Knitwear designer Amy Goacher’s studio is set up in the light-filled conservatory of her home in Worthing, a seaside town in West Sussex. A couple of knitting machines sit on the tables, and shelving is filled to the brim with different shades of yarn. Amy is currently working on adding hand-embroidery to archival TOAST sweaters, which are part of the Autumn Winter 2022 collection. “It’s been a very experimental process, and the patterns developed quite naturally through creating different test pieces, until I found the right expression.” Each of the sweaters, knitted with fisherman ribbing, will be revitalised using remnant yarns from the TOAST production process and Amy’s personal collection.
Amy learnt to knit from her grandmother when she was a teenager and went on to study fashion design at Kingston University, specialising in knitwear. “I'm the kind of person who can't sit still,” she says. “I have to busy myself with something. I used my graduate collection as a springboard, which was all about using what you have to hand,” she says of her final year spent during lockdown when it became difficult to source materials and develop pieces. “I wasn't able to order the materials that I wanted from overseas because they couldn't get to us. So I just went through my wardrobe, found what I had to hand and started thinking laterally about what I could do with it to make a collection.”
Her research for the reworked TOAST sweaters began at Charleston – the modernist home and studio of the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant – a key inspiration behind the Autumn Winter collection. “I was looking at the linear, expressive brush marks, especially around the fireplaces, and also thinking about the earthy tones that run through TOAST collections,” says Amy. The spirit of the Bloomsbury Group, the painting and repainting furniture, is in keeping with her philosophy of reuse. “It’s harmonious with my pace, and definitely needs to be encouraged today. I think we can note the ways that they worked and integrate it into our lives.”
Using remnant yarn, Amy has worked in a combination of cross, back and blanket stitches alongside Swiss-darning. “It’s been really interesting working with leftover yarn, having that restraint,” she says. “As well as selecting which colours would work well together, I really had to think about whether we would have enough of each to complete all of the sweaters.” She finishes a sweater each evening. “It’s got to the point where I can look down and know the amount of stitches for each section. To me, Swiss darning is like second nature – I found the cross stitches most challenging because you have to get the tension perfect for them to sit right on the surface.”
Amy’s work is a positive act towards a more responsible future, and she sees more people around her becoming interested in repair and buying more thoughtfully. “I think everyone has become a lot more aware of how things are made, who makes them and what they're made of.” This extends to the lifespan of a garment, too. “I think people are a lot more open to experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what they are used to,” she says. “Embroidery in particular is such a great form of mindfulness – taking the time and looking at what you can do to something you already own, to give it more value, or to make it personal. It's a lovely thing to take an item of clothing, claim it back and make it again.”
Interview by Alice Simkins.
Campaign photographs by Jo Metson Scott.
Photograph of Amy during a TOAST workshop for the Somerset House show Eternally Yours.