My Early Hour: Sheree Robinson, knitwear designer

Sheree Robinson

“I have a big bookcase full of sparkly yarn. There are mannequins dotted around the house with my jewellery pieces on them, and I have a rail with all my sparkly items on.” Knitwear designer Sheree Robinson on mornings and her knitting business…

Sheree Robinson, 28, lives in Clapham with her boyfriend. She’s a knitwear designer specialising in sparkly, going-out clothes and where possible, uses end of line yarns so each piece is limited edition and environmentally friendly. Sheree has worked as a designer in London and New York, designing going out dresses for highstreet shops including Topshop, Lipsy and Miss Selfridge.

What’s your home like?
We have a one-bedroom flat with a large living room that I use as my home studio. We have recently moved in and are still getting used the house/area.

What time are you up in the morning?
I usually wake up at 5/6am as my boyfriend starts work early. I set my alarm for 8am.

How do you feel first thing?
Tired usually, I often go to bed at 2am. I’m more of a night-time person.

What do you do first thing?
A bit of yoga or EFT tapping to get me in a good headspace for the day, shower then a light breakfast, usually shredded wheat with honey and fruit. I get to my desk or knitting machine for 9am, depending on what I’m doing that day.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Quiet, reflective, peaceful.

Tea, coffee or juice?
Tea with no milk.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
If I have an order/fashion show or pop-up shop I would start by knitting up stock or new products in the morning.

After lunch I usually do admin work like updating my website or technical drawings. I plan out the rest of the day and make new patterns that I can handknit in the evening when my boyfriend gets in so we can watch TV without the noise of the knitting machine.

What’s your workspace like?
I have my knitting and sewing machines set up in my home studio and a big bookcase full of sparkly yarn. Lots of the furniture has double uses, a few of our tables are storage units for all of my hand knitting balls of yarn. There are mannequins dotted around the house with my jewellery pieces on them and I have a rail with all of my sparkly items on.

Tell us about your business…
I launched my business – Sheree Robinson Knitwear – after I graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2011. I started off by selling my knitted accessories at market stalls in Spitalfields after interning for a few different knitwear designers.

I then began designing for high street suppliers, creating womenswear garments for shops like Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Lipsy.

Designing for the high street made me understand the styles, colours and shapes that women preferred to wear when going out, which was great. However, I also found that I was uncomfortable with the amount of waste created once garments went into production. If clothes are made cheaply – somewhere down the line, someone isn’t getting paid properly; be that in a factory overseas or even seamstresses in the UK.

More recently I have been through the Prince’s Trust New Enterprise programme and am officially a Prince’s Trust supported business. I get really great guidance from my mentor and am focussing on getting my knitwear sold in boutiques, moving away from market stalls.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
Money and motivation. Some months I earn more than others and often if I save any money it goes back into the business. I can’t go on holiday with my friends or out to dinner often. It can be hard to plan finances when your income constantly changes. I work part-time with fashion/textile/illustration students at universities to subsidise my freelance work.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Seeing a happy customer wearing a dress I have made, knowing that they can go out to an event and look individual and unique.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I work alone a lot at the moment and that can be good some days but difficult on others. I miss the buzz of a shared workspace and as my business develops I would love to share a studio space with other creatives.

Sheree Robinson Knitwear - Photos Tanya McGeever models Polina and Lakilah

What’s the secret to career success?
To just keep going when it gets tough, and to seek advice if you need some! Don’t be scared to take risks or you could end up getting stuck in a career you are not happy with. Life is too short to wake up everyday feeling unhappy about going to work.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
Yes!!! It is really difficult. Some days I can have loads to knit and others loads of emails and admin to do. I try to plan my time well. Living with my boyfriend means we can spend time together in the evening but it’s hard to get out on weekdays to see friends or family if I am really busy knitting. Me time is hard to find so I try to have Saturday or Sunday to do something non-knit-related.

Describe an ideal weekend?
Catching up with friends on a Friday/Saturday night so I can get dressed up! Spending time with animals is important to me when I feel drained so visiting a farm or the aquarium would be ideal.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Knitting in Ibiza running my own successful boutique. Or in a submarine, as I love being surrounded by water.