As we continue to explore the world of handcrafted knitwear, we’re always delighted to come across fellow designers such as Flora Collingwood-Norris, @collingwoodnorris. Her vibrant designs and attention to detail speak to the craftsmanship you’ll find in each piece. And not only is she a fellow knitter, but a fellow darner! She offers her services as a mender, and also some fantastic online resources for how to mend your own knits here. Be sure to check out her work. Read our Q&A below to learn more about Flora, her brand and interest in darning.
The Endery: Tell us about yourself.
Flora Collingwood-Norris: I’m a knitwear designer and maker based in Galashiels, in the Scottish Borders. I have my own label, Collingwood-Norris, where I design and make colourful accessories made with high quality natural fibres, mostly lambswool. I also work with a small local mill, who create pieces in small batches for me. Last year I launched a visible mending service to repair well-loved knitwear and save it from landfill. This year, I launched some digital mending tutorials and a digital mending workshop, as all my in-person workshops were cancelled due to the pandemic.
TE: How did you learn to knit?
FCN: I’ve been learning to knit since I was 6. My mum taught me the basics of hand knitting, but I also learnt them at school. I then continued to teach myself using books – I spent my free time teaching myself new stitches, as well as crochet and embroidery. I then went on to university and studied textiles, specializing in knitwear, where I learnt how to use knitting machines. One of the things I love about knitting, crochet etc., is that there is always more to learn, and more to try.
TE: How does knitting (or your craft!) help you?
FCN: Knitting and crafts in general are my happy place – it calms me, focuses me, and I enjoy being able to create something from concept to resolved outcome. It’s very satisfying!
TE: Tell us about how you deal with your ‘ends’ – the leftovers when you’re done with knitting. Do you have any creative ways of using them?
FCN: I don’t have much in the way of end cones. When I’m making pieces myself, I can knit almost to the very end of a cone of yarn, and if there’s anything left it’s enough to use as darning wool, putting in pom poms, or for linking. If I have more substantial amounts left, and I don’t think I’ll be able to use them, I generally give them to students at my local university.
TE: Why do you think craft is important in today’s society?
FCN: I think that creating things teaches you to value the skills and time it takes to make something. I hope that with the growing interest in craft, people will move away from fast fashion, as it will become clear that clothing that is that cheap will have involved exploiting people. I hope it will also mean that people will start to place higher value on craft skills and craftsmanship.
TE: Tell us something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know.
FCN: I play the clarsach (Scottish harp). It used to be a huge part of my life, but has now very much fallen into the background as my time is taken up with knitting!
TE: How do you feel wearing a handmade garment as opposed to something mass-produced?
FCN: I love it. It always feels more special. I’m increasingly trying to buy from other small businesses and makers, so the handmade items I have are made by people I’ve met, which makes them even better. They’re pieces I want to tell people about, to show off – even if it’s just pajamas!
TE: Why do you think visible mending important and what does that mean to you?
FCN: I’ve been visibly mending for about 4 or 5 years now, ever since I got a puppy who loved chewing my jumpers! It’s a great way of keeping your clothing for longer. As a society, we produce a scary amount of textile waste that goes to landfill each year. Visible mending is a way of celebrating those flaws or holes, instead of throwing something out.
It’s become a creative outlet for me and I love it – I find it really relaxing. It’s also given me a new connection to the pieces I’ve repaired, so they feel like new items in my wardrobe.
TE: What is your experience with alpaca?
FCN: I briefly did some work for a local alpaca trekking company who wanted to create some knitted accessories that people could buy after their trek, made with yarn that could be directly traced back to each individual animal. They weren’t breeding the alpacas for yarn specifically, and were still trying to improve the spinning, so it was very mixed quality! Much as I like it, I still prefer working with wool.
TE: And finally, what can you recommend to someone who is new to darning?FCN: My workshops! I have tried to create tutorials that are very clear, and will help people create a nice looking and practical repair. I think the main thing to remember is that anyone can do it!