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Fashion Knitwear

I have previously posted on this blog my experience of writing two books for Bloomsbury Books called The Fundamentals of Fashion and Textiles and Fashion. These books had an educational slant and targeted the student reader interested in fashion and textiles. I now want to talk a little of my experience of writing a book called Fashion Knitwear.
Four years ago I approached the publisher Laurence King with my idea of writing a book on contemporary fashion knitwear. In my experience of teaching fashion and textiles at Ravensbourne College, Kingston and Middlesex Universities, i was aware that there had been a resurgence of really creative knitwear design. I felt that it started a good 10 years ago with two influential knitwear designers Sandra Backlund and Sid Bryant.
Backlund is a Swedish designer with a very creative approach to her work, producing sculptural pieces in unusual thick yarns and even human hair. Bryant from England I knew from studying at The RCA, on graduating he produced knitted show pieces for the catwalk for fashion designers like Alexander Mcqueen, Giles Deacon and Gareth Pugh. He too worked in a very exaggerated way producing sculptural garments in chunky yarns.
These two designers were to be a real inspiration for the up and coming textile and knitwear students that I was teaching. The students didn’t want to knit simple wearable knitted pieces but something far more innovative and creative. As a result these ex-students are now a new batch of innovative knitwear designers working in the fashion industry.
In Fashion Knitwear I was proposing to highlight the work of these new independent designers, coupled with the work of the large fashion houses that have been producing knitwear for decades. (Many of the larger companies were now employing the new graduates.) I wanted to feature a range of designers those working in a simple sophisticated way right the way through to those whose work was downright bonkers. They were all valid but what they did had to have a relationship with contemporary fashion.

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I looked at hand knitters, machine knitters using the most innovative digital machinery, crochet and macramé. (Although not strictly knit crochet and macramé do fall under the heading of knitwear with in fashion design) Also those that used knitted jersey fabric that was cut and sewn into garments.
When I first started thinking about the book I was lecturing 3 days a week and producing printed textiles, as a freelance textile designer the rest of the time.
My first step towards writing the book was to under take some initial research into the key knitwear designers. I used my own knowledge and that of friends in the industry. I put together a long list of designers, each would be interviewed and I would write a short biography on each one. I would ask each designer to supply images and I would select the most exciting in terms of knit technique. I also had to consider the visually aesthetic of each of the images, it was important that the book looked contemporary and stylish.
Laurence king was keen that the book featured designers from around the world we agreed on 40 designers in total. The British designers were easy as I knew of many, the hardest I found were the Italian, which really surprised me as Italy is well know for Knitwear.

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Just as I was starting to write the book I had a baby, I naively thought my boy would sleep all day and I would be able to crack on, how wrong I was! I stopped working on the book for 3 months then went back to it 1 day a week, which was so frustrating as I felt I had no continuity. Also during this time I was asked to rewrite Textiles and Fashion. Juggling all this was hard and going back to work after my maternity leave added more pressure.
With the support of my family and a very patient editor I continued to chip away at the research and writing. I really enjoyed contacting the designer and interviewing them. They all had such interesting backgrounds and working practices. The list of designers to be featured changed as the book progressed, some went out of business, a few I could just not tie down and new designers emerged that had interesting work. Certain high-end designers I knew I had to have in the book to give it credibility.
Writing this book was easier than writing the books for Bloomsbury. I was more organised, I had to be as my time was so precious. I also had a clearer idea of the layout, the number of images I needed and word count. It was however much harder than I had thought to get hold of the designers and their images. I was lucky to have a lot of say over the layout of the book that was designed beautifully by Praline design. Receiving the first copy in April was a great feeling after so much work and so much time.

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I know that many of you reading this have work or family commitments that can get in the way of your studies. It can be hard to keep motivated and keep the continuity to your work, but keep chipping away at it. The rewards will be worth it in the end.
An interesting exhibition currently on: Fashion and Textile Museum, London- KNITWEAR Chanel to Westwood


Posted by author: Jenny Udale
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2 thoughts on “Fashion Knitwear

  • Great article Jenny, thank you. It’s impressive that you do all you do, write books and stay creative. Very inspirational. Your new book looks like a great source of inspiration to me as I start the section on reveal and conceal in Textiles 1: exploring ideas
    Annette

  • Jenny I was really interested in your book and, as I said in my last comment, it looks great for Exploring Ideas students doing reveal and conceal. Well it arrived yesterday and I spent last night poring over it and am now really inspired. Excellent read and beautiful book. Thank you

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