Monday, October 17, 2016

Julie, Julie Julie

Finally back in the studio and my hometown of Chicago. Time flies when you're knitting (and having fun). But enough about me, welcome to another lovely episode of my chats with designers I truly admire.

I recently sat down with the talented knitwear designer Julie Turjoman.

Julie is an accomplished knitter and has designed everything from garments to accessories. She calls herself an "equal-opportunity crafter" because she "loves both knitting and designing, and if a day goes by when I don’t pick up my needles, something is seriously wrong!" Haha.

As well as crafting she is an accomplished author. Her book "Brave New Knits" caught my eye in 2010 and I've been a fan ever since. Her other books, "A Head for Fashion", "A Head For Trouble: What To Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders" and "Knits That Breathe: 12 Breezy Projects To Keep You Cool" quickly went into my library. They are a delight full of designs and inspiration.

I caught up with Julie over tea at a local eatery called "Spoke" on Chicago's Northside and we had the most lovely chat.

Read, create, and enjoy.

Hello dear, so good to catch up with you. For our dear readers and my spellcheck program how should your name appear in this manuscript?
Julie Turjoman. And that’s Tur-jo-man, with the emphasis on the first syllable. The “j” is pronounced as an English J, and not as a Spanish “h.” Just to clarify, for those who prefer not to mangle the name.

Delightful. Now, let's begin with the easy questions. Where were you born?
New York.

And where do you live now?
I’ve lived in the elegant metropolis of Chicago.

And for how long? Four years.

What place that you’ve lived would you call your favorite? And why?
Having lived on both U.S. coasts and now in the Midwest, I’d have to say that my favorite place is wherever I’m living at the moment. I loved New York for all of its maddening contradictions. I loved California because it was there I discovered that my thumbs are green after all (though it must be said that in the pre-draught years, everything grew better in CA, so credit should probably go to the climate rather than to my nurturing capabilities). And I love the Midwest for its friendly people, and Chicago in particular for its spectacular architecture and incredible food, arts, and theater scenes.

Do you enjoy travel and why or why not?
Not to put too fine a point on it, travel is my life (as long as I can bring my knitting with me). I like nothing better than a jaunt outside my cultural comfort zone and into a country where I don’t speak the language, see nothing familiar on my plate, and have to rely on the courtesy and kindness of other human beings to get around. It makes me see the world through the eyes of a child again – or an extraterrestrial, depending on your point of view!

Where have you been that you long to see again? Why?
I’ve been to Morocco twice so far, and would love to return. With its wildly varied landscape, natural beauty, cuisine, architecture, and history, it’s a constant – and sometimes rather overwhelming – feast for the senses. The people I’ve met there have been fascinating; proud, industrious, and warm.

What new place do you dream of seeing? Why?
I’d love to visit New Zealand, where among other temptations there’s a photogenic little town called Napier, known for its fine examples of Art Deco architecture. Of course, my interest has absolutely nothing – not a bit of it! – to do with the fact that it’s also at the epicenter of both New Zealand’s wine country and its vast wool production industry.

What three things do you never travel without?
Several knitting projects, which counts as one thing because I compress them into a single bag; An eye mask because, darling, the darkness of a sealed tomb is required for a good night’s sleep; Chocolate for emergencies, bribery, or the guaranteed revival of low spirits.

What is your favorite part of a trip away from home?
My travels are often guided, I confess, by my stomach and my passion for cooking. The chance to sample new and unfamiliar foods is my favorite element of travel, and dining adventures often make for a good story upon my return because some of the best meals are found in the unlikeliest of places. One of the most exquisite lunches I’ve ever had was at a tiny outdoor cafĂ© discovered while woefully lost inside the ancient walled city of Granada, Spain.

What do you like least about being away from home?
I do miss sleeping in my own bed.

How did you come to be entangled in the world of yarn?
It’s the classic tale of a hobby that evolved into a career, but mostly my yarn world entanglement is the result of being constitutionally unable to leave well enough alone. I’ve yet to knit an existing pattern that even remotely resembles its original design by the time I’ve finished with it.

Have you any pet peeves or pet joys about process?
The greatest joy is seeing a new design go from its early conceptual sketches and calculations to a finished project. The creativity and ingenuity involved in that process is a constant challenge, and often something of a surprise when the final steps are complete.

A pet peeve is the perpetual undervaluing - by both the publishing industry and by knitters who insist that all patterns should be free - of the effort, time, and skill that go into creating new designs.

What Mrs. Crosby design would you most like to have featured with your questionnaire?
Absolutely my Consuelo Cloche, a divine little bit of stylish millinery made with two skeins of “Hatbox.”

Tell me something of how this design came to be. Were you responding to a personal need? Inspired by something in your world? Or simply in a mood? Do tell.
Fashionable members of history’s hat-wearing eras are a frequent source of inspiration. American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt was one of New York high society’s intrepid “buccaneers” of the late Gilded Age, whose mother pushed her into marrying the Duke of Marlborough, who was noble but penniless. As Duchess of Marlborough, she became quite the grande dame in her own right, eventually divorcing her cold fish of a husband and remarrying for love the second time around. This cloche would suit her style during her happiest years.

How was your experience of the yarn? Why did you choose it? Why that color (or those colors)?
Hat Box is the ideal yarn for my Consuelo Cloche because its blend of silk and cashmere with merino wool offers the luxurious softness that a stylish buccaneer – or today’s fashion-conscious modern knitter – would expect in a new fall chapeau. The richly saturated colors Peacock and A New Leaf offer just enough contrast to set off the asymmetrical split band and the ribbon flower brooch that embellishes one side of the cloche.

Thank you so much, darling, for being a part of our big, wide world.

Discover more about the lovely Julie Turjoman here: or shop Julie's Patterns on Ravelry.