Sunday, February 21, 2010

Marcie's vest - a winter collaboration

I had lunch with my friend Marcie the other day, and she was wearing this gorgeous vest. When I asked her about it, she told me this wonderful story:
I've lived in Maine through nearly 14 winters, and I can say, without a doubt, that the gift of the long, cold, isolating winter is that of unpredictable creativity. The long Maine winter allows for expansion, experimentation, and experiences with both people and projects in a way that always surprises me.
For nearly all of the years that I've lived in Belfast, I've practiced yoga at the Belfast Dance Studio. For the past three years, I've taught yoga there, so of course I know Sara Melanson, who is, among other things (such as a wild mushroom enthusiast), the manager of the studio. What I didn't know, until last year, is that Sara is also a passionate, extremely accomplished knitter. One morning I was passing through the studio and saw, through the open office door, that Sara was knitting. We started talking about knitting and clothes and before long, we realized that we had found some common ground for inspiration. I myself am not a knitter at all, but I do love clothes, and I love talking to people about making things. Our conversation went on and on, until somehow, we had decided to collaborate on a knitted vest: I would design it, and Sara would knit it. As you can see from the photographs, it turned out to be a wonderful collaboration. So wonderful, in fact, that we are now working on a second piece. But that's another story...
The inspiration for the vest was collage. Because I wanted it to have the spirit of a collage - disparate shapes and colors and textures pieced together - I approached the vest as if it were a blank canvas, albeit a vest-shaped one. It was designed in my studio, using Adobe Photoshop. I began with a photograph of a basic grey vest, and from there, working in layers, I altered the shape and proportions, created the design, and determined the general color palette. Then it was time to choose the yarn. Sara and I met at Helen Sahadi's fabulous yarn shop in Belfast, Heavenly Socks, and drooled over all of her yarns. Finally, the selection was made, and the vest was one step closer to coming to life. Then, back in the studio, with all of the yarn in front of me, I finalized the design, tweaking the color and the pattern.

Here is the original design mock up for the front:
Here is the original design mock up for the back:
In the space of a couple of months, Sara knitted, tested stitches and created small swatches. She had free reign over the choice and sequencing of stitches, and this became one of the most exciting elements of the vest. At some point in the process, Sara discovered the best way to translate my two-dimensional design into her three dimensional creation. In her own words: "When I saw Marcie’s design, the usual questions of whether to knit from the top down vs. bottom up, in the round or front and back in separate pieces, were tossed out, and I had to approach it from a completely new angle. Collaborating with a non-knitter was liberating in that it was a chance to rethink my notions of how a knitted garment “should” be constructed. And I was excited to work with Marcie in particular, because I admired her style and couldn’t wait to see what she would come up with - I just knew if would be fabulous."

So what's the moral of this story? That not only is an artistic collaboration a great way to get yourself through the winter, but it's also a great way to stretch and grow, and perhaps, if you're lucky, make a new friend.
- Marcie Jan Bronstein

Sara Melanson can be reached at 323-1813. She is open to receiving commissions, and to collaborating on other knitting projects.

Read about Marcie Jan Bronstein's "real" work at


Village Books said...

Beautiful, lively vest and great blog post! Collaboration is always interesting.

Knitting Out Loud said...

I especially love the vine pattern going up the back!

t does wool said...

beuaitufl vest...lots going on but it all balances out...very nice~

StoriesofFiber said...

How special to knit a friendship together as well as a beautiful vest.
A great "story of fiber!'

raining sheep said...

Wow, what a gorgeous vest. I love all the colors and the spirit of the collaboration. Beautiful work.

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

How very creative! What fun and great inspiration for following your own path.