KCFW: Sarah Wilson Knitwear on what it means to be The Sexy Knitter
How could your grandma’s pastime possibly be sexy? For Sarah Wilson, aka The Sexy Knitter, all it takes it a bit of imagination and a few hours to create the outfit by hand. With over 25 years of knitting under her needles, Wilson now designers her own pieces and sells knitting tools on sexyknitter.com for other knitters out there—sexy or otherwise. We spoke with Wilson ahead of her Wednesday evening KC Fashion Week show, which will showcase her first bridal line.
When did your interest in knitting begin?
As a kid, I was always making things. My first memory of anything related to fiber arts is attending my older brother’s basketball game and watching the woman in front of me crochet during the event. I think I was about nine? I kept inching closer and closer to her until she finally handed me a hook and taught me how to chain. After that, I was completely enamored. I went home and told my mom that I wanted to learn how to do “that.” She managed to rummage up some yarn and a crochet hook and a couple of pairs of knitting needles, along with a learn-to-knit pamphlet from the 1970s, complete with instructions for an ensemble of a poncho and matching bellbottom pants. The rest is history, and I still have that pamphlet in my studio today.
This is a question I get a lot! It’s actually a pretty long story, but it was around 2011 when I took on this name for my business. At the time, I was designing and writing knitting patterns, and I’ve always done a lot of really girly pieces and summery dresses and skirts, so it seemed like a good fit. Plus I was attending knitting conferences several times a year, and that’s a situation where everyone is meeting hundreds of people in a weekend, and you need them to remember you because you’re there to get work. So I started knitting these insane pieces that I’d wear around the show floor with 4 inch heels, and I’d introduce myself as The Sexy Knitter, and it worked. It turned out to be really useful to put the effort into those convention showpieces, because so many people would go out of their way to meet me and ask about them, and I always ended up coming home with a lot of new work from those shows. When I transitioned into my current business, which is developing and producing all kinds of knitting and crochet tools and accessories for sexyknitter.com, I decided to keep the name because I already had such a large following. So now instead of being The Sexy Knitter, I own The Sexy Knitter.
All of your garments are made by hand, since you knit every piece. How long does it take to create one of your designs?
For KCFW, when I looked at the timeline, I realized I only had 6 days to create each look that I wanted to send down the runway. That’s, I’ll just be honest, completely insane for hand knitting. These are the kind of garments that most knitters would expect to have 8 to 12 weeks to complete, if not longer. I’ve always been quick, but there were a few days towards the beginning of this process where I wasn’t sure it would even be possible to finish in time. Thankfully for me, I’m an A-type personality with a great work ethic and the ability to think outside the box when it comes to how to get things done, but let’s just say that there haven’t been a lot of hours used for sleeping this summer. I have one pair of pants in the collection, they’ve got this beautiful sheer panel down the side, but they were constructed in 7 pieces and it took me a full two days just to seam them together. I did a timelapse of the seaming process for my Instagram, @sarahwilsonknitwear, just so people could see how excruciatingly slow the process really is when you’re making something by hand. It’s absolutely worth it every time.
Most knitting patterns aren’t designed for the runway. Where do you get your inspiration from when creating your designs?
You know, I’m pretty obsessed with the fashion industry at large, and just clothes in general, so I make a conscious effort to expose myself to as much of that as possible. Following runway shows around the world, keeping an eye on what techniques couture houses are incorporating into their collections, even things like browsing Pinterest and Instagram can inspire new ideas. I also have an attention to detail, and when I go shopping, I’m always looking at how things are constructed and trying to expand my wealth of knowledge in every way. It’s a strange singularity in the knitting world that there seems to be an expectation to produce creative work in a vacuum. I don’t understand that at all because the truth is, that’s not even possible. The more you know, the more you see, the more original ideas you are likely to have as it all starts to mesh together. That’s how learning works.
What can we expect from your Wednesday show?
For my premiere collection, I wanted to present my ideas for modern bridal fashion. My husband and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary this year, and when we got married in 2004, brides got one bridal look: their wedding dress, which they wore to both the ceremony and reception. These days, not only do brides have multiple dresses on their wedding day, but many are embracing each event leading up to that day as an opportunity to have a bridal fashion moment. In this collection, you’ll see looks for engagement photo shoots, bachelorette parties, bridal luncheons, showers, brunches, the rehearsal dinner, and even the honeymoon. The challenge was in taking the classic idea of bridal, which has traditionally been a very small box, and reinterpreting it into something fashionable that could also be appropriate as daywear. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
Wednesday Evening Runway Show
September 18 at 6:00 p.m.
30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO, 64108