Today is the 5th anniversary of my first post on this little ol’ blog of mine, originally known as Yarnover.me. I’m not sure I’ve ever really introduced myself properly (although there was the “welcome” post when I changed the name to Fringe Association a year later), but since I get regular requests to feature myself in Our Tools, Ourselves, I thought today might be a good day to do it. In many ways, I’m a completely different person than I was when I set up the blog and made that first post. At that moment I was working as a web producer in San Francisco — I had a good job I was miserable in, had recently lost my garden and had no real creative outlet, and then I learned to knit. Five years later, this blog and Fringe Supply Co. are my full-time jobs. My husband and I now live in Nashville TN, where we are blessed to be able to own our home, and one of my oldest and best friends, DG, works with me at Fringe, which occupies a big studio space in a crumbling old building in the rapidly “gentrifying” Germantown neighborhood. It’s impossible for me to interview myself about my tools and organizational systems without it looking like one giant Fringe Supply Co. promo, but really it’s the opposite. Fringe is a reflection of my life. The things I sell in the shop are there because I either love and rely on them and want to make them available to you, or I designed them to fill a want or need of mine, and get to share that with you, too. So here’s how it all plays out in my world—
In case there’s anyone not already following along, I’m @karentempler and @fringesupplyco (and @slowfashionoctober) on Instagram, and karentempler and fringeassoc on Pinterest.
Before I get started, whether you’re brand-new here or have been reading the whole time, thank you for being here!
Oh, and! if you’ve asked someone to get you a Porter Bin as a gift, make sure they know they have two chances today: 9am and 12pm CST. (Along with another surprise ;)
. . .
Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?
I’ve at least dabbled in all of the above except for spinning, but knitting and sewing are where it’s at for me. While I’m fascinated by spinning and weaving, I’m happy to support the amazing yarn-makers and weavers in the world and spend my own time turning the fruits of their labor into clothes.
I crocheted and sewed as a kid — hadn’t crocheted since, and sewed only very sporadically over the years — but didn’t learn to knit until the Fall of 2011. Obviously that had a huge impact on me, since it’s now the thing my universe revolves around. When I began knitting garments for myself, it brought me back to sewing and into the Slow Fashion movement, and really changed everything about how I approach my wardrobe. (See Why I make my clothes for more on that.)
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.
I’m a purist and a minimalist, in all aspects of life — I like natural materials, things that are the color nature made them, and not very much of anything. I try to keep it clean and spare and utilitarian, so that’s also what I look for in my knitting tools and accessories — and how Fringe Supply Co. came to be.
I only knit on circulars and DPNs — don’t own straight needles. When I was first knitting, I didn’t want to buy an interchangeable set because I was sure my preferences would evolve beyond bamboo and I didn’t want to commit to any one set, so instead I spent a small fortune buying new circs in every size and length every time I started a new project. Then I fell in love with Dreamz, asked for interchangeables for Christmas one year and wound up with two sets, and have been building up my parts and DPNs collection. But given what I said above about natural and undyed and all, you can imagine how I feel about the color-coding. :/ Now that I’ve found Lykke, I’m switching over! They’re the needles I’ve always longed for and I’m thrilled.
Other than needles, my tool kit is pretty basic: stitch markers, scissors, tapestry needles, a ruler and tape measure (wish I could find one I truly love that isn’t a cheap plastic giveaway sort of thing), pencil, eraser and Knitters Graph Paper Journal. Basically one of everything from my Tools collection! Lol. I use a DPN for a cable needle (if anything) and annotate my work (if needed) rather using a counter.
But I have to say, my very favorite “tool” is Fashionary templates. I’m literally addicted to the perforated sheets. Any time I pull them out and start sketching, I fall into a sort of trance of happiness, and they are all over my workroom — stuck to the wall, stacked on tables. In addition to enjoying the act of sketching and thinking through ideas, and paging through my drawings, they are the thing that has had the single greatest impact on my ability to envision and make things that are really smart and useful additions to my wardrobe. You can see how much I rely on them (and how I use them) if you look at my Wardrobe Planning series. I love them more than I can say.
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
All those individual circs and my DPNs are kept in a vintage 4-drawer metal file cabinet thing — like a card catalog, I guess — that I got at the flea market. Rarely touched these days. My interchangeables are in the case they came in, along with extra cords and stuff. I usually stick a pair of scissors in every project bag, and the other tools are next to my knitting seat, on little metal trays so it looks a little less random or messy. All of the needles plus my blocking supplies, a bin of not-in-use project bags and totes are all kept on the shelves under my worktable.
I don’t own very many sewing patterns, so they’re just stacked into an old soda crate on the shelf. Traced-and-cut pattern pieces are hung on S-hooks on a rod on the wall. And a Turkish tire-rubber bin holds rolled large-format patterns and tracing paper, oversized rulers, and so on.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
I’m a fanatic about this, as you might guess. I mean, I’m an organizational freak to begin with, and I take project bags so seriously I built a business designing what I wanted, right? I’m very fortunate in our current home to have an extra bedroom I’ve made into my little workroom. There’s a desk that’s shared between my computer and sewing machine, a little Ikea worktable in the middle of the room, and a wall of Ikea Ivar shelving for storage, and that’s where my WIPs live. In the past, they were sort of floating around our loft with no good place to go, in a random array of bags. Which made me want to minimize the number of WIPs at any one time, but that’s also when I was the most profligate about casting on. So it all felt very out of control to me.
The shelves in my room now hold everything — books, patterns, WIPs, yarn and fabric — and they’re my portion control system. I’m not allowed to exceed the capacity of this wall — truly, if it doesn’t fit in there, I’ve gotten carried away. There’s one row of shelf that’s designated for WIPs; it fits four Porter Bins and two Field Bags, so I can have four sweaters (or sewing projects) and a couple/few smaller projects in progress, which is more than I actually care to have going at any one time. (There’s a Porter prototype at one end of the row, full of fabric scraps, that prevents me expanding the WIP container count any further!) But I LOVE this system. When it’s time to knit, I love going in and pulling a project off the shelf, and then I love replacing it on the shelf when I’m done. It’s so tidy! (This is how big a nerd I am.) And it really does keep my cast-on-itis in check. In reality, or ideally, I have one or two sweaters in progress in the Porters and the other two are just holding yarn for whatever’s next.
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
The things that are my own creation are obviously special — the Field Bags, the Porters, the leather stitch marker pouch. My pouch feels like an old friend at this point. It’s darkened with age and use, but I’ve also spilled wine on it, etc., so it has a lot of character. I also have a couple of little bowls that were made by friends: two ceramic ones from my studio neighbor Morgan at Handmade Studio TN, one of which holds back-up stitch markers (I get itchy if I don’t have a lot of stitch markers around the house) and the other of which holds my sewing pins; and a little wooden one by my friend James of Handy Dandy Productions that also holds stitch markers and sits in the metal trays next to my knitting seat. He made us some of those for the shop this holiday, which made me really happy. Hopefully he’ll do it again sometime!
Yarn-wise, I have a number of treasures. Small-batch yarns made by good friends or that I’ve found on my travels — like the Sawkill I bought from an awesome farm couple on my first trip to Rhinebeck. Having special yarns like that makes me think really hard about what to do with them that will both honor their characteristics and take up long-term residence in my closet. Likewise, the fabric my friend Allison made for me, which I have yet to come up with the exact right project for! I take a long time to decide what to do with my treasures, and that feels entirely appropriate to me.
Other than that, my cousin recently sent me my eldest aunt’s dress form from when she was much younger. We are not a family with a lot of heirlooms — I have two things in my house that come from my family, and this is the third. It’s teensy (maybe size 4?) and in a little bit of disrepair. So I plan to treat it more as a decorative object than one for use, but I am really touched and happy to have it. (By the way, I get asked a lot about my dress form — the one pictured here. It’s just something I got by searching “collapsible dress form” at Amazon.)
Do you lend your tools?
I never really have occasion to! I do have that little cabinet full of all those old bamboo circs that I would be more than happy to lend out or give away! If you’re local and in need, hit me up.
What is your favorite place to knit/sew/spin/dye?
I knit either curled up in the corner of my couch or in one of the hanging chairs on my screened porch, weather permitting. And there’s nowhere on earth I’d rather be than knitting in the hanging chair on my porch. But I also love knitting on my brother-in-law’s boat. When we visit them in Florida, we go out deep-sea fishing and I don’t really fish. But I love being out on the ocean, no civilization anywhere in sight, camped out on top of the cooler box under the bridge (in the shade) with my knitting, watching and cheering.
And I sew in my little sewing room, although that’s what I dislike a little about sewing — it makes me feel a bit trapped. Although obviously there are worse places to be trapped!
What effect do the seasons have on you?
When we lived in Berkeley … well, there really are no seasons there (it’s just always chilly), and I could never understand why people with seasons didn’t knit year-round anyway. Don’t people in hot places have air conditioning? Don’t you still want something to do with your hands while watching a movie with your spouse or whatever? But now that we live in the South, I kind of get it. I still knit in the summer but there’s no urgency about it so I get a lot less done. And there are times, even with a/c, where the idea of touching wool is just unthinkable. Fortunately, it’s brief!
By contrast, I feel much more motivated to sew in the summer — both because it’s what I can do to make the clothes I need and want for the warm seasons and because the kinds of things I can sew (at my skill level, I mean) are more likely to be warm-weather clothes. Little tops and skirts and stuff. In the cool seasons, I’d way rather be curled up working on a sweater.
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where you fiber pursuits are concerned?
I guess my dark secret is sort of like Monica’s hall closet nobody wondered about until near the end of Friends. I’ve just told you all about my nice tidy wall of shelving and how everything is required to fit into that. But there is a big basket in my bedroom (like the size of a cooler) full of abandoned WIPs and ball ends and who knows what — stuff that predates my current system. I swear here publicly today, for all to see, that I will have it cleaned out before Spring. And I’ll have reclaimed about a dozen Bento Bags in the process!
My quirk is that I knit cross-legged or with my feet tucked under me, so I find it awkward to knit in public or a classroom or anywhere I have to sit in a chair with my feet on the floor.
What are you working on right now?
Right now all of my attention is on my Channel Cardigan. I’ve been on about that pattern for years now, and it has finally made it to the number one position in my queue. I just finished a small-gauge (for me) stockinette pullover and had major project fatigue by the end of it, despite absolutely LOVING that sweater. (OK, I still have the seaming and ends to do.) But Channel is reminding me just how much I love to knit.
PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Ashley Yousling (Woolful)
Photos of me, tool tray and hanging chair by Kathy Cadigan