Friday, 2 May 2014

The Lurvely Zoë Halstead And Other Matters

**I meant to post this yesterday (and the day before) but Love Your Local Yarn Shop Day has come upon me a little quick and I wanted to get the amazing LYLYSD skein raffle (there's still time!) on the go asap. So I'm posting two blogs in one as it were. Because I believe you need both in your life.

Love. xx**

Zoë came to see me t'other day at the shop and she was as lovely in person as she seems on her facebook page and her blog. We were just confirming plans for the big day on Saturday and generally getting to know each other. I sent her a few questions to answer that I thought you might find interesting and here they are unedited: 

Beautiful, talented and lovely. Gah! How annoying!

'Hiya Zoe, how's it going?'

I'm fine thanks, I hope you are too?

'When did you first learn to knit and crochet?'

I was taught to knit by my gran when I was 5 years old. She lived next door to us so was always on hand if I got stuck. My mum, auntie and cousins also knitted and sewed and so I was surrounded by people who made stuff!
I can't remember exactly how old I was when I learnt to crochet but probably around 20-21. I do know that I taught myself using a Good Housekeeping book of my mums (which I still have) - this was before online tutorials so you either learnt from a book or asked someone to teach you!

'Horrid question, but which do you prefer?'

Oooh that's mean, like asking me to choose between my children! I would probably have to say knitting though. It was my first love after all and I'm still slightly more confident designing knitting than crochet.

'How did you get into designing?'

From very young I always wanted to be a designer. So after A levels I did a year's Foundation course in art and design followed by a degree in Constructed Textile Design (knit and weave) at Manchester Polytechnic, specialising in knit in my final year. After graduating I returned to my hometown of Loughborough and worked for 6 years as a designer in the knitwear manufacturing and spinning industries in Leicester. In 1998 I made the sideways move to DMC designing needlework and craft kits. Whilst there, through a colleague and a case of being in the right place at the right time, I was given the opportunity to write my first book 'Knitted & Felted Toys'. After that, I continued working part time for DMC and freelancing in my spare time until May 2008 when I took voluntary redundancy to freelance full time.

'Talk us through an average day for you'

I'm quite lucky in that every day can be different but most days usually include some of the following:
After doing the school run, I usually check my emails, Facebook Page messages, blog comments and Twitter feed whilst eating my breakfast. I'll then reply to emails and messages and do anything that has been requested.
If I have designs to do I'll sit at the table with all my inspiration material and sketch them out. I then scan the finished drawings and lay them up on design sheets in a desktop publishing program on my pc. The design sheets are usually emailed to the client but occasionally, if I've done swatches, they'll be printed out and posted.
If I've got patterns to write I'll try and do these in the morning too as I'm more able to cope with the gradings and maths involved! I write all my instructions by hand in a notebook and then write them up on the pc. If the designs are going to be knitted by my knitters and not me then I write the whole pattern and send it to them. If I'm going to knit the item, I tend to write the instructions for one part at a time as I often change things as I knit!
Afternoons are usually spent knitting, crocheting or making up designs. I like to sit on the sofa and catch up on TV whilst I knit and crochet. If I've got deadlines looming, I can quite often knit all day.
A lot of my time can also be taken up with sorting and ordering yarn, bagging up yarn for projects and trips to the Post Office!
After the afternoon school run I'll sometimes carry on working around my boys depending on their needs and where they need to be for various clubs and activities.
In the evenings I'll either do more knitting/crochet in front of the TV or update my blog and Facebook Page.

'How did you get to work with King Cole?'

When I was working on my toy book I wanted a supplier of a good, all-round DK yarn to knit the dolls with and King Cole's yarns fitted the bill. After my second book (Knitted & Felted Children's Clothes) was published King Cole got in touch to see if I would be interested in designing for them and my first designs were two kids Aran leaflets 3143 and 3144 and two kids Splash leaflets 3145 and 3146 in early 2009. And I've been designing for them ever since!

'What's your favourite King Cole yarn and why?'

I really like Merino Blend DK (and the other Merino Blend weights) because it's a lovely rounded, plump, machine washable, 100% wool yarn that's great for stitch definition and colour work. I like the natural elasticity you get with wool yarn and this is a good, affordable all rounder.

'What's next on the horizon?'

At the moment I'm working on Christmas Knits Book 2 and lots of other Christmas things for King Cole, all to be ready for the beginning of June! After that it's on to next Spring and a lot of crochet designs. :)
'Why do you think local yarn shops are so important?'

It's very hard to tell from a printed shade card or online exactly what colour a yarn is, how it feels and how well it will sit in the colourway you're thinking of. I need to be able to squish the yarn, run it over my fingers and bundle it together with other colours and you can only do this in a yarn shop with the actual yarn! Also, local yarn shops provide so much more than just the tools and materials for knitting and crochet; where else can you get technical know how to help you out with that tricky pattern? Advice on yarn quantities, substitutions and colours that suit? Or just a friendly like-minded individual to talk to? All these things and more are in your local yarn shop and you're supporting a small business too.

'Descibe your perfect local yarn shop for us'

I've always had a dream to have my own yarn shop and whenever I see an empty shop in a nice area I usually say 'that'd make a nice yarn shop' so I have a very clear idea of my perfect yarn shop: Lots of yarn in lots of colours and on shelves so that you can touch it - it goes without saying really but I'm sometimes surprised at how little yarn, and how little of the colour range of that yarn, some shops stock or it's in bags where you can't touch it!; lots of patterns to support the yarns stocked; a table and chairs so that you can sit and take your time choosing yarn and patterns or just sit and chat; friendly, welcoming staff that don't give you derisory looks when you plunge your hands and/or face into the yarn - sometimes I have to sniff or stroke the yarn against my face, don't judge!; staff that don't mind when you want to buy just one ball of lots of different colours rather than a garment's worth; and staff that will patiently talk through a knitting/crochet problem you're having without being patronising!


Can you see how nice she is?!?! She's coming from about one o'clock on Saturday to just join in and generally chat. She'll sign her patterns if you have some (but I'm too disorganised to have got her books in... the webshop thing really got on top of me last week so I'm sorry Zoë) but I am MOST looking forward to seeing the next Christmas book when it comes out in August seeing as the last one was just so amazing!!!

And here are some of the bits that she's designed for King Cole including my favourite kid's dress that they've ever published:

 And look at these cute little things that have appeared in magazines: 

All in King Cole wool. Marvelous. I am so looking forward to welcoming her as our guest on Saturday and I know you lot will be too. Be friendly ey, and slightly less mad than usual? We've got to make a good impression... ;)

Love Eleanor.  xxxx

P.s. If you want to hear my rambling, messing up words, mishearing and umming and ahhing about Love Your Yarn Shop Day on the radio then click the link here and fast forward to around 1.46. You'll not be disappointed. 


And now for the second part of the blog... 

 We have some truly amazing stuff available on the day. For a lot of you it'll be the first time seeing the new colours in the Riot DK, the Riot Chunky and the Zig Zag 4ply. And now I've got the patterns on the internet you can peruse those to make your choice for the day:

Click here to get the deets on the individual patterns. There are some beauts and this is deffo my favourite: 

Amazing - yes? I don't think you need to answer that... ;)

 We also have these beauts:

And then we have this:

Which is a LOAD of Truly Hooked wool on general sale. Including some more raaaaaaaaaaainbows! Some in two 50g and some in 100g balls. I will be getting those on the internet after the day but I want to give the local customers a go first as that seems only fair on Love Your Local Yarn Shop Day, ey? Are you going to your local yarn shops? Do you have them? Are they doing exclusive things for the events!?!?!? Tell me! I'm excited!!!!

And then we have this big bag of goodies: 

This is from the beautiful and talented and dead funny Jem Weston. It's all a load of lovely yarn, just bits and bobs and it'll be a lucky dip type affair on the day. You might pick a beaut! You might also pick the pink fun fur... ;) She'll be there tooooo!

And then I went cheap shelf shopping t'other day for a load of biscuits and chocolate and stuff. In date, don't worry. Amazing.

And then I'm doing a lucky dip type thing like we do at all of the birthdays. So you choose your yarn/needles/patterns/whatever and then once you're about to pay you stick your hand in for a lucky dip and you might win 100% off the order, 50% off the order, 10% off the order, double points, a go at the lucky dip wool bag or even.... nothing at all... Haha. I have to sort this out tomorrow. And tidy. Argh stress!

That's it!! I am so looking forward to this. Apparently we've been in/are going in the Post too and we've been on the radio. It's going to be just a really nice relaxed day of giving thanks for all the wonderful things that have happened over the last 3.5years. Ahhhhhhhh.

Love Eleanor. xxx

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