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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


I am a Nigerian-born Brit with an overly healthy appetite for fashion and sewing. I have always loved fashion, but I began my dressmaking journey just four years ago. After buying my first sewing machine and failing woefully at a couple of attempts at off-piste sewing, I decided to go to my aunty, who is a dressmaker, and watch her in the hope of picking up her magic tricks. Her freehand approach appealed to me because I had many ideas in my head and was itching to bring them to fruition! It took me three months to learn the freehand technique, but I was determined and fell passionately in love with the process of dressing myself this way. The seeds of daring to venture into the fashion industry were – ahem – sown.

I was eager to understand how to make beautiful clothes that fit women of all shapes and sizes and, after only three months of sewing for myself, I began designing and making clothes for family members and friends. I have since made clothes for private clients from all walks of life. In 2014 I took part in the BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee, where I learned so much from the judges and my fellow sewists. It was lovely to be surrounded by like-minded people, and to spend so much time sewing!

My book Freehand Fashion is not your conventional sewing book; if you watched the Sewing Bee, then you will know that I am not a conventional sewist. The book is all about producing beautiful, elegant and stylish garments using the freehand cutting method.

Freehand cutting is all about marking your measurements directly onto fabric, using simple tools, and developing an understanding of how clothes come together and sit on the contours of the body. It allows you to tailor clothes precisely to your own shape and size – no more fiddling around, adjusting commercial patterns to fit!

Although the idea of freehand garment construction intrigues many in the West, this method has been used traditionally and is still used in many of the less developed parts of the world. Fashion varies greatly around the globe and there is a vast array of traditional dress codes. In Africa and Asia many garments are created, if not entirely freehand, with at least some reference to this approach.

I am most familiar with the Nigerian freehand method, and although this has coloured my own sewing technique and style aesthetically, I have further developed what I learned to achieve a high-quality and very precise individual fit, with an exceptional standard of finishing both on the inside and outside of the garments.

My book covers key techniques and the drafting, cutting and construction of five basic blocks and then shows you how to adapt them for different designs. It contains a plethora of exciting projects that range from easy to more challenging. It’s aimed at anyone with an interest in dressmaking, and especially the growing numbers of young people who are venturing into sewing for the first time. I want to offer beginners a fresh take on home sewing, one that is fashionable and trendy, and I also want to entice seasoned sewists to step away from traditional rules and try the exciting freehand method. I learned this method without any prior knowledge of sewing; before I appeared on the Sewing Bee, I had never used a pattern.

For me, sewing isn’t just about craftsmanship, it’s also about design; the silhouettes of the garments in Freehand Fashion are timeless, beautiful shapes that have lasted throughout the history of fashion. There are beautifully fitted gowns for ultra-glamorous events like a posh party or a prom, flattering tops that ooze femininity, and many more garments that will give your wardrobe a facelift.

by Chinelo Bally

9781910496145Extracted from Freehand Fashion by Chinelo Bally (Pavilion, £20)

Blogger Sophie Simpson is the owner of the successful embroidery business What Delilah Did, and sells her distinctive patterns online and in boutique haberdasheries and lifestyle shops throughout the UK. Here, Sophie answers some of our questions about her work.

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?

I was fortunate enough to have a very idyllic childhood in the countryside which was chock full of amazing memories – I’m not sure I could pick just one. Building dens in the woods, camping in the garden, epic games of hide and seek, baking/eating flapjacks so hard they could crack a tooth and making crafty things in the warmth of the kitchen whilst the weather raged outside are all pretty high on the list though. I fully intend to move to a cottage in the middle of a field and recreate it all in the not too distant future.

What makes you passionate about your craft?
I love being able to make something from scratch and have it turn out exactly as it looked in my imagination. Cross stitch is the only thing I have ever been able to do that with. It is also like therapy – there is something so calming about the repetitive action of stitching and following a pattern. I am quite possibly the least relaxed person on the planet so I love that stitching forces me to switch off for a little while.

What sparks your creativity?
Stories, music, period dramas, old houses… and rather ridiculously, the weather. I feel most creative when it is cold and rainy outside. Snuggled under a blanket making something lovely whilst Stephen Fry reads Harry Potter to me – that is my happy place. I am a total granny at heart.

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
There isn’t really any such thing as a typical day for me; every day is so different. Things always take so much longer than I think they are going to, so more often than not I end up spending a whole day on one thing and just keep going until it is done. That might be photographing new products, updating my website, answering emails, putting orders together, working on a commission, or designing new patterns and kits. Actually getting time to stitch in the day is a rare luxury – I normally end up doing that part in the evenings. I am trying to change the way I work so that I have more of a routine, but I haven’t quite hit the nail on the head yet.

Organised mess or creative minimalism? What does your working space look like?
Creative minimalism, definitely.  I don’t feel creative at all when things are a mess and I am a complete neat freak. I live and work in a tiny, hobbit-sized flat and everything is open plan so it can be a challenge to keep things tidy when I am working – if I am making kits it tends to end up looking like a miniature factory with piles of supplies on every available surface, but I have a rather excellent walk-in cupboard in the hall where everything gets hidden on a regular basis. I always have new designs and work in progress stuck to the walls too as I like to live with things for a while before I make final decisions about them. It is a good job I love what I do because I am completely surrounded by it all the time.

Sophie Simpson (What Delilah Did) is the author of Secret Garden Embroidery (Pavilion, £14.99)

Carolyn Denham and Roderick Field are Merchant & Mills. The company was formed in 2010 to elevate sewing to its proper place in the creative world, respecting the craftsmanship it entails. They work from their studio in Rye, East Sussex where they also have their shop. We spoke with dressmaker Carolyn about sewing and creativity.

Hi Carolyn, what makes you passionate about your craft?
I think making of any kind is a source of great pleasure. It is an escape from the day-to-day into your own world vision. As children we love to make – we make anything and everything. Somewhere in growing up, that gets lost and we decide shopping is a much more worthwhile activity.

As I have cultivated my skills I can now make what I want and I want what I make. There is always so much more to learn and the very best way to learn is to keep making. I sew every day and there is nothing else I’d rather do.

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?
Learning to sew at my mother’s sewing machine was always my most cherished time. As one of four girls all close together in age, I loved the feeling of being the one quietly making things as the noise and chaos became faraway the more engrossed I got.

What sparks your creativity?
It hits like a conker falling from a tree onto my head. I see something – it can be fabric , a garment or even a genre, like military. I say to myself . . . well, I like that! I don’t stop to ask why, I take that influence and see where it takes me. There is a lot of messing around to go through to get what I want. Although I often start with a firm idea, in creating it I may find its failings and so I persevere until a metamorphosis occurs. It is a frantic, tough and wholly engrossing experience to arrive at something that is exactly a Merchant & Mills product.

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
Almost every day is a craft day – lucky me!  I sew every day and still even if its just production, I still get a great deal of satisfaction from a well stitched seam. I am a born maker so if I am not sewing I will be more than happy to create something else like woodwork, cooking or card making. I like to see the different outcomes of the same hand in various modes and materials.

Organised mess or creative minimalism? What does your working space look like?
My intentions are good yet I tend to end up with a great big mess on an industrial scale. I am quite good at the epic tidy up at the end of the day but when I am making, I am not conscious of the rest of the world. That’s what makes it wonderful.

Merchant & Mills Workbook is published by Pavilion, £25. Merchant & Mills are also authors of Merchant & Mills Sewing Book and Elementary Sewing Skills.

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

Elisabeth Dunker is a Swedish blogger, writer, stylist, designer, photographer and artist. She has run the internationally acclaimed blog Fine Little Day since 2007. Elisabeth is involved in many exciting design collaborations with brands such as House of Rym, Urban Outfitters and IKEA. The book Fine Little Day is an irresistible patchwork of Elisabeth’s captivating interiors, inspiring ideas and lovingly accumulated collections.

We had a chat with Elisabeth about nature, her home and her work.

Hi Elisabeth, what is your source of inspiration?
I love handmade things. Folk art, outsider art, and in particular – kid’s art. I get inspired by trawling around flea markets and second hand stores.

We see a lot of forest in Fine Little Day. How important are the forest and the outdoors to your work?
The walks in the forest are primarily for my physical and mental wellbeing. I just cannot sit still too long. I like walking and especially in nature. When I was a kid and my parents wanted to do ‘something fun’ with us kids, they took us to the forest. I don’t believe I appreciated it as much then though, ha.

Showcased in Fine Little Day are some of your wonderful collections. What objects are you collecting at the moment?
Oh, right now I try to clear things out rather than getting them. But even though I – to a greater extent than earlier – try to photograph things I fall in love with rather than buying them, I still seem unable to leave certain things I stumble upon. Like old children’s books, or graphic potholders.

How would you describe the style of your home?
Do we have a style really? Our home is messy, that’s what I first think of when visualising it in my mind. We have too little room, and yet we have a big apartment. So I guess we (I) gather too much stuff. Actually, we’ve been looking for a new apartment for over a year now. I would love to move, clean and start all over again.

What is your favourite craft?
I love to watch people craft, but I’m not a crafter myself. I’m too impatient, restless and clumsy actually. But sometimes I ‘craft’ anyway, in my own way. I can’t state a favourite craft though, cause it depends on which mood I’m in and often I do it just once and never again.

What does a typical creative day in the life of Elisabeth Dunker look like?
There are no typical days in my life, unfortunately. Not only am I edgy with my hands, but with life and routines in general. I’m trying to calibrate my circadian rhythm at the moment and not work in the nights anymore. I make progress little by little. A thing that is recurrent is my daily walks. The creative process looks different every time.

Fine Little Day (Pavilion, £17.99) by Elisabeth Dunker is available now. Photography by Hilda Grahnat.

Mariko Nakamura began designing at a young age, drawing pictures of dresses that her mother would sew for her. This was the first time she experienced the special feeling of wearing handmade clothes. Now, as a mother of two, she mainly enjoys designing children’s clothes. We met up with Mariko to talk about her work as a dressmaker.

Hi Mariko, what makes you passionate about your craft?
I have always thought that there is something special about objects that are handmade. There is a special satisfaction to make them, and when it comes to clothing – to wear something that you know has been made with particular attention and care for detail is a nice feeling!

What sparks your creativity?
When I watch some beautiful old films with costumes, I always get excited to see them. Or when I see some beautiful and respectable sewing techniques of garments from antique markets, it really inspires me.

When did you start making things?
When I was 9 or 10 years old, I started making little dolls from felt. That was my starting point to making. Then, I started making more clothes or bags with my mother when I was a bit older.

Which is your most cherished childhood memory?
When I was a child, I used to go to some shops selling sewing stuff with my mother, got some ideas what I could make with them, then making things with her. Sometimes, I made a drawing of what I wanted to make, and she helped me to do it. It is a really cherished and warm memory from my childhood.

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
I love going to the Portobello market on Friday, looking around for antique stuff or vintage buttons or ribbons. Then, I enjoy thinking about designs, and starting making patterns, sewing clothes and having many breaks with coffee and sweets. That is my typical crafty day.

9781909397408Mariko Nakamura’s Sew Japanese (Pavilion, £16.99) is available now


Laura Strutt is a freelance journalist, author and designer/maker. She is the former editor of Craft Business magazine and launched Sew magazine, a monthly contemporary stitching title, in 2009 and continued as editor until 2012, leaving to pursue freelance work. She is a passionate designer and shares free projects, technique guides and crafty inspiration over on her creative lifestyle blog, Made Peachy.

Hi Laura, what is your source of inspiration?
Colour is always a huge source of inspiration for me. It is very satisfying to work with different shades, and experiment mixing and matching tones and creating colour palettes. There is so much colour around us in everyday life: from the clothes we wear, around our homes, in architecture, art, and in nature. Looking at how different shades work together or create dramatic contrasts, how they can set or change a mood or style simply by working with different intensities and parings, is very inspiring and often the starting process for many my creative projects.

Where does your passion for handmade bracelets come from?
Making jewellery, and bracelets in particular, is a very satisfying craft, because they are, by nature, small and self contained pieces they are great for trying out new techniques – beading, braiding, crochet and so much more – in a small bite-sized project. They are great for a quick creative fix, because you can work with almost any materials that is to hand. Bracelets and jewellery are a very personal form of accessories, it is a fantastic way to stamp your identity on an outfit, set your own style and add a flash of your personality. Bracelets are easy to wear and complement almost every outfit, they can be create to suit any style or trend, so they make wonderful gifts too!

Who would you give your handmade friendship bracelet to?
Friendship bracelets are so satisfying to make, it is a great way capture your sense of style, passion for colours and unique way of mixing materials and supplies. I love that this is a great way to make your own signature accessories, a way to create statement pieces that reflect your personality. Also, these make great gifts to share, the small and compact nature makes them ideal for popping in the post – I love to make a selection of colourful and modern designs to gift to my snail mail chums!

What is your favourite material to work with?
I enjoy working on a wide range of creative projects – from jewellery making to knitting and crochet, quilting and hand lettering, and probably everything in between! Because of this I like to work with a range of materials, it is hard to have a favourite – combining a selection of materials, threads, beads, crochet and stitching, is probably my favourite aspect of creating designs.

Could you describe a typical crafty day in your life?
There is no real thing as a typical day for me, every day is so very different – and that is what I love the most! There are a few tasks that are everyday occurrences checking emails, working on my website and general admin that comes with running a business, creative or otherwise. I start the day walking our sweet dog and making plans for the day, I’m a fanatical list maker and schedule out all my daily tasks. Creative projects often take longer than I expect, so I’ve found it really important to be organised each and every day in order to make sure that nothing important gets forgotten. The creative portion of my day is often spent drafting up sketches and proposals for future commissions, working on sewing, knitting, crocheting or making samples, running photography shoots and writing up projects and how to guides. The making portion of my day is by far my most favourite – this is the time when I can explore ideas, materials and working on bringing the ideas from my head into a reality.

Arm Candy (Pavilion, £9.99) by Laura Strutt is available now

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, £14.99)