Q&A with Sarah Simi of Woolly Vision

Sarah Simi is the co-founder of stop-motion animation company Woolly Vision and the creative force behind multi award-winning all-knitted film, Nudinits. Along with animator Ed Hartwell, she is also the co-producer of a series of unique short films made entirely from fabric and wool, created for The Knitting & Stitching Shows! We chatted to Sarah to learn more about the latest animation.

Hi Sarah, first will you tell us a bit about the original animation you created for The Knitting & Stitching Show

We created the first film for last year’s autumn show at Alexandra Palace and it was a real hit. The star of the 30-second film is Sewphia Button, a sassy fabric doll who climbs ‘naked’ out of a vintage wooden sewing box. She sews herself a pair of spotty knickers and a rather lovely outfit, then knits her own pet poodle.

What was the inspiration for the animation’s look and feel?

Bringing textiles to life is what The Knitting & Stitching Shows are all about. We wanted to make something that had a nostalgic, vintage feel but that was very much up to date with modern humour. Much of what we do is inspired by classic animations such as Bagpuss but we wanted to use fresh, sharp colours and fabrics.


How did you make the animation?

Everything in the films is a real object, with no computer generation (apart from the tagline ‘Where textiles come to life’ at the very end). I made Sewphia and artist Caroline Bletsis made the poodle and vintage sewing machine, which is made entirely from fabric, including its ‘wooden’ base. The intricate logo on Sewphia’s dress and final frame were machine embroidered by Lyn Quine. The sewing box was an original vintage sewing box that I relined with new fabric and I sneaked in several items from my own sewing room including the large jar of knitting needles. Fabric, haberdashery and other props were supplied by The Village Haberdashery in London.


How long did it take to make the first film and how did you make it?
It took around a month to make the set and doll, just over a week to film and to do post production and was filmed using stop-motion animation. Sewphia was made with a wire skeleton so that she could stay in any pose during filming. Animator Ed Hartwell took 389 different photographs of the set, Sewphia and her poodle using a digital SLR camera, moving them in tiny increments to produce the finished animation. The film’s music box inspired soundtrack was written by musician Ben Davis.

What was it like working with fabric in this way?
Until now, my work on Nudinits has mainly been with wool puppets and knitting is a lot more forgiving! Sewphia is a very different puppet and was made from a tight cotton fabric with no stretch which did cause some problems. She needed to move freely but not be so tightly stuffed that she couldn’t bend. The other challenge was that Nudinits are very bottom heavy and stand up by themselves. Sewphia was so tall and slim (about 14”) that she had to have her own rig so she didn’t fall over while being filmed.

Tell us about the new film you’ve made for this year’s Knitting & Stitching Shows
In this year’s new film, we meet Sewphia’s equally stylish, knitty stitchy friends as they travel by bus to the Dublin and Harrogate shows. The ever-crafty Sewphia knits a scarf for her friend en route which she presents to him at the show’s entrance when they arrive. After putting on his new scarf, he hands the ladies miniature versions of The Knitting & Stitching Show’s bags with the naughty strapline, “Knitting takes Balls” so they can all go shopping at the show.

The animation is made in exactly the same way as the first one, all entirely made and animated by hand. Caroline Bletsis made the bus, buildings and all the scenery from fabric that was layered, embellished and embroidered and I made Sewphia’s new friends. One puppet was made from a fabric with a tattoo design so it looks like he’s sporting several tattoos!

Will there be more films for The Knitting & Stitching Shows?
We certainly hope so – we can imagine Sewphia getting up to all manner of adventures!


You can view Sarah Simi’s new animation for The Knitting & Stitching Show at Harrogate (22nd-25th November) below:

Find out more:
The Knitting & Stitching Show takes place in Harrogate from 22nd-25th November 2018 and features workshops, Textile Galleries, artists at work in a live studio environment, drop-in knitting and crochet lessons, Christmas Tree Decoration Competition, 300 crochet animals and an autumn woodland scene, and over 200 exhibitors selling fabric, equipment and other specialist supplies.


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