Taught to knit at junior school, Martin Storey fell in love with the craft at a young age and is now one of the best-known designers in the world.
Inspired by his teacher, who saw nothing unusual in passing on a love of needlecrafts to boys and girls alike, Martin remembers his early school years in East Yorkshire with fondness. But his subsequent grammar education proved a stark contrast and he struggled to find an outlet for his creative side .After leaving school Martin spent time helping out on the family pig farm and had a short stint at a firm of auctioneers while he pondered on what career path to take. Encouraged by an art student friend, he completed an art foundation course and went to study fashion at Middlesex University, which allowed him to cultivate his interest in hand knitting once more.
Middlesex was a turning point for Martin, who drew on his knowledge of handknitting in his final collection, cementing his love of the craft once and for all. The design department at the time was a hotbed of the most influential and creative minds of the 1980s and Martin mixed with the likes of fashion designers David Holler and Stevie Stewart – also known as Bodymap – as well as jewellers Dower and Hall.
After graduating Martin began working for knitwear design company Artwork, who became renowned for their use of denim yarn. Martin was involved in creating their sought-after signature denim knits, which sold all over the world. He liked nothing better than designing quirky 3D stitches to show the yarn to its best advantage.
“It was working at Artwork that I first came across Stephen Sheard, then owner and creative director of Rowan, who introduced me to the wonderful world of Rowan yarns and handknit designs,” says Martin. “Artwork used many of the lovely Rowan yarn ranges in its early, 1980’s handknit collections. I thought then they were just beautiful yarns to design and work with.”
Leaving Artwork after 15 years, Martin began working more closely with Rowan, at first designing for the Jaeger brand, which was taken under Rowan’s wing in 1995, before joining Rowan as a signature designer. He has now been with Rowan for 25 years and is involved in every stage of the design process.
“I love that Rowan encourage creative freedom in their unique handknit designs and because I’m also involved in selecting their wonderful yarns it feels very personal to me,” he adds.
Martin can often be found rummaging in charity shops or vintage clothes stores looking for interesting cuff details or embellishments to inspire his own inimitable designs for Rowan.
He is also a keen collector of porcelain, ceramics, vintage soft toys and puppets, and fills his seaside home with vintage textiles and pieces picked up on trips abroad and at local markets.
“I always make sure I have a notebook close by to jot down what I see or make a sketch to remind me”, he says. “I think my fashion background comes through in my designs – I do still tend to think about the design, shape and texture or pattern first – but Rowan yarns also inspire me.”
After a lifetime of knitting and designing, Martin is a master at his craft and knows what knitters want. This heritage, together with a fantastic eye for texture and colour, make his garments a joy to look at, to knit and, most importantly, to wear.