Going places – at home with knitwear designer Amy Hall
Set in a prime location, right opposite a large park and a stone’s throw from the river, this Hackney home is much loved by its owners Amy and Adrian, who live here with their two girls, Beatrix, four, and Otilie, one. The couple moved here three years ago from a one-bedroom flat in Dalston, needing more room for their growing family, as well to host friends and relatives.
“The house makes us so happy,” says Amy. “Particularly the kitchen, as we love having dinner together every night around the table, and finally having enough space to entertain people.” Their home is also conveniently close to Amy’s studio, the HQ of her knitwear label, Amy Hall, where she and a small team painstakingly craft her luxe knits by hand from the finest quality yarns.
Keen to know more about Amy’s passion for knitting, as well as her stylish home, we pulled up a chair in the sunny kitchen. We have to confess to getting slightly sidetracked by stories of the family’s amazing global adventures… but really, can you blame us?
How long have you been knitting for?
I started knitting when I was six or seven, my grandmother taught me; she knitted all the time. In fact, we recently discovered a load more things she’d made, such as hand-crocheted gilets and jackets. Her mother had knitted before her, and my mother knitted too.
That’s lovely to hear that it’s been passed down through the generations. How did it end up becoming your job?
I studied photography at Camberwell College of Arts, but when it came to doing it for work, my heart just wasn’t in it. I used to knit clothes for myself and would often get stopped in the street by people asking where the pieces were from. After a while, I came to wonder whether there could be something in it. My friend is a stylist and she suggested shooting a capsule collection, and it just grew from there.
It sounds like it was meant to be. How would you describe your signature style?
I tend to create flattering, transitional pieces, such as lightweight cardigans, which can work all year round in the UK. I like a wrap shape, as it looks good on everyone, and skinny sleeves are also typical of my style.
And what inspires your designs?
Like most creative people, I can get ideas from anywhere. I don’t follow trends, but I do keep an eye on the catwalks, where I’ll often be inspired by the smallest of details, such as a neckline or a collar. For my collections, I’ve drawn upon everything from 90s grunge music and acid house to the landscape of the Isle of Wight, where I grew up. I always keep a notebook on me for writing patterns when inspiration strikes, and I often find that the piece I start out knitting will become something quite different to what I originally intended.
So the process is quite organic. Does it take a lot of patience?
I have a couple of machines that help, but some things have to be done completely by hand, such as knitting cables for example, so yes, I need to have quite a bit of patience. It isn’t something I have a lot of in many other aspects of my life, apart from when I’m teaching others to knit. I teach at Central Saint Martins, and sometimes do private classes. Adrian jokes that I’m a totally different person when I’m teaching, mainly because I’m so patient.
It’s definitely something we could do with a little more of. Do you knit as a hobby too?
Yes, I do. I loved knitting when the girls were born, as it’s so nice to do dinky knits. And, it’s also good to remember what it’s like to do it for pleasure and not for work, as the pressure can sometimes take the joy out of it. But, it’s really relaxing at the creative stage, when I feel like I’ve got all the time in the world. I put the radio on, make a cup of coffee and then sit there for hours just getting lost in the knitting. It’s a great way to unwind.
It sounds wonderful, we’re going to dig out our needles. What do you do when you’re not knitting?
I really like sewing as well. I’ve just made a couple of quilts for the girls, so now I want to make a big king-size quilt to go on our bed. It’s just a case of finding the time. Oh, and we’re keen travellers too.
We don’t know how you fit it all in. Where do you like to jet off to?
Adrian’s mum is Chinese and grew up in Malaysia, and his dad was from Hong Kong, so we have a wonderful reason to go to Asia every couple of years to visit his family. We’ve covered that part of the world pretty thoroughly over the last 13 years. We both have the travel bug badly, and when we had Beatrix we were determined not to let it stop us from going places.
We bet you’ve seen some amazing sights. How do you find traveling with kids?
It’s really not bad at all, we travelled around Japan when Beatrix was only two, and it was great. Otilie had her first experience of travelling in July, when we went to Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong. It was quite a lot of moving around for two little ones, but they both dealt with it really well. If in doubt, take lots of snacks, colouring pencils and load up tonnes of CBeebies on an iPad.
And where’s the best place that you’ve been so far?
Japan, definitely. I kept feeling like I had to pinch myself when I was there as it’s just such an incredible country, whether you’re surrounded by stunning scenery in the mountains or the bonkers urban landscape of Tokyo. I thought it was going to be expensive, but if you go to the little family-run restaurants on the side streets, the sushi is amazing and you can eat like kings for very little. We had so many great times on that trip, particularly seeing in the new year from a proper ryokan in the mountains, and going sledding on New Year’s Day.
Sounds like you’ve got some great memories. What have been your proudest achievements to date?
Obviously the kids, and I’m pretty proud of our house. I think I achieved what I set out to do: a lovely home where we can welcome friends and family. Also, seeing my work featured in Vogue felt like a pretty big deal.
That certainly is a big deal. What would you do if you could have any other career?
Well, I’m actually of thinking about studying aromatherapy. I got into it after my dad died, and I had no idea how healing and medicinal it could be. I’m hoping to start a diploma next September. Obviously, I’d keep the knitwear going as well as I’ve worked so hard on it, but it would just be another string to my bow.
Unsure of whether to rush off and book a trip to Japan, or head straight to the nearest knitting shop, we reluctantly said our goodbyes to Amy (and the gorgeous Otilie, who made our visit even more enjoyable). If, like us, you’re seriously unprepared for the cold weather, then we suggest upping your knitwear game pronto. Head to amy-hall.co.uk for inspiration, and to find out more about her designs.