Growing up in a home where things were always being created, Leanne Prouse learnt the basic stitches of handknitting at an early age. “I never had the patience for knitting at that stage — I’d much rather spend my time sourcing and designing the next project and then get mum to knit it! The first garment I knitted was when I was about 18. I found a design I liked in a magazine and knitted it up with no pattern to follow, but using mum for guidance,” she relates.
When she left school, she studied fashion design and textiles and spent many years travelling the world. She returned to the south-west coastal region of Australia to live and raise her family and discovered the well-known designer, Jo Sharp, lived in the same town. “Looking for another challenge while raising a young family, I approached her with some design ideas. That was a very happy and exciting time; the moment I walked into that design studio I felt like I belonged there. Being surrounded by all the yarn and amazing colour really ignited the passion for knitwear design as a career option, not just a hobby,” Leanne explains. She went on to become a head designer at Jo Sharp.
Leanne went out on her own in 2004 and has developed her Ella Rae Designs label in association with Knitting Fever Inc (KFI), a prominent American distributor of fine handknitting yarns and patterns. Her growing portfolio of designs continues to evolve and changes with the seasons — she has produced more than 30 knitting books and published a 160-page hardcover book in October 2010 called Knitting at Home, as well as developing her own line of knitting yarns. Launched in early 2005, the Ella Rae Designs label has gone from strength to strength in a growing market and is available in the USA, Canada, UK, Europe and, more recently, Australia. “The concept behind the design process is to produce classic, contemporary knitwear with a modern edge,” she says.