An Interview With

An Interview With: Jenn of

Jenn of first came to my attention while playing around in hashtag searches on Instagram, and after seeing her gorgeous lopapeysur, I did what any good knitter would do and sought her projects out on Ravelry. A mother of two young boys in Maine, Jenn lives in the perfect climate for lopapeysa, and from the looks of her wool-clad boys, she also has grateful recipients for her knits.

When looking at her projects and instagram feed, I was immediately inspired by the number of gorgeous sweaters she’s knit, and her experimentation with yarn choice and color. She plays with and blends color in a way that is both bright and subtle, colorful and neutral. I wanted to ask her more about both her love of the lopapeysa and color process, and she was kind enough to comply. Our interview is below. Enjoy! – KGO

Kate: Hi Jenn! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. There is a clear progression of your work where you went from making many (many) adorable items for kids and babies until sometime in the middle of 2014 when you knit a lopapeysa style pullover and – bam! – that seems to be all you’ve made since. What was the first lopapeysa you knit, and what made you decide to knit one? 

Jenn: Hi Kate! It’s my pleasure! Not long after I learned to knit, I started putting circular yoked stranded sweaters in my “favorites” on Ravelry, while thinking I may never be skilled enough to knit one. I was wrong! I just needed to try. My first lopapeysa was Frost by Unnur Eva Arnarsdóttir in January or February of 2014, although I didn’t add pictures of that project to Ravelry until the summer of 2014.    I’d never knit stranded colorwork before, so my first attempt at knitting the yoke wasn’t very good at all – very accordion-like.  I had to rip out the yoke and try again.  After my second attempt, the result was a definitely not perfect, but wearable lopi for one of my sons.  I was so proud!  And from then on I was hooked! Soon after, I knit your Isadora Lopapeysa design for my son’s fourth birthday sweater.   I had so much fun combining colors for that project, and that’s where my love for combining colors really began.

Kate: From what I can gather, you’ve knit lopapeysa both top down and bottom up, with classic Lopi yarns, in handspun, in modern tweed yarns, and by mixing and matching all three. What about the sweater design appeals to you so much? Why do you think you keep going back to it?

Jenn: Yes, I’ve tried a variety of yarns and I like using all of them.  I will mix yarn brands if I feel like the shades of what I have on hand in my stash works well with the other colors I want to use.  Even before I knew how to knit, I really appreciated lopapeysur. I had a couple I loved to wear that I’d found at thrift stores. One was a bulky weight cardigan that served as my jacket while I was pregnant with my second son. Part of the appeal for me is definitely the yoke, almost like a mandala. I love how the motifs interlock so efficiently while at the same time the yoke is decreasing in size. Also, I really enjoy knitting plain stockinette. It’s meditative for me and doesn’t require much concentration – and there’s a lot of opportunity to do that while making the body of a lopapeysa. Why do I keep going back? I keep asking myself this same question! I really, really love combining colors. I think that is the main reason I keep knitting the same style of sweater over and over. I have learned a lot by knitting the same thing over and over again. I’ve learned how to make a sweater fit me well, which will come in handy when I knit other styles of sweaters in the future. Also, I’m becoming more efficient at combining colors as I knit more stranded colorwork projects. Knitting the yoke first and then knitting the body top down is definitely my new favorite way to knit a lopi. It’s easier to get the sleeves and body to be just the right length, and the colorwork around the hem ends up having the stitches going downward so the yoke and hem match better. I could never figure out why my hem colorwork always looked different than the yoke until I knit my yoke first and then knit the body downward.

Kate: One of the designs you’ve knit more than once is my Isadora Lopapeysa, a kid’s sweater that I also recreated for adults in my design Clawthorpe (which you began, then sadly ripped due to color choices). Although it is not a “true” Lopapeysa, why do you think you keep going back to that design? Which of the many you’ve knit do you think is most successful and why? 

Jenn: I really love Isadora Lopapeysa, as you can see! I keep knitting that design because there is opportunity to incorporate quite a few colors all at once, and I really enjoy the challenge of trying to get a lot of colors to behave well together. Also there is something about knitting stranded chevrons that is very zen-like.  I just love chevrons. I’ve knit one for each of my boys, modified the pattern to make one for myself, and I have a fourth in the works for my son that I hope to finish before fall. It’s hard to decide which one is the most successful, but probably the most well-knit and best fitting one is my 3rd (the one I made for myself.) I’d had more experience with stranded knitting and making a sweater fit properly by the time I’d knit that one. In terms of color combos, I really can’t pick a favorite or one that I think is the most successful. I like all of them.

Yes, unfortunately I decided to not go forward with Clawthorpe. I’d started with the yoke first as written in your pattern, and decided I didn’t care for my color combo. Although I’ve had a few people tell me they like the colors, I’ve decided to reattempt that pattern with a different color combination in the future. I love the design and want to make sure I’m really happy with my finished sweater.

Kate: Add me to the list of people who love your Clawthorpe combination! 

One of the things I – and many others, I’m sure – respond to is your choice and use of color. You seem to have used quite a bit of multi-colored yarn, but now create dramatic color effects through stranded colorwork. How does your swatching and color picking process work. What is a combination that surprised you with its success – or, as in the case of your Clawthorpe, its “failure”?

Jenn: Yes, in my early knitting days, I used a lot of multi-colored yarn, but now I haven’t been knitting variegated yarn much at all, although I still have some in my stash that needs some love.

My color choice process isn’t the most efficient, but I enjoy the process nonetheless. I don’t swatch at all. I almost never buy yarn with a specific project in mind, I choose yarn that interests me and then figure out how to use it later. I really like natural brown and grey wool yarns, as well as slightly tweedy and heathery colors. I tend to go for jewel tones and earthy shades. As I knit a project, I’m very often planning my future sweaters and also considering what colors to use in the yoke of my current sweater project. I’m trying to create a combination that harmonizes together well, is colorful, yet hopefully not obnoxious.

When I finish a project, I’ll often take a day off from knitting and take that time to choose what to knit next. My first step is choosing the body color (MC). Sometimes I can visualize exactly what sweater I want to make with the color I have in mind, but usually I’ll go through my Ravelry queue and choose a lopapeysa design that will work well with the MC I’ve chosen. As I knit the body I am repeatedly thinking about what colors I’ll use in the yoke, taking a mental inventory of the coordinating colors I have in my stash that will work well with both the MC and yoke pattern. That planned combo might evolve quite a bit by the time I get to the yoke. I often combine yarn brands if I think the shade works best with the other colors I’m using. I’m looking for colors that contrast a certain way. In some spots in the yoke I might need to combine dark and light shades so there is high contrast, but many times I am looking for colors that are of similar intensity so they harmonize well. I like to buy inexpensive bags of scrap wool yarn at the local thrift store, and have been surprised by how often the colors I find come in handy when I am looking through my stash for something that blends just right with my other colors.

Sometimes my planned color choices don’t work out like I’d hoped, and I’ll rip out and keep switching colors until I feel like they are working well. After partially knitting the yoke a few times and deciding that things aren’t working, I sometimes choose not to go forward with my current yoke and knit a different design than anticipated. There have been times I have done quite a bit of unraveling in order to get an outcome that makes me happy. I can be very finicky and indecisive, yet other times a sweater just comes together from start to finish with no problems with color and yoke combo – those tend to be the ones that have fewer colors involved. Lately my color choice process has become a little easier for me. I haven’t been changing my mind as often, and I think it’s because I’ve become more comfortable with combining colors – it’s getting easier with practice.

In terms of success of color combos, I was really surprised by the popularity of my “Gemini” lopi.  The design is Christmas in July on Ravelry, written by Tanis Lavallee. It was featured on the front page of Ravelry for “Eye Candy” and I was really shocked by the level of interest it drew. I have seen quite a few Ravelers that tend to shy away from really colorful knits, so I was very surprised my version was so well liked. In terms of failure, the reason why I didn’t go forward with Clawthorpe was because I felt like the colors I chose were just sort of OK. The color combo would have been more effective if I had put white or another really light shade where I’d knit the black. Usually when choosing colors, I am trying to come up with a unique color combo while at the same time, trying to keep my darker and lighter shades in the same sequence as the original pattern example. I think the white, used in the original pictures of your Clawthorpe design, was placed in good areas throughout the yoke, and the darkness of the black I used in mine just wasn’t as effective in those same spots.  Also, I felt like the greenish blue I used needed to be replaced with a more blue toned aqua in a similar intensity. I think it would have blended better with the gold I used.

Kate:  Something new you’re dabbling in is designing lopapeysur, and you just finished your first kid’s sweater. How was the process of designing different than that of knitting for you? Were there any challenges you faced that were completely unexpected?

Jenn: Yes! I’m really excited about my new design! I’m working on writing it up now. Marianne of Markno Design had approached me on Instagram and asked me to design some lopapeysa style sweaters with her new yarns. Coincidentally, she was really interested in my rainbow version of your Isadora Lopapeysa and she asked if I could design something similar. She liked how it showcased a lot of colors all at the same time and also loved all the chevrons. So my challenge was to design a sweater with a lot of chevrons without copying similar designs! I was really surprised by how easy designing the yoke was for me. I assumed it would be much more time consuming, but I had my rough copy done within a couple hours. I wanted the chevrons to come to a single point  (with just one stitch) at the top and bottom of each zigzag,  and I was able to achieve that by starting the bottom of the yoke with the chevrons spaced farther apart than I usually see in lopapeysa patterns, and by reducing the size of the chevrons as I worked toward the top of the yoke. I did run into a problem at the top of my chart and found that my last decreases near the collar occurred too often, resulting in the sweater being way too small at the neck.  So I had to reknit that section and tweak the chart in that area. The design process was different than my usual knitting of other people’s designs because I knew I only had a certain amount of yarns to work with, so it was easier to stick with the color plans I’d made, rather than continuously rethinking my color choices like I usually do.


Thanks again, Jenn! If you like what you see, be sure to follow her on Instagram for endless color and lopapeysur inspiration!

{all images taken from Jenn’s instagram feed}

2 thoughts on “An Interview With: Jenn of

  1. Vickery says:

    What a great interview–thank you!

  2. Alina says:

    Thank you for sharing this interview! I love Jenn’s work, I think she is a terrific and very inspiring knitter!

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