In the second of our Meet the Maker features looking at contemporary Shetland craft makers showcased in our current ShetlandMade exhibition, we talk to Sophie Manson of Drummie-Bee

Sophie Manson is a contemporary knitwear designer based in Lerwick, Shetland. Following her studies in Contemporary Textiles at Shetland College UHI, she decided to pursue her passion for design and machine knitting and established her business, Drummie-Bee in 2017.

Sophie gains inspiration from the beauty of the landscape and nature surrounding her in Shetland, and uses this as a basis for her designs. She is drawn, in particular, to the bright colours evident in everyday life, such as, a colourful fishing boat within a grey, stormy sea, or eye-catching flowers in a field of earthy green grass. The detailed shapes and forms observed around her are then simplified to create repetitive patterns, which are sympathetic and complimentary to Shetland’s environment, flora and fauna.

All Drummie-Bee products are knitted at Sophie’s home in Lerwick on a domestic knitting machine using the finest yarns. Each piece is then linked and hand finished. A supersoft Scottish lambswool is used in many designs. This gives the pieces a cosy, comfortable feel which are practical to wear and use all year round. The current product range includes snoods, scarves, headbands, hats, cushions and hot water bottle covers.

Where do you do your work?

My work is created at my home in Lerwick. I have taken over one of the spare bedrooms in my house with knitting machines, linkers, my sewing machine and lots of yarn! My knitting machines and materials have moved from room to room while we have been renovating our house, so it is nice for them to have a more permanent location. My knitting room has a beautiful view looking over Lerwick and the island of Bressay, which is the island I grew up on. The view is extremely inspiring and sometimes slightly distracting!

What is your background?

I have always had a passion for art and design. It was my favorite subject at school and a lot of my free time growing up was spent drawing, painting, knitting or sewing. I studied Contemporary Textiles at Shetland College UHI, where I found a love for machine knitting. I had only ever hand knitted before, so I loved learning about knitting machines and all the amazing things they could help you create. I really enjoyed learning so many different techniques. Once I finished studying at college, I decided I would put the skills I had learned to use and continue to machine knit. After a lot of sampling and experimenting, Drummie-Bee was established in 2017 with a range of snoods, scarves and hot water bottle covers. My product range has since grown and now also includes hats, headbands and cushions.

Who or what do you draw inspiration from? What motivates you to do what you do?

My work is inspired by my surroundings. The breathtaking scenery, amazing nature, fishing industry and knitting heritage of Shetland are the source of all my designs. I find myself to be drawn to bright colours popping out in everyday life and I like to create contemporary knitwear inspired by the things I see around me in Shetland.

I am also largely inspired by all the amazing artists and designers in Shetland. It’s amazing to live somewhere that you are surrounded by so many talented, creative people. It really motivates me to let my creative side out through from seeing the success of so many local small businesses.

How do you work, what is your process? What's your favourite part of the process?

I take a lot of photos when I’m out walking of any inspiring textures, colours or shapes that I see. These help me design shapes and patterns of my own which I draw up on a computer program. I then work with colours and knit up samples to see which colours work best together. The designing is definitely one of the most exciting and fun parts of the process as it involves a lot of playing around with ideas. When it comes to knitting, I always start with a to do list to keep me on track. I can be knitting up quite a few things at once - trade orders, customer orders and custom designs, so planning is vital to make sure everything runs smoothly and I get all my products out on time to my customers and stockists.

What are your most popular pieces?

My most popular pieces are probably my snoods and most recently my baby hats. My hot water bottles covers are also very popular, particularly at Christmas time.

How long does it tend to take you to complete a piece?

This really varies depending what I am making. The design process is definitely the most time-consuming part as it can take a lot of hours to perfect a pattern or colourway. The knitting part of my products is actually probably the quickest part. It is the finishing that takes a lot of time. Each piece needs to be knitted, linked, ends sewn in, washed, dried, pressed, labelled, tagged and then packed up! It is extremely rewarding to see a product go from being a cone of yarn to a completed item.

Art aside, what do you like to do in your spare time?

My favourite thing to do in my spare time is get out for a walk. It is the perfect way to unwind and stretch after long hours sitting at the knitting machine. There are so many beautiful places to get out for walks in Lerwick and throughout Shetland.

What is next for you?

I am so proud of how far my designs and products have come. I stock my items in lots of shops throughout Scotland now and I would love to continue to expand my brand and stockists further throughout the UK. I plan to continue knitting and creating. My head is always buzzing with new ideas and designs I would like to make! I hope to continue creating products which people enjoy wearing and having in their home - there is no better feeling than seeing someone walk past or post a photo on social media wearing something you have made!

You can see Sophie's work at Bonhoga Gallery until 12 June

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