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I want her job: Extreme knitter

Self-taught knitter Jacqui Fink introduces us to the giant, fluffy world of extreme knitting

By Andrea Tim | Published: 28 Jul 2016

Extreme knitter
Photo: Sharyn Cairns

Ever felt like quitting your job and dropping everything to become an extreme knitter? No? That's probably because you've never heard of extreme knitting. Meet Jacqui Fink, the woman who makes a living knitting the most beautiful giant blankets you never knew you needed.

Jacqui has a law degree, but admits that life as a lawyer didn't suit her. Working for a while in her husband's high-end retail fashion business ignited her passion for high-grade merino wool, which would eventually lead to the start of her own pride and joy, Little Dandelion.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jacqui Fink and I'm a fibre artist, extreme knitter and married mum of three living in Sydney, Australia. I also run Little Dandelion, where I create bespoke giant knits for my clients.

Describe extreme knitting.
Working predominantly with high grade and naturally coloured merino wools from Australia and New Zealand, I create art installations and bespoke textile pieces both extreme in their scale and the physical challenge they represent for one pair of hands. Each piece is as much a feat of endurance as it is a loving creative expression.

Is this a full-time job or a hobby?
I am very passionate about what I do, it has completely taken over my life and so it is more than a full time commitment for me.

 

How did you start extreme knitting?
"You have to knit and it needs to be big," a loud booming voice said to me in a vision I had shortly after my mother experienced a near-fatal health scare a few years ago. During that difficult time, my mother expressed her regret for never fulfilling her potential. I vowed never to have the need to say that to my children on my deathbed. There was no way I wasn't going to listen to that voice.

Describe your typical work day.
Unless I have a deadline looming, my day is always varied. It involves answering emails, packing orders, knitting, making, felting and, most importantly, tending to my family and all that entails. My favourite days are when I just get to knit.

 

What's challenging about your job?
The larger the scale of the piece in question, the less I am able to use the needles to help with the knitting process. It is a whole body workout which can take its toll, especially if I am knitting for long periods of time. Also, finding the space to create large pieces isn't easy. I work from home and so I have to make do with the space I have.

 

But where do you get giant needles?
With the help of a wood turning friend, my dad make me my first set of super sized knitting needles (5cm in diameter and 110cm long), which he proudly sent down to me in the Post. He still helps me make my needles.

 

These 76 year old #hands belong to my beautiful #dad who flies down to #sydney from the #goldcoast to help me assemble my industrial sized #knitting #needles. Dad made me my first pair of needles six years ago now and they are still my preferred set to use. For my #K1S1 needles, Dad strips the printing from the pvc pipe, sands the hand turned tips and ends, applies bees wax to the timber and then glues them all together. The process takes him days. He is ever so patient and ever so good about it. He loves to help. You know this quiet man has never raised his voice to me in anger? My own boys are very fortunate to have this #gentle #human as a role model in their life. #littledandelion #process #handmade #patience #originaldesign #knit #knittersofinstagram #instaknit #knitspo #diy #extremeknitting

A photo posted by Jacqui Fink (@jacquifink) on

 

What do you write in official forms that require you to name your occupation?
I call myself a "Fibre Artist." The first time I wrote it out I felt very awkward, almost like someone would catch me out, as I don't have formal qualifications in Fine Arts. Now I write it with great pride and confidence.

How do people react when you tell them what you do for a living?
If it is a man, their reaction is usually something like "Um, okay then" as their eyes glaze over and they look for someone else to talk to. However, they quickly change their tune if I to get the chance to tell them about the size of my needles, the weight of some of my pieces (over 120kgs) and how I create my pieces without using a machine.

If it is a woman, their reaction is usually like this: "Oh awesome. I've always wanted to try that myself. Is it hard?"

Have you met many extreme knitters?
There are now hundreds of makers around the world making large scale blankets and throws from unspun woollen tops. I've made some wonderful connections with creatives such as Loopy Mango and Wool and The Gang, both first to market with their unique concepts. We are great supporters of each other's work.

What's your advice for aspiring extreme knitters?
You need to be passionate about what you do. Living a creative life is not always the easiest or surest path through which to make a living, so you need to be utterly devoted to your work to justify the effort. People need to be mindful of authenticity, too. Replicating someone else's idea can't be very sustainable in the long run. By all means draw on the ideas of others, but honour your own creative expression and morph the concept into something unique.

In an alternate universe, what would you be doing if not extreme knitting?
I studied law thinking that I would go into human rights and equal opportunity. Life had other plans for me but I am still very drawn to issues of injustice and inequality and so I would probably be using my voice to help others. In fact, I hope to eventually incorporate this desire into my current universe. My work has been my salvation from depression and anxiety. By sharing my story with others, coupled with the powerful therapeutic benefits of knitting and art, I hope to help break down emotional barriers in others, remove the stigma associated with mental health issues and help lighten their load a little.

Do you ever get bored with your job?
Overwhelmed? Yes. Exhausted? All the time. Bored? Never.

 

A photo posted by Jacqui Fink (@jacquifink) on

 


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