In case you haven’t heard yet, an absolutely stunning, fantastically wonderful, new book named Vintage Knits by Courtney Kelley and Kate Gagnon Osborn has just been released! Can you tell I am very excited about this book! Kate and Courtney are two immensely talented, smart, fun and very hard working women, this book is yet another of their amazing contributions to the knitting world and I am truly in awe.
The designs in Vintage Modern are pieces that you will not only want to wear now, but for many years to come. The wonderful selection was very thoughtfully put together to allow for the knitter to learn and work a new technique with each piece while keeping it simple enough that it does not become overwhelming. And you end up with a beautiful and flattering item, quite a feat!
For me, this is one of those must-own-because -I-want-to-knit-EVERTHING-in-it books, even the socks, and I hate knitting socks….. but I need these!
I would wear these everyday along with this sweater in a coordinating color
And these mittens
And this hat to top it all off!
Perfect! Hmmm, I had better start knitting…
To see all the amazing designs in Vintage Knits check out the Ravelry page here- http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/vintage-modern-knits-contemporary-designs-using-classic-techniques/patterns
How long have you each been knitting for? Why did you learn?
Courtney: In 1997 I pulled out some old knitting needles (old yellow plastic ones with metal tops) and some yarn (a skein of burgundy 100% acrylic) that my grandmother had given me, and taught me to knit with, when I was probably about 8 years old. Somehow I still had this yarn and these needles 10 years later, and somehow they made it with me from D.C. to Chicago, where I was going to school. I remembered how to cast on, the e-loop kiddie method, and that was about it. For a few days I just cast on stitches until the needle was completely full and then took them all back off again. Then I came to my senses and bought a knitting book, The Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Needlework, from the thrift store and I just haven’t stopped since.
I’m not really sure why I wanted to knit. I think because it was there at the moment. I was in school for painting at the time and really wanted to do something practical, or useful. I was also living alone for the first time and had a lot of time to myself that needed to be filled
Kate: I was quite a…precocious…child and needed to be constantly doing something. I was also lucky enough to have my maternal grandmother live in the same town as I did growing up, so we spent a lot of time together when I was young. As the only granddaughter (I have a brother and all male cousins) she and I had a special bond and she taught me how to knit and do other “textile” crafts when I was about 6 or 7. I think, at first it was a way to occupy my hands and mind, but it was the beginning of a lifelong love of textile arts. The cover sweater, the Adelaide Pullover, is actually named after the town in Australia where she grew up, and the book is dedicated to our grandmothers as a result of the influence they had in our young lives.
What type of garment was your first design?
Courtney: The first thing I knit was a baby blanket for a yarn shop I worked at, The Weaving Workshop, in Chicago. The owner, Lindsay Obermeyer (who’s been featured in Interweave Knits for her knitted artwork) hired me to work in the weaving section—having switched majors from painting to weaving—and then put me to work knitting samples. The first thing I designed on my own was a pair of socks. No one, I mean no one, knit socks in the 90’s as far as I could tell. There was no online knitting groups that I could find (even if I had a computer, which I didn’t) and no books on sock knitting available so I just made it up! I like the heel I invented and it still works for me really well.
Kate: I was never much of a pattern “follower”, so even when I didn’t consider myself to be a designer, I was always modifying and mixing and matching patterns together. After moving to Philadelphia in 2006 for graduate school, I began working at Rosie’s Yarn Cellar part time and was given the opportunity to do some design work for the shop. My first “real” design was a pair of socks, and soon after I published both the Silk Kerchief and Selbu Modern, which really helped jump-start my “career” in the design world.
How long have you two know each other for? How did you meet?
Courtney: I contacted Kate’s school, Philadelphia University, to find some textile students looking for part time work. I ended up finding Jocelyn Tunney, who is now the owner of Tunney Wool Company (the O-Wool distributors) who in turn introduced me to Kate. We worked together almost every day the summer of 2006, while I was pregnant. She saved my life, and supported my decision to have milkshakes every day.
Kate: We met in October of 2006 when I began working at Rosie’s. Courtney was the manager there and she actually hired me! We both worked there on and off through August of 2008 when we started Kelbourne Woolens.
How did you come up with the idea for Vintage Modern Knits?
Courtney: I think the idea came really naturally. We didn’t start with the title, we just designed the sorts of things we liked and used the idea of historical techniques as our jumping off point for each design. We wanted each garment to interesting and involve a specific technique that we, and other knitters, could learn more about as we knit and also end up with a great finished product that would be both practical and wearable. One of the great successes of the book is that none of the designs look overly complicated—because they aren’t! But each one has something unique or special about it that makes it worth knitting. If you aren’t learning something with everything you do, then you’re not taking advantage of the world around you.
Kate: The book is really emblematic of our style and who we are as designers. While at the core, we have differing aesthetics (I am a little more “traditional New England”, Courtney has a more vintage style) we both really love traditional, timeless knitting techniques and reading about and researching the history of knitting. Our goal was to design a book that will be as relevant aesthetically and as educational 20 years from now as (we hope!) it is today.
Which piece from Vintage Modern (of our own) is your favorite or the one that you think you will wear the most?
Courtney: I have a lot of favorites. The Rhodes Point Gansey is my favorite in a knitterly way. I am so pleased with how it turned out, and I am so happy with the techniques I used and manipulated to make it one of the best things I’ve ever knit. Among other things, the underarm short row shaping allows for a more fitted look than a typical drop-shoulder-style gansey and allows the knitter to work the sleeves in the traditional way; from the shoulder down to the cuff. It’s looks really great on. For sheer wearability (if that’s a word) I like the Brigid Jacket. I just think it is so cute, and will look so great on such a vast range of sizes, body types and can by styled so many ways. This is a sweater I will wear a lot!
Kate: I really like the Yvette Roositud Hat (coincidentally, named after my paternal grandmother who taught me to sew) and the Margarethe Lace Shawl. I already reknit another version of Yvette in a different colorway for myself, which I do wear quite a bit, and hope to reknit Margarethe for myself in the coming months.
What constitutes a great yarn for you?
Courtney: I like a yarn that is pleasant to knit with. That can be a lot of different things, depending on my mood. But I do like yarn that is thoughtful, and I think a knitter can tell. If a yarn is just another “fill-in-the-blank” that everyone has some version of I’m not that interested. I love small producers, I love soft tweeds, I like naturally-dyed, semi-solid earthy looking yarn but I love yarn that is soft. I think I just described our yarns, unintentionally.
Kate: I think my idea of a great yarn is similar to my idea of good design – I am more attracted to yarns and colors that have a timeless quality and look to them; I want something that will last, be warm, soft, enjoyable to knit with, but also look just as good 5 years from now as it does today. I am not a huge fan of pilling (who is?) and avoid pooling at pretty much all costs and don’t think I have ever knit with a synthetic fiber. Of course, I love all of the Fibre Company yarns – and consider myself to be incredibly lucky that I can knit with them as much as I do – and consider Canopy Fingering and Terra to be favorites. I also have a pretty decent stash of 2 or 3-ply minimally processed naturally colored sport weight wools in my studio.
Courtney: Wool. Hands down, in all styles and colors.
Kate: Alpaca. It is warm and soft – the best of both worlds!
Courtney: I really like colors that aren’t colors, per se. I love earthy brown pinks, I love shades of grey that tend to look green in some light, pink in some light. I also like purples, but weird off purples that are sort of charcoal. And shades of white, natural and cream. But, mostly I wear black and grey.
Kate: Grey (pretty much any shade), mint green and pinks on the verge of coral. There is not a day that goes by where I am not wearing at least one (usually 3 or 4) grey items of clothing.
Favorite thing to knit (either a type of garment or technique)? And why?
Courtney: Sweaters. I really like knitting sweaters, and I really like knitting sweaters in pieces. They look better, they fit better and they are more adaptable even though I know the rest of the knitting world disagrees with me. I also can’t have enough legwarmers and really wish my sock drawer was full of handknit socks. Woefully, it’s not.
Kate: Pretty much anything Fair Isle, and I am known as being someone who has a hat (or two) on the needles at any given moment. In a dream world, I would knit lots and lots of cardigans, but I just don’t have the time!
Want to hear more from knitters, designers, etc about Vintage Modern Knits? Make sure to see these previous and upcoming blog posts and podcasts:
2/5 Ready, Set, Knit podcast (WEBs) http://readysetknit.yarn.com/
2/7 Knitting Daily http://www.knittingdaily.com
2/8 Knit and Tonic http://www.knitandtonic.net/
2/10 Narrating Life http://mirandawalker.blogspot.com/
2/11 Knitbot http://knitbot.com/
2/14 Knitting School Drop Out http://www.knittingschooldropout.com/
2/15 Never Not Knitting podcast/ interview, giveaway http://nevernotknitting.blogspot.com/
2/16 Knitgrrl http://www.knitgrrl.com/
2/17 Sunset Cat Designs http://www.sunsetcat.com/
2/18 Neoknits http://www.neoknits.com/blog/
2/21 Tenten Knits http://margauxelena.typepad.com/
2/22 Lolly Knitting Around http://lollygirl.com/blog/
So, do you now wish that you had a copy of Vintage Modern Knits? Leave a comment (before Monday February 14th, 2011) and I will use a random number generator to pick a winner to send a copy to! Fun!
A huge thank you to Kate and Courtney!
And thank you all for reading,