When it came time for Åsa Buchta to name a set of four knitting patterns she’d designed around a new, space-dyed yarn, the colors took her down a “nostalgic rabbit hole” to her time in Philadelphia.
Buchta works as the lead designer for Berroco, a Rhode Island-based company that stretches back six generations and says it’s one of the largest importers and wholesalers of yarn and knitting patterns in the U.S. Its products are sold at shops across the country, from Anchorage to Miami.
Released as part of this year’s fall collection, four of the company’s new patterns are named after Philly neighborhoods: “Germantown” (a hat/mitt combo), “Fairmount” (a scarf), “Mount Airy” (a sweater), and “Spruce Hill” (a vest).
“You always try to imagine, who is this yarn for? Who would be making these pieces?” Buchta told Billy Penn. “And to me, it seemed very Philly for some reason.”
Berroco doesn’t explicitly note the patterns are named for Philly places — it’s just what Buchta chose to call them. She lived in Germantown and Mt. Airy from 2006 to 2012, while her husband was in grad school. She hasn’t been back in a while, but the trendy, “cool, young vibe” of the space-dye effect on Berroco’s “Fika” yarn (the one she used in the patterns) reminded her of her time here.
Speaking of trendy and cool: yarn-based crafts like knitting and crocheting have had somewhat of a renaissance in the past several years, thanks to young people starting to pick up the hook/needle, many as a pandemic hobby or as a way to take care of their mental health.
Buchta doesn’t name all her knitting patterns, but when she does, she often picks a theme. Past series have incorporated people who are important to her, places she’s visited, and different varieties of mushrooms.
She’s made around 80 patterns over her 3 years at Berroco, so the naming can all get “pretty random,” Buchta said, but she called these especially meaningful.
While living in Philly, Buchta particularly enjoyed visiting the city’s parks, neighborhood libraries, and historical sites. She loved going to accessible arts events, like Shakespeare in Clark Park. In brainstorming for the fall collection, she started with a list of places that were special to her.
In addition to being the Philly neighborhood closest to her heart, Mt. Airy proved to be a fitting namesake for the sweater pattern, since its blend of merino wool with mohair and silk lace yarn creates a “really airy kind of fabric,” Buchta said.
The other three patterns were titled for places that held pleasant memories, like walks in Spruce Hill with her husband and trips down Kelly Drive through Fairmount Park to get from Northwest Philly to the city’s core.
Plus, they were pleasant-sounding, Buchta said — and Berroco hadn’t yet used any of those names in its existing library of several thousand patterns. (A few she originally wanted to use were already taken.)
The process of finding the right names took Buchta down memory lane, a feeling she says many people tend to associate with the craft.
“I was pretty nostalgic … when I was naming these patterns, and I do think that’s a theme for knitting more broadly,” Buchta said. “People get sentimental about the people who taught them or about places they’ve been.”
Those looking to buy the Fairmount, Mount Airy, Germantown, and Spruce Hill patterns can find them on Berroco’s website. There aren’t any shops within Philly city limits that carry the Fika yarn used in the designs, per the company’s store locator, though there are a few within driving distance.
Buchta suggested people could also request to have it drop-shipped, where a local shop that carries Berroco orders the yarn from the company and has it sent directly to the customer. You can also look for the yarn from online retailers that carry Berroco products.