I’m sure that I am not alone in saying, I consider myself a fan of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s amazing design work. Olga’s Jazzy Cardigan has been a fabulous and popular pattern within the Spring 2012 Collection. She has done a number of designs for Blue Sky, many of which I consider personal favorites. I am pleased to share an interview with Olga, I hope you enjoy. I was very excited to get to know her more.
Katie: Olga, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Olga: I originally come from an Eastern European county of Belarus. I have been living in the United States for almost a decade and all over the globe since my spouse is in the service. Currently, I reside in Japan – a country I have always admired and was eager to explore. Different mentality and cultural differences are quite a lot to learn, but it certainly helps to learn more about oneself through this cultural interaction and I’ve discovered new potential for my creativity with this new experience. My husband and I are the lucky “staff” to one bossy Russian Blue cat.
Katie: How and when did you learn to knit? When did you know that this was going to be your career?
Olga: I have my first recollection of being around four years old and having my mom teach me to knit some garter stitch in a rust orange wool yarn. I have been dabbling in it, on and off as a child, as a teenager my grandmother introduced me to crochet and I have been doing it for awhile. Growing up in a household of a seamstress I was exposed to learning all kinds of hand crafts – beading, macramé, tapestry weaving, embroidery among many others. I have started knitting on a regular basis in my senior year of high school, winters were brutally cold and wool layers were a necessity. While traveling and living in Italy, I have learnt about various existing yarn brands and companies that had their innumerable range of yarns for sale to the general public; compared to when I was growing up, all we knew were conventional cotton, acrylic and wool – no name, no brand, just whatever kind was available to us. Occasionally, a mill in town would have an odds and ends sale – that was a treat! Where I come from no pattern support was ever available, so whatever we knit we had to make up ourselves. My mother taught me the basics of construction and calculations and we had an ancient book on knitting that contained several stitch patterns that we could utilize in creating our own garments. But only years later I wrote my first pattern in English after teaching myself through book’s various tricks and methods applied in knitting today. 2005 is what I refer to as the starting year in my career as a knitwear designer. And ever since then I have been trying to perfect my style and my writing.
Katie: As someone with designs reminiscent of architecture, flying buttress cables and rose window lace panels, was that your intent? Does architecture inspire you? Were you thinking of building yourself as a niche designer with complex, architecturally themed pieces or did it naturally happen as an extension of your personal style?
Olga: I have been admiring and have always been transfixed by the linear textures of architectural structures, it felt to me that is something I want to translate into my designs and wear personally. I am a follower of fashion styles and trends. They provide great inspiration and clue to details, but the biggest problem is that the fashion theatre does not transition well into street life. I pick things I like and prefer to wear myself. My goal is to make modern, sometimes edgy, knitwear turn conventional. I strive to find that balance in my designs and present it to knitters, so they can feel contemporary, elegant, comfortable, yet unique. Part of the reason I knit is that I can create garments that are customized and one of a kind.
Katie: What do you love to knit, for yourself?
Olga: I am a sweater knitter, full sized garments take longer to construct and knit but they present a full range of challenges that I enjoy taking on and enjoy wearing once finished.
Katie: What’s your knitting space like?
Olga: My living room has been transformed into a mini-office, but it provides necessary light throughout the day that I need for knitting. I also enjoy the light since it provides lovely display for my yarny goodness nested inside my bookshelf. I miss having a friendly yarn store nearby, so I try to showcase the yarn by color families and let it provide me with ideas, what it wants to become. A lounge chair and a couch are both favorite places to knit while working on the projects. Coffee table and a big desk – both never show their surfaces since they are littered with swatches, skeins of yarn, pattern notes. As well as baskets scattered around the floor with projects half-done or with yarn waiting to be knit.
Katie: What are your favorite materials, fibers, needles, a specialized gadget or tool you cannot live without?
Olga: When it comes to yarn to work with I do prefer ones that are soft and easy on the hands, I don’t have an absolute favorite fiber any more since there are so many available these days. I love working with most for their hand or simply admire the fabric that they can produce. Being what you call a Combination-style or Eastern European-style knitter I prefer sharp tipped knitting needles, metal or wood circulars and dpns are my go-to tools. A gadget I can’t live without would be my measuring tape.
Katie: What’s your favorite color? What color do you gravitate to knitting with?
Olga: My favorite color is orange, only I don’t necessarily wear it a lot. It’s a strong color, so I try to incorporate it in my accessories – a bag or a bracelet or a hat. I love all shades of grey, it’s probably that it is the best neutral color that looks good against my complexion and it’s easy to layer with other complimenting colors. But I do enjoy brights – shades of yellow, lavender and turquoise are other favorites of mine.
Katie: Do you have an outside influence? As in, some people quilt, crochet, etc. so that when their knitting mojo goes on the fritz you turn to it in order to re-energize your work. Something you admire that you feel energized by/makes you want to translate it into knitting?
Olga: As a daughter of a professional seamstress, I sew. But I am not very fast or very good at it. I like to be very meticulous with my work and in sewing it takes time and practice to acquire good skills. I do end up making some clothing items and accessories and I also make some small jewelry pieces for myself or friends from time to time. Being in Japan has re-kindled my love for making origami and I credit it for a lot of my knitwear inspiration. I have always admired it because I have been making it since I was a child, but nowadays I see more and more potential in it through my eyes of an adult and a knitwear designer.
Katie: As someone living outside the U.S., what knitting do you bring on the airplane?
Olga: It’s a tricky question, since usually while traveling internationally many air carriers still don’t allow knitting needles on the plane, but if they do I try to bring bigger garments, like sweaters that use circular needles.
Katie: Do you have a special tip/trick/finishing technique you’d like to share?
Olga: I don’t think I use any special ones that aren’t used already but my advice would be for any knitter to learn how to graft – it’s a technique that opens lots of boundaries in all senses of knitwear construction as well as comes in handy in finishing.
Katie: Is there something you don’t like about knitting?
Olga: I had to think about this for a long while and the answer is no. I have been knitting in various places and knitting has broken boundaries and created so many friends and made so many sweaters. It’s common knowledge that many knitters might not be keen on finishing/seaming their finished knitted pieces into a garment, but there is a variety of methods that one can turn what used to be a garment knit in pieces into a piece to be made seamlessly. And both of them have their purposes and uses. I personally enjoy finishing and I think it’s exactly through that process that can transform a finished project into a perfect state!
Thanks to Olga for sharing answers to all the Blue Sky questions. It was a pleasure getting to know her more. Just wait and see what Olga is working on for our next collection! You’re going to love it!