As part of the original Around the World in 80 Skeins tour, the 24th stop was to visit Natalie Pelykh, a knitwear designer living in Ukraine.
Hi, Natalie – welcome to the tour! Please tell us a bit about where you are from.
I was born and have lived all my life in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, with ancient historical traditions, unique culture and a European-style of life. Kiev is one of the most beautiful cities of the world that picturesquely spreads on the Dniepr River hills. Like other old cities, Kiev has no exact date of foundation. According to the legend, Kyiv was founded more than 1,500 years ago by three brothers Kyi, Schek, Khoryv and their sister Lybid. The city was named after the oldest brother Kyi. In the 9th century Kiev became the capital of the Ancient Rus. The territory of this independent state stretched out from the Baltic Sea in the North to the Black Sea in the South and from Volga River in the East to the Carpathians Mountains in the West.
How did you get started knitting and when did it turn into designing?
I fell in love with knitting when I was 4 or 5 years old, watching my mom’s knitting. I loved to sit close to her and follow stitches that were running from one needle to another. It was like a miracle for me! At that time my mom showed me knit and purl stitches and I was really happy knitting scarves for my teddy bears and dolls! But then I did not knit for a long time. As a student, I was making lots of sweaters for me and my friends. But the real passion for knitting came to me when I became a mom. With the birth of my kids knitting has become a major hobby for me, a real relaxation and a special world of discovery and adventure. At the same time I had a desire to create my first own design. As for every mom, my world for me – it is my kids, and everything that I do in my life, I do first of all for them! And, of course, also knit first of all for them. 🙂 They are my main inspiration in creating new designs. That is why, mainly, I create designs for kids.
How does where you live influence your designs?
Ukraine is a country wealthy of nature, gorgeous colors, flowers and variety of plants. I am surrounded by ancient architecture of Kievan Rus. Of course, all this inspires and is reflected in the patterns and designs created by me.
Where is your favorite place to knit/design?
It is difficult to answer on this question, because I knit everywhere. Some knitting project is always with me in my bag, and if there is a free minute I’m always happy to knit a few rows. But, of course, it’s nice to knit in nature, in our country house, surrounded by beautiful plants and nature.
What is your design process?
Each of my projects is a different story. Sometimes I spend a lot of time thinking and drawing sketches, diagrams, knitting and ripping samples and only after a long preparation work I start to create something new. And sometimes an element of architecture or beautiful flower is so inspiring that I go home, take yarn, needles and something new is born in a few minutes.
Do you have a favorite snack or drink while you work?
I like order in everything that concerns my knitting process, so in the knitting hours usually there is no food, well, except plain water on hot summer days. But before the work I like to drink a cup of tea from the Carpathian herbs, think again about the work and then I take up knitting.
Who are your favorite fiber arts designers?
Well, I have many favorite designers. I like the designs of Norah Gaughan, Nicky Epstein, Jared Flood and many more. Each one of them has their unique style – smart constructions and always something special that makes their garments interesting.
Do you have a favorite local yarn store?
There are so many new beautiful yarns now that it is quite difficult to choose one shop – every time I want to try something new, so most of the time, I shop online.
Is there a big fiber arts culture in Ukraine?
With what do each of us associate Ukraine and the entire Ukrainian people? With the warmth and hospitality of Ukrainian families, sophisticated Ukrainian cuisine and vibrant fields of blooming sunflowers and, of course, with beautiful workmanship Ukrainian masters. Handmade traditions have deep roots in our country. And, of course, it is impossible not to recall the Vyshyvanka, when speaking of Ukrainian needlework, it charms, symbols of beauty and health, good fortune, and ancestral memory, decency, honesty and love. Embroidery tradition is reflected in my knitting, it’s a choice of colors, yarn, ornaments, and patterns. These traditions have inspired me in my further plans to create several models that will use elements of ancient Borschivskaya embroidery, but in a modern interpretation for knitting.
Do you have a favorite design in your portfolio that was inspired by your culture/environment?
I am most inspired by our beautiful nature, amazing plants, flowers, their colors and harmonious combinations. Thus the patterns were born. Patterns which are interwoven small stalks of flowers and their beautiful petals. One such is my latest design Fanciful Flower Hat. But as it often happens, one pattern leads to other products, and thus there is a whole series, which find its reflection in an e-book Sound of Nature.
Likewise, I love my Autumn Whirlpool e-book. In the same way there was born first a hat, and then I added other accessories.