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We’re thrilled to welcome Brandi Cheyenne Harper to these pages. We’re big admirers of Brandi’s knitwear designs, which are fresh, exciting, and calming— all at the same time, somehow. We’re inspired by her exploration of knitting as an act of self-care and force for creativity in our lives. Our heartiest congratulations to Brandi on the publication this week of her beautiful book, Knitting for Radical Self-Care, with ten inspiring new designs, some of which you can glimpse in this Portrait in Objects. 

—Ann and Kay

I dream of taking my entire workspace into an open field of high grass and wildflowers. Setting up a space where animals native to the land can feel at home, at peace, in tune with me and me with them. Where each ball of yarn is a shade within the sunset. Drops of honey at the edge of my teacup will attract the honeybees. A home away from home.

I design knitwear, write patterns, and teach full time. There are periods I won’t leave my home-based studio for days at a time. Being able to move my desk, pillows, shelving, and tools around every couple of weeks keeps me inspired. The layout I have now will be different tomorrow, and it will change a month after that.

After a big design push, my needles and yarn end up in baskets—tangled. Half of my double pointed needles decide to go missing. I begin to feel overwhelmed, and everything seems impossible, and I just want to lay down and eat snacks and do nothing. The world believes knitting is very relaxing which is true most of the time, but knitters know that is not always the case. Because how can I not find one tapestry needle, not one?! It’s so frustrating! The first sweater on this clothing rack is the Lighthouse Cardigan in Purl Soho Lantern. I often need reminding that even in my darkest moments there is a beacon of light, an answer, the key.

So much of my work is keeping organized, with everything at home and everything in place. When my space is in order and my plants are thriving, my mind feels at ease.

Over the years, I’ve collected and made tiny homes for all the tools, knits, and yarn. I found brass key rings and paper clips that are just perfect for circular needles. They’re portable and hook and clip in a bunch of different places. My double pointed needles live in these crocheted pouches I made years ago, and I love them so much. I started throwing bowls on the potter’s wheel and I use them to separate stitch markers, buttons, and other small notions. The markers pictured here are from Homebody Fibers. I’m planning to sell some tool cases and ceramics for makers in 2022 so stay tuned! There are two vases I made housing more DPNs and crochet hooks and those babies I’ll cherish forever.

The best way I’ve found to decrease the overwhelm that is bound to happen with so many works in progress and things to take care of is to start with the mindfulness practices that encourage me to be in this present moment. Not thinking about what I need to do tomorrow or what happened yesterday.

Mindfulness allows us to take better care of ourselves, connect more deeply to our craft, and harness the energy we need to support our world from a full cup. Mindfulness is the moment between our thoughts. I talk more about this in my book, check it out. Do you hear the bird chirping? Did you see the leaf fall? It can be found in stillness and in movement. Knitting one row in silence is a mindfulness practice. It is the second you quench your thirst. It happens on the inhale and comes back for seconds on the exhale.

The first thing I do at the start of each morning is make a cup of tea. Right now, the only clay mug I’ve ever made is glazed in a color called tahini. It sits empty, a biodegradable tea bag filled with genmaicha awaits another round of hot water. Activating the flame, hearing the whistle, feeling the steam grounds me in the right now. I am reminded of just how beautiful the earth is during this predictable and repetitive action.

Separating my yarn by color also soothes my mind. My furnishings, wardrobe, and wool are all colors we’d see on the beach, on a mountain top, in a park filled with trees. Doing this makes me excited to make what I’ve always wanted to make.

I fold and hang my finished garments on a couple pine shelves I got from Ikea and on this leaning shelf from Yamazaki Home. Since switching over from selling finished garments to writing how-to patterns I’ve had more time to design sweaters! A few of these sweater patterns are now available: The Brioche Bomber Cardigan in Purl Soho Woolly Wool. The Gentle Cardigan in Purl Soho Gentle Giant. The Allay Jacket in Ocean by the Sea Thicc and the Ode Cardigan with pockets are patterns from my book Knitting for Radical Self-Care.

I made this little bud vase as a reminder to celebrate my beginnings, the in between stages of figuring things out, shedding as a way of growing. Sometimes, often in those moments I’m in need of rest, I will look around and feel like I’m not growing fast enough, finishing things quick enough. That everyone’s tree is bearing fruit, while I am only just planting seeds. In moments of stillness, I remember to bud means to show promising signs of continuing. Whether it’s finding ways to keep your knitting tools organized, recommitting to the daily practices that keep stress at bay, or trying something new, I want you to remember you can start anywhere. Do anything. Each action is a promise to the earth, to my communities that I will grow in my own time and at my own pace. Every day an opportunity to begin again. At any time. In any moment.

MDK receives a commission for books ordered through affiliate links in this post.

About The Author

Brandi Cheyenne Harper is a knitting designer, pattern writer, and instructor living in Brooklyn, NY. She is the author of Knitting for Radical Self-Care: A Modern Guide, a book encouraging us to rest, own our power, speak our minds, and build the world we want to see through making.


  • Your words were exactly those I needed this morning. Thank you for the peace that now envelopes me like my favorite hand knit sweater.

  • Thank you for this peek into your space & process! Very inspiring.

  • What a peaceful way to start my day reading this. I selected “mindful” as my word for 2022 as I realized my mind is so scattered most of the time. Brandi’s words inspire me. I also see a new knitting book in my future and look forward to more from her.

  • What a beautiful way to start my day’s journey. Thank you Brandi! I have incorporated ‘morning rows’ into my routine-knit with a cup of coffee and it has been radically helpful. Nearing the end inches of my Purl Soho Nature’s Palette Blanket and feeling quite satisfied!

  • So right on: nature, peace, simplicity, low key… an oasis of calm personified, an island of perfection in… Nantucket maybe?
    I was surprised to read you actually live in a frenetic metropolis!
    Fine writing, fine living!

  • Reading this was a calming and encouraging way to start the day. Good ideas to carry forward into the day-thanks!

  • What a lovely and inspiring post. Absolutely relating to: “I want to lay down and eat snacks and do nothing,” and I so appreciate your insight into staying present in the moment. Thank you.

  • So inspiring and calming. I absolutely love what was written and I’ll be ordering the book as soon as I pay off my bills from last month!
    Thank you for this and all you at MDK do.

  • Thank you Brandi! Your words really resonated with me. ❤️ I wish you amazing success with your book and all your endeavors!!

  • Oh, this is lovely. If I could type that sentence a thousand times here I would. The soothingness of the message, the muted earthy “yarny” colors, the purposeful intention, and the exploding creativity which must take a lot of energy to harness and restrain, all combine to create a fresh kind of beauty. To translate all of that into something tangible for all of us to enjoy is an amazing skill and talent. Funnily, I, too, thought you were writing this from a quaint sleepy place somewhere on the coast of Maine and yet, you are able to create this oasis of peacefulness right in the middle of noisy bustling clanging Brooklyn. Kudos to you all the way around. So happy and grateful you wrote this for us.

  • Good read to start my morning.

  • This is simply charming. Sadly, my life does not accommodate such extensive self care, but perhaps I can think if it as I eek out time to knit. The images are beautifully drawn.

  • What a beautiful window into your creative process, your studio and your gorgeous knits & ceramics. It is as soothing as it is inspiring. I want more! Looking forward to checking out your book.
    P.S. what pattern is the in the photo of the 3 chunky knots with the white bud vase? It feels like what I want on my needles right now.

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Sorry…*chunky knits*
  • I see your picture and knits on Purl Soho emails all the time. You always look so cozy in your knits.
    I love your workspace, colors and knits.

  • I loved reading this! Very calming and inspiring. Thank you for sharing a snippet of your life with us.

  • The intentionality you’ve brought to your workspace has me thinking about what I surround myself with in the spaces I inhabit. Living with intention is a focus for me at this time. Thank you for an inspiring post.

  • Exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you so much. Can’t wait to get your book.

  • Wow! I really love your writing. Thank you for your beautiful words – I find the words themselves to be calming and peaceful. Also – I love that you are working in some bulkier yarns – I find them satisfying because I am a slow knitter, and so I am reluctant to take on projects that will take too long to finish, or take too much time away from my charity knitting (which is my passion).

  • I was fortunate enough to meet Brandi at a VKL teachers’ meeting in January 2020. Her grounded, yet open-sky expansive energy was infectious. I’m glad to see her words, images, designs, and outlook will be reaching more people. Congratulations on your book, Brandi!

  • I am making the Brioche Bomber Cardigan right now, and it is such an amazing design! As soon as I saw it I had to order the yarn and pattern. I loved this article and can’t wait to read your book. Thank you!

  • After I listened to your keynote speech at the last Virtual VKL I asked my kids for your book as a birthday present, coming next week. Looking forward to enjoying it ever more now, thanks for this lovely post.

  • Oh, l not only love her cardigans but her words. I am trying to do 1 project at a time and have a queue for this year. So maybe after reading this book some will drop off and others moved up. Looks like I’ll be doing more than 1 project at a time. lol

  • Beautiful words. I can’t wait to read this book and knit these gorgeous sweaters. Brandi, keep writing.

  • To be such a soothing read, this was so powerful and filled with action steps. How wonderful that can lead to calm. Thank you for sharing. Your book is on my must read list.

  • What beautifully written words of inspiration. I love that you like to move things around in your space! I find moving my furnishings around can feel motivating and cleansing. Thank you for sharing.

  • Everything everyone has said so far is spot on. I feel so filled right now with the beautiful words and beautiful photos of your beautiful space. What epitomizes this whole thing for me is that sprawling plant with the big leaves. I have a much much smaller one in about a six inch pot. It needs repotted and the branches are very long. I was stressed about how they don’t seem to want to grow straight up as they are reaching sideways. Well, seeing your plant has broughtjoy, excitement, and inspiration. I’m thinking about repotting it, moving it into my knitting/crafting room, and letting it do it’s thing. Perhaps I’ll even name it Brandi as a marker for the freedom from fretting you have given me at this moment!
    I’ve been telling myself through the holidays that the last thing I need is another book. Well now, your book has moved to the top of my things to purchase list. Thank you for sharing a bit of yourself with us.

  • Thank you Brandi . You inspired me immensely.

  • I love your beautiful soothing words and the colors of your lovely yarns in natures most beautiful shades. My sweet dear husband now lives in a memory care facility as I could no longer care for him. I am so seaching now to find my “peace” without his presense in our home. My basket of yarns and half done projects actually warms my heart when I see them, and I love how you have made your space so creative so that your view is of these lovely things! Your writing was a wonderful start to my day, with my own cup of tea to sip! I hope we hear more from you! Blessings to you❤

  • Especially love the pics of your color-separated yarns (and matching shells), and of you and your garments. The soothing colors, your posture…. Thank you for this peaceful column. 🙂

  • I had seen the book on Amazon and was very curious about it and after your comments I had to order it

  • Brandi Cheyenne Harper has enlightened my heart ❤️

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