Traditional crafts have been enjoying quite the revival over the past few years, with none more so than knitting. No longer the preserve of rocking-chair grannies clacking their needles together, knitware has lost its olde fashioned sensibilities and been replaced with a level of cool. At the forefront of this trend since 2003, Donna Wilson sells all manner of colourful woolen textiles: cushions, blankets and most famously, cuddly monsters. She is thrilled that the stereotype of knitting as described above is being broken. Despite her company’s growth, Donna has stayed true to her roots and stays firmly embedded in the traditions that knitting weaves. Here’s how she does it:
1. Collaborating with UK designers
Winning the Elle Decoration British Designer of the Year in 2010 helped gain Donna’s work even greater recognition and no doubt helped to secure collaborations with iconic furniture designers Ercol and SCP. Showing the versatility of wool to its full extent, the Ercol collaboration saw the iconic chairs reimagined with colourful woven seats. Meanwhile, the current SCP collaboration of cushions and throws is woven in a traditional Welsh mill. Manufacturing in the UK is something we at ‘The Holborn’ are very passionate about and it’s great to see a respected British designer taking advantage of our nationwide talent.
2. Importance of creating by hand
Thankfully, England is not a country of under-paid labourers churning out poor quality reproductions on giant machines. More and more, people are concerned with the story of what they’re buying and nothing is more reassuring than to know something has been handmade. Donna’s work is not and will never be mass-produced, even though, ‘…it would certainly be less time-consuming, but for me I think they (her knitted creatures) would lose their charm, identity and oddness. When I’m making them I have to use the same process for each type but because they’re made by hand, their form varies from one to another and when we get to the stage of stitching their features on, I create a new personality every time – embroidery is like drawing with a needle and thread. The proportions and placement give each one a different look and that’s why I enjoy making them.’ (Which is why we enjoy buying them).
3. Extolling the benefits of knitting
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the benefits of crafting, and Donna is a great believer in the power of handmade creations, she thinks, ‘…knitting is a very healthy, creative and satisfying habit.’ She does however admit to not having the patience for knitting or crochet when her grandmother tried teaching her as a youngster, and still prefers machine knitting over hand knitting for that same reason. But nothing can take away her enjoyment of the knitting process: ‘I always love the way I can create a fabric from a strand of yarn, in the texture, colour and pattern that I want.’
4. Natural materials & incredible colours
Donna is enthusiastic about the material she works with. ‘I love working with wool and wearing wool. It’s such a lovely natural material and can behave in lots of ways. For example, when you feel it, it can be quite thick and dense. You can dye it beautiful bright colours and it is so breathable so you can keep both cosy and cool. I always work with natural yarns, mainly lambswool, I love the colours you can get as well as its felting properties. I love working with colour and I think that brings a lot of personality to people.’
5. Sense of humour
Donna Wilson’s ‘Creatures‘, knitted monsters of odd-shaped proportions, have a bigger personality than any other woven bear I know. Carlos (above) for example is, ‘Secretly a graffiti artist and loves cheeseburgers’. ‘Making things that make people smile‘ is at the centre of what makes Donna’s work so popular. For her, ‘Being creative is a fantastic feeling, and I’d recommend anyone to give it a go.’
(All images from Donna Wilson)
By Verity Inett
Workshop Editor // firstname.lastname@example.org