Imogen Denton enjoys the process of rectification...
Having recently finished a Masters in Urban Design and City Planning, she tells me about her interest in repairing damaged cityscapes, and how this entwines with her enjoyment for fixing and creating charming garments that serve a purpose.
Her Trophy Cap is a celebration of this, made using QF's Fjord Donegal lambswool yarn, which alike to Imogen's creative perceptions, is rustic and hard-wearing.
Imogen and I spent a winters afternoon discussing the creation of her Trophy Cap, her creative rituals, influences and upcoming creative plans.
Hi Imogen, great to be chatting with you today. Please can you tell me a little about yourself and your work.
My name is Imogen Denton. I was born in London but have lived in other places, but London is where feels like home. I have recently completed my Masters in Urban Design and City Planning. I work as a planning consultant alongside designing knitwear.
In both my roles as a planning consultant and a knitwear designer I am interested in how things fit and suit the human body, whether that be clothes or buildings. If they don’t work then I enjoy the process of rectification.
When looking at this idea, it is essential to recognise the multitude of difference in the human body. I like the intersection between these two fields - I feel comfortable here. I want to make things that work well and serve a purpose.
It is only over the last couple of years I have begun to see myself as a creative person. All of this is thanks to the craft movement. For my undergrad I completed my BA in History of Art, which made me realise the fine art world was not for me. It is great to find my place now.
When did you get into designing knitwear? And pattern writing, is this something you do regularly?
I have been knitting for a long time now, but I only started designing my own patterns at the end of 2019. I had just seen Greta Gerwig’s Little Women and was enthralled by the costumes, particularly the Sontag shawls. I could not find a pattern for exactly what I wanted. So, I started making it up (with much advice from my mother) with the leftover yarn from a jumper my mother had once knit me.
I think making the pattern up gave me a sort of confidence; there was no pattern so it could not be wrong. It was very freeing.
So, that is where it started and then I just kept imaging things I wanted to make. I often start by looking at clothes and reinterpreting them into knitted shapes. This makes a lot more sense to me rather than the codes that make up knitting patterns. I like being able to make something that otherwise would not have existed before.
I do a lot of pattern writing, yes! It is the best bit about knitting for me. To date I have only followed two knitting patterns other than my own.
This has filtered into the patterns I write now. They are very simply written as I do not have the language to write anything too complex. Initially, I did not start with the anticipation of sharing the designs with anyone else but it just turned out that way.
What are your creative rituals when making a garment? Is there a particular time of day you prefer to knit?
That is a great question. I do not think there is a particular time of day I prefer to knit. One thing I know is that I cannot spend the whole day knitting. I have made that mistake before. I also do not like it to be the first or last thing I do each day. Whilst I knit I prefer to sit at a table or a desk where my best companion is the radio.
Tell me about the inspiration behind your designs. I know from following your work that you enjoy working with earthy, natural colourways. Can you tell me some more about these artistic choices?
Protection is often a starting point for a lot of my designs. My first collection was called Knitted Armour and it looked to highlight the magical and physical power of knitwear. Since then this theme has always been central to my designs.
I am also very inspired by the shapes and textures of Victorian textiles… as well as British folklore and traditions. This is very vague but I just love it all and it is a constant source of inspiration.
I am drawn to lots of greens and brown, I honestly think it is because those are the colours I like. At the end of the day I always want to make things which I like or I would wear. That is very important to me.
Your Faulds collection was made up of an assortment of protective pieces for your winter battles, alongside trophies and rewards from your struggles. Can you tell us a bit about these garments?
This collection included a number of protective pieces such as the Jack O’ Plate. This was somewhere between a Sontag Shawl and a Pauldron, which is a piece of plate armour. But I also wanted some less practical and more decorative pieces, such as The Trophy Cap.
I chose to use up scraps from previous commissions in some pieces such as the Capital Cowl.
I also attempted felting for the first time with this collection, with the Cake Hat and Extra Pocket. This is something I hope to experiment more with in the future as it a process which has so much scope. I have a lot more to learn!
Are there any themes/visions you are currently exploring in your knitwear designs?
I am obsessed with ribbons at the moment. They shout playfulness and frivolousness. They are super femme but also clean and chic! I am not totally sure how I am going to incorporate them into my designs just yet but I know they are going to play a role in my Spring collection. The image of ribbons held by the wind is something magic!
Speaking of wind that is my other current obsession. On new years day I visited Hampstead Heath and there were so many kids flying their kites and it really sparked something in me. I then started trying to research particular winds. I recently read a book called Where The Wild Winds Are.
It is about a man who goes in search of different winds. He starts in Cumbria looking to chase the Helm, the only named wind on the British Isles. I wanted to find out more about this wind. I’m doing some research I have found some stories and iconography which are so beautiful and are a big source of inspiration.
You sell your garments on an affordable basis and donate 50% of your makings to various charities. Can you tell me some more about this?
I want my knitting to be as accessible as possible, hence I offer them all on a sliding scale.
When I started selling commissions in Summer 2020 I was in a position I could afford to send my profits to BLM organisations. Unfortunately, after a few months it became my sole income and I was not able to continue to donate all of my sales. However, I wanted to be able to continue to support one organisation, even in a small way. This is when I chose to donate a percentage of pattern sales to Sistah Space on a permanent basis.
I think if you have the ability to give back to our community we have the responsibility to do so. We cannot rely on those in power. This makes it necessary to support others within our own communities. I am aware that I am very fortunate, so it feels important to give something back even if it is only in a very small way.
Each month, 50% of pattern sales go to a different charity. Imogen also donates 10% of her profits to Sistah Space, a London based domestic violence charity that provides specialist services to women of African and Caribbean heritage.
And, if you would like to arrange a commission with Imogen, or purchase one of her patterns yourself, contact her via her Instagram.