We chat to renowned knitwear designer Sasha Kagan whose books and designs continue to inspire hand knitters everywhere. A regular pattern designer for Woman’s Weekly, amongst others, Sasha tells us about her own journey into knitting, shares some of her biggest inspirations and offers some valuable tips for those who are new to the craft.
Can you tell us a bit about how you were first introduced to knitting?
I learnt the craft of knitting and crochet from my Mother, starting early age 4. Later I studied print making at the Royal College of Art, then having moved to Mid Wales I set up a hand knitting cottage industry; I have used the knitted canvas ever since!
How would you sum up the role that knitting plays in your life?
Knitting is a huge part of my life, I use it not only to create my livelihood but also to express my creativity. I rarely have the time these days to create whole garments, but still do much of my own swatching in the design process. It is a meditation for me, the rhythmic motion and the excitement of creating a finished design.
Do you remember the first thing that you knitted? Was it a proud moment?
The first thing I knitted was a scarf for my doll age 4, I was proud that it looked like a scarf!
“It is a meditation for me, the rhythmic motion and the excitement of creating a finished design”
What would you most like to knit that you haven’t made so far?
I am working on a bedcover made of 3D silk flowers, it’s going to be quite a mission but worth it!
What inspires and influences the designs that you create?
I love living in the beautiful landscape of Mid Wales, my garden is a huge passion and inspiration and I love good design.
What type of materials do you prefer to use?
I am always drawn towards natural fibers, preferably organically produced in the UK. In an ideal world I like to support small producers.
Of all your designs, do you have a favourite?
Oh it’s almost impossible to choose only one, my favourite changes all the time! I guess Pansy Chain has proved to be timeless and illustrates a floral design with movement, the latest version can be found in my new book “The Classic Collection” published by GMC.
Knitting in general is very much in fashion at the moment and enjoying a real resurgence, any thoughts or ideas as to why you think knitting dips in and out of fashion?
The overall trend of an added value in the hand made that is so prevalent today, was in my opinion partly started by the huge growth in the popularity of knitting that occurred a few years ago. I think hand knitting is here to stay; hopefully the greater appreciation of the craft process and quality of experience has become part of our culture.
Who are the people who have or currently inspire you in the knitting/crochet world?
Recently I am enjoying the work of Collier Campbell, these are textile designs but I love their spontaneous painterly quality. Stephen West is a fantastic pattern writer, breaking new ground in modern shawl design, and some of the modern lace knitters are coming up with wonderful new stitches. Susan Crawford has also done wonders, translating vintage patterns into modern yarns.
One tip or piece of advice that you would give to those who are just starting out with knitting?
First learn the basics, then work up your techniques to gain confidence in your abilities. I wrote “Knitting for Beginners,” published by Carroll and Brown for those of you who are starting to learn. I have just designed a beanie and mitten set, with an individual motif. A starter knitting kit for people to try out intarsia, available from my website.
What type of things do you personally enjoy knitting the most?
When I have the time I love to knit for my grandchildren, or gifts of knitted flowers for my friends.
“I think hand knitting is here to stay; hopefully the greater appreciation of the craft process and quality of experience has become part of our culture”
The art of yarn bombing has been in the news a lot recently, one Swedish crochet artist covered a whole train in multicolored yarn – do you consider this emerging trend to be an art form? Is it something that interests you?
Yes it’s amazing how popular this has become, wonderful that the art of knitting is being translated into conceptual art.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add…
I feel hugely grateful to have had a design career in the world of knitting, and it gives me great pleasure that it is so popular today….. knit on!