Alison Ellen

Tell us a little about yourself. What other things do you do apart from design?

Knitting, designing with colour, texture and pattern, is central to my life and is my work and passion. Other interests are plants and gardening, music, enjoying walking and landscape.

What attracts you to knitting/crochet as distinct from any other craft(s)?

Knitting is the craft I’m involved in!

How do you get started on a design? Where does the inspiration come from?

Ideas sometimes start from pattern and colour, often colour combinations seen in garden and landscape. Sometimes from exploring the technique and discovering a way of making a new shape. Sometimes from customers trying things on, provoking me to think of shapes/designs to suit different people.

Occasionally inspiration ‘strikes’ but it is usually a hard slog pursuing an idea and trying to make it work!

Do you ever start with a yarn and design something with it in mind?

Yes; particularly a project a few years ago with hemp, which could not be more different from wool. At present I’m investigating knitting with found natural materials; results to be shown next year

Who knits up the patterns?

A wonderful band of knitters in the UK. They are invaluable and long-suffering, often solving problems for me, and ready to tackle unexpected new ideas. Their names are on my garment labels, and they are all acknowledged in my books.

When you look back at the items you’ve designed, how has your work evolved? Which is your favourite of your designs?

My work has definitely changed. I began with very simple seamless (rectangular) shapes knitted in Fairisle technique; all geometric patterns. Selling through fairs taught me to vary and develop different shapes and styles to suit more people.

The next change was away from Fairisle, partly because knitters with good technique and tension were so hard to find, and partly through becoming hooked on textured stitches and different constructions: e.g. modular knitting, entrelac and using stitches to make zigzag or diagonal fabrics.

However, customers tell me my work is always recognizable; perhaps because I dye all my colours.

Favourite design: hard to say, but perhaps a successful one is my ‘split-back’ waistcoat, which comes near to suiting every body!

If you could only design one type of garment/accessory, what would it be?

Sweaters and jackets.

Which yarn fibres do you most like to work in?

Wool. It takes the dye so beautifully, and the wool (I have it spun for me) keeps its shape; it is springy and lively.

What design plans do you have for the next year?

2016 is an exciting year, beginning with an exhibition with 2 weavers who work in a similar ‘technique-led’ way; Deirdre Wood and Ann Richards. We are showing at the Museum in the Park, Stroud (with SIT), for May, then going to NCCD Lincoln in November. Another exhibition in November is with a group of artists, titled ‘the 4 seasons’, held near Farnham in Surrey.

What does KCG mean to you?

Contact with knitting enthusiasts. It holds an important collection of books and items in the collection.

Also a way to promote exploring knitting technique, through education

How might KCG use its Collection to gain new members?

Does it target knitting courses at colleges? Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers?

As KCG approaches its 40th anniversary in 2018, what would you like to see it achieve in the next 10 years?

A magazine with an up to date look and appeal. (Content has improved enormously since I last saw it many years ago!)

You can see more of Alison's work on her website

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