24 November 2014

Interview with Knit & Crochet Designer Sian Brown


Images courtesy of Sian Brown
  
I've just finished knitting a tea cosy from one of Sian Brown's lovely knitting kits and will be posting a review later this week. Sian's recent designs have a nostagic feel from the 60's and 70's. As a child of the 60's myself I can identify with lots of her themes. We've been in conversation for a few months discussing her designs. I thought it would be good to ask Sian a few questions about herself and her work...

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I work as a freelance designer for magazines (regularly for Knitting, Lets Knit, Knit Today), for yarn companies and book publishers. I have one book in my own name The Knitted Home by GMC, and have designed for several others including Tea Cozies 3 and 4, Rooster Yarns Village Living, Winter Knits Made Easy. 

The Knitted Home by Sian Brown
I came into knitwear design in a slightly different way than the usual craft route, by doing a fashion/textiles BA in woven design, and getting into knit design in my final year, and taught myself to use a knitting machine after designing a final collection based around knits. I started work in London designing factory machine knits for suppliers to the major retailers, travelling a lot and learning about commercial design. I also taught at London College of fashion part time. I became more interested in hand knits and started designing, being given my first commission by Woman's Weekly.


Did you learn to knit as a child? My mum taught me to knit the basics but I've never got past that stage which I know sounds strange for a knitwear designer. My mum and aunties were always knitting and doing crochet, and I had a lot of home made jumpers, cardigans and blankets made with left over yarn. Every time my mum made me a jumper she would make the same design for my Sindy doll. I used to sew a lot too and by the time I was a teen I was making a lot of my clothes and customising charity shop garments. Now I have a team of really experienced knitters and pattern writers, so we all concentrate on the parts that we are best at. I think I do the easy bit!
Sian Brown


Can you describe your work space?  I work in the conservatory which has a lot of natural light. We moved to the country last year (or middle of nowhere according to my daughters!) so its very peaceful to work here, after living in towns and cities since I was eighteen. I'm not the tidiest of people and am surrounded by containers of yarn, and my very much used and crumbling stitch reference books which are used every day, and shade cards. I work on the laptop a lot and sit on the sofa to do my design work, normally with radio 4 in the background. I write myself optimistic notes saying tidy up, clean desk but I'm not very good at carrying out these tasks! 
Sian's work space and stitch reference books

Do you have a favourite yarn? I don't really have a favourite yarn. I love the feel of classic yarns such as soft merinos and alpaca, and the delicate look of fine mohair. I always love getting new yarns in the post from the spinners when they are being launched, which I've just had now. Its inspiring to be surrounded by yarns when I'm working.



Can you tell us about your design process and inspiration? The design process for me usually starts with the yarn. For garments, I'll pick the yarn first, then do the shape, then the stitch and lastly the colour. I'll do rough sketches then draw them up to send to the magazines or whoever they are for, sometimes with swatches to see how the stitch is working. Then the sketch goes out to the pattern writer with a full spec for the measurements, then the knitter works from the pattern ironing out any problems which is part of the sampling process.

Nostalgia mood board
Like all designers, inspiration comes from lots of places. Yarns are a good starting point as different yarns will lend themselves more naturally to different designs. I might see an interesting shape of garment construction and make a note of it, the same with a lovely stitch or colour combination.


The inspiration for the Make at Home range came from growing up in the '60's and '70's, so is inspired by what was around at the time, and by the nostalgic memory of knitted and crochet things made during those decades. The ice cream, lolly and doughnut cushion covers are from days at the seaside, the kitchen cushion covers from helping mum in the kitchen and the things we had around then. The wool projects are from styles of home knits popular at the time.

Make at Home cushion knitting kit designs

Do you have a favourite design from your 'Make at Home' range? I always love the latest thing that I've worked on, in this case the colourful bobbles tea cosy which reminds me of sweeties. I like the simplicity of the crochet traditional tea cosy, based on the blankets my mum used to make form oddments of yarn. I also really like the 'People' cushion cover, inspired by the kind of folk designs popular in the 70's when I was beginning to get into designing.

Traditional Crochet Tea Cosy Kit from the Make at Home range

What are you working on at the moment?
For my magazine work I'm working on designs for next April, May and June. I've just finished some garments and accessories for a new Rooster Yarns book. I'm also working on a patches hot water bottle cover which will be a new kit and pattern for the 'Make at Home' range. In addition to that I'm working on some new mini kits, and some designs for a self published book. The challenge for that is learning how to do the editing and layouts etc. as I've always handed this over to someone else. This is one of the projects a textured hot water bottle cover.

Sian's websites can be found here:
Sian Brown Knitwear Design
Make at Home
Etsy

Hope you enjoyed reading the interview. 
Look out for my review of the 
'Bobbles Tea Cosy' kit coming later this week.