Designer Interview | Red Sparrow Crochet

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!

© Red Sparrow Crochet / Esme Crick 2022

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.

© Red Sparrow Crochet / Esme Crick 2022

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!

© Red Sparrow Crochet / Esme Crick 2022

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.

© Red Sparrow Crochet / Esme Crick 2022

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…!

© Red Sparrow Crochet / Esme Crick 2022

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.

© Red Sparrow Crochet / Esme Crick 2022

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!

© Red Sparrow Crochet / Esme Crick 2022

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.

© Red Sparrow Crochet / Esme Crick 2022

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.

Follow Esme everywhere on the web:  BLOG, INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK and you can buy her patterns on RAVELRY and ETSY and her fabulous Mosaic Crochet Workshop book on Amazon.

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!

Make sure you are signed up to blog (below) and / or my mailing list to get a reminder when new blog posts like this one, discounts or new pattern releases are available.

Until next time folks! Happy hooking and keep calm and crochet on my friends xx

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Designer Interview | Zeens and Roger

I’m dead excited about my next designer interview because I had the pleasure of actually meeting her recently at The Crochet Sanctuary – and if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my fan girl moment in my stories. It’s the lovely Rosina aka Zeens and Roger !!!

© zeensandroger.com

I’ve been following Rosina since I was told about her vlogcasts on Youtube. Her down to earth, say it like it is, podcast episodes are amongst my favourite podcasts to listen to and watch.

You will have also no doubt, if you are a crochet fan, have seen her awesome Instagram feed and come across some of her lovely designs in magazines like Inside Crochet. She has also, more recently, branched out (pun intended) into hook whittling in her new collaboration Kirk and Roger creating some beautiful handmade hooks.

Kirk and Roger Handmade Hooks
© zeensandroger.com

With so much going on I wanted to find out a bit more about Rosina, how she does it all, her inspiration and her designing process. Here’s what we chatted about…

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I grew up in Southampton but I’ve spent half my life in Devon. I moved to Exeter in the late 90’s to study Art History at uni and never left. For the last ten years I’ve lived in an old town just outside of Exeter. It’s sandwiched between the countryside and the coast. I love it!  I’ve worked at a cinema (I still love the smell of popcorn), in social housing (I was rubbish at it) and in HR (interesting stuff). I still dream about working at the cinema even though it was nearly twenty years ago.

How did you discover crochet?

Let’s not count the failed attempts as a child. Instead, I think I can really only say that it was a year after I had my first baby, so nearly 9 years ago. It’s probably a familiar story amongst crafters. Something about starting a family kick started the creativity again (after years of not doing anything crafty). My baby boy received handmade blankets from my family and I wanted in on the action! I started to crochet because I wanted my children to have things I’d made for them.  I bought a beginners book and found a YouTube video that I liked and began to make a very long and very uneven chain. 

© zeensandroger.com

How did you become a crochet designer?

I don’t remember a time that didn’t have me going “off pattern”. However, the first thing I properly designed was a little granny owl decoration. It was the first time I’d written out a pattern anyway. That was around four/five years ago. I remember fretting that I’d never get another idea again. But the wondrous thing about being a crochet addict is that you always want more! The more you do it, the more ideas you get.

In the autumn of 2016 I sent out a few emails to magazines offering my ideas. I was thrilled that one of my ideas was accepted by Inside Crochet (my favourite crochet mag). It was such a buzz and a huge confidence booster!

One Way or Another Shawl
© zeensandroger.com

Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

I honestly don’t have a clue half the time. Colour is a biggy as I expect it is for everyone. I’m inspired by what my peers/friends are doing too, I think we’re all influenced by the same trends and it’s fascinating to see how we all interpret them differently. My favourite ideas are often the ones that pop in my head from nowhere. But it might be a holiday, pretty wrapping paper or a bonkers conversation and all of a sudden you’re presented with an image of a thing that you have to make and you have to make it NOW!

© zeensandroger.com

What does your design process look like? Do you sketch things out first, or do you just like to grab a hook and go?

It’s haphazard! I don’t have a particular routine but I do like to make sketches. The starting point might be the pretty wrapping paper but it might also be a crochet stitch I’ve never seen before. If I fall in love with it I have to use it in something. Or I might lust after some special yarn I’ve seen, which has to be turned into a shawl or blanket.

Release the Hounds Shawl
© zeensandroger.com

Do you have a favourite creation that you’ve designed?

I often end up hating the designs I’ve come up with and can’t wait to see the back of them! (I probably spend way too much time with the frog/rework process to have any love left). It’s not always true though, I do have pieces I’m very proud of. My C2C projects make me happy. All the yarn tangling of Havana Nights was worth it in the end! At the moment my favourites are two shawls, Release the Hounds and Hinterland, mostly for their simplicity. Sometimes simple is best! 

Havana Nights Blanket
© zeensandroger.com

How and why did you start making your own hooks?

I’d seen other crocheters explore the idea and fancied having a hook for myself. I asked my friend, Paul to make one for me as his hobby is woodwork. He showed me how to make them and also suggested selling them. It’s quite addictive but I break a lot of sticks trying to make the perfect hook (and I get blisters!). I really should leave the hook making to him and I’ll stick to crochet! Kirk & Roger is a small sideline for us both, it’s fun and no pressure. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed working with someone else. We’re a good team!

What made you decide to start your own podcast?

The number one reason was because my friends in real life reeaalllly weren’t interested in hearing me blather on about crochet all the time. I get way too excited about yarn, patterns, design work etc and you can see eyes begin to glaze over. I thought it’d be a nice outlet for me to find like-minded people to engage with. For me it’s easier than blogging; I just sit down and hit record. I’m more of a talker than a writer. 

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 don’t fit everything in. Not by a long shot. I’m a world class procrastinator and am not strict on myself at all. I reckon I could double my output if I only learned how to be more disciplined. It can be very tricky to stay motivated when you work from home. I force myself to sit at the computer and write those patterns! It’s much easier when working to a deadline for a magazine, there’s an end goal… But I’ll still leave it to the last minute.

© zeensandroger.com

What advice would you have for any budding crochet designer, small business owner or podcaster who might like to follow in your footsteps?

Just do it. Start today. If you want to do it, just give it a go!  I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I can confirm that there is never a right time. None of what I do ever looks as good as the next person’s, there is always someone out there who does it way better. But I love it, so I do it anyway. I’ve definitely improved since I hit publish on that first episode, but I am always working towards getting better.

Tomorrow you step outside and find a lottery ticket that ends up winning £100 million. What would you do?

Buy a house big enough to have a craft room. Pay someone to write up my patterns and pay another person to sew in ends. I’d also like to have a yarn and craft shop, supporting local makers and creatives. Oh, and it would be amazing to go to all the yarn shops, all over the world. I want to see what’s out there.

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Rosina again for taking time to answer these questions. I’ve really enjoyed getting a better understanding of what’s involved with in her designing process and hope you have too!

You can follow Rosina everywhere on the web:  BLOG, YOUTUBE, INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK and you can buy her patterns on RAVELRY and ETSY

Until next time – keep calm and crochet on my friends xx

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Designer Interview | Irene Strange

It’s time for my first Designer Showcase of 2017! Even before I started creating my own patterns I was curious about the process of designing crochet patterns and in previous posts I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some other fabulous fibre artists!

Today I’m excited to be speaking to Irina aka Irene Strange.

Irina-Photo

Irina is a bit of a amigurumi expert whose fabulous designs have featured in the popular Zoomigurumi books (1, 4, 5 and 6!) and in popular publications like Let’s Get Crafting: Knitting and Crochet, Inside Crochet and Crochet Now magazines.

Irina has a wonderful eye for amigurumi and creates wonderfully cute characters – I recently completed her little ‘Blossom Bunny’  for Little Miss and I’m seriously in love with her Clara The Unicorn pattern and her free Gracey the hippo ballerina

Gracey-the-Hippo

It was great to get to speak to her and here’s what we chatted about…

Why are you called Irene Strange?

I used this name when signing up for my first email address all the way back in 2000,
my step-dad’s family name is Strange (what a cool name, right?) and Irene is an English version of Irina – we just moved to England and at the time it felt like a fresh start in a new millennium and a new land. I guess it just stuck! 

How did you first discover crocheting and amigurumi?

My grandmother taught me to knit and crochet when I was little, I picked it up again
when studying for my degree. I was writing a paper on how brands use mascots and characters and came across some crochet toys on Flickr. People kept referring to them as ‘amigurumi’ so naturally I had to find out more about that! I tried making my own, a funny little mouse, and discovered I really enjoyed crocheting toys – from then on I was hooked.

CoCo-The-Squirrell

How did you become a crocheting designer? Is it your real job?

To start with I released a few patterns on Etsy just to see what happens, then an editor from a crochet magazine approached me and asked to feature some of my work. Then another editor asked if I’d be interested in writing some patterns to which I said yes, of course! At the time there wasn’t as many amigurumi designers in UK, at least not on-line, so one commission followed another quite fast. For a good few years I was writing as a hobby alongside a day job. After having kids I wanted to focus on crochet more, so now I write patterns in between playing with Lego and watching cartoons.

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

It’s quite hard to pinpoint what inspires me most; I collect all sorts of objects, prints and photographs of animals or dolls – anything curious. I have to say seeing what other designers and artists share on Instagram across different crafts is also very inspiring, it is amazing how many creative people are out there.

Freddie

Tell us a bit about your design process…

When designing something for my pattern shop I might get an idea seemingly out of nowhere, which I will then sketch and mull over for days or even months. I will sketch the design many times, thinking about best way to make it. Then I make prototypes and sometimes get it right on first or second try.

Often a particular project will stay in my head for weeks, almost like an obsession – where I’ll keep coming back to it in-between different makes, trying something out and abandoning it, until I get it right.

Owls

Many of your creations are animal themed amigurumis – are they your favourite things to make?

Oh yes, I adore all animals! Growing up in a big city not many people we knew had pets, so encounters with animals became very special. I love watching documentaries about the Earth, it’s simply amazing how many different creatures call it home!

Do you have a favourite creation that you’ve designed?

I’m still exploring different styles and ways to make an amigurumi, looking for a balance of an object that’s interesting to look at but not too complicated for others to make. I think Hopscotch Bunny is the closest to what I like making.   

Hopscotch

Do you have go to hooks and yarn?

I have a strong preference for natural fibres, especially alpaca and cotton. Cotton is so durable and versatile, but alpaca gives the make a much more natural and soft look. As for hooks, I always use Clover Soft Touch.

Who gets your creations; you, your family, your friends?

At the moment my daughter is very quick to claim anything I make, often even before it’s finished. The rest gets given away to friends and family. If a visitor likes a particular toy most of the time they take it home with them.

Clara-Unicorn

Where do you work? Do you have a studio space or do you work from your living room chair?

I’m a bit of a messy creative (just ask my husband!) so things end up scattered all over the house. We share a room as a studio where I have a wall of yarn to inspire me, and a desk for pattern writing and research. Curling up on a sofa with a cup of tea, a sketchbook and a film in the background is my favourite way to work.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I’m planning to make many more cute and unusual animals, but also some home accessories and decorations – there’s a book full of ideas just waiting to be made into new patterns.

Sloth-Shopper

Tell us a bit about yourself – what do you do when you’re not crocheting?

When I’m not crocheting… I love going riding my bicycle, foraging around local woods for berries, visiting museums and fairs or just spending the day holed up out of the way somewhere reading a good book.

Finally finish the sentence … I love crochet because…

I can make anything that comes into my head with just a thread and hook – it’s a bit like magic!

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Irina again for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions. I’ve really enjoyed getting a better understanding of what’s involved with in her designing process and hope you have too. I hope you will pop along to her website and ravelry page to see all of her great designs!