Joan Friedberger of Bebeka

Featured Maker: Joan Friedberger of Bebeka

Meet this season’s featured maker – Joan Friedberger of Bebeka.  Each piece in her collection is a celebration of color, texture, balance and technique.   We recently caught up with Joan at her Oak Park home and studio where she was gracious enough to give us a sneak peak of her work.

Featured Maker: Joan Friedberger of Bebeka
How long have you been knitting?  Who taught you to knit?

When I was in grammar school, my best friend and I were taught to knit by her grandmother – a tiny German lady who spoke very little English.  And then?  A decade or so of no knitting!  In my early twenties I picked up knitting needles and wool again.  It felt so natural to be seriously knitting garments and objects for everyone in my life.  My mother and grandmother (both very very accomplished and creative needle women but not knitters) were thrilled that I was bringing knitting expertise into the family.  A well crafted item, be it a beautifully decorated cake or a handsewn dress, was as valued as one’s educational degrees in their eyes.

What special meaning does “Bebeka” have?

Bebeka is the Greek feminine diminutive for baby.  My family has called me Bebeka/Becky (I guess an Americanized ‘Bebeka’) since birth.  The back story is that my parents and grandparents couldn’t reach an agreement as to what to name the first grandchild.  As a result my birth certificate and baptismal certificate bear different first and middle names.  I like the fact that I was either too important or too insignificant a thing to agree about!

Joan Friedberger of Bebeka
Do you name your pieces?

I don’t name my pieces.  I don’t want my personal anthropomorphizing to get in the way of someone else’s! I’d like to think that each user of my knitwear develops their own relation to the piece; their potential personal identification or associations are what’s important.  On the other hand, I do think of all of my work as “Bebeka”.

Is it difficult to part with a piece?

It’s never difficult to part with a piece.  I want to have my knitwear out in the world. The work is completed and I’m creatively satisfied when an item has passed on to a wearer/owner to enjoy.  A sweater is not finished until someone’s wearing it.

Parting is not great sorrow. These pieces await!
What inspires your work?

It seems to me now that my “AH-HA” moment came when I discovered Kaffe Fassett, the Anglo-American guru of all things knitted.   My affinity and enthusiasm for ethnic patterns, antique textiles and color, color, color all came together in his knitwear designs.

I was, and continue to be, so inspired by his work!  I found I wanted to replicate and interpret all of his designs!  From then on I was designing and knitting with greater control and focus.

Do you work on more than one piece at a time?

I work on multiple pieces at a time.  I’m designing, finishing and in the middle of several projects at any given moment.  One piece inspires another.

The best part of knitting is that it’s portable/small-sized.  You can be working almost simultaneously on dozen of projects.  All you need is a good supply of knitting needles and a great yarn “stash”.

A portion of the yarn “stash” at Bebeka.
How many hours does it take on average to finish a sweater?

Everyone wants to know the answer to this question!    One of the joys of knitting is each piece presents its own process and timeline.   Even the same design knitted many times will never be identical because of so many possible variations.  The time it takes to complete each item will also vary.  I do, however, set goals for myself when I’m in a production mode for a new collection and season.

Why knitting?

Having the needles in your hands and working the stitches is addictive!  My mother was a musician and my daughter is a musician.  Knitting to me is like practicing an instrument, especially the keyboard.  You have to concentrate, but it also concentrates you. It’s calming yet invigorating in a balanced way. I find pleasure in the controlled, focussed, repetition knitting requires.

Add to that the delight of taking a ball of yarn and ending up with a sophisticated textile  – a garment to wear, or an object to adorn your space.  It’s kind of magical.

“Magical” Ball of Yarn, Bebeka Home and Studio.

As a 60s person, my prejudices tend inevitably to some sort of light modernism–so I think that any craft is fundamentally a celebration of its materials.  Or should try to be.  In this craft, the yarn is revered.  Sourcing and researching the makers of the yarn  I use – the growers, spinners and dyers – is very important to me.  The amazing effort that goes into producing the yarn brings an appreciated collaborative element into my solo knitting practice.

A celebration of materials.
What designers have influenced your work?

The Italians, of course!   The past and present works of Missoni, Etro, Brunello Cucinelli and Adrienne Vittadini.    

Thanks Joan!  Our Fall 2018 Collection is arriving daily.  Be sure to stop in soon!


Kim and the Manouche Team

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