Dolmanesque is a modern take on a classic gansey

Meet knitting designer Pat Menchini

With 40 years' experience in knitwear design, Pat has a keen eye for elegant construction, feminine shapes and vintage details

 

15th August 2016

Designer Pat Menchini

Interview

A prolific knitwear designer, Pat has created hundreds of patterns for magazines       including The Knitter, Simply Knitting and Knit Today, as well as working with yarn companies. Her textured knits and colourwork designs are always wearable, desirable and elegantly constructed – a legacy of her years spent studying fashion design and subsequent career with fashion couturiers. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her knitting life.

 

 

When did you learn to knit?

“Like so many people, I was taught by my grandmother, when I was about five years old. My whole family knitted, including my grandfather, who was a police officer, and I know he knitted tiny booties and bonnets for me when I was a baby! I can remember clearly sitting on a little stool at my grandmother’s knee, and she in her comfy armchair teaching me – I still have that little stool and comfy armchair.”

What was the first original piece of knitwear you ever created?

“Probably a narrow knitted skirt and cowl neck top, which I’d designed and made using a nubbly oat coloured yarn. I wore them to my first interview as a young designer at a London couturier - I think they helped me to get the job!”

Vintage themes often appear in Pat’s work, such as ‘Broderie Anglaise’ from Issue 86

2. Vintage themes often appear in Pat’s work, such as ‘Broderie Anglaise’ from Issue 86 3 ‘Cosy Crew’ men’s sweater from Simply Knitting issue 119. 

When did you become a professional knitwear designer?

“I studied fashion design at art college, and I was keen to go into the couture end of fashion. I became a professional knitwear designer about three years after leaving art school. I loved the idea of designing my own fabric as well as the finished garments themselves. I trained with a yarn company in London for five years, and worked on family-style knitting leaflets.

“I decided to go freelance in the early 1970s when there was a knitting boom, so it was a good time to become a fledgling knitwear designer. I was just about to get married and knew I’d probably be having children within the next few years, so the idea of working from home and doing something I loved really appealed. I think the first designs I had published would have been women’s garments, probably using Patons yarns.”

What has been your proudest achievement?

“Without doubt The Beatrix Potter Knitting Book, which came about when my younger daughter insisted on calling a jumper I had made myself with the intarsia head of an arctic hare ‘Peter Rabbit’. It was published by Frederick Warne in 1987, but is now out of print.”

Where do you find design inspiration?

“This is always such a hard question to answer. I think one design tends to evolve from another. I think it’s all about having the knowledge of what knitting can do and creating texture and design from it.”

‘Hidcote’ from The Knitter Issue 88.

Pat loves to create feminine designs, such as ‘Hidcote’ from The Knitter Issue 88.

Do you have a favourite yarn?

“I have lots of favourite yarns, so it’s hard to name just one. However, like so many people, it’s always a delight to work with natural yarns. I favour pure wool or cotton, which are so ideal for textured fabric.” 

Peveril issue 95

Peveril from issue 95.

Do you have the chance to knit much for yourself?

“Never! Except the odd hat or jumper for my grandsons. I’m currently working on altering a collar on a man’s design. 

“My own designs are knitted up by a superb team of sample knitters that I use. They’re based all over the country and some of them have been knitting for me for more than 20 years. They are all good professional knitters who can meet deadlines with accuracy and quality. Together we are a fantastic team!” 

Subtle lace motifs decorate ‘Averil’ from Issue 78

Averil

 

 

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