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The North Circular's First Book: A Good Yarn

The handmade, ethically focused knitting brand, powered by Brit models Katherine Poulton and Lily Cole, offers 30 projects to knit yourself

by CH Contributor
on 10 November 2014

by Caroline Kinneberg

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Marking five years since friends and fellow models Lily Cole and Katherine Poulton launched their luxury ethical knitwear brand The North Circular, the duo recently released the book "A Good Yarn." The designs in the book—which includes 30 accessory patterns from beginner to expert, from classic bobble hats to balaclavas—are a mix of new patterns created specifically for "A Good Yarn" as well as best-selling items from The North Circular's past collections.

The knitwear brand prides itself on employing a band of "grannies" who knit the products—made from UK-sourced sustainable natural wool—and each piece is labeled with the name of its knitter. "The anonymity of capitalism, the opacity of objects' stories, arguably plays a large part in the social and environmental ills that production chains can so often be found to cause," Cole writes in the book's introduction.

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"Part of our ethos is people slowing down and creating and knowing who made our products," Poulton tells CH. "But your ultimate connection to a product is if you made it or personally know someone who did. This book will get people involved in that."

While Cole is the face of the brand, representing its ethics and ideas, Poulton masterminds the designs. The development process for each piece starts with draping and folding to produce a conceptual outline. Poulton then hires a pattern-maker to create the product in its entirety. She makes tweaks to the yarn or tension before wearing the prototype outside to test its durability and function.

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The best pieces, she says, are ones that "function and make people look good, rather than the really conceptual designs. Normally there's a reason they don't already exist." Although the brand reveals a new cold weather collection at London's September fashion week each year, they aim to avoid "throwaway fashion." Instead, the creative process is inspired by the constant stream of international fashion on London's streets; color selections are often drawn from art shows around the city. Poulton also attempts to push boundaries as much as possible within given constraints—as not all fibers and colors can be produced naturally.

As for The North Circular's future, the East London–based studio just launched a successful collaboration with French label Roland Mouret and plans to continue pairing with high-end brands. The 2015 collection will go beyond accessories to offer ready-to-wear clothing. And, although goods are currently sold worldwide, the brand wants to go further and create closed circuits in other countries, sourcing local wool—and local grannies.

"A Good Yarn" is available from The North Circular webshop for £14.

Images courtesy of The North Circular

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