5 Minutes with… Dee Hardwicke
An artist, designer and knitter known for her collections in knitwear, stationery and ceramics, Dee draws influence from the British landscape. We recently caught up with her to talk about her work and her new book, Colourwork Knits: 12 Hand Knit Designs Inspired by Nature
You find a lot of inspiration in nature – can you tell us more?
I’ve always had an interactive relationship with the natural world and some of my earliest memories are of collecting leaves, pressing flowers and doing little paintings in the garden. I’m endlessly inspired by the beauty of the British countryside throughout the changing seasons, and love filling my sketchbooks with watercolours and drawings of everything from plants and flowers to butterflies. The more I look at the colours and forms found in nature, the more inspired I become and it’s often the tiniest details that sow seeds of design.
In Colourwork Knits you talk about the idea of capturing ‘special moments’ in your work. Why do you feel this is so important?
My work has always been very personal – almost like keeping a diary. In the same way some people write down their thoughts, I record special memories by painting or sketching. I love putting together treasure trove-style boxes of things that inspire me, from lengths of yarn and pretty ribbon to pressed flowers. I think it’s so important to celebrate and share life’s special moments, and that’s a key element of my work. My previous book, A Story in Yarn: How to Design and Knit an Intarsia Heirloom Quilt, is all about designing templates of favourite plants and flowers – a bloom from a wedding bouquet or leaves from a happy family walk – to create a knitted quilt to cherish for years to come.
The book includes several sketches of your designs. How do you begin translating these ideas into working patterns?
The garments in Colourwork Knits are based on shapes I like to wear, from fitted cardigans to roomy boyfriend sweaters. I begin by sketching a garment and thinking about the palette and motifs I’m going to use. I often find a particular yarn will inform the design, for example, Rowan’s Valley Tweed is a really fine yarn that’s ideal for ‘drawing’ with since stitches will be smaller and create more defined outlines than a thicker yarn (which might be more appropriate for ‘painting’ blocks of colour). Valley Tweed was perfect for the Circle Flowers Sweater shown on the cover of Colourwork Knits and it enabled me to knit some really fine detailing into the Dee Motif Cardigan. Once I’ve decided the design, colours and motifs, I’ll knit a test swatch before refining the design. The next step is to create a schematic line drawing based on my measurements (this can then be scaled up or down), and the pattern is developed from there.
What advice do you have for someone trying to design for the first time?
I’d suggest thinking about what inspires you and experimenting from there. Start with what you know and love. If you find the thought of beginning a completely new pattern daunting then you could always try varying the design of something you’ve knitted before, perhaps by adding an extra motif or changing the palette. Before long you’ll find the confidence to create your own designs. I hold regular knitting design workshops where I take participants through the creative process and it’s wonderful to see people’s confidence blossom as their ideas take shape.
Do you have a favourite design from the collection?
I love all the designs but if I had to pick one, I’d choose the Butterfly Pom Pom Shawl. Since it was an easy pattern, I have really happy memories of knitting it wherever I went… and of it being admired by people on trains and buses who could see it taking shape! The shawl is such a joy to wear since it’s amazingly versatile and can transform an outfit in seconds.
Finally, what’s coming up next from you for our readers to look out for?
There are all sorts of wonderful and exciting things in the pipeline. I’m working on a capsule collection of knitted accessories that will be out this autumn. I’m also finalising my programme of knitting design workshops which I hold in venues nationwide, including Liberty London. I’ve been thrilled by the popularity of the workshops and I’d love to see your readers there! Details can be found at www.deehardwicke.co.uk as well as on Instagram and Facebook.
Colourwork Knits: 12 Hand Knit Designs Inspired by Nature is published by Quail Publishing and is available for £12.99 from www.deehardwicke.co.uk