Your Yarn Story: Aleks Byrd

Color & Knit Mittens is the debut book from local designer Aleks Byrd and we're delighted to help her celebrate the launch. We sat down with Aleks to find out her yarn story.

Aleks Byrd

Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: I've currently have two projects on needles, both are jumpers. One is the Kiuru sweater from Issue 3 of Laine Magazine being knit out of Walcot Yarns Opus in a stunning golden yellow color called Goldenrod. I love the mix of cables and twisted stitch patterns! I just cast on a few days ago the Carbeth jumper by Kate Davies. I fell in love with it when I saw the photos she posted on Instagram. It's a nice fast, simply mindless knitting project in contrast to the complexities of the Kiuru sweater. I am knitting it out of Wollmeise DK is an adaptly named colour for a Scottish pattern; Single Malt. 

Kiuru sweater wip

Q: When did you start knitting/crocheting? Who taught you?
A: I learned how to knit from my mother when I was probably about 8-10 years old. It has been a progression to obsession and passion as I have gotten older. I became more interested when I was in middle and high school as there was a knitting club with girls my age. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?
A: Part of what I love about knitting is that it's a community. I have had the opportunity to travel extensively and live in different places. Each time and place I've visited there are always a group of knitters that are very welcoming and make you feel a sense of belonging. Meeting so many knitters has opened my eyes to a wealth of knowledge of different techniques, styles of knitting as well as amazing places to shop for yarn and patterns. Its a welcoming and supportive community for knitters but also designers. 

Q: Do you have a favourite thing to knit?
A: I tend to knit a lot of cowls. I am a scarf lover and cowls are  easy to knit and wear, as well as a great canvas for trying out different knitting techniques. 

Q: You're also an amazing illustrator - where does your inspiration come from? 
A: A lot of my inspiration comes from my travels, experiences and cultural background of Estonia. I always have a sketchbook on me when I go somewhere new or interesting to capture ideas for a pattern or record details about the place and what's unique in my eyes about it.  I love patterns and colours particularly those used in nordic knitting and their folk costumes. Lately I've been trying to create a bridge between my love of illustration and knitting by illustrating the wonderful whimsical  experiences of knitting based on my own as well as my knitter friends' experiences-  knitting socks and jumpers on ourselves to get the fit just right! It has also been a great opportunity to bring to life potential ideas for new patterns on paper.

Aleks' design studio
Q: Tell us how you came up with the idea for Color & Knit Mittens. Do you have plans for other books?
A: I'm a knitter that doesn't like to stick to colours planned out in a given colourwork pattern. I think that might come out of being a being an illustrator & designer as well as having gone to art school! I like to modify my colours particularly with stranded colourwork knitting, which can get confusing when reading a chart printed in colours that aren't close to what I'm using. I thought it would be interesting to try to create a chart that was blank that could then be coloured in with the colours that I wanted to use and how I wanted to use them. I had designed and had published  a colouring book already (a Christmas themed Estonian colouring book published in Estonia) and had seen the adult colouring book trend continue even amongst my friends and family. I thought it time to maybe try to combine the colouring book trend with colouring work knitting- it seemed to make sense to me and it would continue to bridge my loves of knitting and illustration. I would love to create more books, maybe continuing the concept of the knitting colouring book with a different patterns possibly hats or cowls/scarves. Maybe at some point I'll take the plunge to design a jumper or cardigan!

Aleks and mittens from her book
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: This is incredibly challenging to pick just one! I really enjoying working with variegated yarns particularly in stranded colourwork so I would pick Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Addiction Fingering at the moment. Her yarns have a nice painterly quality in their colours and knit into a nice squishy fabric.

Sock knit girl
Q: How has knitting affected your life? Or, what role does knitting play in your life?
A: Knitting started out as just a hobby. Another hobby that I could share with my mom and slowly and increasingly share with friends as I taught them how to knit. It has become so much more in the last few years. I never thought of myself before as  a knitwear designer or even becoming one. I remember going on a knitting workshop with my mom a few years ago. The knitters in the workshop were asked to pick out yarns to knit a fair isle cowl that would be a knit-a-long. I didn't like the pattern of the cowl and thought I could come up with something better myself- which I did and it sparked so much more. Knitting has become more than just an enjoyable and relaxing outlet but also where I can let my creativity run wild. I always loved textiles and wanted to put my illustration and pattern ideas onto something that I could wear and use. Being able to sit and figure out the puzzle of translating something from paper to wool is an enjoyable and gratifying challenge and one that I am excited to continue to build and incorporate into my expanding career interests of knitwear design and illustration. 

In celebration of Aleks' new book we're throwing a little party and book signing! No need to RSVP, join us in the shop on Saturday, March 10th from 1-3pm where you can meet Aleks, pick up a copy of the book and see the wonderful mittens she's created. 

- Carmen

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