Meet the Maker: Sally Nencini
Designer Sally Nencini creates knitted accessories for living and wearing. Her knitted blankets, cushions and toys instantly appeal to anyone who remembers the 1970s, Galt games and Clothkits. There is a playfulness and simplicity to them, combined with a nod to Scandinavian style. We caught up with Sally to discover more about her textiles, her studio and her inspirations…
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Hello there! My name and the name of my Folksy shop is Sally Nencini – I started my machine knitted textile business about eight years ago while living in south London. I design and make knitted lambswool cushions, blankets, toys and accessories. Three years ago my family and I moved to Norwich in Norfolk where we have space to spread out and be creative.
I always loved drawing and painting but sewing is the craft I feel most comfortable with.
What was the first craft that caught your imagination?
I’ve always loved craft-based artistic practice and I’m fortunate to have had the influence of a very creative mother and grandmother while growing up in Northern Ireland. My mum made me and my sisters clothes when we were small – she was a big fan of Clothkits when it was relatively new to the UK. I still love the early Clothkits designs and they still influence my work today. I always loved drawing and painting but sewing is the craft I feel most comfortable with. The first thing I remember making was a soft toy… of sorts. I made it for my mum’s friend’s shop but decided to hand stitch it using suede fabric (I was about six at the time). It wasn’t my best work! You learn by your mistakes – wool is much easier to sew.
When did you start working with wool?
I’d tried machine knitting while studying fashion at art college in Belfast back in the early 1990s but it wasn’t until I had my third child in 2003 that I decided to revisit this skill that had always intrigued me. I studied for a term at Morley College in South London on their experimental machine knitting course with a fantastic tutor called Jo Thompson. After re-remembering the basics, a friend gave me her unwanted knitting machine (thanks Elly!). I bought some wool and continued experimenting at home. I’m still going!
What or who inspires your knits?
I’ve surrounded myself with objects that inspire me – many of these are nostalgic pieces that remind me of my childhood. I love the imagery and colours of early Galt and Abbatt wooden puzzles and picture card games – I have a collection which I display in my work room. I also buy old 1950s and ’60s illustrated children’s books when I see them in second-hand stores and I’m constantly picking up bits and pieces in car boot sales – from painted egg cups to ceramic rabbits, anything that catches my eye with an interesting surface pattern or texture. I love Scandinavian style and perhaps this simplicity of design is reflected in my work?
I’ve surrounded myself with objects that inspire me – many of these are nostalgic pieces that remind me of my childhood.
Can you explain how you make your pieces?
I start mulling over an idea in my head, which I then sketch down on paper until it looks how I imagined it to. The next step is to translate this design on to a graph, so it becomes a knitting pattern – this is when I start to see everything in pixels! It’s a challenge to make curved shapes using a square grid, but I love to be challenged! I usually have an idea about the colours I’m going to us but I’ll knit a few samples until I’m happy with the colour combinations. I still get excited knitting a new design for the first time as you see it forming in front of your eyes.
Can you describe your workspace?
Busy! My workspace is a room at the front of the house where I have my knitting machine and sewing machine, so it can get a bit noisy. Lots of work goes on in there – my shelves are full of yarn and my walls are full of stuff! It’s great to have everything in one place though.
My shelves are full of yarn and my walls are full of stuff!
What’s the most precious item in your studio?
It would be the notebook with all my pattern information. It tells me the pattern numbers I need to programme my knitting machine for each design, as well as the stitches and row information. I would be lost without it! I guess it’s a bit old school not having this information digitally but I quite like working with pen and paper.
What’s the best thing about being creative for a living?
Every day is different and you’re doing something you love. It can be stressful too, but that’s life!
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
Being selected to show at the Top Drawer trade show in London by Charlotte Abrahams – a freelance style writer – as part of the ‘Spotted’ section for new designers.
What does craft mean? Hand skills passed down through generations: practical, functional as well as beautiful.
You have lots of craft skills under your belt. Are there any others you’d like to master?
I’ve always wanted to know more about printing on paper and all the techniques involved in doing this, and I’ve actually just started an evening class in printmaking. So far we’ve done monoprint and drypoint. I’m loving it and it’s making me find time to draw again.
What does craft mean to you?
I couldn’t imagine life without craft. Hand skills passed down through generations: practical, functional as well as beautiful.
Get 15% off Sally’s pieces – just enter the discount code PUZZLE when you checkout. Valid on all orders up to Christmas 2016!