This month I am introducing you to Varian Brandon, knitwear designer and teacher at BrandonKnittingDesigns.com. These monthly features of other creative businesses are a way for all of us to get to know these wonderful creators. It is a long-time interest of mine to explore how other creative people make their way as professionals.
Introducing Varian Brandon through Who? What? Where?
Varian, you focus on a type of knitting that fascinates me, but that I have virtually no interest in doing! We met at TNNA about three or four years ago through our mutual friend/colleague Jeane deCoster of Elemental Affects Yarn, and we’ve talked about our paths, but not very specifically.
Varian Brandon’s Who
Who: Can you share about who has been instrumental in your knitting life?
A: When it comes to the creative part of my business, two ladies come to mind as very important.
First is a friend of my mom’s named Anne. My dad was from the Detroit area and almost every summer, my family would make the drive from South Carolina to the “little finger” of mitten-shaped Michigan to visit my paternal grandmother. Every evening before dinner, the adults would get together in the yard between houses to have a cool drink and wind down after the hot summer day.
Anne was always there with her knitting. At eight years old, I found her fascinating to watch with her fingers flying over the needles. Finally she asked the inevitable question, “Would you like to learn to knit?” I was a bit shy, so I probably just nodded.
But before long the adventure began. I started on a top down crew necked pullover in royal blue Red Heart yarn. Anne was right there to answer questions and make sure I was on track. She made me feel like I could do anything.
After that summer, knitting had varying degrees of importance in my life. I graduated from college and began to work for the public television affiliate in South Carolina. Working in television opens doors to other freelance video opportunities. One of these extra-pocket-change forays resulted in a check that put me in contact with another personal VIP.
Rowan yarns offered a trip to the “Highlands and Islands” of Scotland and off I went to spend ten days with sixteen other knitters . . . and two designers . . . Alice Starmore and Kaffe Fassett.
Both of these very talented people showed me what could be done with “two sticks” and more than one color of yarn. Kaffe’s intarsia work was glorious, but there was something about Alice’s Fair Isle color work that mesmerized me. The rhythms of two handed knitting, the blending of color…I could not get enough. I bought every book she published and devoured every word. Alice Starmore’s level of color proficiency is what I continue to strive to achieve.
So those are my two two VIP’s . . . Anne who taught me to knit and Alice who taught me what knitting could become.
Varian Brandon’s What
What: Stranded color work is clearly your thing, tell me more!
A: I design stranded color work . . . or Fair Isle knitting, as some call it . . . because this form of knitting satisfies the two things I need to feed my creativity.
I love color! I love the way colors play off each other, the way you can create a mood by combining a series of colors. I love the way certain colors make you feel. Bright, subtle, cool, warm . . . I just love color!
I also love neat, tidy, boundary-defined designs can create a feeling of rhythm and movement. The “rules” or parameters of stranded color work (i.e. nearly always only two colors per round) can lead to some very creative solutions and hopefully some very lovely, knitterly designs.
I design stranded color work because it reaches my math brain and my desire to be creative.
Varian Brandon’s Where
Where: Do you have a place that is meaningful to your stranded color work?
A: The obvious answer to a stranded color work designer would have to be the Shetland Islands. Shetland is indeed beautiful. You can feel the history and the majesty of the islands. You can witness the ingenuity of the women who needed to knit to make extra money to make ends meet, but also needed to “make it pretty”.
Additionally, I would add the Great Smokey Mountains to the list of places I personally find meaningful. My husband and I have recently moved to this part of the world . . . a place I only occasionally visited as a child. These mountains ring with music and thrive on creativity. The culture is old and deep rooted.
What both the Great Smokies and Shetland have in common is people who love to create and breathtaking scenery that inspires and humbles at the same time.
Varian Brandon’s Work
Currently? What is going on in your business now, and what are exciting projects you have going on or coming up.
A: I started designing with an ambitious dream of creating sweaters inspired by the color work of Alice Starmore. In response to feedback that this type of garment might be a tad daunting to the average knitter, I started designing smaller more accessible items. Not as fulfilling for my creative side, but scratched the itch to design, nonetheless.
Today, I am seeing a change in the interests in the knitting community. Color work is showing up on fashion runways and the average knitter reaching out for more of a challenge. Because of this . . . and because I am dying to stretch a bit . . . I have a few more complicated pieces on the drawing board and am also looking at a return to sweater design. It is very exciting.
Thanks Varian. I’ve put links to all Varian’s online places so you can check out her work.
- Varian Brandon | Brandon Knitting Designs
- Ravelry – varianbrandon
- Instagram – varianbrandon
- Periscope – @vbknits
- Twitter – @vbknits
- Pinterest – Varian Brandon
- Facebook – Brandon Knitting Designs
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