Kris is the sister of my dear friend Anna…and she just happens to be an enormously accomplished knitter. If I were to venture a guess, the only reason she hasn’t published a book combining traveling and knitting is because she can’t settle in long enough to get one written. She has a brilliantly scientific mind, a photographic eye and the heart of an artist. If we gave an award for distance travelled, Kris would win…this year she brings us Aran Knitting from the Emerald Isle itself. There will be two classes in the fall line-up: Aran Knitting Session 1 on Friday Morning and Aran Knitting Session II on Sunday. These classes will be team taught by Kris and her sister Anna so that everyone gets plenty of personal attention.
In response to our questions, Kris wrote:
I was born in England to a Scottish-Irish family of women artists, with a granny who knitted constantly. I had to choose between Art and Science when going to university; although I chose Science, the Art and Design side always attracted me.
When I moved to Ireland to go to university (Trinity College, Dublin) I fell in love with the west of Ireland – the ocean, the mountains, the mists, and the people. Aran knitting was starting to become known world wide, and a visit to the actual Aran Islands in the Bay of Galway was inspirational. The islanders lived on poor soil, with very few trees, rugged hand built stone walls and ancient forts, and many turned to the sea for their living – wearing those white wool sweaters with intricate patterns to keep themselves warm and dry.
That was when I started to knit Aran sweaters, giving them to fellow students who enjoyed the outdoors, sailing, hill walking and rock climbing. Aran sweaters were made from oiled undyed wool, so were ideal outer garments for misty and windy weather. The detailed patterns of cables represented ropes and waves, bobbles represented blackberries or as some believed the Holy Trinity, diamonds and moss stitch represented baskets and fishing creels – all these patterns were very satisfying to knit; also the 8 or 10 or 16 row repeats encouraged you to knit more, and the oiled wool kept your hands really soft!!
My early knitting was following a written pattern absolutely – but I was always inspired by colour and texture. Now I use dressmaking skills and knitting experience to produce knitted garments that fit well, that use yarn characteristics such as loft, drapability, wearability, texture and colour to make beautiful garments.
The linen drape jacket below is one of my favourites – knit in Linsey from Berroco, pattern is Ogunquit by Norah Gaughan. I lengthened the sleeves and then adjusted the back shoulder width to give a better fit.
Most recently, one project that has given me great satisfaction is a cable / Aran cardigan knit for my next door neighbor. Why? Because I had to adapt an existing design to knit a different gauge yarn, and I used finishing skills to produce a super garment.
I don’t have studio as such, but use stashed yarns and knitting magazines as inspiration – that means my knitting is spread around the house! I try to work at least 3 hours a day when producing a garment, and will spend other time researching/ reading/ observing and exploring. I belong to a small knitting group – we meet almost every week on Sundays. They have progressed from fairly basic techniques to tackling lace and Aran knitting, and I have the satisfaction of using my love of knitting to help others become more creative.
Where do I see my work in 5 years? Well, when I attended the 2012 Fiber College I came away full of inspiration and enthusiasm with a belief that I could become a real fiber artist. I had thought of concentrating on lace knitting skills, but now I find that I am drawn to working with yarn colour and texture to produce beautiful wearable garments.
These are two versions of the same design, worn by my best friends, showing off two very different yarns.
At a party I introduce myself as “retired” “granny in residence” “great teacher/tutor”, but I am starting to say “creative knitter” first of all!
I wouldn’t do without circular knitting needles. Currently I love wooden and bamboo tips, but the flexibility of the plastic thread that connects the two ends is of most importance (– some connections stay curled or are too stiff, or even have rough joins).
My knitting routine – well I always intend to keep full notes as the work progresses, as well as take photos of the finished product – I don’t always succeed but am getting better. I try to have a second project lined up, as I find this encourages me to finish the first one.
My particular skills are working with colour, with an ability to interpret and translate from an existing garment/picture to a new interpretation to suit a particular yarn or person.
I love teaching knitting – I have an ability to show how and explain, to show how to do the different stitches, how to add those little details that make a garment look professional, and encouraging others to become good at knitting and creative in their own right.