Sometimes I am amazed that I have been fairly successful at doing something I love - knitting. I've been really lucky in that I only ever made one decision about my career - I wrote a spec letter at just the right time - and the rest has just flowed on from there, like a strand running through my life. I graduated in the 80's with a degree in textiles, after creating yarns for my final show. My first job out of college was at Wendy Wools in Yorkshire (the company that received the letter) where I joined a team of designers as a trainee. It was boomtime in the knitting industry - fashion items included mohair jackets for winter and drop stitch cotton tops for summer. We produced 40 designs each season, and baby outfits and specials in between.
What a brilliant job it was. I was involved in choosing yarns and shade ranges, writing design briefs, creating and commissioning designs, writing and checking instructions, liaising with printers and arranging photoshoots. And what a lot I learnt about how to create a design that knitters wanted to knit. How to write clear instructions. How to choose the right yarn for the design.
I've been a knit designer for so long that some of my rookie designs have since come back into fashion! Batwings, entrelac, snoods? I was there the first time around.
Since then I have freelanced for various yarn companies, usually under the company name, so if you have knitted from a Tivoli, Wendy, Jarol, King Cole or Cygnet pattern, there is a chance that it is one of mine. I have copies of all my patterns of course, and one day aim to create a digital record, for posterity. In the meantime, here is just a small selection:-
And more recently I have been designing for UK knitting magazines. You will find my stuff in Yarn Forward, Knit, Knit Today, Knitting and the brilliant new publication, Knit Now. My Mum is a proud collector of these, although she is struggling to differentiate between all the "knit" magazine titles. My latest design is on the front cover of Knit - so cool!
I've also started to upload patterns to Ravelry, which is a wonderful world-wide knitting community. I'm fascinated by why certain designs are more popular than others - my Preppie scarf, for instance, has been downloaded by at least one person in the world (and some days by lots of people) every day for the last 18 months. I'm not really surprised by its success though - it's easy to knit, a bit quirky, and it's free!
Things have changed a lot over the years. When I first started designing there wasn't a computer in the department, but now I use my computer all the time - it is an essential tool for a knit designer in the 21st century. I can create charts and diagrams (in Illustrator), organise and manipulate digital photographs (in Photoshop), design the layout of my patterns (in InDesign or even in Word) and publish them online within seconds where potentially the whole world could see them. How exciting is that?
But I still sketch my ideas with a pencil, on paper! And of course, I still love to knit in the traditional way, with needles - I've never really got to grips with knitting machines. The craft of knitting is my relaxation, and creativity is my life.
Occasionally I wonder if all these experiences might make me an expert but mostly I am amazed at how much I still have to learn about knitting. Every yarn, every stitch, every garment shape adds a new dimension to the creative process and a new problem to solve. I begin each new design with a fresh eye, or a fresh sense of wonder at the infinite possibilities of a strand of yarn.