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Knit Picking: Orley's Guide to Spinning Singular Sweaters

photographer Geordie Wood

Though Orley’s Wild Honey sweater is an acidy swirl of color that looks crocheted by stoners, it, like all Orley duds, requires a deceptive amount of craftsmanship and state-of-the-art technology to produce. Inspired by a shared love for Cy Twombly and vintage psychedelia, the design trio of 20-something brothers Alex and Matthew Orley and Matthew’s girlfriend Samantha Florence is extremely particular about process—it’s one thing to sketch a sweater, it’s another to find tools to make it as you’d imagined. “We want to make things that don’t look like anything else, that have never been done,” says Matthew. For Wild Honey, the process involved creating colors for custom yarns and meticulously hand-drawing diagrams to send to a mill in Italy with a dual-threading loom machine able to spin the precise pattern, resulting in a digitized tie-dye effect without precedent. “It was like, this is what we want to do, so let’s figure out how to get it,” says Alex. We asked them to walk us through making just what you want, no matter how eccentric it may be.

1. Inspiration

The trio starts by thumbtacking a mood board together. “It sets the tone for everything,” says Florence.

2. Sketching

Alex sketches out exactly the shape and pattern he wants and then the drawings are graphed into a machine. “I didn’t want to just take a sweater and tie-dye it,” he says. “It’s a double-bonded jacquard, kind of like a Fair Isle. My drawings go into a computer and it can recreate exactly what I’ve sketched.”

3. Custom Coloring

Orley used Color-aid cards to mix and match shades. “We all learned Josef Albers’ color theory,” says Alex. “But we’d just throw all of the chips on the floor and try the weirdest combos.” “We develop our own custom colors,” says Florence. “So we’ll send an idea of what we like to the mill, they’ll send back seven or eight shades, and then we tweak. The lighter red is completely ours and we named it ‘blush.’”

4. Viola!

A finished sample for fall 2012.

Knit Picking: Orley's Guide to Spinning Singular Sweaters