We chat with Claire Dunnett, owner of Dunnknit Designs and creator of hand knitted, oversized scale textile furnishings as featured in our Bedroom roomset at the Ideal Home Show.
Dunnknit Designs Tatton Throw, Image: Andrew Boyd
How did you get started?
As a one-girl band with Dunnknit Designs, I describe myself as a creator of hand-knitted, oversized textiles that I create by hand from a selection of unspun chunky merino wool. I make them on what can only be described as gigantic knitting and crochet needles, which are all handmade from beautiful pieces of mahogany, beech and ash by my very talented Dad.
What started as a childhood hobby soon became a big part of my career path and eventually saw me teaching up and down the country. Throughout my twenty-four years working in education I have always been passionate about being creative, both with others and at home. In recent years that creativity has become a tangible and viable business idea.
My focus has been on large-scale work, whether it be painting or textiles, but my love for texture and colour has always brought me back to textiles, where I've constantly strived to make that 'something' that was a little bit different. I guess I'm quietly rebellious against mass-production and would love to get a new generation excited about the art of hand-knitting.
Then came the light bulbmoment: the discovery of unspun merino wool after a visit to a local mill. I started researching, drawing, designing and experimenting with this candy floss-type medium - which shed all over everything it touched! After nearly two years of development and design, I had worked out how to make the most of this beautifully soft, chunky wool and, most importantly, how to process and finish each item to make it as durable as possible.
Eventually I was ready to launch Dunnknit Designs. I waved goodbye to school and I am loving every minute of my new adventure, creating beautiful bespoke pieces.
Where do you find inspiration?
As long as I can remember I have had a passion and drive for art and design. From my early days of drawing at school, followed on by my time at art college, where I had an amazing grounding in all aspects of textiles, then on to degree level at University, I have taken inspiration from many people that I have met and worked with in various studios along the way. However, a road trip around the Highlands of Scotland a couple of years ago was a major turning point and I knew I had to make the final plunge. After an inspirational visit to Skyeskyns and a few Harris Tweed studios, where we came across traditional skills being used, my mind was set and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had to dig deep, make the break from my regular teaching job and go back to what my Granny had taught me all those years ago, knitting and crocheting, but with a modern twist and a difference.
I'll be honest and say that I experiment a lot too! I always have a sketchbook on the go where I draw, paint, make notes of colours, shapes and textures, and I'm forever taking photographs. Although my main inspiration is the great outdoors. I adore the changing seasons and the colours as they evolve around us. From a neutral palette, through to mid-tones, then on to bright colours that make a statement, it all comes down to mood and personal preference. I simply adore colour and texture. Plus the fact that I'm a firm believer of needing a small amount of regular 'me' time and as a busy daughter, wife and Mum, my daily dog walk is often where I do my thinking of what shall I try next. From foreign travels to closer to home, there is always something new and colourful around the corner.
What's unique about your range?
I suppose I look at the art of knitting and crocheting from a different angle to today's mass production, which is where my quirky uniqueness originates. First and foremost, I approach it as art form, where every creation is different – I have never followed a knitting pattern in my life! I have been knitting and crocheting since I was little and am well accomplished at it but I've always made things 'freestyle', as my Granny used to say. So in that respect whatever I produce with Dunnknit Designs will be something a little bit different. I'm an artist at heart and every piece I make definitely takes on its own personality. From the ever-extending collection of exquisite giant knitting needles, crochet hooks and buttons and toggles of all shapes and sizes (all made by my very talented Dad 'The Wood Turner'), along with the stunning natural fibres of merino wool, Dunnknit Designs certainly hopes to offer the 'unique'.
Was it exciting to be featured in the Good Homes Roomsets?
Wow, yes! I couldn't believe it and was so excited to be asked if I could provide a Dunnknit Designs Tatton Chunky Knit Throw for the bedroom roomset. It hasn't been a year yet since I launched Dunnknit Designs and previously to this It's been months and months of hard work researching materials, trial and testing equipment and designs and eventually designing a catalogue of knitted and crocheted goodies that I hope other people will love as much as I do, let alone building a brand and marketing on social media. So when the invite came it felt like perfect timing! I was also invited to The Ideal Home Show launch at Olympia to the Good Homes champagne reception where I got to meet lots of other inspirational designers and suppliers and actually see my Tatton Throw in situ. An experience that I will treasure forever. The roomsets are all stunning and hopefully my Dunnknit Designs Tatton Throw will have added impact to the wow-factor theme of the show.
What's next for 2017?
Dunnknit Designs is ever-evolving! I am a constant sketchbook-scribbler and, along with my amazing Dad, I'm always thinking of what's next! Sometimes my ideas are bizarre, and I often need reigning in, but not before I've had a go. After all, designing is all about experimenting with new ideas and reaching for that one that will work, but when all of the elements of something new eventually come together and look and feel fantastic, then there's no feeling like it.
2016 was a major leap and the launch of Dunnknit Designs, however 2017 is where I’m is now ready to meet the world without being too shy! I will shortly be publishing a brand new website (www.dunnknitdesigns.co.uk) and I hope to take Dunnknit Designs from strength to strength, sharing new ideas and designs along the way and will celebrate the traditional art of knitting and crocheting with a modern – giant – twist.
Claire Dunnett, Dunnknit Designs