Knitwear designer Jo Allport combines her extensive knowledge of knitting stitches with a love of wearable art to create a seemingly infinite collection of achievable designs. Beginner to advanced knitters will find something to love at just the right level of challenge to keep their creative spark alive. The result is beautiful, handmade knitwear that is unique to each maker.
How did you get started designing knitwear? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
There was definitely a “moment”. My design career is career number 3 – I left university to become a hydrographic surveyor, which I loved but hated being away such a lot, so went back to university to complete a master’s degree. Next was a career in business and IT, but after having babies, there just didn’t seem to be a creative outlet, so I started afresh once more. I’ve been designing for over 12 years now and have never looked back.
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What inspires you to create?
I’m always taking in my surroundings and thinking what I could do with a pattern, a colour, as well as a texture. I find our world such an inspiring place.
What is your favourite type of garment to design? Your favourite to make? Why?
I design all sorts of things, but I love designing jumpers! I love the challenge of the geometry, thinking how I can make something in my head into a commercial repeatable pattern that knitters can then re-create.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the art you produce?
It’s a process. I use a sketching app, which then gets translated into a paper version with lots of notes. And once the swatch has been knitted, its over to a spreadsheet to work out the maths. I then turn this into an understandable written pattern.
How does your environment influence your creativity?
I get inspiration from all areas, and sometimes it’s nice to mix it up a bit, so I go somewhere else or see something different.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I like to think that I create designs that people want to knit and am able to translate this into easily understandable patterns. I’m a real lover of slip stitch patterns, so you can find many of my designs that include this sort of stitch pattern. I love the fact that they tend to only work with one yarn at once – making it easy to work with.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new book, 10,000 Knitted Hats: Discover Your Own Unique Design Combinations?
That the knitter can create something unique, personal to them and all in a neat package. Knitting hats is a quick fix for those who like to create. And making it their own is very satisfying.
How did you get 10,000 hats into one book?
It’s maths really. 23 hats each with 3 combinations works out to over 10,000 different combinations
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I have a studio in my garden that is full of art, my mum’s paintings, and my extensive stash of yarn. I love that I can escape there and let my mind wander.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I have charts both online and in hard copy that I use almost daily, as well as an extensive range of needles, yarn and measuring tapes!
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I love journals and use both sketching apps and paper for developing my ideas.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I’m a music type of person for working on patterns, but if I’m knitting swatches, I love a good audiobook or play.
When you travel, do you create while on planes and in waiting areas? What is in your creative travel kit?
Socks! I always have a pair of socks on the go because they are such a portable project.
Tell us about a time when you truly stretched yourself as an artist.
Some of my more geometric designs have pushed my limits around how to create repeatable patterns.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
Both can be true. I think we all have the ability to create, but some lean towards this skill more than others.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
Mess! It’s very easy to become unstuck if my studio is in a mess, and this can happen in the blink of an eye if I’m searching through my yarn boxes. Luckily whilst it can get in a mess quickly, it can get tidied up quickly too.
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
I would probably like to have met Elizabeth Zimmerman or Barbara Walker. I find their books very inspiring (I have many of them!) and their knowledge must be expansive!
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My Ravelry page is the best place to see my designs – there is a great variety and knitters can get a flavour of what I design.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I teach knitting skills, both in terms of techniques and projects. I love to share my skills, so I enjoy teaching very much. Getting in touch with me is easy through Ravelry. https://www.ravelry.com/designers/jo-allport-2
Interview posted November 2022
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