Last summer I finally got together with local Brighton designer Sarah Elwick, she’s a super talented knitter/designer/maker and teacher. We had a great lunch discussing all things knit, we are both self confessed knit geeks from similar Knitwear education backgrounds & I persuaded her to an interview on our blog. I’ve been a bit obsessed with Sarah’s hand knit Rainbow unicorn sweater design on Instagram, I’m very excited to say that Sarah has kindly offered to do a Bonnie Mob exclusive discount on the downloadable hand knit pattern PDF. Please see the link at the bottom of the post to buy your copy.
TS: So tell me a little bit about your background Sarah, where did you study?
SE: I studied for a degree in Textile Design at Winchester School of Art from 2000-2003, when I started the course, and tried all the subject areas, I was bitten by the machine-knitting bug and never looked back! I then went straight on to study for a Masters in Menswear Knitwear at the Royal College of Art in 2003, graduating in 2005, in probably the most exciting/nerve-wracking whirlwind two years of my life! I am so grateful that I had that opportunity, to develop my own creativity alongside some of the most creative people I have ever met, and to have experiences I will never forget. I definitely made some amazing friends for life.
TS: What is it that draws you to Knitwear design?
SE: I think initially as an impatient young undergrad, I was drawn to the speed of knitwear. I loved the fact that I could sit down at a machine with a cone of yarn, and just start knitting, and churning out fabric ideas. The knitted fabric grows very quickly on a machine, and I think like anyone new to machine knitting, I proudly produced lots of long stripy sausage type scarves for my lucky family that Christmas!
Then after a couple of years of experience I grew to love the garment making side of knitwear, it requires a bit of tricky maths to get the size and shaping just right, and it doesn’t always go exactly to plan either, but when you do it’s just so satisfying. It’s also great to be able to shape the garment pieces to exactly the size you want – in knitwear speak this is known as ‘fully-fashioning’ as not only does this look lovely (if you look at any good quality knitwear it will usually have pretty little shaping marks on the sleeves/sleevehead & perhaps the neckline) its also much less wasteful than cutting & sewing pieces out of larger rolls of fabric, as is often the case with cheap mass-produced knitwear you see on the high street.
TS: Don’t get me started about cheap knitwear! I find it so hard to find a good sweater or cardigan for myself these days, I’m thinking I need to expand the work we did with our Selfish Mother Collab and try a few more mum styles for The Bonnie Mob.
SE: Definitely! I’m sure that would be super-popular! Especially if mums could twin with their little-ones.
TS: So the collection of gorgeous accessories you produce are all machine-knitted. How did designing hand-knitting patterns come about?
SE: When I was pregnant with my daughter in 2015, I re-ignited my passion for hand-knitting, as I felt compelled to produce some sweet mini-knits for her wardrobe. I found it a very soothing and meditative pastime in the sometimes stressful months of pregnancy. This was a habit I then continued since her birth, as again I found it a calming, yet creative thing to do in the sometimes stressful, early days of being a mother. It’s also doesn’t require much space or equipment, and can be easily picked up and put down in-between baby wrangling, which was perfect, as I no longer had the time or space for machine-knitting, so this was also a great way of filling my creative urges.
Then in early 2016 I was approached by Claire Montgomerie, editor of a few well-known knitting and crochet magazines, who had spotted my work on Instagram, to submit my own hand-knit pattern for a new knitting publication called ‘The Knitting Collection’. I produced a design for some modern Fairisle baby bloomers & I’m pleased to say both Claire & I were very happy with them. Following their success she then came back & asked me to design something else for the next edition. This time I felt I wanted to challenge myself a little more, and this was how the Unicorn Sweater was born!
I am a self-confessed Instagram addict, and had seen lots of rainbows & Unicorns popping up a lot in my feed, particularly in kidswear, greetings cards, & stationary. This planted a seed that I couldn’t stop thinking about, & I knew I had to do something with Unicorns!
I had recently become obsessed with Intarsia knitting, a technique which allows you to knit with as many different colours as you want, (can handle!) in large blocks/designs, as opposed to a linear Fairisle formation.
TS: Well you know I love an intarsia sweater here at Bonnie mob, its our signature style, and always at the top of our bestseller list! This Spring Summer sees lots of rainbow designs and shooting star intarsias.
Tell me how you started your design process for the Unicorn sweater?
SE: I started swatching different ideas, of how I could incorporate the rainbow into the sweater, and I quickly knew I wanted it to be a bold full-sweater design, not just a small part of the overall sweater. I was also very inspired by 80’s Intarsia sweater designs where the face of the animal is very much a part of the overall body and sleeve shape, rather than just being laid on top.
So after a bit of head-scratching I formulated a way for this to be knitted as one whole piece, starting with casting on the front hem, and then just increasing stitches to create batwing sleeves, and then decreasing them on the back to return to the original body width at the end, with the Unicorns face becoming the sleeve. All the while following the Intarsia pattern of the Unicorns body, and rainbow wings. It’s a bit like patting your head, and rubbing your tummy at the same time, but once I got into the rhythm of it it seemed to be OK.
After I finished I also couldn’t resist adding a little rainbow unicorn horn, to be stuffed and stitched on afterwards. At present this design is just sized for little-ones upto age 24 months, but after a few requests I am looking into re-scaling the pattern to include older kids, and adults too! Watch this space!
TS: I know you’ve road tested a few of our Bonnie mob knits on your daughter Iris, what do you think of our knits? What are your favourite pieces from our new collection?
SE: We absolutely love our Bonnie Mob knits! We road tested the gorgeous grey and white stripy fox dress, which is our absolute favourite, and the adorable bear zip-up cardigan and bobble hat in mustard yellow (I’m not a massive lover of pink for girls) and knee-length fox socks. This is just the perfect toddler outfit in my opinion! Iris has worn them all the time this Autumn/Winter, & they are some of my absolute favourite items in her winter wardrobe this year.
Iris wears GAZ hat, GUNNER cardigan, LOTTIE dress, WILLOW socks
The cashmere/cotton blend yarn is also gorgeously soft, and washes really well, with no pilling or bobbling. This is amazing, and quite unusual for knitwear. It means they still look and feel as good as new even after quite a few washes. I’m going to be so sad when she grows out of them!
Thanks so much for your time Sarah! Can’t wait to see everyone’s Unicorn knits flying off the needles!
The link below will take you to Sarah’s online shop where you can purchase the PDF for a 20% discount using the code ‘rainbowsandunicorns’ : http://shop.sarahelwick.com/collections/home/products/rainbow-unicorn-sweater-pdf
Her online shop doesn’t currently have the facility for downloadable PDF’s, so once you have purchased it, she will email you the PDF directly to your inbox, via the email address you used for your Paypal payment. Happy Knitting!