Yarn Loop is so excited to release this Designer Spotlight with Tin Can Knits, also known as the design duo, Alexa Ludeman (on left) & Emily Wessel (pictured to the right of Alexa), an international team working from 2 separate continents. While both women are Canadians, Alexa is still in Vancouver, Canada, and Emily has spent the last six years in Edinburgh, Scotland, after a transplant across the pond. I have been following Tin Can Knits for quite some time and enjoy their gorgeous use of color, modern patterns and sense of fun in everything that they create. While their early designs demonstrate Wessel's first love, lacework, their work expanded to include bold and exciting colorwork when they released Mad Colour in 2016.
From Left to Right: Mad Colours patterns Spotlight & Marley (Kits coming soon!)
Tin Can Knits repertoire is extensive, including all accessories, sweaters, cardigans, and home goods. Tin Can Knits is well-known for their pattern sizing which fit newborns up to 4XL adults including males and females. "One of the things we have been doing since we started designing is sizing our patterns from 'baby to big' - that means from 0-6 months all the way up to adult 4XL. And all of those sizes are included in a single pattern! We thought it was a great way to offer excellent value to knitters, and the idea has been popular! We love it because it means that we can prototype our ideas by making tiny sweaters for our kids." It doesn't matter if you are slim and tall or husky and short, Tin Can Knits patterns truly work for everyone! (Please note that Yarn Loop has separated the children's sizes and adult sizes to offer more colors for each yarn base, but the pattern does include all sizes.)
I was able to track down Emily Wessel for a short interview that barely scratches the surface of what these women can do! The longer I look at their patterns, the more questions I have, and the more I am astounded by their huge array of work!
First...the name! So inventive with graphics to explain where words cannot. Emily provides this concise description which is the essence of who they are as a team:
"We chose Tin Can Knits because we thought our name should create the image of the way we work. Since we have worked at a distance almost since the very beginning, I thought of two little girls, with tin cans and string, whispering down the line, telling each other yarny secrets! Ours is a business that has playfulness at it's heart, and we also feel knitting is a craft that can be practiced with the most basic of materials."
These designers fit together perfectly, equally elevating their individual strengths and eliminating any weaknesses between the partners. Emily has a formal education in Architecture which makes her especially attuned to design principles of balance, shape, and form. Alexa's background is in education which Emily says "gives her a great perspective on creating clear and delicious patterns and tutorials." If you haven't been to their website, I encourage you to browse around and absorb the extensive photos, inspiring patterns, and thorough explanations and tutorials that will delight your knitty brain!
It is always interesting to find out the exact moment designers start creating. Emily "started at 8 - I loved chopping up holey old socks to make dresses for my barbies!" Barbies seem to be a constant source of inspiration for many designers at an early age because these toys allow creativity and imagination to blossom while honing the fine motor skills needed for holding the threads, needles, and hooks. This ability to create and design is embedded in each of us while we were too small to realize that this passion may drive our entire lives. Emily says, "I think we have both been makers for our whole lives...But really, we both just get obsessed by yarn and sweater ideas, and love having knits on the needles." While Emily does dabble in other crafts such as crochet, spinning, sewing and quilting, "Knitting is still my main passion when it comes to [crafting]; there's something so slow, rhythmic and satisfying about it. And yarn... well the material just calls out to me!"
The creative spark amplified when this duo met in Vancouver while working at a knitting store. The creativity each possessed was evident, and they were "designing together before we knew each other really very well!" It is extremely rare for a team of designers to emerge in the knitting world, but these two women have found it the best way to work. Wessel says, "I think that Alexa is the most hard-working partner I could have landed up with, she has so much enthusiasm,...never complains, and has always believed in Tin Can Knits. I don't think either of us would be where we are today without the other; when making creative work, it is so beneficial to have somebody supportive behind you, who can keep you motivated to finish projects...And of course, when things don't go as planned, it's always good to have a partner to talk things out with, to help you refocus on the next piece of work." It is always inspiring to find that one person whom you trust to talk you through a design crisis and help you find the light at the end of the tunnel. While designers don't normally talk about their design dilemmas, sometimes it is the glitch that creates the most astounding and intuitive pieces of work.
While browsing through Tin Can Knits catalog of work, one will notice more lacework at the beginning of their partnership. Wessel is enthralled with lacework, calling it "my main love" despite the team being well-known for their colorwork these days. Early patterns created in 2009 include Photosynthesis (below), a graduated leafy lace pattern that splays out towards the lower edges, both demonstrating perfect construction and that 'wow factor'.
My favorite lacework design is Low Tide from Pacific Knits. This gorgeous cardigan is perfect for Texas weather with an undulating wave pattern across the yoke and cap sleeves. It has the perfect level of warmth and breeziness for layering in this warm climate. Its flyaway construction makes this piece multi-faceted and is easily used as a bathing suit cover-up at the beach, and it can be worn as maternity wear so that growing baby has plenty of room to wiggle and squirm without constriction. Of course, who can resist a little bitty toddler in the Low Tide either!
Antler is another gorgeous pattern from Pacific Knits which is one of Emily's favorite designs. "For sweaters, I am still in love with Alexa's design, the Antler Cardigan. There's just nothing better than a cabled yoke - and it knits up so very quickly in worsted weight yarn." Cable work is broken down into easy to digest pieces for those newbie cablers, with the majority of the sweater in standard stockinette. It is an excellent project for those looking to push their skills to the next level, but without the stress of a huge cabled blanket which would make many throw their needles out the window.
Another favorite design is from 9 Months of Knitting called Gramps, a cardigan which is perfectly at home on itty bitties as well as mom, dad, & Grampa. Tailored with a folded collar, pockets and elbow patches, this knit has all the trimmings of a well-loved and well-used cardigan.
While Gramps shows the beginnings of a great eye for color combinations, it is the addition of Mad Colour that truly threw Tin Can Knits into knitwear royalty. Emily Wessel says "Lately, I've been more and more entranced by colourwork! We began to explore colour in various ways in our book Mad Colour, and that's definitely not the end of our obsession!" Who hasn't seen the Pop Blanket, Bounce or Polygon? (images below, left to right; these blankets are still being developed into kits. Coming Soon!) These baby sized throws really opened our imaginations to what we can really do with all of these fabulous yarns that float around in our dreams. "I couldn't really play favourites, but I really love the Bounce Blanket. For a few years I was a hand-dyer in addition to working with Alexa on Tin Can Knits. When I started Rainbow Heirloom, I wanted to create a blanket to showcase a whole rainbow of shades, and this simple but striking lace pattern really pleased me! Because Bounce is striped, you get a real sense of satisfaction as you knit, always moving on to try the next colour out."
Both Alexa and Emily love creating with hand-dyed yarns such as Rainbow Heirloom. "Many of our knits were designed in hand-dyed merinos like Madelinetosh DK, Tosh Vintage, and similar soft yet durable bases by other hand-dyers like SweetGeorgia, Tanis Fiber Arts, Hedgehog Fibers, and the like. The colours can be so scrumptious and the finished knits are very soft and cuddly."
For those who are unfamiliar with these yarns, these are multi-plied which means that they are spun with several strands so that each fiber is locked into place very securely. The tighter the twist, the less pilling the final garment will show with use. By using Merino Wool, the softest of wool breeds with the smallest micron count, you are guaranteed to have a garment that can be worn right up against the skin (unless you have a wool allergy; wool allergies are generally from the lanolin content of wool). All of these dyers are from North America with the exception of Hedgehog Fibers who is based in Ireland. All except Tanis Fiber Arts use superwash yarns for easy care of the finished garments. The superwash process helps prevent the fibers from felting when washed.
At Yarn Loop, we follow Tanis Fiber Arts because the company is moving towards the environmentally responsible GOTS certified compounds which prevent felting without harsh treatments to wool. To learn more about this process, please read about O-Wash by O-Wool which uses the same process. We find that this compound creates a very soft and pleasing hand which retains the wool's original characteristics better than traditional superwash. Please see our Instagram for the Changing Light WIP on O-Wash Fingering.
I always like to know what is dear to our designers' hearts, and without pause, Emily said, "This year we launched a really big collaboration! Heart On My Sleeve is an ebook with 8 beautiful yoke sweater designs; all donated by 9 knit designers: Shannon Cook, Romi Hill, Bristol Ivy, Tanis Lavallée, Joji Locatelli, Alexa Ludeman, Jane Richmond, Ysolda Teague, and [Tin Can Knits]. We coordinated and published the ebook, and all incomes from the sale of the ebook are donated to the Against Malaria Foundation. So far we've donated $44,670 USD - this buys 18,612 nets, to protect 33,500 people (this is the entire population of 60-70 villages)."
If you haven't had a chance to look at this gorgeous collection, please do. There are few things more satisfying than helping others (with the added bonus of helping yourself to beautiful knits!). To learn more about this wonderful venture or to place an order, please go to www.heartonmysleeveknits.com Tenderheart & Ironheart (pictured below) are the contributions from Tin Can Knits.
Tin Can Knits carefully curates design concepts which are arranged into the following book collections. Please click any link to go directly to the ebook or pattern kit.
The Simple Collection (for beginners and newbies) - Free ebook filled with 10 patterns! The following patterns are available as kits:
Road Trip (Intermediate pattern set designed for long road trips) - Ebook contains 14 patterns with gorgeous Fair Isle colorwork adorning several patterns.
Max & Bodhi's Wardrobe (baby garments & layette for littles)
Making No. 3: Dots features Tin Can Knits new pattern, the Waves Mittens, which are a high contrast Fair Isle Design meant for more advanced makers. Making only showcases the hottest and most inspirational designers from several crafts who have an excellent grasp of form, fit, colorwork, and detail. (Coming soon!)
Pom Pom Quarterly Issue 21: Spring/Summer 2017 also features Rave, a skinny and long wrap with a braided cable edging with a garter stitch field.
Tin Can Knits has also released the Ridgeline set which includes a matching hat and mittens with a bold chevron pattern separating 2 distinct colors. I personally love this set, so you may see it pop up in the Instagram feed sometime in the early winter (after all; I am in Texas so I don't need really warm garments until January).
Tin Can Knits is also starring as one of the featured designers in Knit Stars 2.0 in October. Pre-Enrollment just closed, but feel free to tag along and get in at the non-discounted rate once enrollment re-opens.
Emily forewarned me of a great pattern release in September, but she didn't tell me what it is! I hope you are as excited as I am to see what this duo can do, so expect a reminder from Yarn Loop in our email list when it arrives!
Tin Can Knits is hosting a Buy One Get One Free special right now on all of their patterns and ebooks excluding the Heart on My Sleeve Knits collection and 11 other patterns. This special is only good until July 16th! Please go directly to their website for purchases through July 16th; we simply can't compete with this stellar deal, and it would be a shame for you to miss it! For details, go here.
For kits and Gift Sets, Yarn Loop is your best friend! For the entire month of July:
Here are a few special sections of Tin Can Knits blog to give you even more insight! https://blog.tincanknits.com/2
Tips on knitting for babies / kids: https://blog.tincanknits.com/2
I know that this article has been quite an eyeful, so feel free to come back again later so that you can absorb all of the great insights and patterns by Tin Can Knits.
Photos by Tin Can Knits & Madder.
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