Personalized, Handstamped Zipper Pulls By Munchkinmama

[hCiaran]

It’s back to school time and I am feeling very protective of my children’s stuff. After a mostly shoeless summer in tank tops, with no bags to carry or sweaters to lose, these kids are feeling pretty fancy free. They can hardly take a bite out of an apple without losing it in the backyard. I, on the other hand, am feeling the pinch of the economy and the rub of multiple growth spurts over the summer. One thing is for sure, I’m not looking forward to the inevitable blank stare that I am met with when I ask “Where’d you leave that brand new jacket?”

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Glamorous Knits

This week I’m profiling Nichola of KnitFrekkles, who uses both machine and hand knitting to design the most beautiful scarves. Nichola has always been crafty, from a young age but did not learn to knit until senior school. Her love of the craft stayed with her, growing stronger during her time at university, during which she completed a master’s degree researching traditional knitting styles, mainly fishermen’s ganseys and fairisle. “I wanted to change my own opinion of those styles as well as the wider world. They have been rurally crafted for centuries and largely forgotten about by the art world, I think they deserve more attention than they currently get. They are beautiful and intricate, there is a high level of knowledge and skill required before you can even begin to experiment.”

Nichola started selling her creations in January of this year and balances crafting with her ‘day job’ as a fitness instructor. She had been building the courage to sell her garments for a long time and wanted to help promote contemporary patterns, structures and ideas in knitting. Selling online gives Nichola a way to develop personal contact with buyers worldwide, and she enjoys creating unique garments and receiving positive buyer feedback!

Without a dedicated studio, Nichola has limited space at home for her crafting. Luckily, hand knitting is very portable! The inspiration for Nichola’s beautiful scarves comes mainly from the natural world – the colours, landscapes and patterns in nature.

Nicola’s scarves are unique in a very saturated market. She uses modern and historical influences, focusing on care and attention to detail. When creating a new design, Nichola thinks about how a yarn will interact with the wearer – how it will feel and whether it will make them special. Nichola knows that buyers are looking for something distinctive and completely unique in handmade items, and that they want a high level of craftsmanship not found in mass-produced items.

“I think that so far I have only scratched the surface of the handmade scene within the UK. It seems to be a fast growing scene which I think is fantastic and with more website being set up for selling handmade items it really does help potential sellers take the plunge.”

To see more of Nichola’s lovely designs, visit her shop.

Newcastle Craft Mafia

I’m back after a short break starting a new job and finishing a distance learning course. This week I’m writing about something close to home – Newcastle Craft Mafia (NCM). I grew up just outside Newcastle, in the North East of England, and was delighted to come across NCM, who encourage craft in and around my original hometown!

NCM is a collective who support each other’s creative ventures and enjoy sharing their love for all things crafted and handmade. Founded in 2009, the NCM follows in the tradition of craft mafias that are popping up across the globe – the first was established in Austin, TX in 2003.

Set up by Leeanne Lowe (Sitting on the Wall) and Cassandra Harrison (Gee How Quaint), NCM has grown quickly and now has 15 core members and 10 associate members across the North East, ranging from textile artists to childrenswear designers, jewelry makers, glass designers and knitters!

Leeanne and Cassandra met by chance at the 2009 Maker Faire in Newcastle. They quickly got to talking about their mutual love of the handmade, which eventually progressed to setting up NCM to promote the local handmade movement. “Our members come from a wide range of backgrounds and many have full or part time jobs – their craft business is a part time hobby (or compulsion),” explains Leeanne. “Some do pursue crafting as a full time role. All members give their time voluntarily to the administration, manangement and promotion of NCM, so considering that many members do have jobs, we find the support we have all that more special.”

NCM offers a range of services including monthly networking events, cross-promotion, workshops, collective stalls at local craft fairs and supporting creative gallery and pop-up-shop Made in Newcastle. Members’ wares are sold on the collective’s website and at music venue The Cluny and independent cinema the Tyneside Cinema, as well as via members’ own websites.

Leeanne really sums up many UK crafters’ feelings about our country’s handmade scene: “I think the handmade scene in the UK is still on the up. It is catching up to the American craft scene…We still have to fight with the high street for business, but the UK consumer is becoming more discerning and aware of what they can get from creative independent designers. People are now starting to search out more design lead, unique products for themselves and as presents for other and we think that this is evident in the popularity of the new online independent boutiques and online craft portals.”

So to our friends across the pond: let’s get the cross-Atlantic collaboration buzz going!