It would be impossible to not look happy in a Nicole Leybourne (aka the Knitter) piece. Their epic scale and bright visual feel bring a soothing sense of lightness, and her fantastical hand-knitted styles have attracted an ardent fanbase. Leybourne’s garments are the result of craft-meets-cool-knitwear - oversized cardigans and ballooning jumpers in soft mohair and wool with quirky mistakes left in.
Following a globetrotting life of modelling and living in different cities Leybourne re-settled in Auckland, New Zealand, where she lives and works. Her original design – an enchanting pink jumper called ‘the Bubblegum’ hand-knitted on a whim - has gone on to have something of a life of its own. In meetings with important buyers it is regularly revealed that the fresh excitement sparked by this piece on the internet, is what drew her work to them. The latest collection from Leybourne can be seen at theknitter.co
How do you work with wool/cotton?
I use yarns to hand knit my designs that I create from the patterns that I make up as I go. It’s very rewarding seeing such fun colours go on to become something wearable.
What is a pivotal moment in your early career?
Seeing the hard work I’ve put in pay off. The day I decided to take a leap of faith and actually make the Knitter my full-time thing. It paid off. And I still can’t believe it.
What, if anything, from your childhood, influenced what you do now?
I’ve always loved colours and fun things, even when I was a child. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so I never had the colourful clothes and the sparkly shiny toys and the things that I coveted. My love for sparkles and fun colours and fluffy things are still in me, though.
What are the professional achievements you are most proud of?
Meeting with Vogue magazine in NY.
Why do you think handmade textiles are so fashionable right now?
I think handmade textiles have always been ‘in fashion’… Handmade items of clothing have always served a purpose and have always been here. We all wear clothes and someone has to make them. I think a lot of things are handmade and made by beautiful people all around the world, but not all of these items are marketed as ‘handmade’ or ‘made by beautiful people with their own hands’, because the garments are undersold and produced in bulk, in terrible conditions. And the ‘handmade’ meaning kind of falls to the wayside … It becomes irrelevant or unimportant … But I do think people are starting to perhaps, just value, what it takes to actually make a piece of clothing. This is a good thing.
What is your dream wool/cotton project?
Having all the colours of the rainbow of wool right in front of me and being told to create whatever I want to.
Which artists who work in the wool/textiles field, have inspired you?
I love my Nan, who knits the most beautiful pieces.
What is your favourite woollen/cotton item in your wardrobe or home and why?
My Happy Hearts jumper. Because I made it and I never thought I would ever be able to say that I could knit. And because it makes me so happy whenever I wear it. It even fixes broken hearts.
How would you describe your work-space?
Me, a table, a chair, my laptop, some good music and lots of cups of tea. And of course, all my knitting needles and boxes of colourful yarns. I am so lucky.
Best beginner’s task?
Just persevere. With whatever it is you are wanting to achieve. You’ll get there in the end. Even if it really doesn’t feel like it. And that goes beyond knitting too.
What is one KPC Yarn hue that speaks to you, and why?
The pretty cashmere in Cyclamen. I feel as though I am running through fields of lavender.