Kieran Foley is an Irish born knitwear designer who is influenced by many forces, among which are: his native land, travel, environment, art, animal and plant life. We became aware of his work when we discovered his magical website at www.kieranfoley.com. At first glance, it was hard to believe that he could get the effects he did from hand-knitting. His designs have a dimensional quality that make them appear more woven than hand-knit. His use of color was (and is) confident and bold. Through his blog at knitlab.wordpress.com, we accompanied him and his beloved cocker spaniel on trips that influenced his design work. Inspired, we pursued him and asked him if he would consider being a guest blogger. In response, Kieran put together a series of collages, comprised of images that sparked his work. and then created the words that explained his choices. Join us as we "orient" our way along some of his creative byways.
Meet Kieran Foley
Thanks for your interest in my work! I have always been interested in colour and patterns, and spent a lot of time as a child doodling, drawing and painting. I learned to do stranded knitting at home at an early age and went on to study textile design at the National College of Art in Dublin, Ireland in the 1980’s. At the time, students were encouraged to have a notebook on hand at all times to sketch down ideas, and to collect postcards, cuttings and ephemera for inspiration - this was in the days before digital photography.
After college, I worked in the printed textile industry in London, before moving on to Milan. Much of my spare time in London was spent travelling on the Piccadilly Line (the subway/underground) to explore the various museums and galleries - the British Museum, where the Egyptian and Mediterranean collections, in particular, are fascinating; the Victoria and Albert Museum with its vast collections of textiles and decorative arts and its emphasis on the history of design; and the National Gallery with its highly decorative gilded altarpieces, and historical portraits, with great details of costumes from different centuries.
In Milan, the fashion industry, the architecture, the general interest in design and the opportunity of convenient train travel in all directions, armed with my sketchbook – Venice, Florence, Rome, Paris, Munich, Bucharest.
More recently, holidays in Greece, Morocco and Iceland have been stand-outs. Greece has scintillating light, whitewashed houses decorated with geraniums and handmade textiles passed down from previous generations, museums with fabulous regional costumes featuring embroidery, lace and weaving, churches with gloomy interiors stuffed with icons and chandeliers, the ancient traditions of hand-painted pottery and terracotta, and colourfully painted fishing boats bobbing on the horizon.
Morocco also has fabulous light, as well as intriguing architecture, carpets, textiles and ceramics, and beautiful mountain scenery with an abundance of wild flowers.
Iceland has breathtaking volcanic landscapes, intriguing little towns, and many small museums with natural history displays, vintage knitting collections and arrays of old photos, a wonderful source of costume history and details.
All sorts of textiles fascinate me - I love travelling to places with strong knitting traditions - Estonia and Latvia was a great trip, I hope to visit Lithuania some day - in general I seek out ethnographic museums in search of unusual clothing and bodily adornments.
The west of Ireland, where my roots are, has beautifully textured and subtly coloured landscapes, the shimmer of the Atlantic, wide cloudscapes, small harbours with rusty ships, and beaches with an infinite variety of delicate sand patterns created by the flowing tides - as well as the old cottages with their rambling roses and fuchsias gone slightly wild.
Plant life in general is a great source of design ideas - spring brightness and autumnal richness, the textures, patterns and hues of leaves and petals - I like to visit botanical and historical gardens wherever I go – Farmleigh and the National Botanical Gardens in Dublin, Kilmacurragh and Avondale in Wicklow, Kew and Great Dixter in England, to name a few.
Lots of experiments are conducted at knit/lab. Not all of them are successful, which leads to much frustration at the knit/lab kitchen table! When I am happy with a design, I knit a sample, create a chart, and put them together in a pdf. You can use the designs to create unique and individual items of your own - scarves, shawls, garments, patchworks, throws, afghans, blankets, cushions, bags, socks, etc. Information on the techniques used can be found on the knit/lab help page.
If you have any comments or suggestions, photos of your projects or comments on the website, you can contact Kieran here. You can find the patterns shown below on Kieran's website or on Ravelry, You can also follow him on Instagram and Pinterest. However, you get there, we can promise you won't want to leave.