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Article: Liadain Aiken - Merino Knitwear

Liadain Aiken - Merino Knitwear

Liadain Aiken - Merino Knitwear

Tell us a little bit about what you make

I knit things – hats, mittens, scarves, jumpers, landscape pictures and blankets. Everything is made on hand driven knitting machines and is fully fashioned, which means each piece is made to shape and hand finished. I love making something especially for someone so with each row and stitch I think of them. I use merino wool from Donegal yarns, it’s great to use an Irish company, their colours are so stunning from the earthy landscape colours to a group I call ‘the party yarns’ that really pop.

Could you describe your studio to us? What is your favourite thing about the space and how do you get into the mindset of making?

My studio is on the quays in Dublin. The knitting room overlooks the river Liffey, so I love watching the rise and fall of the river and often day dream of the green of the moss on the waterline. Mossy green is one of the colours that really makes me feel alive. I share the space with 4 women who are in fashion, knitwear and jewellery. It’s wonderful to be able to sound board ideas off them, we all support each other and the space works really well for us. 

I usually get laptop things out of the way first thing and then move onto knitting. Some days I love to just sit at the machine and knit a few new hat colour combinations or a freestyle pattern. It’s good to let yourself be free in creating from time to time and choosing colours is my favourite part of the process.

What is your favourite tool and why? Where do they come from?

I have a few specific favourite tools, one is an orange handled transfer tool that came with one of the machines. Again a colour thing, bright orange cheers me up. Another tool is a grey hexagon handled latch hook tool, my aunt gave it to me along with a knitting machine that her mother owned. Amazing to be handed down machinery that still works a treat knowing your family once created things with it. Lastly this funny story… my best pal gave me a voucher for a wool shop, I went there and asked if they had any linking machines for sale (a linking machine is a hand-driven machine that is used to join the seams of garments, like a sewing machine but more suitable for wool), they didn’t usually sell them but a lady had just called in the day before saying she was selling her one, it was in perfect condition and cost exactly the price of the voucher. When little things like that fall into place you know you are going on the right path.

Can you describe the making process and inspiration behind your knitwear

Choosing colour is my favourite part of the process. I have two inspirations, the earthy nature colours that somewhat fulfil my desire to make myself really small and be able to live in a home made out of moss, failing that thus far, it’s cosier to create an oversized moss green jumper to bury yourself in. The other is selecting irreverent combinations, ones that pop and clash, are so nearly wrong that they are just right. My inner child delights in colour, I used to leave the house some days and look down at myself and think, Uh Oh I’m a colour mess, now I embrace it and hope that I can bring a smile and some fun into the world.  

The other part of the process is quite technical. I design patterns on paper like in dress making, and then convert it into stitches and rows. It usually takes about 3 goes to perfect a pattern.  Knitting is a slow process, of course using the machines is faster than hand-knitting. I get a kick out of pernickety processes like the intarsia technique I use for the landscape imagery, it’s tedious but so satisfying.

What led you to choosing this craft as a profession? What do you love most about it?

Like a lot of creative people, my path to knitting was quite a meandering one.  After studying Interior Design in college, I knew after a stint of commercial and kitchen design that it wasn’t for me.  I have always loved nature and all the textures that the land offers us. After a stint of travelling through many varied landscapes from the lushness of New Zealand to the raw beauty Bolivia combined with their colourful native dress, I was filled with inspiration. I return home to seek a new path and immediately started hand crafting – making hobby horses and jumpers. I’ve always been into sustainability and found it difficult to find ethical fabric, then I came back to wool. Wool as a raw material sat well with me, it’s durable, ethical and warm. Coming from a family of knitters it’s not surprising and I had always been obsessed with wool jumpers as a kid. I went to Knit-1 in Brighton for an intensive course in domestic machine knitting and absolutely loved it.  I work in the ethos of the ‘Slow Fashion Movement’, making each piece to order so it’s cherished for a lifetime. It embraces craft and function over trends and throwaway culture.

 Liadain's hats and handwarmers are available to purchase through our online shop. 

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