Designer Chat With Louisa Harding

Well-known for elegance in knitwear, Louisa Harding is a designer with an exquisite eye for detail.  With a background in Fashion and a remarkable career that spans more than twenty years across two continents working with some of the top yarn companies, Louisa now concentrates her energy on her own line of  luxury yarns and stunning collections twice a year.  Today she stops in to chat with us, to share a few of her thoughts on the creative process, where she finds inspiration, and preview some of her latest designs for Spring.

Louisa Harding

MM:  Hi Louisa, thanks for taking a break from your workday to stop in and chat.  Lets sit down with a cup of tea or coffee, whichever you prefer?

LH:  I start my day with a large cup of super strong Italian Espresso coffee, then spend the rest of the day sipping peppermint tea.  Very zingy ‘get up and go’ on one hand, very creative and artsy on the other….  

Hunang knit in Aimee

MM:  In the world of  design, your name is synonymous with luxury yarns and feminine knitwear.  Where did it all begin?

LH:  Ever since I was little, I have always made clothing and had a strong interest in fashion.  Growing up in the centre of London, I had access to all the wonderful museums, and spent my school holidays doing costume and fashion workshops.  I studied Art and Dress at school, learning to cut and grade patterns then went on to take a degree at Brighton University in Textiles and Fashion.  This was in the mid 80’s when all the ‘ready to wear’ designers were showing handknits on the catwalk.  As a result, we had projects sponsored by yarn manufacturers.  I became very interested in hand knitting, loved the discipline.  Unlike any other garment construction,  this is the only one where you can control the shape of a garment by the stitches you choose.  During my third year at University, I spent a three month placement at Rowan Yarns, and had two of my earliest designs published in Rowan Magazine 6.  After completing my degree, I spent three months working for an American designer in Montreal and then returned to England, and worked with Rowan Yarns for eleven years.  I just seemed to be in the right place at the right time. 

MM:  Wow!  What a whirlwind.  Any idea where you might be today, if you had not chosen this path into the world of knitwear design?

LH:  Now, that is a very interesting question, and one that I have just begun to contemplate myself.  My career has been sort of a whirlwind, not much space in between each stage to take a breather, so I have never taken any other avenues.  However, there are a couple of paths that sometimes I dream of taking.  I would have loved to be a travel writer, as I do love to travel, but am not very good at written prose.  I would also love to have a shop, a little boutique selling lots of lovely things.  Ideally, it wouldn’t have to be commercial, more an extension of my wardrobe and home, full of exquisite garments, accessories and furnishings, all beautifully designed or vintage pieces each with a hidden story.  Despite the dreaming, I am always drawn back to knitwear design, an idea starts to take shape and my fingers begin to ‘itch’, and the needles and yarn come together.  I think the path chose me.

MM:  Are you a ‘doodler’ or a ‘swatcher’ first, when you begin a new knitwear design?

LH:  Both- sometimes its the yarn, sometimes its the stitch, so then I swatch, sometimes its the garment shape, so then I draw.  I start designing my collections by taking ideas from an inspiration source.  It is integral to my creative process, to have a starting point to which the collection refers, whether it be a visit to Venice or a classic children’s story such as Alice In Wonderland  

Cuckoo knit in Mulberry Silk

MM:  Canadian knitters are naturally drawn towards the British influence in knitwear.  Is there one thing you feel sets Canadian knitters apart from British knitters?

LH:  I think probably all knitters are similar, if you were to sit a group of knitters together in a room, gathered from all around the globe, their similarities would far outweigh their differences.  Knitters are creative souls who understand the gift of time, how important and amazing it feels to create something from a ball of yarn with two needles.  To have it appreciated, and appreciate the creative talents and skills of others is priceless.  It is a similarity that is for the most part unspoken.   

Citrine knit in Jasmine

MM:  In your latest Spring Collection, the knitwear styles embody a genuine lightness and free spirit, in a shade range of deep, stunning jewel tones.  Where did the inspiration come from for this current collection?

LH:  My newest collection is inspired by the East, entitled, Chinoiserie.  Having a design theme ties all the creative elements together from the sourcing of the yarns, selecting of the colours, the stitches used in the patterns, the shape of the garments, to the look and feel of the photography and printed publications.  I am incredibly lucky to be able to oversee all these elements, ensuring that my vision is as true to my original inspiration as possible.  While researching ideas for the collection, I looked at Chinese proverbs, my favorite- “Patience and the Mulberry leaf can become a silk purse”.  I think this is so apt to the art of hand knitting.

MM:  Now can you give us a hint of what is to come for next season?

LH:  I am just beginning to work on the Autumn Winter 2010/11 Collection and my main intention is to have fun.  At the moment, I am really inspired by the idea of the artist- creative mind and spirit.  I have two new yarns that I am so excited to be working with.  I am always drawn to the lace patterns which I am sure I will continue to experiment with, yet challenge a bit more the proportions and traditional garment construction.

MM:  What is inspiring you today as you gaze outside your window?

LH:  Well……we have snow again.  We have had snow almost continually on the ground now for over two months, which is highly unusual for UK.  As I gaze outside my window, there is a blanket of white, gleaming and pure, reflecting light and lifting the dark winter mood.  I can’t see them yet, but I know just under the snowy surface, the snowdrops are waiting to burst into bloom, so today I am inspired by the idea of new life, light and…… Spring.

(images courtesy of Louisa Harding)

  • Lisette Davis

    I am an American knitter and Louisa Harding is my favorite designer!

    Thank you for your wonderful interview with Louisa. As I read it, I felt as though I was having tea and chatting with Louisa myself!

  • Laurie McKinnon

    Louisa’s new Spring designs melt away winter for me! I heart the little capelets, and the embroidered purse. She has true style in all regards, glad to learn more about her background.

  • daria v.

    Louisa’s work is so pretty, i especially like the designs in Chinoiserie…especially more now that I know where the inspiration comes from. i sat down with a cup of tea and just read along.

  • p. robson

    I sneaked a peek at two of the new books from LH-
    Belle and Bijoux.
    Both have an appealing selection to choose from.
    The photography is dreamy!
    Outstanding work Louisa!

  • ashleigh

    Absolutely my favorite designer too! Such beauty in knitwear.

  • rhonda c,

    I just put Citrine on my list of ‘must haves’.

    great site, so nice to read about the designer.

  • gretta

    Louisa is a talented designer, an asset to England.

    I enjoyed reading her background and the Spring preview is beautiful.

  • T.L.

    very enjoyable to read the designer chat segment.

    i look forward to many more.

  • kelli h.

    louisa harding has great style in all her work……this Spring collection, Chinoiserie is exceptionally nice. i have followed her career for many years, since she debuted at rowan.

  • P. M.

    Thanks for sharing this,nice post :)

  • Fl. T.

    great post as usual!

  • Pam N.

    Does she do any workshops in Canada?

  • S. G.

    Perfect timing, after reading this interview I now know more about the background of this designer.

  • F. H.

    Very good interview, well written and thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

  • Laurie A.

    Informative and enjoyable to read, I check in each week to see and read whats new at diamond.

  • Chantal G

    Great work Louisa! Your designs are always gorgeous and the patternwork is very comprehensive, even for beginners like myself. I would enjoy coming to one of your workshops if you are in Canada or the States this year.

  • B. H.

    Louisa is an amazing designer, I wish i could keep up with knitting all her latest designs. Love them all!