Indie Designer of the week: Marie Wallin
This week we had a chance to chat with Marie Wallin about her gorgeous home decor and garment patterns, where she got started, and how you too can be a knitwear designer. You can see all of Marie’s patterns by clicking here.
Hello Marie, we are so excited to speak with you! The first question is always the hardest – tell us a little bit about yourself and where you came from.
I left full time employment as Head Designer for Rowan in May 2013 to start my own design company ‘Marie Wallin Designs Ltd’. At the time I was still contracted to do the same job for Rowan but then at the end of April last year I became very ill after suffering a heart attack! This was obviously a life changing event for me and I decided to cut my workload with Rowan right down. So from September 2014, I was no longer Rowan’s Head Designer and I’m now only contracted to produce some designs and art direct a couple of photography shoots per year for them. I must admit, I’m so much happier now and a lot less stressed, which only has to be a good thing!
I now self publish my own books – Windswept, Lakeland and Filigree are the three that have been launched so far. My fourth book ‘Once Upon a Time’ – a vintage inspired children’s collection will launched on the 1st May. I also hold very popular creative workshops from the village hall in my home village in Leicestershire and I’ve just launched my new kits at Unravel and these will be available in my new online shop, which hopefully will go live in April.
Every year, for about six weeks, I also teach the 2nd year students on the BA Hons Fashion Knitwear and Knitted Textile course at Nottingham Trent University. I normally brief them on a specific project using Rowan yarn. I love doing this, it’s always a great pleasure to teach young enthusiastic people!
How did your career in knitwear design begin – what was your first design?
I did a degree at Leicester Polytechnic, now DeMontfort University. I graduated in 1986 after being awarded a First Class Hons degree from the BSC Hons Textile and Knitwear Technology course. My first job was working for a small design led knitwear manufacturer in Nottingham (sadly no longer there). Eighteen months later, I left to form my own knitwear label. I designed and made machine and hand knit garments, which I sold mainly into stores in the US and Japan, as well as several small shops and galleries in the UK. I was doing very well and then I met my husband to be, and I decided to settle down and get a ‘proper’ job! I went back into commercial knit design by initially taking a job as a sock designer. I absolutely hated it and left after six months! I then joined a Leicestershire knitwear manufacturer as their mens knitwear designer and I stayed there for over twelve years, until I joined Rowan in 2005….the rest they say is history!
The first patterns I ever wrote were for designs in my final degree collection. The collection was based on the work of modern artist, Piet Mondrian.
Do you prefer designing homeware or garments?
I like to design garments and homeware but obviously I produce far more garment designs.
Are there specific techniques you like to incorporate in your designs that you might feel is your signature addition to a design?
I suppose I am renowned for my beautiful colour work in both patterns and crochet, so perhaps I use a lot of Fair Isle!
Your Fair Isle designs certainly are stunning – and sometimes deliciously complex! What’s the most complex project you’ve designed?
Probably the one I’m working on now! It’s the design for my exciting new venture called ‘Fairisle Club’. In this club you will be able to make a large throw/blanket made up of 12 individual Fair Isle squares, all knitted using Rowan Felted Tweed. It’s not a mystery blanket club, as I will be publishing the photographs of the finished blanket before the start date. You will be able to subscribe to the whole 12 months in one go with a discount or pay monthly. Each month, I will be sending out the patterns of each square and then sending out the yarn probably every 3 months (but I’ve not decided that yet). I’m hoping to start it on the 1st September with a view to open it for online booking from the 1st July.
What tips would you give someone looking to begin a career in knitwear design?
I would highly recommend to complete a design related degree, as you really need to know the fundamentals of design and designing to fit a body!
What do you design to fit yourself and your home?
I really enjoy knitting and crochet and these days I can’t just sit still and do nothing! I always have to be knitting and crocheting, usually something I currently working on for a workshop or book. I rarely have time to knit for myself, I started a cable sweater for my husband over 18 months ago and I’ve still only managed to get halfway up the front!
We all know the pain of UFOs – Unfinished Objects, that is! It’s difficult when you’re busy – speaking of which, what are you focused on now, and what do you have planned?
I’m currently planning the photography shoot for my children’s book, ‘Once Upon a Time’. It’s a collection of 16 designs for children (aged between 2 and 10 years), and is full of vintage inspired Fair Isle and cable knits. I’m photographing it at the Great Central Steam Railway’s Quorn and Rothley stations. It’s going to be fun as long as the kids behave! Two are my great nieces, so there’s no guarantee of that!
As already mentioned, I’m also currently working on my new ‘Fairisle Club’. I have a fifth book called ‘Autumn’ planned to be launched on the 1st October. This is a womens wear collection of my signature Fair Isles and arans (I’ve yet to design it). I’m also planning a winter crochet book, but I don’t know when this will be launched yet. In between all this, I still have some design work to do for Rowan Mag 59 and I’ve been asked to design a collection using one of their new 2016 summer yarns!
I would be Rowan Felted Tweed. It’s a sophisticated yarn which still retains a certain rusticity…a bit like me!
Last updated: March 26th, 2015.