What a treat to sit down and have tea and conversation with Louisa Harding!
After our Juliet Scarf class our classroom was transported into a lovely setting for afternoon tea with Louisa Harding. We enjoyed a traditional English tea complete with Earl Grey tea, scones and traditional finger sandwiches. The tea was lovely but the best part was the conversation that flowed more than the tea!
Louisa began with her knitting story.
Louisa attributes three important women in her life for influencing the designer she has become. These women are: her Grandmother, her Mother and her Step Mother.
Like many of us, Louisa learned to knit as a young girl from her Grandmother. As a young girl she was introduced to fashion by her Mum. She fondly remembers following the clicks of her Mum's high heels and her Mum's Vogue Fashion magazines. It was her Step Mother who taught her how to sew and gave her love of dress making.
Louisa grew up in London and spent many hours browsing the nearby markets and museums always with an interest in fashion. Her father had hoped that she would be a banker but instead she enrolled at Fashion College. Her mother was her biggest supporter of her fashion career.
At Fashion College Louisa set out to be a textile designer. A knitting course at college...changed all that! She hadn't knit since she was a young girl and the next thing you know she was knitting up a storm of knit pattern samples in her college knitting course. Shortly after, a student intern opportunity at Rowan Yarns came her way and the rest is history!
During her career of 12 years with Rowan she also fell in love and started a family. Also at this time she was feeling a bit burned out as a designer since she was having to crank out commercial type patterns for the Jaegar and Paton's UK brands. Like any talented designer, I am sure she yearned to do design work that was true to her heart and the designer within her. With her husband's support, she took the leap of faith and became a freelance knit designer.
In 2005 she received a telephone call to come to New York to meet with Knitting Fever and the Louisa Harding line was born! She had only a few months to select her yarns and write two pattern books for her introduction line. To this day, her first two books Gathering Roses (The Design Collection and The Accessories Collection) are two of my favorite books.
Louisa's story is more than just about knitting. It is a story about following your dreams, being proud to be a woman and keeping your creative genes alive.
Louisa talked about her new Spring/Summer 2009 books called Nouveau and Deco and how they were influenced by her Grandmother's era.
Our group also talked about how knitting is different in America and England. I asked her why the British knit items flat while Americans prefer to knit them in the round. She explained to me that knitting patterns began that way and due to her dress making background she prefers to knit items flat like fabric. The designer can see the drape and design of the pattern better as it is being knitted flat. Louisa also prefers to knit everything on long straight needles.
We talked about the big resurgence of knitting. Perhaps it is these difficult economic times that bring us back to simpler things in life like knitting. Our Grandmothers and Great Grandmothers mended and knit out of necessity to makes end meet. Today it is certainly more expensive to knit a hand-made garment than to purchase a ready made one. There is something wonderful though about making something beautiful yourself and the sense of pride that comes with it!
Our afternoon tea was followed with a wonderful trunk show and book signing with Louisa.