02 Mar 2017By Mark Hayhurst
Erika Knight, designer
Always at the fashion edge of hand knitting, Erika Knight is a true national treasure. A career that started with her own hand-knit label morphed first into fashion consultancy for top brands such as M&S, Nicole Farhi and Whistles, and then collaborations with Rowan Yarns and Coats PLC.
Today, with 20 published pattern collections to her name, Erika heads up her own range of fashion-led yarns. A recent collaboration with John Lewis on its ‘XXL’ roving yarn (designed to capitalise on the oversize chunky knits taking Instagram and Pinterest by storm) is the perfect example of her proximity to any hot trend. Further work with Regia, Katia and Soak cement her credentials as the go-to designer to add contemporary cred to a fashion line.
“The internet and social media platforms have provided a wider community of influences for crafters making it simpler than ever to exchange skills, techniques and designs,” says Erika, whose brand is busy across multiple social media platforms.
“There is a movement against fast fashion towards slow clothes. In fact, we are now experiencing a resurgence of traditional ways of knitting, such as Elizabeth Zimmerman’s top-down knitting and Fairisle and Faroese patterns, updated with modern designs. Equally both spinning and dyeing, which are as important to the craft as the process of knitting, have seen a huge growth with many hobbyists now turning professional, in part due to the ease of online selling platforms such as Etsy and Ravelry, which reach a targeted and very discerning audience.” In fact, if the recent turbulence in global politics persists, Erika believes knitting may see a definite uptick in demand.
“In times of crisis and uncertainty, whether on a global or personal scale, knitting has been proven to soothe the soul and to promote wellbeing. It is practical, creative and meditative. And, if the worst should happen, it’s a great post-apocalyptic skill!”
Barbara Gray, founder of Claritystamp
Necessity is the mother of invention, so when crafter Barbara Gray was frustrated by the inaccuracy of printing with the opaque rubber stamps that were enjoying a moment in 1993, she set about making things better. Her patented transparent stamps in photo-polymer resin have been much imitated and breathed new life into a hobby that neatly dovetails with cardmaking, journalling, and scrapbooking.
The ‘selly telly’ star
Stephanie Weightman, designer, demonstrator and presenter
A homegrown superstar of the UK craft scene, Stephanie Weightman is familiar to most as the friendly face of Create & Craft TV. Her own designsavvy led to the successful Tattered Lace die cut range, but it’s her appearances on TV, YouTube and at endless consumer shows that has made Stephanie papercraft royalty. She believes it was the adoption of crafting on UK selling channels that made her.
“Americans would come over to put on a ‘Craft Day’ every couple of months, and the sales were phenomenal,” Stephanie told a journalist in 2015. “£20,000 worth of product in an hour. That ended up having a huge influence on my own career. My mother told me I’d never make a career out of bits of paper.”
The blue chip buyer
Ian Ellis, haberdashery and crafting buyer at John Lewis
The haberdashery department at John Lewis is a rare thing; a statement of confidence in the health of the sector from a retailer that excels at meeting the needs of its customer base. No wonder then that ripples of concern ran through the industry when rumours circulated that the Partnership was rowing back from its commitment to selling fabric and haberdashery. Fortunately, in the eyes of most, the department persists, now shaped by new buyer for haberdashery and crafting, Ian Ellis. We’re always developing our craft offering, updating the selection to meet our customers needs, whilst also looking into more categories and ensuring we have the leading brands that crafters require today,” he explains. “This is set to be an exciting year with various new ranges; keep your eyes peeled!”
Despite the economic pressures brought to bear by preparations for Brexit, Ian suggests that the retailer’s sourcing strategy remains unchanged.
“We continue to source from a wide base and we have no plans to change that,” he says. “What we need to concentrate on is making sure customers are educated on the provenance of some of our items, whether they are made in Britain or are smaller scale artisan producers who have a great story to tell. Retail continues to be a challenging environment but our customers are loyal to our brand and we have confidence in our plans for haberdashery and crafting. As always, we are looking forward to strong trade for 2017 and have some exciting ideas in the pipeline.”