Japan, Tomoko Yamanaka, Knitwear
Tomoko Yamanaka is a UK-based knitwear designer from Japan. She has had her design studio in Hampstead London for over 15 years. In 2012, she started her winter "British Alpaca Project" knitwear collection using only 100% British alpaca wool. Over the years, she has learnt a lot about British alpacas, which have a relatively recent history and are not recognised as an industry in the UK. Because of this, Tomoko had to start from complete scratch. She and her farmer friend, Dian, asked around their network to find spinners. They discovered the British Alpaca Society and the annual Alpaca show and began building her alpaca network. After many many experimental attempts of different weights, twists and fibre mixtures, Tomoko is happy to now produce her own original, high quality 100% British Alpaca yarns spun by a micromill in Dorset. Each winter, she designs a collection of knitwear. She sometimes collaborates with other makers, such as a sock factory Corgi in Wales, or the very old weaving mill Francis Moore in Yorkshire. This season, Tomoko is working with weave designer Mika Hirosawa to make hand woven scarves.
In recent years Tomoko has been focussed on her line of knitwear, Cabinet. It has always been her dream as a knitwear designer to develop her own yarns and create a collection knowing where the wool is coming from. Tomoko only uses natural undyed colours and enjoys very much the process of designing yarns and mixing fleece to create different natural shades. Around late autumn, the finished alpaca yarns arrive to her London studio. The design inspiration always comes from the materials. Tomoko’s work shines in its simplicity and timelessness. While the knitting started with a group of home knitters, now the work in done in studio, especially fair isle patterns and intarsia. Tomoko then combines all the pieces of a garment and washes and finishes in studio. By the time a new collection is ready, the process of creating new yarns with the year’s harvest of alpaca wool has already begun.
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