Hello fiber folk! Over the past few months, I’ve been fortunate enough to strike up a correspondence with Assia Brill, the brilliant woman behind Distitch: A New Knitting Concept. The book is brand new and when I saw it in my feed I wanted to get in touch with Assia right away to hear more about her novel knitting ideas. She was kind enough to send me a copy of her book, I knit up a swatch, and the rest—including our Distitch KAL(!)—has been rolling along ever since. As I discussed in Episode 68 of the podcast, distitch produces a thick, durable, and decorative fabric that is unlike anything I’ve created. And Assia’s book teaches you everything you need to know to jump right in: there are clear photo tutorials, written instructions, and video links. Whatever your learning style, Distitch has you covered. Our KAL is underway and picking up steam this February. Assia has joined our Ravelry group and has been active in the Distitch KAL thread. So, if you want an even more in-depth education about the technique, you need to get in on this KAL! Luckily for us, Assia also agreed to an interview and sent along some fun photos to share. I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about Assia Brill and that you’ll learn something new from her new book and our KAL 🙂
KTS: What is your crafting background? Who taught you to knit and make and do?
Assia: I was taught how to knit in my first year in school when I was seven. Thanks to my primary teacher I quickly learned how to cast on and knit. I still remember the first sample I knitted during this first lesson – a garter stitch rectangle made from kinked yellow yarn, recycled from an old scarf. My grandmother showed me crochet basics at the same time. Since I was 5 my father taught me to draw, to work with paper, wood and many other interesting things. Mother taught me to sew and showed me a few embroidery stitches. But still my biggest passion was reading. Therefore it would be right to say that I taught myself to do many things – by reading books and making things. I always had some projects on the run since I was a schoolgirl. With every new finished knitted project I made a significant jump in studying this craft. When I was 14, mother, seeing my growing interest, bought me a knitting machine, that I used for the next 15 years. This is the knitted coat with the hood, lined with fabric, made by me when I was 17 years old:
KTS: Distitch (and tristitch) are new techniques for the knitting world. How did you discover/ invent/create them?
Assia: I was always interested in the knitting structure. In late 1980s I managed to master a special cast-on and started to use it everywhere I could. I called it Factory’s Edge because it was the same edge as the cast-on edge on the factory produced garments. It was an Italian or Tubular cast-on. At the same time I worked out a symmetrical tubular bind-off.
With the beginning of the internet era, masses of information about knitting became available. With tripled energy I studied internet resources. At one stage I started to improve existing techniques and to create new stitch patterns. Some of them were very interesting, some less. Then one day I successfully recreated bugle cord using a crochet hook. Looking at this beautiful chain with a doubled stitches an idea arrived: is it possible to make the same stitch using the needles? After 30 minutes the first sample of Distitch knitting was created! Later, experimenting with this new method, I knitted Tristitch, and even 4-stitch, which all use the same principle.
Two-colour chain DS, Distitch, Tristitch.
KTS: One of the things I love about distitch is how compatible it is with regular knitting and with multiple techniques, such as brioche, double knitting, and colour work. What is your favourite way to use distitch in a pattern?
Assia: Agreed, Distitch is actually the same as conventional knitting in the more common sense. Therefore with Distitch we can do the same things as we do with singular knitting! By combining knit and purl stitches we creating hundreds of stitch patterns, the same is true for the Distitch — by combining knit and purl Distitches we creating hundreds of Distitch patterns, which are non-identical twins to the existing stitch patterns. Just imagine, the whole number of existing stitch patterns in the world is now doubled. Even more new patterns can be created by mixing conventional stitches and distitches.
My favourite way to use Distitch is to combine it with conventional knitting to achieve new goals, such as: attractive and functional selvedges, new details for structural benefits, beautiful chains that decorate the garment. Here is a swatch with 5 different types of vertical Distitch chain and 1 horizontal Distitch chain to decorate mittens designed six years ago:
Of all Distitch equivalents, DS Brioche is my favourite stitch pattern. It is beautiful and really “squashy” like a cushion.
DS Brioche hat.
KTS: Do you have plans for more distitch patterns (beyond those in the book)? Do you hope that designers take up the stitch and design with it? What would you like to see most?
Assia: Yes, I have more Distitch patterns to publish later. Next to be published is a Fringe scarf worked in conventional Brioche but with new Distitch selvedges (see photo). Because of the special structure of Brioche stitch, there are three variations of how to slip selvedge stitch, not two as with Garter stitch.
Of course I would like Distitch to be used wherever it is appropriate. I hope, that once Distitch is familiar to the public, designers will also start to use it.
I’d love to see some really original uses for Distitch, in other words an application which never occurred to me. The sky is the limit!
KTS: What’s in your knitting or crafting bag at the moment?
Assia: I’m very exited with my current project: I started it on the 1st of January to celebrate my knitting freedom. After 6 years of knitting the “must” projects, it is a “want” project. This Möbius cowl was in my wish list for almost 10 years. It is very clever stitch that does not have top or bottom, it looks identical in both directions and on both sides. At first approach the stitch techniques were kind of cumbersome, but very soon I found a new way around it and now it is flying from the needles. I’m planning to share my stitch pattern improvements after I’ll finished the cowl. My New year’s resolution for 2020 is to knit 20 new projects and finish 20 UFOs.
KTS: I know you love origami, too . . . what kinds of objects inspire you? How do origami and knitting fit together in your mind?
Assia: I like geometrical origami structures, especially those that are less complicated but cleverly constructed or have got some unusual folding in them.
“How do origami and knitting fit together in your mind?” They help each other! For example, my mega project St Basil Domes. The idea was to repeat the shape of all domes of the famous Moscow Cathedral using 3-D unit origami. It is rather primitive technique that uses a very simple module. We can see a lot of almost identical projects out of this unit on the internet. To recreate the shape of the domes I used knitting sequences to connect the units. I named the units as Knit and Purl, and started to connect them using the algorithms of different knitting patterns: 1×1 Rib, 2×1 Rib, Patrontash rib, and so on.
When I’m creating a new knitting design which involved geometrical structure (a blanket that will fold itself easily, interwoven knitted rings, lotus petals cowl…) I first play with paper by folding it and trying to find the right solution.
Photo by Herbert Bungartz
KTS: What’s next for you? Anything new on the horizon for you?
Assia: There is a moment in the life of almost every sock designer, when the attempt is made to create a new sock structure. We are witnessing clever heel designs, such as Skew by Lana Holden, Sweet Tomato Heel Socks by Cat Bordhi, Double Heelix by Jeny Staiman, Squircle by General Hogbuffer, Entrelac Socks by Natalia Vasilieva, Started from the Heel by Mai Meriste and many others. I couldn’t escape the temptation and two years ago I also developed a new sock design. So far I have knitted 17 prototypes and now I think it‘s time to call for pattern testers. I never tested my patterns on Ravelry before, so it will be a new experience for me.
Among my recently developed knitting techniques and life hacks, there is a very useful one. I just posted an announcement on my blog about The Loop Join–a method of adding a new yarn without any ends to weave in later!
As I mentioned in Distitch book postscript, few years ago, while exploring distitch possibilities, I created another new stitch with a very unusual structure which is the younger sister of distitch: A-stitch. I’m thrilled about it and would like to introduce it to the world, as well as many others of my finds and discoveries. So, the plan for the next 10 years (at least!) is clear: work, knit, write…
Thanks so much, Assia, for sharing your cool new technique with us! I love meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are an indie dyer, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email (email@example.com) or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)
Happy knitting! 🙂