An Interview with Carol Sunday of Sunday Knits

Carol Sunday is an innovative designer known for her timeless, fashion-forward pieces. She also has her own yarn line, Sunday Knits, which we are ecstatic to have in our store. Her yarns are soft and structured, and incredible to work with.

We recently started carrying Angelic 3 ply, a merino-angora blend, that is every bit as delightful as the Eden and Nirvana on our shelves. Happily, Carol designed a pattern set for Angelic, the Wandering Ribs Hat and Cowl, which is exclusively ours for the next month (we've paired them as a kit, too!).

Carol was able to join us for an interview to share a little bit of her yarn story and inspiration process.

Knit Purl: These patterns feel so Portland to me, and fit in so well with Knit Purl's aesthetic. Could you tell us a little about your inspiration for these designs?

Carol Sunday: Thank you! I'm so glad you like Wandering Ribs, as I designed this duo especially with Knit Purl in mind. Your esthetic—clean, fresh and thoughtful—was my inspiration for this project. The cowl, in particular, is also something I'd been wanting to design for my own wardrobe. It's a nice light layer with a very fluid and simple look. Both are easy to wear, yet interesting and engaging to work.

The Wandering Ribs stitch pattern is a scaled-up version of my own Adam's Ribs stitch pattern, which I'd developed a few years ago. At its heart, it's a herringbone, but with a jazzy syncopation. During the first set of rows, the right-leaning panel moves and the other panel follows. But the set is an odd number of rows, so in the second set, beginning on the back side of the first, the formerly left-leaning panel becomes the right-leaning panel and moves, while the other panel follows. It's very musical, very rhythmic, both to work and to look at.

KP: Angelic is such a special yarn. It's so dreamy and soft, with a gorgeous halo. What's it like to knit with?

CS: You're so right about Angelic. It's dreamy, and a joy to work with. The hand is light and even. And while if a little thin on the needles, all that changes after washing, when its gorgeous halo steps forward. Fabric knitted with Angelic is really silky feeling against the skin, and light as a cloud. At the same time, it's not so fluffy as to obscure textured stitches. My Interlochen, for instance, was knit in Angelic 3 ply in smoke. I love the luscious quality that the angora blend brings to this lavishly cabled stole.

KP: Do you have any other favorite patterns to match with Angelic?

CS: Here's a sneak peak at my Verduri scarf and mitts, which will be published sometime in November. Here I used Angelic wren as an accent with Eden in twig as the main color. I love the ethereal quality that Angelic gives to the lace trim.

I also like mixing my yarn blends and using them together in colorwork projects like these Night Birds mitts that I'm making in a new colorway. The fluffy birds here, in Angelic dijon, just sing along side of their Eden and Nirvana neighbors.

KP: Can you describe a bit of your design process in general?

CS: As far as designing in general, I don't have a specific design process that I follow. I don't use story boards, and I'm really pretty undisciplined when it comes to the creative process. I let each project determine its own course.

How things go for me is often like this … I get an idea, and if it seems like a good idea, I get all excited. The idea takes over my life for a time. I work fast to get down every nuance while it's fresh. I might sketch or play with stitches, maybe start putting a stitch pattern idea down in chart form. I want to capture the spirit of the idea, to flesh it out, and to note what's essential and exciting about it—its shape, texture, construction, and how they work together. And then I toss my sketches and notes in a drawer and my swatches in a basket. I'm rarely ready time-wise to start working on a new project when inspiration strikes, but if I've made the time to distill the juice when it's flowing, then I can draw on it later for a project when the timing is better.

Designing is my passion. When I started thinking, eight or nine years ago, about how I might create for myself a career as a knitwear designer, my yarn line, Sunday Knits, was not even a gleam in my eye. However, at that time a lot of my ideas involved stranded colorwork, and I wasn't happy with what I was finding, yarn-wise. I wanted wool that was a bit plumper than fingering-weight yarn, light, woolen-spun and soft enough to wear against my bare (and sensitive) skin. And I especially wanted it in the right colors—plenty of neutrals, some soft hues, some vivid colors, and all in harmony with one another. So I started searching.

KP: What can you tell us about your yarns—how'd you come to building a relationship with your mill, and what drew you to these particular fibers?

CS: I sampled yarns from a number of mills, here in America and then globally. When I first received samples from the mill I now work with, to be honest, I wasn't that impressed. But once I'd knitted with it and washed my swatch, I was head over heels! It was the softest, most beautifully spun yarn I had ever worked with, and I've been knitting for over fifty years. The fabric it made was cohesive, luxurious, yet the stitches weren't lost in the beautiful bloom of it. It was really love at first swatch!

My mill spins and dyes to my specifications, but the fibers used in my yarns—merino wool, cashmere and angora—are from their sources. They are the experts (in fact, generations of experts), and I trust their fiber selection, which is about not only breed, but also about the fineness of the individual fibers as measured in microns. They are truly masters of their craft.

KP: I love that your yarns are humanely sourced! Can you explain a little about the process of gathering the merino and angora?

CS: I’m glad you asked about fibers and humane sourcing. When I started out, I didn't realize that there are inhumane ways to shear sheep. But, and not to get too gruesome, on some large merino farms the sheep’s hindquarters are sliced open (without anesthesia!) to make shearing quicker and to acquire more fleece. And with angora rabbits, I used to think that brushing as a way of acquiring their fur sounded pretty nice, until I found out that "brushed" harvesting often means yanking all the hair off the rabbits bodies while they scream in pain. This is quite common practice with many French (breed, not location) Angora rabbits farmed in China.

Of course, once I found out that such practices exist, I questioned my mill's owner, who is much more knowledgeable than I am on such matters, and who is as deeply committed to sourcing only the most humanely farmed and harvested fibers as I am. We also share a strong commitment to sustainable use of energy and water, frugal and thoughtful disposal of waste and respectful and kind treatment of the people who contribute to our product. These things matter.

KP: I agree completely. I love that yarn companies are working more towards transparency, as well as ethically sourcing their yarns. Not just that, but also ensuring that they are not only pleasing to wear and knit with, but the animals providing the fibers and the environment they live on are beneficial, too.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Carol! Your yarns and patterns are so beautiful, as are your words.

October 28, 2015 by Cait Lamborne
previous / next


N S Karterman said:

You are a true inspiration with such gorgeous creations. Muchas gracias,

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.