How Eclectic Experimental Craft captivates the community with Oie Slate

An Interview with Oie Slate about YKWU and their creations.

In May 2022, the You can Knit With Us club was graced with the resonant artistry that is Oie Slate’s craft. With yarn supplied by Wool and The Gang, the workshop was immersive and enjoyable for the attendees, the team and the facilitator altogether. This month’s pattern was a phone bag: a convenient and fun pattern to work with, created by Oie. Oie’s ability to connect with experienced knitters and beginners was remarkable; we at Coléchi are grateful to have had such a dynamic creative work with us during this session.

Oie Slate’s brand – Oslatetextiles – has a variety of earthy, groovy handmade accessories available to purchase. The textures and fibres that they work with such as their bioplastic yarn earrings are one-of-a-kind, using recycled materials to bring a verdant vibrancy to the textile game. This is an artist who makes it very clear in their work that sustainability is a fun, playful process, and it is truly enthralling to witness.

I caught up with Oie Slate and interviewed them about their experience facilitating the workshop and how they bring their vibrant creativity to life through fabric.

Describe to us your experience facilitating the YKWU workshop. What was enjoyable about it? What were the detriments?

Oie: It was really amazing to be able to teach the YKWU workshop. It was really great to have such amazing yarns from Wool and The Gang, they were really lovely – it was great that they were able to donate those to the workshop. I thought it was really enjoyable that there were people of all different levels coming together – there were people who had never knitted before, who maybe needed to be shown, you know, a couple of times how to cast on, and then there were people who were really experienced knitters. So it was great to see everyone coming together regardless of skill level. Some people who attended the workshop were helping to teach beginners. It supports the idea that learning doesn’t have to be top down; we can all be improving, learning, helping and supporting each other at the same time.

When did you first get into working with textiles?

O: I first got into textiles about 10 or 11 years ago. I started sewing when I was 15 years old. I have a very traditional fashion design background: I started learning how to sew on a machine, making clothes when I was a teenager, then when I moved to London about five years ago and started on my foundation course, I learned how to knit with a knit machine and kept on with that. In my second year of my bachelor’s degree, I started weaving – that was really when I fell in love with textiles and creating my own material. I carried on with knit and some weaving, but I’m very involved with knit at the moment. Just over the past three or four years I have started to develop a signature style within my knitwear, so it’s been a really wonderful journey. I just am completely in love with textiles. 

As well as knitting, how else do you work with textiles? 

O: As I mentioned, in addition to knitting, I am a big weaver. I love weaving; it’s very different from knitting. It sometimes is a bit slower, but it’s a more deliberate process. It’s a lot easier to control the textile compared to knitting. There’s something really meditative and enjoyable about weaving. 

You experiment frequently with your design work. Describe to us that creativity process.

O: With my design work and experimentation, I definitely take a make-first approach. I don’t always have a concept or ideas then sketch those out and then move into the final design stage – generally, how I work is that I will just be inspired by something, whether it’s maybe the texture of a yarn, or the colour or the shape of something – I make from that. So I’ll get on to the knit machine and I’ll create a sample based on this idea, or a shape based on this idea, and work with that on the stand and develop pieces from there. Then I might bring in other elements like weaving or natural dyeing. I jump right into the making, rather than planning and designing and sketching first. I’m definitely in favour of a make-first approach. 

How do you personally think we can triumph over the reign of fast fashion and overconsumption through knitting, if it’s possible?

O: Great question. How do you personally think we can triumph over the reign of fast fashion? That is a bit of a big question. I think that this community of knitters who are, you know, of varying skill levels, who are interested in knitting, especially knitting with waste yarn or waste materials. I think it’s those people meeting up, collectivising, having conversations about knitting, having conversations about fashion waste: those are the people who are going to be making those changes. As you know, knitters continue to promote the value of things that are handmade, things that are made from waste yarn – it becomes popular to have pieces that are reworked, handmade, vintage. The change happens on a small level: movers and shakers impact the industry and promote slow handmade processes in fashion and design. I do think it’s possible [to triumph over fast fashion]. I think it’s a matter of everyone coming together and committing to learning processes for making clothes or mending their own clothes. The change happens with us. 

Where do you find the time to crochet amongst your courses, and do you incorporate your university education into your work at all?

O: I graduated university in the summer of 2021, so I’ve been out of uni for about a year. I do work within the arts, which is nice. I don’t have my brand full time – I do work, but I do get to work in Creative Industries, which is really great because it keeps the creative energy up. I lecture part-time at my old university – Ravensbourne University London – I’m a sessional lecturer on their fashion and textiles foundation course, and I also work part time for the Crafts Council gallery. The Crafts Council is the national charity for craft in England, so I get to keep myself around creative people all the time, but I do have to manage my time quite well. So I have to knit when I’m home. I get home from work in the evening, I work on weekends – I definitely end up working more than 40 hours a week, more than five days a week. Incorporating all the time with my brand, I think one of the best ways that I manage the time is I have tasks or goals for each week. Like, “what am I going to do this week? I’m going to finish this dress this week.” Or “I’m going to start [something] this week” – trying to keep them reasonable, but making sure I can manage the tasks in my time off from work. 

Do you have a knitting community? Where do you go for inspiration or to pick up new skills? Is this available within your community?

O: I do have a knitting community. I started going to these wonderful maker craft group sessions on Wednesdays. The group is called Second Life Club. I’m not sure if they’re still running sessions at the moment, but it was a group that was organised by Old Kent Road Arts Club, which is an amazing artists collective based on Old Kent Road. They had their studios there and they hosted weekly craft maker sessions. That’s where I got into more hand knitting and other textile and crafty skills. There was a skill share session each week, so that was a wonderful community. Additionally, lots of my friends are knitters, textile people, arts people – it’s really great to surround yourself with creatives because it makes me feel creative to be around creative people all the time. 

I go everywhere for inspiration. You know, I do spend a lot of time on Instagram seeing what’s out there with people in arts, people in fashion, people in textiles… I go to exhibitions a lot – I think it’s a good place to get inspiration from. I’m interested in music, film… I love seeing what people are wearing on the tube. That’s one of my favourite places to get fashion or styling inspiration – just looking at what people are wearing out and about. It’s really available to anyone to do similar research: there are so many free exhibitions in London! We’re so lucky to have free museums. So going to exhibitions is a great way to get inspiration and looking at what people are wearing and the world around you – it’s a fountain of inspiration.

It’s so important to see different people knitting. Do you think there is a misconception on who knits? What are your thoughts on the rise of young knitters like yourself?

O: I think it’s extremely important to see different people knitting. There is that misconception around knitting being just something for grannies. The power of knitting and the power of textiles… textile arts as a whole are so powerful. It’s important to set the record straight. Even thinking about things like the AIDS quilt: it was an amazing piece where people submitted small pieces of cloth of quilt pieces in commemoration of people they knew who died of AIDS in the 1980s. They assembled this quilt and used it to tour around the country for activism to fund AIDS research. So the power of Textiles is huge! It can be used for activism, it can be used for fashion, to express yourself. I think that there is this misconception about who knits but I think knitting at its core is for everyone. It’s a really wonderful skill to have. I think it’s meditative. It’s a great place to build a community. And I think that yes, there is this power coming from young knitters. I hope that I will continue to see young people knitting. Again, bringing about this change within fashion – fighting fast fashion – that is going to come from young knitters. That is going to come from people realising that they can produce their own cloth. Basically, I think it’s a powerful thing, and I hope that this is going in the right direction. 

What’s next for you? Where do you want your general textile work to take you?

O: So as far as what’s next for me – I am planning on continuing to teach workshops. I teach workshops on a freelance basis. Whenever there’s an opportunity for someone to do a textiles workshop and talk etc, I’m always interested in spreading the word, teaching people about how to do different textile techniques, how to enjoy textiles, and how to find meditation or relaxation from textiles. I hope that I’m going to continue to teach lots of workshops this year and to continue with my brand and to put out new collections. I’m working on some new pieces at the moment with deadstock yarn that were donated by a denim mill. They weave denim and they donated some of their undyed cotton yarn that they weren’t going to use. It’s a great project to be working on this collection made with deadstock yarn that otherwise would have been thrown away. 

Those are kind of my main goals this year: to keep working on this collection, get the word out there about my brand, to keep teaching workshops and to keep spreading the word about the power of textiles, the power of knitting, the power of crafting in a community. I think that’s a really special thing, so I hope that I can continue to promote that in my work.

You can find Oie Slate at @oslatetextiles on Instagram and on Depop.

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