We are pleased to announce the icing on the cake for our makeUp workshops.......Nikki Gabriel will be heading over from New Zealand to present a week of Construction knitting workshops as well as launch her new recycled yarn range called WOOLI ! Nikki will host workshops from the 26-28th of July at Harvest Workroom whilst simultaneously hosting a pop up shop selling WOOLI yarn and Construction patterns, the shop will run from the 26-29th of July stay posted for more details. To find more out about Nikki we asked her a few questions about the WOOLI yarn and her practice as a textile designer.....
Hi Nikki, can you tell us about the Nikki Gabriel brand?
After graduating from RMIT Diploma of Textiles in 2001 I experimented with some lace techniques on the knitting machine and made a few garments. I plucked up enough courage to show Husk and they bought the collection. I made progress as a business after that first season, as sales grew and all of a sudden I had to employ knitters for production.
My focus from early development of the business was always to maintain an artisan hand-made and sustainable approach where possible, avoiding the traps of a manufactured look in a product that’s usually unavoidable with business growth. This is because I want to keep a balance of personal creativity and satisfaction within a sustainable business growth pattern. Essentially this means I still hand-make part of every garment that goes into store, as a lot of the finish and technique is too difficult or specialized to outsource. Part of this creative process too is in the development of new work from raw material stage by experimenting with new ways of approaching old and traditional handcrafts, such as dyeing, spinning, felting and knitting.
I’ve always knitted and made things from really young; this creativity was only a pass-time in scrapbooks & notebooks while travelling, waitressing and doing fuck -all really.
I began a little business designing bed-linen while I lived in Sydney and it was reasonably successful as I sold to places like Holy Sheet, but it was really when a friend gave me her old knitting machine that got me hooked; as I started making blankets and cushions like crazy. I wanted to learn how to do more than striped patterns, so when I moved to Melbourne I enrolled at RMIT.
Your kits are based on the concept of construction and modular garments…can you go into a little more detail about this?
The construction knitting system started as a way of simplifying instructions to my knitters for my own collections by using diagrams to illustrate a construction. Because the format of conventional knitting patterns are unnecessarily complex to read, it gave me an idea to create a clearer and more minimal approach to knitting patterns. I collaborated with my husband and graphic designer Anthony Chiappin to produce a design for a DIY market. The patterns show how to transform simple geometric shapes into garments, and how to further build on those garments, reconstructing them into something new, by adding extra knitted shapes. I wanted to have a broader audience with this project by using graphic design as the communication tool. And I had a desperation of wanting to shift the perception of knitting from that of nostalgic craft that’s time-consuming, to one that’s a design concept more relevant to our everyday culture, that’s quick, gratifying and good value.
You have just launched a new range of “Recycled Yarn”. How did you go about developing this product and what raw materials go into the yarn?
The bespoke yarn project really began before the patterns; as I wanted to design the construction using my own materials. By necessity, but by entire default the process led to me sourcing fleece directly from growers, choosing it at bale stage and taking it to a backyard mill for spinning. Being so close to the production at all stages was a massive learning curve. Now that I’m living in New Zealand I have access to one of the last small spinning mill operations in the Southern Hemisphere, where I can get my wool processed according to my specifications. It was at this mill that I spied all their waste fibre that normally goes to landfill. Bales of rainbow coloured fibre just sitting there; Cashmere, Silk, Wool, Alpaca & Possum. I convinced them to sell it to me and spin it into a roving style bulky yarn, which I’ve called WOOLI. It’s a really lovely yarn as its full of good stuff / its got a lovely luster & luxurious softness from the silk and cashmere, and it’s both warm and lofty from the alpaca, wool and possum.
What colours are available in this range and what was the dyeing process used for any colours featured?
The yarn has a heathered effect with a specs of multicolours spotted throughout a base of Greige (all the colours mixed together). I have hand-dyed them in batches of black and grey / and red which makes a warm burgundy. The multicolour specs still show through the colours, which gives it a tweed effect.
Can you tell us about your studio/workspace and your relationship with it?
My studio is in my house / I live in a remote sea-side town on the North Island of New Zealand surrounded by sheep farms and the sea. It’s an rambling old terrace house and I have two rooms that I work from upstairs, and a messy backyard with a large dye vat and undercover area for yarn skeins to dry. I have an assistant that comes in once or twice a week to help wind skeins into balls and package yarn. Knitters drop in everyday to pick up and drop off knitting. I try to keep my space in a good sense of order as being naturally scatter-brained it helps my days run smoother.
Thanks Nikki for your time. We are all really looking forward to having you in the Workroom this month. For more photos of Nikki's studio check out our flickr.