Rachael, some amazing yarn, and our So Chic in Batik Dress!
First, I bought the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Neckwarmer, and fell in luv with it.
Then, I got to chat with Rachael, the creator of both Spratters and Jayne and the ModCloth-exclusive line, Circa!
What an exciting wintertime!
Read my interview with Rachael to learn what oak spaltwood buttons are, how she found her niche, and whether she loves or hates wintertime!
Crystal: Your scarves are so cool! What inspired them?
Rachael: Thanks! I’ve always been a fan of suuuuper chunky knits and crochets. I like vintage 70s leather jackets too, which I love to dress up with scarves. What better than a cowl to accent some good 70s leather?
I was always looking for scarves that were really interesting, that also kept me warm during the fall and winter in Brooklyn — the bigger and chunkier the better! Finding what I really liked was pretty hard, so I started making my own designs.
Crystal: How did you choose Peruvian wool?
Rachael: When I was first making my samples, I was looking for some of the biggest yarn I could find out there at my local knitting shop. I came across a gorgeous line that had beautiful heathers in it and was MASSIVE in size. I just loved working with it — the crochet needles I use are huge and the combination was awesome.
The yarn was made in Peru — and highland wool is right up there in quality and softness with alpaca, so it’s great for gals with wool sensitivity like me — not itchy at all, and without the price tag of cashmere.
Crystal: Do you handmake all of the scarves? (If so, do you ever sleep!)
Rachael: Ha ha! In the beginning yes, I remember days where I was crocheting about 10 hours a day just to keep up with the orders. It was insane. When I truly launched the line, things had to change.
Peru has such a strong tradition of producing and working with the material, it just made sense. I work with a women’s co-op in the Andes who knit and crochet by hand; and the wool is sourced and custom dyed locally. I went down there in July and taught them my patterns, they’re WAYYY more accomplished with the crochet needle than I am- those women are incredible! So each piece is done by hand from start to finish; and the co-op assures that the actual makers reap a fair profit.
Crystal: Tell us about the buttons, too. They’re handpicked and made from tree branches, right?
Rachael: Yes, they are. I teamed up with a wood artisan, my good friend Jay, who has a woodshop in the mountains of North Carolina. What’s really special about the buttons is the process: the round buttons are made from fallen oak spaltwood. Jay actually hunts through the woods to find fallen oak branches that are spalted — meaning fungus has grown up into the wood from being on the forest floor- and it makes these gorgeous marbled patterns within the wood. And of course he makes them big and chunky for me too — my buttons are 2 3/4” in diameter!!
Crystal: Awesome! And how did Spratters & Jayne come to be?
Rachael: I wanted to have a clear vision, and make something that I just wasn’t finding in the marketplace: SUUUUPER chunky, oversized cowls, circle scarves and hoods. Nobody was doing it, so I started making my own. I was giving them to friends and family and kept hearing about how it was almost “annoying” to wear the cowl because people kept asking where they got it. The final straw was when I was walking one day in Soho here in NYC, and a woman wanted to buy it off my person! That’s when I got serious about starting the line.
Crystal: Do you run the company all by yourself?
Rachael: Yes I do — if you can believe that. It’s a full-time job, let me tell you. I’ve had to learn all of this as I go, which has been pretty overwhelming. I’m a music and fashion photographer by trade, so it’s a bit crazy coming at it from the other side, so to speak.
Crystal: How did you choose the name?
Rachael: Everybody keeps asking me that — ha ha! When all of this started, I was sitting around with my boyfriend trying to figure out what to call my company. He had two pet turtles named Mr. Spratt & Miss Jayne. We love those guys. We thought “Turtles — Turtlenecks — Scarves!” The rest is history. Everyone thinks it’s this super fancy name and I have to chuckle at tradeshows when people ask – I just picture those two turtles hangin’ out in the rocks in their turtle tank.
Crystal: When did you first learn how to crochet?
Rachael: Oh man, I must have been around 10 years old. My mom is amazing, but knitting/crocheting/sewing wasn’t her thing, so when I wanted to learn, she took me to a very close friend of my Grandma’s to learn on a neighboring farm. I remember learning on this really goofy thin yellow yarn with an orange hook. I got pretty good, but would start and stop periodically through the years.
It wasn’t until about six or seven years ago that I started noticing knitting shops were popping up all over the place, with finer and much more interesting yarns than before, so that really got me going again. I ended up incorporating some crochet into my artwork while studying for my BA at Vassar. I was so glad she taught me — coolest lady ever.
Crystal: Neat! And I have to ask: do you love or hate wintertime?
Rachael: Oh man- winter. Well let me put it to you this way, I’m from North Dakota. I grew up where kids drove snowmobiles to high school, where you’d get caught in blizzards and you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Canadian winds at —20F with 10 feet of snow coming down – that’s cold.
I love living in places with all 4 seasons for sure, but I prefer NY winters — they’re a bit milder than what I grew up with. You know, a balmy 25-40 degrees F instead of “face-freezing off” bitter, evil, cold like in the northern plains. You know that scene in Fargo where he’s burying the money in what looks like the arctic tundra? Yep, that’s pretty on the money, there.
Crystal: What’s in for S&J in the future?
Rachael: I’m working on my fall/winter 2010 line now. The designs are awesome — and yes, the bigger, the chunkier, the better! I’m getting such a great response, but the best is just wearing them out. You get a really good sense of what works.
Crystal: Anything else you’d like to add?
Rachael: I just have to say I’m a huge fan of ModCloth! I wish you guys were around when I was in high school, when I was sewing my own clothes because I wasn’t able to find anything I liked where I lived. Keep up the great work!
Check out my line and get cozy for the winter!