Its been a little while since I shared a creative post. I absolutely love talking to people about things that make them tick, their passions. And, quite honestly, what excites me most is creativity in all forms, people making something from component parts, whether they be clay, paint, yarn or anything in-between.
Today I am sharing a conversation with Kate of Oubas Knitwear. I think her designs are simply beautiful, from wraps to homewares by way of a hat and gloves or several – I hope you’ll agree. As always though I will let Kate do the talking…
please introduce yourself
Hello! I’m Kate, I’m 29 and live and work in rural Cumbria. When I’m not designing and making I love getting outdoors and exploring—myself and partner Sam have a black Labrador Bella who either comes to the studio with me, or goes to Wasdale in the Western Lake District with Sam (he works for the National Trust).
Oubas is based in a studio in the village of Witherslack. Here is almost a second home to me, and is where the majority of the knitwear is made. There are other workshops around me, and the unit where I work is part of a large country house which has been converted into business units/art studios. It’s a little community.
tell us a little about Oubas Knitwear and how it began
It all stems from a desire to create clothing in a slower, more thoughtful way, to take time over making and explore a design journey. I studied at Winchester School of Art, and at the time read a lot around the negative impact the fashion industry has both on the environment and humanity. Particularly resonating was the book ‘Design Journeys’ by Kate Fletcher; I remember it really making me think about slow fashion, local products, and about the change which needed to come around. I thought about what was on the high street as a young adult, and where and how clothing was made.
I worked for TOAST in south Wales after graduation, and then moved back to Cumbria to found my own label, producing garments in a studio on old knitting machines, and connecting directly with customers and the community around me.
please tell us about your company ethos
The core value of Oubas Knitwear is to create quality, well designed pieces, which are made in Britain using the finest yarns and materials. With a focus on craftsmanship and traditional techniques. We share with our customers a strong desire to buy well, and to invest in products that are of good quality, and are beautiful due to being made of natural materials. This creates an ethos of buying less and looking after what you have.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by people who question the status-quo and who are passionate about what they do. I’m inspired by other designers and makers and the resurgence that this is having recently. It’s really exciting.
I look all the time at design outside of the knitwear world – I tend not to look a lot at knitwear design! If I do then I look towards heritage pattern, a lot of eastern European patterns, from Estonia/Latvia.
The clean, subtle lines found in Scandinavian furniture design, the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi; that life is a journey and that there is beauty in it’s imperfections. I’m inspired by the beauty found in the every day. Whether that’s small details, like the moment of pouring milk in your tea or coffee and watching it cloud and swirl, or looking closely at colours and forms in nature, and in landscape. I like the contrast between an expanse of land and sky, and then looking closely at lichens and details.
please tell us a little about your creative process
Ideas may start slowly, and form from shapes I wear or ideas of colours and patterns I’ve seen in details around me. Sometimes this can be a surprisingly quick process, as I realise that subconsciously whilst I work/knit, I’ve been thinking things over and designing in my mind.
I’d sketch up a shape first, and work out how it would knit, in panels, the direction of the knit etc. I work out the details of construction and how it would fall on the body. With patterns I sketch them out on squared paper first, and then make sure they’ll repeat when put into a larger fabric.
I work on a fine gauge industrial knitting machine, which was reconditioned for us in 2012 and brought down from Hawick to the studio. I also have a few standard gauge machines, and a linker which sews the panels of knit together using yarn instead of thread. This linking process catches each stitch and creates a neat finished edge.
Often products are made 2 or 3 times before the pattern is set and it’s produced and part of the collection. Some pieces we have produced in limited runs in Scottish mills, which is a great way to keep learning and exploring our possibilities, and to work in collaboration with really skilled technicians and craftspeople. It’s important for me to keep these skills alive.
and finally, where can we find your beautiful knits?
The current collection can be found online at oubasknitwear.co.uk.
We’re also at shows through the year and sell through a select number of stockists who share our values, which we’re looking to grow over the next few months and into next year.
After Kate and I first chatted she shared with me this beautiful video. So much of Kate’s ethos resonates with me and I really hope it does with you too.
Images in this post as follows: –
1, 2 & 4 ©Rachel Hayton Photography
3, 5 & film ©Gokotta Film