As we are celebrating five years (!!!) since the publication of The Bletchley Collection this month, I thought it would be great to catch up with Joanne and interview her properly! It was the first collection collaboration for both of us, and I don’t know about her but it was a huge learning curve for me. We met up at Bletchley for the photoshoot, which was really fun if not a bit pressured - it had to be right as there’d be no second chance to re-shoot. I can still remember telling her to smile, and then saying “less like a murderer” and she cracked up, which got us a great photo. It’s fun moments like that which bring collaborations, collections, and creative works together.
Anyway, enjoy this interview; it’s a great read!
- Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to become a crochet designer?
My background is in software engineering, as a tester and a product manager. It’s not quite as much of a leap as you might think – writing patterns is really just coding, people!
I began writing patterns when I couldn't find ones that I wanted to make and began blogging about what I was making. That gradually developed into some paid work for magazines and then I met Kat, my partner in The Crochet Project, and the job soon became pretty much full-time.
- What’s your favourite garment or accessory to design and why?
I like to design things I want to wear. Almost every design I've ever done has filled a gap in my wardrobe. For a long time that was shawls. At the moment I'm most interested in jumpers and cardigans.
- The Bletchley Collection was of course inspired and informed by Bletchley itself, but where else do you go to for inspiration? How does this influence what you decide to create within a design?
Being wearable is always the primary influence but I get ideas for texture and pattern everywhere. My most recent design is a lace tee shirt inspired by the leaf shapes in the Shepherd's Purse plant. I've designed shawls based on everything from ripples on lakes to Spanish tiles. I don't really need to go anywhere in particular, the daily world is inspiring enough and I keep a journal of ideas.
- Can you tell us about your process when you design a new piece?
I'm very textural so it normally starts with a play around with the yarn. I'll explore different stitches and see what works then some of the ideas that have been floating around my brain normally start connecting up to bring a place or pattern together with that texture. The next thing to fall into place is how that texture will work best in the structure of a wearable and so the garment or accessory will be designed to work with the stitch pattern rather than trying to fight against it.
- Who are your favourite designers that you admire the most?
Woolly Wormhead stands out as she is truly innovative and has such an amazing eye for detail, and thinks in such an innovative way.
- As The Crochet Project you are really informative about techniques and how to do things; where are your favourite places to go for tutorials and guides for your own crochet? Do you have any tutorials you would recommend?
I learn best from print books so I always tend to favour those if I can. Next up would be a step by step tutorial online that isn't too verbose and only if I couldn't find information that was written would I turn to a video. This is why I don't tend to do video tutorials as I don't learn well from them so I feel I'm not best placed to do so. I love writing step by step instructions and I do so for Love Crochet magazine every month as well as writing them for my books increasingly.
- What’s your crochet (or knitting!) nemesis? Is there a technique that gives you the shivers?
I tend to avoid seaming because I find it tiresome and I would never ever attempt slipstitch crochet as a whole piece, yeah, that gives me the shivers! Basically if its tedious or grows too slowly I'm not interested.
- It’s been so long since we first worked together that I can’t actually remember how or where we met; can you? What attracted you to ECY and what keeps you coming back for more?
I think its because I used your yarn for Alyssium that first appeared in Simply Crochet and is now an individual pattern. I believe I first came and said a very shy hi at Woolfest but you were quite busy and our first proper chat was at Unwind in Brighton.
I think your subtle colour palette really fits my aesthetic well. I love a tonal semi solid and you are the queen of those!
- Does our yarn selection influence what you decide to design? If the answer is yes, why?
Yes, because I tend to be textural I'll take a skein to play with and see what it can be rather than trying to bend the yarn to a particular idea. So as long as I always keep an ECY skein in the inspiration pile, I'm set for design ideas.
- If you had to pick just one ECY yarn and colourway, what would it be and why?
Pennine Mist. It’s just got everything. I've used it a couple of times as minis in designs but honestly, I'd happily make every design going forward in it. I love a true black-based grey with depth.
Thank you so much to Joanne for taking the time to talk to us. We love working with her and always look forward to seeing what new designs she has up her sleeve. You can find all the patterns we have of Joanne's on our website HERE.