Today we are handing the blog over to Jeanette Sloan.
Jeanette studied both machine and hand knitting as part of her textile design training and has worked as a designer for more than 25 years. She’s designed for a number of yarn brands, including Erika Knight and Rowan, and her designs have been published in several UK print magazines such as The Knitter and Knitting Magazine.
She has written four books: Easy Knitted Accessories, Easy Beaded Knits, Easy Knitted Socks and Collection One. Since writing the article “Black People Do Knit” in 2018, she started the POC Designers & Crafters list to highlight the work of POC in the fibre community. So make yourself comfortable for today’s designer spotlight.
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Can you tell us how you got started within the yarn industry?
I’ve been a knitwear designer for over 25 years having studied textile design specialising in knitting at art college and university. Back then I practised both hand and machine knitting with my work often combining the two with hand embroidery or beading.
Over the years I worked freelance selling designs to fashion houses, produced ready to wear accessories under my own label, tutored and worked as a technician on a degree course and worked as a Design Consultant for Rowan which is really how I came to refocus on hand knitting. It was while living in Edinburgh that I wrote my first book and ended up designing hand knitting patterns for the craft industry which I’ve been doing ever since.
What does designing mean to you?
For me, designing is really an expression of who I am both as a person and as a maker. It’s always been what I do as a job which has often meant having to ‘come up with the goods’ to fulfil a brief or to meet a specific deadline. But as I’ve got older I realise how much it’s tied into my health and sense of wellbeing.
After having brain surgery 4 years ago I found I had to re-evaluate my workload as my memory was affected and I sometimes have problems processing information. So where I may once have used the stress of a deadline to inspire and motivate, now I really need to feel completely stress-free in order to create – whether that’s for work or recreation. It’s meant that I need to be mindful that I’m not taking on too much work at any one time.
Of all of your achievements to date, which means the most to you personally and why?
Wow, now there’s a question. When I first read this I immediately asked myself what I’d achieved then I thought back over the past few years and had to check myself and say, yes ok there have been a couple of things. In terms of my designs, those produced since my craniotomy are special because at the time of my surgery my prognosis was unclear but potentially terminal. I’m very aware of how fortunate I am to still be here and even happier that I’m able to produce any kind of work and that people want to knit my patterns.
But, given the conversations we’ve been having in the yarn industry over the last 2 years about racism and lack of BIPOC representation I think it’s founding BIPOC in Fiber that means the most to me personally. Growing up as a kid in 1970s London I watched as my Mum knitted from patterns and books with great skill but saw that nowhere within those patterns was there anyone who looked like us. Anyone who was black. But to find that over 40 years later there was still this misconception that black / brown / people of colour don’t knit, spin, craft, only crochet or can only afford the cheapest supplies led to me write the articles ‘Black People Do Knit’ and A Colourful Debate’ and to create the POC Designers & Crafters List which led me to start BIPOC in Fiber.
These discussions are uncomfortable but vital if we’re to have an industry in which we are all represented, respected and treated equally regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, ability, social-economic class, age or body size. Amplifying the work of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour working in the fibre industry is just one part of that, but essential. In fact, I think starting BIPOC in Fiber is the most important thing I’ve ever done and I’m lucky to have an amazing team working with me. There’s so much more to do.
Can you share 3 of your favourite designs with us and tell us why they are your favourite?
It’s really tricky to narrow it down to 3 but here we go;
Diamond Corner is one of my favourites because it has an unusual bat-like shape and although its large size makes it quite a challenge to knit in terms of timescale, it’s a lace design worked in a fingering weight which means it’s not heavy which is why I wear this a lot. I’ve never worn shawls in a traditional ‘around the shoulders’ way, I much prefer to envelope myself in them with the deepest edge at the front wrapping the wings around my neck ‘kerchief style’ for a funkier, less formal look. It’s how I wear Dionne, one of my most popular designs which is also one of my faves.
Toasty Cosy is my design contribution to Warm Hands, the collection of glove, mitten and mitts that I co-edited with Kate Davies. This design is a favourite for so many reasons.
First I love the vibrancy of the photography, it pretty much sums me up because bright is always better. This design can be knitted as either a mitten or fingerless mitt option which makes it versatile and the two colour calliper cable stitch creates an unusual fabric which can be worked in a bold or subtle colour combination depending on your personal preference.
From the moment I began collaborating with Kate Davis on this book, we focused on creating a vibe that was worlds away from the sort of knitting books I’d grown up with. It was important that BIPOC were represented within its pages both as designers and models so for me.
Toasty Cosy is special because as part of this collection it represents me not only as a designer but also editor, writer and stylist.
Finally, my last choice would be Riley Stripe, and again it’s for a number of reasons.
Inspired by the abstract work of artist Brigit Riley it’s a wrap or wide scarf that explores both graphic and textural contrasts. When I knitted it for issue 122 of The Knitter the original colour palette was acid yellow and orange which just lifts me but once again this will work in so many colour combinations.
It’s a long rectangle made up of two sections: The first begins with a two-colour braided cast on before being worked in solid coloured blocks and columns of slip stitch that sit on a background of striped garter stitch. After finishing with a two colour cast off than picking up and knitting into the side edge of the first piece the second or main section is worked in the same technique but on a much smaller scale before once again ending once with a two colour cast off. What I love about this wearing this design is not only the warmth but the natural drape and bounce of the fabric.
Could you share two of your favourite books currently on your bookshelf/Kindle?
I have to confess that despite resolving to read more books at the beginning of this year I can never find enough time. But I’m a recent convert to podcasts and some of those I’ve been enjoying recently include BBC World Service’s Witness Black History, 1619 and The Moth.
Do you have new projects or designs coming up that you’d like to share?
I’ve got a couple of past designs on my desk where the rights have reverted to me and I need to get them into my Ravelry Pattern Store, one of them is North Point; a wrap which I’ve updated with a scarf option. There’s a new felted bag design that will be published this Autumn (crosses fingers), a third club collaboration with Diane Ivey of Lady Dye Yarns.
Finally, I’m really excited about the release of Modern Daily Knitting’s Field Guide no. 15 for which I’ve created 5 new designs. I worked on this earlier this year just before we went into lockdown but due to all, that’s happened since it feels like years ago. Rather than spoil the surprise I won’t reveal too much about the designs, I’ll just say that I thoroughly enjoyed working with Kay, Ann, Melanie and the rest of the MDK team and couldn’t be happier with the results.
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A huge thank you to Jeanette for taking the time to chat with us on the blog today. We hope that you enjoyed a look at her favourite designs and accomplishments. If you are anything like us I know you are excited to see Jeanette’s lastest collaborations go live.
Please pop over to her social profiles and give her a follow:
Jeanette Designer Profiles:
Love Knitting: Jeanette Sloan
* Please note all images used within this post are © JeanetteSloan.