Technical textile designs in luxurious yarns have earned Elizabeth Walecki two coveted bursaries totalling £3,000, proving particularly valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fashion Textile Design student at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is one of just nine designers in the country awarded this year’s £2,500 Company Bursary by the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters.
Elizabeth impressed the judges – before social distancing and lockdown measures were introduced – with her highly technical designs knitted on a 10-gauge Dubied machine. Her work has also earned her a £500 bursary from The Textile Society.
“It feels great to be recognised in this way because I’ve loved knitwear since my grandmother taught me to knit when I was young,” said the 21-year-old final-year student from Swindon.
With coronavirus leading to the cancellation of Graduate Fashion Week and postponement of New Designers, both national industry events showcasing emerging talent, Elizabeth had to rethink how to spend her bursary.
She said: “I was going to put the money towards materials to develop full outfits for the shows, but since DMU had to close, I decided to invest in a home studio so I can continue creating.”
Elizabeth’s home studio now includes a domestic knitting machine, an overlocker and a printer, allowing her to carry on working on her collection.
“It felt like everything I had planned to do couldn’t be achieved, but I’m a positive person by nature so I’m just trying to get on with things and come up with a new direction for my collection,” she said.
The current situation has encouraged Elizabeth to focus on the digital side of the fashion industry. In just one week she grew her Instagram account by 200 new followers and had her content shared by a number of influential accounts.
She said: “The industry is heading in a more digital direction anyway and this is an opportunity to develop those skills and gain an online presence.”
Set apart by a neutral palette and minimalistic classic approach, Elizabeth’s intricate designs are centred around technique. Her pre-collection involved painstakingly calculating how much yarn she needed for each garment and dyeing the exact amount necessary to achieve a subtle ombre effect.
“People often overlook how much time and consideration goes into knitwear. There’s a lot of problem-solving involved and that’s one of my favourite parts of the process,” she said.
During her presentation to the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters’ panel, Elizabeth impressed the judges with design samples which she developed on her work placement with Cobalt, one of the world’s largest knitwear suppliers.
She said: “During my 12 months there, I worked on various global high street and online accounts, attended customer meetings and made industry connections. I was also trained on industry standard Shima Seiki knitwear software and some of my designs went into production.
“Doing a work placement last year has definitely helped my current mindset as it gave me a new perspective on everything.”
Elizabeth also completed a month-long internship in Vienna with independent knitwear designer Christina Seewald, helping to create some of the garments for her Spring/Summer 2020 collection.
“It was really exciting to be involved in so much of the business, from making garments, to creating specification sheets and negotiating with manufacturers. I can’t imagine going into the final year of my degree without my placement experiences. They’ve helped me immensely and I just had the best year,” she said.
Praising the support she has received at DMU, Elizabeth added: “I can’t fault our tutors and technicians, especially the brilliant staff operating the Dubied room.
“Since the coronavirus outbreak, our tutors have readjusted our briefs overnight to make them more realistic. We’ve also been given free access to computer software we can use at home, we got a two-week extension on all of our projects and we still have individual tutorials through video chats.
“DMU gives you every opportunity imaginable, as long as you’re willing to take it.”
Find Elizabeth Walecki on Instagram.