Growing up in a tiny Georgia town, Eris Swanstrom suffered from a common affliction among small-town kids — boredom. But Swanstrom fought the doldrums with art, particularly fiber art in the form of knitting and crocheting.
“At age 14 I found myself with an old book on fiber art and decided I would teach myself how to crochet and knit,” Swanstrom says. “Over the years of my life, I have had innumerable hobbies and phases, but through it all, hand-knitting and crocheting stuck with me.”
Four years ago, while caring for a terminally ill loved one, Swanstrom threw herself back into her craft, looking for an escape from her grief. During that time, she also took the leap and bought her first two knitting machines, both vintage models, off Craigslist.
While the machines allowed her to speed up the knitting process over hand work, the vintage models she loved so dearly — some more than 50 years old — presented their own set of challenges.
“You have to not only learn how to use the machines, but learn the machines' quirks, and then how to make clothing using the machines,” she says. “For me, very few things from hand-knitting translated, and I found myself starting from scratch. However, I became obsessed with the machines as I worked with them and repaired them and got better at using them. I was driven by the speed at which I could experiment.”
That experimentation led Swanstrom, who now lives in Raleigh, to create her own knitwear line, Modique Couture. The line includes sweaters, legwarmers and more, all made by Swanstrom on her vintage machines using yarn made with American-sourced fibers and hand-dyed at Debbie Duck Yarns in Fuquay-Varina. For Swanstrom, it just makes sense to turn to local sources for her handmade pieces.
“Using quality fiber that is friendly to the environment and not harmful to those that make it is just the right thing to do,” she says. “Supporting other artists is also something I want to do. It's good for the local economy, and it fuels real dreams and passions.”
Swanstrom’s line is available in her Etsy shop at etsy.com/shop/ModiqueCouture, as well as at pop-up markets like The Mill Market on May 12, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., in Fuquay-Varina and Pop-up Raleigh, May 19, noon-5 p.m., at Trophy Brewing and Taproom. It’s at those events where Swanstrom truly sees the realization of her vision, when her customers put on her garments.
“I immensely enjoy the big reveal once the garment has washed, blocked and is on a body, and truly my art does not come to life until I see it on a person,” Swanstrom says. “I love all shapes and sizes of bodies. I love complimenting curves. I love finishing the last seam.”
For more info, go to modiquecouture.com.
Emerging Designers Showcase
Seniors in the fashion and textile design program at N.C. State will show off their imaginative creations at the Fashion Textile and Design Emerging Designers Showcase through May 7. The public can view designs from 16 students that range from a collection of evening wear reinterpreting the Bond girl look to a textile collection inspired by ancient Chinese culture.
The showcase is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Talley Student Union State Ballroom. Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 for students and available at sites.textiles.ncsu.edu/ftdemergingdesigners/buy-tickets.
▪ It’s sunglasses season, and Vert & Vogue in Durham has new styles for men and women from Smoke x Mirrors during a trunk show May 11, 5-7 p.m. In addition to sunglass styles, optical frames also will be available. For more info, visit vertandvogue.com.
▪ StyleFinder Boutique in North Hills welcomes the folks from Liverpool for a trunk show of jeans, leggings, jackets and more, May 11. Shoppers can get personalized fittings from a brand representative and enjoy snacks and discounts. Call 919-454-3068 for full details.