Your Yarn Story: Renée Callahan of EastLondonKnit

Your Yarn Story: Renée Callahan of EastLondonKnit

Renée has been to AYS to teach a few times already and I thought it was time you got to know a bit more about her. She is a knitwear designer and teacher extraordinaire with a background in fashion design. As a teacher Renée is patient and able to adapt to any students needs and as a designer she's inspiring and thoughtful. Her garments are designed to fit and meant to be worn, her shawls are works of art and her patterns well written and easy to follow. What more could you ask for in a knitwear designer?

Here is a little more about Renée and how she came to be a hand knitting enthusiast.

Q: What is currently on your needles?

I have so much good stuff on the needles right now! I started the year with a bit too much enthusiasm and now am slightly overwhelmed by my pile of wips (works in progress). I was keen to take part in the Blackerpodkal, so I cast on a new sweater design in Tamar DK, and I'm working on a cardigan design in The Wool Kitchen 4-ply. My transport knitting is one of several hats I cast on to send to Knit Aid for refugees. There are works in progress in every room of my house.... sometimes more than one...

Q: When did you start knitting? Who taught you?

Strangely enough, I didn't start knitting until I began a degree in fashion design with knitwear. We learned on machines and I came to hand knitting on my own, with loads of help from youtube and a sympathetic tutor.

At college, I found a dvd of Elizabeth Zimmerman's hidden in a back corner of the library and because craft was really not the cool thing in fashion college, I really believed I had discovered this super obscure video no one had ever seen. Little did I know....

Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?

There are so many things to love about knitting! I have found my people through the craft and am grateful for that. I love how it is one of those gifts that keeps giving--there is always more to learn, and the satisfaction of creating something beautiful and useful never wears off.

Q: Do you have a favorite thing to knit? 

Cardigans, sweaters, shawls... the list goes on. The only thing I can't seem to get into is socks, which is weird, because I have knit a few pairs and really like wearing them.

Q: What is the last project you completed?

I knit a basic rib hat with 2 ends of DK held together for Knit Aid. I can knit one in an evening or two, and there is something pretty satisfying about that. Especially when my design-work knitting is being, er, problematic.

Q: You own a yarny business, how did you get started with EastLondonKnit?

After I graduated from fashion college, I had the opportunity to purchase some industrial knitting machines. Dubieds are really gorgeous antique machines that are rare and often very expensive, so when I was presented with the chance to buy a set of beautifully preserved machines, I couldn't say no. I found studio space in Hackney Wick, and named the studio EastLondonKnit, where I worked for several years making samples for fashion designers and helping fashion students with knitwear.

After the Olympics, studio rents went up considerably, and I decided it was time to pursue my hand-knitting dreams, taking the name EastLondonKnit with me.

Q: Where do you get inspiration from?

I find many things inspiring--yarns, abstract ideas, stitch patterns, natural forms, art. Much of my inspiration is an attempt to solve a problem. Often that problem is; I have nothing to wear, what would I love to wear right now?

Q: If you could only knit with one yarn for the next year, what would it be? In other words what is your current yarn crush?

It is a close run race between The Fibre Company's Cumbria and Kettle Yarn Co.'s Islington really. They are both gorgeous yarns that you could knit forever and not be tired of.

Q: How has knitting effected your life? or What role does knitting play in your life?

Knitting has taken over my life. And I couldn't be more pleased about it :)

Renée will be teaching Brioche Basics and Next Steps as well as Learn to Knit Fair Isle this February.


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