Lit Knits: 6 Local Designers Fashioning Some Of Our Most Beloved Autumn Woollens

It's the season to treat yourself to a vest that can stand alone

Monday Journal's honeycomb sweater. Photo / Supplied

Whether you'd rather bundle up in a button-down or a turtleneck, or something ensconcing and slouchy, these local labels offer a plethora of comfortable options in cosy yarns. 

MONDAY JOURNAL
Phoebe Paterson's handknitted offerings, including patterns and do-it-yourself knitting kits, are a swoon-worthy mix. Find mohair and merino, cropped and vest styles, gingham and honeycomb.

How long have you been knitting, and how did you get into it?
I was taught how to knit when I was younger by my Auntie who is an incredibly talented knitter, very rarely do you see her with idle hands. I started knitting again a few years ago, starting off with a scarf and then some chunky sweaters slowly altering patterns and designs and exploring my own style of knitting and what I wanted in knitwear. It's also ridiculously addictive and hard to stop once you catch the bug.

Where is your favourite place to knit?
At the moment, while it's nice and hot, I like to knit down beside the lake, or under a tree in the garden.

What led you to understand the style and the types of clothing you wanted to make?
I think it's just an extension of what I want in my own wardrobe, items which are simple yet practical and I know I can wear them daily. For this reason, I always try to opt for comfort and styles that can be worn year-round. I prefer to have slouchier, thinner knits that can be layered under a big coat in winter or by themselves on summer evenings.

What keeps you inspired?
The more I knit, the more I learn and it's this constant progression and challenge, which is exciting and inspiring and allows my style and designs to progress. Knitting has been around the block for a while now and I am definitely just scratching the surface on a technical level of what can be created. Old knitting books in op-shops are a treasure trove of inspiration.

What would you like to see for the future of craft in New Zealand?
I am really enjoying the rise in popularity that craft is getting and would love to see its continual growth. I think that the rise in demand for handmade items, whether that be knits or ceramics or jewellery comes down to a shift in a consumer mentality and that we are placing greater value on the items which we consume. I would love to see this way of thinking, quality versus quantity continue to gain momentum.

Monday Journal's blue checkered vest. Photo / Supplied

DOROTHY
Mother-daughter duo Anne and Lucy craft one-off, custom-made knits in an array of mix-and-match options, from asymmetrical stripe-sleeved button-downs to slouchy sweaters with delightful flower details.

How long have you been knitting, and how did you get into it?
Anne: Originally my mum taught me to knit when I was young — just the basics — but I have been designing and knitting garments on and off for about 40ish years but until 2017 pretty much just for friends and family.

Where is your favourite place to knit/design knitwear?
Anne: I'm often knitting on my couch but one of the things I love about knitting is how portable it is. I have been seen knitting in many places (I pretty much take it everywhere because I always love doing it and often have orders to catch up on).

What led you to understand the style and the types of clothing you wanted to make?
Lucy: There was definitely a move toward people wanting handmade, New Zealand-made items as we started Dorothy — that, paired with people wanting something unique, led us to create our one-off mohair knits.

What keeps you inspired?
Lucy: Our customers, the art world, nature.

What would you like to see for the future of craft in New Zealand?
Lucy: It would be great to see it continue to flourish — it’s very cool to see the younger generation joining in with the revival of craft. I hope that people’s interest in craft and locally made goods in New Zealand will grow, become more accessible, and ultimately help people to live more sustainable lives.

A custom-made sweater from Dorothy. Photo / Supplied

GEO KNITS SLOW
Geo Gregory hand-makes knits from repurposed fabrics in styles that feel as warm as they are irreplaceable, with the hint of an avant-garde edge that's made to turns heads. 

How long have you been knitting, and how did you get into it?
I have been knitting for over 10 years now, which is cool to think. I started hand knitting when I left university and joined a weekly knit class which was so much more than just learning to knit, it made me feel part of a community. I think this is such a nice way to learn to knit because you can all support each other when it gets a bit frustrating (and it definitely is at times) and ask each other for help.

Where is your favourite place to knit?
At the moment I am most comfortable on the floor. It means I can spread all my tools and fabrics out around me and make lots of mess when I'm making.

READ: Maungarongo Ron Te Kawa On Connection & Quilting

What led you to understand the style and the types of clothing you wanted to make?
The fashion industry has been in need of a new approach for a while and it's definitely slowly shifting. I knew it was important for me to try and find a way to knit with as little impact as possible and that informed my decision to only use fabrics that were already out there and considered as waste. I feel really passionate about collaboration and connection in my work, it has been a real gift working with peers/brands and learning from their approach to the industry, as well as getting to create stuff together using their offcuts.

What keeps you inspired?
My friends! I don't know if it's cheesy but I love people who are out there trying things and making stuff happen. It keeps me inspired to just keep going and not be scared of doing something new.

What would you like to see for the future of craft in New Zealand?
More spaces and groups for people to learn and showcase crafts. Things like the SLUG supermarket run by friend and talented designer JPalm in Pōneke are really important. She has created a really cool space to give makers and artists at all levels a chance to sell and show off their talents. I really love the workshop element included in the space  I'm a big fan of people sharing and learning new skills. Spaces like these are important as they build community, confidence and make space for opportunities. I hope more things like this keep on happening in Aotearoa.

A hand-made knit from Geo Knits Slow. Photo / Supplied

ITCHY KNITS
There's much to love about the mohair knits from Allie Buckley, not least their names inspired by their colours (think Lilac Wine, Pesto Pasta, Louise Cake, and Shaved Ice). 

How long have you been knitting, and how did you get into it?
I have been knitting for only two years. When the first lockdown was announced exactly two years ago in 2020 I had 48 hours to pack my life into my car and drive down to Whanganui where my mum lives. The only panic buying I did was for vintage and deadstock wool from a great little supplier down there. My beautiful, creative mum who knows how to do everything taught me how to knit when we had not much else to do over those two months. I knitted three sweaters, falling in love with one, in particular, that was made with an incredible grey and red mohair yarn, the fluffiest, most 80s thing you’ve ever seen.

Where is your favourite place to knit?
My room is a small shed that has been converted into a space that feels somewhat like a versatile little studio. My favourite spot is the biggest and comfiest mid-century Papasan chair. Otherwise, if I really want to snuggle up and get stuck in, you can find me knitting on my bed while devouring three movies back to back. I’m only just getting to the point now where I can multi-task and watch things with subtitles while I knit.

What led you to understand the style and the types of clothing you wanted to make?
I grew up shopping at SaveMart. Although at the time I thought this was embarrassing I ended up being so inspired by all the vintage clothing, I think I found my expression of style at a very young age and the ability to mix and match from different eras always made my outfits rare, like no other person at my school. Vintage clothing always will inspire me, and my taste was cultivated through this experience. I completed a bachelor's degree in fashion design, which helps me design a garment all the way through in my head, with the end result matching my ideals.

What keeps you inspired?
Films, designers, costuming, my friends. Colours are a huge inspiration for me and this can begin when I am sourcing vintage mohair yarn. The colours find me and I have to figure out what to do with them. The vibrancy of food and plants often inspire the names of my pieces, nature is full of guidance if you let it.

What would you like to see for the future of craft in New Zealand?
Knitting described as a craft makes me feel like it is being categorised as a hobby. I can see hand-knits being appreciated more for what they are, an intimate, tactile piece of art that warrants cherishing. Kiwis are moving away from mass-produced, seasonal turnover and towards lifelong admiration for well-made, well-considered, slow fashion garments.

Itchy Knits' Love Letter vest. Photo / Supplied

ALICE DUNCAN-GARDINER
Made across Papamoa, Petone and Porirua, Alice Duncan-Gardiner's knits suffused with grid-like patterns are a geometric joy. Rug lovers should also keep an eye out for her carpet offerings.

How long have you been knitting, and how did you get into it?
I learned to knit as a child during school holidays staying at my Nana's house, and I've been knitting since then. I’ve always loved the way knitting looks, like grids coloured in. I made a lot of digital-based work while studying towards my fine arts degree at Elam, all based on grids, rules, repetitive patterns and minimal colour and I always thought that those images would translate well to knitting, I’ve spent the past few years making rugs and vests, turning some of that digital work into more tactile pieces. I don’t get the chance to knit as often as I’d like to, but I’ve got a great book of Seasame Street jumpers, borrowed from my Nana, maybe soon I will get around to making one for my 6-month-old, haha.

Where is your favourite place to knit?
Probably in front of the TV! With my vests I spend a lot of my time planning in notebooks and on the computer, seeing how a particular piece would translate into stitches before I start knitting samples. I then hand over to knitters including my grandmothers and aunty  they're all much tidier knitters than I am!

READ: Made With Love: The Tight-Knit Renaissance Of Craft

What led you to understand the style and the types of clothing you wanted to make?
I remember watching this old Trinny and Susannah episode where they tell someone with a penchant for vests that vests belong solely on the golf course, and that they need to ditch the whole wardrobe. They of course listen, but can’t bring themselves to throw away one particular vest  instead, they frame it and proudly display it as a work of art. I don’t know why this has stuck with me, but I’ve been a big fan of vests ever since. They’re like the blank canvas waiting to be added to, matching or clashing with other pieces. I love pairing slightly mismatched but almost identical patterns  one of my favourite combinations is a vest that I made to mismatch with a blue check dress, I couldn't bring myself to sell that one.

What keeps you inspired?
I love colour, pattern and repetition  grids, checks and ruled lines. I love finding patterns in the built environment and converting these into knitting patterns for vests. Seeing the finished piece compared to the piece of paper I hand someone is so exciting. At the moment I am also inspired by all the knitting people have been spoiling my daughter with. I particularly love seeing what colour combinations they come up with.

What would you like to see for the future of craft in New Zealand?
I would like to see it become more localised, so much of the wool we use in Aotearoa is milled and dyed overseas. I understand that this can come with a price increase, however. Equally, I want craft or local, handmade goods to become more accessible and affordable for everyone, both in terms of being able to afford them and having the time to make something yourself or being able to buy the final product.

A vest by Alice Duncan-Gardiner. Photo / Supplied

CRAPPY LOVELY
Rachael Duval's skimpy crochet is what she describes as "manifestations of a future granny bundled up in the joy of wool and cotton". They're comfy, sexy, and crafted on the outer edge of the Hauraki Gulf. Find her creations at Sabotage MFG.

How long have you been knitting, and how did you get into it?
I've knitted on and off since I was a teenager, one of the first things I made was a little teddy bear called Rogér (said with a French accent) for a friend who was going back to France. Crappy Lovely is mostly crochet, which I most recently picked up at the beginning of the pandemic. I moved to Great Barrier Island to live with my partner's family  her mum gave me crochet hooks as a present and I just got obsessed from there.

Where is your favourite place to knit?
Anywhere on Great Barrier. There are so many beautiful places to sit and knit into the sunset, but probably my fav is nestled on the couch at my partner's parent's house looking down over Tryphena harbour. It's a calming and inspiring view.

What led you to understand the style and the types of clothing you wanted to make?
I am absolutely a queer freak who loves music, nature and pop/gay culture, so my style is a mix of all of that. When I design my pieces I like to think of a character who I'm making this outfit for and dream about the world they live in, then I make it all about the character, which means most of my designs are pretty extra and almost cartoonish. I like to think those people with "extra" and "cartoonish" sensibilities can see the full fantasy of what I'm trying to create and run away with me.

What keeps you inspired?
Music, nature and tech always — listening to a new playlist, discovering new music while hooning the windy Barrier roads or contemplating on the beach in real life. On the opposite side of that, IMVU is my online world where I go to get fashion inspiration and create characters for my world  there are tonnes of creative people on there making crazy outfits.

What would you like to see for the future of craft in New Zealand?
I would love to see more! I love anything handmade, small-scale, direct from maker to customer, and while New Zealand might be far away from the "fashion world", we're fresh, hands-on, and have tonnes to be inspired by. We've got loads of cute sheep and alpaca farmers and spinners making amazing wool, so we have access to such good-quality yarns too.

Crappy Lovely crochet at Sabotage MFG. Photo / Supplied

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