She comes from Netherlands and she’s now living in the sunny Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, where she runs her handmade knitwear shop. Merel, the one and only person under Chain Twenty, is passionate about handmade knitting and we love the simplicity and minimalism of her design, as well as the modern style of her knitting garments.
Could you present yourself by telling us your favourite book and the last travel you did?
My favourite book must be Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. As an ancient historian, I know the Iliad by heart. It doesn’t make for easy reading and is difficult to interpret. Miller did an incredible job turning the story into a modern novel, showing exactly why this piece of ancient literature is still so relevant.
My last travel experience was a quick weekend getaway to Madrid with friends, including a road trip to Granada, and skiing in Sierra Nevada. Before that, my boyfriend and I went on a two-week hiking vacation to The Azores, which was incredibly beautiful.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee! Sometimes tea, when I find I’ve had enough coffee for the day. 😉
Tell us something about you and your relation with crocheting and knitting.
My mom taught me how to crochet when I was a child and I picked up the craft again during university. I did a research masters program for which so much reading and writing was required that I didn’t want to do any of that in my down-time (like I used to do before). Crochet was the perfect activity to replace reading and writing. It didn’t take long before I got interested in knitting. Especially when it comes to garment construction, I find knitting has a lot more to offer than crochet. I got really frustrated with knitting at first, but continued to learn the craft. Now I knit far more often than I crochet.
Do you remember your first knitting project?
I think it was a scarf out of pretty expensive, chunky, purple variegated yarn. I had no experience with sizing whatsoever, so it soon turned out to be waaaaay too wide. The width was as wide as half the length of a scarf normally is! (If that makes any sense.) I don’t remember exactly how I did it, but somehow I managed to turn the whole thing into an infinity scarf and it came it quite good!
Is knitting a hobby or a job for you?
Could you tell us your typical day?
Running a handmade knitwear shop involves loads of work and many different tasks. I usually try to do the least attractive tasks (taxes, administration, scheduling Instagram posts, etc.) first thing in the morning. When I still have some brainpower left, I write blogposts or product listings. The rest of the day is reserved for the more creative stuff: knitting, writing patterns, dyeing yarn, making business cards or yarn labels, taking photos of my products, etc. Some less frequent tasks I do as and when they come up: supply shopping, brainstorming new products, organizing a giveaway, it can be anything. Sometimes I really have to remind myself it’s only a one-(wo)man-show. I can’t do it all even if I wanted to!😊
How does the place where you usually knit look like?
Since I love on sunny Gran Canaria, I usually knit in our garden. We have a pretty big table outside that I use as my desk. This way, I can knit and make notes (if I’m designing) or watch knitting podcasts (if I do autopilot knitting) at the same time. Sometimes I take my knitting to the beach or the pool, but I find I don’t enjoy that as much if it’s very hot and the sun is shining too bright.
Where does your name and logo come from?
My brand name is a reference to crocheting a test swatch. One usually makes about twenty chain stitches to set up a test swatch. Since my adventure as a small business owner started with crochet, and since every project starts with a swatch, I found it a fitting name that isn’t too obvious. In line with the aesthetics of my brand, I wanted to keep the logo simple and minimalistic. ‘Chain’ is written in a font in which all letters are connected, like a chain. The square makes the logo look like a stamp, which is a deliberate choice: I wanted an actual logo stamp to use on my business cards and yarn labels.
What’s the philosophy hidden below your art?
I want to change the way people perceive knitting and handmade knitwear. The craft is usually associated with old-fashioned designs in colourful yarns that nobody actually wants to wear. I want to make garments and accessories that resemble the ones you find in modern fashion chain stores like Zara or H&M, only with a unique and high quality to them (plus the option for customisation)!
Which is your favourite yarn to work with?
Am I allowed to say “my own”? 😉 I love grey yarns and my hand dyed ones have such gorgeous tonality to them. Too bad acid dyes don’t work on cotton though, because I especially love knitting with cotton. In that respect, I have to mention Wool & the Gang’s Happy Shinny Cotton in 101 Spots. It’s super soft and the black-on-white speckles are so much fun!
What are you looking for while choosing the yarns and colours to work?
I pretty much always use neutral colors like black, grey, and white. Besides, I want my yarn to be easy to wash (so I often go for superwash) and durable. That’s why I don’t work with mohair, alpaca or single spun yarns too often. They can be so pretty, but I just want my finished products to be easy to care for too.
Your favourite U/KNIT yarn?
So far, I’ve only tried Topinambur, but that one is nice and sturdy and has a beautiful, natural-looking variation in thickness. I would love to try Wasabi and Ginseng though. I expect them both to be drapy and beautifully shiny, but still sturdy due to the cotton!
Where do you take your inspiration from?
The patterns I design are usually reflections of my own fashion- and interior preferences. My style develops through shopping mall visits, Pinterest sessions and Instagram crushes, but I can’t really pinpoint a specific source of inspiration. When it comes to knitting existing patterns, I take most of my inspiration from what I can find on Instagram and Ravelry.
A knitter/crocheter you love?
Nicole Bothum (mistune on Instagram) inspired me to start my own knitting account. Her minimalistic feed is stunning! Andrea Mowry (dreareneeknits) is a real pattern-design-inspiration: even though not all her designs speak to me, her knitting and design skills are very admirable. When it comes to business owners, I adore the work of Club Knit and Nicole Leybourne (the knitter on Instagram).
What are you working at?
At the moment, I’m working on two jumpers (from existing patterns) and a spaghetti strap top (my own design)!
Your next project?
Tackling socks! I’ve never knit socks before, but I desperately wanna learn how to do that. I will also start a chunky sweater design with Topinambur!
Where can we find you?
Ravelry: www.ravelry.com/people/chaintwenty | www.ravelry.com/designers/chain-twenty