Chances are, even if you haven’t heard of Marie Wallin,at some point you’ve “oohed” and “aahed” over one of her elegant crochet or knitwear designs. The former head designer for Rowan set up her own business in 2013 and has now self-published several books, including Filigree, a stylish book of crochet patterns with a romantic feel. Her signature style is a tasteful, fashion-led design sensibility, often with stunning colourwork, resulting in garments that you’ll love to wear as well as create. “I suppose I’m mostly known for my beautifully coloured Fair Isles and patterns,” says Marie. “Lots of things inspire me – textile and folk art, ceramic art, the British countryside and nature in general.”
Marie started her career with textile studies. “I was awarded a first class BSc in Textile and Knitwear Technology (Design) in 1986,” she says. After graduating, Marie set up her own knitwear design label, then worked as a commercial knitwear designer for 14 years, with her work being sold in high street stores such as Next, Burton and Debenhams.
In 2005, Marie joined Rowan as head designer. Here she was responsible for the creative direction of Rowan’s pattern collections and magazine, as well as having input into its yarn ranges. She’s particularly proud of the work she did on Rowan’s Purelife and British Sheep Breeds collections, raising the profile of British wool and ethical yarns. But in 2013, she left to set up her own company, Marie Wallin Design Ltd. “I wanted to have the freedom to do my own work,” she says. “My job was becoming less interesting and I wanted a fresh challenge.” It didn’t all go according to plan though.
“At the time I was still contracted to do the same job for Rowan but then at the end of April last year I became very ill after suffering a heart attack!” Marie explains. “This was obviously a life-changing event for me and I decided to cut my workload with Rowan right
down. So from September 2014, I was no longer Rowan’s Head Designer, and I’m now only contracted to produce some designs and art direct a couple of photography shoots a year for them. I must admit, I’m so much happier now, and a lot less stressed, which has to be a good thing!”
Marie now works from home in rural Leicestershire, where she lives in a renovated cottage with her husband Mark and two German Shorthaired Pointers. Her studio is upstairs. “I have a large white trestle table in the middle of the room with lots of shelving for storage. At the moment there is a sofa bed in the studio but that will be moving into the spare bedroom very soon as I need to get some more shelving fitted… you can never have enough storage!” A typical day involves working at her desk until lunchtime, when she takes the dogs for a walk, then returns to her studio until about 6.30pm. “I love working for myself! The freedom to do what you want, when you want is priceless! I also love being at home with my dogs.”
Marie has self-published three books so far: Windswept, Lakeland and Filigree (her crochet collection), with a fourth due soon. “Once Upon a Time is a vintage inspired children’s collection, launched on 1 May,” she says.
It’s not just design work, though – Marie also holds creative workshops in her local village hall, as well as lecturing at Nottingham Trent University. “Every year, for about six weeks, I teach the secondyear students on the BA Hons Fashion Knitwear and Knitted Textile course. I normally brief them on a specific project using Rowan yarn. I love doing this; it’s always a great pleasure to teach young enthusiastic people.”
Despite her pledge to cut her workload, Marie has plenty planned for the rest of 2015. “I’m currently planning the photography shoot for Once Upon A Time. It’s at the Great Central Steam Railway’s Quorn and Rothley stations. It’s going to be fun as long as the kids behave!
I’m also working on an exciting new venture called ‘The Fairisle Club’.
In this club you will be able to make a large throw/blanket made up of 12 individual Fair Isle squares, all knitted using Rowan Felted Tweed.
It’s not a mystery blanket club, as I will be publishing the photographs of the finished blanket before the start date. “I have a fifth book called Autumn planned for 1 October. This is a womenswear collection of my signature Fair Isles and arans (I’ve yet to design it). I’m also planning a winter crochet book, but I don’t know when this will be published. In between all this, I still have some design work to do for Rowan Mag 59 and I’ve been asked to design a collection using one of their new 2016 summer yarns.”
It sounds exhausting!
At Inside Crochet we’re big fans of stylish, wearable crochet, so it’s great to see one of the industry’s top designers bringing her creative sensibilities to bear on crochet as well as knitting. “I design crochet in the same way as knitting,” says Marie. “I tend to sketch an idea and then swatch it. With crochet, you have to be mindful of the type of yarns you use, ideally you need to use a regular spun yarn so that the crochet stitches are shown off to their best. I really like the new Rowan Summerlite for crochet, that’s the yarn I’ve used for the Filigree collection.”
Read more and buy Marie’s books at www.mariewallin.com
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