I’m sure that many of you will have heard of today’s interviewee, but did you know that she worked in a yarn shop and has had books published? Tracey and I (Victoria) have known each other for about a decade now, and it’s always a pleasure to work with her. I’m really grateful to her for answering my nosey questions, and the answers are very interesting… enjoy!
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to become a designer?
I’ve been crocheting since I was four and always “tweaked” published patterns, so it was inevitable I would eventually start designing my own. It wasn’t until 2007, when I gave up working full time due to ill health that I began to submit designs to magazines. I was lucky enough to be offered a part time job in a yarn shop, and being surrounded by beautiful yarns all day was bound to spark ideas. Book contributions soon followed and now I make my living designing for magazines and writing crochet books.
What’s your favorite garment or accessory to design and why?
Without a doubt it’s the Ursula scarf, which was part of collaboration with Eden Cottage Yarns. I ran out of inspiration for pattern names and when I sent the design for this “barely there” scarf to Victoria, she named it Ursula – which was my Mum’s name – that made it very special. It’s such a quick design to make and so easy. It’s also very flattering and can be worn all year round as it’s not bulky or heavy.
(The Ursula pattern has been recently revamped to include new photos, find it available as a digital download on the website HERE)
Where do you go to for inspiration? How does this influence what you decide to create within a design?
Colours and textures from my garden or country walks inspire most of my designs. I take lots of photographs on my walks and these eventually find their way into designs. I like to work with natural fibres and often the texture of the yarn will dictate what I make – smooth yarns for lacy projects, alpaca for cosy accessories – sometimes I pick up a ball of yarn and know the colour suits me so well, I have to turn it into a small cowl or scarf I want wear to lift a plain outfit.
Can you tell us about your process when you design a new piece?
Designs often start as a swatch as I try out new yarns, this will often spark a memory of a sketch or a photograph and then I’ll draw a rough sketch before writing out a draft pattern. My process is quite fluid. For magazines the process usually starts with the editor sending a link to a mood board and this will be a starting point for a sketch a scribbled paragraph of ideas, which I’ll then turn into swatches. Personal designs often begin with a yarn I’ve fallen in love with or the need to create something for myself or as a gift.  If I’m working with a yarn company or a magazine editor who knows me well, the design can often become a collaborative process which I particularly enjoy as it’s always nice to have someone to bounce around ideas or give feedback. Often, these collaborative designs have become my most popular patterns.
Who are your favourite designers that you admire the most?
Erika Knight, I respect her commitment to natural fibres and British manufacture. I knitted lots of her designs for my daughter and I appreciated knowing I could pick up one of her books and find a pattern that would work and be easy to follow. There are lots of crochet designers I admire – Simone Francis has some beautiful garment designs – and Helda Panagary always manages to produce elegant designs that are simple, yet beautiful.
Where are your favourite places to go for tutorials and guides for your crochet? Do you have a tutorial you would recommend? 
Well, I wrote two crochet instruction books so I feel I ought to mention them! (Crochet. Learn It, Love It and 200 More Crochet Stitches. Both are published by Search Press). Lots of my pupils enjoy the Toft Crochet tutorials, a Toft kit is often their first experience of amigurumi and they tell me the video tutorials are easy to follow. I don’t think you can beat sitting next to an experienced and enthusiastic crocheter and learning directly, I run a Craft and Chat group at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester and the ladies often help each other, passing on techniques they’ve discovered or offering encouragement. I would always encourage new crocheters to find a social group near where they live.
Tracey modelling Bedale 4ply in a cowl design to be released later in the year

What’s your crochet nemesis? Is there any technique that gives you the shivers?
Broomstick crochet! I always feel like you need three hands and I have yet to make a swatch I’m happy with. For one book, the publishers were really keen to shoot some instruction videos for this technique – luckily I managed to persuade them that Tunisian crochet would be more popular – but I had several sleepless nights worrying about how I would manage to shoot a sequence without making a mess of it.
What is it that keeps you coming back to ECY yarns?
Beautiful colours, and a commitment to natural fibres of course. But, the one thing that makes Eden Cottage Yarns stand out for me is the obvious joy Victoria and her team have for what they do.  I love Victoria’s eye for detail, her palette of yarns is always considered and I never fail to find something I want to buy or design with.
Does the yarn selection influence what you decide to design? If the answer is yes, why?
Yes. Sometimes I have an idea for a design, but I know it needs a particular fibre or texture to really make it work. An idea can bubble away for months before I finally come across the perfect yarn. Other times I’ll click on a yarn update email and a new yarn will leap out at me with a project idea fully formed by the time I get to the checkout!
If you had to pick just one ECY yarn and colourway, what would it be and why?
Just one? Oh that’s hard. Whitfell DK is my idea of a perfect yarn. But if you really forced my hand I’d choose Bowland 4ply in Clematis as my current “love interest” – or any of those beautiful garden inspired pinks that are coming out of the dye pots lately! Bowland is a great yarn for so many projects and it has gorgeous stitch definition, I always have a skein of it on my Christmas and birthday lists.
Thankyou so much to Tracey for answering these questions; it’s so interesting to hear from designers about their processes and inspiration. Have you got any questions for her or us?
To see the designs of Tracey's that we have for sale on our website click HERE, they include beauties like these:
Caldbeck - One of three designs from Tracey that were included in the Drift Collection. Ideal for walking the dog in the woods or to keep your hands warm on days out as the weather turns colder, these quick and easy fingerless mitts are a variation of double crochet, which is good for beginners and more experienced crocheters alike. These are Laura's made using Milburn DK in Damson
Fellsider - A knitted design from Tracey which is perfect for when you’re walking on the fells, or even just popping into town and need something stylish to keep out the draughts. This simple cowl is knitted in the round, so no seams to sew up. This sample was made by Mr ECY and is in Pendle Chunky colourway Millpond. 
Phyllis TurnerWho doesn’t love a cute and stylish coin purse? This perfect crocheted purse will brighten your day every time you reach for some change. Tracey designed a collection of purse and bag designs for us with knitting and crochet represented. This is Laura's sample made using Milburn DK in Bramble with Milburn 4ply in Tea Rose for the flower. 

1 comment

  • These are lovely! I don’t crochet but these designs inspire me to learn, Thank you

    Sally Idso on

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