Alison Ellen
Allison Ellen profile picture 2014

I think of knitting as a constructive textile technique, and aim to help people understand how the technique works and its potential in designing and making. I also encourage students to find the simplest and most effective way of achieving an idea. I believe in learning through ‘doing’: although I show examples and talk about knitting technique, the exercises that start off each course aim to help understanding. I tell students that unexpected results are not ‘mistakes’ but original designs!

What will students gain if they come on one of your courses?

Confidence to go away and experiment and develop their own ideas. Ability to work from their knitted samples into larger projects.

Are there any particular techniques/processes you use in your teaching?

I teach good knitting technique for economy of effort and for efficiency. I set exercises for understanding structure of knitting, and also encourage students to think of knitting as a sculptural technique rather than only to create flat pieces (ie seamless, 3-D knitting).

Approaching knitting as making a textile, we also explore how different stitches change the feel and drape of the knitted fabric.

What inspires your own work?

The process of designing begins with dyeing the yarns. wool, silk, cotton and linen are dyed and tie-dyed to obtain a range of subtle patterns and colours, then knitted as jumpers, jackets, waistcoats, hats, scarves and cushions.

Ideas for textures and colours are sourced from the surrounding countryside, gardens, landscape and visiting museums. Having trained in textile design, I approach knitting as a way of constructing both a fabric and a 3-dimensional shape, Teaching part-time for the last twenty-five years with short courses and textile groups around the UK has stimulated more research into technique and history, and inspired further exploration into designing.

Where can students see examples of your work?

At my studio, or walking around on people!

Where did you gain your training/experience?

Farnham College of Art Dip AD textiles.

What teaching experience have you had?

Art college BA textiles teaching 1970s-80s. Since 1980s Workshops at West Dean, Urchfont Manor, visiting lecturer/teacher with guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Have you written any books/had articles published?

Alison Ellen, 'Knitting, colour, structure and design', Crowood Press 2011.
Alison Ellen HANDKNITTING, NEW DIRECTIONS, Crowood Press 2002
Alison Ellen THE HANDKNITTER’S DESIGN BOOK David & Charles 1992
Teaching videos and interview for www.knit1.tv

Do you belong to any professional groups/societies?

Crafts Council Index of selected makers
Society of Designer Craftsmen
Southern Arts Index of makers
Sussex Guild of Craftsmen

Further info in CV below:-
Work made
Hand knitted jumpers, jackets, waistcoats, hats and cushions

Materials Used
Wool, silk, cotton, linen

Techniques used
Hand dyed yarns, hand knitted in one piece with minimum seaming, exploring innovative shaping

Training
1967-70 Surrey Institute of Art and Design, Farnham, BA textile design
1965-7 DartingtonCollege of Arts

Memberships
Crafts Council Index of selected makers
Society of Designer Craftsmen
Southern Arts Index of makers
Sussex Guild of Craftsmen

Articles
The Good Yarn Show, Anglia TV 1993

Exhibitions
2012 Unravel the knitting festival at Farnham Maltings, Feb 25 & 26, where I'm running a workshop and exhibiting,
2008 Winchester Discovery Centre
2007 Solo show at Susanne Wolf, Lewes
2005 Mall Galleries, London, with Society of Designer Craftsmen
2003 solo at Hitchcock’s Gallery, New Alresford
2000 High Fibre, Devon Guild of Craftsmen
1999 Knitwear, Design and Innovation, Black Swan Gallery, Frome
1997 Chelsea Crafts Fair
1996 Off the Top of Your Head, Angel Row Gallery
1994 solo exhibition, Bank Gallery, Chobham
1992 Trelissick Gallery, Truro
1990 Cirencester Workshops
1988 Tex-styles, Smiths gallery, London
1986 Knitting, a Common Art, touring Crafts Council exhibition

Teaching
1973-85, running knitting projects on the BA Textiles course at Surrey Institute of Art and Design, Farnham
1989 – present, WestDeanCollege, and lectures and workshops with textile groups around the UK