Creative in the Countryside: Jules Hogan

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Nicola:  Can you tell us about Jules Hogan Knitwear?  We’d love to know how your business has evolved to where it is today?

Jules:  I started the collection in 2010 while working full-time for a knitwear design studio in London. We focused on knit as constructed textiles with a hint within the design of the fabrics’ end use, mainly garments for men and women. These designs were sold worldwide to fashion designers and retail shops. Developing designs at a fast pace, and commuting on and off for 20 years, began to take its toll.

I wanted to slow down, enjoy the therapeutic process of making and have improved life balance.  My focus was to develop ideas from initial inspiration, through to the design of the fabric and making a final piece. Making decisions on yarn quality, fibre content, silhouette and working with British companies where possible.

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I initially began by making fashion and home accessories, and this developed into garments.  Working on exclusive colour palettes for stockists and bespoke orders has become a fundamental and enjoyable element of the business. I enjoy this collaborative aspect, which pushes my boundaries and helps me look at things through fresh eyes.

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Nicola: Where does the inspiration for your work come from?

Jules: Inspiration and technique have remained constant throughout my work. I am drawn to tradition; the effect of weather on materials, land and seascapes, simple geometric patterns and striping with the use of subtle neutrals, bright highlights and blended yarn.

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 I am constantly taking photos of the everyday, things spotted on my daily walks and take visual notes of things I see. The collection is constantly evolving, and an initial idea fuels another and then another, coming up with a fresh development.

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Nicola:  We’d love to know more about where you live, the space you work from and what a normal day is like for you? 

Jules:  I live in Tilehurst Village, which is on the outskirts of Reading near the countryside and open fields. My studio is a meander down the garden.  It’s my creative haven with several re-conditioned vintage-knitting machines, both hand flat and industrial, yarn, mood boards, and books.

Each day is slightly different depending on what is in the order book.  It usually starts with Instagram over breakfast, catching up with the accounts I follow and interacting with posts.  I then check my emails before heading into the studio around 9 am.  

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I am very disciplined during the day and refer to my planner for tasks that need to be achieved. I like to have a few solid hours knitting in the morning before stopping for lunch around 1 pm.  I then walk Jaxon up to the park or woods, taking photos of anything that inspires me.  Or I use this time to refresh my mind and think things through.  The afternoon is usually spent doing some more knitting, putting garments together or finishing.

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Nicola:  I know you are committed to quality and use the finest British materials, including Scottish spun lambswool, sourced from a family mill that has been spinning yarn in Scotland since 1766.  Can you tell us a little more about that story?

Jules:  I have been using this yarn quality for over 20 years, so it was at the top of the list to use in my collection. The shade card is extensive with colours that reflect my work, good neutrals, and deep saturated colours. I mainly use the melange shades that have many fibers of different colours spun together, to make a new colour giving depth and texture.

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The mill has a policy of animal welfare and the dyes meet British Standard. 

Nicola:  Can you also tell us about your process from the initial idea for a knitwear piece to the final product?

Jules:  Even though each piece appears simple there are also technical elements to consider. It starts with a sketch, calculations to work out the number of rows and stitches, where a pattern will start and end. I also spend time experimenting with small samples of colour, trying out different combinations.

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The machine is threaded up adjusting the tension so that the yarn runs freely through the feeders and carriage of the machine.  I follow the sketch in my notebook so I know where to change colour, place markers for a sleeve and where to shape the neck. Garments are fully fashioned (shaping by moving stitches from one needle to another), and this takes time but gives a beautiful effect.

When a piece is finished it is cast off, lightly pressed, put together using a linker (a sewing machine for knitting), washed, air dried and pressed again.The final part of the process is sewing in care labels and attaching swing tags. 

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Nicola:  You say your pieces are simple, handcrafted knitwear for those that like to make a quiet statement. We’d love for you to tell us what this means to you and how you interpret this in your work?

Jules:  I make knitwear to enhance but not overpower the wearer. Colour palettes flatter different skin tones, and the highlights of bright colour add a bit of surprise and individuality. Silhouette masks areas that don’t want to be shown, while allowing certain parts of the body to peep through. It's about making people feel great about themselves.  

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Nicola:  And lastly, I’d love for you to describe the type of person you think your knitwear is most suited to and why? 

Jules:  It is quite difficult to describe a type of person, as my customers are so varied, but through observation, I would say, people that care about provenance, the story behind the work, and appreciate handcraft.

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CreativeNicola Judkins