Prairie School Collection

by Karin Wilmoth

Many years decades ago, I was blessed to have one day in Washington, DC. With a mere 8 hours to see as many Smithsonian museums as I could fit in, the highlight was a walk through a traveling exhibit of the Robie House. I was awed by Frank Lloyd Wright's sense of “completeness”. From faucets that flowed over like miniature waterfalls, to the very plates and utensils that served on well-crafted tables, he had an awareness for how all the pieces would work together to create a space of comfort and harmony. It is my hope that the unique one-piece construction of my collection pieces would also show harmony of color and simplicity in the finishing.

I've always loved how the Fallingwater House looks so natural in its environment; the levels of the structure, jutting out like rocky supports over a cataract, remind me of fallen basalt post piles – nature's own organic architecture. The hues of the natural stone against the fading shades of Autumn influence the palette of this collection, as well.


Prairie School Collection:

Taliesin is worked from cuff to cuff, aligning the sleeve shaping increases along the top ridge of the sleeve as an interesting detail, and knitting the sleeve cap with short rows. The collar is formed by reversing the Contiguous method, working the Front and Back separately, rejoining and reversing the process on the other side. Stitches are picked up along the lower edge of the work, and knitted downwards. Colors gradate using a combination of Fair Isle and Linen Rib St. One of Frank Lloyd Wright's stained glass pieces, “Wheat” remind me of the color changes on this piece.
Taliesin uses American Twist Worsted by Pigeonroof Studios. This is a thick multi-plied superwash merino yarn, made 100% in the USA. The plies feel snug, but something magical happens when it is wet-blocked. It plumps and becomes like velvet. The saturated multi-layered dyes are very stable with almost no color loss in the soaking. It is a perfect sweater yarn! The darkest color is Archaeologist, and the other shades are custom dyed from the Autumnal shades of her mini-skeins (middle and lightest).
The idea of the Robie Lapel Cowl came from a combination of my love of the classic Pea Coat, and the strong vertical lines of the Robie Chair. This massively tall chair was a thing to behold, no matter if you saw it from the front or the back. So I made my cowl to be reversible as well. It is knit in the round starting with an I-cord cast-on and using a double-knit technique, with increases at the center front every other round to form the lapel. You can choose which side you feel like showing. A handmade ceramic button is sewn on top and the “lapel” can be secured using a loop of I-cord that finishes the top edge.
Robie also uses yarn from PRS – It uses a fingering yarn in a GLOW colorway similar to Peacock in American Sock (a matte-finished yarn with similar properties to American Twist worsted), and one shade from her mini-skeins, Pistachio. Kristi doesn't offer this in a GLOW colorway anymore, but any of the shades of High Twist Sock will work well.
I love the Autumnal colors of Sumac (another stained glass piece by FLW), and the way the bands of color and lace chevron around the body. It is knit in one-piece in a construction I call Kirigami Knitting. Kirigami is like origami with scissors. If you've ever cut a paper snowflakes, then you've done kirigami. With knitting this means that all the parts are worked as one, then folded so that it forms a garment with minimal seaming. This tunic begins with a provisional cast on while the upper fronts are worked from the armhole upwards. They are then joined to continue along the Back down to the armhole, joined with the lower edge of the Fronts, and short rows form the V-shape at the hips, and the foundation for the chevron stripes. Stitches are picked up along the Front edges and the neck and garter st is worked back and forth. It is easily adaptable for a larger collar/neck band if desired. The same step is worked to finish the armhole openings.
Sumac support is from the Plucky Knitter in Sweater, in many colors. This is a DK weight yarn, and its squishy-ness is heavenly. This is a great weight yarn for a drapey garment, perfect for layering your wardrobe.

About Karin

I come from a family of hand-crafters – an uncle who makes beads from clay dug with his own hands, an aunt that creates glass jewelry, crocheters, embroiderers, knitters, and such. I've, too, have always been a maker of things, and (much to my mother's frustration) a taker-apart-of-things. If there is one way to do something, I've always explored other ways. I like adventure, so designing is an expression of that desire to know more, and to discover. I'm fascinated by the “road less traveled.”
Even as a child, I doodled and drew ideas; looking at ordinary things sideways or upside-down to see how the perception of it would change. When I'm walking down a street or sitting on the beach, I pay attention to what is in my peripheral vision, noticing details that might be easily missed by only looking forward. When I'm designing, I get a concept in my head so vivid that I will stop what I'm doing to sketch a rough concept on whatever I can find – notebook paper, if handy, but more often the margins of a church bulletin, a napkin, or an envelope that I grabbed earlier for a bookmark. I'll refine it later.
Depending on the knitted fabric that I'm hoping to achieve, I'll research stitch patterns and work an extra-large swatch. At this point, the left brain takes over and a different joy in designing occurs. I, secretly, love the numbers, too! After creating a schematic, I figure out how many stitches and rows I need in each section of the design. This defines my canvas. I mostly design garments as they represent a large canvas that I can put anything on – like painting with stitches instead of pigment. Once I've crunched my numbers, written the text, and knitted my sample, the ultimate joy is seeing the final creation as it resembles my original concept.
Like Frank Lloyd Wright, my vision is “whole picture.” It includes the clothes that are worn with my sample, and details like jewelry that go with it. Since I do most of my own photography, my early sketches often include the background setting, so the final pictures will be in harmony with my vision.
If you were a sweater, what sweater would you be? I would be an, not committed to a closure, but having the option, should I decide to reserve myself for a time.
If you weren't designing the collection, what would you be doing with your inspiration? I've been working on these pieces for awhile, planning the yarn, colors and other elements. Originally, there was a 4th piece in the collection, but I chose the three that would be in harmony the most for the purposes of this competition. In an expanded future collection, I could see making wire jewelry pieces to coordinate with the knitted items, along with mitts and hats, and a scarf or two – all with some unusual, unexpected detail. My dream would be to work a photo shoot at an actual house
designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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