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Sasha Hyre: “A Summer Knit Begins With the Fibre”

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Sasha Hyre: “A Summer Knit Begins With the Fibre”

Island Vibes: Summer Knits by Sasha Hyre is a capsule collection designed with beachwear in mind. We talked with the designer Sasha Hyre about the book, her design influences and the relaxing power of knitting!

Why did you choose to design summer knits?

“Being fortunate to live in a country that offers four seasons (although sometimes it feels like only two!), my knitting evolves with the change of weather. That means that the fibres I knit with change with the temperature. In the warmer seasons, I put away the wools, mohair and alpacas and gravitate towards linens, cotton and silk. For me, these fibres are what truly embody summer knits. It’s more than just a short-sleeved sweater or ‘summer tee’; summer knit at its core begins with the fibre.”

The collection is designed mainly with linen, silk and cotton yarns. What are the biggest differences between knitting with these materials and knitting with wool?

“There is a big difference if you are accustomed to knitting with wool or animal fibre blends. To start, the fibres I’ve chosen to work with lack elasticity and that ‘bounce back’ feeling you get from wool or woollen blends. However, I absolutely love the drape in a finished piece.

‘Summer’ fibres tend to grow with time and wear, so please be mindful of this when choosing a size. My favourite among them is linen, as it offers breathability and durability and is extremely versatile for year-round wear. It is strong, non-pilling and softens after washing.”

You live in Montreal, Canada, but your heritage is Jamaican. How have these two countries influenced your design style?

“I like to think that my design style is simple with a little bit of a twist. Often, designers are inspired by nature and the elements around them, so this is not unique to me.

From Montreal, I draw from the rich urban landscape, which encourages a modern and minimalist approach. From Jamaica, I curate the natural elements, cultural heritage and vibrancy. Thus, my design style embodies a unique fusion of diverse cultural elements and contemporary aesthetics.”

The book is also a celebration of your Jamaican roots, and the photos by Sherard Little were taken in Portland. Tell us more about this place and what is unique about it!

“Some of the pattern names (Galina and Nutsfield) refer to spots found in Saint Mary, Jamaica, the parish in which I was born, and Jamaica as a whole, but all photos were taken in Portland, the neighbouring parish to the east along the north coast. I picked Portland because of the convenience of having all the flora and fauna I wanted to incorporate in one area and to minimize the travelling during the shoot, to places such as the Blue Lagoon, Reach Waterfalls, Folly Ruins and Berrydale River. But there is a much larger connection to this location.

I spend a lot of time chatting with my 76-year-old grandmother about her youth and upbringing in the countryside. All these years, I thought Saint Mary was our home, but during our teatime, I discovered we were originally from Portland and emigrated to Saint Mary when her mother, my great-gran, married. Coincidently, this is also where my husband’s paternal side migrated from! So as my family and I navigated this landscape, it was like taking a trip down memory lane of our ancestors.”

Do you have a personal favourite among the patterns?

“Asking if I have a favourite pattern is like asking a parent if they have a favourite child. The answer is yes, but most will never admit it. But luckily, my patterns don’t have feelings to hurt. The first sample I made was Meera, the mesh pattern pullover. This is a pattern that lived rent-free in my brain for a few years (since my first pregnancy – eight years or so!), and I am so happy with the many versions I toyed with to end up with what it is.

I also love my Disentangle shawl, which is a deconstructed version of the Jamaican flag. Next to Meera, Grassroots is my most worn tee. I have made two single-colour versions, and they are very popular when people see me in them in person. So, there you have it — I cannot choose just one!”

For you, Island Vibes is also a “tribute to the meditative and relaxing power of knitting”. How important is this aspect of knitting to you?

“Since learning this craft, crocheting and knitting have always been by my side. On good days and anxiety-ridden ones. Knitting specifically helps me clear my mind and focus. There is a calming, therapeutic allure to knitting. It has become so second nature to me that I don’t realize that I’m doing it when I’m in certain social situations. I have a very active mind and can be easily distracted at times. Whenever I find myself with deadlines, I pick up a project, and it instantly sets me back on track.”

Besides designing knitwear, you also teach knitting. What is your best tip for those who are just beginning their knitting journey?

“My biggest tip for new knitters is to never shy away from ‘big’ projects. If there is something that you see and love, go for it. Never mind the titles ‘beginner-friendly’ or ‘intermediate to advanced’. They are just that — titles. Things are not hard; they are just new.

Another tip I always share is this: be patient and kind to yourself. We were not born walking and talking, so how can you expect to master a new craft on the first go at it? There is always a learning curve when learning something new.”

What do you plan to knit this summer yourself?

“I always want to knit ALL the things but never have enough time. I don’t typically plan my knits. I turn to my wardrobe to see what’s missing and what type of knitted garment can fill that gap. One can never have too many tops, so I think I’ll start there.”

Learn more:

Island Vibes: Summer Knits by Sasha Hyre
Pattern Previews for Island Vibes: Summer Knits by Sasha Hyre