Kate Box Knit studio sneak peek

I’m often asked about my knitwear making process, so I thought it would be interesting to share some behind-the-scenes insights with you.

It’s also really important to me that I show you just how much love, care and attention to detail goes into every item I make. There’s no fast fashion here! Knowing how much my customers appreciate the quality and traditionally crafted nature of my knitwear, makes me very happy!

Where I work

I work from my home-studio nestled in the beautiful South Downs, hand-making each garment on my 1970’s Brother domestic knitting machine. It was a present from my husband when I first left the Royal College of Art.

It’s been incredibly robust and the only thing I’ve ever had to do is give it a quick clean and change a few broken needles. My husband and I joke that when I really start knitting in earnest for Christmas, sparks sometimes seem to fly from it!

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 Every stripe requires a yarn change

My signature look is very soft lambswool, with carefully chosen coloured stripes, blocks and geometrics but having so many different coloured stripes and patterns does create a complex process. Each stripe requires a yarn change which although not complicated, can be time very consuming.

I’m often asked if I would be prepared to have a small factory make some of my pieces but most factories would be put off by the number of colours I use. Some pieces require as many as 40 yarn changes!

I should perhaps think about a simpler design but quality, colour and my signature stripes are very important to me – and I don’t want to compromise on those.

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Tying on new colour for a stripe colour change

Panels are sewn together

I knit up my designs in sections and then sew them together using my Brother sewing machine. Each stripe must be carefully matched up otherwise it can look mix-matched and mass produced.

Wristwarmers and neckwarmers are fairly quick to sew, but large wraps are incredibly time consuming and become such big pieces they are sometimes difficult to handle.

I love seeing each garment coming together at this stage in the process, they are still very raw. The knitted stitch stays very open and gauzy until they’ve been washed.

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Knitted panels are carefully sewn together

The felting process

Once my designs are complete, they have to be carefully washed in the washing machine for the felting process. It’s always a bit of a nerve-racking time as things can go very wrong! I suppose a bit like putting pots into a kiln.

I have had whole wash loads of wrist warmers felt together into a one big mass which then become unusable. There is no rhyme or reason for it. Having built up experience, I generally know how many things I can put into a load of washing to get a good result.

My biggest fear is my washing machine breaking down in the few months before Christmas and having to reacquaint myself with a whole new machine.

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I love working with wool

I love working with natural fibres. Lambswool is a highly-versatile, renewable fibre with the most wonderful texture and soft-hand feel. It’s also available in an array of beautiful colours. And because it’s a natural fibre, the colours have a real quality to them.

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Lambswool is such a beautiful, natural fibre.

Delighted customers make me happy!

As the cold weather kicks in, I am delighted to have received some truly lovely customer reviews – thank you so very much! Keep an eye on my Instagram Stories where I will share them.

Please do keep them coming and tag me @kateboxknit on Instagram along with the hashtag #staytoasty.

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Every tag, share, like or comment really does help us small businesses be more visible (and also supports me on my mission to keep people toasty warm in style this winter!).

SHOP THE RANGE

Caring for your knitwear......

Knitwear can last a long time if it’s cared for properly. With the advent of a new year and people making pledges to buy less and live more sustainably by looking after what they have, I thought a blog post on how to look after your knitwear might be welcome.  

Some of you may have been given a neck or wristwarmers for Christmas so I’m targeting this post on wristwarmers but most of these points will be applicable to any sort of knitwear.  

Wristwarmers in particular get a lot of hard wear, they stretch as your hands move and become dirty from picking up things and generally being worn! One of the ways in which you can bring them back to tip top condition is to give them a wash. 

Soak the wristwarmers in lukewarm and mild soap - I use Ecover Delicate but I’m sure there are other detergents which would be just as good. 

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Squeeze the soapy bubbles through the gloves but be careful not to agitate or rub too much as it will result in felting the wrist warmers further. Do not stretch or wring! 

Rinse in clean water until you cannot see anymore suds coming from the gloves.  

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I lie the wristwarmers out on a clean tea towel and gently use the towel to absorb any excess water and shorten the time it will take them to dry.

Again, it’s very important that you don’t wring them out as that will result in stretching and misshaping the gloves. Once all the excess water has been removed, reshape the gloves and pop them somewhere warm to dry flat. I pop all of mine in the airing cupboard on top of a pile of towels. Do not tumble dry! 

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Pressing can be done lightly with the iron set to a wool setting. You can carefully use a bit of steam to help with this process.  

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As the weather gets warmer and you no longer need to be wearing your knitwear, it’s advisable to give it one last wash and then store it away carefully. 

If anyone else has any tips on how to look after their knitwear I’d love to hear them?! 

My story........Kate Box Knitwear

I’m always fascinated to learn more about the amazing small business owners that I meet - to find out more about their personal stories and how they came to be doing what they do now. So, this week I thought it would be fun to kick-off my weekly seasonal blog with sharing a little bit about myself and my career path.

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I always knew I wanted to go to art college and started with a foundation course at Winchester to try out lots of different art and design disciplines. Textiles just clicked for me. I went on from Winchester to Chelsea college of Art where I did a degree in Textile design and then finally did an MA in Knitwear at the Royal College of Art.

 

My final collection at the Royal College of Art was spotted by the designers from Ghost and I was offered a 3-month placement with them over the summer. It was very creative and I worked on some one-off pieces for their catwalk show which was exciting. After my placement had ended there I took a job as a design assistant at Pringle which was very different, as you would imagine working in a large corporation to be. Designing was all about sales figures and what would be most commercial, I absolutely hated it but with hindsight I can see the benefit of gaining that experience. I was only there for a year when I got the job as design assistant to Orla Kiely which was a dream position. It was a hugely creative company that put emphasis on good design. The design team were well supported and looked after and Orla was/is an incredible designer.

 

After I had my daughter we knew that we wanted to move out of London and with that meant leaving my job at Orla Kiely. Moving to Hampshire was a new start and I accepted that that would mean moving my career in a different direction.

 

It wasn’t really a conscious decision to set up a business designing knitwear. I just sort of fell upon it by making things for friends and then finding a shop in my local town that would stock a few things that I was making. When I look back, the products to begin with were very hit and miss but things slowly evolved and I hope they keep evolving.

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I like to walk or cycle my children to school- I enjoy getting out for some fresh air before I start working. When I get home, I make a coffee and then normally tackle any emails that need doing as I’m much better at computer/written work first thing in the morning. I’ll start knitting on the machine around 10 and tune into Woman’s Hour. After that I’ve been known to knit and watch any type of gardening programme I can, Monty Don presenting if possible! At 3pm, I down tools and resume my other role as mum, collect children from school and normally offer a taxi service to football or Brownies. Once everyone has been fed, washed and put to bed the work will sometimes resume. I’m not one for working too late though as I really like my sleep!

 

I find colour and design quite intuitive, everything influences it subconsciously- exhibitions, seasons, films, etc. I’m not sure I could pin point one thing that is a big influence. I really enjoyed the Vanessa Bell exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery this year.

 

My favourite part of running my own business is definitely the flexibility around the children coupled with being my own boss. My least favourite is that it’s very difficult to turn off – it’s like having a third child that I’m always thinking about!

 

The best piece of business advice that I’ve been given? It’s better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly – Robert Schuller. I have to constantly remind myself of this quote!

 

If you haven’t entered already, at the moment I’m running a competition on Facebook to win a pair of wristwarmers - follow the link to be in with a chance! 

 https://www.facebook.com/KateBoxKnit/posts/1499580833463429:0

Knitting on!

Last week life returned to normal and for most of the week my view was very much like this........ 

or like this.  

I'm not complaining as this is life as I love it best - the making. I was working on a private commission for a lady who had specific colours in mind and I enjoyed the challenge of making the colours work together in a way that appealed to me too.  I finished this wrap on Wednesday and tried really hard to photograph the finished piece 'on me' but the selfie style photos in front of the mirror just didn't do it justice so I'll have to make do with these work in progress shots. 

In other news having had little opportunity to make it out into the garden due to the heavy downpours, everything has grown enormously in just the past week! The self sown fox gloves are almost on their way out now but still provide lovely accents of colour and the dark leaves of the Sambucus Nigra showcase the delicate flowers so beautifully.  

No shortage of colour inspiration for the forthcoming weeks! 

From Swinging Monkeys to Dachshunds.........

Having spent almost a month sitting at the kitchen table creating a website, and then a 'half term' week spent thinking up every indoor, wet play game imaginable, meant that on Tuesday, I awarded myself the day off and top of the list was a trip to Pallant House Gallery in Chichester to see the John Piper exhibition.  

Headed straight to the cafe for a cappuccino you can imagine my delight when I found out that the exhibitions currently on show extended to the cafe courtyard too AND they were knitted!

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I've always felt there is something quite magical about putting pieces that are normally reserved for inside - on the outside.......and vice versa. I love bringing in a real Christmas tree for this very same wonderful reason. This yarn bombing was a real treat, titled The Octopus' Garden by Julia Oak, it was very pleasant to share half an hour with a swinging knitted monkey and copious brightly coloured Pom Poms. It felt like sitting within children's story book and confirmed that life in an art gallery is never dull. 

After coffee I ventured upstairs to the John Piper exhibition. John Piper was one of the leading Modern British artists/designers of the 20th Century, best known for his paintings but also noted for his work as an accomplished designer of theatre sets, stained glass windows and textiles.* It was the textiles work I was so keen to see, especially the tapestries of which I have dabbled and am aware of the complexities and painstaking labour involved!

This group of tapestries were commissioned for the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford by a group of surgeons in 1986. Aren't the colours so vibrant? Most of the weaving work was executed at West Dean Tapestry Studios near Chichester. All these places are so familiar it seemed wonderful to think of John Piper wandering around West Dean gardens perhaps.  

This piece of fabric, screen printed cotton satin, designed in 1955 for David Whitehead Limited would seem very at home in any house today. I particularly liked this design. 

It was a small exhibition, just 3 rooms but well executed and displayed and such a treat not to have to go to London to see work of this quality. 

Ever since childhood the 'shop' at the end of an exhibition visit has always been something to look forward to and the Pallant House Gallery shop did not disappoint. It is a real treasure trove of amazing books, cards and interesting gifts.  This year my New Years resolution was not to leave all my Christmas shopping until the last minute and so upon seeing these quirky kits to 'make your own pet'  I swiftly purchased two for my own little monkeys. ;) 

So now,  'knitted work' at Kate Box HQ cannot be put off any longer - I have no more excuses and it will be hands to the needles for the foreseeable future! 

*Pallant House Gallery website.