Interview With Susan Crawford

The following is an interview with GTS’ Designer of the Month, Susan Crawford. I had the pleasure of spending pretty much the entire duration of the Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl with this lovely lady. Learn a wee bit more about her by reading on …

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Ginger Twist Studio: How did you come to start knitting?

Susan Crawford: I’ve been knitting since I was a young child, probably about 6 or 7. My grandmother – Ruby – taught me how to knit, sew, embroider and crochet. We began with dolls and teddy bear clothes and just kept going. I don’t really remember a time when I haven’t knitted to be honest.

GTS: You have a nice cozy niche in vintage pattern designing. How did this develop?

SC: I really don’t know. I have always been a vintage girl since my late teens and was already working with vintage patterns before it became such a huge trend. A Stitch in Time volume 1 first came out in 2008 which is just as things really began to take off in the vintage world and became very popular very quickly. I hope its also because people recognise the authenticity of what I do. I don’t do ‘vintage’ because its fashionable but because its part of me. I celebrate the designers and makers from the past and treat the patterns with great respect. I try extremely hard not to alter any vintage pattern that I use very much at all, trying to keep the same cut, shape, fit and aesthetic no matter what size I write the pattern for and I think knitters like that. Any pattern I’ve designed myself is obviously influenced by the past and hopefully gives knitters the same attention to fit and shape.

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GTS: What is your favourite decade for knitwear design inspiration?

SC: Ooh this is a toughy. It changes such a lot and depends on what I’m looking at it for.

From a design inspiration point of view it the 1930s. I adore the creativity that was poured into knitwear at this time. Nothing was too outlandish or out there. From a ‘wearing’ point of view I’m  very torn between the 40s and 50s. Having an ‘hour glass’ figure (ahem!) the 50s silhouette really suits me but I love the cut and ingenuity of 1940s fashion more than anything else. I am very lucky that I get to dip in and out of each of the decades whenever I fancy really. I have also become more and more drawn to the 1920s of late having worked with some fabulous garments at the Shetland Museum from this period. It is in this area that you see Fair Isle appearing for the first time and the designs it features in are incredibly innovative even for today.
GTS: We adore your Excelana 4ply at GTS! You actually have commissioned a few different lines of yarn (Excelana, Coquette, Fenella). What was your motivation for this? Is it connected to your vintage pattern designs, like I suspect it is?

SC: Yes it is connected with my designing. When I first started writing A Stitch in Time volume 1 back in 2006 it was almost impossible to find a good range of 4 ply weight yarns in a variety of colours – its hard to imagine but in just a few years the availability of lighter weight yarns has exploded, but it was really really tricky back then. Added to that the need for just the right colours and then also some control over the continued availability of these colours. The Stitch in Time books have remained available for several years but unfortunately many of the yarns haven’t and that makes things very tricky for knitters who want to use the recommended yarns. Particularly with vintage knits the fit and drape of a garment is so important and getting the yarn right is essential. It seems to me to make sense to take control of that side of things so that I can create the yarns that fit in with the designs I make. I also love choosing colour palettes almost more than designing and it has been so exciting to work with a scottish based dyer over the last year or so to create the Fenella range.

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<style=”margin-left: 0cm; margin-bottom: 0cm;”>GTS: You’ve now moved to a farm! Can you tell us about your plans? Are sheep involved?
<style=”margin-left: 0cm; margin-bottom: 0cm;”>SC: I have indeed! Its been a long term goal to have a farm, become more self sufficient and to develop the business in a way that can only be done in this sort of environment. We have taken on a run down farm in the North Lancashire hills on the border of both Cumbria and Yorkshire. The landscape is so inspiring and uplifting. We have a number of outbuildings which we are planning to renovate to enable us to have a retail shop, a school room for knitting classes and even possibly vintage caravans so that we can offer weekend knitting retreats. Added to that we now have our own small flock of Shetland sheep which we hope to build and obviously use for their fleeces. We currently have 10 ewes and 8 lambs in a variety of colours and we are just in the process of shearing them for the first time. It is incredibly hard work looking after the farm, dealing with the renovations and running the business but every day I wake up excited and with a smile on my face and I can’t imagine ever wanting to leave here!

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GTS: Do you do any other crafts besides knitting?

SC: Yes, I sew – or more specifically, dress make, although I don’t get to spend as much time doing so as I would like. Again I mainly use vintage dress making patterns. One of the barns will ultimately include a full design studio for me which will also include the facilities to do more dressmaking. I’m also a trained pattern cutter so really enjoy making my own patterns. I also crochet and do a little embroidery. Again its all limited by time – if only there were 72 hours in a day. I also paint a little and plan to get my easel set up at some point in the near future but when that will be who can say!