over my body that had been dietarily enhanced by all of the cheese-filled, fried plantains I had eaten over the course of the year. I know how to knit and purl. That is my skill set, virtually unimproved over thirty years.

Oh, and I have been sewing for longer, and making all sorts of other things from collage, to sculpture, to soap and preserved lemons.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

Much of my equipment is by default. I inherited all of my former grandmother-in-law’s knitting needles, crochet hooks and her thread stash. (Still haven’t used those four spools of lime green thread.) I use from that supply and usually borrow or buy second-hand what I don’t have. Given how I like to purge unnecessary possessions, it’s strange that I have many, many size 0, 1, and 2 needles from this inheritance. I would rather gnaw off both of my hands than do a project on those needles. I probably should ship them to that rad hat dude. What’s his address?

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

I keep my collection of straight needles in a paintbrush holder I found on sale at the art supply store. After I bought it, a bunch of other friends ran out to get one. Black nylon. Looks like a piece of camping equipment. Very unglamorous. And speaking of poor taste, I only just recently organized my tangle of circulars in an IKEA bin using little Ziploc bags with Avery labels on them. Disgusting.

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

WORKS!? Can’t deal with the idea of more than one at a time. Keep it in a little bucket I made out of found industrial felt.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools? 

See above … Oh wait! My little beaded pouch for my sewing needles and stitch markers. Gift from my dear friend, found at the Chelsea Flea in NYC.

Leigh Wells sewing machine and stitch marker pouch

Do you lend your hooks or needles?

But of course. Anyone want to borrow these 0’s and never return them?

What is your favorite place to knit?

In the rain.
In the dark. On a train,
In a car, In a tree.
In a house. In a box.
With a mouse. With a fox.
Here or there.
Pretty much anywhere!

Other than that, I savor the four stitches I knit, then eventually rip out, when I host the monthly STITCH night at my place.

What effect do the seasons have on your knitting/sewing productivity?

Probably knitting a deep winter project in the heat of summer and vice versa because I am so slow?

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

I know that Fringe Association probably considers my knitting behaviors “odd quirks,” but I swear that I am a completely normal knitting dilettante.

What are you working on right now?

Knitting some royal-blue French cotton yarn into a summer pullover. You taught me to do top-down knitting, and now I feel like I can rule the world. Not so, however, since I have ripped out a particular portion of this sweater five times and am now afraid to proceed. [Editor’s note: This one is not top-down, FYI!]

I found this yarn on a shopping trip to a certain second-hand crafty shop in Sonoma County. Until that moment, I had been strict about NOT having a knitting stash. Leaving the shop that day, I knew I had so much yarn that some lucky person would inherit much of it someday along with all of these knitting needles.

Leigh Wells Ikea bin with circular needles

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Nicole Dupuis

.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Nicole Dupuis

Nicole Dupuis knitting tools

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know makers of all walks, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

NICOLE DUPUIS blogs about knitting and sewing, knits samples for the likes of Brooklyn Tweed and Knitbot, and is the designer and maker behind Gris Handknits. Somehow she also runs marathons and works as an exhibition content developer for a natural history museum. She lives in Ontario, Canada.

In addition to her blog, Cocoknits, you can find Nicole at Flickr, Pinterest and Ravelry. Thank you so much, Nicole, for getting this series off to a stellar start —

. . .

Are you a knitter, crocheter, weaver, spinner, sewer … ?

Knitting: I’ve been knitting obsessively for over 15 years now, and I probably spend at least half of my free time doing it!Spinning: I also own a spinning wheel, an Ashford Traditional I snagged at a flea market for $40! I would call myself a novice spinner. I can spin and ply nice smooth yarn in the worsted style, but cannot for the life of me produce the lofty, fluffy, fuzzy woolen yarn I covet.

Sewing: I grew up wearing the most beautiful handmade clothes. My mom is an expert seamstress and I learned to sew basically through osmosis. I’ve recently dusted off my sewing machine and entertain fantasies of a wardrobe filled with handmade Liberty of London and Harris Tweed clothes to go with all of my handknits. I also dream of making hand-pieced and stitched old-fashioned quilts.

Crochet: My crochet skills are rudimentary at best, I mostly pull out my crochet hook to assist my knitting: making a provisional cast-on, picking up stitches or securing a steek. I would love to learn how to make pretty covered rocks like my friend Margie Oomen, or crochet lovely, lacy edgings for hand-sewn dresses.

Weaving: Sounds like fun, but frankly our tiny house could not support another hobby, so I better stay away from that one!

Nicole Dupuis knitting and spinning

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

When it comes to my knitting tools, (and yarns for that matter) I’m afraid I’m a complete snob! They need to be pleasing to the eye and touch. I have an aesthetic fondness for beautifully turned wooden straight needles (ebony Lantern Moon needles are the ultimate in my book) and will use them to knit simple things like scarves and swatches. But I have to admit that nothing beats nickel-plated Addi Turbo circulars for speed and efficacy, especially on bigger, heavier projects. For small projects, I really like bamboo DPNs, especially the ones that Clover makes. I simply cannot abide aluminium needles, especially those dreadfully cheap grey ones. The gritty scraping sound they make makes my skin crawl. See, told you I was a snob!

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

My tools are in a perpetual state of organized chaos: straights plunked into a mason jar, DPNs sitting in an old pottery planter, circs tangled up in an old wooden crate. My small tools I keep in a pretty linen Bookhou pouch. Notions like buttons and snaps live in an ancient cookie tin.

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

Again, organized chaos reigns in my house. I have too many WIPs to count, and they’re all precariously piled up in baskets all over the house. I have been meaning to sew a bunch of project bags to keep them better organized and dust-free, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

One of my favourite tools are stitch markers that I made. A while ago, I found a necklace in a charity shop that had beautiful abalone oval “beads.” I took the necklace apart and threaded sterling silver jump rings into the shell pieces. The amazing multitude of colours in the mother-of-pearl seem to always “match” my knitting in some way. I never tire of looking at them. I keep them in a small pretty blue and white tin.

Do you lend your hooks or needles?

Freely.

Nicole Dupuis knitting tools

What is your favorite place to knit?

You’ll most often find me curled up on the living room couch, elbows tucked in a fluffy down cushion, with a cup of tea nearby. Music, audiobooks or podcasts keep me company. Light is another important component. I love sitting at the window, looking outside while I work. In the evening I light beeswax candles for their beautiful scent and honey glow.

Do you ever leave home without a project in your bag?

Never ever.

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

I have a closet filled from floor to ceiling with decadent yarn. Opening the closet usually sets off what my husband calls a yarn-valanche. There is a LOT of amazing stuff in there: cashmere, baby alpaca, fine merino, puffy angora. Sometimes I think I will need more than one lifetime to knit it all!

What are you working on right now?

Ahem … well, as I mentioned previously, I do tend to have lots on the go at the same time but my “main” project is the Annabel cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge. I’m knitting it in the yarn called for: Quince and Co Osprey in the Glacier colourway. This yarn is seriously squishy and lovely, especially in garter stitch! Because I’m a shameless copycat, I’m making a pocketed version like the lovely Lori. I even have antler buttons similar to the ones that she used. (Did I mention that I also have a bit of a button problem?) I can’t wait to finish it!

Nicole Dupuis knitting basket

All photos © Nicole Dupuis