Today, I’m excited to share an interview with a fellow New Yorker, Michele Wang. Michele is a knitwear designer, and if you’re a fan of Brooklyn Tweed, you’ve definitely seen her work before. In addition to appearing in numerous BT publications, Michele’s work has been published by Vogue Knitting, Quince & Co., knit.wear, and amirisu, and she also self-publishes as mishi2x. By strange coincidence, we both recently had a pattern published in the same issue of Pom Pom Quarterly (her Aureus cardigan and my Vintage Bullion scarf).
Michele can be found online as mishi2x on her website/blog, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, Ravelry, and Twitter. She can also be found on her Ravelry Designer page and in her Ravelry group, mishi2x by Michele Wang Fans. All photos in this post are are copyright Michele Wang unless otherwise noted and are used with permission.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting and spinning?
Michele: I first started knitting at a friend’s suggestion. I had just ran my first (and only) marathon, and wanted to do something less physical to allow my body to heal. Since I had always been interested in fashion, textiles, and working with my hands it seemed to make sense. Of course now, not only does it make sense but I wonder why I didn’t take it up earlier in life. And spinning is a much more recent fascination. I think like most knitters, what hypnotized me at first was the sheer variety of yarns available. I would buy yarn because of the color and its softness. But once I learned more about different fibers and how they behaved I really became fascinated by untreated wools, different breeds of sheep and the beauty in their subtle differences. And this is what led me to spinning. I think yarn manufacturers are educating knitters more by specifying breeds that they use, but generally you see that it’s “wool”. I loved how roving is sold by breed and how I can spin up exactly the yarn I want.
Seedy Scarf, a free knitting pattern by Michele Wang.
UC: What was your original motivation to start designing?
Michele: My original motivation was the “cowl.” It’s so funny to think about that now since they’re so popular, but when cowls really hit the media in 2008, there weren’t a lot of fashionable cowl patterns out there. So I designed my first piece, the Eternity Scarf, which is a simple cowl and threw it up on Ravelry simply because I wanted to make one that I liked. After that, an editor at Vogue Knitting contacted me because I had been doing sample knitting for Shirley Paden. She asked if I’d be interested in submitting a design. Without her prompting, I probably would have never submitted a design to a magazine. But with her encouragement, I took the chance.
Eternity Scarf by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Brooklyn Tweed.
UC: How did you become involved with Brooklyn Tweed?
Michele: Jared Flood contacted me through Ravelry, and the rest is history. Sometimes I can’t believe how simple life can be, because usually it’s pretty difficult! But at the time I was working in technology at a law firm, and not very happy. Jared reached out and asked if I’d be interested in doing a design for his new yarn line, Shelter. The timing was perfect. I dug right in and ended up designing Perry for his very first edition of Wool People. Since we both live in the NYC area, we met up for coffee a few times and he mentioned creating a Design Team to put out seasonal collections. And it just evolved from there. Soon I couldn’t handle both jobs, so I left my career in technology and focused on designing for BT.
Fade by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Brooklyn Tweed.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Michele: I would say half of my inspiration is found online and on the streets in NYC. I do love fashion and I love seeing what trends are introduced on the runway, and what eventually sticks around and ends up on the streets for the everyday. I can spend hours on sites like Pinterest just flipping through pictures and creating fantasy moodboards. I also try to people-watch as much as possible. It’s easy to bury my nose in a book on the subway, but I try to take a look around and find design elements here and there. And, the other half would be the traditions and history of knitwear. I love flipping through old knitting books and looking at fisherman or icelandic yoked sweaters. My latest obsession is Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island. I am completely blown away by the use of color, and the intricate hand work. For someone like me who shies away from colorwork, this book has been very inspirational. It’s truly a celebration of color and I hope to incorporate more colorwork into my designs.
Wickerwork by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Carrie Bostick Hoge. Published by Quince & Co.
UC: You mention your love of wool on your Ravelry profile. Tell us what you enjoy about working with this fiber. Do you have a preference for working with any breed-specific yarns, too?
Michele: I love wool for so many reasons. The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s sustainable and earth-friendly. It’s just something you can’t ignore these days. Also, I love the life in it. It has just enough elasticity. It blooms to perfection after just a little light blocking. The bit of lanolin left on your hands while knitting is a natural moisturizer. And with minimally processed wool, I find that it ends up being softer than anything else. Too many yarns are soft in the skein, and then completely lifeless after it’s knit up. And, of course, I just love sheep. They’re absolutely adorable, and with so many different breeds you could never get bored knitting with just wool. When I went to Rhinebeck a few years back, I bought a few ounces of Ronaldsay. I didn’t know much about this breed, but I liked the color. So after I brought it home, I looked up the breed online and found out that it’s a sheep that lives mainly on seaweed. Of course, this breed fast became one of my favorites. But, as for spinning, I really enjoy working with Jacob. It’s an ancient breed and the resulting yarn is so textured and beautiful. (UC comment: You can read more about breed specific wool in this interview with Karia from Kouture Crochet, and, specifically, about the North Ronaldsay yarn and Jacob fleece I received in a wonderful swap from the owner of the Nude Ewe, a non-profit yarn company.)
UC: What are your favorite knitting books in your collection?
Michele: All of my Japanese stitch dictionaries. I live dangerously close to Kinokuniya and go there often. I love swatching, and I can sit and swatch the stitch patterns from those books endlessly. (UC comment: I’m glad I don’t live dangerously close to Kinokuniya, as I’ve already demonstrated my inability to pass their booth at any event without buying books!)
Stonecutter by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Brooklyn Tweed.
UC: Do you have any crafty websites you frequent for inspiration or community?
Michele: I really enjoy Fringe Association. It has the perfect balance between modern and tradition, and Karen has such a beautiful aesthetic. But to be perfectly honest, most of the crafty websites I frequent are more focused on sewing and quilting. I love the Japanese Sewing Books blog, and Sew Mama Sew. They have really great tutorials, tips and sew alongs.
Thanks for taking the time out for an interview, Michele, and for sharing your love of sheep and wool!