Her throws are beautiful, SERIOUSLY chunky and texture-full works of art. “I love a bit of sensory feedback,” says extreme knitter Jacqui Fink of Little Dandelion. “Always have.” Made from the finest, locally sourced wool and linen, these mega throws and blankets weigh up to 15 kilos and are really something else. But it is the philosophy and story behind Jacqui’s work that I’m even more taken with, and it’s something we could all learn from.
Her goal was to make the kind of blanket she wanted but could never find to buy. “Something almost sculptural in nature, an artwork as much as a functional item.” Drawn to texture, she says: “Ultimately, if I was going to make the commitment of setting up my own business, it needed to be for something that would move me.” It took her two years to get to this point, mind you, and there has been plenty of experimenting. “I’ve not found anything similar as yet. There are lots of chunky knits out there but none as extreme as mine!”
Each throw takes a really long time to make by hand using giant knitting needles. “We are talking hours and hours and the process is quite involved. Sitting in the middle of the lounge room floor is my standard repose now and everything has to keep a wide berth around my needles! Give me a cup of tea, knitting needles and wool and I’m a happy girl.” Jacqui is inspired by nature but she’s also driven by a need to slow things down and calls it her contribution to creating a more simplified life. ”I really appreciate the effort people go to in making something by hand. That someone can devote time, energy and love into creating a unique, one-of-a-kind creation is really special and we all need to value it more.
“Mass production really bothers me. We are mindlessly producing so many things we just don’t need and I find it really upsetting. I have this intense desire to break the mould of sameness and standardisation. I love imperfect, I love living outside the box and I am over feeling constrained by people’s expectations of how one should live.”
There are a lot of moody greys in her collection but it’s the sheep that dictate the colour palette. “The wool I use is the colour it comes off the sheep’s back. I get to work with a range of colours from Merino white to silver, dark grey, nutmeg and Vegemite. However, there are distinct variations within these colours from season to season so each blanket or throw I make is truly a unique piece.” Jacqui then edges her woollies with a contrasting pop colour. And we all know how well this works in interiors. “I can’t help myself because I love colour and this is reflected in our own home. I’m not driven by what’s popular. I’m driven by what makes me happy and what appeals to my aesthetic sensibility.”
Jacqui has two Melbourne stockists on board already: Hermon & Hermon in Richmond and Spacecraft in Fitzroy. She is in discussions with two potential stockists in Sydney and also does custom orders. She is currently working on a huge king size blanket; an experience she compares to being like wrangling with a crocodile!
Little Dandelion has a high profile fan already in Inside Out’s style director Glen Proebstel, who she met last year through a mutual friend. “I showed him my work and he really understood it and what I was trying to achieve. It was wonderful to get that kind of feedback from someone like him. It’s so easy to second guess yourself but his affirmation buoyed me to keep moving forward.” She was then delighted when Glen and his favourite photographer Sharyn Cairns styled and took some shots of her wares. “I spent several hours watching Sharyn and Glen do their thing. They work so intuitively together and are captivating to watch. They are artists really. These two need to do a book.” Agreed! “Sharyn and Glen’s images continue to open doors for me. How can you repay that?”
Being a mum of three will always be her first priority and although there are already signs this business could take off, for now “it’s just me doing some extreme knitting at home”. Ultimately, she has visions of a fair trade business where she partners with an artisan community in a far flung land for mutual benefit. “One day! I have some great plans to expand the range.”
These blankets are not cheap, at several hundred dollars, but they’re worth it for the work, time and materials involved. “I deliberately knit my pieces in uncomplicated stitches because I want the wool and the linen to remain the main event. I wanted to support local farmers and suppliers as much as I could and I’m very proud that I’ve been able to do that. I’ve developed lovely friendships. One farmer even sings to her sheep for me to make them grow their fleece faster.” She is competing with crafters from all over the world to get her hands on “the good stuff” Australia and New Zealand produce.
“My throws and blankets do take me many many hours to make: I’m talking days and, in some cases, weeks. I don’t charge for all of my time. I remember doing a calculation with Glen one day trying to work out how I should price my blankets. We factored in an hourly rate for the actual time it takes me to make one and the figure came out to be some exorbitant amount. We had a good laugh and quickly readjusted the numbers. It was a reality check. Every piece is a one-off. There will never be many of these beauties out there and that makes them even more special.”
PS. OMG, OMG, OMG, just how amazingly beautiful are these images?! I die! Jen x