Handmaker's Factory

Interview with Brianna Read from Jack of Diamonds

Brianna recently taught an introductory machine knitting course here at Handmaker's Factory which was a huge success. Today we talk with her about her knit label Jack of Diamonds and find out how she came to work with vintage knitting machines.
Studio Work in Progress

Tell us about Jack of Diamonds
Jack of Diamonds was born as a way to share the designs, techniques and my particular thoughtful sense of style which had developed over the years of studying and working in textile design. Each thoughtfully curated collection is hand-crafted using vintage knitting machines and hand finishing techniques. I believe the belongings a person selects, including those we clothe ourselves in, for their life are a reflection of values and perspective. I intended to cultivate a business which contributes garments of long standing quality and worth and hoped to show that style need not be something with a single season use by date.

In addition to creating carefully designed fashion and objects the Jack of Diamonds label also aims to share the techniques by which they are created. Through patterns, workshops and tutorials the Jack of Diamonds ideal is to both enrich the wider community of textile and fashion design by sharing the techniques and tools of the trade while also revealing the processes undertaken in order to create the products coveted by consumers.

Jack of Diamonds Spring Summer cover

What led you to machine knitting?
I had dabbled with hand knitting and I was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged my creative pursuits but also insisted that I balance these with the solid knowledge of mathematics and sciences. My mother took the time to teach me the fundamentals of sewing garments and my father was always building or dismantling something and encouraged me to join in.

I had never heard of machine knitting until I studied Textile Design at RMIT but by then I knew that desk work was too sedentary for me and that I found solace and confidence when working with my hands.

 Jack of Diamonds Coda Wrap 

What are your biggest inspirations?
Inspiration is such a peculiar thing – I think nature is a strong influence in my choice of colour palettes and certainly yarns. But design is much more than how something appears so I often find that it is the conversations with clients that brings the most important decisions to my collections.

How a design performs and fits within the real lives of those who wear them is very important to me, Jack of Diamonds wouldn't be possible without the support and interest of my clients and those who appreciate the art of craft.

Jack of Diamonds Odette Wrap II

Tell us a little about the things you make
Thus far Jack of Diamonds collections have consisted of cardigans, vests, tunics, the occasional dress and skirt along with a small range of scarf and shawl styles. I often include designs for cardigans which can change in appearance and style depending upon how they are worn, this versatility is frequently something clients enjoy and I encourage them to find the way to style and wear a Jack of Diamonds piece which they are comfortable in.

I am often asked about designs for men and children and I am quietly hatching away plans for possible forays in the future too…

What kind of machines do you use?
I use vintage domestic knitting machines from the 1970’s for all production in the studio. I favour the language and simplicity of the Singer 300 series models but the principles of these machines were used by many companies during the boom of domestic machine knitting.

Jack of Diamonds Studio 118

What does a day in the Jack of Diamonds studio look like?

No two are ever the same! Which is probably why I enjoy it so much! It is always creative, often challenging and never dull. I try now to approach each aspect of this business with the same dedication that creativity inspires in me – there was a time when I struggled to maintain enthusiasm for the more computer based tasks of Jack of Diamonds, but I have found that every thing can be enjoyable if you approach it with a little ‘out of the square’ attitude.

Do you have any advice for those wanting to get into machine knitting?

  • Do you enjoy working with your hands?
  • Do you find pleasure in discovering how something works?
  • Do you aspire to create things to wear?
  • Do you enjoy problem solving?
  • Do you approach mistakes as learning opportunities?
  • Do you agree that physical activity can be creative?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to four or more of these questions machine knitting could well be for you! Watch this space as a new series of classes for Handmaker’s Factory is in the pipeline…