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Behind The Stitches: Sole Salvo

“I love trying to reverse engineer the stitches, and then translate them into a dog proportion while keeping the integrity of the design"

Sam: Where are you from and where are you currently based?

Sole: I'm from Mclean, Virginia and I have lived in NYC for 15 years.

Sam: Have you always been a creative person?

Sole: YES!! I wasn’t allowed to watch TV as a child so I had to entertain myself in other ways. Almost everyone in my family has an artistic side so being creative was always nurtured as I grew up. My mom studied sculpture in Florence after college. My dad is a wooden boatbuilder by hobby. My grandmother is a very accomplished hand weaver (she’s written several books!!) and my step-grandfather was an engineer but also very creative. Each family member helped nourish my creativity and curiosity. My mom would always figure out whatever craft I was interested in at the moment and help me. My dad still helps me with anything woodworking related. My grandmother always encouraged yarn crafts and taught me how to weave as a child. I even did some demos at the Smithsonian Museum in DC with her one year. And my grandfather would always help me tinker but was killer with origami. I can still fold a swan with my eyes closed!

Sam: What is your craft of choice?

Sole: Whoa hard question!!! I tend to go deep into something new every couple of years. I find craft/art to be a very good way of keeping my mind super busy. Some constants in my life have been knitting and crochet (I learned in grade school), sewing (I’m in fashion) and baking (kind of a craft?), and ceramics. In the last few years, I picked up tambour embroidery with beads and sequins. I've made two embroidered wedding dresses for close friends. Then a co-worker kind of challenged me to figure out how to do these really crazy piped buttercream flower decorations on cakes, so I went deep there too.

A few years ago my husband and I bought a cabin upstate and we renovated it. I got creative and made our bed frames, the couch, and our bathroom sink! The sink was made from reclaimed wood from a water tower on our friend's office building on 22nd street. My dad helped me laminate the slabs together then I used a router to cut out the shape and added a built-in drawer…. so basically I love a challenge.

But I travel a ton for my job, so I always go back to knitting because it's portable and keeps me calm even with flight delays, layovers, and all that travel stress.

Sam: When did you learn to knit and what was your first WIP?

Sole: I learned to knit in first grade and I made the usual scarf, hat, etc. I went to a Waldorf school where they teach tons of crafts from an early age. My mom got this book called The Knitted Farmyard, and for a long time in the winters, we would sit in front of the fire and knit the figurines- I was still pretty young so looking back mine were pretty wonky, but my moms were nice! I think we still have the half-finished project in the basement of my parent's house. I think with age comes patience…. I never really finished any major knitted project until a few years ago when I decided to use up some yarn I had bought and loved. I searched the internet and found a pattern for a bottom-up sweater from Purl Soho that I adapted to my design, and once I realized that it's really just a formula, I haven’t stopped since.

Sam: Do you work in the fashion industry? How did you get into your current career?

Sole: Currently I design woven bottoms and outerwear for American Eagle. I studied French at UVA for my BA and decided I wanted to be in fashion so I applied to Parsons for their AAS program right after that. I started working in the industry, but also ended up teaching at Parsons for almost 12 years after I graduated I LOVE teaching and I hope to go back to it eventually.

Sam: What are your dog's names and how long have you had them?

Sole: Leila is my sweet old lady- she’s almost 12. My husband and I got her right after we were engaged so she’s been our fur baby for most of our years together. Roxy is almost 2- She’s a rescue who kind of fell into our lives through a fortuitous connection at work. She’s a little biscuit and comes to the office with me on Fridays. She LOVEs her Fridays and I’m convinced she is the most enthusiastic employee!

Sam: When did you start knitting for your dog?

Sole: I started knitting for Leila a couple of years ago. Leila doesn’t LOVE to wear clothes but will do so grudgingly when it’s cold. I used to make her hoodies and jackets- I actually met some of our close friends over her hoodies. I ended up making some for a couple I met in the neighborhood and we have become close friends! Roxy is so little and skinny and as soon as it got cold last year she was constantly shivering so I started seriously knitting for her then.

Sam: What inspired you to start recreating runway looks for your dogs?

Sole: I just thought it was kind of ridiculous to dress a dog in “designer” looks. I get along great with the sweater designer at my job and we always joked about it so I just started. Sometimes she sends me her runway picks and we discuss the intricacies of each. But I have stuck with it because of the problem-solving challenge they pose. I love trying to reverse engineer the stitches, and then translate them into a dog proportion while keeping the integrity of the design. Sometimes I’ll rip it out 3-4 times before I’m happy with the results. It is super cliche- but it’s really about the journey for me. I use stupidly beautiful yarns because I love the feeling of knitting them. It’s a very tactile and mental game for me. Roxy is such a good sport to wear them and is fairly open to bribery for a good pose. I also need to start tagging Diet Prada in my posts (lol)!

"I live vicariously through the pups and make them all the wool sweaters I wish I could wear"

Sam: Which look was the most challenging one to recreate and why?

Sole: I love replicating Isabel Marant and Ulla Johnson sweaters because they are always very texturally rich and complex. The last sweater I finished for Roxy was inspired by Isabel Marant- it has this crazy bobble inside a cable, with a flange around the shoulder. I was traveling with some co-workers and made a full mock-up to work out the kinks before starting the real sweater. My co-workers generally think it’s hilarious.

Sam: Do you do more knitting for yourself or your dogs? How often do you knit for them?

Sole: I usually knit more for the pups than for myself. The projects go so much faster and are so much more portable for long plane rides. I like to travel light, so bringing 8 skeins of yarn in a carry on would displace too much of my actual clothing. I did start knitting for myself because I can’t wear wool/ cashmere etc- it makes me sweat and itch too much. I generally knit myself sweaters in cotton/ linen/ silk, but I live vicariously through the pups and make them all the wool sweaters I wish I could wear. I knit for them seasonally- but when it’s cold I usually have 1-2 sweaters on the needles at all times.

"The act of learning something deeply through hours and hours of trial and error, of failure and more practice to acquire the skill, has created a positive circuit for me"

Sam: What has your crafting practice brought to your life?

Sole: As with many creative people, I can lean towards depression- all the various crafts I do have given me an outlet for my creativity, but also give me a deep sense of happiness and accomplishment. The act of learning something deeply through hours and hours of trial and error, of failure and more practice to acquire the skill, has created a positive circuit for me. This is my meditation. I am also fairly shy and introverted. But sharing the product of my practice like when I make cakes for my co-workers, or just brighten someone's day with a funny dog in a sweater photo, pushes me to make human connections that I might otherwise avoid.

Sam: Are you more of a finished object or a process crafter?

Sole: Also a hard question!! I LOVE the process of creation and usually enjoy every minute, but I also love the satisfaction of completing a project. I used to sew lots of my clothes, and being able to complete my vision from concept to finished product is unbelievably satisfying.

Sam: What do you like to binge-watch or listen to while you craft?

Sole: In college, I used to watch Law and Order (the original) but lately I’ve been watching a ton of British Baking Show. I love the civility and goodwill the contestants have towards one another. It’s refreshing in this day and age. I also love a good engineering show like Build it Bigger or Engineering Marvels- it’s just another kind of craft.


If you want to see more of Sole's work you can follow Sole on Instagram @solesoleil.

Who should I talk to next? Leave your suggestions in the comments section along with any thoughts you have about Sole's interview. I’m always on the hunt for inspiring crafters. Also, don't forget to follow along on my Instagram account @bobbleclubhouse for your daily dose of all things fiber. Until next time, happy crafting!


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