An Interview With: Meghan Kelly

It has been a while since we interviewed anyone on the blog, and I thought it would be fun to dive back in with our very own Meghan! Meghan came to Kelbourne as a part-time intern in 2012 soon after moving to Philadelphia to obtain a masters degree in textile design.

She fit seamlessly into the team and stayed on as an intern/part-time employee throughout the rest of her education. After graduating, she kept eluding to the many head hunters contacting her after graduation, so we made it officially official and hired her full time before anyone else could steal her away! Most shop owners and managers know Meghan, as she is the one who organizes orders, calls for shipping and payment information, manages the warehouse and packing schedule, and assists with inventory management.

Over the last year, Meghan has also been directly involved with the latest chapter of Kelbourne Woolens as we worked to move away from being an exclusive distributor to bring in new brands to the N. American market and develop our own line of yarns. A big part of last year's behind the scenes work was designing and developing Mojave, fondly referred to around the office as "Meghan's Yarn". I thought it would be fun to ask her some questions about the process of designing Mojave, the collection that accompanied the release of the yarn, and her love of crazy color. Our conversation is below. Enjoy!

Kelbourne Woolens Yarn Mojave

Kate: Mojave is a "Meghan" yarn through and through, and also the first Kelbourne Woolens yarn that is exclusively cellulose fibers. What made you want to develop a cellulose yarn for the Kelbourne Woolens line?

Meghan: By nature, I run hot so I'm always on the lookout for nice cotton or linen clothing. I also knit year round and it is really hard to sit and try to knit wool in the sweltering heat of July. These preferences led me to want to develop a yarn that was both comfortable to knit with and to wear. Cotton yarn is notoriously hard on your hands because of its low elasticity so the other part of the puzzle was to make a cellulose-based yarn that was also easy on the hands. After a lot of back and forth with the mill, we were able to develop a yarn made of several tiny plies that are smooth and soft. The blend of cotton and linen is perfect for summer sweaters and evening cover-ups. I'm really happy with the feel and drape of the resulting fabric and knitting with it doesn't feel like a gym workout for the hands!

Kate: I totally agree! As you and Courtney are well aware, I am not the hugest fan of purely cellulose yarns, but I do love working with Mojave. I imagine that our color development and selection meetings are only hilarious and interesting to us (and possibly a little frightening and odd for anyone in the warehouse who may be listening in), but the final selection for Mojave was particularly....animated. We ended up going with the largest number of colors for this introduction and the overall palette for Mojave is brighter than we typically go for. This makes sense for a summer yarn, but also because of your color preferences. Can you talk more about the palette?

Meghan: Always more pink! Haha! At art school we were really drilled about color theory and one of the things we learned was that your color preferences follow you through life. A broad view of my closet reveals that I love bright, warm colors, particularly shades of coral and bright pink. I will always advocate for these colors. However, personal preferences do not always lead to good business practices. Year after year, sales have shown us that the most popular colors are neutrals and blues. So, we battled it out and the resulting palette is very bright but definitely has the cooler blues and grays that Kelbourne Woolens is known for. We even included some softer hues that linen wearers love. Honestly, color development meetings are one of my favorite aspects of the job. It's just so fun to see all colors and work together to create a selection that makes sense!

Kate: I agree, I do love those color selection meetings. They're crazy, but fun! Let's talk about the designs a little bit. It was a no-brainer to design "summer" sweaters for Mojave, but you were also really focused on making sure the cut, style, and overall design appealed to a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Can you talk a little bit more about the designs and their overall style, intended ease, etc?

Meghan: As a busty size 10-12 myself, I have trouble finding tops that fit me well and I know I'm far from being alone in that. To add to that challenge, when choosing a top to knit for ourselves, big busted women have to consider the risk of purchasing supplies for a garment that doesn't fit nicely but also the time and effort it takes to create it. For Mojave, I tried to design the collection to have a modern feel that works for all body types no matter the size. The longer tops are A-line so that wider hips would be flattered and the straight silhouettes are boxy and just this side of cropped to accentuate high-waisted skirts or pants. As an example, Evening Star is a bat-winged, cropped, open-front cardigan with lots of ease so that it can accommodate many different figures. It is designed to grace the shoulders, rather than hug the torso. In all, to be honest, I tried to design a collection that I could wear and feel good in. 

Kate: I think you totally did! Now let's talk about Ronnie! Besides being a stunningly gorgeous human inside and out, she is a different size than you typically see in collections, both published by companies such as ours and also by independent designers and magazines. While this isn't technically a "plus-size" collection, can you talk about the process of selecting Ronnie as the model, why we knit the sample sizes we did, and why this was important to you?

Meghan: I really wanted what the fashion industry terms "plus size" (or what we laypeople call an "average woman") to model the garments. It was important to me that women with full curves and thick arms can see themselves in a collection of sleeveless tops and realize that they can be stylish and look gorgeous in the summer without sacrificing comfort. One of the things that we do that I'm very proud of is to size our patterns in seven sizes. So, we didn't make a "plus-size" collection, we just chose a model who wears the fourth size instead of the first or second as is typically done. Ronnie did such an amazing job of making my vision come true and she was an absolute dream to work with.

Kelbourne Woolens Patterns Desert Queen Tank Top Pattern

Kate: There are a lot of factors that are out of our control when putting together a new yarn and collection, but also a lot that we can control. Looking back, what is one thing you would do differently next time? What is one aspect that you are most proud of?

Meghan: As always, time management is a biggie. If I could have done anything differently, it would have been to start sooner. But sometimes that falls into the "out of our control" category. The aspect that I'm most proud of is the ability and opportunity to see my vision through from start to finish. It began with the yarn, then the colors, the collection, and ended with the photoshoot. I even painted the backdrop, which I loved doing and turned out exactly how I wanted. I am incredibly proud of this endeavor and equally grateful to you and Courtney for your trust in me and for the opportunity to work on these big projects together.

Kate: Aw, thanks! We love working with you, too!