1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in crochet and knitwear design? Do you come from a crafty family?
I went to Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art in Dundee with the intention of studying Fine Art Printmaking. After a brief spell in the constructed textile dept and being introduced to the fantastic work of Kaffe Fassett, where he almost paints with yarn, that was it for me, decision made: Knitted Textiles it had to be. After graduating, I went on to work in the design / manufacturing side of knitwear for quite a few years and have gradually moved towards hand knit and crochet.
My Grandma was the most talented lady when it came to anything textile based: knit, crochet, embroidery, cross stitch, dressmaking, and my Mum always has something on the pins, so yes I would say I do come from a crafty background.
2. Scottish textiles like tweeds and tartans feature prominently in your work. Are there any other places and traditions that have inspired your designs?
I tend to be inspired by repeat patterns and textures, whether it’s a set of windows on a building or zooming up really close to a plant, taking away the borders and focusing on the surface, my inspiration is pretty much everywhere.
3. What do you think are the most important elements to balance when designing a pattern?
Usually, if you are designing for a magazine, you will be given a design brief or a mood board to work from so, to me, the most important elements to balance would be to tick the boxes for the magazine and for you to be happy with the end product as well.
4. Do you think perceptions of knitting have changed over the years? Is it still worth knitting a sweater when you can buy one for less?
It's amazing how the popularity of knitting and crochet just keeps growing, with all the resources we have at our fingertips online. What did we do before the internet?
Some people still think of hand knitting and crochet as unfashionable, but with the likes of Ralph Lauren and Dolce & Gabbana, to name a few, featuring hand knit & crochet in their collections, it’s filtering down into the high street. Rowan yarns are certainly design led and [the team] put together wonderful collections of patterns that are almost coffee table books. When you show non knitters how on trend they are, they get a real surprise.
There is plenty of room out there for both hand knit and shop bought; to me they are two very different things. A hand knit is almost like an investment piece, something that you will wear season after season. I'm still wearing garments I knitted 10 years or more ago so, if you think of the cost of the yarn divided over that length of time, does it cost less?
5. What’s the best thing you've ever knitted or crocheted? And the worst?
This is so tricky to answer. I can't think of the best thing, but can certainly think of a few of the worst! I was trying to be clever and use up my stash, I changed the yarn and needle sizes, checked my tension, I then decided to knit the sweater in the round top down, rather than with 2 needles bottom up... everything was going well until I cast off: instead of being a standard shape garment, it shot up and went really wide and short, not what I was looking for!
6. Where is your favourite place to knit or crochet?
I do like to take either my knitting or crochet with me travelling about, so my favourite place would be anywhere with enough elbow room!
7. Do you have a favourite yarn to work with?
My favourite yarn at the moment is Rowan Felted Tweed DK, I love the colour range and that it’s a DK weight but knits up slightly lighter. I do have a soft spot for Rowan Kidsilk Haze as well!
8. What is the best knitting tip you’ve picked up over the years?
The great thing about travelling about with workshops is that I pick up new tips from people all the time. Recently, at a Professional Finishing Techniques workshop, I learnt how to do a Russian cast off, which I have since used and passed on to other folk. Although the best tip I can think of would be if you make a mistake in your pattern, go back and fix it because it will niggle away at you.
9. Finally, how many projects do you have on the go at the minute?
I've spent the last 6 months working on and writing up the patterns for a new crochet book due out in the Autumn. I've had loads of ideas bubbling about for my own work but not had the chance to develop or finish any of them off, so at the moment I have quite a few projects on the go and am rather excited about getting stuck in and finishing them off.
For more of Carol’s work, visit her website, Facebook page, or check out her latest books.
A selection of our upcoming workshops with Carol:
Tartan Intarsia on Saturday 20 July 2013
A Touch of Lace (knitted lace) on Saturday 7 September 2013
Learn to Crochet on Saturday 2 November 2013
Crochet Socks on Saturday 8 February 2014
Post by Heather