Interview with John Allen, knitting designer
Did you undertake formal training in college or within the industry, or did you find your way into knitting via a different route?
I trained at Camberwell School of Art and got a BA in woven and printed textiles. This was followed by an MA from the Royal College London. I then worked in the textile industry and set up my own studio. I was instrumental in setting up and running the knitting department at the Royal College leaving in 1989 to concentrate on my own work and studio practice.
How would you describe your position within the world of knitting?
I am internationally known through the five books I have written on the subject and for all the international lecture and workshop tours I have undertaken.
What inspires and influences the designs you create for knitted objects?
I am a creative designer, I am influenced by anything and everything around me, particularly patterns created by unusual light and angles. I have worked from such diverse visual inspiration as architecture, landscape, foreign cultures and rock crystals. At the moment I am working from Aboriginal art.
What types of materials do you prefer to use?
I like working with materials not normally associated with knitting, bubble wrap, wire and plaster etc. but the most amazing yarn is wool, you can change and alter its nature by washing, heat and burning.
What would you most like to knit that you haven't made so far?
I would like to have the time and money to knit a huge tapestry. The design would be a great challenge, as would be the technical problems.
What do you think of the hand knitting 'revival' taking place in the US and which has now reached Britain?
Any revival of any crafts is to be encouraged, the fact the new revival in knitting is seen as coming from the US will make little impact on British knitting as the design and creativity here is light years ahead of American knitting. The area of knitting in the US which we do not have here is what they call 'Art Knitting' and that is interesting. It is an area well overdue for a review and assessment.