Meet this talented designer
ORIGINALLY FROM the north of Ireland, Bronagh Miskelly is now based in London. She likes her designs to provide a bit of a challenge or be fun to knit, as well as to bring pleasure when they are worn.
Who inspired you to take up knitting?
“I come from a family of makers. One of my grandmothers was a prolific sock knitter, and the other had worked for an upmarket dressmaker when she was young. My mum was a sewer, and one of my aunts always had tapestry on the go. So I learned to do all sorts of crafts. Knitting was the craft that I took to most in my teens; it is the one that helps me to reproduce what’s in my head most easily.”
Do you have a favourite artist, writer, poet or musician who inspires you?
“When it comes to poetry I often turn to Seamus Heaney. Like him, I am from Northern Ireland, and his work often calls up imagery from our shared landscapes. He makes me think about the colours, shapes and traditions of home.”
Tell us about the colours, landscapes or architecture that inspire your design work.
“Having grown up partly on the coast, I am very drawn to patterns that invoke waves and curves and the colours of the Irish coast – stormy greys, the blue of fishing nets, the stripes of cliffs. I designed a set of shawls inspired by those. I am also drawn to Gothic architecture and Art Deco design. The use of lines and curves in both makes me think about stitch constructions.”
Which designer has most inspired you?
“An early influence was Alice Starmore. My mum bought me The Celtic Collection when it first came out, mainly because she wanted me to make her the Donegal Sweater (I am one of the few people who have completed it). That book introduced me to new techniques including knitting sweaters in the round and steeks, and opened my eyes to what can be done with yarn and sticks.” What is your favourite knitting book? “If I had to choose a book for a desert island it would probably be one of the many stitch dictionaries I have lined up where I work. I use these to find particular techniques, and as a jumping-off point for developing stitch patterns and combinations. This week my favourite is Hitomi Shida’s
Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible because I am interested in how the patterns are mixed. But next week my favourite could be a collection of lace stitches.”
What fibres do you love to work with?
“If I could only choose one fibre it would be wool, because of its versatility - from cobweb-weight merino for a lace scarf to superchunky roving yarn for a quick and cosy cardie, it has it all. I am drawn to finer yarns, and I like merino and Bluefaced Leicester mixed with a little silk or bamboo or alpaca. And I keep a little cashmere to hand in my stash just to touch occasionally, even when I don’t have an idea for it yet.”
Which design are you most proud of?
“I am always proud and excited when something emerges from the needles in the way I wanted. Two examples are shawls. ‘Salmon Net’ was inspired by a memory of seeing bright blue pieces of discarded fishing net on the rocks when I was a child, which I recalled when I saw a particular skein of yarn. It was my first full lace shawl design and captured exactly what I wanted – as well as proving to myself I could do it.
“The other is my ‘Cobwebs in the Rain’ stole. I was interested in working in lace on the bias, so creating a rectangle from corner to corner. I used Shetland wool and variations on Shetland stitches, and smiled the whole way through making it. And then it was on the cover of The Knitter!”
Are there any techniques or styles of knitting you’d like to explore further?
“I have just seen that someone is teaching brioche lace, so I need to have a go at that. Mainly I am interested in vintage patterns and the different constructions you find, especially for collars and cuffs.”
1 Bronagh’s ‘Lange’ vest, from Issue 129 2 She admires the poetry of Seamus Heaney 3 Alice Starmore’s The Celtic Collection has inspired Bronagh’s knitting 4 She created this cabled scarf and mittens set for Issue 131 of The Knitter
‘Cobwebs in the Rain’, from The Knitter issue 125