Blackpitts Knits

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By: John Mahon

We visited Liadain Aiken in her small Dublin 8 studio where she creates beautiful hand-driven machine knitted hats, scarves, jumpers and more. Like the Barry & Sam from This Is What We Do who we featured a few weeks back, she will be leaving her studio soon to make way for the developers.  

With the Teelings Whiskey distillery build well underway across the road from her studio and the builders already brewing cups of tea downstairs, we wanted to document Liadain and her space before Blackpitts and this unique corner of Dublin 8 is totally transformed.

Your full name, how old are you and where are you from?

Liadain Aiken, 32. From Ardee, County Louth.

Why knitwear? 

Knitting is in my family.  My Granny, my Mum and my sister Iseult are amazing knitters. I learned to knit the same day as l learned to cycle a bicycle. I was getting frustrated with the cycling, so Mum took me in and regained my confidence with knitting. 

I studied Interior Design, but quickly veered away and went travelling to New Zealand.  The Op shops (charity shops) there were full of amazing wool jumpers and my wardrobe was soon stuffed with pure wool delights.  Inspired by my creative Kiwi pals and the desire to make, I signed up to a sewing class.  On returning to Ireland I started making hobby horses (www.cantercanter.com).

When I offered to knit a friend a bag for his headphones I had to go to my sister to relearn the craft  I was rusty, but after a long swatch my fingers regained their dexterity and the passion was rekindled.  Yearning to study more and retrain I discovered Knit-1 in Brighton and went there to learn. After the intensive course I did an internship with Leutton Postle which was a great insight to running a fashion label.  I bought two machines in the UK and my Aunt gave me another.  Since returning home I've been slowly developing products, mostly selling through word of mouth as well as at the Dublin Christmas Flea market.

Tell us about your studio

My studio is in the Blackpitts in Dublin 8. I’ve been here over three years and have shared the little room with a few pals, currently it’s a rotation between Hazel McCague, Mick Minogue and Renate Henschke. It’s an old security guard room from back when it was an Eircom building.   It’s a great room, loads of light, freezing in the winter and roasting in the summer, but having the light and being able to see the skies change is a real delight. I’m lucky to have some sweet pals in the building such as Queens of Neon and This is What We Do.  We all have each-others backs.  We barter; sewing for woodworking and whatnot.
The whole site is being re-developed this summer and I will be really sad to leave but I do look forward to finding somewhere with more room for all the equipment.

Where do you see brand LA going, where do you want to be in 5 years?

The next step is to get a website with online shop, an Etsy shop and to get the products into a few shops around the country and then take it from there. I will continue to design, develop and make the garments myself but will hopefully find a few knitters to lighten the load and assistance with finishing the garments.

In 5 years I would like to really have the LA brand established with a recognised style, creating quality investment pieces to covet for years and hand down through generations. It would be amazing to find the perfect business partner, giving me time to focus on the design end of things.  I really enjoy making one-off pieces, as it’s such a lovely journey to be thinking about that person throughout the process, and working with them to create their perfect garment, with your stamp on it.

Whats the worst part about making knitwear?

The time it takes. It’s way faster than hand-knitting but it’s still really slow, each piece is hand finished and that takes time and patience. What I hate is also what I love. I love how pernickety it is, but it would also drive you demented, especially with the technique I use and love called ‘Intarsia’.
I'm looking into motorised machine, so I can work patterns on a computer. It would bridge the gap between the domestic and the big factory machines.

Where do you get your patterns from?  Whats the your favourite piece?

I design all of the patterns. The most notable is the hot water bottle cover for shape and construction. My favourite piece is the Ben Bulben dress which uses the Intarsia technique. It’s an over-sized jumper dress with the mountain on it, fields and clouds. A total labour of love. It took just over two days to complete the front.

Tell us a secret

I’ve just started to teach machine knitting classes in The Constant Knitter on Francis St. Mail me on hello@liadainaiken.com if you are interested!

Tell us a knitwear designer we need to check out

Finding Annie Larson was a huge inspiration, I fell in love with her jumpers, hats and leggings, such simple shapes with bright, bold, crazy patterns using so many colours. They were exciting, unlike anything you’d see in a hand knitting pattern book. She knits everything herself using a cotton yarn on a basic domestic knitting machine which made me realise that it is possible. 

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Find out more about Li Aiken designs on her TumblrFacebook and the soon to arrive www.liadainaiken.com

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