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Kerry Lord is the founder and creative director behind TOFT – a UK leader in the manufacturing of homegrown woollen yarn and the design of DIY fashion knitting and on-trend crochet kits. Kerry is the author of three bestselling books, including Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium. Here, Kerry shares her crochet story and the inspiration behind her books.

How and when did you first discover crochet?
I first picked up a hook when entering my final few weeks of pregnancy. I had been a knitter for a number of years, but had truly always viewed crochet as something very difficult and, if I’m honest, not particularly desirable. I think there was a real lack of inspiring crochet patterns even as recently as three years ago. Thankfully that’s all changed, and there’s no better time to learn to crochet.

How has your love of crochet developed since then?
In a word, obsessively. I still can’t believe what a whirlwind the last three years have been. I do still turn to two pointy sticks when I’m looking to make something to wear, but the rest of the time I can’t imagine not having a hook in my handbag.

What was the first crochet item you designed? What inspired it?
I spent one determined night on YouTube learning the ‘single crochet’ (or as I now know, the British double crochet) stitch. The next day I sat down on the sofa and crocheted what would become Bridget the elephant from my first book Edward’s Menagerie. She did of course have some limbs inside out, (and her eyes were perhaps a tad wonky), but as soon as I shared my creation with my colleagues back at TOFT I knew I was into something.

Tell us about your new book Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium?
Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium is a very unusual pattern book. Rather than giving you a fixed number of projects, patterns and their accompanying instructions, it provides the building blocks, technical tuition and inspiration to enable you to make an almost infinite number of unique projects.

Describe, if you can, your creative process when coming up with a ‘monster’ for Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium.
My creative process when designing a new monster will be very similar to the process I am asking others to do when using the book. You flip through the shapes to select a head, arms and legs that the your fancy, and then you move onto selecting colours, patterns and any added extras like tails or wings. Sometimes I will sketch out my idea first, but at other times I just start with the yarn I’ve got closest to hand and see where it takes me. Ever taken time to think about what the creatures at the bottom of your garden might look like, or visualised the dishevelled hairstyle of the sock monster who lives in your washing machine?

You have been involved with all aspects of TOFT, from alpaca shearing, business management and designing to workshop instructing – what’s your favourite part of your job?
The variety of every week is the favourite part of my job. In the last ten years I really don’t think two days have ever been the same and that keeps me and my team very motivated, flexible and very adaptable to respond rapidly to trends.

Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium is available now (Pavilion, £14.99). Don’t forget to share a pic of your monster creation online. #edsflipbook

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Jane Brocket created her blog, yarnstorm, in 2005 in order to write about knitting, but the blog quickly expanded to included baking, sewing, gardening, quilting books, film and more. She is now the author of many books, including The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making. We caught up with Jane and asked her to share some facts about herself and her work.

I have been crafting and creating for as long as I can remember. I started with felt and sequins and making clothes for my dolls when I was little, and moved onto candles, belts, collages, tie-dyeing, weaving and sewing larger clothes for myself as a teenager. I had a blind spot with knitting for years, but finally worked out how to do it when I was at university – and haven’t stopped since. I’ve always enjoyed stitching and embroidery, and I took up crochet and quilting a few years ago, and welcome any opportunity to play with colour and pattern.

I’m mostly self-taught, but for the last ten or so years I have been going to crafty weekends and workshops in order to explore techniques and pick up new skills – and to be inspired by the wonderfully creative and energetic people who teach at and participate in them.

After university where I studied Russian and French, I was in the wine trade for many years (I am a Master of Wine), but I have always balanced my work life with my craft life. I started yarnstorm in 2005 in order to write about knitting, but soon expanded into baking, stitching, quilting, books, art, films, and family life. My books have been a natural follow-on from there.

What makes you passionate about your craft?
I love the way that when we make something we are creating something quite unique. No matter if it’s not perfect or exceptional – it’s just important to keep using our hands and to stay in touch with the world of textures and materials. I’m very keen on the idea of just having a go without worrying too much about correct ways of doing things. I also enjoy the fact that crafts such as knitting, quilting, and stitching connect us to previous generations of domestic makers who knew how to bring colour and beauty into their homes, and I like doing the same.

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?
My Nana was a wonderful knitter who made very light pastry and allowed me to trim her pies, and she also taught me the names of all the flowers in her garden. She encouraged any sort of creativity. I remember her showing me how to make little needle books using her felt and fabric, which I then sold to various members of my family – including my Nana.

What sparks your creativity?
Often the sight of a pile of beautiful, colourful fabrics, a basket full of gorgeous yarns, a drawer full of cotton perlé threads is enough to inspire make to make something. So, the materials and supplies can be the starting point, or it can be when I see something in a book, magazine, exhibition or even in someone’s house. Other times, it’s listening to inspirational people – at workshops or events – or, in recent years, reading my favourite blogs. The world of blogging is what got me started with writing books and I am still amazed by the incredible amount of creativity that goes on in other people’s lives which we would never have known about it without the Internet.

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
When I’m writing a book, I make myself work at the computer in the morning as this is my best time with words, and then I allow myself to spend the afternoon making and creating. I may be cutting out fabrics for quilts, or using the sewing machine, and I can have the radio on (always Radio 4) for company. In the evenings, I knit or stitch or crochet – things I can do with a glass of wine and the family around, or while watching a good film. You can tell what I’m doing and where I’ve been during the day by the piles I leave behind me.

Organised mess or creative minimalism? What does your working space look like?
(See above. I am an inveterate pile-maker.)

Mostly organised mess, but sometimes messy mess. Every so often I have a major sort-out in my study and love the way it looks immediately afterwards. Sadly, it doesn’t stay this way for long. I have to admit I enjoy being surrounded by books, fabrics, threads, and yarns, and like to have everything to hand. I would feel very lonely and uninspired in a minimalist room.

The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making (Pavilion, £14.99) by Jane Brocket is available now

MillaMia, run by the two Swedish sisters Katarina and Helena Rosén, has quickly become recognised for its distinctive, modern knitting pattern designs and high quality yarn. In their latest book Winter Knitting they share some wonderful Swedish winter traditions, designs and activities for bringing warmth and light to the cold season. We asked creative director Helena Rosén about what it is that sparks her creativity, what makes her passionate about craft, and where the business name MillaMia came from.

What makes you passionate about your craft?
Amazing colour, texture, and the ability to create form is what I find most inspiring when I design. The act of making something with your hands is just the most incredible feeling. I think any crafter knows how addictive and satisfying that feeling is and for me, it’s even more special when it’s realised in a material which is pure and high quality. I love the fact that our yarns allow for such versatile stitches, rich textures and patterns – not to mention a whole range of deep, vibrant colours which really sing!

Where does the name MillaMia come from?
When we started the business back in 2009, we struggled to find a name. Katarina and I had discussed starting our own brand for a while but all the names we brainstormed were too specific or just not the exact message we wanted to convey. Anyone who has been through this exercise will appreciate just how hard choosing a name is. We wanted the name to describe us and to be us but all the classic combinations of our names, Katarina and Helena morphed into “HelKat” or “KatHel” which were not all appropriate! We stalled on this for some time, until we remembered the names of our imaginary friends. As children we both had imaginary friends whom we gave names to – names that we thought were beautiful and grown up. Mine was called Kamilla which was shortened to Milla and Katarina’s was called Mia. So MillaMia is really us but in an imaginary and aspirational form!

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?
I feel this might end up sounding like a cliché, but our summers spent in the Swedish archipelago were amazing. We had the freedom to run around, swim in the sea, pick berries in the forest and if the weather was bad we would knit, sew or play card games and bingo with our grandmothers and great aunts. Looking back now, I guess it was idyllic, and I am ever grateful for the memories I treasure of those times spent happily in the heart of my close family.

What sparks your creativity?
I seem to be full of clichés today… but it can be anything! I love to take a camera out onto the street and snap colours and textures that I find inspiring. I am truly happy scouring antique markets and vintage stores for retro inspiration. Also fashion is cyclical and I have immense fun taking something from the past and reworking it to make it relevant for the future.  

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
I don’t think any day is typical when you run a small business! Our day can vary from sketching, swatching and playing with colour to pushing on to the finalised design spec, making mood boards or planning and styling upcoming shoots. I count myself very lucky to be allowed to do a job which is beautiful and which I enjoy so much – I remind myself of that when it involves late nights and early mornings!

Organised mess or creative minimalism? What does your working space look like?
I wish I was one of those uber-clean, efficient architect types who works in a minimal, stream-lined space – but I have to confess my space is a big creative mess! I fill my space with all sorts of things, and to an outsider it must look horrific, but there is method in my madness and I have an ability to locate almost anything when needed – just don’t ask me how!

Winter Knitting (Pavilion, £20.00) by MillaMia is available now

Carol Meldrum is a textile designer, workshop tutor and author of many popular knit and crochet titles. She was taught to knit, crochet & sew at a young age by her Mum & Grandma. Since graduating from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, she has worked within the textile industry as a designer for many High Street fashion outlets as well as internationally renowned hand knit label Rowan. Her own unique take on all things textile can be found online at Beat Knit and in selected boutique shops in Scotland.

 

What makes you passionate about your craft?
What I just love about knit is that from 2 sticks, a bit of yarn, knit & purl stitches and increase & decrease, you can create anything. There are so many fantastic yarns available to work with as well. It’s the challenge of creating the idea from your mind down through your hands & needles into a physical thing.

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?
I have so many childhood memories, it’s hard to pick just one. The most cherished ones would be of family picnics & gatherings running around having adventures with my brother & cousins.

What sparks your creativity?
Inspiration can appear in all sorts of places for me. For my own accessories label, beatknit, I would say the main thing is colour, texture and pattern & how they can almost sing when you get it right. I also enjoy being given a brief to work from as well: it can take you in a direction that you might not necessarily naturally go, that’s when you discover new & exciting ideas.

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
My crafty day actually starts the night before – I’ll write a list of everything that needs to be done, updates, emails, deadlines. I like getting up early in the morning and, weather permitting, go out for a run or a walk to blow away the cobwebs. Generally I’ll be home & ready to get started for 8.30/ 9am. A large cup of coffee is required! Then sit down at the computer & work through emails & correspondence. I usually have a few projects on the go at once so I try to split my day into sections, maybe knit in the morning and crochet in the afternoon followed by a bit of pattern writing. I’ll check the emails again early afternoon just in case there are any updates. I must admit I love scoring things off the to do list!

Organised mess or creative minimalism? What does your working space look like?
I tend towards the organised mess – I call it creative chaos! I can quite easily take over the whole house especially if I have a busy workshop schedule. I have a large living room that I work out of: I station myself at the dining table, and then gradually fill the space up with books, notes, yarn, needles. Every so often when I have a break between projects I tidy up vowing it won’t happen again!

Carol Meldrum is the author of Knit Your Own Boyfriend (Collins & Brown, £9.99)

 

Eline Oftedal is a Norwegian knitting designer who recently made the move from international politics to craft. She has been knitting since childhood, often making up her own patterns as she went. Some years ago she started to write down her patterns and has since then been published in international knitting magazines like Vogue Knitting and The Knitter. Eline was born in Norway and lives and works in Oslo. She has a deep affinity for the traditional Norwegian knitted sweater patterns and her heritage can often be seen in her designs. She sells individual patterns on Etsy and teaches classes in knitting and how to achieve great colour combinations in knitting. Here, she shares some insight into her work and life.

What makes you passionate about your craft?
A lot of things make me passionate about knitting. The fact that you can take it wherever you go is one, another is that it’s such an fun and easy way to add personality and soul to the fast fashion world we live in. I love yarn and sheep and the history of knitting and I could go on forever about my passion!

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?
I have many great crafty memories from my childhood, and when we went to our summer house on the west coast of Norway for the summer we drove by a woolen mill. Me and my sisters were given money to buy huge bags of leftover yarn so we had something to keep us busy in the very likely event of rain! We knitted and crocheted the most hilarious toys and gave them even more hilarious names

What sparks your creativity?
Traveling and meeting people are great sources of inspiration for me. When I am taken out of my daily setting things happens with my creativity. Seeing other people’s creativity and listening to friends sharing thoughts and ideas are another way for get the imagination going so I can create new designs for my knitting.

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
I have the luxury of a long and relaxed breakfast and then I sit down by the computer to deal with knitting pattern orders that comes via my Etsy shop. When that is done and dealt with I turn to ongoing design projects. I try to switch between writing knitting patterns and actually knitting and sketching. Writing a pattern takes a lot of concentration from me, and it’s lovely to have knitting breaks with a cup of tea! If it is a Wednesday I will blog about my adventures as a knitter on my blog, By Eline.

Organised mess or creative minimalism? What does your working space look like?
I am so tempted to say creative minimalism, because that sounds great! My workspace is more of an organised mess. When I am in the middle of the creative phase of designing I tend to have yarn everywhere and lots of ‘just started’ knitting projects around. After patterns are written up and projects are finished, things might look slightly more minimalist!

Eline Oftedal is the author of Knit Nordic (Collins & Brown, £16.99)

Vibe studied fashion design at Kingston University (London) and also at the Brooks Institute of Photography, Santa Barbara, California. She currently works as a freelance knit designer, producing hand-knitted swatches that are sold to fashion companies in New York, Paris, Barcelona and London. Design credits include Nicole Farhi and Whistles. Vibe’s colourful, textured designs are both practical and beautiful. As well as designing knitting patterns, Vibe also takes all her own photography.

What makes you passionate about your craft?
I don’t know if this has anything to do with it but I get cold very easily, so part of it could be that I love the thought of making something soft, warming and comforting. I also find knitting therapeutic and like the fact that you can create your own patterned “fabric”. Good yarn is also important and I’m an absolute addict when it comes to beautiful, good quality yarn. I think I must also be interested in stitch patterns as I, once on holiday in Switzerland, caught myself trying to read through and knit a pattern from a Swiss knitting magazine.

What sparks your creativity?
A beautiful image, a skein of great yarn, someone sitting on the bus or someone in a movie… it’s quite random, actually. I also look at a lot of catwalk photos from recent shows and often get frustrated that a lot of winter collections consist of nothing more than chiffon dresses!

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
If I have a deadline, I will usually get up and have breakfast, start knitting (if I know what I am going to do), or start designing a new piece which can sometimes take longer than hoped for, and then continue through the day with a walk in between for fresh air and exercise. The good thing about working from home is that my ‘work time’ can be flexible – I can go food shopping in the middle of the day or even go and look at shops if I’m feeling very uninspired.

Organised mess or creative minimalism? What does your working space look like?
I do like a certain sense of order. I’d go mad if everything was a total mess. What I also find important in a working space is lots of daylight.

Vibe Ulrik Sondergaard is the author of Lullaby Knits (Collins & Brown, £16.99) 

So, for those of you who are interested, I am Wife of Brian. That is, Wife of Brian is me. And I am Vicky Eames. I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with knitting for a few years now. Nothing to worry about, really… But to be fair, it’s a rare day indeed when I don’t create some sort of woolly item. (I’m actually crocheting as I write this.) I like to think that my work is entertaining and I know I’ve made quite a few people smile and that’s definitely good enough for me! I live in England, and am very cozy in my little flat (when I’m not working away). It’s obviously bedecked with plenty of handmade nonsense and is hopefully a welcoming nook in the madness of the capital.

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?
Gosh, there are so so many. In terms of crafts, I still remember making finger puppets with my Mum when I was very small. A few years ago she found the one I made and snuck it into my advent calendar, along with lots of beautiful things she had made. I do definitely get my craft skill and imagination from my Mum.

What sparks your creativity?
Anything and everything. From things I see in the street to the work of other artists, and from my friends to celebrities. I would say I’m particularly inspired by people – either by the way they look and that I want to imitate (i.e. a particularly brilliant moustache), or by what they might want to wear and their sense of humour – entertainment is incredibly important to me.

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
Due to the nature of my ‘proper’ job, I don’t have a lot of free time and I also spend a lot of time travelling with work. As a result, I squeeze my craft work in to whatever time and space I have available! I will nearly always go to bed with some knitting, which I will pick up again in the morning before I head off. I tend to have some small piece of crochet work in my handbag at all times, so I can keep busy on the train, and then get on with the bigger stuff when I get home. On the glorious days when I don’t need to leave the house, I will sometimes forsake getting out of my pyjamas for the sake of getting on with whatever project is occupying my brain at the time! And I do tend to have tons of ideas going on at once – I’ll pick up whichever most appeals to me in the moment and switch around until they all eventually get completed.

Organised mess or creative minimalism? How does your working space look like?
Definitely organised mess! This often surprises people who know me, as I used to be a mathematician and they expect me to have a tidy minimalistic nature, but I am afraid to say I am far from that. I like to be able to see what I’m up to, and will often surround myself with pictures and wool and projects. Although, of course, everything has a place – it just may not look like that to the untrained eye…

Knit Your Own Moustache by Vicky Eames (£9.99, Collins & Brown) is available now 

Tracy Chapman is a lecturer and teacher in the Textiles Faculty, running all knitting workshops and courses ranging from beginner to City and Guilds Level II. We met Tracy to find out a bit more about her work.

Hi Tracy, tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Hampshire and spent my younger years by the sea. I guess that’s why it plays such an important role in my life. I moved to London to study only to return twelve years ago to the house where I now call home! Whilst in the capital I spent a few very happy and very interesting years working for Rowan Yarns in retail management. I also had the privileged role of instructing at the sewing school in Liberty for them. It was during that time that I started my designing in earnest! It was also the period when I imagined a house on the beach and a studio overlooking the sea! It was a dream I was lucky enough to realise and my first achievement in that haven was Toys to Knit!

What makes you passionate about your craft?
The thought of being able to create something unique from yarns using the very basic of tools is fascinating. I knit every day & cannot imagine my life without knitting being a part of it! It is a practical craft, a great pastime and wonderfully portable too! My carpet bag of knitting comes with me everywhere! The contents often change and very often the bag is heavier when I return home because I’ve added to my collection of yarns!

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?
Holding my mum’s hand whilst walking to school with a bag of knitted toys she’d made for the fête has to be my most cherished. I used to sit and watch her knit every day. The household was always busy but mum always made time for the craft. She also made time to teach me to knit, for which I am truly grateful.

What sparks your creativity?
Everything! If you have a creative eye you can draw on anything for inspiration. I love colour, and I suppose I start by thinking about that element in the design process first! It may be something you hear, a memory, a thought that has sprung into your mind! For me it isn’t necessarily something I see that initially inspires me.

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
I start every day with a wander down to the beach. I am fortunate that I can be there in a minute or two from closing my front door! Whilst listening to the waves I piece together my day. I always have two or three projects on the go at any one time! I very often work on private commissions and special requests for theatre and television. My days are always interesting, varied & full of activity! I always listen to something, either Radio 2 or whatever music I’m into at that moment!

Organised mess or creative minimalism? What does your working space look like?
My studio is at the top of the house. It is a light and airy space. I think co-ordinated disorder would be the best way to describe it! At first glance everything seems in order, but if you look a little closer you will see chaos! I dream of being more organised however I know that I’ll never achieve it! You see I collect things! Obviously anything to do with knitting & crochet, that goes without saying! But amongst other things I also have a passion for buttons, books, decorated tins, crockery and guitars!

Tracy Chapman is the author of Easy Toys to Knit (Collins & Brown, £6.99)