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!

Spring Organization: Kitchen

One room in your home that you may spend the most time in is your kitchen. Especially if you have a large family to take care of; preparing school lunches, sorting groceries after shopping trips, creating a dinner menu for the month. Keeping your kitchen organized will keep the stress minimal and allow you to actually enjoy spending this essential time in your kitchen instead of having to worry about whether or not everything is in its place.

When you enter your kitchen to prepare a meal, make sure all of your favorite recipes are neatly written and are all kept in the same place. The easier things are to find, the quicker you can get down to business and complete the meal prep and have more time to spend enjoying the meal with your friends or family. The recipe box pictured above comes complete with illustrated letterpress recipe cards for a cute, handmade look. The box that holds the cards is even handcrafted by the artist in her Dad’s woodshop. Find this item along with many other original letterpress designs over at the shop of 1canoe2.

Organize your kitchen utensils with this unique handmade concrete canister. The artist at Culinarium has created a unique concrete mixture that allows his products to have a smooth texture that is physically similar to that of ceramic or aluminum! In this shop you will find other handmade items made from eco-friendly materials such as recycled rubber, concrete, cork, and aluminum for a chic, industrial style design.

If you have been on Etsy lately, then you probably noticed the trend with these adorable magnetic spice racks. SaltCitySpice turns these functional spice racks into works of art for your kitchen. There are many styles in this shop, but my favorite is the one pictured above. A silver serving platter has been altered with a chalkboard paint for a re-writable surface to jot down your shopping list, to label your spices, or to write down meal ingredients. Magnetic tins of your favorite spices are within easy reach and can be arranged on the surface in any configuration your heart desires. Find a large variety of these magnetic spice racks at SaltCitySpice!

Interview with Alexandra Ferguson

[hLeah]

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Alexandra Ferguson lives in New York with her little cat named Jasper, who is covered mostly in downy, soft under-fur and has long handsome legs. She includes her upstairs friend, Catrina, and her 1-year-old daughter, Hannah, as her family and they eat dinner together more than they don’t. Alexandra describes herself as a workaholic who loves to drive with the top down on the west side in the summer, go on dinner dates with her boyfriend, and have a strong cup of coffee in the morning and a good cup of wine in the evening. She no longer sews in her pajamas and has graduated to a nice pair of sweatpants, which she likes to pair with a cashmere sweater so she can feel and look smart. And depending on her mood, she’ll be listening to either cheesy pop or melancholy folk music while she works.

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Do you work at home?

I live in a loft apartment that used to be a department store. It has soaring 16 foot ceilings, which makes such a huge difference. I’ll go to someone else’s apartment that is the same square footage with regular height ceilings and I can’t believe how much smaller it feels. I have the original hard wood floors from the department store days and exposed concrete beam ceilings which gives it a gritty look, but then a modern kitchen and a marble bath which makes it comfortable. It’s a great backdrop inspiration for my work.

My place is a 1/2 mile away from my mom’s where I grew up in lower Westchester. When I was 6, we lived in France for a year, but beyond that I have always lived in NY. I even went to college in the city. Sometimes I wish I could be a bit more nomadic, but if you have spent your life moving within a 30 mile radius, you start to give up on the fantasy of picking up and moving to LA. This is where I belong.

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How long have you been creating pillows? How did you get started?

I started making pillows as a gift for Catrina’s birthday this past November. Since Christmas was around the corner, I kept going and everyone got pillows for the holidays. Then I was done with my annual crafting. For about a week. Then Catrina’s sister, Kim, came round and saw the original pillows I made for her and told me about Etsy. The shop went live in the middle of January. And it has been a whirlwind since.

Do you sew other items?

I am game to sew anything so long as it is for the home. I am looking to expand the line into tote bags and pouches too. My project for just this morning actually is to make wall art, which will be the same thing as making a pillow but then we will staple it around a canvas frame instead of set a zipper. I’m really excited. I will not sew clothes.

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Tell us about your daytime job.

My career has been in the fashion industry as a technical designer and as a studio manager. I worked for Rebecca Taylor and Zac Posen, and now I am freelancing a couple of days a week for a Kohl’s licensee company. It’s great because I have now worked on lines from the Wal-mart level right up to designer couture. A lot of my experiences working for these houses has been really useful as I start my own line. If you can develop and manufacture a dress, you can certainly do it for a pillow. Fashion is a really intense industry. This past February was the first season in a long long time that I wasn’t putting on a runway show. It was such an amazing feeling to be able to walk past the tents and Bryant Park and not be overcome with dread and exhaustion. But now I work 7 days a week until 2 am for my own line, so I am back on runway schedule again. But it doesn’t hurt nearly as much when you are working for yourself.

Where do you get your materials?

I get everything online. It is so much cheaper, and it saves trips around town.

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How much of your materials are recycled? Why do you use them?

The felt that I use is 100% recycled from post-consumer water bottles. There is a neat show about it from the history channel. You can watch the process here.

It is such a great material to work with. The quality of the felt is really good and surprisingly soft. It is a great added bonus that it happens to be totally eco-friendly to boot.

I am doing research now to find an eco-friendly pillow insert too. For now I want to make my work accessible and affordable to most people so I use a polyfill insert, but I would like to offer the option of an eco insert too.

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Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere! I have to keep long lists because I can’t sew fast enough. I have some beautiful photography books of flowers that I like to reference sometimes, and always keep an ear out for song lyrics that might be funny on a pillow. Friends help out too. Its a good lunch time game with your colleagues–what would you put on a pillow?

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Do you do other kinds of crafts? How long have you been making jewelry?

I made jewelry a couple of years ago and if Etsy had been around then who knows what path my life would have taken! I had no selling outlet at the time, so I made as much as I could until I was broke and then I got a job. I feel like the jewelry market right now is pretty saturated though, so once I sell through my current inventory I think I will call it a day.

One hobby that I have had since I was a tot was painting. Right now I am into acrylics. I have been working on a 15 foot mural in my kitchen for about 2 years. It’s a rolling kaleidescope landscape populated with little fantasy creatures. It’s great because it will never be done, I can always move someone else in. I have also done portraits of Jasper and my fish George, and my mom’s dog Hugo. I’m really into Egrets as well, there are a couple of those around the house. I am running out of wall space. Good thing I took a break to make pillows. But now that I am going to hang the pillow designs on the wall? Back to square one.

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What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

Running my company! Maybe when the company grows and I can afford employees, I can work less than 90 hours a week. But I am starting to doubt that I will be able to stop.

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Welcome to today's obsession

As you will see, I have a bit of a problem when it comes to the subject of fingerless gloves, wrist warmers, mittenettes, handwarmers or gauntlets. Whatever you call them, my Etsy favorites list is full to the brim with them. Allow me to show you the best I’ve found in the hope that it will keep me from buying up each and every pair myself!


$32 by Chez Plum.


$34 by Coquelicot Salon.


$32 by Jeannie Knits. These need to come live in my coat pockets.


$35 by While They Play.


$65 (mmm, cashmere!) by Adventures of Jessica Rose. (I have room in my pockets for these too!)

I love them all. Which pair(s) spoke to your taste?