An interview with Sarah Shepherd
I was delighted to chat to Sarah at her studio in North London earlier this year..
A New Zealander living in the UK since 2006 I first met Sarah whilst we were Loraine McLean’s students working on our City & Guilds hand knitting course. Sarah describes herself as a textile designer, artist and maker and that can be clearly seen from the array of equipment, swatches and work in progress around her studio. Sarah not only works on designing in her own right but also undertakes projects for the film and television industry. On her website she describes knitting as a happy marriage of logic and whimsy, I’m sure we’d all agree.
What attracts you to knitting/crochet as distinct from any other crafts?
I’ve always been interested in fashion and costume. I have a degree in Civil Engineering so I’m attracted to the mathematical, geometric and 3-dimensional aspects of the craft. Engineering involved large construction projects, but I prefer being able to work at the smaller scale required for knitting.
How do you get started on a design? Where does the inspiration come from?
For costume design it’s always the character and the setting, interpreting the visual language of the project. Often designs ideas are required at short notice, so quick sketches and mood boards are usually the first step and then moving onto swatches at a later stage. Working with costume designers, artistic directors etc there is often a good deal of trial and error in producing the final design so the whole process requires a lot of patience. Then once a garment or accessory is approved and made there is often a process of dyeing and sometimes burning and sanding to age the finished piece to reflect the circumstances of the character.
Which is your favourite of your designs?
From my own hand knit designs my favourite is usually the latest one published and at this time that would be the Amber Wheat Sweater the stitch pattern also features in a shawl, mitts and a hat.
Which fibres do you most like to work with?
Yarn with character in its texture and colour, so often that is wool.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently reproducing 1920s knitwear for an exhibition.
What design plans do you have for the future?
If I told you I’d have to shoot you…seriously several projects are bubbling away and the best way to keep up to date is to subscribe to my newsletter email www.sarahshepherd.com
What does KCG mean to you?
Valuing the knowledge and history of the craft. The fact that the Collection is about what “ordinary” folk have been making and doing since the 19th century. There is a wealth of social history contained in knitting and crochet publications and it is an important source of knowledge. Also, the knowledge and skill of its members who are always happy to share their expertise.
How might KCG use its Collection to gain new members?
Whilst volunteers are happy to bring trunk shows of items from the Collection to shows and groups around the country it would be great to digitise more of the amazing garments and publications to bring the Collection to a wider audience.