Meet Our Teachers: Renée Callahan, knitting
We have lots of knitting classes coming up at our West Hampsted Shop for all levels of knitter with the lovely Renée Callahan! Renée will also be joining us once a month for our Thursday Knit Night to offer a free workshop and knitting clinic and you can find out more about those evenings here.
Renée loves textiles and the technical challenge of knitting whilst producing something both useful and beautiful. She studied fashion design with knitwear at Central Saint Martins college and now creates new patterns with combinations of texture and colour as well as guiding knitters taking to the needles with a range knitting classes.
Who first taught you to knit?
Strangely enough, I didn’t start knitting until I began my degree in fashion design with knitwear. We learned on machines and I came to hand knitting on my own, with loads of help from youtube and a sympathetic tutor.
At college, I found a DVD of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s hidden in a back corner of the library and because craft was really not the cool thing in fashion college, I really believed I had discovered this super obscure video no one had ever seen. Little did I know…
Where do you look for inspiration for your projects and patterns?
It is a cliché, but I find inspiration literally everywhere. I am constantly inspired by the natural world, which is all around even though I live in the extremely urban environment of East London. There are wonderful parks and gardens just minutes away. I also love people watching, and I live in a neighbourhood rich with weird and wonderful fashion; from the most colourful African batik to the achingly cool hipster hotspots. Inspiration abounds!
What is your most favourite yarn to work with and why?
I have so many! How to choose just one?!
I love natural fibres and am very excited about the proliferation of small batch, independently made yarns going on right now. But old favourites remain: who can resist a bit of Malabrigo??
You will be teaching hand knitting at our shop but you also have a machine knitting class on Craftsy. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two techniques?
Machine knitting and hand knitting are a bit like apples and oranges; you can make a sweater with a machine and a sweater by hand, but both the process and end result will be very different. They are both great but for different reasons. I would argue that even the fastest hand-knitter would take many hours to make a sweater, and so the process itself must be enjoyable and enjoyed, whereas a machine knit sweater can be a speedy project, for example.
What is the one knitting gadget could you not live without?
My blocking set: blocking wires and foam mats make all the difference for a lacy shawl! I also love interchangeable circular needles… and ravelry.com! If a website could be a gadget, Ravelry is the best one of all!