Are you like me?
When I think of knitting and crocheting I think back to my mother sitting in her rocking chair, twisting sticks into growing pieces of soft fabrics much like a spider crafting its web with shiny translucent yarn. There is something so old school and organic about the whole process of knitting and likewise, about the feeling of a soft handmade wool sweater against your skin on a cold day.
Alexandra Twohey is a Vancouverite knitwear designer who also somehow just fits this organic definition; next to her natural warm nature her passion and skill development in the craft have all been part of a very raw and natural process— one that’s led to the exciting recent launch of her twin set of lines under self-made label Mira & Belle. I met Alexandra for lunch and the long-time knitter and new-time mother warmly told me about how stitches have always held her together.
Alex started creating at the age of eight, inspired while sitting in a picturesque BC garden with a friend and friend’s mother, who was crocheting a scarf. Intrigued, the little girl was taught a mere two stitches and took off with the craft until about three years ago, when she inherited an antique 1950s knitting machine, complete of parts but without instructions. Alexandra took out library books and pored over them, watched instructional YouTube videos to fill in knowledge gaps, and learned this old school practice in a very new school way. After about two months she felt confident enough to create stitches, and soon after that shapes—wearable art pieces that developed like colour on a painter’s canvas. “And like a painter,” she told me, “each piece is more of an artistic process or statement than a mechanical process of ‘creating a shirt’. It’s about the vision, and only then can I move on to branding and identity.”
Combined with her self-taught and spontaneous technique, that artistic approach means that most of her creations don’t rely on traditional stitches, and so what results is a couture-like line of exclusive and extravagant knitted and crocheted pieces that are unlikely to ever be seen replicated. She hesitates to mass market product and contests to never having used a pattern—scrunching her face at the word, even. Alexandra laughs as she tells me about older women fingering her pieces at craft fairs and markets, counting stitches under their breath trying to figure out the pattern behind the unique blend of Alexandra’s knit and crochet, hand and machine-mixed techniques. “Sometimes, even I have a hard time figuring it out.”
Mira & Belle (www.miraandbelle.com) Spring/Summer 2011 is the first one-of-a-kind knitwear collection released by Alexandra. The name divides into two “personalities”; for S/S 2011 Mira is represented by the concept of darker, sultrier “Night” items, and Belle by sweet and brighter “Light”. It is in this concept that Alexandra’s artistic expression is also organic, as both sides of her as a woman and designer are given recognition and deemed worthy of capturing as their own entities.
Which style suits you?
Mira & Belle’s official marketed launch will be up in time for F/W 2011 (yes, this is just a special sneak preview for FrockOn readers so you can get the buzz before everyone else does!). Alexandra details for me visions of lots of warm oatmeals, chunky winter whites and soft black angora for Mira, while Belle will feature contrasting stitch blends on more sculptural pieces, inspired by an art deco print by famous French fashion and set designer and illustrator Erte. In both collections, she’ll be experimenting with shapes and proportions, and different wool blends like bamboo, nylon and microfiber.
With her knitting needles in high gear Alexandra says her next steps are expanding Mira & Belle’s family of retailers and clientele and preparing for next season’s launch; and at FrockOn we’re sure of one thing—that it will happen for her just as organically as everything else has!