Cockpit Arts Winter Open Studios: Bespoke Knitwear Brands Promoting British Craft


With studios based in Holborn and Deptford, Cockpit Arts is a business incubator for craftspeople, designers and makers. It was in 1986 that Cockpit Arts began supporting craft start-ups, and it’s now home to over 140 independent creative businesses.

Describing their work with creative business people, Cockpit Arts explains,

“Through public showcases and business incubation services, we provide exceptional makers and materials-based artists with the tools to succeed. Many of the artists and makers based at Cockpit are recognised internationally as leaders in their field.”

Twice a year, Open Studios are held at both the Holborn and Deptford Sites, providing opportunity for studios to showcase their work, sell their creations and build their profiles within the creative community. Celebrating the exquisite craftsmanship that takes place within Cockpit Arts whilst encouraging networking opportunities, the Open Studios allow an insight into the creative spaces of some of London’s most skilled craftspeople.

Polly Griffiths: Summer Fallow

Image: Poly Griffiths
Image: Poly Griffiths

Graduating from Central St Martin’s University in July 2018, Polly Griffiths began to explore her potential within the textiles industry. Having focussed on fashion and trend projects during her studies, Polly realised her true interests lay within the field of interior design.

After receiving the Cockpit Arts / Haberdashers’ award in 2019, Polly joined the Cockpit Arts community of makers and started her business, Summer Fallow. This award from the Haberdashers’ Company supports a new business start-up specialising in knit, and fully funds a studio space for their first year, as well as providing business incubation support.

Rejecting fast fashion and putting ethical mindfulness at the front of her design process, Polly’s collections for Summer Fallow have a sustainable focus. Blending hues into bright yet subdued colour palettes, her ‘sunny’ pieces are ‘able to live comfortably in the home environment’. Polly’s brand values Slow Craft, and with an interest in woven textiles her knitted stiches often echo the qualities of wovens.

Describing the colour palette of her debut collection, Polly said: “Our inaugural collection epitomises the warmth of high summer, and we found the perfect inspiration for this concept in Tuscany, Italy. The rich colours of this region – ochre, terracotta and sky blue – sit at the base of the collection, freshened with bright rhubarb and custard notes inspired by the Piazza del Campo in Siena. Shades of violet and Bordeaux soften the palette and allude to summer sunsets reflected on Florence’s marble cathedral.”

Image: Poly Griffiths
Image: Poly Griffiths

Knitting her creations on her 8 gauge Dubied, Polly lines each cushion with vintage tablecloths and hand stitches them. Endeavouring to source responsibly and with a low carbon footprint, Summer Fallow is aiming for circularity, considering every detail from yarn choice to zip composition and fleece type. Within her first 6 months at Cockpit Arts Polly has got off to an inspiring start.

Row Pinto

Starting out with her company in 2004, Row Pinto creates traditional British Country Knitwear, creating accessories for the home and fashion. From scarves to cushions and hot water bottles, her range is a colourful fusion of tradition with playful brightness using only the finest quality British spun yarns.

Row has been working from her studio at Cockpit Arts for 15 years, and takes inspiration for her colour palettes from her local surroundings in everyday life. Almost everything has been knitted by Row in her studio on her fine gauge knitting machine.

Olivia J Holland

Image: Olivia J Holland
Image: Olivia J Holland

Featured earlier in the year at KIC, Olivia J Holland knits accessories. Combining luxurious yarns on her Santagostino 12gg Industrial hand flat knitting machine at her studio in Cockpit Arts Deptford, her bespoke Berlin Collection launched earlier this year, and sees new additions added this season.

Catching up with Olivia J Holland since her success at MADE London she explained the new developments within her collection. Olivia has been working to incorporate new drapes and weights within her collection, whilst preserving the luxurious, sumptuous shades and sheens that define her brand. Silk and cash-wool mixes have been added.

It was with great pleasure that Olivia’s bespoke knitted tie was featured in The Guardian’s Christmas Gift Guide 2019. This recognition for her brand speaks to the commerciality of her luxury craft, and exemplifies the rapidly increasing appreciation for hand crafted clothing and slow fashion.

If you didn’t manage to see the Winter Open Studios at Cockpit Arts Holborn or Deptford, you can always visit their annual Summer Open Studios in June 2020.

To work with designers and makers on commissions, you can visit Cockpit Arts’ website and use their search for a maker tool, to find full contact details and make appointments with makers.

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Beth Ranson is a knitwear designer, textile researcher and lecturer in Textiles. As a skilled knitter, she designs and produces fabrics for a variety of design contexts. Motivated by problem solving in sustainable design contexts, Beth occupies the space between knitted textile design and sustainability theory: an interesting space to be. With a strong focus on the preservation of creativity in design, Beth believes that sustainability need not be perceived as a limitation in design. Inspired by her on going research into what ‘sustainable practice’ can mean, Beth takes note of academic theories within the realms of aspirational goals and applies this to the actual making process, working from ‘the bottom up’. She intervenes in current systems for textile product life cycles and seeks to inspire and facilitate educated and responsible change.