About the Artist
A Brief Outline…
Carolyn Barnett is a wool nut who knits and felts fun and functional garments, however, she gets away from the knitting machine or felting table to create websites. The sites are created under the umbrella of what she has named TwoHatsSimpleSites…the two hats being self explanatory.
I have, at various points in my life, been an early childhood educator, slung hash at the rich and famous, been a studio assistant for two very busy glass artists worked with a myriad of tools and machines in said studios and taken to the road to flog the glass and my own work.
I learned to knit as a child in England at a time when children were taught knitting in school. ‘Woolies’ have always been important in that damp climate where you’re never more than 70 miles from the sea, but knitting became more than utilitarian in the early 1900’s. I started with a pot holder for my Mum and a soft knitted ball on which I learned increasing and decreasing, then, as a teen I knit cardigans for myself in the ’60’s, however, after immigrating to Canada in 1966.
Early in the 1970’s after much unsuccessful shopping I decided to knit my self the simple cardigan of quality woo I had been seeking. This lead to more for myself and for anyone who asked, at the cost of materials. I taught myself anything I hadn’t learned in school or from my Mother.
Though I studied fashion at Sheridan College, and learned much, I did not like the styles of the early ’70’s so I fulfilled another childhood dream and became a nursery school teacher. Got my Early Childhood Education diploma at Mohawk College.
1982 saw the birth of Carolyn M. Barnett Designs when I decided to try marketing my ‘homey’ talents, I had a successful Summer with my cotton hand knits.
In 1984 I learned to operate a very basic domestic knitting machine to see if I could break my hand knitting bias. I progressed to using a more advanced machine the following year and discovered a new (to me) avenue of creation. Domestic knitting machines have been around for over 400 years.
Although I have spent many years focusing on custom garments I have enjoyed participating in theatre costume and commercial work. My styles now are more technically refined (more sophisticated, buttonholes, banding, collars, etc) and it takes longer to make one cardigan. Also, I devote a day every couple of weeks to making the buttons for the newest pieces, both custom orders and new stock. Working in polymer clay has opened up a new creative outlet and introduced me to more wonderful artisans as colleagues and friends.
Working in 100%wool and cotton and making my own funky buttons to complement the cardigans, my approach is simplicity of style with a lot of fun thrown in. Because the garments are made to last both style wise and structurally, my wish is for the wearer to be able to pull my cardigans out of their closet for many seasons, just as I do.
About twenty or so years into my career life threw me a curveball that I didn’t like and I needed to do something else creative…I took a felting class and it opened up a whole new world for me. Knitting is done in rectangles and math which are the number of rows and stitches to form an inch and then how many inches do you need to make up your knit project (scarf, sweater etc). My felted garments also need to fit but I don’t have to count stitches and figure in which stitches I can add other colours or embellishments.
I get to work with lots of colours and materials, silk, ribbons, different fibres. I start with a base colour or colours then embellish as the mood takes me.
Felted garments are very warm and light and keep their shape and because it’s next to impossible to reproduce an item – they are made one at a time – they are truly one of a kind.
Many years ago when websites were making their way into our lives a tech chap knocked on my studio door and asked if I wanted one. Yes I did so he and I worked together to create my first website. A fun part was to create actual buttons (my polymer clay ones) with not to much embellishment, that he could use as the buttons on my menu, he made them change colour! I had four pages with images of my knits, a bit about me and a contact page…I even had a little mailbox that would swirl away!
My new friend said I’d be creating my own some day…well he was right. Getting our first computer in ’94 I was not remotely interested but then I found another outlet for creativity, starting with my letterhead then my brochure and hang tags for my work.
I wanted control of my website so I worked at learning how. I still have more to learn…it’s an ever changing field, but this one isn’t so bad?
During the pandemic Artfest, a Summer outdoor show went online and I was interviewed by Lory MacDonald, the founder. Interesting…I do a lot of talking!