Who'd be a competition judge? Especially when the competition is for Knitted Textile Designer of the Year at the Clothes Show Live? What an impossible choice to make! Will the judges go more for texture? Or for colour? Or for a mix of both? The brief this year was to take sculptural knitting into 3D, so I for one can't wait to see what the designers come up with. The competition is sponsored by Rowan, in association with Simply Knitting and The Knitter magazines.
There are some wonderfully-talented young knitwear designers coming through universities such as Nottingham Trent. You've only got to take a peek at their student gallery to be whisked off to the heights of creative inspiration. Nichola Evans, Gemma Lloyd and Michelle Legere's work would take my vote any day! Each of these three innovative designers have combined colour and texture in their own special way, and it's that expression of the person through their creation which binds human spirits together and allows us to appreciate their work.
I'm particularly interested in texture, as I feel it's got something to say to us beyond the visual. The tactile nature of wool in all its forms - rough Hebridean to springy South Down - takes mankind back to the dawn of our times, and its sustainable nature shows a path for our future. I like texture in plants too, like Viburnum rhytidophyllum with its deeply-etched leaves.
My most memorable encounter with this plant was in the garden of the man who designed the 'new town' of Harlow in Essex after World War II, Sir Frederick Gibberd. The Gibberd Garden is a festival of texture. It's present on every surface, from paving to plants and water. Your eye can't stray further than a few feet without seeing something new. If a person expresses themselves through their creativity, then you have to wonder how fascinating a person Frederick Gibberd must have been - his hidden exuberance is utterly manifest in the garden he has left behind.
We all have a hidden level of exuberance we don't let on to others, but for spinners, knitters and weavers, our natural verve tends to leak out here and there! We express our most private selves when we set to with new fibre, yarn or drafting plans, creating something which suits us well, in whatever colour or texture best resonates with our spirit. How much more difficult then to design knitwear for the fashion catwalk - fashion that contains a part-essence of your personality yet can be replicated successfully to chime with the spirits and self-image of many others.
Good luck to all the finalists in Knitted Textile Designer of the Year 2011 when the Clothes Show Live opens in the morning: we look forward to making a new journey of knitted discovery with you, through your creations.