Designer Closeup with Jenny Faifel

As Lookbook 7: British Columbia’s South Coast is making its way to our subscribers and readers across the world, we wanted to take a moment here on the blog to dive in deep with each of the designers featured in this lovely issue. Jenny Faifel is the brilliant mind behind the Burrard Inslet Sweater, a triple-banded yoke that is sure to become an instant favorite. You might know Jenny from her work under her brand name Sweaterfreak Knits. We picked her mind about her process, inspiration, and knitting origin story in this interview.

What is your “knitting origin story”? What brought you to this craft?
I learned to knit at a very young age, even before I learned how to read. Knitting is very pervasive and common in our culture and both of my grandmothers were knitters. I was raised by my maternal grandmother, who taught me to knit and crochet. I took a long break from knitting in my teens and 20’s, but one crisp, October Saturday in 2006, I woke up and decided that I needed a sweater. And the rest was history! I quickly realized that what I wanted to wear did not exist in the pattern form, so I knitted "from my head.” With much encouragement from friends and the Ravelry community, I published my first pattern in 2011 and I haven't stopped since. I continue publishing patterns because I love putting my ideas out there and I love writing patterns and interacting with the knitting community.

What drives your design process?

I love when the idea works out in practice just like the vision in my head! It's such a satisfying feeling—I think I am addicted to it. The latest example of this is my Wychwood Cardigan that starts and ends with just 3 stitches—the concept is simple, yet unique.

Wychwood Cardigan from Sweaterfreak Knits

What are some of your favorite designs and the inspirations behind them?

3) Most of my inspiration comes from geometry and fashion with a bit of a nature sprinkled in. I am a huge fan of the triangle shape and I love how you can start with just 3 stitches and work up to pretty much any shape! I have several designs that started out like a top down triangular shawl: Wychwood Cardigan, Trigonometry Shawl, Tilted Mitts, Volga Cowl and Savoy Truffle Shawl to name a few. I also love bold graphic color work—the My Inner Viking Pullover and Vesica Piscis Pullover are perfect examples. Bias knitting is another favorite texture of mine, as things always seem more interesting when knit on the slant. Sands of Coolness and the Everyday Shawl explore this technique.

Tell us about a few of your favorite yarns and fibers, and how they influence your work. 

Wool all the way! My two favorite types of yarn are unprocessed wool of any weight and single ply, superwash yarns. I realize that these are on the opposite sides of the spectrum! Non-processed wools have a very earthy quality—they don't grow or change much when washed, they don't need to be cleaned often, they are alive! I guess growing up with real, unprocessed wool makes me a little more used to its roughness.

I find that single ply yarns retain the woolly feeling and they feel right to me, while also being soft and colorful. They take color boldly because they have been pre-treated, and there is really no limit to what you can do with these colors, while natural wools tend to turn out more subtle, which is why I like to work with both. In the summer, I definitely prefer linen yarns. The finished garments have a very no fuss, luxurious feeling about them.

Burrard Inlet Sweater by Jenny Faifel

Let's talk about the Burrard Inlet Pullover you’ve designed for Lookbook #7. How did it come together and what do you love about it?

Living in the Canadian Pacific for so long, I couldn't help but be influenced by its Native heritage. I am a big fan of the Cowichan sweater that combines European color-work traditions with the First Nations motifs - I think it's a truly Canadian product! In this sweater, I tried to marry the top down seamless method (which is newer), with a more traditional, circular yoke, but featuring simple motifs reminiscent of these traditional Cowichan sweaters. I pass by Burrard Inlet on my daily commute so I wanted to dedicate this piece to my current surroundings.

What is your favorite place to travel for inspiration?

As I mentioned, I am mostly inspired by bold shapes, fashion and interesting construction. I love cities for their street style, as well as quaint boutiques and secondhand shops where treasures can be found. Through observing people, seeing what they wear and how, I find that every big city I visit has its own style, and every time I go to a different place, I get a lot of inspiration and new ideas. 

What is your 'dream place' to travel?

I would love to visit Palm Springs and Las Vegas (or pretty much any place in the desert!) I love the desert landscape - the open skies and warm, velvety, air make me feel relaxed and happy. I hope to go back to the desert as often as I can in the future.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Jenny’s design in the pages of Lookbook 7: British Columbia’s South Coast, available now on our site!