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Durham

Katie Berman and her textile adventures.

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A growing collection of Katie Berman’s musings including collaborations, thoughts about textiles, tutorials and more.

Filtering by Category: Musings

Falling in Love with Knitted Cables (and Swatching…)

Katie Berman

My Cable Collection Project

This one goes out to my cable-loving knitters! Raise your hand if cables are your favorite go-to in your knits.

They are becoming mine and fast! I was so intimidated for so long, but once I started to experiment with them last year, I realized there was nothing to fear. And I wanted to learn more. I’ve been eyeing the most beautiful cables book from my LYS (Thanks, Freeman’s!) and finally bought it.

Behold, Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook.

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It’s everything I could have dreamed and hoped for. It’s chock full of the most amazing cable patterns I’ve ever seen. And by chock full, I mean 152 cable patterns and variations. Whaaaaaat.

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To help me from getting overwhelmed, I paged through the book and picked out 54 cables that I’m going to swatch over the next few months. I’m wanting to use this as an exercise to practice knitting cables (obvi), improve my chart reading, and build up a personal cable library to choose from for my next knitting projects that I have on my list for the fall. Hopefully I’ll begin to like swatching a bit more by viewing it as an exploration instead of a chore… Plus, this’ll be a great way to bust through my stash of excess yarn!

I’m committing to knitting at least 3 swatches a week and I’ll be sharing some updates, pics and notes every month on my little cable collection project.

Stay tuned, friends!
— KB

SAYING SO LONG TO SOCIAL MEDIA...

Katie Berman

I never thought I would do this.

Peace out, insta!

Peace out, insta!

It was easy to quit Facebook, but instagram? No. Never.
Welp, never say never, friends, because it’s happening! 

So how did I get here?
I’ve realized that I need some major boundaries…

Instagram is not what it used to be for me. Maybe it’s because I’m using it as the primary marketing tool for my brand. Maybe it’s because I’m more aware of time and how much I’m allowing it to carve into my life. Maybe it’s just me. Either way, every time I open instagram, I feel defeated, depressed and just plain old beat up when I’m scrolling through the endless feed of pics and ads.

In truth, I am exhausted.

I think that algorithms are a huge part of this (no surprise there…).

These things not only dictate how my own profile performs, but it dictates what I see. Instragram only shows me what it thinks I want to view. I’m bombarded with information and ads that I don’t want. I don’t see things from my friends, I don’t see things as they’re happening in real time. Let’s be real— that makes me really angsty.

In the end, I’m not in control. Y’all, algorithms are crazy and I’m done trying to figure them out. Even if I get to a point where I feel I’ve got it down, it’s just going to change again. Because I’m using this as a platform for my brand, I see instagram as less of a community and more of a competition no matter how I slice it. Trying to figure out “how to beat the algorithm” as a small brand is a fancy way of saying I’m trying to compete. Compete to be seen. To be liked. To be followed. And I’m not competitive by nature.

Having a brand showcased on instagram becomes difficult because it’s hard to draw the line between showing genuine work and struggles and showing beautifully curated highlights. Don’t get me wrong, I love beautifully curated, aesthetically pleasing things! I make those things! Good design is necessary and should be valued. But when I feel I have to curate in that way to even be considered as something that instagram will put in front of people, I start to wonder if I’m making things because I think it’s gonna be insta-worthy or because I’m truly moved to make it. I want my work to be genuine and not based on what I think will get me seen or whatever trends have imbedded into my subconscious. Since I can’t seem to separate myself from getting overwhelmed with competing, I’m taking myself out of the game for a while.

Tabernacle , detail. 2019 Hand-punched and machine tufted using a mixture of relcaimed and American wool yarns on cotton fabric.

Tabernacle, detail. 2019
Hand-punched and machine tufted using a mixture of relcaimed and American wool yarns on cotton fabric.

Creating is something that I not only love to do, but I have to do. It’s a part of who I am and how I interact and interpret the world. I’m called to do the work and I want to focus on that. It’s time for me to cut out some of the noise.

There has to be another way. Another way to connect with an online audience. Another way to build a brand and grow a business. There has to be another way beyond this one app…

So I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to let go of social media and try to explore new ways to connect, collaborate and market myself. From a brand perspective, this is super scary. I feel that the little audience I do have is on instagram. I want to connect with others on a deeper level. It’s easier to do that if I funnel more of my time into face-to-face interactions or writing content and tutorials that help you.

So where will I be? 
Well, I’ll be in Durham, NC. And I’ll also be here on my website. I’ll be more active in putting out blog posts and will still post pictures of goings-on in the studio. I’ll still be teaching fiber workshops in the community which you can stay up-to-date on through the calendar

And I’ll say hello once in a while through my newsletter. If you haven’t already joined, I would love it if you did! I send out an email on the first of every month to announce what’s happening in the following weeks (classes, events, etc.). Once is a blue moon, I may send out an extra email if I have a shop update. I won’t be all up in your inbox grill-- pinky promise.

Wish me luck! I hope this will give us a chance to engage or hang out in a different way. 

To taking chances and being rebellious,
- KB

ON TRYING AGAIN

Katie Berman

My friends, it’s been one of those weeks. I feel like I’m in a creative slump and everywhere I turn I keep hitting a wall. This happens every time I finish a body of work. I’m on a roll, cooking up designs left and right and feeling good about by choices. And when I complete a collection and I shift gears to begin something new, I can’t seem to get it right. The ideas and visions that look amazing in my dreams don’t seem to measure up when the morning comes.

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I’ve spent most of this week ripping out stitches which has led me to meditate a lot on starting over. On trying again. On not giving up.

One of things that I love most about punch needle is that it can be, at times, quite forgiving. To be honest, I think that’s what drew me to textiles in the first place so many years ago. I originally planned on studying graphic design, but quickly changed my tune within my first semester of university. The forgiveness I experience in textiles is different than that of digital design. Sure, graphic design is extremely forgiving (praise the good Lord for Ctrl+Z….) but almost too forgiving. There’s no sense of permanency with my graphic design work. But with textiles, it’s different. I take things that are existing and somewhat more permanent and I shape them into something else. And the fact that I can take that solid material and morph it and change my mind and morph it again… and again… aaaand maybe just one more time is a fascinating concept to me.

In graphic design, my process can be erased completely— never to be thought of again. In textiles, there can still exist shadows of the journey. Memory of the path that led me to my final work.

My textile practice is a tangible, real-time experience of maturing. And not maturing from gathering a wealth of knowledge and fact. But a maturing grown through grace and forgiveness and hope. This textile practice teaches me forgiveness. It teaches me the inevitability of change. It teaches me patience even in the times when I just want the work. to. be. done. already. It teaches me gentleness with myself and my thoughts. It’s okay to have a not super great first idea. It’s okay to change it. It’s okay to try again.

Today I was struck by the beauty in the ghost of my original idea. The foundation cloth has such a great way of showing you the constellations of what it held. The beauty is that I can still use this piece of material and punch new ideas into it. The materials were not wasted. The original idea was not wasted. It was not a reflection of utter failure. It was just a first step and I needed to change directions.

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I’m not sure how many times I’ll have to go through this ripping out process before my new collection takes shape, but I’m learning to live with it. For those out there in a creative rut— your time in the slump is not wasted. We’re all gonna make it out and have new work to share with the world soon. I promise. And until then, I’m here for ya. If you need a cheerleader to tell you how awesome you are, come chat with your friend Katie.

To new things on the horizon.
- KB

ME-MADE-MAY 2019

Katie Berman

I think it’s safe to say that May is one of my favorite months. It’s usually beautiful weather here in NC and I get all crazy excited about planting flowers and gearing up for the warm summer months. It’s also the month dedicated to #memademay!

Me-Made-May is a movement started by Zoe Edwards which challenges makers to “wear hand-created clothing every day for a month. The aim is to encourage people to bring the DIY and handmade ethos into their everyday lives, and to develop a better relationship with your handmade wardrobe.”

This is strictly a gentle, personal challenge and not a photo challenge which I have to say I really appreciate. This year, I wanted to see how many days I could wear a me-made item without repeating an outfit. That in itself was a challenge as I repeat outfits all. the. time (sometimes in the same week, oops!). I was able to make it… 10 days.

Not too shabby, but I thought I had more me-mades! Where did they go?! I quickly realized that a lot of my me-mades are sweaters which are waaaay too warm for this time of year in NC. I also realized a few others things about my habits and wardrobe, so let’s head to the lessons-I’ve-learned-about-myself-and-life-and-stuff portion of this post (queue hyper speed whizzing noises):

Things I learned about myself:

I have a type.
The reason I repeat so many outfits is that I know what I like and what I feel good in. I’ve honed in on what cuts, styles and colors I like best and I’ve filled my wardrobe with those things. I tend to gravitate toward boxier tops and dresses and slim fit bottoms usually in a neutral and/or subtle stripe or polka dot.

I don’t have that many articles of clothing… and I don’t feel the need for more.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have my eye on a few new patterns that I definitely plan on making this year (I’m lookin’ at you, Wiksten Shift Dress). But as I examined my closet over the course of this month, I didn’t feel that I was truly lacking in any particular area. If I’m okay with repeating outfits, then I don’t need more things. I’ll just use what I have. As someone always looking for an excuse to make more things, I found this really refreshing.

I don’t do laundry all that much.
This is just another point to why I repeat outfits so often as items are always in my closet and not hiding in my laundry basket. That and I don’t always have the best memory. If I didn’t keep notes of my outfits this month for Me-Made-May tracking purposes, I would have repeated an outfit almost immediately. Did I already wear you this week? Ah, who cares! (convo with myself almost daily…)

So what do I wear? A list of my favorite go-tos:

Here’s a collection of my fave patterns:

 

Self-drafted boxy crop tops

I can’t link to a pattern on this one. I literally traced a favorite boxy top I had in my drawer several years ago and made a pattern for myself. No sleeves inset. No funny business. Just the way I like it.

Top is made with an organic cotton knit I snagged years ago from Spoonflower. Print designer unknown. Ps. I work part-time there, so snagging discounted, flawed Marketplace fabric is way too easy. So thankful that one of my job benefits is a monthly stipend to purchase fabric. #blessed

 
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Anything from In the Folds + Peppermint Magazine
I’m thankful every day for the collab between In the Folds + Peppermint that provides the best free (yeah, you heard me— FREE) sewing patterns to the maker community. My favorites are the Peplum Top and the Jumpsuit. I have multiples of each. I’ve got their Wide Leg Pants on my #makenine list this year too.

Peplum top is made from Spoonflower’s Retired Kona® Cotton featuring Micklyn’s Evening Proteas in Indigo Denim Blue.

Jumpsuit is made with a cotton sateen I scored from a closing sale at a local store (RIP Lumina….). I made some adjustments to the pattern by adding pockets and elastic ankle cuffs.

 

Sew Liberated Arenite Pants

Easy, breezy, beatiful… Arenite Pants. Plus, they’re created by a Durham resident, so I feel a sense of local pride when I wear them.

Pants are made with a cotton I picked up from one of my LYS, Downtown Knits. I can’t remember who makes it… It’s got some great texture though, with a subtle white stripe woven into the fabric. They are the most comfortable pants I own.

 
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Seamwork Aster

This is my ultimate go-to for a short-sleeved button up, though I’m also going to give the Closet Case Kalle Shirt a whirl this year.

Top is made from a Robert Kaufman Linen Cotton blend.

 

Grainline Studio Archer Button Up
My go-to for a long-sleeved button up. Solid and sturdy.

Top is made with Spoonflower’s Retired Kona® Cotton featuring Dina Ramay’s Handful small.

 
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Did you take part in #memademay? What did you learn this year?

 

CONFESSIONS OF A FASHION REVOLUTIONARY

Katie Berman

I have a confession. Two weeks before Fashion Revolution Week… I bought a new pair of shoes.

For some this may not seem like a big deal. But for someone like me who strives to add to my wardrobe ethically and responsibly, this is a deal of sorts. I don’t do that anymore, I think to myself. Let’s back up and give a lil’ context…

Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013. Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013. Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

Fashion Revolution Week is a social media campaign that centers around demanding transparency in fashion supply chains around the globe. After the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory on April 24, 2013 that killed 1,138 people and injured many more, much of the world’s eyes were open to the horrific working conditions of the factories that make our clothes. My eyes were one of the pairs that were opened that year and I haven’t been able to unsee. Not only does this movement demand transparency, but it demands that we do better in manufacturing and consuming.

Since gaining this awareness, I made a pact with myself about how I added to my wardrobe. Items that I added to my wardrobe had to be: made ethically to the best of my knowledge, handmade by me, or secondhand. And I’ve stuck to that pact…mostly.

This pact comes with difficulty. I’m not sure about my other conscious consumers, but things that I find hard to shop for are undergarments and shoes. “Ethical” undies are usually super basic and boring and expensive. And I find that shoes can be extremely pricey too. What’s a sister to do? I want to support ethical brands, but I have trouble wrapping my brain and budget around spending $30 on a single, nude pair of organic panties that are nooot. cuttte.

And that’s when it hits me— I still walk this line between selflessness and utter selfishness. This conversation comes down to being about… me. My look, my style, what I want. Don’t get me wrong— I think our clothing can be an amazing avenue to display our personalities and individuality and I love that about fashion. But how much am I willing to sacrifice for that? It’s not just about sacrificing money, it’s about what my money means. When I use my money to buy fast fashion items, what I’m ultimately doing is creating demand for a way of manufacturing that comes, in some cases, at the cost of human life. I’m saying exploiting other humans for my own wants and cheaper fashions are okay. And it’s not.

Dress is a me-made  In the Folds + Peppermint Magazine Peplum Top  made into a dress. The shoes I speak of are from  Naturalizer .

Dress is a me-made In the Folds + Peppermint Magazine Peplum Top made into a dress. The shoes I speak of are from Naturalizer.

So back to these shoes. I love them. I wear them. I want to wear them for years to come. And yet, I didn’t do my homework. In the end I cared more about myself and my style than about the possible conditions of the person who made them. I took a peek at Good On You, an organization that rates brands on their transparency and ethics, and found that this brand scored a “Not Good Enough”. Ooof.

So where do we go from here? We learn. I learn. Let’s do more research and do better next time. Let’s weigh what the true cost of a garment may be before I purchase it. One of the first in-depth talks I heard on this topic was from Josh Porter out in Portland. He shared that when it comes to responsibly consuming, it comes down to caring more deeply about the people that make our stuff than our stuff (paraphrased).

That has stuck with me ever since I heard it the first time. And for those that know me well, you know that people are at the center of my heart. I yearn to spend my days caring more deeply about others. And the folks that make our clothes and shoes count as others in my life.

I am grateful for this awareness, but some days I feel that I am tortured by it. Why can’t I just buy a cute pair of shoes and be done with it?? Sigh… So I want to hear from you, my fellow conscious consumers. Is there anyone else out there that feels tortured or has a moment of guilty shopping? What do you do about it?

And if you have any sources on where I can get ethically made, cute panties and bras— please do share.

Thanks for listening, my loves.
Talk soon,
- KB