Terri Laura Leask is a knitwear designer and maker based in Shetland. Hailing from a family with a strong knitting tradition – her grandmother is ‘The Shetland Designer’ Wilma Malcolmson – Terri Laura’s designs are inspired by the colours of her native landscape and her love of fair isle patterning. While she learned to hand knit at primary school, she taught herself to use the Knitmaster knitting machine without a manual.
Terri Laura produces both hand and machine knitted garments and is keen to dispel the myths about machine knitting.
It’s not a big machine that just prints out the fabric. You have to sit there for every row, every colour change, every punch card mistake. You’re there. If you walk away, nothing happens.
Terri Laura Leask
And as many former machine knitters will attest, knitting on the hand-operated machine requires concentration and physical effort, qualities that few recognise when they purchase a machine-knitted garment.
To view her designs, see Terri Laura – Fair Isle Design
Extended clip of interview between Terri Laura Leask and Lynn Abrams (September 2020)
Transcript of interview clip (transcribed by Ben Boswell).
LA: Erm, so the relationship between hand-knitting and machine-knitting then. I’m really interested. Mainly in terms of the way one thinks about it but also in terms of business.
LA: You know, and the interlocking between – between – could you talk about that a bit?
TL: Yeah, so there’s a lot of – I would say that it’s – you need to be a hand-knitter to be a machine-knitter. It definitely helps having seen how the stitches are formed and how things build up. Erm, you do not need to be a machine-knitter to be a hand-knitter. (Laughs).
TL: Erm, it’s just a completely different, erm – just a completely different thing altogether. It’s – in terms of describing the work as hand-knitted or machine-knitted, it’s very difficult to portray that this is actually what it’s like to machine-knit.
TL: It’s not a big machine that just prints out the fabric. You have to sit there for every row, every colour change, every punch card mistake. You’re there. If you walk away, nothing happens.
TL: Um, it’s very manual. It’s a lot of concentration. It’s just as much concentration as hand-knitting. If not more. That’s more tiring than hand-knitting.
TL: Cos you’re using more of your body as well and it takes longer to fix any mistakes with that.
TL: So if that goes perfectly every time, then you’re off but it’s just not the case! (Laughs).