Have a Cuppa with Clare Devine

It is finally time for a wee interview with the Designer of the Month. So sit down with a nice cuppa and maybe a slice of cake, and read on.

  • Ginger Twist Studio: Now I have heard this story a few times, but why don’t you tell our readers how it was you came to start knitting?

Clare Devine: My knitting story is a little unusual. While my grandmother knitted she lived in the UK and I grew up in South Africa so we never really did the family knitting thing. I did learn to knit as a child but I never really recall anyone doing much knitting in our household.

My knitting story takes place in Australia in the boiling late summer heat. I am not very good at the short story – so please bear with me here …

My (now husband) and I were walking part of the Bibbulman Track (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibbulmun_Track) in Westerm Australia. We had just arrived in Australia for a year long working holiday. After day 3 (I think) we stumbled across a small shop that we had hoped would sell cans of cola (we needed a sweet sugary hit, after 3 long days of walking in the heat). Alas, they did not sell coke (I know, shock horror, a part of the world where you can’t buy a coke) but they did sell ice-cream, so we replenished our sugar needs and were about to head off when I spotted the cutest hat. It was beautifully hand crafted by someone from a local knitting group and was just begging me to take it home. I wanted the hat – I needed it! Liam carefully reminded me that we were broke (our South African rands meant very little in Australian dollars) and that it was a woolly hat or food type of decision I was about to make. He also pointed out it was over 30 degrees and there was not really any need for a woolly hat. I was rather annoyed and proclaimed that I would therefore have to knit my own hat to make up for losing out on this one.

I am rather stubborn by nature and was determined to buy the supplies and knit the hat I was so desperate for. I bought the supplies in a small shop in Denmark, Western Australia. 6mm straight needles and some thick wool and settled down to knit a hat from a pattern I found on the internet. It was knitted flat (don’t ask) and seamed (I know) … but I knitted it and I loved it. Having learnt to knit as a child the basics came back to me pretty quickly, the rest I learnt from the internet. The rest is history. I knitted my way around Australia, then back to South Africa and now in Edinburgh. The only place I have lived as a knitter with a climate remotely suitable for my fibre habit.

All these years later I often wonder if my husband looks around our home at all the boxes, baskets and project bags full of wool, wips and other knitting paraphernalia and wonders what it would have been like if he had just let me buy that hat …

  • GTS: And when was it you started knitting socks, and what got you all jazzed up about them?

Clare: I always swore I would never knit socks, I don’t know why but I did. I won a prize that was a skein of sock yarn and a pattern as part of a KAL in one of the South African knitting groups. I felt it was rude not to knit the socks seeing as it was my prize. I knitted them, and I love them. I knitted some more pairs and the deal was sealed. Finally when my little girl was small a friend suggested I start looking a sock heels. She knew I loved learning about techniques and lent me some books. The idea for Sock Anatomy was born and my love of socks continues to grow every time I see a pair of hand knitted socks or a skein of sock wool.

  • GTS: As a designer, how do you find following someone else’s pattern? Are you able to do so to the letter, or do you find yourself changing things?

Clare: I enjoy following other people’s patterns. It is nice not to have to think about maths or what might happen to the design based on my decisions. It is also a wonderful learning experience. Every one sees things slightly differently and that is very refreshing when you have spent a lot of time in your own head working out the details of a design. Unfortunately I just don’t have enough time to knit all the things I want to knit, but I think that is a common problem among knitters.

  • GTS: What is on the needles right now?

Clare: I have a few wips languishing in the bottom of my knitting basket that I just can’t talk about at the moment, I need to get them out and do some work on them. I have a new sock design for a publication that I am working on and a very exciting design project with Jess that are taking up most of my knitting time. I just finished a Rikke hat, but because I was naughty and did not swatch or pay any attention my gauge it might be the largest hat anyone has ever seen. Finally I cast on for a simple stocking stitch pixie hat for my little one as the hat I knitted when she was born is now too small and she needs a new sock weight hat to keep her head warm when she is on the bicycle this winter.

  • GTS: What inspires you in your knitwear design? Could you walk us through a bit of your process from inspiration to realization?

Clare: So much inspires me. Colour, texture, the world around me. I generally come up with a broad idea of what I need and then I look at what I have and allow the design to grow organically from that. Sometimes I design around the yarn and colourway, other times around a stitch and then I find the perfect yarn. I have a notebook full of ideas and pinterest boards with things that inspire me. These could be images of knitwear, pictures of fashion pieces, historical items of clothing, colour swatches, photographs etc. I also often take pictures of things I see on my daily travels and hoard them as design inspiration too.

  • GTS: Are there any tools/references as a designer or as a knitter that you find indispensable?

Clare: My stitch dictionaries, a notebook and pen, Excel and Stitch Mastery.

  • GTS: Do you find yourself gravitating towards a certain type of wool, be it fibre content or colours?

Clare: This varies depending on the mood I am in. I love soft silky luxury yarns as much as I love good solid sheepy yarns. I am very interested in British rare breeds and love finding unusual yarns to work with. Colour wise – I am always drawn to grey, always! I also have a soft spot for other colours and these tend to come and go in waves, purple features highly on my list, as does teal and mustard. Maybe not all together in the same project though.

  • GTS: What is your favourite type of tea?

Clare: Rooibos. I am a true South African when it comes to tea, I love my rooibos tea and could drink it all day everyday.

  • GTS: You are now making a living as a knitwear designer and now have 2 published books. What is coming up next?

Clare: I still have to pinch myself to remind myself that this is real. Knitting is my job! I am so grateful for the chance to work in this creative industry. I have lots of things coming up. For the rest of 2014 – so fabulous warm knits for the colder months ahead. There will be two new patterns and a winter version of Brunswick released in November. For 2015 I have a very exciting collaboration with Jess from Ginger Twist starting in January. Tune into the Knit British podcast or check the blogs on the 7th of November for news. The adult version of Sock Anatomy is coming at the start of 2015 too and I have a brand new segment on the Shinybees podcast, listen to her latest episode for details.

Finally lots of exciting workshops planned for 2015 across Scotland, including Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March. A full calendar will be available on my blog in the coming weeks.