Michaela Drapes and Shannon Robertson write the irreverent knitting blog Yarneteria . They create bespoke hand knit garments and accessories for discerning gentlemen at Kindling and Tinder where they believe you should “wear your love like heaven.” I recently got to speak with Michaela:
Martha Burzynski: Growing up knitting, do you remember what was produced as being out of necessity or as creative outlet?
Michaela Drapes: My grandmother taught me when I was six years old. I remember pestering her to show me how to do it, and her finally gave in. Her knitting was a creative outlet as she got older though there was some necessity in her history, too, knitting for soldiers during WWII — that’s when she really honed her skills! One of my most cherished items is a knitted afghan that she was making “for her first granddaughter” when my mom found out she was pregnant. This is still one of those apocryphal family tales: my aunts only had boys, so when I was born it came to me. Of course, immediately after that, one of my aunts had a daughter and was so annoyed that there was no elaborate afghan for her, too!
Shannon and I both had a lot of exposure to making things as a combination of necessity and creativity, and I think that informs our joint design sensibility to this day. We’re from backgrounds where there was no division between necessity and creativity– you make things because you can make things nicer that you could afford to buy in stores, and as an added bonus, it’s one-of-a-kind, just for you.
Burzynski: Why knitting not sewing? Is it embracing the transition from craft to high-end?
Drapes: Once knitting machines really came into use during the industrial revolution, hand knitting became this kind of quaint, grandmother-y thing, when really it had been a very practical activity done by all ages and genders, especially in cold climates. I have archival photos of sailors knitting on boats in the UK and Scandinavia. Part of what we want to do is meld knitting and fashion, get knitting out of the chintzy craft ghetto and show people that they can make really beautiful items easily if they just put in the time investment. It’s a great payoff to wear a sweater that you’ve made for yourself that would retail for hundreds of dollars! It helps that in recent years, designers — Rodarte, Alexander Wang, Tom Scott & Bless have featured hand knits in collections. People have asked if I can show them how to reproduce something they’ve seen in runway shows and customize it for themselves, that’s the kind of thing we want to encourage!
Burzynski: You work with unusual fibers-yak, stainless steel. How do you knit stainless steel without making chainmail?
Drapes: Stainless steel yarn is that it is really, really fine — almost like thread. It’s blended with wool or silk, so it is really easy to keep it from getting to rustic-looking. I prefer to keep it subtle!
Burzynski: Have there been stainless steel knitting injuries?
Drapes: Nope, but knitting with stainless steel yarn with metal needles on an airplane isn’t the best idea. It got weirdly magnetized and tangled up in this weird, unsalvegable wad. Lesson learned!
Burzynski: In summer, are you already working on fall/ bespoke sweaters?
Drapes: I am working on sweaters that will be sold in a shop this fall — a bunch of Vivienne Westwood-type “fuzzies” — fine mohair yarn done on big needles, like the Sex Pistols wore — only modernized. There may be pyramid studs involved! I can do something like that in about a week or over a long weekend–bespoke pieces are often more elaborate, and can take up to two months to complete. We are taking orders soon for fall, as well as developing our line of patterns for hand knitters that reflect the most recent men’s knitwear fashion trend.