In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know makers of all walks, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.
NICOLE DUPUIS blogs about knitting and sewing, knits samples for the likes of Brooklyn Tweed and Knitbot, and is the designer and maker behind Gris Handknits. Somehow she also runs marathons and works as an exhibition content developer for a natural history museum. She lives in Ontario, Canada.
In addition to her blog, Cocoknits, you can find Nicole at Flickr, Pinterest and Ravelry. Thank you so much, Nicole, for getting this series off to a stellar start —
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Are you a knitter, crocheter, weaver, spinner, sewer … ?
Knitting: I’ve been knitting obsessively for over 15 years now, and I probably spend at least half of my free time doing it!Spinning: I also own a spinning wheel, an Ashford Traditional I snagged at a flea market for $40! I would call myself a novice spinner. I can spin and ply nice smooth yarn in the worsted style, but cannot for the life of me produce the lofty, fluffy, fuzzy woolen yarn I covet.
Sewing: I grew up wearing the most beautiful handmade clothes. My mom is an expert seamstress and I learned to sew basically through osmosis. I’ve recently dusted off my sewing machine and entertain fantasies of a wardrobe filled with handmade Liberty of London and Harris Tweed clothes to go with all of my handknits. I also dream of making hand-pieced and stitched old-fashioned quilts.
Crochet: My crochet skills are rudimentary at best, I mostly pull out my crochet hook to assist my knitting: making a provisional cast-on, picking up stitches or securing a steek. I would love to learn how to make pretty covered rocks like my friend Margie Oomen, or crochet lovely, lacy edgings for hand-sewn dresses.
Weaving: Sounds like fun, but frankly our tiny house could not support another hobby, so I better stay away from that one!
Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.
When it comes to my knitting tools, (and yarns for that matter) I’m afraid I’m a complete snob! They need to be pleasing to the eye and touch. I have an aesthetic fondness for beautifully turned wooden straight needles (ebony Lantern Moon needles are the ultimate in my book) and will use them to knit simple things like scarves and swatches. But I have to admit that nothing beats nickel-plated Addi Turbo circulars for speed and efficacy, especially on bigger, heavier projects. For small projects, I really like bamboo DPNs, especially the ones that Clover makes. I simply cannot abide aluminium needles, especially those dreadfully cheap grey ones. The gritty scraping sound they make makes my skin crawl. See, told you I was a snob!
How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?
My tools are in a perpetual state of organized chaos: straights plunked into a mason jar, DPNs sitting in an old pottery planter, circs tangled up in an old wooden crate. My small tools I keep in a pretty linen Bookhou pouch. Notions like buttons and snaps live in an ancient cookie tin.
How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?
Again, organized chaos reigns in my house. I have too many WIPs to count, and they’re all precariously piled up in baskets all over the house. I have been meaning to sew a bunch of project bags to keep them better organized and dust-free, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?
One of my favourite tools are stitch markers that I made. A while ago, I found a necklace in a charity shop that had beautiful abalone oval “beads.” I took the necklace apart and threaded sterling silver jump rings into the shell pieces. The amazing multitude of colours in the mother-of-pearl seem to always “match” my knitting in some way. I never tire of looking at them. I keep them in a small pretty blue and white tin.
Do you lend your hooks or needles?
What is your favorite place to knit?
You’ll most often find me curled up on the living room couch, elbows tucked in a fluffy down cushion, with a cup of tea nearby. Music, audiobooks or podcasts keep me company. Light is another important component. I love sitting at the window, looking outside while I work. In the evening I light beeswax candles for their beautiful scent and honey glow.
Do you ever leave home without a project in your bag?
Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?
I have a closet filled from floor to ceiling with decadent yarn. Opening the closet usually sets off what my husband calls a yarn-valanche. There is a LOT of amazing stuff in there: cashmere, baby alpaca, fine merino, puffy angora. Sometimes I think I will need more than one lifetime to knit it all!
What are you working on right now?
Ahem … well, as I mentioned previously, I do tend to have lots on the go at the same time but my “main” project is the Annabel cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge. I’m knitting it in the yarn called for: Quince and Co Osprey in the Glacier colourway. This yarn is seriously squishy and lovely, especially in garter stitch! Because I’m a shameless copycat, I’m making a pocketed version like the lovely Lori. I even have antler buttons similar to the ones that she used. (Did I mention that I also have a bit of a button problem?) I can’t wait to finish it!
All photos © Nicole Dupuis