Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Trained as a constructed textile designer, I have worked within the hand-knitting craft industry for more than 25 years and I hope that I am recognised as one of the leading designers within my field, more recently acknowledged as one of the pioneers of the UK crochet revival.
I am a designer and maker, author, and tutor, specialising in contemporary and innovative crochet designs for the home interior, drawing much of my inspiration from my love of art, textiles, and travel. I focus much of my design work on creating imaginative and motivational Crochet Along (CAL) projects, which give the home crafter the chance to distance learn many crochet techniques by working through one of her vibrant and appealing designs in bite size instalments. I live and work in North London, UK with my lovely husband and have two fabulous grown-up children.
Tell us a bit about your new book?
The Fruit Garden blanket project, inspired by the exquisite hand embroidery and tapestry designs of May Morris of the Arts & Crafts Movement, is a must make for any serious crocheter.
Designed and released as a crochet along (CAL) in 2020, this project took the world by storm with crocheters across the globe coming together to create their own heirloom pieces, whilst learning new techniques and stitch combinations along the way. All the patterns to make the stunning Fruit Garden heirloom blanket are included in the book, which also features crochet charts, testimonials, and more background information about my inspiration and design process.
By working through a CAL project crocheters are not only given the chance to learn new techniques and increase their skills, but in many cases, they can also engage in online discussions and form new friendships by working alongside others in virtual groups via personal blogs and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Crochet is recognised as a therapeutic and cerebral activity, encouraging hand-eye coordination and the use of the left side of the brain. With an aging world population, I believe that creating communities of people and individuals who can pass on their own expanding knowledge and vocalise the benefits and positivity of creativity is really important.
What is your favourite project/technique featured?
I always design my crochet along projects so that they get progressively harder and provide the home crafter with a chance to learn new techniques. The most challenging motif in this book is called ‘Acanthus’ and it is based on May Morris’s drawings of these beautiful huge leaves. My favourite motif however is the Hollyhock motif as this was the first one I designed and I love the way it worked out!
How do you think you reached this point in your craft?
I have worked in the yarn craft industry for many years having completed a degree in textile design when I was younger. Originally a machine and hand-knit designer I became interested in crochet about 15 years ago and have never looked back! I love the organic process of crocheting and find it a great medium for me to play with colour and yarn textures.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have worked with some amazing people and companies along the way, but I have also worked incredibly hard to build my brand profile over the last decade.
Where do you look for inspiration: travel, other designers, Pinterest?
I am incredibly lucky to have travelled quite widely and love the opportunity that visiting other countries gives me as a designer. I ALWAYS have my phone on me and snap images constantly – always aware of my surroundings and looking for new design catalysts.
I love looking at existing textiles, and surface pattern on things like wallpaper/wrapping paper and greetings cards, but it is the work of existing artists that I would say inspires me the most.
What is the most challenging thing about being a designer/artist?
I find it very easy to get carried away in the design process and end up going off on tangents that end up not working. When I design something, I have to be sure that I will be able to create a viable commercial design from what I am doing rather than creating one-off pieces. Pattern writing is always a bit of a challenge as it can be hard to make sure what I envisage and have crocheted myself is easy for another crocheter to follow.
What makes up for the challenges?
I absolutely love what I do and have managed to pass on some of the aspects I find challenging (such as technical pattern checking) to other members of my team. Creating a successful business based on my design work is a big advantage as I now have a support network in place and can offload some of my workload and concentrate on the areas I want to prioritise.
I am so lucky to have an incredible following and get great pleasure from seeing my projects ‘out in the wild’ and bringing joy to my fellow crocheters. I have met so many amazing people and had some incredible experiences thanks to my work.
Who (dead or alive) would you invite to the perfect Crafting retreat?
It would have to be May Morris. I think she was a pretty formidable woman but her knowledge and skill were immense – I think she could teach me so much and would make good company given all that she achieved in her lifetime.
What advice would you give to your beginner self?
Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing. I would probably advise myself to be calmer and more forgiving about my design work in the early stages. I tended to focus on the negative reactions to my work rather than the positive and at times this was stifling and held me back from being more experimental with my work. The positive always outweighs the negative, but it is often easier to focus on the latter. In the last decade, I have learnt to focus on positivity in all aspects of my life rather than be drawn into the negative.
Which project would you recommend from your book for a beginner to try?
The crochet motifs get more complex as you work through the project, so start at the beginning of the book with the Forget Me Not motif.
You can buy Jane’s book from all good retailers today!