Erika, we know you as an author of knitting and crochet books, tell us a bit more about your background
As a child I always had some sort of project that involved cutting, sticking, winding, sewing or making, but it wasn’t’ until my punk days at Art School that I really began knitting – making sweaters for all my friends with big ladders and safety pins, or inspired by my favourite artists, such as Bridget Riley and Vasarely. After a sojourn printing fabric for the fashion industry, I designed a small collection of hand knits which soon became a ready-to-wear brand, which I sold all over the world. This led to working with other designers and high street brands. I have always been involved in trend forecasting, and have always been fascinated about why people create, why they go beyond the practical to embellish and decorate. From this, I pitched to the idea of a knitting book based around the ‘square’ to a few publishers, before anyone even had a craft list – that was Simple Knits for Easy Living (published by Collins & Browns in 2000) and I am now writing my 25th (due out next year, published by Quadrille). Along the way the notion of one day designing and manufacturing my own yarns had always been high on my wish list.
I was involved in the textile industry when the big British retailers were moving production
off shore and so it had always been a long-held ambition to bring this back to Britain. I was able to do this in a small way, designing the British Sheep Breeds yarn collection with Rowan, and it was this which ultimately inspired me to collaborate with James Laxton,
who now spins my beautiful 100% British wools.
So, what makes your yarn different?
It is a very concise collection, consisting, at present, of only 4 yarns. It is important to me to know where the fibres come from, and to know all the processes they go through – from sheep to stitch.
Fur wool is a fabulous fancy yarn, which has now become a fashion classic, and 100% wool.
Maxi wool is a luxuriously soft yarn, because it is steamed twice. It is a super-chunky from the fleece of the Masham sheep. It takes colour beautifully and is therefore great to create quick knit accessories – such as the cable scarf or hat with pom pom from our ‘Knit it Tonight’ poster pattern.
Vintage is so-called due to its ‘old-fashioned’ twist, an Aran weight, again spun from the Masham sheep. This yarn is polar opposite to the smooth merino that has been popular for so many years, and will create a homespun character to your knitting.
And then of course, British Blue wool, the ultimate DK, spun from the best fleece that Britain has – the Blue-faced Leicester. This comes in delicious little 25g balls of
perfection – ideal for baby garments, and machine washable at 30 degrees.
How about design support?
I want people to try my yarn collection - so I have designed quick and simple projects for beginners – easy, starter knits that you will be able to finish, as well as garments and larger projects that require just a few more techniques, but that are still simple in style. I design for man, woman and home and along the way there are knits for baby that are timeless – and can be easily customised. There are single design leaflets, my trademark poster patterns and seasonal FREE postcard patterns, every now and then!
How did the collaboration with T. B. Ramsden come about?
I grew up with the Robin brand, designed for Wendy in the 1980s and had also used Twilleys in my own ready-to-wear collection; in fact it was with the help of Twilley's
dishcloth cotton that I got my knitters badge at Brownies! I have always highly regarded
the expertise and heritage of the brands under the Ramsden’s umbrella. Although our
paths had crisscrossed over the years at various shows and events, it was not until early summer this year, that we found ourselves on a balmy evening in Italy, enthusing over the latest trends at Pitti Filatti and sharing our passion for yarn; believing that we could join forces to create something new and exciting together, maximising our individual expertise and experience.
What can we expect for the future of the brand?
With T. B Ramsden distributing the yarn and patterns from their Guiseley warehouse,
I will have more time to focus on the creative stuff – more time to respond to your requests for more pattern support, and more time to get out and about for workshops and events and to spread the word about the brand and the wonders of wool. Watch this space for new exciting products and projects!
Of course, those of you that know me will probably guess that I am also itching to delve
into the Ramsden archives…
As it has been said before, we’re better together!