At Woolyknit, we love to see your amazing yarn creations on social media, and each month we like to get to know a maker and celebrate their incredible talent. This week we are chatting to machine knitting extraordinaire, Aaron Leneghan.
Aaron’s Instagram is filled with beautiful machine knitted pieces, from bold stripes to the iconic Diana black sheep jumper design. If you’d like to get your hands on one of Aaron’s jumpers, then you’re in luck as he is currently in the process of setting up his own online shop for his handmade garments.
This week we chatted to Aaron about how he got into machine knitting, his favourite project, and his hacks and top tips for machine knitters.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Aaron and I live Northern Ireland on the coast of County Antrim. From a young age I have been drawn to beautiful fibres and fabrics. I learnt to hand knit around the age of 7, I also learnt to crochet, and I even dabbled in weaving, macrame, sewing etc. but always found myself returning to knitting. In those childhood years I was so driven by the process of creating something with yarn, putting colours together, creating textures and patterns, I usually had many craft projects going on at any one time. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I would discover machine knitting.
My other passion growing up was playing the piano and I decided to focus on that after school and I eventually moved to London to study classical piano performance. My knitting machine was packed away for almost ten years as I pursued my studies in music although I continued to handknit. During the first lockdown last year, I found myself living back home in Northern Ireland and like many people during the pandemic I returned to old passions and my knitting machine was brought down from the attic. I’m so happy to have rediscovered machine knitting and I am in the process of starting up an online shop selling some of my garments.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO MACHINE KNITTING AND WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PROJECT?
I remember I was doing GCSE Art and was experimenting a lot with textiles in my school projects and it was around this time I learnt that these domestic knitting machines existed. I was incredibly curious, and my mother kindly bought me a Knitmaster punch card machine complete with a ribbing attachment and I was very fortunate that the woman we purchased it from gave me a lot of lessons. I remember being mesmerised by how patterns could be produced with a punch card. We knitted my first garment together in those lessons, which was a purple set-in sleeve jumper. The first garment I knitted on my own was a bright orange raglan, which looking back was maybe a bit brave for a first solo project. It’s easy to sample lots of ideas on a knitting machine and I came to find machine knitting very liberating because when knitting by hand I still always follow a pattern but when knitting by machine I nearly always draw up and calculate my own patterns using whatever yarns, stitch design, and shape that I desire.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE ITEM THAT YOU’VE KNITTED?
It’s hard to pick one item! A friend recently asked me to knit a jumper with bold broad stripes and puffed sleeves – a simple idea but so effective and eye-catching. I find a lot of creativity comes from being given limitations in design and I love when people come to me with ideas and we work together to create something they love!
What ARE YOUR ESSENTIAL MACHINE KNITTING TOOLS?
A table that has enough room to keep all your tools within reach and a stool/chair that is at the right height for you to knit with good posture is recommended as you are going to be spending a lot of time there – I actually use my piano stool because not only is it the perfect height but it’s wider and allows me to move to each end of the machine with ease as I would on a piano!
A piece of equipment I couldn’t be without is my Hague Linker, I have so much love for my linker. It’s operated by a hand crank and it allows me to seam my knitting so neatly.
What IS YOUR BEST MACHINE KNITTING HACK/TOP TIP?
As I’m knitting my garments, I like to use short lengths of contrast yarn to place markers at specific points on the edges of the garment panels – these markers then help to ensure everything is matched up very neatly when seaming together.
Recently I learned about a hack called a “lifeline” in machine knitting which I love. If you’re working on a complex pattern and are afraid of stitches dropping or worried the work might fall off the machine as you do some shaping (it happens), you can thread a long length of contrast yarn through all the loops of the stitches as they hang on the needles and then continue to knit. This way if anything does go wrong you can easily pick up again from that row. The contrast yarn can be removed at the end – it has saved me time in a few tricky situations.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR KNITTING PROJECTS?
So much inspires me, I think when you’re a maker of any kind you see eye-catching things in everyday life and wonder how that would translate into something you could create, and in my case that’s usually knitwear. Sometimes just seeing the coloured cones of yarn on the shelf sparks an idea.
I’m often inspired by what I see people wearing, and by iconic knitwear of the past such as the Black Sheep Jumper made famous by Princess Diana in the 80s – I recently made a version of that for myself with Woolyknit’s wool.
wHAT’S ON YOUR WOOLYKNIT WISHLIST?
More British Wool – I have used this wool a lot in my recent projects, I love the range of colours available and how well it knits up. I am also keen to try out the merino wool and cotton soon.
WHAT DO YOU WATCH/LISTEN TO WHILST YOU KNIT?
Sometimes I listen to audiobooks or podcasts but usually I listen to music, depending on my mood I could be listening to something like Chopin, Debussy, or Abba.
What DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT KNITTING?
When there’s not a lockdown I’m usually very social but this last year I’ve been doing a lot of baking, playing the piano and from time to time I like to make a patchwork quilt. I love going for long walks by the sea or through the nearby woodlands.
If you love Aaron’s work as much as we do, you can find his Instagram at @Artisan_Aaron.
If you want to be a part of our meet the maker series, make sure you tag us using @Woolyknit on your Instagram photos.
All images courtesy of @Artisan_Aaron