Changing Climates

Knitting For Profit Ebook

Knitting For Profit Ebook

Get Instant Access

Sasha earned her masters degree from the Royal College of Art in 1971 and embarked on a short teaching stint. By that time married with one child, she soon realized that quality of life was more important to her than financial security. Deciding that she'd had enough of the "teeming metroland" that was London, she moved her young family to a remote area of Wales. Soon discovering that "one cannot live on fresh air alone," Sasha began to earn money knitting sweaters for family and friends. These early clients encouraged her work, and in 1974 she packed a suitcase with samples and headed back to London, cold-calling on shops to assess the commercial viability of her knit designs.

The timing couldn't have been better. Fashion's love affair with hand knits was growing, and Carnaby Street (situated in the heart of London's West End) was becoming a Mecca for trendsetting fashion aficionados. Sasha showed her designs to a friend who had made a successful career of making and selling Liberty-print shirts. 1 le immediately recognized their potential and encouraged her to show her work to Browns, an influential fashion shop on South Moulton Street well known for its support of young, cutting-edge designers. The Browns staff fell in love with her designs (the sweaters, inspired by '40s Fair Isles and worked in zigzag and optical blocks, sported cutaway armholes and twisted ribs on the welts, arm- and neck-bands) and commissioned six pullovers. The first few designs were a hit. As customers eagerly snapped them off the shelves, Sasha had to hire knitters to keep up with the demand. Back in Wales, she set up a design studio adjacent to her whitewashed timber-framed house, and a thriving cottage industry was born.

Sasha was also indulging her talent as a freelance costume designer by dressing the cast of the famed Black Box Theatre Company for productions at the Round House in London and Sussex University—a sideline which soon led to commissions from other theater groups. All the while, her knitwear business was steadily growing. By this time, Sasha and her band of tireless knitters were not only supplying finished sweaters to shops, they were selling them direct at exhibitions and shows. Sasha was now producing two seasonal collections a year and retailers in the U.S. were clamoring for her designs. Before long, her knits were sashaying down the runways during New York's Fashion Week and filling the racks at top-name shops such as Sportsworks, Top Drawer and Billy Martin in New York; Madrigal and Three Bags Full in California; Bramhall & Dunn and Erica Wilson on Nantucket Island; and Gildas in Massachusetts.

Intent on providing home knitters with access to designer style, Sasha began providing mail-order kits that contained everything needed to create a Sasha Kagan original: top-quality yarn, buttons and the Sasha Kagan label. Knitters couldn't get enough—and still can't. In the U.K. her kits are eagerly sought after at exhibitions such as the Chelsea Craft Fair and the Knitting & Stitching Shows, while fans on both sides of the Atlantic eagerly watch their mailboxes for Sasha's latest mail-order brochure.

Breathing vitality into her classic designs with her signature twisted ribs, Sasha became a master at blending contemporary style with enduring appeal. Her

"Hawthorne Jacket" and a ruched '40s sweater design are immortalized in the permanent exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, the bastion of costumes and textiles. Her enthusiasm for knits and knitting is infectious—making her in constant demand for lectures. Knitters are constantly asking for more, and Sasha obliges, publishing patterns in books and magazines (she's created at least 13 exquisite designs for VK).

HOME GROWN |

Where does the inspiration for these enduring classics come from? The Welsh countryside, for one. Sasha s studio, set on a thickly wooded hillside and surrounded by thirteen acres of breathtaking scenery, provides an endless source of ideas. Using her innate sense of rhythm and lyricism—along with her proficiency as a colorist— Sasha translates the growth cycle of plants, flowers and the ever-changing seasons into her signature knitwear designs. UI aspire to make my designs both a delight to knit and a delight to wear," she explains. She takes what she terms a "holistic approach" to design, regarding buttons and trims as an integral part of the whole sweater, rather than mere finishing touches. Extending this philosophy, she has turned her business into a way of life. By keeping home, studio and office all in one location, Sasha has worked out a wonderful balance between creative fulfillment, family and career. She truly loves what she does and it shows through in the finished product. "Knitwear is something to be made with love and care and worn with pride," she points out. "A sweater is more than a fashion statement, it's a friend in one's wardrobe."

Recently Sasha had a one-woman show at the Victoria and Albert Museum titled "Country." She has done coast-to-coast workshop tours of the United States and teaches frequently in Great Britain. Seeing the need for a how-to book for the next generation, she wrote Ready, Set, Knit. Her latest book, Crochet Inspiration (Sixth&Spring Books), will be published in the spring of 2007. In 2007 she will also give "Crazy Crochet" workshops and tour the Un/\, sharing her spin on crochet.

by Lisa Morse

William Morris, the great 19th-century textile designer, once said, "Have nothing...that you do not know to he useful, or believe to be beautiful." It is a simple, direct sentiment, one that master knitter Kristin Nicholas tries to live by. As an expert craftswoman, Nicholas is primarily interested in combining the useful with the beautiful—the practical with the fanciful.

Nicholas was destined to knit. She comes from a long line of craftswomen. Her great-grandmother, Anna Klara Roessler, was prolific tatter, crocheter and needleworker. Her grandmother, Frieda Roessler Nicholas, an expert needleworker and baker, worked at a hosiery mill before raising a family.

1 ler mother, Nancy Nicholas, is probably the most important influence in her daughter's creative life. Nancy taught Kristin to sew when she was 8. Under her mother's tutelage, the child developed her talent for tine sewing techniques and details. In her senior year of high school, Nicholas won New Jersey's highest 4-H sewing award before she began her undergraduate work at the University of Delaware, where she majored in textile and clothing design.

will riot tire of the first loves of my life.. .textiles sewing and knitting"

Continuing her education at Oregon State University in 1979, Nicholas entered an exchange program. "I had just finished a hand-spinning class and had a lot of yarn. I always wanted my projects to be useful, so I asked my fiber arts professor, Pat Sparks, about knitting. She suggested that 1 buy a copy of Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth

Zimmermann and a Mon Tricot stitch glossary. 1 traveled back to the East Coast by train, and at the end of my journey had perfected the techniques."

Nicholas received a master's degree in textiles and clothing at Colorado State University and then moved to New York to pursue a career in textile manufacturing. While in Oregon, Nicholas had met Mark Duprey. Their relationship continued when both moved back to the East Coast. But there was a long distance between them— Nicholas lived in New Jersey and worked in New York, and Mark lived in northern Massachusetts on his family's dairy farm while working as a veterinary pharmaceutical salesman. While commuting on weekends to be together, they decided to embark on a joint project to raise Romney sheep. Mark cared for the sheep and Kristen used their wool to design simple sweaters. From there, Nicholas developed a mail-order catalog business, Eden Trail, through which she sold her yarn and patterns.

This Kristin Nicholas design first appeared in the Fall 2006 issue.

In the spring of 1984, Nicholas, weary of commuting and wanting to spend more time with Mark, took a job at a small mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, that had a fledgling hand-knitting yarn division. Before too long, that tiny division grew into Classic Elite Yarns. Nicholas now had an important position at a young company and was able to settle down with Mark.

At Classic Elite Yarns, Nicholas started out designing classic patterns: traditional sweaters with simple cables and detailing. She made her mark through her use of colors. Her sophisticated color sense challenged the experienced knitters palette while simultaneously attracting the beginner knitter.

Practical values have influenced Nicholas's designs throughout her career. Her sweaters have an easy-to-wear unisex styling that gives them a wonderfully timeless quality. The semi-rural lifestyle she shares with Mark in northern Massachusetts has also helped to give her work its unique flavor. ltI grew up with gardens," says Nicholas. 4tI always wanted to live on a farm. While 1 tend my gardens of perennials, herbs and vegetables, my mind always goes back to color and form—the color of the fruits, the texture and grace of the vines—it never fails to stimulate my creativity."

A profound love of nature has always been present in her life as well as in her work. Indeed, the two worlds overlap. On the weekends, she and Mark tend to their still-growing flock of sheep. During the lambing season, they bottle-feed baby lambs in their kitchen. They also shear their wool once a year and take it to market. Nicholas still has some spun for herself, to make, as she puts it, "those rugged sweaters that will last a lifetime."

For her third pattern collection, in 1987, Nicholas began using color to celebrate ethnic patterning in her sweaters. By 1991, she had developed the first of the World Knits Collection—small, portable projects promoting colorwork and ethnic motifs.

She even used traditional ethnic knitting techniques for these kits. "I developed these ethnic patterns so that the average knitter can take a pattern and develop their own color palette, choose their own motifs and make the project a personal reflection of their own tastes. I find designing these kits very satisfying because I have had so many people come up to me and say i never thought I could do it, but I did/ These small projects breed self-confidence."

Nicholas is constantly encouraging knitters to design on their own. She feels that most knitters simply lack the confidence and that the key to overcoming this is swatching. She personally knits all of her own swatches with the yarn she has chosen for the project. "This way, 1 know the parameters of the stitch, if it is fun to do. If a stitch is difficult or not a joy to knit or if the gauge is too dense, I'll work on it until it's right. 1 won't put it into one of my designs just because I like it. 1 have to feel that the knitter will enjoy doing it nx>."

Nicholas recognizes her need to keep growing as an artist. She doesn't know what creative project will interest her next, although it is likely to involve the folk and decorative arts. She feels confident that her artistic growth will continue to carryover into her hand-knitting designs. Above all, she hopes to encourage knitters to better their own skills and to teach friends and children what they have learned. As Nicholas says, "every knitter, crocheter and needleworker is a textile designer in their own right, and they too should explore all the avenues open to them. Otherwise, these great crafts may be lost to future generations." ^

After the birth of daughter Julia in 1998, Kristin's family moved to western Massachusetts to pursue their dream of living in the country. They found an old farmhouse built in 1751 in the middle of an abandoned apple orchard. They now have 160 sheep, two pigs, forty chickens, nine cats and two very enthusiastic Border collies. In 2004 their home was profiled in Country Home magazine.

Kristin left Classic Elite in 2000 and started writing books. She co-authored Knitting for Baby with Melanie Falick, wrote Kids' Embroidery and Colorful Stitchery, and is working on a new knitting book to be published in the summer of 2007.

She continues to design for magazines, including Vogue Knitting. Nashua Handknits distributes her designer line of yarn, named Julia (after her daughter), throughout the USA, and JVA distributes her crewel stitchery designs.

úUA^:

  • ne ? ule oí r.teiyr ng says t!v. virtuoso c?" ihc is to trjs: veut own ¡rv>linoiy.
  • fill« krrrrfr« chillrny if 10 vumdcL' l. í¡:ifelicJ ?j;i-rr»^nr \vh rr td.nc lu Uu> •iclJik. Kfíwnm K nn/pirsriúUa¿ly llc<1¿i. Few knitv.r;ir ;:e*i£nm briAß

fofi^rhc:' a.l llu. lLchiuils p.iirerr. r.-xnrv, ¿taping—ui sju: Uihnicjlly .x::ü*inph<hrH sweater*. Yol Kc,v role in:xl*1 íst'í 3: knirrci. She iï DuiUji.i

Mjilitscrn, rh^r.-r ccwinfie dcsifcrtci

Allel l:^JüjU:>:: fr; «ir» Rhixie Island Colleté a* i:i;i;:vr. Nc^vr.ir. -onk a a* a rosTJmc ckriyn &ttb<lJiii in her ;ilrri:i n;ror* chonta ¿CpOrLiULir.. M.ithe*c:n, ilic ;3i?p irrnurrr's nv-tumc "lias a tin m»; nt pioccss. oí UäLiiig j lmuiioiiI from ilic iT¡¡-:¡nal inspiración :o ilic akclcli. liien :nim rht* fihñr ro saya Ncwli«n. *¿>ht? is ;idrpr n everv c-ac úl llio*: aieai. I hiiva fletar T««pe?rr fi :r hrr *hi ^7^ W du all dr.x*¡ J-iri^s, riar ¡irT.ic 1c\m qic j dual. I **jiiuJ l:> be ;:Kr to r.rdc-rçcjmd evofv &|xvl uí ûœ ::nii:ess."

TJjjI t:uiui:iili:ieri: m "prnct-««" —no "wciku;¿ Jjiuuçh i:ic.i ami fcJIr.vring it v-orr by *t?p~—.là» ¡¿¡vcii Mivkxi rhc 11inlíili'nr* no wkle 3uVÍ ili^jli kirllmi;. Jü>i^nmi; ;md wrirhing. " fiun:^ it.*el! y;v.ir rrar Her/ -he CApliuut

TuJjy Newwn «Uteißrs; sxv.^rrrç re«/ líuj.v yuiu wtMiip Jiiicts arel rn:ip>vii%?c. and *hc ¿CCS IL\J uapiiuiism f:-t her ^nirvAvr pirrrT.? m thu-.Ui o.:*lu:ucs. But 1 oiirer ir.

dr*igu nucí jp}.v.;kd l:• her. ':í prrrVr /ï sliv.vr \ norc COrJ.ucd luí liur.i* .she juys. 'Ordinier .^«i^n u^i icc b;caJ Kn n»tf.:i

Slif l:x:k up Ln rrirj; in I^JJO, ii\ pul Ll^u.v. kir.lled ^rnfnrs; vwrc fashionable rhc ClüK Allium ¡îr-inedwlfly. «hrr ^cfi^ncd ä Ici lf;: her uwru revx-h:ni» hrr^clr fr:wn rnnlc^ Sincc ílw likcd Ú;tf desii'n, ;: rnrrlcruv* v^iiailon Oil .111 IilsIi k:tir ir.

w.nc-coliffei wunl. «hc^ u 10 u culis nuisiiine, which n<rd íhc jii j r^hicn tenrnrr. Ilt^.t .iiti¡;d ¡ti^pircd îici lo lui:iv lj: with crhcT dr^inns, $jvl jt the oí ?.S, j iwu ye.ir^ nfr^r $lic ^ijiud ktiirtinj;, làrhrtrah Ncwluii cocided to Kcccilc trer ^ncc kihcue.ir designer.

Poili :lie and Vau\ Di Filippov the science íictiuii writer with whom í»1k livol for fifteen years, are now freelance workers, and their Providence, Rhode Island, home overflows with the paraphernalia of their careers. "Our best work is done when both of us are in the house," she notes. Although Di Filippo doesn't knit—"he tried once but gained stitches"—Newton considers him a major contributor to her work. From the outset, she says, he has "allowed me the freedom" and provided the support to develop her design career.

Newton's work habits have changed since the beginning. "When I first became a freelance designer, I knitted up all the garments to send to editors and yarn companies. It would take me three weeks to do one," she says. She now works with four or five women who make the garments to her instructions. "The best part of my job has been working with other knitters who are excited about what they do."

To work effectively with those knitters, she developed "a sketch and swatching technique to convey the design idea. 1 didn't know how to sketch, so I had to learn. I developed a sort of cartoony style, and the swatch reinforced the idea."

More recently, Newton has applied that determination and learning process to writing. Her first book, Designirig Knitwear, is set to be published early in 1992. With this volume, she hopes to encourage even beginning knitters to experiment, to break away from patterns and create their own garments.

"Because I began knowing nothing, I realized designing was something anyone could do," she says. "That's the whole focus of my book—what is designing, how to recognize an idea I went through the same process with the book as with designing. Ir's like learning anything. You just go slowly from one step to the next."

Newton hopes Designing Knitwear will help knitters trust their own instincts. "1 would rather see someone wearing one of my sweaters that they had changed a little than one knit exactly to the pattern. It's a matter of taking what interests you and doing something with it, of taking that first step. Designing is a matter of learning to see, of opening up to what is around you. Inspiration is a deliberate, slow noticing of things."

The inspiration for her early designs came from pattern dictionaries, especially those compiled by Barbara Walker. "Her books were a tremendous influence," says Newton. "If they hadn't been available to me, 1 would probably have taken a different design path, perhaps with more emphasis on colorvvork."

In developing a design from pattern books, she adds, "you start to play with the traditional patterns. What happens it 1 increase the number of stitches in each repeat, or elongate the pattern? Or you can mix several patterns with the same theme together in one garment."

Still, she emphasizes, inspiration can come from anywhere. "People think creative people invent things. That's not true. They just draw from the net of visual stimuli around them." With pictures of non-knitted garments and other objects that have attracted her attention, Newton's book illustrates "how to take inspiration from the world around you and use it in knitting."

But while the inspiration and idea are important, the swatch remains the most critical part of Newton's work. "You can have an idea, but you can't be too firmly attached to it," she says. "When you get the yarn in your hands and start working with it, you have to be open enough to see what's happening. Your mind has to let go of preconceived notions you might have had before yoti began. When you focus on the stitch in the swatch, that's when things start to happen. It's very exciting, especially when you let go and just enjoy what interests you."

For this reason, Newton typically devotes two or three hours a day to swatching. "An idea doesn't happen if it doesn't work in the swatch," she explains. "You have to be able to knit it, or that idea isn't real."

She advises knitters to make "as strong and finished" a swatch as possible, and to do everything to the swatch that will be done to the finished garment. "The swatch is your safety net. It teaches you everything you need to know about that garment. It the swatch works, the garment will work."

Newton is known for her intricate patterns and careful garment construction. The designer acknowledges her interest in detail, but adds she is moving away from the intricate patterns which marked her previous work. "People will be surprised I

designed several of the garments in the hook," she says, citing a colorwork coat and sweater with hold graphics and larger areas of color blocks.

Such designs reflect her growing interest in the colors and shapes of traditional ethnic garments from Africa, South America, Japan and China, as well as the designs of the 70s and *30s. But while she is drawn to bright colors, especially oranges and golds, she refuses to be limited. "All colors interest me. I work in many palettes."

Newton notes that the simpler designs she is producing now may also be more in keeping with the time demands on knitters. "It's tough for people to find time to knit now. 1 feel I have a commitment to my readership to acknowledge their reality."

Finishing is the part of knitting Newton likes best. "1 never let anyone else do it—putting the pieces together, weaving in the ends. To me, that's the end of the process, and I want to be there. When a garment is all done, when it's perfect, it will never look that good again."

Beyond knitting, her interests include her garden, her family (who live nearby), her neighborhood, and any travel she and Di Filippo can tit in. She devours magazines, especially European fashion magazines.

Newton starts each day at 6 A.M. with an hour-long walk. And, even though her office is at home, she has imposed on herself the discipline of a nine-to-five schedule. "I no longer work at night," she notes.

Now that her book is finished—that particular process took three years—Newton hopes to design and sell one-of-a-kind garments while continuing to develop knitwear patterns for yarn companies and magazines. Although known for her expertise at construction, she is increasingly interested in colorwork, as well as in developing patterns based on woven ethnic fabrics. "I'd like to do some fulled pieces featuring colorwork," she adds.

As Newton sees it, this evolution is only natural to her growth as a knitwear designer. "1 realize people become attached to a style and want a designer to be that style. But what 1 am doing at the moment is what 1 am. My likes and interests have expanded over the years. For a designer, such change is inevitable." ^

Newton has been living in Providence, Rhode Island, with writer Paul Di Filippo for almost thirty years. She is still designing knitwear of all sorts, and she and her brother also make maps for their family business, Maps for the Classroom. Her 1992 book Designing Knitwear is still in print, with over 30,000 copies sold. Newton has been a serious yoga student for a long time, and that daily yoga practice now shapes her schedule more than anything else. Yarn and knitting still continue to fascinate her.

Jane Slicer Smith Patterns

This Jane Slicer-Smith design first appeared in the Winter 2005/06 issue

Don't tell international knitwear designer Jane Slicer-Smith she can't do something—such negativity would never occur to her. After all, this is a woman who knit a three-quarter-length Aran coat—without a pattern or instructions—the very first time she picked up a pair of knitting needles; a woman who chose to backpack through hottest Africa for sixteen weeks on a traveling scholarship from the British Wool Council when most recipients were opting for Paris or New York. And this is the woman who moved from Britain—the heart of the wool industry—to Australia to start a hand-knitwear business even though her university lecturers told her she would never make; a living in such a niche market.

More than two decades after ignoring that advice, Slicer-Smith and her business, Signatur Handknits, arc more popular than ever. And now, hand-knitting aficionados in North America are enjoying what legions of loyal fans in Sydney and nearby cities have been privy to since Slicer-Smith first burst on the scene: her designs and custom yarns are now available as finished garments (found at exclusive boutiques in New

York, San Francisco and Los Angeles) and as kits in yarn shops across America and online via her Web site, www.sigknit.com.

Born in Bradford, England, Slicer-Smith parlayed her passion for color and texttire into a degree (with honors) in knitwear design. She started designing professionally in 1980 while still at Trent University in Nottingham, and won the traveling scholarship the same year. She chose Africa as her destination for the chance to absorb firsthand the colors and culture of the land that inspired the designs for which she won her schools Award of Color.

"Seeing fashion in the raw was a fantastic experience," Slicer-Smith says. "We were in the middle of nowhere, at rimes not even knowing if we were headed toward Kenya or Uganda. And in Egypt, at the Cairo Museum, I was able to see one of the world's

oldest examples of hand knitting in chain mail. I found inspiration at every turn."

In 1982, following her African adventure, Slicer-Smith headed to Australia, intending to visit friends she'd met on her trip. The holiday turned into a career. She started her own label, selling finished garments at Sydney's funky Paddington Bazaar markets, through a chain of tourist shops and at private shows that continue today as a valuable source of customer feedback.

From her Australian base, she also spent three years working with a Japanese spinner, designing for Kx>ks, promotional fashion shows and magazines. "Japan was a fantastic experience, but I yearned for fewer design limitations and more color, which is as important to me as the design itself. Establishing my own label and designing with only the best yarns in colors of my choice are what designing is all about," she says.

Her color obsession began at a young age. While she didn't tackle that Aran coat until she was 17, she got an early education in color and fashion from her seamstress grandmother and commercial artist/fashion illustrator mother. "My grandmother taught me how to cut patterns. My Barbie doll wore ballroom dresses I designed. Both my parents worked, so to entertain me, my grandmother would get out the easel and oils and we'd paint. And when I was 10, my mother gave me free rein to decorate my room with orange, purple and lime green paint. 1 guess that's why I like yarns that aren't fancy—they allow me to put my own color combinations together."

Those early influences still shine through. "Color is what makes Signatur different. I'm a little precious about my designs and color combinations. To pick five colorways, I probably knit twelve. There are three to nine colorways in each design, from single-color designs to my 'Living Reef pattern, which includes more than twenty colors.

"By creating my own yarns and kits, I have control over color and design," she continues. "After twenty years of doing it myself, I didn't want to give up that independence. The kits also help ensure that the correct yarn is used. My signature swing coat drapes the way it's supposed to because I've chosen the correct yarn. Kits also let me include detailed instructions, allowing the knitter to make size variations to achieve the correct fit."

Slicer-Smith is more than a fashion designer; she is an artist, and knitting gives her the chance to create works of art. "I chose to study knitwear design because it is so

much more than just fashion. It allows you to create your fabric as well as establish your own style. Its about creating your own pattern instead of the yarn doing it for you."

Slicer-Smith 's can-do attitude has led her down a new path. In 2000, she fulfilled a dream of launching her own line of merino wool yarn, which carries the Woolmark quality stamp.

"Australian merino pure new wool is the best in the world, and instantly changes a knitter's perception of wool," she says. "Like most Australian tine wool, it's spun with an extra twist to protect the fine, soft fibers. This twisting also enhances the natural luster of the yam, but what really sets it apart is the drape it achieves in my swing-coat designs."

The timelessness of her designs and the high quality of her yarn have led to some interesting "complaints" from her customers. "Some are wearing sweaters that are twenty years old—they never wear out! People in London, Paris and New York have all told me that strangers stop them on the streets to ask them about their sweaters. One woman was stopped so many times on a sightseeing trip that her husband made her take hers off!" —

Jane introduced Signatur Knitting Kits and Finished Garments to the USA in 2000. In addition she has helped launch the Signatur Collection for Trendsetter Yarns. The goal of the Signatur patterns and yarns is to appeal to new knitters. "The range began with some very simple designs, taking two scarves into a capelet, using simple stitch patterns and a decrease, teaching knitters to count stitches and rows and work a decrease." Jane's passion for color led her to introduce mitered squares ranging from simple to sophisticated.

Life is constantly busy for Jane; one bonus of living in Sydney and selling in both hemispheres is that there are two winters each year. "I am really fortunate. I have a passion for my work and I travel and meet people who share my passions Ideas are no problem; I just need a few more days in the week! In fact it's now 7:15 p.m. and time to cook dinner, after which out comes the knitting, of course."

by Katharine Rich

Knitting has been a parr of Margaret Stoves life for as long as she can remember. "My grandmother taught me to knit when I was a girl and it has been my life ever since," she recalls. "I learned the European style of quick knitting, which has been very useful with my more detailed and labor-intensive designs." On Victory Day in 1945, 5-year-old Margaret passed her grandmothers "test of efficiency" in knit stitches and was allowed to "graduate" to purling. "1 can still vividly recall [Grandmother] telling me to knit the 4Vs for Victory and to purl the crosses—the latter being formed by the loop of the purled stitches," she reminisces in Creating Original Hand-kivttmg Lace. That moment instilled in her a lifelong fascination with stitch, design and shape.

Like many New Zealand women of her generation, Margaret knitted tor economic and climatic reasons. Winter can be cold in New Zealand, and with a husband and four children all needing warm clothes, hand-spinning and hand-knitting were a sensible way to keep the family warm. But for Margaret, knitting went beyond the practical. I ler grandmothers fireside stories of the traditional shawls from the Shetland Isles, so fine in

This Margaret Stove design first appeared in the Holiday 2003 issue.

"There is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty," said 18th-century English writer Joseph Addison. Looking at the delicately detailed designs of Margaret Stove, one has to agree. This accomplished knitter, spinner and designer has changed the way the world looks at lace knitting.

construction that they could be pulled through a wedding ring, kindled a fascination with fine lace knitting.

Her love of the craft drew her to search for new and interesting lace designs. As she dug through pattern books, she found that not only had designs progressed little since the 1940s, but also that understanding of the craft was very limited. "I realized that I was working established designs without really understanding them," she explains. "But once you deconstruct the patterns and understand the lace, the world is your oyster in terms of new designs." She embarked on a path of investigation and development, and is now credited with establishing the recorded history of lace knitting and considerably advancing its design. She has authored an impressive lineup of craft books and papers, including Creating Original 11 and-knit ted Lace and Merino: Hand-spinning. Dyeing and Working with Merino and Superfine Wools.

While the roots of her lace knitting are firmly grounded in the Northern hemisphere, Margaret has built on the tradition and given it a distinctly Pacific feel. New Zealand, with its scenic landscapes and waterways—especially the dramatic

Puy Bobbinlace School

This Margaret Stove design first appeared in the Holiday 2003 issue.

seascapes of the port town of Lyttelton where she lives—provides much of the stimulus. Native plants, such as the rata and fern, as well as fish and birds have been incorporated into a number of trademark nature-oriented designs. The centuries-old carvings and weavings of the Maori, the native people of New Zealand, are also a constant source of inspiration. Many of her designs, such as "Kaimoana," which means "food from the sea," bear Maori names.

Margaret's profile within the knitting industry has grown steadily over her impressive career, but her "big break" came in 1982 when Princess Diana was pregnant with her first child. A group of New Zealand fine-wool sheep breeders provided Margaret with New Zealand merino and asked her to design and knit a christening shawl fit for a king. Young Prince William was photographed swaddled in the shawl on many occasions. This simple gift from New Zealand increased the profile of Margaret Stove and lace knitting dramatically, a trend that has continued to build over the last 18 years.

Like many craftswomen, Margaret discovered a way to combine business with pleasure. She now runs a successful business marketing charts, hand-knitted lace kits, and a range of lace-weight merino yarns. Her Artisan brand yarns are the result of her search for a wool fine enough to use in her intricate designs. "I had been spinning yarns using coarse crossbred sheep fleece and was unhappy with the result," she explains. "Quite by accident, a friend gave me a merino fleece to try and I've used mostly superfine merino yarns since." Working with this fleece, Margaret developed a new spinning technique (which she now teaches in her workshops) that produces a light, airy yarn. Today, the business looks set to become a family affair. Margaret spends a good three months out of the year traveling overseas for workshops and lectures, so her daughter, Christine Sullivan, has taken over in her absence.

Christine's involvement has allowed Margaret more time for her true passion— teaching. In her classes, she manages to impart not just the technical aspects of lace knitting but a trtie love and understanding of it as an art form. Margaret's teaching philosophy is very personal. She prefers that her students discover what they want to do with the craft rather than become "clones" of herself. One of her courses, "Understanding the Mysteries of Knitting Lace from Charts," has been very popular with a diverse group of craftspeople. As she notes, "Once people unlock some of these secrets, they can be applied to a variety of end products: bobbin lace, crochet and knitting."

Readers who sometimes struggle with their knitting can take heart in Margaret's conviction that anyone, regardless of skill level, has the potential to be creative. "Artistic expression is unique," she stresses. "It is up to a good teacher to unlock that potential." Its a philosophy she's put into action in her recent teaching tour of the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. The tour has been a whirlwind of activity. At press rime, the highlight was her visit to Orenburg, Russia—famed for the intricate mohair shawls that have heen produced there since the time of Catherine the Great. Here she was an official guest of the Museum of Arts and Culture. The tour ends in Kent, Washington, but Margaret has no plans to set aside her needles. "Sometimes with my teaching and business I don't have time for my own work," she explains. "I look forward to taking some time out for thinking and designing. It will be a treat to focus on my own projects."

For Margaret Stove, working with yarn is more than a craft, it's a way of life. As the Maori would say, "Arohanui" to you, Margaret—much love and best wishes.

For the last three years, Margaret has been studying full-time for a bachelor of fine arts degree in printmaking at the Ham School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. She is also completing her third book, which will focus on shawls. In addition to featuring original shawl patterns, it will include the story of a 150-year-old Shetland shawl that suffered moth damage, and the process she followed to repair it and to work out the pattern. Margaret also teaches and lectures worldwide.

On November 30, 1999, the knitting world lost a friend, mentor and visionary when Elizabeth Zimmermann, who revolutionized the art of knitting, died at a hospita in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Bom Elizabeth Lloyd-Jones near London, England, in 1910, Elizabeth spent her childhood in the English countryside surrounded by women who knit. "One of my earliest memories has always been of a day when 1 pestered my mother to teach me how to knit," she recalls in her book Knitting Aroimd (published by Schoolhouse Press). "'Well,' said my mother, 'If you're good all day today, I'll teach you to knit tomorrow.'" She also recalls her "Auntie Pete" showing her how to knit a sock: "Off I went, on to the cliffs, to knit, and had the time of my life.

"Later that day, Auntie Pete demanded her knitting back, so as to be able to get on with it herself, and gently commented on its looseness where one needle had joined another. 1 was cut to the quick, but said nothing, possibly having instinctively realized My Life Was Starting. When she ripped out my few rows, my little heart

almost broke. Bur I'd learned HOW TO KNIT, and have never stopped since."

At age 17, she went to art school in Lausanne, Switzerland, and was then accepted into a pre-Akadamie Art School in Munich, Germany. Her knitting accompanied her. "I soon evolved this idea of knitting away on sweaters and jerseys which I then exchanged at the wool shop for more wool and a little change to knit models which 1 could exchange at the wool shops for more wool. Ad infinitum. It was very rewarding to see my knitted pieces exhibited in the shop-window at pleasing prices."

She met her husband, Arnold, in Germany in 1930. She had had a skiing

accident and was sent flowers by a male friend. Arnold, a coworker of the friend, caught sight of the thank-you card she had sent and was intrigued by "the tunny-Limey handwriting (in bright green ink, no less)." They went to visit a recuperating Elizabeth and it was love at first sight.

They married in England in 1937 and immigrated to New York, moving several times before settling in Wisconsin, hi 1955, Elizabeth began submitting knitting designs to Woman s Day. Annoyed with editors who translated her kindly writing style into standard Symbolcraft instruction, she started her own hand-knitting newsletter and established Schoolhouse Press, a successful mail-order business that sells knitting supplies, books and videos. In 1957, she introduced the U.S. to its first commercially published Aran sweater pattern via the Vogue Pattern Book, the sister publication of Vogue Knitting magazine. By 1964 she was hosting The Busy Knitter, a half-hour knitting program on Milwaukee Public Television that proved so successful that its follow-up, The Busy Knitter II, enjoyed nationwide syndication.

Elizabeth shared her skills and enthusiasm with others in workshops and classes, and in 1974 she established "Knitting Camp" in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Her books Knitting Without Tears, Knitting Around, Knitters' Almanac and Knitting Workshop are treasured by knitters around the world and are still available through Schoolhouse Press. She inspired us with her beautiful and timeless Norwegian Pullovers, Shetland Yoke Sweaters, Aran Jackets, and Moccasin Socks and changed the way we thought about knitting with innovations such as an entirely seamless sweater knit in the round, Moebius Ring Scarves [see page 142], incredible reversible sweaters that fold into a wearable shape, and her mathematical system for determining sweater proportions [see page 126].

Elizabeth taught us to trust our instincts, revel in our creativity, and above all, find joy in the simple act of knitting. She will be greatly missed.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment