Drea Renee Knits

Family-Friendly Knits Blog Tour & An Interview with Courtney Spainhower!

Andrea Mowry1 Comment
This photograph from the cover shows one of my favorite patterns from the book - the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Toque!! Seriously, how fun! (Not to mention, perfect gift knitting project!)

This photograph from the cover shows one of my favorite patterns from the book - the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Toque!! Seriously, how fun! (Not to mention, perfect gift knitting project!)

A few years back, when my knitting obsession was gaining even more momentum, I stumbled upon the brilliance of Courtney Spainhower, aka Pink Brutus Knits. I began with her Seed to Sprout Shawl and then fell in love with her Meeting Point sweater. By the time that sweater flew off my needles, there was no doubt - this woman is a knitting genius! Her construction techniques and use of texture are so unique - which in this industry, can become increasingly difficult.

That said, you can imagine how excited I am to be a part of her blog tour for her stunning new book, Family-Friendly Knits!! There is something for every member of the family, from sweaters, socks, hats, mitts and beyond! So let's hear from the author herself, who graciously agreed to answer some questions for us!


The Peak Tank is a perfect example of the construction and texture I was talking about earlier! I love that this is a piece that can be worn no matter the season, and layered to offer a multitude of different outfits. Perfect for those of us trying to keep our wardrobes small and the pieces in it meaningful!

The Peak Tank is a perfect example of the construction and texture I was talking about earlier! I love that this is a piece that can be worn no matter the season, and layered to offer a multitude of different outfits. Perfect for those of us trying to keep our wardrobes small and the pieces in it meaningful!

How did you get started as a designer?

When I decided I wanted to do something with knitting that could become more than a hobby, I floundered for a while.  I tried the typical venues of selling finished pieces online and at local boutiques, but in order to make a profit, prices have to be set higher than I thought was reasonable.  I'm frugal by nature and it was impossible for me to put a price on something I myself would scoff at.

During this time, the wardrobe director at the Sydney Opera House contacted me about doing some commissioned pieces for an upcoming performance based on her designer's sketches.  It was the first time I had to transform someone else's concept into a product within a deadline, and it really catapulted me into thinking about design as a serious option.

My husband nagged me about it until I relented and sent my first design submission in to Interweave Knits - the Bailiwick pullover from IWK Spring 2014 was born.  It just sort of snowballed from there.

You have a very distinct style, and I am always amazed by your use of unique stitch patterns and construction. Where do you find your inspiration?

This is a really complex question - or, it's a question that has a complex answer.  I'll simplify it the best I can (eep!)

I work mostly for publication which means I take someone else's concepts or inspiration and transform them into a garment.  This drives a lot of my work because I'm pushing myself to put something together that will stand apart and still be within the reach of a large audience as far as skill level.  What a delicate balance that is!  

My self-published work is more about exploration and proof of concept.  I'm always searching for new and interesting stitches, even compiling my own (the Turnberry Pullover from Pom Pom winter 2015 featured a lace pattern I developed only weeks before), and testing out construction ideas that previously lived only within the pages of my sketchbooks. 

I sketch and swatch constantly and hold many of the concepts back for my (gasp!) next book.  I love texture and try fight the urge to design something I could buy at any major retailer, reminding myself to push it further -  to create fabric - to fight for comfort.  I design things I want to wear, or that I want to knit, or that I think should exist and doesn't.  Inspiration?  It pours in from everywhere - a place, a person, a gesture...

What do you feel has been the most important factor in pushing your design career forward? 

There are two things that are equally important and non-exclusive.  First, the drive to continue producing even when I feel tapped out and broken.  The second is a solid and unrelenting support system.  There have been a few instances that I almost put down the needles and walked away from this whole thing.  Without drive that borders on obsession to create, and my husband trembling under the weight of holding me up, I wouldn't be here.

The book is stunning! Can you tell us about your inspiration for it's focus?

Thank you!  I'm still trying to wrap my head around it being a real thing.  The best description of my inspiration can be ripped right from the book introduction: 

"My life has veered far from the high altitudes and the days of such quiet living.  Now, a moment of quiet between career and family is rare, and I often forget how to summon the memory of the young woman I was.  I have wondered what my life would look like if I could fold it like a piece of paper, joining then and now, collapsing my quiet nostalgic youth onto my bustling adult life with my charming husband and spirited children; that is the place where this collection was born."

The color palette was pulled from earthy forests, mountainous wild flowers, and rich, misty rivers that surrounded me during the time I spent in Oregon as a young woman.

Where can we find your patterns?

I have links to many of my patterns on my website: www.pinkbrutus.com, and of course, on Ravelry.

What is your spirit animal?

A horse - specifically, a Akhal Teke buckskin.  They're a bright and ancient breed.

Most don't know about my history with horses.  Little girls want a pony? I had an American Saddlebred named Lady Statistician.  She was a feisty, bitchy girl that had no qualms about defying her prey instincts; kicking and snapping at anyone at all.  I liked that about her.  I actually trained horses for competitive show for many years and could have had a successful career of it.

What is your favorite noise?

My children giggling and laughing - those full and bubbly types that come from the rare and true joy.

What is your dream yarn to work with? (Doesn't have to necessarily be brand specific - you can just describe the yarn, fiber/weight/color...)

I feel like I've had my hands on just about everything, you know?  Except maybe buffalo wool.  Doesn't it sound like it might be magic?  I just want to sniff it.  

But my dream yarn is the yarn that is best suited for the project I'm working on.  No simple answers out of me, I guess.  HA! But that really is my most honest truth.  When I have a yarn that seems to have been developed specifically for my vision, it doesn't get better than that.

What advice would you give to people out there wanting to follow their creative dreams?

Be prepared to suit up for a fight.  I don't mean this in a negative context, but to pursue a living doing something in the creative realm is no easy task.  The hours are long, many folks are going to think you're nuts, and it's an emotionally treacherous path.  When you know this, and it doesn't put you off, then you have the grit to go forward.

The Grain Hood. Courtney used one of my all time favorite stitch patterns in this clever, color-blocked bonnet! I love that the length in the back will keep my little one's neck warm!

The Grain Hood. Courtney used one of my all time favorite stitch patterns in this clever, color-blocked bonnet! I love that the length in the back will keep my little one's neck warm!


What patterns are you itching to get on your needles? I would love to hear!!

Would you like to win your own copy of Family-Friendly Knits?? Courtney will generously be giving away a signed copy every day of the blog tour! For today's chance to win, head over to my Instagram and repost my picture of her book and use the hashtag #FFKGiveaway . The deadline for entries is Tues, Dec 15 @ 11:59pm EST.  Follow along with the rest of the tour and learn more about this beautiful book and its unique author!

Wednesday, Dec 9

Julie Letowski  - homesweethomestead (IG) - Deadline for entries: Wed, Dec 16 @ 11:59pm EST

Thursday, Dec 10

Annie Claire - byannieclaire (IG) - Deadline for entries: Thur, Dec 17 @ 11:59pm EST

Friday, Dec 11

Lori Graham  - loritimesfive (IG) - Deadline for entries: Tues, Dec 15 @ 11:59pm EST

I'm a sucker for a poncho, and this one is at the top of my list! The Native Poncho.

I'm a sucker for a poncho, and this one is at the top of my list! The Native Poncho.

All photographs in this post courtesy of and copyrighted to Interweave Press.