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Many moons ago, I was a sample maker for runway shows in New York and worked with designers to bring their visions to life. I had the opportunity to meet Libby Tolm, an incredibly talented stitcher who has gone on to create designs for Oscar de la Renta. I sat down with Libby for a peek into the world of high-fashion knitwear.

(A note for my fellow knitters and crocheters: in the fashion world, the term “knitwear” refers to both knitting and crochet. I know, I know, I feel the same way!)

Samantha: How did you get into this line of work? 

Libby: When I moved to the U.S. in 2007, I worked with my mother at a different studio where some wonderful sample makers taught me to knit and crochet. Fast forward to 2012, my mom left that studio and I gathered all my knowledge from three years of business school. I reached out to all contacts I had to start Elite Knitting. We started with small custom projects for fashion schools and limited production runs. One by one we built our customer base through personal referrals.

photo courtesy of Oscar De La Renta

Samantha: Can you walk us through your process from swatch to runway?

Libby: We usually start with multiple inspiration images, then discuss yarn options and the vision for the fit and feel of the garment. We make multiple swatches using different tension and several patterns or colors for the customer to choose from. After swatches are approved, we make the first sample. Once the finished sample gets fitted on the model, we make adjustments and make the final garment you would see on the runway or in presentations.

Magnolia Crochet Cropped Tank; Magnolia Crochet Long Cardigan; Magnolia Crochet PUllover
photo courtesy of Oscar De La Renta

Samantha: For makers who are outside of the fashion world, can you explain the fashion calendar?

Libby:  It’s based on four seasons (Resort, Spring, Pre-Fall, and Fall). The collections get presented approximately six months before the official start of the season. Depending on the seasons, we may have two to three months or three to four weeks to make all the samples. After samples are confirmed, they get styled, photographed, and go to market. 

Approximately six weeks after that, we receive the first round of confirmed units for production. That’s when we start working on production fit samples to work out all of the details for the final garments that will go to stores and to end customers.

Once those are approved and we receive all the materials, our production run starts. We have between six and twelve weeks to complete orders and ship them. So from the time you see published collections to the time you can find them in stores, it is anywhere between four and six months.

Samantha: What is your favorite thing about working with designers to help their visions come to life?

Libby: Making the impossible possible. A lot of times when I see the initial idea in a form of sketch or a collage, I think that there is absolutely no way to make it into knitwear. But getting our customer’s feedback at every stage of development lets us figure out ways to create something that has not been done before—and something that I was absolutely sure I didn’t have the skills for.

Fall 2023 Runway
photo courtesy of Oscar De La Renta

Samantha: Let’s talk about Oscar de la Renta!

Libby: The relationship has been absolutely delightful from the very beginning. The team is professional and the feedback is quick and constructive. It really helps us work efficiently on fast-paced projects and get incredible results.

Crocheted Cotton Lace Midi Dress
photo courtesy of Oscar De La Renta

Daija Simpson, their Senior Knitwear Designer, is the one who always pushes me to step out of whatever box I get stuck in and encourages us to try new techniques to achieve some of the most amazing results. She inspires us!

Our favorite pieces are, of course, the very first magnolia group that we did together for Spring 2022, the Directional Crochet Dress with Lace inserts from Pre-Fall 2023, and The Squirrel Dress and airbrushed Leaves Dress from Fall 2023, and, honestly, most of the styles we did together I love.

Floral & Fauna Embroidered Knit Midi Dress
photo courtesy of Oscar De La Renta

Samantha: Lastly, Fashion Week has passed so the cat will be out of the bag: are there any stitches you’ve been excited to use in the collections you’ve been working on? 

Libby: My favorites always were and probably will be mixed garments, which have different patchwork stitches and different yarn types mixed together to create a complex vision. It looks as if you are wearing different pieces all at once. I’m all for it and looking forward to seeing more of that on the runways.

Scoop Neck Paillette Mini Dress (left); Exclusive Paillette-Sequined Crocheted Cotton Midi Dress (Right) 
photo courtesy of Oscar De La Renta

You can follow Libby on Instagram @eliteknitting and her new collection is @looking.friday

About The Author

Samantha Brunson is the owner of, a knitting and crafting blog that chronicles the crafting community with stories from a diverse group of makers.

A self-proclaimed elderly millennial, Samantha is always looking for new ways to share her love of knitwear and crafting with the world.


  • Thank you, Samantha, for introducing us to this fascinating new world!

  • Please label the photos with the names of the garment under them!
    I’m scrolling trying to match name to garment …

    Wondering: how many of these are manufactured? And assume the price point is very high.

    • I’m no expert, but my understanding is that haute couture is never manufactured, as such. Rather, the look trickles down in various ways until you find it in a store you shop at, at which point it is mass manufactured (knowledge gleaned through The Devil Wears Prada).

      Add to this the fact that all crochet must be done by hand, by a human being, as they have not figured out a crocheting machine. So I would assert with confidence that these pieces are all absolutely one of a kind- made for one runway show to be worn by one model, and that’s all. Not sure if they are offered for sale, if they are, indeed the price point would be very high.

      • Hello!

        We manufactur crochet garments by hand in our studio.
        These are usually small runs in sizes xs-xl. We keep production look exactly as it was on runway making a few adjustments for larger size to increase coverage and comfort.
        The price point is high due to how many hours it takes to make one garment.
        I did see some of our garments “replicated” at cheaper prices and the quality as well as look is nowhere near.

        • Libby, thanks for clarifying. That’s simply amazing that you offer sizes XS through XL!

    • yesss – pleeease…
      too many photos on the net are totally a guess what or where they are, unless one is very familiar with the subject – hello Fodor!

  • The amount of talent here is AMAZING!

  • Wow! Truly wonderful!

  • Fascinating letter, thanks Samantha. Such gorgeous and creative garments, I checked Libby’s website to see more, so beautiful!

  • Great article on the couture world , which I know nothing about. I have often seen the watered-down versions and similar ideas picked up for the regular consumer world! So interesting!

  • That green dress and jacket is amazing.

  • This is fantastic. I loved hearing about knitwear in the high fashion arena. Kudos to the designers and stitchers.
    The designs are beyond beautiful
    The creativity infused by these fashion designers adds such a fashion forward look to our basic stitches.
    Thank you great article

    • The magnolia pullover – wow!! Wish there was a pattern for that one!

  • It’s no less than amazing that they can create items like any of these in just four to six months, from initial vision to finished piece. It takes me at least that long to just knit a regular ol’ sweater and that’s from a pattern already teated and tech edited! Thank you fir this interesting article. I wish it were longer.

    • Agree!

  • This was fascinating. And the work is stunning. I am in awe of all the talent!

  • Wow! Such impressive work.

  • Oh my word! That squirrel dress! I just love it!

  • Blows my little mainly stockinette mind. I wonder if those new invented techniques – no doubt advanced – ever trickle down to the hoi-polloi. (Just curious, not itching to try:). Very fun article.

  • Thanks for this fascinating article. I looked at Libby’s instagram after reading the article. It would be so much fun to partner with her and create knitting patterns for some of her ideas!

  • Hard to believe these garments came from knitting needles or crochet hooks. Simply amazing!

  • I love MDK, and Libby Tolm is, as you said, incredibly talented. But I can’t look past the impossibly thin models. Apparently high fashion only sells when it’s created for unrealistic bodies.

    • We make sure that all production pieces look beautiful on our XL size sample maker. That way we know for sure that everyone will look stunning in it!

    • Lately they do feature “plus size” models. I put it in quotes because in the fashion world a size 10, or what in the US is a size Medium, is plus size.

      I think that they will always have very thin models for two reasons – one, clothes do indeed hang better without curves/bulges and you are meant to see the clothes, not the person underneath. Second, even with the costs of making couture, I imagine there is less time, effort and material making a size 00 dress rather than a size 10. I knit sweaters for myself (size 10) and my size 2-4 daughter, and boy, do her sweaters get done way faster and cheaper!

  • I really loved this article Peggy

  • most of those, I wouldn’t be caught dead in. To each his own, I guess.

    • Always great to know what someone wouldn’t be caught dead in.

      Work at this level of artistry, in the high-fashion arena, is not going to be for everyone—and it’s certainly not for everyday; it’s for the runway, where innovation is the goal. It’s exciting to see a super talented designer’s imagination let loose in our knitting and crochet playground.

      And I—an ordinary human lady—would totally ROCK the next bar mitzvah in that green suit.

      • Do it, Kay! If you don’t already crochet, I’m betting you’ll learn.

        • PS: Kay, thanks for your succinct explanation of what high fashion is *for*: imagination and stimulation, ideas and technique. May it continue to flourish!

  • Samantha, thank you so much for taking the time to share our story.
    Thank you all for so much love, I really appreciate it.
    Feel free to reach out, I can always share my knowledge.
    I love helping people advance their technique!

  • Very beautiful designs but I volunteer to give those models some good hot meals.

  • Samantha, big thanks for this fabulous post. I only wish it were longer!

  • I cannot believe the fashion calendar skips over winter! It’s knitting and crochet for crying out loud! All those beautiful big sweaters ignored. I live in Canada, but I have been to plenty of warmer climates where you still reach for a sweater when the sun goes down.

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