Designer Spotlight: Helen Sharp
This week we are thrilled to introduce our readers to Helen Sharp, creator of The Knitting School in Seattle.
1. What was it about knitwear that inspired you to create a whole career around it?
It was not really planned. I was at art school in England and wondering where to study my degree. I knew I wanted to concentrate on fashion and was hoping to get into a London school. One of my instructors suggested I check out the new Knitwear Program at Nottingham Trent University. I went along and was so taken by the bizarre machinery and the room full of cones of yarn – sparkle! silk! mohair! the colors!!! I just applied to study there. I didn’t really know how to knit, wasn’t especially interested in knitwear, but it ended up being the best thing for me. I love creating the fabric and the garment, and I always feel sweaters are the emotional heart of a collection.
2. What lead to The Knitting School when you were successful with Knitwear Network, your knitdown design studio?
I burned out with the swatch studio. All the travel and constantly having to shovel ideas into the open mouth of the fashion industry! For so many years it was the best job in the world, and then it just wasn’t. One of the biggest challenges for me was hiring people who already knew how to use the machinery I had in my studio. I was having to get them from the UK, pay all the fees associated with bringing someone into the country and then could only have them for a year or 18 months. So it was always in the back of my mind to start a school.
3. Of all you do as owner of The Knitting School, what do you enjoy most?
The people who come through my studio are wonderful. I did not anticipate that I would get so much pleasure from meeting my students. I have made so many friends.
4. You offer a wide variety of classes, which is your favorite to teach and why?
One thing about machine knitting is that it seems to be a bottomless subject. After 40 years, I am still learning. And then of course there are advances in technology. The beginner class is the class where I can light a fire in a student and start to show them what a fascinating subject it is. The first day, everyone is overwhelmed, making mistakes, doubting their ability and on the morning of the second day, things start to sink in. I give everyone 30-45 minutes to repeat some things from the previous day and the room is quiet with each student absorbed in what they are doing. Wonderful!
5. Where do you find inspiration for your creative work?
You just have to be open to it, and the ideas can come from anywhere. A pile of laundry lying on the floor can inspire a color palette, the carpet at the airport can inspire a pattern, playing around on the machine and making a mistake can inspire a texture.
6. Where do you see your business in ten years?
Haha. I’m 57 so in ten years I might like to be retired! But probably still noodling around at something, writing my newsletter and knitting stuff just because I feel like it.
You can find Helen and The Knitting School below: