How did you get started as a designer-maker and is it a full time job?
I studied knitted textiles at Art School and after graduating I worked for a knitwear manufacturer in based in Scotland. We designed and produced garments for a lot of High Street retailers along with the more traditional Fair Isle designs. I started working for Rowan as a Design Consultant and workshop tutor based in Glasgow, this sparked my interest in hand knit and crochet, Rowan started to publish my designs in their magazine which was so exciting to see my work next to Kaffe Fassett and Kim Hargreaves!
This really opened the door for me with publishers where I’ve since written quite a few crochet and knit pattern books.
While working for Rowan I started to develop my own ideas and selling them through small independent shops and craft fairs, and then discovered selling online which has allowed me to reach a wider audience.
So yes it’s a full time job, writing books, teaching, making and selling, but I enjoy juggling everything.
Talk us through your stunning collection.
At the moment, my collection is made up from a range of hand knit and crochet accessories and patterns. To me my collection has two sections the Scottish inspired tartans and Fair Isle designs and the retro vintage crochet but they do cross over from time to time.
The crochet necklace designs are a reinterpretation of lace doilies and trims, I’ve used neutral colour of crochet thread so they make a great accessory no matter what outfit you have on and the shell button just adds a little special something to the overall design.
With the tartan inspired designs I’ve focused in on the criss cross effect of the plaid fabrics and re created them as a surface decoration. I love using this technique especially with the brooches and collars, taking the same basic pattern and going to town with colour combinations giving each design its own personality.
Tell us about your practice and making process
I tend to make things in batches; often I’ll have an idea but when working out the logistics the idea develops. So I’m constantly scribbling, sketching and swatching. Tidy doesn’t really come naturally to me, so I do try when I move from one project to another to clear everything up and start a fresh, but it always ends up with piles of yarn, threads, beads and buttons scattered across my desk. It’s what I like to call organized chaos!
How do you plan your work – do you use sketchbooks or do your makes grow organically?
If I’m working on a book project, everything is planned out, research, sketches, and yarn possibilities, because you’re working to a brief there can be quite a bit of going back and forth with the publisher. I think this is why when I work on my beatknit designs it’s a bit more organic and I get to play and develop ideas more to my personal style.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
I tend to be inspired by lots of different things, I do love flicking through Elle Decoration the mix of prints and patterns tend to catch my eye and spark the imagination. I am a huge fan of the design label Toast & Anthropologie, especially their A/W collections, I get really excited when the new collections go online, I just love the styling and photography.
What’s your favourite book at the moment?
I’m really into Fair Isle at the moment; I have a brilliant book by Mary Jane Mucklestone – 200 Fair Isle designs published through Search Press. I love flicking through the pages and being inspired by the colour combinations and stitch patterns. I came across the book while teaching a Fair Isle technique workshop & couldn’t put it down – it had to come home with me!
Do you have a craft hero?
There are so many talented people out there; just spending a few moments on Folksy looking through the different craft’s is an eye opener.
Design wise I think I’d have to say Kaffe Fasset, I was introduced to his work as a student, I hadn’t realised you could almost paint with yarn and take it in any direction. His use of colour and composition is fantastic and keeping his distinctive style while moving into to woven tapestry, printed fabrics as well as knit.
I also really admire the way Gillian Kyle as managed to get her designs into so many retail outlets – especially her Tunnocks Tea cake print, such a great idea it’s appeared on everything from greetings cards to aprons. She knows her market and is going for it.
Do you have one great tip for other makers?
Good photography – would be my top tip. It’s so important to get this right especially when selling online. I’m still tweaking my efforts and hopefully heading in the right direction.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In 5 years time I’d be delighted to still be doing what I am doing now, maybe on a larger scale with my designs selling through a wider range of retail outlets and galleries. I am so lucky to be able to earn a living through my design work and really hope it continues.
You can see more of Carol’s ace collection in her Folksy shop BeatKnit. Enjoy!