“When I first learnt I was so engrossed that I remember smuggling my knitting up to bed and knitting clandestinely by the orange glow of the street light because I just couldn’t put it down!”
Sam: Where are you from and where are you currently based?
Nina: I spent my childhood in suburban South London then went to University in Brighton on the south coast in 1985 and have stayed there ever since. It’s a very inclusive creative place & has definitely had an influence on my doing what I’m doing now.
Sam: Have you always been a creative person?
Nina: I don’t think of myself that way at all. When I was at school the “creative” people were the ones that could draw well, I really don’t recall ever thinking someone like me (pretty hopeless at drawing) could possibly be put in the creative bracket. I still don’t quite believe it!
Sam: When and how did you learn to knit?
Nina: I was probably 7 or 8. My mum and grandmother were both prolific knitters so it was inevitable really. When I first learnt I was so engrossed that I remember smuggling my knitting up to bed and knitting clandestinely by the orange glow of the street light because I just couldn’t put it down!
Sam: Are you more of a finished object crafter or are you a process crafter?
Nina: Haha! I’ve not heard these terms before. I’m assuming they mean whether you have a clear idea of the finished object when you start?
Sam: That’s not what I meant, but I like your question better, so let’s go with that!
Nina: I do have an idea in my head and plan before I start….although it doesn’t always look the way I envisaged by the time it’s finished and I’m often quite happy to go with that.
Sam: When did you begin collaborating with Joseph Ford and how did the idea for your Invisible Jumpers come about?
Nina: It was over 5 years ago. Joseph’s wife mentioned to a mutual friend that her husband was looking for someone who could knit a giant microbe! We were put in touch and I said I’d knitted a jumper that looks like a bus seat. The microbe project was immediately shelved, and Invisible Jumpers were born.
Sam: Can you walk us through the process of creating an invisible jumper? How do you plan out your projects?
Nina: It’s very different for each one. Apart from the first (bus) jumper, Joseph has come to me with backgrounds/ideas and we talk through what’s possible including which type of model & how the whole image will look.
I then design a pattern. Sometimes I use knitting graph paper, other times we stick tape over an existing jumper and draw the design which I use as a template. Other ones are a bit more instinctive and with theses, there’s plenty of trial & error & undoing & re-knitting.
Nina: That’s a tricky question. When I’m in enthusiastic design mode it’s the one I’m working on currently but when I realise what a nightmare it is to knit (dog coat & cherry blossom!!) it can rapidly become my least favourite.
Looking back overall I think it has to be the bus jumper, it was the first one & it still makes me smile when I see it.
“As long as you’re willing to let go of some control you can find yourself heading into all sorts of places you’d never have gone alone”
Nina: I’ve knitted fun/unusual things for many years but never to someone else’s deadline or with another person’s reputation at stake. In one way that has lessened the relaxation and very personal nature of my previous work. In another way, though it’s been great to collaborate and branch out into areas I would never have reached on my own.
Sam: What advice do you have for makers who are wanting to get involved with a creative collaboration?
Nina: Do it! As long as you’re willing to let go of some control you can find yourself heading into all sorts of places you’d never have gone alone & don’t worry, you can always take a break from collaborations and get back to your own work if you feel you’re drifting away from your core.
Sam: What has your crafting practice brought to your life?
Nina: When I’m wandering around during the day or failing to sleep at night, knitting ideas are constantly drifting through my head and then when I get down to the actual knitting it’s such a comforting routine thing.
It’s just part of what I do almost every day, l don’t know how I’d function without it!
Sam: Have you ever thought about designing your own patterns for the DIY market? Is that something you might consider in the future?
Nina: Lots of people have asked me for patterns and yes it certainly is something I would consider.
It doesn’t really work for most of the camouflage knits though as they need the specific background to work.
Some of my other outlandish garments could though – Knitting for the Eurovision Song Contest could become a European-wide pass time!
Sam: What can you tell us about your new book?
Nina: The book is called Invisible Jumpers. Photographer Joseph Ford and I have dedicated more hours than is reasonable to creating bespoke jumpers (for humans, animals, and even bananas) that blend seamlessly into their surroundings – from bus seats to bushes, carpets to coastlines. The images are executed with such painstaking precision that should the camera, or jumper for that matter, move by an inch the illusion would unravel. This fun book contains images featuring 25 knitted items, behind the scenes photos and stories, and an introduction by acclaimed writer and gallerist Laura Noble.
Sam: What do you like to binge-watch or listen to while you craft?
Nina: I have my “knitting corner” in the living room where I have wool, scissors, patterns, tape measures, etc all to hand & I sit snuggled under a blanket. Once this scene is set I’m happiest with a crime drama series, although once I’m hemmed in if another family member gets hold of the remote I’m a hostage as I can’t move!!
Who should I talk to next? Leave your suggestions in the comments section along with any thoughts you have about Nina’s interview. I’m always on the hunt for inspiring crafters. Also, don’t forget to follow along on my Instagram account @bobbleclubhouse for your daily dose of all things fiber. Until next time, happy crafting!