We had a fab interview with Jane Crowfoot, she told us all about her creative process, her inspiration and exciting achievements including being nominated for Craft Influencer of the Year in the Craft Business Awards 2020.

Delft Blanket Magic Circles Lotus Flower

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself - your background, general day to day life, hobbies (other than crafting).

I have worked within the hand knit and crochet field pretty much all my working life. After completing a degree in Textile Design at Winchester School of Art I worked as freelance swatch designer selling my designs via an agent to larger fashion houses, then as a Design Consultant for Rowan Yarns and Debbie Bliss. I started tutoring workshops in my late 20s and wrote my first book ‘Finishing Techniques for Handknitters’ around this time too.

My Great Grandmother Alice was an avid crocheter, so I was surrounded by Granny Square blankets as a child, but it was only about 10 years ago that I started to specialize in crochet design properly. I released my first crochet along project in 2011.

I used to design at home, but as my business expanded I moved my work to a studio in North London and now work from there most weekdays. Designing away from home helps me focus and concentrate, so I feel more productive, but I do miss being at home all the time, so maybe one day soon I will get to work from home again – it kind of depends where the business takes me. I like the idea of owning another dog and being a bit more of a house bunny as we currently seem to get very little time as a family at home.

I have the most amazingly supportive husband, Andy, who has been a key part of my business. We have been married for almost 25 years and have 2 ‘grown up’ children, Summer and Charlie. I am a keen sourdough bread maker and gardener and I love to entertain at home. I am not a great cook or baker really, but I am currently practicing my cake making skills as my daughter is planning to get married in 2021 and I really want to make her a decent cake. I have suggested she might like a crochet wedding dress too, but that idea was immediately rejected!!!

2. When and why did you start crafting?

I remember my Aunt saying that my Great Grandmother ‘simply had a love of yarn’ and I think I probably fall into the same category. As a child I used to collect scraps of fabric, beads, silver foil and coloured elastic bands to create ‘clothes’ for my dolls and I taught myself to knit from McCalls ‘Needlework in Colour’ – a book that was published in 1967 and which my Mum still owns!

My Dad is a very talented crafter – when he was younger he was a big DIY enthusiast and was really good at wood carving and wood turning, so he was always producing hand made things. My Mum has always been really interested in art and artists, so I guess the combined creativity and interests of my parents rubbed off on me. I suppose it was inevitable that I would choose ‘arty’ courses when I left school. I originally thought I wanted to be a fine artist, but switched to textiles thanks to my Kaffe Fassett loving college tutor, who always made knitting look like a really cool thing to be doing!

3. Do you have specific inspiration behind any of your projects?

I almost always design in the same way, using visual inspiration as the starting point. At art school we had to keep sketchbooks and create mood boards before we launched into designing a project and I still work in this way.

I often use the work of artists as the inspiration. To date I have based 3 of my most successful projects, Lily Pond Blanket, Frida’s Flowers and Bohemian Blooms, on the work of famous artists and have recently designed a project that uses William Morris fabric designs as the catalyst, so there is clearly a trend!

I am a real magpie and am always on the look out for things to inspire designs. I often look at interior design magazines, wallpaper and stationary for ideas and I go to a lot of exhibitions and museums. I live in London and so am very lucky to have the V&A not far away - my favourite place on the planet for design inspiration….

4. What is your favourite piece you've done so far?

That is a tough question! I am always in love with my most current design, so right now I would have to say that the Climbing Rose Wrap is my favourite, but I am working on a new CAL for next year that is making me very excited too, so I think this could change! 

I always associate my projects with things that went on in my life at the time when I was designing it, so I think some of my pieces make me happier than others. I think my crochet skills have come on leaps and bounds, so some of my earlier pieces seem a bit clumsy to me. My most successful design is Persian Tiles.

5. What does your creative process look like?

I think I am probably the slowest crochet designer on the planet, partly because I am a bit of a control freak and like to do a lot of the design processes myself.

This is my typical process:

I start with my design inspiration and make a mood board. I tend to look at fashion, interior and colour trends at this point too so that I am not too far out of sync with what is going on in the market. Once I have my mood board I will choose a very loose palette of yarn shades. I am very lucky to be supported by some fabulous yarn companies who are very generous in sending me sample balls, so I can choose a larger palette and whittle it down to a smaller number during the design process.

Once I have my inspiration and my colours I set to crocheting. Some of my designs have come quickly and easily, others, such as CAL designs have taken months. The hardest part is making all the pieces fit together, so designing a repeated block pattern is much easier and less time consuming that working on a CAL design.

I write my patterns in pencil in my note pad in a kind of shorthand as I crochet. Using a pencil means I can rub out bits that subsequently end up being wrong. Once I am happy with the crochet piece I write the patterns out in my style on a word document. Once I have a draft pattern I will crochet a piece directly from the pattern to do another check and once I think this is correct I will do my step by step images for the motif. I then send the patterns to a test crocheter so that she (my crocheters are all female) can pick up on any errors I might have missed and create a her own test piece too.

Finally, when the crocheter has made her prototype, I send the patterns off to a technical editor. Once the pattern has been checked for the final time my fabulous graphic designer, Luise Roberts, works her magic on the layouts. Luise is a knitter and a crocheter so I am really lucky to be supported by someone who completely understands what I do! Once the pattern has been proof read and checked by my assistant Sarah Hazell and me we will send it to print….

Phew!

6. Does your home reflect your crafting passion?

People tend to think my home is full of blankets and things I have made, but because my projects are used for presentations and displays, as well as at shows, I actually I keep them folded away in big bags at the studio. I am very precious about all of them and couldn’t bear it if one got spoilt!

Despite the lack of hand knitted and crocheted items I think my home still reflects what I do. It certainly isn’t typical in regards to minimalistic interior trends and a lot of people probably think it is a bit whacky! There is a lot of colour and mixed patterns in the house, but the rooms are relatively small so I have to be a bit restrained as to how much ‘stuff’ I can cram in!

I am a big animal fan and I think my home probably reflects this – my kitchen is the room I like the most – we have a large family dining table that can sit 8 people comfortably and this is often the hub of our family life, although the living room is a real haven in the winter as we have a lovely open fire and lots of cosy blankets to hand. I think the store ‘Anthropologie’ is probably the closest to my interior style, that and Graham and Green.

 

7. What designers are you loving at the moment?

I am so lucky to be part of Stylecraft’s team of Blogstars. They are all very talented and their design styles are quite diverse, so I love being part of their passionate and supportive group. I think the team at Scheepjes are really talented too, especially Dedri Uys and Tatsiana aka Lilla Bjorn, who’s new CAL is absolutely stunning.

I always look out for Instagram posts by The Guy with the Hook (Mark Roseboom) and Helda Panagary.

8. Do you have any tips for readers developing a passion for crafting?

I think it is really important to push your capabilities. Don’t dive too deep to begin with, but as your craft skills improve, make sure you set yourself a few challenges and don’t just keep repeating the same things. It is really good for your brain to have a good ol’ work out every now and again!

I tend to have a couple of projects on the go, so that I can do relaxing ‘downtime’ crafting too (in front of the TV) as well as the more complicated things. Having a few things on the go gives me a break from the technicalities of designing and helps me relax.

9. Describe your style in 3 words.

Aspirational

Challenging

Colourful

10. What yarns do you like using the most? 

I really used to like working with cotton, and would always have said that my favourite yarn was Rowan Cotton Glace, but as I have got older I am finding cotton harder to grip, so I tend to go for yarns with a wool content these days. I also tend to stick to a DK weight. I am currently in love with Eden Cottage Milburn DK and I adore the subtlety of the palette of Baa Ram Ewe’s Pip Colourwork. Stylecraft have a few new yarns waiting in the wings that I am looking forward to getting my hands on too…

Climbing Rose CAL Lily Pond Bloomsbury Garden

 

To finish off this brilliant interview with Jane, we asked:

What does the future look like for Janie Crow?

It has been a really exciting time for Janie Crow over the last year as I have launched a new web site to show case my work and have forged some great relationships with other retailers so that the brand is growing.

I am currently working on a design for a new CAL which I will launch alongside Stylecraft in the spring and have some more design ideas in the pipeline…..

I have just found out that I have been nominated within the Craft Influencer of the Year category of the Craft Business awards. I am the only ‘yarn crafter’ to have been nominated alongside, so this is a massive honour.

Voting Closes on the 13th December. VOTE HERE!

 

You can follow Jane and see all of her projects on her Blog, Instagram and Facebook.