Who remembers Ann from last years Fashion Revolution! Ann is our local knitter here on Orkney and has worked with us since the very beginning of our knitwear collections. Ann has been busy helping us improve the quality of our knitwear learning how to use jacquard knitting, mastering this machinery which has been on her to do list for quite some time. We knew Ann could do it & her determination and drive made it happen! Celebrating this huge achievement, Ingrid & Sarah from the studio decided to catch up with Ann in her studio to find our more about this new technique and more about Ann’s knitting experience.
Ann started knitting with Kirsteen 7 years ago in 2011 after their paths had crossed at the local UHI college where Ann had been studying on the textiles course. With a tutor absence when the students were working on their knitting project and because Ann already had machine knitting experience under her belt, she just carried on whilst helping her fellow students who were also stuck get underway. Kirsteen who teaches part time at the college had noticed this and after a discussion with a Japanese buyer who said they would be interested to see Kirsteen’s designs in knitwear, approached Ann to help her create her knitwear collection. The collection started with a small range in a limited colour palette of only about 6-8 colours including long loop scarves, twists, mitts and even beanie hats and tunics. From then it’s come on leaps and bounds with a huge range of colours, patterns and most recently jacquard knitting improving our finish quality.
Ann has been knitting for over 45 years by hand after learning from her Mum, followed by machine knitting for around 30 years. Ann’s enthusiasm, determination and love of knitting is contagious.
Sitting in her workshop in the East Mainland of Orkney watching her knit our latest Ayre design, telling us stories from when she first learnt to knit is fascinating. She can remember her first piece of knitting on needles and taking it to her Granny’s to show her. Admitting she never used a pattern, she would just think of what she wanted to create and set about doing it, figuring it out as she went. From the fashions of the time to creating our collections now, this is always how Ann has worked. You can tell knitting makes complete sense to Ann, she understands how the stitches work, what she needs to do and it’s just how she thinks. She has always been interested in sewing, knitting and crafting despite admitting being a tomboy when she was younger and always enjoying being outside. There is complete admiration for Ann in the studio, for her skill and ability to work in this way in addition to her sheer determination to never be beat by something she doesn’t understand. With the many years of experience has come a wider network of people, resources and support which help her with whatever may be currently challenging her including watching videos online or being part of chat forums to contacting other companies who have helped service her equipment or with other technical questions.
Ann has developed her skills as we have grown and developed our collections, there isn’t often that Ann says what we are thinking is impossible or that it can be adapted to suit knitting. Initially using a punchcard knitting machine, she has developed to using Design a Knit computer programme and even knows which of our patterns to product of each machine to get the finest finish to avoid dropped stitches. Each machine has it’s quirks which Ann is fully accustomed too & has learned to work with. The punchcard knitting machine even has an electronic motor attached so whilst it is knitting, Ann can finish linking the pieces which are already knitted. With 4 machines set up in her small space all for different purposes, she admits as it’s grown and as we have added more colour ranges, she could do with more space. There is more yarn however & knitwear as encouraged by Kirsteen a few years ago, Ann started making her own knitwear designs which are beautiful too.
Ann’s proudest achievement in the 7 years we have worked with her is programming our Maps design, working at 60 stitches wide. Initially Ann used to get a drawing from us which she would interpret into a knitwear pattern. More recently we have started to work on grid paper which is passed to Ann to programme helping us visual our designs and making it a little easier for Ann too. She is also incredibly proud of mastering the jacquard knitting too. It is somethings she has wanted to achieve for quite sometime & we all genuinely celebrated when Ann mastered this! It will allow us to improve our finish and gives us the potential to knit with 4 colours, previously it was two until we started working with another maker in Shetland. Shetland help with another range of products including our garments and home accessories and we are delighted the finish from both makers are of the same standard! Go Ann! Ann is also proud of teaching her husband, Stuart to knit who helps her in many ways.
Ann admits herself, she has always thrived on doing something different, loves learning and creating and this doesn’t just go for knitting. She is also a keen gardener and draws parallels between them both, saying knitting is like gardening in Orkney, ‘ you just plant and hope!’ Creating designs which sometimes grow and other times are just what they are which is equally fine too. It’s all part of the process, you learn as you go machinery & techniques included. Sharing Ann’s love of watching things grow, we are extremely excited at the potential of 4 colour designs and the new finish quality.
A huge thank you to Ann for letting us visit her workshop & sharing an insight into her process as a knitter. We loved our visit and have complete admiration for her ability not only to knit but to continually learn. So what’s next for Ann? She has a Passap machine in the corner which she is determined to master. We have no doubts you can & will Ann!