This week we were fortunate to chat to Renée Callaghan (East London Knit) who will be speaking and teaching at unravel 2017. Renée will be delivering a fantastic talk on handmade wardrobes and machine knitting and using her expert guidance to show you how to knit a chunky shawl in her workshop, running on Saturday afternoon. She loves spreading the knitterly love and shares with us her background and how you can get the most out of your day at unravel.
Hello Renée, thanks for talking to us. You studied fashion design with knitwear at Central Saint Martins. How has your time there influenced your career so far?
It is hard to say exactly where influences really come from—they are so nebulous and omnipresent! That said, I think creativity as a process and I certainly developed a more structured process for working through visual research and design-problem solving while I was at Central Saint Martins (CSM).
I also think there is a kind of DIY mind-set that CSM fosters. I have often heard people complain about the lack of instruction at fashion colleges in the UK (I know I certainly complained loudly at the time!), but now I think this encourages an independence that sets the students up for working as freelancers and running businesses, because when you work for yourself, you really have to do everything yourself.
You are passionate for and an expert in both hand knitting and machine knitting. What draws you to create in both?
Strangely enough, I didn’t start knitting until I began a degree in fashion design with knitwear. We learned on machines and I came to hand knitting on my own, with loads of help from YouTube and a sympathetic tutor.
At college, I found a DVD of Elizabeth Zimmerman hidden in a back corner of the library and because craft was really not the cool thing in fashion college, I really believed I had discovered this super obscure video no one had ever seen. Little did I know…
Machine knitting and hand knitting are a bit like apples and oranges; you can make a sweater with a machine and a sweater by hand, but both the process and end result will be very different. They are both great but for different reasons.
We are so excited that you are teaching and speaking at unravel. Could you tell us what attracted you to unravel as a show and what you are looking forward to seeing this year?
Unravel is a lovely show—easy to get to from London, which is handy for me and in a lovely venue with so many higgledy piggledy rooms. I have been coming to the show for several years, and it’s always a joy! I am looking forward to meeting my students, and spending time with Kettle Yarn Co., as always, but I am also looking forward to seeing new vendors like Hill Farm Yarns, and Ida’s House. There are really too many to mention!
You are teaching the Knit a Chunky Lace Shawl workshop at unravel. What makes a chunky shawl such a pleasure to knit and wear?
I love finer-gauge knit fabrics, but there is a whole lot of satisfaction to be had when knitting a chunky yarn. Seeing the fabric grow so quickly is very motivating! A chunky shawl also makes a lovely statement accessory—it adds a bit of drama!
On the practical side, working with chunky yarn allows knitters who might be less experienced with lace to see the individual stitches really clearly, so it makes a great project for teaching.
Are there any hints or tips you can share with visitors attending a yarn show, to get the most from the experience?
Pace yourself and come with a list! I think a little research goes a long way if you are easily overwhelmed by wool fumes like I am. Also, keep hydrated and enjoy the cake! That has to be a good strategy;)
Renée’s Knit a Chunky Shawl workshop is on sale now. Click here to buy a ticket. Workshop tickets include same day entry to festival and a tea or coffee.
Other exhibitor listings, other workshop details and information on this year’s charity project the Knit Aviary can be found on the unravel pages here.