Claire Ralls

Claire Ralls, 23. Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, BA (Hons.) Fashion Knitwear Graduate 2009.

– specialism: Fashion Design with Knitwear.


Design Background:

Central St Martins Art Foundation Course, Short courses in Fashion Photography and Fashion Illustration, internship with a Hand knit and crochet designer during my placement year and a three-month machine knit design course with Knit-1 in Brighton.


What was the most valuable thing you learned before starting at your education?

Jo Bates and Erika Trotzig from my art foundation taught me to think more outside my GCSE and A level box and explore art and design in the unique way that St Martins nurtures.



Project title:

Structure vs. Nature



I looked at how the twin inspirations of nature and structure exist within Santiago Calatrava’s architectural designs, particularly the Gare TGV de Lyon Satolas train station, and the photographic work of Edward Muybridge, capturing the flight of birds in sequenced stills. Calatrava’s architectural constructions and interior design features directly reference organic imagery particularly the anatomy and physiology of birds in flight. The Gare de Lyon is almost Cathedral like in its construction with glazed areas, reminiscent of wings, feathers and bone structure. 

Muybridge appears to be reducing the flight pattern and movement of his pigeon sources to mere mechanics and basic biological structure, so there is juxtaposition between the two men’s work that was particularly appealing. 

I  looked at both Muybridge and Calatrava’s work literally, sourcing directly from their imagery that I felt highlighted best the structural / natural elements that would carry my work forward. Throughout the process of research from hard concrete structures to ethereal flight patterns I also studied the wooden architectural designs of Frank Gehry and organically shaped sculptures of Richard Deacon, other examples of artist’s who are inspired by nature.

Where do you get inspiration from in general? I am directly influenced by the world around me and often jump back and forth between similar research sources for my projects. The three key elements are the human body; the internal and external elements such as organs and bone structure and the overall perception of the human body through the eyes of artists such as Ron Mueck, Jenny Saville and Egon Schiele. Architecture, particularly when in reference to an emotive experience such as my 2nd year class trip to Florence, my resulting project was entirely based on the architecture and structure surrounding me on my trip. I find structural elements interesting to translate into knitwear. Finally I always return to floral and horticultural references including bark, the silhouette of trees and intricate petal details. The vibrancy of colour and the beauty of their organic design provide a welcome contrast from the rigidity of most man made structural forms.




How is your process when you design?

I research too much! I collate folders and folders of inspiration then spend the rest of the project whittling down to a select few images, which summarize the development exactly. My flat work is worked on constantly, consistently throughout the process. I always like to work my own drawings and details into my found sources as I feel that it aids my design process and helps me loosen up in time for my final illustrations! I always write everything down and plan meticulously all the details of swatching and working on final designs. For my final collection I ended up with 3 sketchbooks of developments along with my final sheets.




What do you find most difficult about the design process?

I can never get my head around pattern cutting. Thinking in 3D is hard for me, so translating flat paper into a pattern to fit the form is something I need would like to work further on and strengthen. 


What are your strengths?

Time management, consistency within a project and a high standard of finishing. 



What are your weaknesses?

I intend to expand my horizons creatively, by exploring new avenues and revisiting past work. Building upon what I have already created.      


Describe your collection with three words?

Bold, detailed, wearable.


What techniques did you use?

Intarsia, fully fashioning, striping, cabling and pointelle all completed by hand on brother knitting machines, my KH-260 and KH- 826. My rib trims for cuffs hems and necklines were completed by hand on 7gg and 3gg Dubied machines. I also experimented with macramé and jacquard.  




Which technique was the most difficult?

Intarsia was definitely the most time intensive as I was working with many different threads to achieve the tonal design on the birds. My fully-fashioned diamonds and cables were difficult to conceive on paper but once I began experimenting on the machine they came together nicely. The design course I completed at Knit-1 in the summer 2008 greatly improved my confidence in machine knit techniques and many techniques were adapted from basic samples mastered during my time in Brighton.


outfit 6 detail


Do you have a technical or conceptual approach to designing?

Technical. I am always thinking about how a garment will be made when designing which keeps my concept very tight.


Which garment was most difficult to make?

My pointelle jumper with chunky bolero was a challenge. The original intention was to have a 5gg one-piece intarsia design similar to the monochrome 3gg long jumper. However the combination of linen and lambs wool in the structural design affected the tension and I decided to work the garment into two separate pieces so that I could get the intarsia design right and also play around with varying gauges.




Which garment took the longest to make?

My three bird flying intarsia with striped back was very time consuming. Working on a 5gg made it difficult to concentrate on the tonal effects of the three birds and working out their positioning correctly. The stripes involved a lot of threads and multiple yarn changes.



Which garment is your favorite?

My large static pigeon on the tonal green striped background dress. I have named him Clive. He would not exist if it were not for Annalisa Dunn from Co –Operative Designs who guest tutored in my first term of my final year, without her my project would have been very different.




What technique is your favorite?

Intarsia. I find it challenging but very rewarding when its finished. It allows to me work my research images directly into the knit, which I really enjoy.


How long did you work on this project?

7 months, from October 2008 – June 2009.


Is there something you regret not doing in your collection?

In retrospect I would liked to have pushed the 3D element of the project further bringing in larger, less streamline silhouettes combining the intarsia with volume.



What made you pursue Fashion Knitwear?

It was recommended to me when applying for BA Womenswear during my Art Foundation. I was told that my work had a tactile quality that would be complimented in Knit. I never looked back.


What designers inspire you?

Co – Operative designs, Sonia Rykiel, Sibling, Louise Goldin and Missoni.


Which designer would you like to work for in the future?

I would absolutely love to work for any of my inspirational designers. Any opportunity to knit so creatively and explore as many techniques as physically possible would fulfill me.


Why did you choose your specific college?

The longstanding reputation of Central Saint Martins and its successful alumni caught my attention whilst at School. They allow you as a student to forge your own path and learn from as well as teach your own peers. I was and still am fascinated at the individuality of the students that graduate and where their interests lie. Even within my class of 10, no two people were at all alike and created a great melting pot for ideas.


What did you think of the education?

There were very many steep learning curves for me as a student straight from school. There is a lot to learn about yourself and who you are as a designer. You must be very strong in your own convictions to make the system work for you, which is a part of the education process. You learn life skills as well as how to be a designer and I think that’s important and what a university should be doing.


During your education, which project has been your favorite?

Each year has provided me with great, memorable projects, but I would have to say that with all the knowledge that I accumulated over my time at University that my final collection is my favourite for all that I managed to achieve.



How was the school? Facilities? Teachers?

The Technicians were fantastic. I could have done nothing without their knowledge and patience. The atmosphere is one of indescribable chaos – lack of facilities, space and heating in the winter, but creates an unforgettable experience; you appreciate the smallest things and understand how difficult yet rewarding design can be.


What advice would you give new students?

Knowing who you are and want to be is key to your success.


Which fellow students would you like to highlight?

My knit pathway was inspirational and unforgettable. My textiles friends in the knit studio also maintained my sanity during the final push and were the only other ones to truly understand the pain of knitting to a deadline.



Why do you want to be a designer?

To knit and create beautiful things, that others can appreciate and enjoy.


What was your childhood dream job?

After an Olympic swimmer, it was always fashion design.


With one word, what is your best quality?



What are your plans for the future?

I would love to be assisting with Knitwear design and studio management with a design company.



Will you continue to MA?

I have not ruled it out for the future, but not in the next couple of years. I would like to find my feet a bit first and see what the real world is like.


Will you be selling your BA/MA/project collection?

I am currently working on a project with Livingstone Studios in Hampstead, developing my 3 bird intarsias. I have also sold the concept of the static bird. Any other interest in my collection whether as concepts or stand-alone pieces would be welcome.


Contact info:

Claire Ralls,

+44 (0) 7821443738

3 Responses to “Claire Ralls”
  1. Beth says:

    I love the static pigeon jumper, such a strong image**

  2. Shan says:

    Hi, very good creative idea.

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