I'm Alison Ellett, and Alison Ruth Designs is the name under which I sew, knit, crochet, embroider, and generally mess about with textiles and fibres.
As long as I can remember, I've been comfortable with needle and thread. Growing up, we were not allowed to watch TV unless we were doing something else at the same time. Knitting, sewing and embroidery were just the things you did in our family. You wore handknit sweaters. You made your party dress. Everyone made the art that decorated their home. As a kid, I just assumed everyone had needlepoint tapestries on their walls.
I still have my first piece of embroidery. The fabric is rather worn out, but the stitches, I'm happy to say, have held up remarkably well. It's a toaster cover I stitched when I was six. My mum used it for over 20 years, until it was retired to avoid further damage to the fabric. Around the same age, I remember being taught to knit for the first time. Before I was much older, I was making doll clothes with a toy sewing machine. My mum wasn't much of a seamstress, but her mother and sister were, so when I was about 12, I was sent to sewing lessons at the local Singer sewing machine store. Evidently the aptitude was in the genes, and I was hooked.
By Grade 10 Home Economics, I was accomplished enough to tackle the Grade 12 tailoring project. I made a wool suit, fully lined, pleated skirt, welt pockets, notched lapel and all. When I got to Grade 12, that posed a bit of a dilemma because, really, how many tailored suits does a high-school student need? So I made my brother a corduroy sports coat. Fine by him — until he discovered he had to be in the school fashion show.
It all just grew from there. I've been sewing, knitting, embroidering, and generally messing about with fabric and thread for over 40 years now. Highlights include embroidery demonstrations at the Creative Sewing Festival, having my designs published in Style at Home, and seeing good friends light up when they put on the wedding dress I created just for them. In the fall of 2008, I decided to throw caution to the wind, leave the corporate world and pursue these creative endeavours full-time. I am much happier, on the whole calmer, and frankly more fun to be around.
Since moving to Guelph, Ontario, in 2011, I have had the rewarding experience of teaching sewing, knitting and crochet classes in fabric and yarn stores, and latterly in my own much-missed teaching studio. I also discovered a vibrant knitting community in and around Guelph, which led me to create my current product line of handmade project bags for hand knitters.
Some aspects of Alison Ruth Designs have grown out of things I've learned along the way, while others are things I've always wanted to try. It is a varied portfolio of products and services that will continue to grow and shift over time, but one that I hope you find interesting, stimulating and useful.
Handmade garments and accessories should stand the test of time. The quality of the materials used, the techniques employed and the thoughtfulness of the design should honour the time invested. To paraphrase William Morris, "There should be nothing in your closet that you do not find useful, believe to be beautiful or feel comfortable in." It's not about being a slave to the pattern or "doing it right," but rather about producing an item that suits you and is likely to last for years to come.