Interview with the knit designer Patricia Roberts
Did you undertake formal training in college or within the industry, or did you find your way into knitting via a different route?
BA fashion at Leicester College of Art and Design (now De Montford University).
How would you describe your position within the world of knitting?
Considered the first British designer to elevate hand knitting to the realms of high fashion. Produced the first pattern books styled and photographed like a fashion magazine. At the forefront of the knitting revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The early Patricia Roberts books inspired many of the UK hand-knitters of the early 1980s to take up their needles - including Kaffe Fasset, who told me his story of how seeing a young girl on a train knitting the Grapes and Cherries sweater from one of my early books inspired him to design his own knitwear.
Winner of the 1986 Duke of Edinburgh's designer prize - the coveted designer of the year award.
Designer of 1000's of original, wearable and flattering hand knitted garments, which do not date easily. Each item a marriage of stitch, shape and colour. Often stretching the boundaries of hand knitting, with a vast vocabulary of stitches. Hopefully always used within the limitations of wearability and timing.
Bearing witness to this, our small shop in Belgravia has been the Mecca for an international clientele of lovers of hand knits for women and children as well as patterns and yarns for 30 years.
What inspires and influences the designs you create for knitted objects?
I do not design knitted objects. I am strictly a fashion designer, who believes in form and function. I do run to the odd cushion cover or blanket, but never anything, which I believe ought not to be knitted. However I do create subtle, but often complicated patterns often including 3 dimensional stitches, but always using exciting colours and paying great attention to every detail of the shape of the garment. Inspiration comes from anything and everything- an old cake tin from a flea market - nature - or even just from designing - the more you invent stitches, the more eloquent you become and the further you can push them.
A further influence is my knitting audience, who often contact me to revive their favourites among my old patterns.
What types of materials do you prefer to use?
I always use natural fibre yarns. It was the dearth of these available in the 1970s which lead to the launching of our own brand of hand knitting yarns in fashion colours.
What would you most like to knit that you haven't made so far?
I don't consider what I am going to knit, but rather how I am going to knit it. I am afraid that I don't comprehend knitting weird items just for the sake of it, although there seems to be a certain appetite for this among young knitters. I prefer painting as an art form.
What do you think of the hand knitting 'revival' taking place in the US and which has now reached Britain?
I find the revival quite fascinating and inspirational. So many young people as well as those, who used to knit, are returning to it. I enjoy the challenge of designing garments which are original and different, but are not too difficult to make, as this is what is required by today's new and old knitters.
For over 30 years we have had a continuous following in the US for both our made up garments and for our yarns and patterns.