World Crafter. Alicia. Barcelona, Spain

World Crafters are people who make things in different parts of the world. Some turned their hobby into a profession, some are balancing a day job with small crafty business, some chose to keep their hobby and just enjoy making, creating and giving. Behind each stitch is a story…

ODD ONE OUT knitwear brand was created by young and talented knitwear designer, Alicia Gonzalez. The brand specializes in artisanal knitwear made with high quality materials carefully handpicked by the designer. The brand’s main focus is to create timeless pieces that will last for many years to come. From the computer engineer to the owner of knitwear brand, Alicia’s fiber journey is truly inspiring! 

Handmade Knitwear
Handmade Cable Sweater. Collection: Hidden Nation, AW 16/17. Italian mohair blend. Photo: www.theoddoneoutdesign.com. Model: Alessa.

What is your first fiber-craft related memory? Do you remember your first stitch? 

That’s a good question…I have never thought about it, but I suppose it was a dress for one of my dolls. I cannot remember my first stitch, but I’m sure it was when I was a child with my grandma. She took care of me during the day as my parents worked and she was an expert knitter and crocheter. I have inherited such a nice crocheted quilt. It’s amazing! The truth is I have always loved textile crafts. When I was a child, I remember being at Christmas holidays learning to knit, embroider and cross stitch with my Mum. My first project related to fibers and fabrics was a doll dress. I loved to design and sew dresses for Barbie :)

Before becoming a full time knitwear designer, you were a computer engineer. These two professions are quite different from each other! How did this transition happen? Was it scary for you to make this step or you didn’t have any doubts?

I wanted to become a fashion designer since I was 8 years old. I have lots of folders full of “sketches” from that age. When I was a child, I used to spend most of my time drawing and painting dolls. The thing is though I loved all the activities related to art, I also loved Maths and technical subjects. I have always been a real good student.

So, when I got to High School, despite my interest in fashion, art and design, I decided to study a technological baccalaureate. The truth is I felt really divided between two opposite things that I liked. The main reason for that choice was that, as you probably know, in Spain there have always been high unemployment rates, so many people in my surrounding (teachers, friends, family) made me feel that with such studies (“serious studies” as my teachers used to told me), I could have a job/economic security that I could not get through fashion or other artistic activities. Once I entered the university I decided to study Computer Science Engineering because I felt really interested in computers and information society. In my second university year, I decided that I should also go ahead with my “other” me (the artistic one), so I started with Fashion Design studies.  In the mornings I was an engineer student and in the evenings I was a fashion design student. Those were hard years of lots of work!!! And many weekends at home instead of going out!!

Handmade Knitwear
Collection: Aurorae, AW 15. Photo: www.theoddoneoutdesign.com. Model: Vanessa Poderoso.

When I graduated, I started working as an engineer because it’s quite easy to find that kind of job. Furthermore, I have always had in my mind to create my own label, because I would like to transmit not only a look or a garment, I wanted to transmit my way of understanding the world and specially the fashion industry.

My initial idea was to combine my two professional careers; but as an engineer, I wasn’t able to do that, as it took most of my time. On the weekends, I was always working in my atelier with my knitting machines. As the time passed, I felt that I was much more committed to the idea of starting my own knitwear brand. At this time the project I was working on finished and the company asked me to move to another country. That was the moment I decided to change something. It was really scary to make such an important change in my life. It took me a lot of years to change my mind and realize that what I was dedicating most of my time to wasn’t what really made me happy. In my case, as a Computer Science Engineer I got a good job, with stability… but finally, I happily decided I should give a chance to my dream… So here I am!

Handmade Knitwear
Collection: Hidden Nation, AW 16/17. Photo: www.theoddoneoutdesign.com. Model: Olha Tsybina.

“…much to my regret, I’m more than 30” – this phrase on your blog really got me! Let me know if I am wrong, but I have a feeling that what you mean by this is that you regret a little bit of not starting your handmade business earlier. If that’s the case, do you mind sharing what was stopping you before and what “pushed” you to make this final decision and create your own knitwear label?

Yes and no :) What I really want to say is that I don’t like getting older, I love life and I want to do so many thing in life, that I feel that I would need more lives to do everything I would like to. But in some way, you are also right in your perception. Sometimes I regret not having started earlier because 32 are not like 22. When I was 22, I was not so scary about stability, my economical situation, because you feel it’s the time to take risks and start your “own life”… I feel that 20’s are the perfect age to start a business, because you are young, full of energy and not worried about many things that worry you when you get 30 or 40. Nevertheless, I also feel that now, I’m in a more mature place, that helps me to deal better with many situations that I wouldn’t be able to manage as well as nowadays when I was 20.

You are a hand knitter, machine knitter and a crocheter! Do you have a preference or you are equally fascinated by all of these crafts?

I prefer knitting to crochet. If I have to choose between hand knitting and machine knitting… that would be a difficult choice. Hand knitting is so relaxing, bu at the same time I’m quite an impatient person, so I cannot wait a couple of days or more to see the finished garment, I want to see them right now! On the other hand, machine knitting can be a bit stressful and it’s not so relaxed, but I can see the final garment in just some hours!! I cannot choose, it depends on the moment and the piece.

Handmade Knitwear
Handmade Cable Poncho and Skirt. Collection: Hidden Nation, AW 16/17. Italian mohair blend. Photo: www.theoddoneoutdesign.com. Model: Alessa.

Before founding “ODD ONE OUT”, you did the internship with MANGO Knitwear Quality Assurance. I can only imagine how fascinating it was! You mention that because of this experience, you discovered your true passion – knitting. Do you mind sharing a little bit about this experience – what were your responsibilities there and what did you learn during this time? How does the process of big, mass product knitwear production as MANGO differ from a small handmade knitwear company?

I have always loved knitwear and I specialized in it in my fashion studies, but it was when I was at MANGO that I really realized it was my passion. I came to the conclusion that I love knitwear design because I can combine design with an important technological background. And, at the same time, that’s why not many fashion students are interested in knitwear design. Designing knitwear can be the most creative experience, but at the same time, it needs a high technical background from the designer as you have to know how knitting machines work to get what you have designed.

Handmade Knitwear
Handmade Alpaca Sweater. Collection: Hidden Nation, AW 16/17. Photo: www.theoddoneoutdesign.com. Model: Alessa.

In the Knitwear Quality Assurance Department, we had to control and ensure the quality of the garments in terms of garment finishes, yarn quality, measurements… As you may know, MANGO produces all their garments outside their offices, so our work was to validate prototypes. In general, in a fashion industry, a Quality Assurance Department is provided with technical sheet from the design team. That sheet gives all the information about the garment:  a sketch, description, measurements… Once the prototype arrived from the producer, we had to check and confirm that what the producer knitted was what the designers asked for in terms of measurements, quality, colour, yarn…

I learnt so much during this stage!! Specially about knitwear technical aspects related to production and machines. It differs a lot from a small handmade knitwear brand because in my brand, I’m the designer, the knitter, the pattern maker, the quality assurance department, the sales department… I play all the roles, whereas in such a huge company like MANGO, you are a gear’s part and not the whole part. It was after my internship, that I bought my first domestic knitting machines, I soon needed to know more and more about them.

Handmade Knitwear
Handmade Sweater and Skirt. Collection: Hidden Nation, AW 16/17. Italian mohair blend. Photo: www.theoddoneoutdesign.com. Model: Alessa.

You are creating your beautiful knitwear pieces with gorgeous fiber! One of the most important things for you, as I understand, is not only the quality of materials, but also where it comes from. Do you mind telling us about the process of choosing the fiber for your collections? You mention that you also use “dead stock” yarns. I think it is absolutely amazing! Could you, please, tell my readers what “dead stock” means and why it is important to put it in use?

Yes, I like to work with high quality materials. I’m especially in love with mohair and alpaca. I try to work with providers who take special care of environment, worker’s conditions… Most of my yarns are produced in Italy and the companies are under #DETOX Greenpeace project, working in a textile industry free of so many pollutant chemical products.

Choosing yarns and fibers for my collections is a hard process, because I like all. I receive lots of mohair shade cards with hundreds of colours, I cannot choose just one!! I fall in love with all of them. I choose colours depending on the collection’s concept. Yes, many times I try to work with dead stock yarns although it is not always possible.

Dead stock yarns are yarns which are no longer used by the fashion industry because they think they are no longer trendy or desirable. For example, imagine Pantone forecasts that next AW17/18 pink is going to be the most trendy colour. That means that most yarns providers will produce lots of yarns in many pink variations and you will see many pink garments on shops. So the following year, Pantone forecasts that in AW18/19, pink is no longer a trendy colours.  All that would result in levels of pink yarns stock.

Using dead yarn stock would mean using that pink yarns, which are no longer desirable for the rest of the fashion industry because they consider pink is no longer fashionable and people would not buy pink garments. It’s like giving a second life to a product which is in perfect condition but humanity deliberately decides it’s useless.

As I understand you love the fiber/yarn diversity! In your upcoming SS17 collection you are using different plant fibers. And you are also raising a very interesting question – why knitwear should be associated only with cold season and wool? Do you mind telling us about the fibers you are going to use for SS17 and what advantages/disadvantages do plant fibers have compared to wool?

In my next SS17 I work with cotton. You have to consider that Spain is a really hot country in summer, so knitwear is not a real preference for summer :) In general, people associate knitwear with wool, and it’s not always like that. Using linen or cotton is the only way Spanish people can wear a knitwear piece in the middle of August! The main difference between cotton and wool is perspiration. Plant fibers help us with perspiration, that’s why they are especially good for summer clothing. On the other hand, wool protects us from cold, that’s why is a common winter fiber.

Handmade Knitwear
Handmade Dress. Collection: Hidden Nation, AW 16/17. Italian mohair blend. Photo: www.theoddoneoutdesign.com. Model: Olha Tsybina.

You are from beautiful Barcelona. From what I can say, knitting/crochet is definitely making a come back in Spain. Am I right? Do you feel like people became more interested in fiber work over the last years? Tell us a little bit, please, about your city. Is it a creative city? Are you inspired by it? Do you have your favorite yarn spots?

Well… it’s true that it is coming back a little, but it cannot be compared to other countries. There’s a lot of ignorance about knitting and knitwear. I think the main reason for that is weather. I think knitting is mostly a winter hobby. When you think about winter in Sweden it’s not like when you think about winter in Spain. What I mean is that in Spain, winter it’s like spring in other countries :) You can go out or do many other outdoor activities because we are not at -10ºC and with 50cm snow. I think all that affects in 2 ways:

  • Knitting is mostly associated with wool, and in Spain most of people don’t really need huge wool sweaters.
  • Our weather conditions allow us to do more outdoor activities, so we don’t have as many indoor hobbies as in other countries.

I think that in general happens in all the Mediterranean countries.

Yes, I think Barcelona is a really creative city because of its connection with the Mediterranean and its proximity to France and the rest of Europe. I’m not usually inspired by Barcelona for my collections, but I think I’m much more open-minded thanks to Barcelona. Barcelona is a very touristic city so we have so many different cultures that it’s impossible that not to connect with them. My favourite yarn spot in the city is my atelier, full with the yarns I love.

Handmade Knitwear
Collection: Aurorae, AW 15. Photo: www.theoddoneoutdesign.com. Model: Vanessa Poderoso.

Your AW1617 collection (which looks so cozy!!) is inspired and hugely influenced by Icelandic folklore. How did you become interested in Iceland and its history and people? What attracts you in this culture which is pretty different from Spanish one?

As I mention in my blog post, I’m in love with Nordic countries and culture. I have always dreamed about moving to them. I like them so much because of their landscapes and nature. Their lakes, huge trees, snow and their winter! I feel like I would be knitting all the time there, their landscapes are so inspiring… In Barcelona there’s no snow, and almost no winter, so I miss it. I hate summer, hot weather and I don’t like the beach, so I guess that helps to be so in love with them :) I love their simplicity (less is more) and how much they value their crafts and traditions. I think they’ve managed to find a perfect balance between modernity and tradition. I would like a future like theirs for my country. I’ve been to Sweden, Norway and last year in Iceland. It amazed and inspired me so much, that I had to dedicate a whole collection to it.

Handmade Knitwear
Handmade Sweater and Skirt. Collection: Hidden Nation, AW 16/17. Italian mohair blend. Photo: www.theoddoneoutdesign.com. Model: Alessa.

What “gifts” did you get from your craft?

In my case, the most important gift I could have: happiness.


Dear Alicia, thank you so much for sharing your fascinating and inspiring story and beautiful knitwear pieces! You can find ODD ONE OUT knitwear at www.theoddoneoutdesign.com and on Instagram @the_odd_one_out_design.

Shop ODD ONE OUT knitwear at www.theoddoneoutdesign.tictail.com and OddOneOutDesign Etsy shop.


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The Gift Of Knitting – Wall Sweater

Machine Knitting Sweater

Wall sweater is probably the most relaxed and shapeless knit piece I have ever made. It is so effortless to wear and it can be styled numerous ways – wide boat neck or slightly lower back neck or off the shoulder sweater. I’ve made the front piece 6 rows shorter than the back to lift it up a little bit.

Machine Knitting Sweater

I’ve always been afraid of raw edges, usually I prefer everything perfectly trimmed, which keeps the whole construction together, but this time I got out of my comfort zone and loosened up a little bit :) At the end of the day, experimenting is my favorite part of the whole process. Plus, I can always trim the edges later if I feel like it doesn’t really work for me or if I feel that the trims are essential to keep the sweater in shape. So far I enjoy the “soft” edges.

Machine Knitting Sweater

I was very pleased with the texture created – it actually looks like a garter stitch, though it’s just a reverse stockinette. The garter is one of the most time consuming stitches to make on the LK-150 knitting machine. You have to manually reform each stitch every single row! I think it would take me more time to do that than knitting it by hand. But the pretty loose stitch dial (8) and the slight stiffness of the cotton thread created garter-like ridges. I like how there are countless ways to play around with one stitch and get absolutely different results.

Machine Knitting Sweater

Though this project is the most colorful sweater I’ve made during a long long period of time, I still feel very comfortable and “me” in it. The colors are rich, but still pretty subtle and subdued. And I love how two threads mixed together on their own in a natural looking patches of color. It reminds me of the artist’s used palette…

Machine Knitting Sweater

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and enjoying your cozy knits!


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YOTH Yarns. Father.

Yoth Yarns. The Gift Of Knitting.

Today I would love to introduce you to a wonderful yarn company that I am happy to collaborate with for one very interesting project that will be out soon – YOTH Yarns. The story and people behind these beautiful skeins are amazing! YOTH Yarns is a family business that started in the garage and grew over the years into a company with its yarns available in the USA, Canada, Japan and Europe. I highly recommend listening to their inspiring story at Woolful“Veronika Jobe, Danny Burda & Family – Czech roots, road trips, family and Yarn On The House”. I really admire how loving and supporting their family is!

YOTH Yarns are mostly known for their color palette – more than 30 gorgeous shades available! Veronika and Danny are determined to keep the business local as much as possible – all their yarns are dyed in Maine, in Saco River Dyehouse. The company works with two bases (casmere/merino/nylon blend and 100% domestic Rambouillet, the latter is made and sourced 100% in the USA) and four weights – fingering, DK, heavy lace weight and worsted.

For our project I chose Father (100% Domestic Rambouillet, worsted weight) in a beautiful neutral Hazelnut shade. Isn’t it gorgeous?!

Yoth Yarns. The Gift Of Knitting.

I asked Veronika to share a little bit more about the company and the yarn in this mini interview.


Before becoming a yarn company owner, you were a passionate hobby knitter. During that time what was the most fascinating part of the process for you – choosing a pattern, yarn, color, planning, knitting, finishing…? What was the biggest inspiration “booster”?

What a good question! I absolutely adore choosing patterns to match yarn or vice versa. The creative aspect of combining fibers and textures, knitting elements, and everything else that goes into patterns, is my heart. I love the practice and vision that go into planning and modifying patterns and/or yarns to make them do what you want. It’s the challenge and excitement of something new that I love. Color would come second, which is a given that I enjoy, and knitting the actual piece is why I started in the first place. Knitting is my happy place. It keeps me grounded, sane and connected to my creativity.

Yoth Yarns. The Gift Of Knitting.

I guess during that time you started to have an idea of what your ideal yarn should feel/look like. Can you tell us, please, what qualities you were looking for in yarn, what appreciating most at that time as a hobby knitter and how it is reflected in your own yarn right now?

I’m a bit like a squirrel and often get distracted. My taste in yarn is always changing and evolving, but wool in general is for me. I have fibers and types of yarns I always come back to. I love a luxurious soft yarn, which is how Big Sister and Little Brother, our merino/cashmere/nylon blend came to be. However, even though this buttery yarn is lovely to knit with and yields an amazing finished object, it’s not perfect for all jobs. I love a good hardy all wool yarn for classic sweaters, cabled hats and hard wearing longevity. When we were creating this type of yarn, we knew we wanted it to be made in the US from sheep to skein. Mother and Father, our 100% Domestic Rambouillet yarn, is what resulted from the need to fill this need in our yarn company, and it’s actually my favorite right now! I know I shouldn’t say that, because I consider them all like my little “children”, but it’s what is hitting spot for me now. We are also working on a new yarn for next year, which I am very excited about!

Yoth Yarns. The Gift Of Knitting.

When you think about yarn, what comes first – color or fiber?

That is a tough one! I think it really depends on what I fall in love with first. Sometimes I grab a yarn skein and it’s the fiber blend, the plying of the yarn, or the breed of sheep that has drawn me in, but other times, it’s the color that I can’t pass up. I absolutely adore picking out a color for a project and so if I had to choose, I would say color.

Tell us, please, a little bit about one of YOTH Yarns that I am knitting with right now – “Father”, 100% domestic Rambouillet wool. How is it sourced and why did you choose this fiber to be a part of YOTH family? 

We are proud to say that Father, the worsted weight, and its lovely heavy lace weight counterpart, Mother, are 100% American made. When we first started YOTH, we knew we wanted a hardworking yarn that was affordable and made in the USA. It was important to us to source a fiber that was soft to the touch, but also had some oomph to create traditional knitwear and hold up well. Father is a pro at cables, textured stitches, colorwork and good old stockinette stitch. We partner with the most wonderful and knowledgeable folks in the industry to help find just the right fibers for us. They source our Rambouillet from small and mid sized farms west of the Rockies. The fibers are then combined to create a well balanced and consistent blend, which is spun up and dyed on the east coast. It’s all a phenomenal group of hardworking small businesses and talented individuals that help our dreams come true. We are so lucky to be able to do what we love each and every day, and hopefully add to the beautiful growth and resurgence of this industry that we are in.

Yoth Yarns. The Gift Of Knitting.


From my part, I can say that knitting with Father is such a great tactile experience! The yarn is soft as merino, but has more bounce and amazing stitch definition, which makes it perfect for texture. It knits up very quickly, creating a beautiful fabric with perfectly even stitches.

Yoth Yarns. The Gift Of Knitting.

The hardest part for me was to choose a color, each shade is unique, very deep and rich. My favorites are Hazelnut, Dates, Poppy Seed, Shiitake and Oyster (don’t you just love these names?!). I went with Hazelnut, because it is such a universal color that goes great with everything!

Yoth Yarns. The Gift Of Knitting.

I am really looking forward to this project, the swatches are making me so happy! Looking forward to sharing it with you soon!

Meanwhile, you can find YOTH Yarns at yothyarns.com and on Instagram @yarnonthehouse. You can find the list of shops that carry YOTH Yarns here – Stockists.

Yoth Yarns. The Gift Of Knitting.

See you at Yarn Along today!


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Wall Sweater. FO Details.

Sweater. Machine Knitting.

The Wall sweater was inspired by the colorful wall I found in the downtown. Though I very rarely work with color, this building ignited something in me and I mixed deep royal blue mercerized cotton with rich green shade of combed cotton. The swatch “told” me I shouldn’t overcomplicate it and make something simple and effortless. Drop shoulder sweater with raw edges knit in a pretty loose gauge to create a nice drape seemed perfect. The sweater is basically shapeless – there is no structure whatsoever, except for the seams, that hold the whole piece together. It is also a great first-sweater project for your knitting machine!

Project Notes

Yarn.

Mercerized cotton mixed with the combed cotton. I got both of these yarns in Mexico City, but there is a 2-year difference between them! Sometimes it feels like certain yarns wait for its perfect companion before being put in use. This cotton was one of the first fibers I tried and I always come back to it once in a while. It is not that soft, but it is very durable, the colors are always rich and it has a nice sheen.

Color.

My initial plan of colorful aquamarine/green combo didn’t work out due to the mysterious disappearance of a whole package of yarn (I still didn’t figure it out :) ), but I guess everything happens for  reason as the dark blue/dark forest green combo worked amazing – I really love the result! And probably I wouldn’t even think of putting these colors together if not for the lost yarn.

Sweater. Machine Knitting.

Fit.

Made of four basic rectangles, the sweater is loose, drapey, effortless and comfortable. I set my stitch dial on the machine to 8, which is pretty big for this yarn thickness, but there are no rules in knitting and each experiment will give you certain results, not all of them will be successful, but in this case the loose gauge created a very flexible fabric. The front is slightly shorter than the back; I used “e-wrap” cast on (video tutorial) and left the edges raw.

Neckline.

Super wide boat neckline gives you the space to play around with it and model in various ways – slightly lower on the back, or classic boat-neck or a little bit off the shoulder.

Sweater. Machine Knitting.

Sleeves.

Will I ever get tired of the folded cuffs?! Probably not :) It is such an easy way to add volume and texture contrast!

Sweater. Machine Knitting.

I have so much to catch on in the blogosphere – these days I didn’t even have time to open my computer! So, if you are waiting for an email from me, please, forgive my absence!!!

I hope you are having amazing Sunday!


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Limits and Creativity

Take Care MohairOne of my favorite things about knitting is the diversity of fibers we are so lucky to experience! This week I worked a little bit with rustic organic wool, a little bit with airy and light mohair, a little bit with smooth cotton. My hands and eyes are always so happy to switch between yarns, it gives me the biggest creativity boost – every time I pick up a new skein from my yarn basket I get this rush of excitement imagining all the potential projects that could come out of it!

I also love that each yarn has its own “personality” and its own limits. I remember reading somewhere a phrase – “never try to turn yarn into something it is not”, and that is so true! Whenever I am disappointed in the yarn/stitch combination experiment, I always remember that phrase and start all over again, trying to decipher yarn’s language and looking for a perfect fiber-stitch marriage.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading a book by a very experienced designer, who works in a different, no-fiber related industry. But one of his insights really got me thinking about the creative process in fiber crafts as well. In the capital called “The Virtue of Limitations”, it says: “More than anything else a designer needs limitations… There’s no creativity without limitations. The best design specimens arose as a result of painfully strict requirements…. good design only exists within limitations.”

For some reason I really loved this thought. I used to be scared of the word “creativity” – so inexplicable, so  uncertain and vague. Maybe that’s why I am so drawn to completely different yarns out there and don’t really have the preference. I love the fact that each fiber has its own limits and restrictions. I notice that if I don’t determine some kind of limits for myself, in anything I do, I get lost, don’t work efficiently enough and, ironically, creative unlimited freedom is the worst thing for my creative productivity :) ; but if I, or someone else, build a “frame” for the project, where there are restrictions and certain limits, my mind starts working frantically! Does it make any sense to you? I would love to hear how you look at the limits in your fiber crafts! Are they helpful or, on the contrary, you need to have a complete creative freedom?

Have a wonderful day! I hope to see you at Yarn Along!


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