We got a chance to catch up with Woolly Wormhead – knit hat designer extraordinaire and designer of the Elbert’s Hat in our latest issue. Read what she had to say and enter into the contest at the bottom for a chance to win one of her patterns.
You’re a prolific hat designer! At almost 250 Hats, what draws you to them?
Hats are wearable sculptures. They’re one skein, one-item (no need to knit a 2nd one!) portable projects.
My background is in Engineering, Fine Art Textiles (specialism in sculpture) and Education – designing Hats and publishing the patterns marries all 3 aspects perfectly. My Hats are well engineered sculptures that you can make yourself 🙂
You use a lot of unusual construction methods and techniques. What makes you like them so much? Or, tell us about a few hats that use them.
Structure and construction go hand in hand. I’m always pushing myself to find new ways of approaching Hat construction. If we imagine our heads as a sphere, or a half sphere where we wear our Hats, the possibilities for construction are endless. I’ve been working slowly on a new collection, ‘Turning Heads’, which are much more sculptural pieces – I’m wanting to push the boundaries of what we can wear, sculpturally. Tucked is one of the first Hats from the collection to be released.
Your recently released book using handpainted yarn – Painted Woolly Toppers. Give us the scoop on it.
Painted Woolly Toppers is all about using varying colour to enhance structure, and vice versa. Hand-dyed yarns are gorgeous, stunning, unique. And yet the more colourful varieties can be difficult to knit and difficult to design with. The way the colour repeats emphasise the different parts of the Hat and the direction of the knitting is something I really enjoy working out. It’s a book to support indie dyers – they do an amazing job and this gives their yarns a fresh perspective.
10 knitting badges – very cool! Which one are you most proud of?
The Macgyver badges, and Knitting under the Influence 😉
In addition to all your designs, you also have a ton of tutorials on your site. Do you enjoy teaching? Or did you see a need for tutorials that were most hat-focused?
I used to teach full time in schools – Art and Textiles for 11 to 19 yo – and the want to educate and share comes naturally. If I can tie that in with Hats, all the better, as Hats are perfect projects to learn techniques with!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
All sorts of places! I’ve a lifelong love of succulents, and have had many collections over the years. Structure in nature is a favourite source and I continue to be amazed at the patterns and structures I discover. And man-made architecture, too, especially the places that have been eroded or affected in some other way by the human touch. Deconstruction as well as construction are key things. I have particularly acute spatial awareness, and will always be drawn towards anything 3-dimensional.
What designers have influenced you? (this question is open – it could be knitwear or others that have nothing to do with knitwear)
One of the biggest influences on my life is Joolz Denby – her spirit and attitude resonate strongly with me.
What’s your process like? For example, do you sketch, start with a stitch pattern, find the perfect yarn, see something RTW?
I don’t sketch – I’ll make rough drawings in my notebook when I’m parking ideas, alongside copious amounts of scribbled notes, but when I develop a design it’s always on the needles. You could think of my Hats as maquettes (3D sketches) – I’d rather get stuck in with the materials than try and figure it all out on paper beforehand. Whether I start with a structure or yarn or stitch pattern very much depends on what’s caught my eye, or where an idea has led me. Some designs are reworked over and over, others come to me straight away.
What’s a favorite part of one of your designs and why?
I don’t think I could possibly answer that! If I have a favourite Hat it always changes (currently it’s Tucked) but a favourite part of a Hat? Crown shapings are incredibly important – I always start with that part of the Hat, maths and designwise, as that determines the internal structure.
What do you like to do when you’re not designing (or supporting your designing)?
Sleep?! We travel a lot (we live in a bus for part of the year) and we love exploring new places on a shoestring. I also really enjoy building our garden, which features all recycled materials and sculptural plants.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An artist! And happy and free. 2 out of 3 isn’t bad.
Tell us about other design work in your life – e.g. your home, your garden, your cooking.
We do very much live a home-made life, and most of our home is built from recycled materials. Even in the garden, we re-use old tyres and washing machine drums as planters or tables and chairs. Here we can get to grips with design in a different way, and work with different materials and their constraints. We have a very industrial theme 😉
Do you ever consider designing something other than hats? If so, what?
I’ve no interest in designing anything other than Hats, no 🙂
Leave a comment with your favorite Woolly Wormhead hat to get a chance to win one of her patterns (up to $10).