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An interview with Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton

An interview with Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton

We love speaking with the masterminds of the industry and this week we’ve been finding out more about Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton - an innovative knitwear and yarn designer and a name that you’re going to hear a lot more.

Knitting is second nature to Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton; with painters and crafters on both sides of her family, creativity is within her genes. Tuttle Hamilton’s real artist flare began when her father gave her a Brownie camera at the age of seven. Experimenting from then on in, Cornelia has never looked back; exploring a host of arts and crafts, she finally settled on knitting. An industry professional, Cornelia’s work has been featured in knitting publications since her early twenties and she has since gone on to have her own label – Cornelia Hamilton Yarns.

We’ve been working on a special project with Cornelia which we’re very excited to share with you. So while we work our needle protectors off to get everything ready, we wanted to get to know her a little better, delve into her life to find where she finds inspiration and introduce you to what encouraged her to stick with those knitting needles. So, get comfy with a coffee and prepare for a compelling read.

         Tell us how you first got into craft, what inspired you and what it is about knitting you love?

At the age of 8 my mother showed me the basics of knitting. I knit a scarf and that was it. At 13 I began avidly free-hand embroidering my clothing. I then added crochet and sewing to the mix. I started doing macrame jewelry and at 16 started to sell my work. Crafting was a source of extra income for me for the rest of my schooling. At 22 I picked up knitting again, since it was the most lucrative craft area at the time. By then crochet was out of style and knitting used considerably less yarn which was welcome to my budget. I realized quickly that there was no limit to what could be done using knitting as a means of expression. It was a skill that did not have an explorative end. 


For anyone not familiar with the Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton brand can you tell us a little bit more?

 It  was over 30 years ago that my first design was published in Vogue Knitting. Time flies! Since then I have produced 14 pattern book collections. I strive to create patterns that people will be able to wear for at least 10 years. Timeless fashion. Definitely not artwear. I have a great respect for my fellow knitters and endeavour to create designs that look intriguing but are logical and relatively easy to execute. I like the zen of knitting myself and so usually keep my patterns short and hassle free.


What is a typical day in the life of Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton?

 I live a peaceful life dividing my time between Atlanta and Mariefred, Sweden where I also have a little yarn shop. I usually start working right away when I wake up, and love to start my day with knitting if I can. I like to cook healthy food, do yoga regularly and go to the gym several times a week. I also love to sing and hike. I spend time keeping up with friends, often online.


When you get time to knit yourself do you have a special go to place, where you can escape and create?

 I knit most everything I design myself since I prefer to design on the needle, which means I spend a lot of time alone at home. I am very private about my knitting and rarely knit in public. I like the room for contemplation it allows me. I use my knitting as a paint brush to express myself. 


Tell us a little about your design process – what do you take inspiration from?

 For me being a designer of handknits was a lifestyle choice. I allow inspiration in from wherever it comes. Nature, architecture and runway couture are perhaps my favourite sources. But inspiration can come from almost anything and I have tuned myself to be able to find it when it is there. I work things out in my head first as an image. Then I start swatching. 


Who are you most inspired by within the creative industry?

 In the knitting world, Norah Gaughan is my favourite designer. Eisaku Noro's yarn is the most inspiring yarn line. I do not spend much time looking at other people's knitting. 


When you are creating a new yarn or designing a pattern what is it you enjoy most about the process?

 I only work in yarns that intrigue me in some way. I am very strict about that. I always work from the qualities that are inherent to any given yarn and allow the yarn to guide my design decisions. If the yarn does not interest me I won't work with it. Life is too short to be bored. I see the design process as a big problem solving exercise. I get an idea for a yarn and then try and figure out how best to implement it.


The most joy I have gotten was in developing my Dropstitch Openwork™ technique. I am perhaps best known for my earlier work Noro’s self-striping yarns and I wanted to figure out something new to do with them. I wanted to create columns in my knitting without breaking the yarn. It took two years of pondering and then one morning I took up my needles and it just came. The technique is simple and effective and can be used not just for columns but a wide variety of geometric openings in the knitted fabric.


What is your favourite fibre to work with?

 A good non-Merino wool, wool blend and mohair. I am not looking for softness particularly. My stitch patterns often have a sculptural element and a good basic wool holds up my ideas very well. Combining wool and mohair in a garment can create very interesting contrasts in texture that I find inspiring.


With some exciting projects in the pipeline from Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton in the near future; her enthusiasm and refreshing approach towards knitting is inspiring. It’s brilliant to have such a dedicated designer within the industry and working with us, her creativity is conveyed across her work and with an ethos of creating timeless and hassle free knits, we know we can always rely on wonderful and wearable designs from Cornelia. We’ve certainly loved finding out all about Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton, from her inspiration to her day to day routine and you’ll be seeing her name again very soon.

Keep up to date with Cornelia’s latest activity on her social channels here: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.