For about 20 years I was a keen track and field athlete. My event was Heptathlons, specialising mainly in High Jump and Sprints (on days when I’m not doing the normal 7 events, that is).
My day job was as a graphic designer and my evenings and weekends were spent either doing intense athletics training or competing all over the south east. It was a happy balance of creative work and lung-busting exercise!
In May 2008 I severely dislocated my knee during a hurdles race. It left me with torn ligaments and my leg in a brace for several months. That was the end of my athletics. It was sad news for me because I didn’t know what else to do as athletics was my life. At Christmas of that same year, my husband gave me a ‘Learn How to Knit’ kit from John Arbon Textiles. It contained yarn, needles and a ‘How-to’ book, all in a cute little alpaca woven bag. What started off as a curious interest, quickly became an obsession!
I pretty much started designing right from the moment I picked up my needles. This was mostly because I couldn’t understand knitting pattern instructions. I looked through many knitting magazines - although they did help a bit, I still found them baffling! Not to be beaten, I decided to re-write the instructions using short notes and diagrams instead. From then on, I was designing and knitting my own sweaters. In those days, I would buy the yarn first, then realise later on that I didn’t buy quite enough (we’ve all been there, huh?). This meant that I would end up designing my top based on what I had - pretty much making it up as I went along! After honing my skills somewhat, I published my first pattern in 2011.
When asked this, I’ve heard other designers say that they are either inspired by nature or architecture etc., but for me, it’s mostly based on what I actually want to wear! I tend to look for something unusual in a design, because I have this snooty idea that I do NOT want to look like anyone else! I would like people to say, “I haven’t seen that before!” - something novel, maybe. Of course not all my designs are novel, but if it’s not unusual, then it’s exactly what I wanted to wear at that moment - as the mood takes me.
I’m an impatient person (no surprise, I was a sprinter after all, can’t imagine going anywhere slowly!), so I am always mindful of how long or complicated a knitting project can be. My designs always take into account the complexity of a design and I try to create simpler ways to build it. My patterns use clear and concise information, diagrams, photos and even video tutorials. If a design that I’m working on proves to be a pain to knit, then I reject it. I am all for giving my customers something that I myself would be happy to knit repeatedly, and even customise freely!
People who have influenced me along the way (and they may not even know it): Sharon McMahon - original founder of Three Irish Girls yarn: for her lovely yarn and most welcomed support; Carol Feller: excellent teacher of knitting maths; Ysolda Teague: for her lovely designs, helpful design notes and her book “Little Red In The City”; Sarah Dimond - founder of The Plucky Knitter yarns: for her gorgeous yarns and most generous support. Further along the line, I’d like to thank Jeanette Sloan and Lorna Hamilton for being champions for the BIPOC cause and for inspiring me in the business side of knitting. They have selflessly helped people like me by using their platform to cheer us on our quest to make a living out of my favourite hobby. And lastly , I’m grateful to all my Test Knitters - I’ve learned a lot from these lovely gals and I couldn’t thank them enough!
A big Thank You to all!