Your Yarn Story: Rachel of Porpoise Fur November 17 2015
I got a bit distracted by actual knitting these past few days. I meant to post this late last week and I've been working on the Doodler MKAL and then the Nordlándda Collection was released on Saturday and I haven't been able to put my needles down. So apologies for the tardiness of this post.
In case you missed it, we are hosting a Knit-A-Long for the Nordlándda Collection which was designed by Rachel C. Brown for The Fibre Co. Rachel is a designer, hand-dyer (Poprpoise Fur is her fibre company), tech editor, one half of Yarn in the City and all-around fibre enthusiast. I met Rachel just over a year ago at the 2014 Great London Yarn Crawl and have had the great pleasure of getting to work with her in various capacities since then. What strikes me most about Rachel is her absolute passion for all things fibre and her incredible breadth of expertise and knowledge on the subject.
So this week I get to share Rachel's Yarn Story with you. She's answered some questions below about her fibre journey and her inspiration for the new collection. I think you'll agree that it is a facsinating and fun read.
Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: I’m obsessively working on the 2015 Woolly Wormhead mystery KAL every time a new clue is released, which is loads of fun. I'm also working on a handspun sweater of my own design with an interesting construction that can best be summarised as a seamed sweater with no seams. ;-)
I'm also contemplating casting on all the things for Christmas presents. Sadly my available knitting time does not fit with the number of presents I seem inclined to cast on, so we'll see how that works out.
Q: When did you start knitting? Who taught you?
A: I actually know exactly when I started knitting, due to my father obsessively saving letters from long ago. When I was seven, my Dad got a Fullbright scholarship so my family moved to New Delhi, India for a year. My mother, brother and I moved back to the States after 6 months, and not one month later my Dad heard about my grandmother teaching me to knit. I can still remember the yarn she taught me with: red, white and blue Red Heart Super Saver acrylic (ugh!). When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, one of the keepsakes I got from her house was a skein of that same yarn - now over 30 years old, but still moth-free!
Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?
A: I think what I enjoy most about knitting is the creating, which can be as mindless or as engaging as I want it to be. I vacillate between being a process knitter or a product knitter. This time of year I'm definitely in product knitter mode, so lots of smaller things that work up quickly (accessories for the win!), with garter stitch or stockinette being big components.
What keeps me coming back? I wouldn't know what to do with my hands while watching tv otherwise....
Q: Do you have a favorite thing to knit?
A: It’s probably easier to list the things I don't like to knit: I'm not a fan of knitting intarsia of any sort. I do occasionally knit intricate lace shawls, but find that I can only work on them in small doses and when I've got the focus for them, which is not very often.
My recent projects for me have definitely focused on sweaters and shawl-type things. And hats. I also love knitting socks, particularly out of handspun.
Q: What is the last project you completed?
A: I just finished the Angostura Vest by Ysolda out of some of Blacker Yarns' amazing 10th birthday yarn, Cornish Tin.
Q: You work in a variety of roles in the yarny industry, how did you get started? Do you have a favorite role that you play?
A: I started off in the industry, if I can call it that, by submitting my first design to Knitty.com in 2009. That pattern wasn't accepted, but ended up as Drummossie, which was the final round for Sock Madness 4 in 2010. I kept on designing things here and there, and then found myself with some free time and a supportive spouse who encouraged me to start a business of some kind. I thought about selling handspun for a while (I'm a huge spinner, maybe even more then I am a knitter these days), but decided in the end to sell handdyed fibre for other people to spin. That business is Porpoise Fur.
In 2012 I met my Yarn in the City partner-in-yarny-crime Allison at a retreat, and within six months we were planning the first Great London Yarn Crawl. That side of things has expanded dramatically over the past year, and we now are involved in a number of projects, including a book (The London Craft Guide, coming out very soon!), and a number of events and workshops, including the Bath Craft Crawl, which is coming up in a few weeks!
Of all of the things I do in the yarn industry, I have two favorites: one is throwing colours on wool and seeing what comes out on the other side of the dye pot, and the other is working as a freelance technical editor for independent knitwear designers, publications and yarn companies. I've had the great pleasure to work with some absolutely brilliant people through that channel, and I love having the opportunity to help designers get their designs written into clear and understandable patterns that everyone can enjoy.
Q: You’ve just designed the Nordlándda collection for The Fibre Co., can you tell me a little bit about that process and what your inspiration was for the collection?
A: Working with Daphne from The Fibre Co. on this project has been a pleasure from the beginning. The original brief was to create a collection for their gorgeous bulky weight yarn, Tundra - ideally smaller projects that would take 2-3 skeins, and highlight the gorgeous softness and colours of the yarn. Accessories were the obvious projects, and we decided to include a range of different types; the collection includes two cowls, three hats, a scarf/shawlette and two pairs of fingerless mitts. As the collection was destined for an autumn release, I knew immediately that I wanted to do cables. I tend to use textured stitches in my designs in general, but cables seemed to me to be an obvious choice. And the yarn works so well in cabled designs, particularly when worked at a slightly looser gauge, giving a fabric with great drape that maintains good stitch definition.
The process for the collection involved swatching of a lot of different cable stitches to find ones that worked well with the yarn fibre content and the bulky weight. The first design that popped into my head was the Moen Cowl, a cozy cowl with tons of cables and movement, that can be worked up in either a close-fitting version or a longer infinity cowl that can be wrapped around the neck a couple of times.
Q: If you could only knit with one yarn for the next year, what would it be? In other words what is your current yarn crush?
A: My current yarn crush (and not coincidentally, the most recent commercial yarn I've worked with!) is the sadly now sold-out Cornish Tin from Blacker Yarns, which speaks to every woolly, rustic, crunchy, sheepy bit of my soul. It is such a great combination of strength and softness, with a gorgeous bit of halo. I wish I'd gotten truckloads of it!
Beyond that, my all-time favourite yarns to knit with are handspun, without a doubt. There is a special pleasure in knitting with yarn that you've made, knowing it is truly one-of-a-kind.
Q: What role does knitting play in your life?
A: Knitting is a huge creative outlet in my life. My professional training is as a biomedical research scientist, which has it's own creative side but also involves a fair bit of drudgery and repetitive work in rooms without windows. I find that knitting of any sort gives me an opportunity to let the science-oriented, analytical side of my brain take a break and just chill out in the background for a while. I knit or spin for at least a little while every day, and it plays an integral role in my mental well being. Plus it keeps me warm!
Rachel will be in Bath as part of the Yarn in the City Bath Craft Crawl on Saturday 28 November and will be teaching a project class on Sunday 29 November in the shop before she heads back to London. The class will focus on the Moen Cowl from the Nordlándda Collection and the techniques used in the pattern, including a tubular cast-on and off, cabling without a cable needle and reading charts.
There's still plenty of time to join in on the #AYSWinterCablesKAL too! You can find more information here.