An interview with Marie Greene of Olive Knits


Marie Greene is a super-talented knitwear designer from the Pacific North West, her philosophy and ethos fits beautifully with the vision for Nottingham Yarn Expo. Marie has been involved with many knitting shows in the US and we are delighted that she has chosen NYE to be her first European yarn festival. This will be a fabulous opportunity for knitters in the UK to meet Olive Knits and attend one of her inspirational workshops. Here's our interview :


  • What is your earliest memory of knitting and designing?

My grandmother Margery taught me to knit when I was a child, and one of the gifts she gave me (besides the joy of the craft itself) was freedom from a pattern. She didn't teach me with patterns. She scribbled informal notes on scraps of paper that provided a place to start and roughly where to finish, but most of the process was intuitive. I don't know if it was just a matter of convenience or if there was a method to the madness, but it gave me the ability to understand the broader concept of knitting without getting stuck on minutiae. From very early on I was able to create my own "designs" for Barbie Dolls and baby booties without a pattern book, because I'd been taught to be fearless with my needles. I can't think of a more wonderful way to teach a child to knit than to empower her to take charge of her tools and learn along the way. In fact, even my knitting style - the way I hold my yarn and needles - is different from the way my grandmother knits. She showed me to hold the yarn in my right hand and throw it around to the left to wrap the stitch, and I remember stubbornly saying, "It doesn't make sense to have the yarn over there if you need over here. Why can't I just hold it in my left hand?" My grandmother, a trail blazer in her own right, said I could hold the yarn however I wanted to. It made such an impact to be taught by someone who was not attached to "one right way" of doing things - it's had an enormous influence over my knitting style and the way I teach.


  • You talk about slow fashion, can you explain what this means to you and why it is important?

I think we live with an interesting dichotomy: we want to slow down, embrace the process and pay attention to quality, while at the same time we live in a mad rush, and often default to what's convenient, even when it means choosing things which go directly against that desire for mindfulness and quality. It's this tendency toward convenience that leads us to fashion and style choices (among other things) that often highlight the worst parts of our culture: fast fashion that is made in questionable, if not worse, conditions, and materials that are not designed to last and/or have a negative impact on the environment where they are produced. Slow fashion empowers us to make thoughtful choices about the source of the materials we choose to work with, and gives us an intimate connection to the pieces we create. To me, slow fashion means a process that allows us to take our time and be intentional about the clothing we wear, whether it's clothing we create ourselves, or clothing created by others using that same process. Artisans and makers have established a completely new paradigm about handmade clothing; it's no longer kitschy to wear a handmade dress or a hand knit cardigan - it's a celebration of the art form, an acknowledgement of every stitch. Slow fashion is a movement that has reconnected to the process and the quality, not just the end result. 


  • Your designs are classic, stylish and very wearable, who or what have been your main influences on your designs?

What first comes to mind when you ask this question are characters played by Katharine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell. I grew up admiring strong women in Hollywood who had minds of their own, played clever female roles and looked great while doing it. I was really drawn to those older black & white movies, which was a little strange because that wasn't my era, but there was something about what I saw in movies from the 1940's that really resonated with me. Maybe that's why I love black, white and grey so much! As I grew older, I was drawn to the clean lines of Japanese design and clothing makers like Eileen Fisher, whose timeless, practical style reflects a very clear intention in every seam. Over the last few years I've designed pieces that I look back on and think, wow - this is not really me. Where did that come from? It's an evolving process, and every day I am discovering new ways to express my creative vision and hit the mark for the kind of intentional style I'm looking for. I also really love architecture, so when I travel I like to take photos of bridges and buildings and use the lines and features as inspiration for my work. 


  • You live in a beautiful part of the world, how has the Pacific North West influenced your style?

You are right - this is a lovely place to live. I'm just an hour and a half from the coast, and this convenience is not lost on me. I love to take my knitting and a sketchbook and sit on the shore, drawing in ideas for new pieces. The landscape is an inspiration in and of itself, but there's a real sense that creativity is magnified here. I look around me at the wealth of amazing designers, dyers and fiber artists in this area and it leads me to think we're all very lucky to live somewhere that seems to so beautifully support the work we want to do. 


  • This is the first opportunity for knitters in the UK to meet you and see your designs in person, what should they expect?

In all honesty, I'm a people-person. If you ask those who know me or who have taken my classes, I want knitters to feel comfortable and have a wonderful time, so connecting is really important to me. I'm chatty and outgoing and I think it's easy for people to feel at ease with me pretty quickly. Knitters at NYE can expect that I'll be talking "shop" with anyone and everyone I meet, answering questions when knitters come to me to say, "Would you mind looking at this button band and giving me suggestions?" or handing over my sweater samples for knitters to try on. 


  • Who would you most like to knit with in the 'break out' area of NYE?

Oooh, this is a good question. Sarah Hazel, Hanna Lisa Vanderkamp, Verena Cohrs, Erika Close, Rachael Cook ... 


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