Photo session: Helen Sharp, knitwear designer and creator of The Knitting School, Seattle WA.
Introducing Helen Sharp, machine knitting champion. Not only does she design and make amazing, beautiful pieces of knitwear, (I proudly wear some), she teaches machine knitting to students from far and wide at the school she created….The Knitting School. I’m deeply inspired when I come across people who can make beautiful things directly from their soul….using their hands, or their hearts. Helen is one of those people. In spending time with her, I quickly gather that quality is one of the most important elements in her world, and that’s exactly how she approaches her knitting, using only the best yarn, machines, and methods to bring her creations to life. Combining this with her strong desire to teach others this trade, her dream has become a reality with The Knitting School, which has just celebrated its 10 year anniversary. Photos below.
A little background on Helen…She grew up in Newcastle and Nottingham UK. Her father was an artist so she was always busy drawing and painting as a kid. When art school came around, she was advised by an instructor to check out a new BA at Nottingham Trent University focused on machine knitting / knitwear design. She explains “I loved the look of all the crazy machines and rooms full of colorful yarn and took the 4 year program”.
Her first job was in Milan, Italy working for a designer sketching all day. She worked in factories in England and Scotland during the ‘80’s honing her skills in machine knitting. After doing a couple of collections of knitwear, and with a full page spread in British Vogue under her belt, she was asked to teach at several universities.
She moved to Seattle in 1989, working as a designer for a few companies before starting her own swatch design service, (a business that supplies the garment industry with sweater designs in knitted fabric form). She ran that company for 18 years selling to J Crew, Ralph Lauren, Gap, Michael Kors before she felt it was time to stop, and then she started The Knitting School.
Today, her students are completely varied in their backgrounds- whether they work in the industry currently, are looking to start their own business, or want to further their skills for personal enjoyment, they come from all states and countries and continually impress her with their tenacity for this tricky subject. She also appreciates the close relationships she develops with many of them. In addition, companies have heard about Helen and her talent for teaching knitwear excellence, and have sent teams of employees for her expert tutelage…. including Nike, Chacos, REI, Nordstrom, ExOfficio, Tommy Hilfiger, Torrid, Stitch Fix….to name a few. For a couple years, she was flying to San Francisco weekly to teach at the Academy of Art’s knitwear program, while offering classes at her own school. Currently she is solely dedicated to students at her own Knitting School and continues to evolve the program, offering short intensive classes in both hands-on machine knitting, and machine knitting technology, making her school one of the most unique in the world.
In doing this photo session with Helen, I could see the childlike curiosity and passion in her eyes I imagine she had when she first saw all the crazy knitting machines and colorful yarn as a student herself. I specifically loved photographing her amazing old giant book which contains hand drawn patterns, actual pieces of her knitting designs from over the years, and possibly some magical potion recipes.
“I am a designer to my core! But I am surprised to find that my passion for manifesting my own ideas has been effortlessly transferred to enabling others to manifest theirs.” – Helen Sharp
Hats off to you Ms. Helen Sharp, for having the courage, drive, determination, skill, and heart to not only make your own dreams a reality, but to make the world a better place by helping others achieve theirs as well.
to learn more about Helen and The Knitting School:
follow on instagram: @theknittingschool
sign up for her newsletter (its awesome! I don’t even knit, and I totally dig reading it!): www.theknittingschool.com
This is Helen…
she turns this…..
through this process…..
into something like this!
This is where all the magic happens!…and where her students learn machine knitting
…and this is her general attitude about things….
…some shots of Helen at work on her machines…
…she uses the most beautiful materials to create her work…
…This is Helen’s amazing book…years worth of her work and ideas…
….her inspiration board….
more odds and ends of inspiration….
….lots of interesting and creative things in her studio….don’t eat the doughnut and sushi pin cushions
….oh and here’s what’s in the trash can…
an amazing woman making amazing things and teaching others how to be amazing through machine knitting