From photography to shoe design to Art College Instructor to knitwear design, Jennifer Brou has taken an indirect path to creating her artful designs!
The Fibre Co. is all about celebrating the independent designer community and a big part of this work involves yarn support for designers and publications. When Laine Magazine was in touch about a new design in Road to China Light for Autumn 2022, we didn’t hesitate to send yarn out to designer Jennifer Brou.
We are constantly amazed by the beautiful works of independent designers and Jennifer’s Autumn Forager pullover is no exception! This stunning design also stood out to the team at Laine Publishing who placed it on the magazine cover of their newly redesigned Issue 15 for Autumn 2022.
We asked Jennifer a few questions about knitwear design and were delighted to learn that beyond yarn and knitting, The Fibre Co.’s birthplace in Maine was another point of connection with Jennifer who lives in South Portland, Maine, USA. We hope you enjoy reading more about Jennifer and her exquisite Autumn Forager.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself: how did you get into knitting and designing knitwear?
“My path to becoming a knitwear designer has been indirect. In college, my degree focused on photography and crafts, and I worked for 13-years as a footwear designer and developer. Knitting became an important part of my practice around 2003, when I worked at a knitting shop and began developing and fine tuning my skills.
I moved into designing my own patterns as a way of expanding my studio practice and making my own rules.“
Tell us about the Autumn Forager sweater.
“Autumn Forager is a top-down circular yoke pullover where texture is the main attraction. Stripes of slipped stitch mock ribbing alternate with stripes of ruching for a highly textural effect. To further emphasize the billowy ruching, a fitted hem and cuffs were used to accentuate the extra volume in the body and sleeves.
Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. Observing dappled light on the forest floor, mushroom foraging, and gazing at hypnotic fireside flames are moments I look forward to. This design was inspired by the order and rhythm of pine needles and mushroom gills. These forms are replicated in a slipped stitch mock rib pattern and create the structure for this pullover. Wisps of smoke from a fire or steam from a hot cup of tea inspired the alternating billowy soft ruching. This sweater embodies fall, the orderly progression of the seasons, textures from earth and air, and the warmth and weight of a protective cocoon.“
What inspires and influences your designs?
“Nature is my largest source of inspiration. Maine’s rocky coastline, frigid ocean, dense forests, and often extreme weather provide endless beauty from which I draw inspiration. I pay close attention to the linear compositions formed by nature by means of ice, snow drifts, rivulets carving paths in beach sand, and dark treeline contours against an evening sky. As an avid gardener, I am also drawn to the organic shapes and textures found in my backyard plants.
I also find inspiration in everyday, often overlooked, details. Tuning into and observing small instances of beauty helps me stay in the present and appreciative of the small things. Shadows falling on my kitchen counter, the curves of a cord, cracks and salt stains in pavement, are all inspiring in their own unique way.“
Autumn Forager is a top-down circular yoke pullover where texture is the main attraction. Stripes of slipped stitch mock ribbing alternate with stripes of ruching for a highly textural effect. To further emphasize the billowy ruching, a fitted hem and cuffs were used to accentuate the extra volume in the body and sleeves.
The kit can be purchased with or without a copy of Laine Magazine Autumn 2022. In addition to the Autumn Forager pattern on the cover of the magazine, there are 12 beautiful knitting patterns as well as interesting articles from the world of fibre. This issue 15 marks a step into a more modern, dynamic direction by celebrating knitwear and the world of fibre in a fresh way.
Could you share your design process with us?
“My design process is constantly changing. I use photography, digital and conventional drawing, and collage to form an archive that is then used to generate ideas. Sometimes an idea for a sweater comes from a photo I took the previous week and sometimes from flipping through my archive and finding a quick doodle I made five years ago. This level of fluidity allows for a lot of play and discovery, which is crucial to maintain since so much of knitwear design requires accuracy. As ideas emerge and grow, I take them through an iterative process that gradually becomes more and more precise. I take pride in doing as much work as I can so that my patterns are clear, able to be followed, size inclusive, and result in garments that will be truly loved.
When not designing knitwear, I teach at Maine College of Art & Design. I introduce students to design methodology, challenging them to play, do and redo, embrace accident and chance. This is something I use a lot in my own practice. I flip designs upside down and sideways, I stitch into them, I work and rework the same idea, I run out of yarn and see what happens when I improvise. This process helps me discover new and different ways of working, it keeps me flexible and open to the unexpected possibilities that chance provides.”
How does the yarn you use influence your design?
“Yarn is hugely important to the design process. For me, texture, fibre content, and colour palette play important roles in making a design successful. I have been in love with Road to China Light since I first held a skein of this luxurious yarn. The softness and drape are perfect for a highly textural knit like the Autumn Forager. The colour options for this yarn base are elegant and perfectly suited for a nature-inspired design.”
What is your favourite knitting technique and why?
“I think colorwork is my favourite knitting technique. It allows me to sketch in the medium of knitwear. I still find it magical when you are deep enough into a design to start to see how the repeats link to one another and the design becomes more solidified and clearer. I link this experience to printing photos in a darkroom. With time and care, images appear and expand. Colorwork also allows for endless possibilities as far as palette combinations and overall effect. Texture works in much the same way for me, I consider it a way in which I can draw and describe that which inspires me.“
What is your desert island knitting project—what could you knit again and again and still enjoy?
“This is a hard question! I am a knitter who enjoys a challenge and variety. My first thought was a giant colorwork blanket that reads “send yarn!” Joking aside, my ideal project would be a colorwork pullover. I could disassemble, and re-work the colorwork portion and overall shape as needed to run through ideas and switch things up visually.“
Autumn Forager is now available as a Legendary Gift Bundle!
Featuring a beautiful handmade Marra Project bag/Tote, this glamorous knit could easily be the star of a winter party wardrobe or a bit of everyday luxury with its superlatively soft fibres. Not only does this bundle provide many hours of happy knitting but also some casual reading with a hard copy of Laine Magazine No 15 included. The bundle is completed with the addition of either a Marra Project Bag or Marra Tote Bag. Both bags carry over 600 g worth of yarn and come in 7 beautiful colours.
Let the yarn lover in your life know how special they are this year, shop the Autumn Forager Knitting Gift Bundle and save 20%!
Knitting the Autumn Forager?
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