Jane Brocket, author of The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making, talks inspiration, embroidery and her daily routine
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.