I really don’t know how to start this post. First let me put your mind at rest. All is well at Triskele Towers. I’m working too hard at the moment but that will come to a glorious end in a fortnight’s time. Commissions are being knitted, deadlines are hurtling towards me and general activity is best described as a flurry.
Work is not what this post is about. This post is about an interview I gave to the lovely Jamie at Jamie Ridler Studios a few weeks ago.
It all started in the smallest of ways. I was listening to Jamie’s podcast – Creative Living – and she talked about how nervous she was at the prospect of taking some classes at art school. Oh do I know that feeling! So I contacted her and told her if I could do it and survive, then I had every faith that she could. We exchanged messages and I explained how I’d swapped Pharmacy for Knitwear Design and how utterly terrifying it had been. I shared some of the things I’d learnt along the way and really just tried to put her mind at ease. Art School can be daunting but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s a place where you can safely explore creative possibilities and really hone your skills. I hoped to reassure her. I hadn’t expected her to invite me onto her show and talk about my experiences to her audience. And yet, somehow, that’s exactly what happened.
Jamie was really wonderful and immediately put me at my ease. It was great to be able to share my experiences of being at University but most importantly it gave me a chance to think about what I do, how I do it and to realise how far I’ve come.
If you’re interested you can listen to the Creative Living interview here It is now officially one of the most surreal things to happen to me this year.
As you know, I freelance as a knitwear designer. I’ve been busy with boy sweaters of late but I’ve still found time for sample knitting which is just as well since I’ve been selling very regularly and the studio I freelance for has been asking for more.
I normally have ideas posted on my studio wall so I’m never short of something to work on but obviously this needs topping up periodically. I’m sure you’re well aware that I can’t share the actual finished sample with you because of IP issues, however, I can share the source inspiration.
So we have –
I’m very excited by these. Especially the circular pattern which has given me 5 potential samples. Some of these involve modular knitting and others require from some interesting construction which you know makes me very happy. The second image is also exciting and makes my brain fizz with possibilities. The strange thing is neither immediately yelled “CABLES!!!” at me.
What do these yell to you?
As I work on the samples, I’ll share what I can with you.
So you’ve seen “Wilson” and “Roman”, would you like to see the rest?
This is named for my brother. It uses a shifting rib pattern to create subtle chevrons while the sleeves are a plain rib which gives a slim looking sweater. It’s knitted in the yarn I make in the studio and this sample was knitted in the soft mushroom shade.
Finally we have “Hetherington” named for my brother -in-law. It uses a cable pattern which moves up the body as a wave. The sleeves are kept plain in this striking sweater. It’s knitted in the yarn I make at the studio and this sample is worked in a dark grey shade.
So those are my lovely boys. I’m really rather fond of them. I hope you like them too.
Gosh where has the time gone?
Well honestly, in a whirlwind of work, students, more work, family things, sample knitting and working out sweaters for my very own collection.
The sample knitting is going well and I’ve been selling very regularly in Paris, New York and Florence. It feels good to have that happening in a more consistent way – each year is getting better – and it means that I can work on other things.
You may remember that at the end of last year the lovely Johnny came to live at the studio with me. We get on very well and the days have fallen into a routine of getting into work, making coffee and working on things while Johnny whirs away in the background. We seem to rub along nicely. However, Johnny is not just there to keep me company, (for one thing his conversation is a little lacking) he’s busy helping to make yarn for me which I’ve been turning into sweaters. I know I’ve talked about that here too and now I’m ready to show you them – two today and two in my next post.
This design is named for my husband. It has a drop stitch design to create a stripped effect which is mirrored in the sleeves. It’s knitted in the yarn I make in the studio (a heavy chunky weight) and this version is knitted in the mid grey in a large size.
This designed is named for my maternal grandfather and uses a Tunisian stitch. The body is knitted from side to side (rather than the more traditional methods of bottom up or top down) and the stitch is spaced out in the sleeves. It is knitted in the yarn I make and this is in a blue/grey shade knitted in a large size.
So that’s the first 2. What do you think? I’m excited to show you the next two and share my plans for the future,
Work has been continuing with Johnny. We’re starting to get the hang of each other and there is a nice little pattern to our day,
Speaking of patterns. I’ve been knitting some samples for my menswear. There are 4 designs – “Wilson”, “Roman”, “Fraser” and “Hetherington” and the samples just show small sections of these designs. The most important thing is that they are to showcase the colours of my range.
All 4 designs.
Roman & Hetherington
My 6 colours.
As you can see there are 3 greys – a dark, mid and light – a cream, a soft golden beige and a steely blue.
I’m now in the process of knitting the designs as finished sweaters which will be used for photography & samples. It’s so exciting to be knitting my designs again and in a yarn that I developed during my degree. So far I’m very happy.
I’ll share more images as I have them.
The Summer has zipped past and now Autumn has turned cold and wet.
Meanwhile, I’ve been a busy designer. I had the usual Summer commissions that kept me out of trouble and there was a steady stream of samples that have been jet setting around Paris, New York and Florence. Some have not made it home because they got sold which is always a good reason for something not to return.
My best friend’s wedding was wonderful. The buttonholes were completed in time and it was so lovely to see the congregation wearing them. We even got the deacon and the registrar involved which really made the bride smile. (Although I suspect becoming Mrs H may have been a factor).
Things have been ticking along nicely while I’ve been making plans. As you may know, I knit samples for a studio and they can be used for anything and in any customer category but my special interest is in menswear. My plans are involved in this area and it’s incredibly exciting to see things that have lived in my head for what feels like forever, start to come to fruition. I’m nearly able to share these plans but you need to be a little bit more patient. I know I’m a wicked tease. It’s why you keep coming back.
In the meantime I can introduce you to the newest member of my team.
This machine is known as a Lilliput cording machine. Different people will give them pet names. Mine is called Johnny. Actually his name is Jonathan but I like to run a friendly and informal studio so “Johnny” it is. His full name is Jonathan Swift in honour of the man who gave life to Gulliver and created Lilliput. It’s the little things that make me smile.
Johnny arrived on Tuesday and we’ve been getting to know each other better. He really is a very companionable workmate. He chunters along with a nice “tickticktickitcktick” sound and hardly ever stops.
He’s already proved himself to be indispensable although his tea making skills leave a lot to be desired.
I’m hunting for a man. Panic not, I’m still happily married but I’m hunting for is a particular type of man.
I’m researching at the moment and exploring the kind of man I’m designing for. This started when I was doing my Final Major Project at Uni and was an opportunity to create 3 different men of different ages and essentially build a life for them. The clothes they’d wear, the places they’d go on holiday, gadgets they’d buy, the whole thing. It was enormous fun and really useful when it came to designing for them. The 3 men were amalgams of men I have known over the years either as work colleagues or as friends which was useful. I could ask myself “Would X buy this?” When I finished my degree, I put these profiles to one side whilst I got on with commissions and sample knitting.
However, the time is right for me to explore these men again so I’ve been scouring the interweb for inspiration.
I’m having lots of fun with this and it’s a nice way to spend a holiday as well as being great research for when I get back to work. I’m also starting to think about where my men would shop. I think Hackett would be a good place to start but there’s also men havens such as Start and Wolf & Badger so that may be the next bit of my research.
I will of course be carrying the bags.
Gosh! The last few weeks have been a bit … well … yes. Quite.
I’ve been working on a commission which for a whole host of reasons too tedious to go into, took slightly longer than expected and was more problematic than I like. Then I had some samples that needed to be sent off in a quick turn around to make it to New York. I sold some work there, so it was well worth it and to be honest I love sample work so it’s not a chore but it all added to my stress. I got to the end of the commission and had no work that couldn’t wait a week so decided I was allowed a holiday.
By “holiday” I mean “time not at work”. I’m working on some new schemes which should be ready to hatch in the coming months. I may tackle my tax return which I get a perverse satisfaction from completing. I’m even planning knitting. Nothing strenuous but there are some personal projects that I’m hoping to finish.
I’ll let you know how I get on.
Yesterday was a great day at work. I’m still cracking through with samples, (I’ve done nearly 5 weeks work in about 2) but I also came to some realisations.
The most important one being that I don’t like “Hetherington”. Don’t get me wrong. I love the man it’s named for – he’s soon to be my brother-in-law – but the pattern just isn’t working. More importantly, every time I sit down to knit it, I resent it. This is not a good reaction to a sweater that I’m going to knit several times so I had to make a hard decision. “Hetherington” in its current format no longer exists. However, there will be a “Hetherington”. Whilst having a break from all the yarn action yesterday, I tidied up and hunted through some boxes. One of these was a box of Uni samples I couldn’t hang up when I first moved into the studio and had planned to get to them when I had time.
Yesterday I had time.
As I hung these samples up on my movable mood board, I found a sample I had loved. It’s a cable pattern like the original “Hetherington” but cleaner and more minimalist. “I should do something with that”. Well you can see where this is going can’t you. As I walked home from work, frustrated with my dislike for the tangle that is”Hetherington”, I realised that if I didn’t like it now, I’d never like it. Even if I got the front section working properly. I was about to wail that I’d wasted my time knitting it, when I realised I hadn’t. I couldn’t have predicted the problems with it until it was knitted up and hanging on the body. That is kind of the nature of my work. When it works it’s great but there is frustration too. In trying to fix the problems, I discovered some new tricks to rearrange the pattern so I’ve learnt new approaches to future work and I can still use elements of the original idea for sample work. Then I realised, I had “Hetherington” all along. He was just hiding in a box waiting to be discovered.
Not every day is going to be a tale of triumph but every day is filled with discovery. And that is even more rewarding.
I know I’ve been MIA for the last few weeks. I’ve had a real blitz through my sample knitting for the studio.
I recently sold some designs in New York and my boss asked me if I had any more in preparation for her trip to Pitti Filati. I had some samples ready to go but I also took the chance to collate all my sample ideas. Whilst I was working on my mitt commission, I was brimming with ideas which had to wait until I was able to work on them. Some are straight forward and just need the tension working out. Others need more planning in terms of stitch structure arrangement and the mechanics of the thing. I’ve taken all the scraps of paper that ideas were frantically doodled on and made a kind of “sample map”. There are about 9 or so but I keep adding to it as more ideas come to me.
So this week I’ve been knitting samples. As of this evening, I’ve knitted 2 and a half and expect to finish the 3rd one tomorrow, if I don’t run out of yarn. Of course it means I’ve got nothing to show you but I have been working on some other projects which I’ll share with you in the next couple of weeks.
But before you worry I’ve been all work and no play, fret not. Last Saturday was mine and Boy’s first wedding anniversary. We had a lovely day culminating in a picnic on a hill, watching the sun set. I even left my knitting at home.