Flannel & Purls: Maker Spotlight•
Posted on July 04 2023
We are thrilled to feature Flannel & Purls by the incomparable Christopher Lewis for July's Maker Spotlight! Known for his phenomenal photos, hilarious reels, and poignant posts, Christopher (and his mustache) has a special place in our hearts. And now we're thrilled to show off those fabulous photos and his even more fabulous advice!
Check out what Flannel & Purls has to say about style, knitting newbies, and what would happen if you threatened his stash with a flamethrower.
You won't want to miss a word!
Flannel & Purls Question 1
Your Flannel & Purls posts are expertly yet seemingly effortlessly crafted, encouraging commentary, drawing a community. What advice would you give to fellow makers looking to find their voice and style, share their creative journey and build an engaged community?
Well, first and foremost, thank you for the kind words! Trust and believe: there is effort that goes into them. I'm a notoriously bad speller and I have to make sure everything is read by another person's eyes before it gets posted. SO. Like dance and movie soundtracks: the less effort there seems to be behind it, the more there actually is.
Alright, let's dig into this. Style, Voice, and Community. The mystic tryptic of social media. We need to break down each of these separately because they each have a different role to play in the overall impact.
Regarding voice: it's never that you need to find it, you just need to trust it. I know you don't want to hear it, but the truth of the matter is that you already have a voice that is beautiful and unique and perfect for the material you publish. It's all coming from the same brain! If you aren't sure where to start — or don't feel super excited about the idea of diving into full self-assuredness — lemme give you a really solid place to start: find someone whose work you admire... and do your version of that. Now, I know some of you are cringing at the distaste of this advice, but hear me out.
Humans rarely learn something new by means other than mimicry. From our infancy, we see, we emulate, we adapt. The fundamental process of learning new things is an act of replication. So. Is there someone whose work speaks to you? Work that feels apirational, that you dream of being similar to? Take a moment and really analyze what it is that you like about it. Which pieces work, which don't. Identify the part of their work that speaks to you and what you see yourself in.
As a personal example, my style of writing is deeply indebted to food writer Nigel Slater. The evocative, romantic language he uses to describe his cooking, garden, and life in Europe has viscerally influenced me. I have a shelf specifically dedicated to his books and I didn't even realize it until months later that when I'm writing my accessibility descriptions, I'm channeling his style. Never even crossed my mind! Allow your influences to pass through you as we talk about...
Style. The biggest, biggest piece of advice I can offer is: start doing stuff. Free yourself from the embarrassment and sheepishness that comes with trying new things. Don't be afraid to be seen trying in public, revel in the thrill of it. Social media feels like the biggest magnifying glass on the planet but please trust me when I say that everyone else is more worried about what they're doing than what you're doing. Let that free you up to try new things! Did you see a photo that was styled in a way that made you go "WOW?" Try it! See what you have around you that would work in a similar way!
Play with lighting, staging, styling, and props. Challenge yourself to fail and learn from the experience.
Your style will develop over time as a response to your growing creative vocabulary. Your brain is filled with countless ideas just waiting to be realized. Take all those ideas and put them to action. You will likely get it wrong the first go — we all do. But don't let that stop you from hitting it again and trying it over and over until you get it to a place that feels right to you.
Community... that's as much a mystery to me as it is to anyone else. I have nothing to hide here and refuse to lie! There's no magic equation to building a warm and enthusiastic community but what I can say is: people engage with people who engage with them. I talk with people. A lot. Multiple times a day, I sit down, read every single comment, like each of them, and respond to as many as I can. Not because I'm trying to build something but because these really kind folks took time out of their day to talk to me. The absolute least I can do is respond and thank them.
I never expected to be received into this global community with such warmth and kindness, it's been a real treat and honor. I believe that community is a lot like a garden... you get out what you put in. My only concern is making sure everyone gets their sunlight and stays hydrated.
That last bit is not a metaphor. Please remember to go outside and drink some water. I'm begging you.
Flannel & Purls Question 2
What tips or recommendations would you give to a complete knitting newbie to help them over that initial “I don’t know where to start” hump?
Oh, this is such a passion for me. I love talking with newbie knitters! I love people who want to try new things and explore the world of crafting.
HIT. YOUTUBE. Anything and everything you could ever, ever want to know is right there in living color, waiting for you to watch, rewatch, pause, and rewind. I legitimately owe everything I know about knitting to the brilliant creators on YouTube. They have saved me a lot of tears and heartache. There are some brilliant beginner videos out there by folks like RJ Knits, Sheep & Stitch, and NimbleNeedles. If you're a tactile learner like me, this is the place to start.
As far as what to make? I think there's a huge amount of value in choosing a project that excites you. Casting on a project that promises a finished object that keeps you motivated through the challenge of learning is invaluable. And I don't think there's a best or worst project that fits that description!
I know someone whose first major project was a colorwork yoke sweater. Which, like.... bananas! That's so wild to me. Personally, I think a shawl is a marvelous place to start for a first, big project. You don't need to swatch it, per se, and the fit can be flexible. My first big project was the Dustland Shawl by Stephen West. I picked it because it was a hefty piece of work that only used knits and purls. No cables, no lace, no colorwork. Just good old fashioned stitching. I made that.... literally a month into knitting.
But I was so excited about it that I finished it in, like, two weeks!
So. With that said, make your life easier and use Ravelry. It is a treasure trove for beginners. Here are a few tips I'd suggest in successfully picking your first project.
1. Decide what you want to make! I suggest something that doesn't need to "fit." A shawl, scarf, or cowl is an excellent place to start — no need to worry about matching gauge and fitting something to your head, body, or feet. Once you've decided, hit the "Patterns" section and type in what you're looking for!
2. Filter your results. This is possibly the most important part for a beginner because once you hit "search," you're going to be inundated with an innumerable number of beautiful designs that will beguile and seduce you. HOWEVER. You may not be ready for these designs yet and let's set you up for success, eh?
a. Yarn Weight. Heavier weight yarns will be a beginner's BFF. On the left hand side of your search results, you'll find a whole host of filters. About 1/3 of the way down, you'll see a section titled "Weight." Select DK, Worsted, Aran, and Bulky. These are your big bois. I would suggest holding off on the sock, lace, fingering, etc. until later.
b. Needle Size. Keep scrolling and you'll see "Needle Size." Personally, I'm looking out for your fingers and would suggest a range of US4-US8 (3.5mm-5mm). If you already bought some needles, simply select the size you've got on hand. If not, check the boxes for this range. Your patience and joints will thank me.
c. Difficulty. This is a no-brainer. You need easy patterns, my new knitting friend! Scroll down to this section and select the boxes for 1, 2, and 3.
d. Clarity. Ok, so this one isn't technically a filter, but it is a key component to picking a successful first pattern. When you're on the pattern page itself, be sure to look to the right of the page for the "About This Pattern" section. The pattern will likely be rated by makers for its clarity. You want high clarity ratings. 4.5 stars and up, babes.
3. Prioritize fun, folks! Pick a project that's exciting and fun to you. Want to start simple and do a scarf? Ok! But make it a fun scarf. One that has some textures in it. You don't need to go crazy and do cables, but a lil moss or some ribbing will challenge and delight you. Perhaps you're not ready to leap headlong into colorwork but you know what's easier? Stripes! If you're bored, you're not going to want to finish — and that's a tragedy.
Flannel & Purls Question 3
As someone who is equal parts foodie and knitter, what is your hands down favourite knit, while enjoying which hands down favourite snack? (with recipe please!)
Oh, you really hit me with my two loves on this one! Knitting and baking, what more could there be?
You're not going to Sophie's Choice me on picking my favourite thing to knit, are you? Oy. The thing is... I love to knit. Decorative objects, toys, hats, apparel, I love it all... but if I had to pick, flamethrower to my stash...
I'd have to pick socks. Short socks, tall socks, colorful socks, and plain socks. I'm that guy who finds a thick pair of wool socks to be a perfectly acceptable (if not preferable) gift. Mostly because I'm a part of the Always Cold Gang and the first thing to catch a chill are my fingers and toes. Those lil extremities wake up every morning ready to lose whatever warmth they collected under the covers. One big project for me this year is perfecting colorwork socks. I've never been able to really grasp it and I have such a need to look down at my feet and see a colorful menagerie of lil woodland friends staring back up at me.
We gotta pivot now and talk about food. I'm not a big snacker, personally, and when I am snacking it's either popcorn or it's a bright, sharp, honeycrisp apple. Those are my big go-tos. BUT. With it being the summer and it being my birthday this month, I'm going to tell you all about my favorite summertime treat that I'll be making — the Any Fruit Crumble. This recipe is a go-to for backyard cookouts and summer birthdays around my place. It is adaptable to whatever fruit happens to be in season at the moment, which is the biggest reason it's so popular with me.
I've made this with just about every fruit at this point but my favorite way of doing it is just a big ole farmers market haul. A blend of that day's best offerings. Are the strawberries, blueberries, and cherries looking particularly lovely this weekend? Well, all three of them go in! The biggest one I've made to date was.... I think there were seven different fruits accounted for? It was like summer on a spoon. Best of all, this is one of those dishes that grows in flavor as it rests and matures. Equally delicious either warm or cold. Eat it on its own or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The perfect end to a bright, sunny day.
This is a great dish for bakers of any skill level. Advanced or beginner, you won't have trouble — folks with kiddos: this is an excellent project to get them involved in baking! Minimal cleanup and can easily be done with just one bowl. I'm going to share the metric version of this, but if folks in the US need conversions, King Arthur Flour has you covered!
Any Fruit Crumble
For the Fruit
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 20g tapioca starch
- 100g granulated sugar
- 1kg fresh fruit or fruit combination
Give this a try for a delicious, summer berry mix:
- 150g blueberries
- 250g strawberries, hulled and chopped
- 250g raspberries
- 350g cherries, pitted and halved
For the Crumble
- 140g light brown sugar
- 80g all-purpose flour
- 75g rolled oats
- 60g chopped pecans (optional)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tbsp vanilla
- 113g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Tools needed: Whisk, large mixing bowl, rubber spatula, 2-liter baking dish (glass or ceramic)
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C with the rack positioned in the middle of the oven. For the Fruit: In a large bowl, whisk together salt, tapioca starch, and sugar. Add to this your fruit and, using a rubber spatula, mix thoroughly. Scoop into baking dish, level, and set aside. Rinse your bowl and rubber spatula for the next step.
For the Crumble: In a large bowl, add all crumble ingredients except for the butter and mix gently to evenly distribute flour. Add melted butter and, using a rubber spatula, mix to combine. The mixture will be stiff — don't be afraid to use your hands if necessary.
Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly and lightly across prepared fruit. Careful not to pack it as it will compress through the bake and a clumpy crumble before baking will make for a tough, doughy result.
Bake in preheated oven until the berries are thickly bubbling and the crumble is golden and fragrant — about 40-45 minutes. Feel free to place a sheet of foil over the dish if your topping is browning too quickly. You'll know the dish is done when there are rapid, thick bubbles all around the rim of the dish.
Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before serving. This is a crucial step as the fruit needs time to set and thicken.
Thank you, a million times over, for choosing me for this. I'm a July baby and this was the best gift I could have received!
Until Next Time
Happy Birthday, Christopher! We were so heartened to read his exceptional advice and get to know (even better) the man behind the fantastic Flannel & Purls!
Stay tuned for a super fun competition beginner next week that could see your knitting dreams become a reality!
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