What goes around...
Little actions that we may not even remember can have a profound affect on other people's lives - or so I've been reading a lot recently in the sometimes platitudinous banners that grace social media sites.
Whilst doing the rounds at the show I ran into Susan Duckworth, who had a stand there. I'd met her on a couple of other occasions a few years before when BKEC (British Knitting Export Council) had sponsored our trips to the Pret. I'd always admired her work, she was a front-runner in the Brit knit revival and thoroughly deserved her reputation as one of Britain's leading designers. Browns, Whistles,The Beauchamp Place Shop, Dorothée Bis and Gudule were amongst her clients, as well as doing many one-off designs. I love her story of a couple of her earliest commissions. One was for a seven-foot American footballer, and another was for a dog - a tiny, pampered Yorkshire terrier that lived in Eaton Square. Sue says I made it a richly embossed padded and beaded winter jacket - but at the first fitting the poor creature collapsed under the weight!
It got me thinking though, one can never know what's going on inside the head of another. A smile, greeting, or simply having coffee served by a friendly waiter can make a big difference if you're feeling low, especially as with the everyday pressures of life, people often have less and less time, making everything such a rush.
Where's all this leading, dear reader, you'll be wondering. Well... knitting has been very kind to me, allowing me to make a living from something I love. However, there've been good and bad times. In 1988 our production company went bust. We were squeezed so much by our clients that in the end we were making a loss, even though the order book was overflowing. We lost everything, even our cars, but by some stroke of fate managed to hang on to our home, allbeit by our bootstraps.
I was put in a position where I had to start allover again as an independent designer, without the cushion of guaranteed production, plying my wares on the open market. I needed to establish my own line again which had been seriously neglected while doing so much design and production for large international companies. It had been quite a few years since I attended the New York Pret. We were seriously strapped for cash and were debating whether or not we could stretch to the plane fare even. It was decided we could, but couldn't afford a stand or accommodation. So what to do next?
After a little deliberation it was decided I'd just get on a plane with some sweaters and walk the floor of the show, trying to get some business. I stayed with a friend of a friend and it was a far cry from the many other times I'd been to New York, when I was working with Polo/Ralph Lauren and other international luminaries and staying in hotels like the Mansfield.
|This multi-coloured cable is another one...|
|Green and russet lattice...|
|Sue also makes fabulously whimsical toys,|
including birds based on this design
We got talking and I told her what had happened and why I didn't have a stand and she immediately offered, without any hesitation, to give up a corner of her stand to show my work. I was absolutely flabbergasted and overwhelmed with gratitude, in fact even as I write this it's hard not to feel emotional after all these years. Such spontaneous generosity! From Sue's kindness, I got enough orders to kickstart the business again. I've never had a chance to tell her how important it was to me so I hope she reads this.
|Unlikely coupling of roses and leopard spots|
|One of Sue's fabulous tartans|
Our paths have crossed a few times In the intervening years and Sue has guested on our tours a couple of times. We also ran a week's knit retreat together in 2010 in the Charante Maritime in France. Sue is a true process knitter who personifies happiness through knitting. A woman of many talents, she also works part-time in a boxwood topiary nursery. Sue says ‘it makes a good balance to be outside sculpting box come rain or shine and then working on my knitting in my cosy workshop’. Sounds to me like she’s got the balance right. All the innovative swatches shown above are on her website - pay a visit and view more of her gorgeous, often whimsical, ever colourful designs.
Tues 3 Jan Wendy Knits Wendy Johnson
Wed 4 Jan Knitgrrl Shannon Okey
Thurs 5 Jan Yarnagogo Rachael Herron
Fri 6 Jan The Knitter Rosee Woodland
Sat 7 Jan Rhythm of the Needles Joanne Conklin
Sun 8 Jan Knit Purl Gurl Karrie Steinmetz
Mon 9 Jan Craft Sanity Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood
Tues 10 Jan Planet Purl Beth Moriarty
Fri 13 Jan Knit 1 Chicago Lynn Coe
Sat 14 Jan Go Knit in your Hat Carol Sulcoski
Sun 15 Jan Redshirt Knitting Erika Barcott
Mon 16 Jan In The Loop Cheryl & Ellen
Tues 17 Jan WEBS Kathy Elkins
Wed 18 Jan Zeneedle Margene Smith
➤Thurs 19 Jan Knitspot Anne Hanson
Fri 20 Jan Urban Yarns Alexa Ludeman
Sat 21 Jan A Friend to knit with Leslie Friend
Mon 23 Jan Tentenknits Margaux Hufnagel
Tues 24 Jan Fancy Tiger Crafts Amber Corcoran
Wed 25 Jan Chic Knits Bonne Marie Burns
Thurs 26 Jan The Panopticon Franklin Habit