It's that time of year again when we start firing up the blog to tell you all about the amazing sponsors we have for our annual charity event, the Great London Yarn Crawl!
This year we are beyond excited to be welcoming Erika Knight as the title sponsor of this year's GLYC. If you're a knitter or crocheter in the UK, you're probably familiar with Erika's designs, and her yarns!
Erika's personal mission is to channel her passion for knitting and crochet into projects that are simple, chic and elegant. Her designs are friendly and accessible and have resulted in over 20 books on knitting and crochet. Chances are you might have one or two in your own library!
Erika sat down with us to chat more about her work, her yarns and her designs.
YITC: We're so excited to have erika knight as a sponsor of this year's GLYC! Your brand is an icon in the knitting world - tell us how you got there and about your ethos.
EK: And we are very excited to be a part of it. The GLYC has become a key date in the calendar for all yarnistas and we are just delighted to be a part of it this year, celebrating local yarn stores and the fabulous, hard working people behind them. Well, “iconic” sounds a little dramatic, but I do appreciate the flattery! I never set out to be a knitwear designer, having studied Fine Art at College, but I have always been passionate about craft, and through various decisions and jobs through working up and down the high street and with textile manufacturers across the world, I have gathered experience and developed what started out as a hobby into a new family business.
My mission now is to raise the status of craft to be with a capital ‘C’. It is about time that the lowly handicrafts, so often dismissed as ‘women’s work’, are taken seriously.
YITC: How would you describe your style? Do you use the same approach for your designs as your yarns?
EK: I would describe my style as ‘simple’. It has certainly evolved over the years, but I always come back to timeless, classic shapes that are easy to knit and create wearable garments. My approach (as anyone that has worked with me or visited my studio in Brighton will know) is anything but simple! When designing yarns or patterns I always start by collecting bits of colour, tear sheets, found objects – it could be anything to spark an idea, then I make many sketches and go back and forth and around and around, to review, refine and ultimately simplify.
YITC: What made you decide to get into making your own yarn?
EK: I have been designing yarn for many years on both the hand knit and also industrial side - for ready to wear, but it was a chance conversation that prompted me to explore the possibility of my own eponymous yarn brand. I had been writing craft books really as an evening job since 2001, and was increasingly frustrated that so many of the yarns were discontinued, even by the time the book had gone to print! I think most knitters are control freaks and I am certainly no exception, so the idea of creating my own yarn was very appealing, allowing me to design not only the finished garment, but also the very fibre it is made from! Its really important to me to know where my yarn comes from and every process that it goes through before it reaches the knitter’s hands, so designing my own yarn means that I can ask questions at every stage.
YITC: And this year you've debuted two new yarns: Studio Linen and gossypium cotton. How did those come about?
EK: For me a yarn has to be fit for purpose. The four wools in the erika knight yarn collection are made from British sheep breeds and manufactured entirely in Britain. But in growing the collection, I wanted to develop a yarn that would work for summer that would be elegant in both knit and crochet, cool to the touch and with a delicate drape. Linen is a sustainable natural fibre, but it is often very crisp and hard to work with, so I have taken time to design Studio Linen as a blend of 85% recycled rayon-linen fibre and 15% premium natural linen that is uniquely soft, with a dry hand feel and subtle sheen. Of course we do not grow linen here in the UK, so I have worked with a specialist spinner in Italy for this yarn.
I started the process of creating gossypium cotton looking at a concise palette of eight colours that I know work for baby. The idea was to add a new yarn to the collection that would knit and crochet well for summer baby, to sit alongside the British blue wool. For me it makes sense to work with an Indian mill to produce a cotton yarn, as the cotton is grown in India, and in this case literally in the area surrounding the mill.
YITC: We really love the story behind the gossypium cotton and how the yarn helps a whole community. Can you tell us more about that?
EK: Traceability is a key factor in my ethos and so working with manufacturers that support this is of the upmost importance. The Indian cotton mill, where gossypium cotton is made, is a family run company, which actively contributes to the economy of the village in which it is situated as well as neighbouring areas. It is also fostering the social development of the region by promoting many cultural and religious charitable institutions. The entire manufacturing operation takes place under one roof, eliminating wastages and maintaining a high quality control at every stage from raw cotton fibre to finished yarn, and ensuring fair labour practices and a strong emphasis on the welfare and development of employees. For me, this is a truly sustainable yarn.
YITC: The palette is lovely and so are the patterns. What was your inspiration for the collection? How did the collection evolve?
EK: The eight chalky pastel shades were taken from the British Blue wool palette. They are all colours that work so well for baby, and look modern. The gossypium cotton baby collection is made up of simple, classic designs in knit and crochet, and we have also released 3 free patterns, available from our website and Ravelry. The designs are basic recipes that I hope people will come back to again and again, and have the confidence to customize and adapt.
YITC: We hear you'll be 'popping up' in Fringe on the day of the Great London Yarn Crawl too! What can yarn crawlers visiting the shop expect to find there?
EK: We are extremely excited to be hosting an exclusive ‘pop up’ shop at Fringe. Judith and the team are just fantastic, and we are honored to be a part of their discerningly curated store. Myself and my daughter Arabella will be there for the day with a selection of yarns, including Studio Linen and gossypium cotton with patterns and sample garments. I will be signing books and of course chatting all things woolly. There might also be an appearance from Winnie the Chihuahua too!
YITC: No doubt you continue to have big plans in the works. Anything you can share about what you're getting up to next?
EK: We have been collaborating with some fabulous knit and crochet designers, so watch this space for exclusive new designs in Studio Linen. We are also in the process of developing a new yarn for 2017. Keep up to date with news from the studio by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @Knightkraft.
Huge thanks to Erika for taking the time to answer our questions. We're so excited to have her sponsor this year's yarn crawl. And don't worry if you'll miss them at Fringe - Erika and Arabella will be joining us at the after party in the pub for a pint and some knitting!