Meet the Maker: Dreamtime Treasures
Julie Rodway from Dreamtime Treasures is a knitwear designer who creates colourful, characterful and quirky fingerless gloves, mittens and scarves, designed to make you smile on cold winter days. These are knits that not only warm your hands but your heart too. Julie starts by drawing an idea, before converting her design into a pattern grid and knitting it up on her vintage knitting machine. She talks to fellow colour lover and textile artist Sue Trevor about the intarsia knitting technique, her first foray into fingerless gloves and why she has a soft spot for sloths.
I like that you can make whatever you can imagine from one length of yarn.Julie Rodway, Dreamtime Treasures
Hi Julie, can I just start with WOW! I love, love, love how bright, colourful and adorable your animal gloves are. What led you to focusing on gloves – arguably some of the hardest attire to knit?
Hi Sue. I decided to make gloves as they are small and I wanted to make some gloves for my daughter to wear. At first I knitted them by hand. The first pair of gloves I made was on two knitting needles, as I don’t know how to intarsia knit on four needles. I used the intarsia knit method as it enables you to make a picture in knit. I like this method because you can have many colours in one row and draw anything, plus there are no floats on the inside to snag fingers.
To make an intarsia knit design you first need to draw a picture of your design. You then knit a sample swatch in your yarn to get the tension of your knit and make a pattern grid from the tension square, with the squares on the grid being the size of a stitch. You then mark out the size of your glove on the grid and draw your picture in actual size on to it. So I measured my daughter’s hand and worked out the size of fingerless gloves I wanted to make for her. This seemed the easiest way to do it – as there wasn’t any shaping for fingers or mittens, I just had to decide where the thumb went.
Once I’d made the first pair I was hooked and wanted to make more, different, colourful designs. I went on to make them in adult sizes for me to wear. I like that they are practical, as they keep your hands warm but you can still knit, sew, draw and craft on chilly days. I always wanted them to be bright and fun too.
My sloth gloves are my most popular design and my favourite animal too. I love how slow they are. They seem so chilled hanging out in the trees. They always make me smile.Julie Rodway, Dreamtime Treasures
Which is your favourite animal to knit?
My favourite is the sloth. That’s my most popular design and my favourite animal too. I love how slow they are. The sloth is the world’s slowest mammal, so sedentary that algae grows on its furry coat, giving it a greenish tint helping to camouflage it in the trees of the rain forest. They seem so chilled hanging out in the trees. They always make me smile.
My mum taught me how to knit a scarf when I was about eight years old and it continued from there.Julie Rodway, Dreamtime Treasures
How did you first get into knitting?
My nan used to make beautiful fine-knitted jumpers and hats for my dolls when I was a kid, which I loved. My mum taught me how to knit a scarf when I was about eight years old and it continued from there. I then learned to machine knit but continue to hand knit as I find it quite relaxing. I like that you can make your own textile from one length of yarn, that there is such a wide range of textures and colours of yarn available and that you can make whatever you can imagine.
When you’re choosing a knitting machine, think about what you want to make on it and the type of yarn you wish to use. That will help you decide what gauge of machine you need.Julie Rodway, Dreamtime Treasures
You use a knitting machine in the most creative way I’ve seen. What advice would you give someone thinking about buying a knitting machine?
Firstly I’d think about what you want to make on the machine and the type of yarn you wish to use. That will help you decide what gauge of machine you need. Gauge refers to the size of needles and how they are spaced on the needle bed, which relates to what thickness of yarn they can knit. I make my gloves on an old standard gauge domestic machine, which are the most common. You can use fine yarns and up to a 4 ply yarn to knit on it. I use 4 ply yarn. If you wanted to use thicker yarns such as Aran or Chunky, then you would need a chunky gauge machine. That would give more of a hand-knitted look to your knits and you could make thicker knitwear.
Next decide if you want patterning. There are different types of stitch available with a punchcard machine. You don’t have to have a punchcard machine though; there are many techniques you can do manually on the knitting machine, from lace, stripes and shaping to weaving. You could even consider an electronic machine, where you can programme designs, but these are much more expensive. I have a separate carriage to make my intarsia designs. I don’t have a ribber, which is a separate needle bed that attaches to the knitting machine. I just use a latch tool to make the ribbing by hand, the downside of this being it makes the whole process slower.
Decide on your budget, what you would like to make and try the knitting machine before you decide it’s for you. Machine knitting can be quite frustrating when you’re learning to use your machine.
The fingerless gloves seem a perfect shape for designing a picture on it, and they are nice and practical to use.Julie Rodway, Dreamtime Treasures
Mitten? Full fingered? Fingerless? What’s your favourite type of glove to put together?
Definitely fingerless gloves. I have ventured into making gloves with fingers, but I’m not completely happy with them yet and I’m still trying to get the sizing correct. The fingerless gloves seem a perfect shape for designing a picture on it, and they are nice and practical to use.
I think I’ve maybe incorporated the cuteness of the characters and the colourfulness of My Little Pony in my knits.Julie Rodway, Dreamtime Treasures
I see a lot of background love on your Folksy and Instagram for My Little Pony and Pokemon. Do you think you’ll incorporate any of your influences directly into your work?
Not directly, but I think I’ve maybe incorporated the cuteness of the characters and the colourfulness of My Little Pony in my knits.
I do like a houseplant and my collection keeps growing.Julie Rodway, Dreamtime Treasures
How do you go about photographing your work?
I do find photography hard work. My home is quite dark, so I try to photograph outside as much as possible, as I find it easier to photograph in natural light. If I do photograph indoors I have a small spotlight that I use. It’s on a tripod so you can adjust its height and position, and you can adjust its brightness too. I have an big piece of A1 size light grey card, and then three pieces of A3 size white card that I mask tape together to make a kind of light box. I just experiment with positions and lighting to get the brightness okay, without shadows. I see what props I can find around my home – I do like a houseplant and my collection keeps growing. I try to show as many different views of the gloves as possible. I take all my shots on auto focus, or sometimes macro, and never with a flash – nothing fancy.
I’d really just like to keep making cheerful knits to keep everyone warmer on these cold winter days.Julie Rodway, Dreamtime Treasures
What’s coming up next and in the near future for Dreamtime Treasures?
I’m planning to make some of my animal fingerless gloves in smaller sizes for children and expand on my range of scarves. I’d also like to make some gloves with fingers and maybe some hats. I’d really just like to keep making cheerful knits to keep everyone warmer on these cold winter days.
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