nurse by day, knitter by night
April is finally here and with it, the promise of warmer temps and sunnier days ahead. And linen. So. Much. Linen. If you’ve been craving a change of the seasons, casting on a linen-y project may be just what you need—now’s the perfect time to try out a new stitch pattern, a new colorway of Kestrel or Sparrow, or simply to add a new piece to your handmade wardrobe.
Our latest collection of linen knits, Appellation, draws inspiration from the light and carefree spirit of the spring and summer seasons—with pattern names taken from some of our favorite wine regions of Northern California (because, who doesn’t picture themselves wearing a handknit garment while sipping pinot in a vineyard?). And, like every collection, it took a village of test knitters to help us take these lightweight knits from dreamy sketches to finished objects—seventeen test knitters, to be exact!
In today’s post, we shine the spotlight on one of the test knitters for Appellation: Elena Alcedo, a self-described ‘nurse by day, knitter by night.’ Scroll down to hear about her experience as a longtime knitter turned test knitter turned knitwear designer.
Above: Elena Alcedo pictured wearing one of her knitting designs, the Desert Sunrise Cowl, knit with Quince & Co Finch and Spincycle Yarn.
Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been knitting? How did you start?
I started knitting when I was about 9. I’m not sure exactly why I wanted to learn, no one in my family is very crafty other than my grandmother who used to sew. As a child I loved all crafts and being an only child crafts were a great way to keep myself entertained. Somehow, I decided knitting was for me and tried to teach myself how to knit using a book, it did not go well and ended with me in tears. Luckily my mom was able to find me a beginners knitting group meant for kids and I’ve been knitting off and on ever since. In the beginning the only things I knit were hats and scarfs, I was too scared to try anything. I set down my needles sometime in college just because life got too busy. I picked up needles again several years later when my friends started having babies and I wanted to knit them gifts. They started off very basic, slowly building up my skills to lace and cables. One day at a local knitting store the owner introduced me to Ravelry and my mind was blown. I’ve been addicted ever since, pushing myself to expand my skills. Now I’m at a point where I feel confident enough to start designing my own patterns, using Quince & Co. yarn of course.
Above: Close-up of the Desert Sunrise Cowl, designed by Elena Alcedo.
I like to say I’m a nurse by day, knitter by night. I’ve always worked with people who have serious illnesses, so knitting has become my main coping mechanism and helps me decompress after a long day at work. It allows me to express myself creatively and is so portable I bring my knitting with me everywhere and can be found knitting on my lunch break. I love feeling the way the fiber feels in my hands as I work and can just feel the stress of the day slipping away with each stitch.
I’m severely dyslexic, I’ve had to work hard to make it through school and advance in my profession. It’s hard to explain, but for me knitting just makes sense when a lot of other things don’t. Once someone taught me how to knit something just clicked, it wasn’t hard the way school was. I think it has to do with how visual knitting is, that seems to be the way my brain processes information best. Somehow reading a knitting pattern with all its crazy abbreviations and words just made sense to me even though chemistry or algebra didn’t.
What are your favorite Quince yarns?
Do I have to pick just one? There are so many yarns I love it’s hard to narrow it down, but if I had to, I think the core wool collection would be it. I love all the colors the yarns come in. They are great for showing off colorwork and texture. Finch would probably be my favorite out of the core collection simply because of the climate I live in, anything thicker than fingering weight is often too hot. Since I’ve started designing my own patterns, I’ve found Finch to be my go-to yarn almost every time. I also really enjoy Chickadee from the same core wool collection. Being sport weight, it is just one step up in thickness and often I find I can meet gauge for DK sweaters and not have to worry about being too hot. Tern is a great yarn when I want something a little more luxurious. I was drawn to Quince & Co. initially because not only are they a US company with yarns being mainly US sourced but also the price point at which the yarns are sold. There are so many amazing yarn’s out there but for a lot of knitters that isn’t always feasible. Having amazing quality yarns at a price point most people can afford is really important to me. I also love how diverse their team is. As a Latina I’ve noticed there often isn’t a lot of diversity within the knitting community, I love that Quince honors and promotes diversity.
How long have you been test knitting? How did you become a test knitter for Quince?
I’ve been test knitting for several years now, but it was very sporadic until recently. I think the change is a result of two things. I grew into my self confidence as a knitter, knowing I had the skills and speed to be able to knit what was required but also because I was interested in designing myself. I wanted a behind-the-scenes look at how other knitters created their patterns. Depending on how the test knit is set up, it can be a great way to connect with fellow knitters and designers, I’m always looking for more knitting friends. I became a test knitter for Quince through Instagram, I think. Since I’m obsessed with all things Quince, I love following them on Instagram and through the newsletter, when I saw the call for new testers I jumped at the opportunity never thinking I’d actually get chosen. It’s been an amazing opportunity and I look forward to hopefully testing in the future.
Above: Elena sports her test knit of the Carneros cardigan, designed by Jennifer Owens. Elena test knit hers with Kestrel in Pebble.
Tell us a little about the Quince test knits you recently worked on. What did you like about the pattern(s)? Did you learn anything new? What did you think about the yarn you knitted with?
So far the only test knit I have done for Quince is the Carneros cardigan. The pattern calls for the use of Kestrel which was a new yarn for me. I’ve never knit with linen before and am now obsessed with it. I think I had always been put off by it under the assumption that it was scratchy and didn’t drape well, boy was I mistaken. It was really a joy to work with this yarn and held up to the slip stitch motif well. The construction of Carneros was new to me and really made me use my brain which I love. Mindless knitting is great, but I also like a good pattern that makes me think and problem solving is another reason I love test knitting so much. Carneros drapes so well when worn, providing just the right amount of warmth without being too hot, the elongated cross stitches seems to help with that a lot. I know this is going to be a staple in my spring and summer wardrobe.
Above: Carneros features dramatic elongated cross stitches for an all-over textured look as well as built-in sleeves to ensure a seamless, flowing fit. Shown here in Kestrel Turtle.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about? We’re here for all the knitterly details!
I’m a total yarn hoarder, my stash is out of control. I justify it by saying that it brings me joy. In a world where so many things are wrong we need to hold onto what brings us joy. I can spend hours sitting on the floor playing with yarn and be the happiest person in the world. I love having any yarn at my fingertips to play with especially now that I have started designing. My Quince stash is the largest and mostly made up of Finch and Tern which are my two favorite yarns. My partner thinks I have a problem, but he just doesn’t understand the need to be surrounded by yarn, it must be a knitter thing.
We hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes glimpse of a Quince & Co. test knitter. You can follow Elena along on her knitting adventures on Ravelry, Instagram, YouTube or website KnittingConfessions.com. Interested in some background, tips, and tricks for working with linen? We’ve got some posts on the blog (listed below) which can you refer to anytime:
Thanks for reading and happy knitting!
I’d prefer to have the cardigan with buttons and buttonholes rather than hanging open, Would I need to increase the front edges a bit to make this work, or could I simply add the buttonholes and buttons to the existing design?