Meet the Maker – Sprig Knitwear
One of the very best things about Autumn and Winter in the UK is being able to wrap yourself in beautiful knits. Walking through frost-bitten woods in a knitted snood and mittens makes even the bleakest February bearable. And it’s this idea that is behind Sprig Knitwear – a small independent knitwear label created by Antonia Sullivan and based in the heart of Hampshire. Antonia’s aim is to wrap her customers in love and bring colour and warmth to even the deepest, darkest winter day. The inspiration behind her designs is just as heart-warming, as her latest collection takes family photos and childhood memories and translates them into distinctive Fair Isle patterns in vibrant colours. Fellow Folksy maker Joanne Joyce from Lampwork Beads by Jo caught up with Antonia to find out more…
I’ve always liked the word ‘Sprig’ – it has a natural quality but also has a bounce to it and sounds fun, much like the lambswool I use.
Hi Antonia! Can you introduce yourself and your brand?
Hello! My name is Antonia Sullivan and I design and make playful, soft handmade knitwear using hand-powered machinery from my home studio in Hampshire. The ethos behind Sprig Knitwear is to wrap our customers in love and bring brightness even on those bleak winter days with colour, softness and warmth.
How long have you been knitting and did you learn yourself or were you taught?
I’ve been going between machine and hand knitting for 12 years now. As a business I’ve been knitting for two and a half years. I first started machine knitting at college and it was actually my neighbour Marjory who introduced me to hand knitting. Since then a lot of what I’ve learnt has been self-initiated, with the support of my friend and former tutor Lisa.
Even though machine knitting is faster than hand knitting, nothing can be rushed.
Where does the name Sprig Knitwear name come from?
I’ve always liked the word ‘Sprig’ – it has a natural quality but also has a bounce to it and sounds fun, much like the lambswool I use. The name has really shaped the aesthetics of my brand, bringing together all my ideas. Originally I wanted to become a biodynamic beekeeper. I was going to keep bees, sell a small batch of their honey once a year, write a blog about beekeeping with recipes inspired by honey and seasonal foods and advice on creating bee-friendly gardens. That project was going to be called Sprig, so whatever direction I was going to take in life the word Sprig would have followed.
I love all my patterns but I’m most excited about my snoods. They’re ideal for most situations and have a simple yet very practical design.
You work with 100% lambswool. What’s the difference between that and other wools?
Lambswool is naturally incredible soft and not itchy like many other wools. It’s also renewable, durable and tactile, which makes it ideal for knitted accessories.
I’ve always been inspired by photographs of my mum growing up. My response to those photos is emotional as well aesthetic, and they’ve led me to explore ideas of childhood and nostalgia.
Where does the inspiration for your knits come from?
I’ve always been inspired by photographs of my mum growing up. My response to those photos is emotional as well aesthetic, and they’ve led me to explore ideas of childhood and nostalgia. My latest collection, which is available in my Folksy shop, is called ‘Keepsake’. In this collection, I’ve explored Marcel Proust’s theory of exploring the everyday with the excitement of a child: those small things that provoke nostalgia and memories. My ‘Keepsake’ collection is a mixture of patterns inspired by matchboxes, keys and postal stamps using blocks of bright colours.
Do you have a favourite design in your collection?
That’s hard to say. I love all my patterns but I think I’m most excited about my snoods. They’re ideal for most situations and have a simple yet very practical design.
How long does each piece take to create?
It varies. The mittens and infinity scarves can take up to four hours to make, and the snoods are more like two and a half. There are a lot of different processes in the construction of each piece, and even though machine knitting is faster than hand knitting, nothing can be rushed. I need to to check things constantly to ensure the quality is the highest it can be.
All my knits are created on my domestic knitting machine, then cold washed, steamed and sewn on a Hague Linker – a sewing machine especially for knitted cloth.
Where do you make your items? Do you have a studio?
I make my items in my home studio in Winchester, which is actually our spare room – I refer to it as my Knitting Nook.
It’s so nice to be able to knit in my pyjamas!
What type of tools do you use to make your products?
I use a lot of hand-powered machinery. All my knits are created on my domestic knitting machine. Once the knitted pieces are ready, I’ll cold wash them, steam them using a domestic iron and then sew each piece using a Hague Linker, which is a sewing machine especially for knitted cloth.
Are there any other crafts you enjoy doing?
I love learning new things and find that making helps me unwind or explore my ideas. I enjoy drawing and painting too – I have a degree in illustration and always make time for sketchbook work and painting. I also love hand knitting and occasionally make hand-woven pieces too.
My new ‘Keepsake’ collection is a mixture of patterns inspired by matchboxes, keys and postal stamps using blocks of bright colours.
Where do you see your business in 5 years’ time?
A lot has changed since I started Sprig Knitwear, so it’s really very hard to say where the next five years will take me. Ideally I’d love to see my brand grow – working on collaborations and seeing my knitwear stocked in more shops are two things I’d like to achieve. I’m dabbling with making cardigans and jumpers too, and seeing what will come from this will be very exciting. So it’s small steps and small goals but they’re achievable, which for me is key.
The maker asking Antonia the questions this week is Joanne Joyce from Lampwork Beads by Jo. Jo started making jewellery over 10 years ago, but after her first lampworking lesson the process of making glass beads at the flame had her hooked. As well as using the beads in her own designs, Jo’s lampwork beads are hugely popular with other jewellers too.