Day 23 of Knitting Contrissmas, woo hoo! Today, an interview with the completely fabulous Brooke Nico! Designer, LYS Owner, teacher, and generous soul—- you’ll love getting to know her better!
Brooke’s GIVEAWAY is a Kirkwood Knittery logo notions bag and the yarn and pattern for Paige’s Circle (the purple shawl)! Winner will be chosen by random generator on Midnight CST December 30th!
KC: Brooke I’m a huge fan of your beautiful designs—— some lace lovelies that I feel as if I could never knit their beauty! Do you consider lace knitting to be your primary focus or are there other things that get your attention?
BN: Right now, lace knitting is my focus. I love the way lace knitting combines the logic of math, with the creativity of the lace. I do occasionally like to do colorwork, especially slip stitch mosaics. But, there is so much left for me to explore in lace!
KC: As the owner of a successful local yarn store (Kirkwood Knittery) in St. Louis as well as a designer of beautiful knits how in the world do you get so much done? Do you have any tips to stretch time and be more creative?
BN: I wish! I get up early in the morning, and that’s my quiet knitting time before the kids get up. I also really do knit fairly constantly, I’m never sitting around with empty hands. I would guess that I knit an average of 10-12 hours a day.
I have found that for me, I knit faster when I’m working on a more complicated stitch pattern, miles of stockinette will take me forever!
I absolutely love going into the store each day, and I find I’m so inspired by all our customers.
Also, Robyn Schrager and I inspire each other and are constantly playing ideas back and forth.
KC: I’m totally in awe of your intricate and beautiful patterns, what is your design process like?
BN: I usually spend several months exploring a theme, often it’s a shape or a garment type. Lately it’s been triangles, and all the different garments you can make with triangle shaping. Within that exploration, I’m often inspired by a stitch pattern or technique I want to try. From there, it’s a lot of swatching and ripping before I hit on a combination that works! (My business partner, Robyn Schrager, will attest to the amount of ripping I do.) It usually takes about 3 days of swatching before I can finally cast on my project. That is the down side of designing with lace, my typical swatch is about 70 stitches by 100 rows. I keep saying that my next area of exploration will be bulky yarns, but in truth, I much prefer the small yarn and needles.
KC: Does the pattern call for a particular yarn or does the yarn drive the pattern?
BN: That depends on what the design is for. If I’m designing something for the shop, it’s totally yarn driven. Whenever we get new yarns in, I get to play and design things that the yarn wants to be!
On the other hand, if I’m designing for myself, the design dictates what yarn I need to use. Sometimes a particular stitch pattern needs certain qualities in a yarn, sometimes the garment as a whole needs qualities, maybe drape, or body.
KC: Do you have a favorite pattern you’ve created??? I know it is difficult to choose!
BN: My favorite design is always the one on my needles. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a fair-weather friend that way!
I am partial to the Doily Tunic, published in Vogue Knitting Spring 2010, as that was my first nationally published pattern. I also love the capelet from the cover of Debbie Bliss Magazine Spring 2011—that was a great combination of yarn and design.
KC: What trends do you see coming in the world of yarn for 2012?
BN: I think, and hope, that lace knitting will continue in it’s popularity surge. It really is a great way to get your money’s worth out of your knitting…. a typical shawl provides several months of knitting entertainment, and costs under $50 of yarn.
We are also seeing a resurgence of the novelty yarns. People are wanting quick, easy knit projects, and novelties are a great way to get that.
KC: There are so many talented people in the world of knit and crochet, who always inspires you?
BN: You know, I really avoid looking at other designer’s work. I get more inspiration from a day walking through the mall and seeing what people are wearing. And, Robyn and I have been known to stop a customer and ask to examine a garment we admire! Right now, I’m working on a cape which was inspired by a coat I saw in a vintage store.
That being said, I’m always awed by the career of Debbie Bliss, the amazing breadth of her work, and I’m inspired every time I get to work with her.
KC: Of your many accomplishments in 2011, which one stands out to you?
BN: Definitely having my design on the cover of Debbie Bliss magazine is a big one, also all the great knitters I’ve met teaching at VK Live and Stitches events and in the store. I just love seeing that lightbulb go off and empowering knitters.
KC: Are you making handmade gifts this year? Can we peek into your list???
BN: I am making gifts with my kids. I bought a Cricket table loom this summer, and we’re all learning to weave. It’s been great fun, now I just have to be careful to keep this hobby as a hobby, not turn it into another career!
KC: Do you read any blogs in the creative community?
BN: Back to my time issue…I don’t spend much time on the internet, I tend to go on, check Facebook and Ravelry, then log out. I do check out the blogs of Franklin Habit, http://the-panopticon.blogspot.com/, and Carol Sulcoski, http://goknitinyourhat.blogspot.com/. They are the wittiest people I know!
KC: I absolutely can’t believe you’ve only been knitting 9 years or so! I think that offers every knitter hope and inspiration! What was your first knitting project?
BN: First, I need to let everyone know, before I started knitting, I designed with flat fabric…I’ve been sewing since I was 9 years old. So, I came to knitting with a good knowledge base of fibers and body fit.
I taught myself to knit with books, I knit 2 swatches, then decided I was ready for a sweater (ah blissful ignorance). I went to my local yarn store (since closed) and found that I hated all the sweaters billed “easy knit” . They were so style-less and boring. I did, however, fall in love with an intarsia cardigan for my then 4 year old son. That’s when I got the best advice I’ve ever gotten. The yarn store owner told me, “If you want the finished product, you’ll make the effort to learn the skills you need to get it done. If you work on something you don’t like, you’ll just put it away and quit.” So, I bought the pattern and yarn and she was right, it was a struggle, but I learned what I neeeded, and finished the sweater. Unfortunately, it was stolen from my son’s daycare center the next year! But, I’ve always lived by that lesson, and have no fear of diving in and trying something, even if it looks “too hard”!
KC: You’ve only been knitting lace since 2008? Wow, I’m kind of speechless! I frequently say that I don’t have a ‘natural lace brain’. What is it do you think that makes some people gravitate toward lace? Are you one of those mathematical thinkers?
BN: I am definitely “one of those mathematical thinkers”! I see patterns in everything, and really that’s all that lace is. I love the challenge of fitting the flow and ethereal creative qualities of lace with the rigid mathematical realities of garment shaping.
KC: Are you creative in other ways? Cooking, painting, crafty???
BN: I am so un-crafty, it’s really amazing. One of my biggest problems in designing is that I can’t sketch worth a darn. So, until I figure out how to mind-meld my thoughts into publishers’ minds, I usually have to knit the whole garment before I submit it!
KC: The past year has been a big one for you, what is coming in 2012? Please share with us some of your upcoming news!
BN: I’m really looking forward to more teaching in the next year. I’ll be at VK Live in New York in January, and at Stitches West, South, and Midwest. Also, we’ll be hosting a Lace weekend at Kirkwood Knittery on January 28 and 29. I’ll be teaching my most popular classes, Introduction to Lace Knitting, and Fixing Mistakes in Lace Knitting.
In additon to teaching, I’ll have designs coming out in several publications, including Creative Knitting and Debbie Bliss Magazine. Also, I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to several books which will be out in the next year.
As for other things, I have a few irons in the fire, but unfortunately can’t share yet, but I promise big things are coming from me and Kirkwood Knittery….
KC: What words do you have for your many fans in the world of all things YARN? For those knitters and crocheters who follow you (and are about to)?
BN: You know, whenever I make a mistake, or need to rip out (which is frequently!), I try to make sure that I do it at the store where everyone can see that I, too, rip! If all we wanted was to slog through and get a sweater, we’d be at TJ Maxx buying the sweater! We knit because we like the process, and ripping is part of that process for all of us. I won’t even get started on gauge swatches, because I see that Robyn already stressed that!
BN: Remember, it’s only a loop in a loop, and the worst that can happen is that you take it out and start over. Don’t be afraid to try something new and stretch yourself.
BN: Also, take the time to look at your work when you’re doing it right. So often, we don’t look closely until we make a mistake, then we don’t know how to fix it. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re knitting for yourself, if it looks right and doesn’t unravel, it’s fixed!
KC: Thanks SO much Brooke, I always say that when I grow up I want to knit like you! You definitely give me hope and inspiration!