An Interview with Carol Feller

This month’s Boost Your Knitting pattern is the fabulous Flying Leaves Scarf by Carol Feller, which introduces how to make a knitted brioche fabric and how to work brioche increases and decreases. Carol is based in Cork, Ireland and is a knitwear designer and teacher with a background in structural engineering. Her unique designs have been widely published in books and magazines, and she also has taught at yarn shops and fibre festivals around the world. Carol was kind enough to catch up with me a few weeks ago and share a little more about the Flying Leaves Scarf, top tips for brioche knitting, and her gorgeous yarn, Nua, which is featured in this month’s pattern and a new addition to the A-C Knitwear Shop!

Carol Feller’s Flying Leaves Scarf. Photo © Jesse Wild.

Carol Feller’s Flying Leaves Scarf. Photo © Jesse Wild.

KR: Your Flying Leaves Scarf, this month’s Boost Your Knitting pattern, is a real stunner!  Can you tell us a little about coming up with the design – and why it’s great for teaching brioche to a brioche newbie like me?

CF: Two colour brioche is a magical thing. It allows you to create amazing two colour patterns that are a mirror image on each side. Brioche can of course also be worked in a single colour, creating a bouncy, squishy fabric but I think that the real magic happens when you introduce a second colour.

Brioche increases and decreases create a dramatic chevron fabric. Photo © Jesse Wild.

Brioche increases and decreases create a dramatic chevron fabric. Photo © Jesse Wild.

With brioche even then simplest of increases and decreases create dramatic shapes in your knitting. This means that when you are learning brioche you can keep it simple and still make it look like it’s far more complex. In the Flying Leaves scarf I have stacked the same pattern repeat on top of itself so that once you’ve learned the first row you just keep working in the same way to create the pattern. This is especially helpful when learning brioche as it behaves differently from standard knitting. By having lots of repetition your fingers can create a new muscle memory and you will start to see how it all fits together.   

KR: Looking at your really extensive design portfolio, brioche seems to be a technique you really enjoy – what keeps you coming back to it? And what other designs of yours would you suggest to Boost Your Knitting knitters to tackle after they’ve tried Flying Leaves?

CF: I love how brioche can always surprise. Even small changes in a pattern repeat create dramatic and sometimes unexpected results. I always feel like less is more with brioche and keeping it simple allows the brioche stitch pattern and yarn to shine.

Carol’s design,  Vines and Vale , which quite a few participants in this month’s Boost Your Knitting KAL have opted to knit! What a beauty. Photo courtesy of Carol Feller.

Carol’s design, Vines and Vale, which quite a few participants in this month’s Boost Your Knitting KAL have opted to knit! What a beauty. Photo courtesy of Carol Feller.

A few months ago I designed a two colour brioche shawl, Vines and Vale for a retreat I was running in Cork. It starts very small and then you build a biased shape using increases and decreases on each end. The edge design is kept simple and then it expands all the way across the work at the very edge. It’s a great next step for expanding brioche skills! (Plus there’s a video workshop available for anyone that is more of a visual learner). 

KR: Can you share any top brioche tips for knitters feeling apprehensive about this technique?

CF: Brioche takes a lot of practice to get an intuitive feel for it. The stitches work differently from standard knitting so you need to be patient while you learn the technique.

In terms of practical tips, the first one is to use the last yarnover colour as a guide to help you remember what colour the next row is going to be. If your yarnovers are in the dark colour you know that the next row has to be worked with the light colour.

Another thing to remember when you are working the increases is to push each new stitch fully onto the needle. Often when knitters are working this stitch they are doing it all on the tip of the needle. The tip is much smaller than the full needle size so it can then mean that you end up with all of those increased stitches being really small, tight and hard to work!

KR: Flying Leaves is, of course, knit out of your very own yarn, Nua! Can you talk a little bit about developing a yarn line as a designer – what was important to you?

Carol’s yarn, Nua, a unique blend of merino, yak, and linen, is available in  our online shop  and directly from Carol’s website,  Stolen Stitches .

Carol’s yarn, Nua, a unique blend of merino, yak, and linen, is available in our online shop and directly from Carol’s website, Stolen Stitches.

CF: I really enjoyed being able to develop my own yarn and as a designer I think you approach yarn development a little different. My focus is on the finished knitting product so the yarn needed to work well with the type of projects I like to design.

The 2 big criteria I wanted going in were; 1. Non-superwash and 2. Sports weight.

Both of these are tied to the fact that I design more garments than anything else. I find that non-superwash holds its shape much better as superwash is slippy and it is more inclined to stretch out of shape. In Europe you don’t find sports weight very frequently but I find it just a great weight for garments. It sits between 4ply and dk and creates lightweight garments that don’t take as long as 4ply to knit!

After the yarn type, colour was also very important to me. It was so much fun to be able to design a range with my favourite colours! The fibre mix in the yarn actually has a huge influence on the colours. The yak is a light beige colour which means that all colours will have a rustic, darker undertone. Then the linen fibre when it is dyed takes the dye differently. This means that even though it is a solid dye the linen creates a flecked, heathered effect which I adore.

KR: It really is a stunning yarn! Other than brioche, what are your favourite knitting techniques to use in your designs? Any on your list to learn this year?

A stunning cardigan — Ribosome by Carol Feller. Photo courtesy of Carol Feller.

A stunning cardigan — Ribosome by Carol Feller. Photo courtesy of Carol Feller.

CF: I always love working with cables as well. The surface of your knitting is never flat, they create a great three-dimensional effect.

Later on this year I want to do a bit more work with two colour cables and slip stitch cables. I explored it a little before with both Ribosome and Birman Shawl but I’ve got plans for some more detailed work with this technique.

Detail of the Birman Shawl — that grellow! Photo courtesy of Carol Feller.

Detail of the Birman Shawl — that grellow! Photo courtesy of Carol Feller.

KR: I’ve been asking each Boost Your Knitting designer about what yarn, knitting book, and piece of music they’d take if they were stranded on a desert island – what would your pics be?

CF: I’d probably take my own yarn, Nua, with me as I still really like knitting with it! Knitting book would have to be one of Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting patterns that are always helpful and inspiring. For music, I’ve got such an eclectic taste but most of it pretty old school. Give me some Joni Mitchell (maybe California) any day and I’d listen to it happily. Not sure if I’d want to keep listening the same music on repeat for months though!

KR: Lastly, can you share anything about what’s on your needles at the moment?

CF: Right now I’m finishing off the sleeve for my autumn sweater KAL! I’m knitting it in Nua Worsted using the Harvest Moon colour and the biased lines of the fabric are making me very happy indeed.

Thank you so much Carol for chatting more with us! You can see more of her beautiful designs on Ravelry and find her work and yarn on her website, Stolen Stitches. And if you’re feeling inspired to BOOST your brioche skills this month, you can purchase Boost Your Knitting, which include the Flying Leaves Scarf and photo tutorials, in the online shop. And do stop in the Ravelry group where we’ve got a brioche KAL going — all brioche projects welcome!