I’m super excited about my next designer interview because I had the pleasure of actually meeting her in October 2021 at The Crochet Sanctuary.
I’ve been following the lovely Esme, aka Red Sparrow Crochet, for awhile, and you will have no doubt have come across her work on social media and in magazines if you are a crochet fan – she’s become kind of synonymous with mosaic crochet.
In fact she has recently written a book titled ‘Mosaic Crochet Workshop’ – which she very kindly signed [my copy] for me when I met her (squee!), and I wanted to find out a bit more about that, about her in general, how she does it all, and her inspiration and designing process.
Here’s what we chatted about…
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well, after many years of living all over the place- London, Brighton, Madrid- I’ve settled back in my beloved Suffolk in the east of England with my family: one Other Half, two teenagers and of course the world’s grumpiest cat Hank Deluxe. I love Suffolk, it’s so wild and rural, it suits my introverted nature very well!
I work full time as a freelance crochet designer, as an editor for Scheepjes’ YARN Bookazines, and spend any free time hanging out with the kids, playing Scrabble and Risk, walking, cooking lots of exciting vegetarian food, reading…
How did you discover crochet?
Funny story: I actually saw a woman on the beach crocheting and it was one of those wow moments! She was sitting on a deckchair, hooking away, surrounded by loads of kids but so at ease with herself, so calm amidst the sandcastles and tantrums. My kids were very small at that point and I was craving a new skill, having put away my sewing machine due to inquisitive little fingers (my son was one of those danger kids, always found the trouble!). My lovely friend’s mum, Eileen, taught me the basic crochet stitches at playgroup and that was it. I was smitten. Terrible at it but smitten.
How did you become a crochet designer? Do you do it full time? And why is your handle Red Sparrow Crochet?
As is probably the path with many designers, I never intended to become a full time designer, it just built and evolved. I was an English teacher by trade first! I started with selling my designs at craft fairs- I’m the co-founder of an artisan-maker craft collective called The March Hare Collective so I had a ‘natural outlet’ for my work. After a few years of selling finished items (mostly throws and cushions, no surprise there!) I mustered up my courage and asked the lovely editor Claire Montgomerie if she might be interested in my work for Inside Crochet magazine. To my utter shock she said yes, and it was the start of many years designing for Inside Crochet, Simply Crochet, Mollie Makes and Scheepjes. I now mainly self publish my patterns but occasionally take on a magazine design commission if there’s time.
Oh, and the Red Sparrow thing is quite obscure, but the publishing house for Charles Bukowski’s work was called Black Sparrow Press. I’m a big Bukowski fan and I loved the publisher’s name. I have always felt like a little bird, pecking around with bits of fabric and yarn, it seemed suitable. And I was going through a real red obsession at the time!
You have kind of become ‘known’ now for mosaic crochet, what is it about that style of crochet that you love?
It totally makes sense to me, I need pattern and geometric order in my life! I saw a design by Red Heart using the inset crochet technique a few years ago and immediately fell in love with the brilliant yet simple way to draw shapes with yarn!
Where do generally find your creative inspiration?
Oh everywhere, I love seeing shapes in nature, architecture, pavements, anywhere and everywhere! Sometimes I’ll see a gorgeous pattern in my mind before I go to sleep, and even in my dreams too. I then have to try and memorise it till the next day as I’m not organised enough to have a notepad by my bed. My brain likes thinking about patterns while I’m trying to get some rest I think!
What does your design process look like? Do you sketch things out first, or do you just like to grab a hook and start?
Charts, it’s all about the charts. I use Stitch Fiddle (which is a fantastic online tool) to create them as I can set them to the same gauge as the work will appear and choose colours very specifically too. I like to work in a very limited but very specific palette. I currently have 437 charts on the go, many of them will stay as rough ideas which may or may not lead onto finished designs.
Do you have a favourite creation that you’ve designed?
I suppose my first ever mosaic throw design, Diamond Heart, will always be something I’m really proud of. I self-published it, not knowing of course what people would make of it. It’s been a huge seller, unbelievably popular, it blows me away knowing there are countless versions of it around the world. That’s just crazy! But it gave me the confidence to push myself forwards and literally dedicate myself to designing using the inset version of mosaic crochet non-stop. Which leads perfectly onto your next question…!
How did you end up writing a book on mosaic crochet?
So, a few years ago, Ame Verso who is Publishing Director at David and Charles Publishers got in touch and basically told me I needed to write a book of mosaic crochet designs! She’d seen my designs online and must have seen some potential! Once I’d got over the surprise of being approached, I talked to her for a bit, it actually took me two years to agree, but finally I DID agree and Mosaic Crochet Workshop came to life.
Ame and I were supposed to meet for the contract signing but that was in March 2020 and we all know what happened next. So I signed the contract remotely, and spent lockdowns writing the book, doing the day job and homeschooling my son. It’s a bit of a blur now, but suffice to say I’m incredibly proud of the book, the publishers were astonishing in their support and encouragement. All the photography was done under very difficult lockdown conditions, yet the team did an incredible job- the book is more than I ever dreamt it would be. It’s very beautiful and I’m thrilled it’s been so well received.
How do you fit everything in that you want to? Are you strict with yourself and your time or is it a struggle to juggle?
I’m a bit manic, I’m very very organised and disciplined with my work time. It’s not all swanning around all day having lots of coffee breaks and playing with fluffy yarn! I work very hard, I’m extremely focused. I start at 8 in the morning and during busy times will finish at 9-10pm. All creatives will know this (I am sure you know only too well, Heather!) but you can’t switch creativity on and off like a tap. Once you’re on a roll there’s no stopping you is there? So, yes feed the kids, do the housework etc etc but the design work will be waiting to be tackled even if it’s late into the evening.
What advice or top tips would you suggest for anyone new to mosaic crochet?
Oh gosh, just enjoy it and don’t tell yourself it’s too hard to try! I get so many messages from people saying they thought they wouldn’t be able to get to grips with the technique as it looks so complicated… they then try it and are so thrilled they can do it!! If you can make a chain, a dc and a tr (UK terms) then you can follow any of my mosaic patterns! In fact, I give a short step by step tutorial at the start of the book- once you have made the small swatch, you can take on any project. It’s perfect- it looks far more impressive than it actually is! My kind of crochet 🙂
What can we expect from Red Sparrow crochet in 2022?
Oh what a question!! Haha I don’t know is the honest answer! I’ll be editing the Scheepjes’ YARN Bookazines as usual, but am weighing up what to focus on this year. There’ll more than likely be some self-published designs (what with the 437 charts and all that)… and I am toying with the idea of Mosaic Crochet Workshop: The Sequel too!! Let’s see!
If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs—such as food and water—were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?
A sheep (can I have an alpaca too so the sheep doesn’t get lonely??) and a sharp knife. That sounds terrifying for the poor sheep, but don’t worry I’m veggie! I’d like to get into spinning wool, and whittling hooks and knitting needles with the knife. I can’t knit for toffee but can just about cast on, so maybe I can figure it out?? Or I’ll just revert to crochet where I’m more comfortable!
Thanks so much for chatting with me, Heather! It’s a pleasure and an honour to share my crochet ramblings with you.
Thank you Esme!
I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Esme for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions. I’ve really enjoyed getting a better understanding of her life and designing process and hope you have too.
And if there’s any other designers you’d like to maybe see featured here on the blog, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do!
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Until next time folks! Happy hooking and keep calm and crochet on my friends xx
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