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Welcome to Dee Hardwicke’s creative world

Welcome to Dee Hardwicke’s creative world

Dee Hardwicke's The Knitted Fabric brims with artistic inspiration. The pages are filled with patterns for gorgeous knitwear and joyful pieces for the home, giving you a glance into the creative world of Dee Hardwicke's. Illustrated throughout with beautiful watercolours and painterly photography, The Knitted Fabric brings the pages of Dee's sketchbooks to life. 

Learn more about the process of making the book, and what are the tips Dee has to offer for anyone looking to knit her designs. 

Going through The Knitted Fabric is like stepping into the pages of your sketchbook and seeing how all your designs transform from two-dimensional art into gorgeous three-dimensional knits. Why was it important to illustrate this whole process for the reader?

I really wanted to involve readers in my entire creative process, inspiring them along the way! Whether I'm working on designs for knitwear, ceramics or stationery I begin by drawing or painting in my sketchbook. Sometimes I might sketch, say, an entire butterfly or flower but I'll often just begin with some simple mark-making, dabbing brushstrokes of colour onto the page and developing forms and palettes as I go. Anyone can do this – no matter how artistic they feel they are – and this is something I really wanted to convey in The Knitted Fabric.

2. The Knitted Fabric is a true passion project. What made you especially passionate about this book?

The knitted fabric concept is something that I'd been thinking about for some time. I'd been developing my ideas in my sketchbook but everything really started to come to life the moment I had my first meeting with Laine's CEO and Creative Director, Jonna. Jonna was not only on the same page as me but was with me for page after page!

It was wonderful to have Jonna sharing my dream for the book. The more we talked about the idea, the more excited we both became, so the book really is a passion project.

3. Colours are very important in your work. How do you approach the use of colours and how do you find your inspiration?

I'm incredibly lucky to live in a beautiful landscape here in Wales, where the colours change from day to day and from season to season. There's inspiration all around me. I travel frequently too, and wherever I go – whether that's journeying through a city by train or wandering around a park – I'll notice the way that light affects colours and shapes. It could be something as simple as the way some vibrant green moss contrasts with a stone-coloured wall that will inspire a new palette. 

When I'm teaching my Botanical Art Class for Knitters, I always encourage participants to really look at the the colours in their landscapes since it's amazing how much colour inspiration there is to be found.

4. How does knitting differ from other forms of art that you create? What is your main medium for art making?

Having trained in fine arts, my 'go to' is always drawing and painting but I also love creating knitted swatches as a way of experimenting with palettes and textures. I've always embraced the Arts & Crafts concept of creating pieces that are beautiful and useful, so I love the fact that something like a sweater or a wrap can actually be worn and used, rather than just being admired as a work of art. Knitting brings together art and making in a really special way, and it's also something that you can share with people, so it's very inclusive.

5. How is this book different from the other books you’ve done so far?

I feel I have so many stories to tell, and ideas to share, that each of my books is different. One of the things I love about The Knitted Fabric is that two of its three chapters – Butterfly and Garden City – add to design stories that I embarked upon many years ago, so these really are the next chapters in the evolution of those stories. 

The third section of the book – Homecoming – celebrates the way that knitting brings all of my passions together, from art and making, to friendships and my love of the landscape. At the same time, I feel that the idea of Homecoming is opening the door to another aspect of creativity, so that's been a hugely exciting and very special aspect of The Knitted Fabric too.

6. What sets this book apart from other knitting books is that it has a lot of home decor projects in it, on top of some knitted garments. What is it about designing home decor that inspires and intrigues you the most?

I love the whole concept of home, and one of my favourite things is being tucked up on the sofa or at the kitchen table – either in my home or in a friend's home – and chatting happily with a cup of tea or a glass of wine to hand. It's amazing how hours can simply disappear! It's this passion for home that has made it a natural progression for me to design pieces such as cushion covers and throws since they're the elements that make home such a wonderfully comfortable place to be. Again, I'm also really inspired by the Arts & Crafts ethos of creating pieces that are useful and beautiful.

7. Where do you usually work? How do you keep your workspace inspiring?

I work from my home studio in the Welsh countryside, with spectacular scenery all around me. I try to make time each day to walk down to the river, and even though the route is one that I've taken for more than 25 years, there's something different to admire every day. I frequently bring things back from these walks – for example, I came home recently with two eye-catching twigs that I found on the path and that instantly made me think of antlers. I popped them into a jar and every time I catch sight of them, I feel inspired. My latest thought is that they'll be a perfect addition to a display of festive foliage but I'm sure I'll have all sorts of other ideas too.

I have a vintage bottle-drying rack on one of the walls in my studio and I use that as an ever-changing moodboard  I'm constantly playing around with things – adding balls of yarn, knitted swatches, sketches ... and twigs! – so that's a wonderful source of inspiration from day to day.

I never really seem to be short of inspiration and I actually find knitting a really helpful way to slow down, centre and have a chance to process the creative thoughts that tend to fill my mind.

8. Many of the projects in your book are detailed and require some level of patience from the knitters. What is your advice for someone knitting projects from this book? Any tips or tricks?

These are projects to really take your time over so they're lovely to have alongside quicker knits. Try to avoid setting yourself a deadline, and simply enjoy immersing yourself in your chosen project whenever the time feels right. You'll need to concentrate but you'll be so richly rewarded when you see how beautiful the results are. 

Each piece really is like a work of art that you can use, enjoy and treasure for years to come. As I explain in the book, the quilt and wrap patterns are very versatile and you can always knit smaller versions to make a lap blanket or scarf if you're not sure that you've got time to knit the entire pattern. Simply decide how many repeats to cast on your needles and how long to knit your 'fabric'. I'd love to think, though, that once you're completely absorbed in your knitting, you really won't want to stop!

Order your copy of The Knitted Fabric!

Photos: Dee Hardwicke & Laine Publishing