Magazine Feature / People

Cheryl Oberle spins a yarn

In the world of knitting, Cheryl (Goughnour) Oberle is a rock star.

The author of Folk Shawls and Folk Vests—standards in most knitters’ libraries—Oberle (BA ’77) is a meticulous designer of knitwear patterns, an exacting and time-consuming art that involves a deep understanding of fiber, mathematics and technique.

Oberle designs “on the needles.” So, rather than sketching and consigning the handwork to a contract knitter, she says she prefers to let the sweater tell her what it wants to be. Even the most expeditious hand knitter will spend a month completing a complex sweater, and for Oberle, a design might take anywhere from one to six months to evolve and knit.

Non-knitters see this as an almost pornographic waste of time, which is in part why Oberle and her klatch of college knitters created their own secret club in Centennial Halls and Towers. An honors student, Oberle graduated from DU with a double major in philosophy and psychology, and, enamored of modern philosophical thought, she spent a couple of years in a doctoral program at Northwestern University before becoming disenchanted with academic life.

Back in Denver, she worked temporary jobs to explore different careers and stumbled into a knitting class that “opened up design for me,” she says. “How wonderful to be able to think up a sweater, figure it out and then do it.”

Incorporating yarns she dyes herself—exquisite variegated jewel tones and vibrant handpaints—Oberle’s timeless designs are inspired by her interests. Slated for her upcoming book on knitted jackets, her boxy Bloomsbury sweater is a colorful nod to literary Britain in the early 20th century. Her “Kasuri Chanchanko” vest is an homage to Japanese ikat weaving and her love of all things Japanese.

The knitting community has its nerds—people whose lives are so prescribed by the craft they’ve grown dull. This is not the case with Oberle. Having stitched together an idiosyncratic career of teaching, designing and retailing—she travels the country selling her yarn, books and kits at fiber shows.

She also reads widely, studies Japanese and adores her Harley—a 1993 FXR, the Hell’s Angels’ favorite bike. She prefers that her husband Gary drive so she can ride, knitting socks, the wind in her face.

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