It has been far too long since we interviewed one of our designer friends. In the past couple of years Hanna Gough of Germander Cottage Crafts has released two individual patterns and two accessory collections in a range of our yarns. She also has two upcoming pattern releases scheduled for the next couple of months and so we thought this was the perfect time to have a chat with her!
1. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to become a designer?
I started knitting and crochet in 2014 as a way to manage stress and anxiety when working as a teacher full time. It was quite a high pressure career and I’ve always been creative so messing around with yarn became a release that I could engage with in the evenings and port around. It really helped me to relax and think about other things. I became addicted almost straight away and looked forward to cracking on with some knitting or crochet after a long day of work. I would sew and paint too but with knitting, I could do it at the same time as watching something on telly! It was the norm for teachers to go home and mark books or do more teaching prep but I would whip out the needles and hooks. It was important to separate work from play time and I think it did me a huge favour. I started designing during lockdown in 2020. I was on maternity leave and due to being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, difficulty sourcing childcare and not knowing if I had a job to come back to, I thought that maybe it was time to bite the bullet and start a new career where I could work around my family! I launched my first pattern in November 2020 and haven’t stopped since. Designing always looked really hard and since maths has never been my strong point, I had a lot of work to do. I loved the challenge though and was determined to overcome the barriers.
Zigzag lace beanie hat made in aran yarn
2.What is your favourite garment or accessory to design and why?
I absolutely love designing garments. I haven’t published many because there’s a huge financial and time outlay on tech editing and grading but they’re still my favourite thing to design. They come to me easier than shawls, for example. I love a good cardigan. They’re timeless and great for most seasons. Everybody likes a cardigan! I’ve always loved flicking through vintage crochet and knitting patterns because the style is so effortless and neat. I aspire to be known for garment design, especially drapey, wearable crochet garments that defy the stereotype of crochet being stiff and garish!
3. Where do you go to for inspiration? How does this influence what you decide to create within a design?
Firstly, I am inspired by what I want to wear. I usually can’t find exactly what I want so I have to make it myself. As well as the need for something original, a lot of my inspiration comes from Pinterest, stitch dictionaries and vintage pattern books. I really loved what Susan Crawford did in A Stitch In Time and was inspired to look at classic styles that can be updated for modern looks. I’m also a big fan of slow fashion and making your own clothes in general, so I feel inspired to create designs that people will want to make for themselves and wear over and over again. I’ve always been into clothes and sewing so a lot of my ideas around fit and texture of garments come from my sewing background. When it comes to a new design, I often let colour and texture lead. My eye is often drawn to bright and bold but I find that mixing it up with neutrals and muted shades helps others to visualise wearing it themselves.
4. Can you tell us about your process when you design a new piece?
The first thing I do is settle on what it is, then what I want it to look like i.e shape or texture. I then start swatching and estimate how much yarn I’ll need from there. As soon as the yarn arrives, I’m creating it. I don’t like leaving it too long between idea and creation because I’m at risk of losing interest. I don’t always focus solely on one design either. Sometimes switching to work on something else gives me some thinking space and allows me to come back to the other design with a clear head. I make sure that I scribble as much down as possible in my notebook while I’m making it, as you never know what issues could crop up!
Hatchmere hat and mitts - also available in a bundle with the matching cowl; made in DK yarn
5. Who are your favourite designers?
Carol Feller is one of my favourite designers of all time. I love how effortless her garments look in particular. I discovered Carol’s work when I was a relatively new knitter and have a few of her books and patterns. I’m also a huge fan of Melissa Metzbower’s work (That Metzbower Girl Designs) and I’m such a fan that she is now my tech editor!
6. Where are your favourite places to go for tutorials and guides for your knitting or crochet? Do you have a tutorial you would recommend?
I’ve taken some online courses with Carol Feller for knitting and joined one of her KALs before which was fun and taught me a lot. I’ve also taken a continental knitting course with Anniken Allis which was really interesting. Other than that, I like looking at VeryPink Knits on Youtube for practical tips on techniques.
7. What is your knitting/crochet nemesis? Is there any technique that gives you the shivers?
Irish crochet is very intimidating. I just can’t envisage being able to work with such a slim hook! I still look through my irish crochet books and admire the magic though. Charts are my nemesis. I love a written instruction. I’ve panicked when downloading a pattern and seeing that it’s 90% chart. Yikes! The chart just moved around too much and my eyes won’t let me follow the rows or repeats properly. I avoid fair isle because of charts! I admire the work of others but I can’t seem to keep up with colourwork, especially when I’ve lost sight of one of the kids or am on the receiving end of countless interruptions. One day I’ll have the time and the energy to focus on colourwork but it won’t be any time soon.
Delamere cowl - part of the Delamere collection; made in DK yarn
8. What attracted you to Eden Cottage Yarns?
As a knitter and crocheter I’ve sampled so many hand dyed yarns over the years. Eden Cottage Yarns first appeared on my radar when I bought a copy of Tiny Shoots by Kate Heppell. The sample used their yarn and I was immediately struck by how different the colour options were. They were mostly semi solid neutrals and I hadn’t seen much of them from other independent dyers. I was also drawn to ECY by the fact that crochet features just as much as knitting! I feel that a lot of yarn companies focus on the knitter and often leave the crochet out. ECY is different. Variegated and self striping doesn’t always look good with crochet but I have yet to find an ECY yarn that does not look great with crochet just as much as knitting. I think the quality of Eden Cottage Yarns really stood out to me, too. I had acquired quite the stash over the years and it gets easier to compare yarns when you seem to have one of everything! I love that they use natural, sustainable fibres and stick to beautiful, calmer colours. Victoria is also a pleasure to work with and will celebrate every design with you.
9. Does the yarn itself influence what you decide to design? If the answer is yes: in what way?
Yes! Take for example Keld Aran. I wanted to design a piece around that. It has a lovely drape and I had to show it off in a way that was practical and wearable, so I designed the Beyond cardigan. It’s a cardigan that will hopefully be the first crochet garment for a crocheter looking to expand their skills to garments without feeling like they’ve taken too huge a leap. I used 2 very simple stitches because I wanted the design to be just as much about the yarn as the construction. Quite often I will buy a yarn first and then let it tell me what it wants to be. So far, so good!
10. If you had to pick just one ECY yarn and/or colourway, what would it be and why?
I have a special place in my heart for Nateby 4ply. It’s not only soft but the added sparkle makes it extra special. The Daphne shawl was the first design I ever made in ECY yarn. I bought the Nateby 4ply in Thunder, let it sit there for a bit and the shawl just took shape! It looks fabulous in crochet as well as knitting and the colour options really would suit everybody’s taste. For a 4ply, it’s not too thin either, so you’d get a lot of texture out of it!
Daphne shawl; made in 4ply yarn