What is the inspiration for your most recent collection featured at MADE?
British knitting traditions and Fair Isle designs in particular are the framework upon which I build my designs. Fair Isle designs originate from the Shetland Islands, emerging in published form from the last half of the 19th Century. Fair Isle offers a broad set of motifs that can be reinterpreted and refreshed through colour choice. In my design process I normally start with an image, this may be from a direct observation or from an artwork or a book cover. The Stromness Creel Hat started with a photograph of lobster pots piled on the jetty in Stromness harbour in Orkney. I was fascinated how bright, almost neon colours of orange and turquoise nylon rope that lash the pots work discordantly but in a pleasing way to complement the more natural tones of the water and the pot structures. The convention of fair isle is to match two sets of three colours ranging from dark to light to generate a garment that shows off the patterning clearly when worn. My aim with this design was to present a harmonious discord where natural and artificial shades sit easily next to each other and the pattern clearly visible. This is a current favourite which I will continue to refine and produce throughout 2021. For this current range of one-off hats, I started with the remnants of a skein of multi-coloured sock yarn, and built colour schemes around it, exploring the variety of different effects from alternate combinations. Ideas then started freewheeling, what if they were all different greens and wow look at that chartreuse, it sings next to that maroon…and then another colour scheme and another exercise in what if.
When did you realise that working with wool and creating knitwear was something you wanted to do?
I learnt to knit as a child, but it was the resurgence of the handknitting industry in the 1980s and a chance meeting with Kaffe Fassett that sparked my love of the craft and I knitted avidly through my 20s. As a historian, I became fascinated by the historic traditions of knitting in the UK and its relationship with working communities, and began to knit fair isle garments in earnest. Chronic illness brought it to an abrupt stop. It was the opening of Cardiff M.A.D.E 7 years ago and Zoe’s request ‘would you think about knitting something for the gallery?’ that I credit with re-engaging me with this craft. Now its all about the knitting.
How you feel about the process?
Colour and materials are everything. I associate the visual stimulus from my surroundings with my emotional wellbeing and satisfaction with the world, something I attribute to having grown up in a family of artists where you were always being encouraged to look. Hats are great to knit because you can work through ideas in a relatively short time and move on, altering and rebalancing colour choices to produce a different effect. Knitting is necessary. Knitting is painful. Knitting is therapeutic. You have to slow down, take the time to consider what you are doing, to count the stitches and enjoy what emerges from the needles.
What's the important criteria about sourcing your wool and how is it connected to a sense of place and history?
I like to use natural fibres and increasingly, yarns produced in the UK. I particularly like Shetland yarns both for the quality of the fibres and the broad range of colours that are available. Knitwear produced from this yarn is hardwearing. lightweight and warm, and softens through repeated wear and washing. The connection through a producer that has been spinning yarn for over 60 years to place and communities is increasingly important in my choice of material as well as supporting small often single handed producers living in isolated communities.
What are your ambitions for this year?
My ambition this year is to formalise my designs through publication, to formally identify myself as a knitwear designer. On the creative level, to further explore colour and pattern and knit my way out of the wool mountain, the den of Inknitquity as it is known in our household.
Meet Louisa, and the inspiration behind her new range of vibrant, intricate and decorative hand -knitted hats available only through MADE, in our February feature.
Drawn to knitting as a way to experiment with colour, pattern and design, with particular interest in the history of fair isle motifs to working communities in Shetland, Louisa uses only Natural Yarns, supporting small scale traditional producers. It’s also been an important and essential part of sustaining her own wellbeing, working at a slow pace and revelling in process of seeing pattern emerge and experimenting with colour.
Louisa also runs a weekly knit and knitter circle with other knitters, get in touch if you’d like to join and meet up online.
Visit her instagram @loulou_gingell