We had such a great interview with Christine of Winwick Mum! She told us all about her passion for crafting, what her creative process looks like and her love of sock making!

ABC Cowl Mind the Gap Socks Colour Lab Socks

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

I live in the small village of Winwick (pronounced “Win-ick”) in Cheshire with my husband, two daughters, two cats and a dog.  The name of my blog, Winwick Mum, came about after I started to write a short column about “looking for the extraordinary in the everyday” for the monthly church newsletter but wanted to remain anonymous in case nobody liked it!

A friend suggested writing a blog so I decided to publish the newsletter columns to a wider audience (it felt like such a self-indulgence at first!) and then gradually began writing more often.  Because I was already obsessed with knitting socks, it was no great leap to write about that too until the blog evolved to where it is today.

I consider myself to be very lucky – my day to day life these days involves combining my Winwick Mum writing, knitting and designing with working with my husband who is self-employed, and also being able to spend time looking after my family, the house, the garden and our pets.  They are certainly enough to keep me on my toes!


2.     When and why did you start crafting?

I don’t remember making a conscious decision to start crafting, although I do remember watching my Nan knitting from a very early age and I must have always had an interest in what she was doing as she showed me how to both knit and crochet when I was about 5 or 6.  My Grandma was a knitwear designer although, sadly, she died when I was 2 so I never got to spend any crafting time with her - I’d love to be able to talk to her about it now!  My Mum was an artist so there was always something “crafty” going on in our house; I guess it was inevitable that I would pick up on that!

I also grew up at a time when there weren’t many other distractions – no internet, Netflix, not even very many TV shows for children – so it wasn’t unusual for young people to craft far more than many do today.  (That makes me sound like I’m about 104 but it really wasn’t that long ago! :) )  I actually crocheted more when I was younger as projects grow faster but when I was in my late teens, I spotted the Most Fabulous Jumper in the World in a yarn shop window and that caused me to immediately abandon my crochet hook in favour of the pointy sticks.  My Mum refused to knit the jumper for me and being rather dramatic (as teenagers often are), I was convinced that the world would end if I didn’t have that jumper so I knitted it myself.  From there, I moved on to knitting Kaffe Fassett jumper samples for the yarn shop in the village where I lived and I’ve not spent much time without something on my needles since!

My first foray into socks came around the same time; my lovely Scottish Aunt Ella died and my Uncle Harry was bereft – and also short of someone to knit his socks for him.  Known as a knitter of the family, he asked me if I’d make him some and I reluctantly agreed – it was the 1980s and who would want to knit socks if you could buy them?!  My Mum managed to track down a pattern and some rather unexciting blue yarn for me, and I wrestled with double pointed needles until I had a pair of socks to send him.  I don’t know if he ever wore them, and I swore that I would never knit socks or use 4ply yarn ever again – but apparently the Universe had other ideas! :)


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

The inspiration behind the Winwick Mum Collection yarns that I’ve recently created with West Yorkshire Spinners was my Winwick Mum blog.  The theme of the blog is “looking for the extraordinary in the everyday” and each of the yarns were based on that theme: “Hidden Gem” is inspired by an amethyst tumblestone and is a reminder to look beneath the surface; “Seascape” is inspired by childhood memories of the seaside; “Wildflower” is based on the flowers that I see each Springtime when I’m out walking with the dog, and “Brightside” is another reminder – that there’s often something positive after a gloomy time.  (It may also have been inspired by the song “Mr Brightside” which was my youngest daughter’s favourite song and was obsessively played whilst I was working on these! :) )


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

There really isn’t just one but as everything that I’ve done has been as a result of the Sockalong tutorials, then I guess that must be my very favourite!

When I first wrote the Winwick Mum Sockalong tutorials, it was as a reaction to people telling me that sock knitting was “too hard”.  I thought that if just a few people read them and it helped them, it would be brilliant – I never imagined that four years later, people all over the world would be using them to knit socks for themselves, their friends and their families, sometimes achieving lifetime ambitions, sometimes taking over the role of “family sock knitter” from a beloved relative, and finding comfort, relief and pleasure in those stitches knitted in the round.   I always feel deeply honoured to know that I have been able to help someone find that in their lives, and it always makes me smile to think that it came from me throwing my hands into the air and exclaiming, “That’s it!  Socks are not hard!  I’m going to write some tutorials!”  Who would have thought it?

And just in case I’m allowed a couple more favourites, holding Super Socks (the book of the online tutorials) in my hands for the first time was unbelievably exciting.  I’m a self-published author so every word, every photo, every line of layout is done by me and to hold that in your hands and know that it’s going to help someone somewhere knit a pair of socks is something that makes you grin the biggest grin!

More Super Socks came later, and then the amazing collaboration with West Yorkshire Spinners to create the Winwick Mum Collection of Signature 4ply yarns.  Oh my life, what an experience that has been – but please don’t ask me to pick my favourite out of the Winwick Mum colours!


5.     What does your creative process look like?

I usually have a good idea of what I want the socks to look like when I pick up the ball of yarn I’m going to use, based on the texture, the colour and the reason I’m creating the pattern, so once I’ve made that decision it’s a case of finding the exact stitch that I need.  Sometimes, that’s easier said than done and whilst some socks almost design themselves, others involve lots of muttering, unravelling and searching of stitch dictionaries to find exactly what I’m looking for.  It might sound quite crazy, but I firmly believe that the yarn also has a view on what it wants to become and that’s why I never get too cross at having to unravel my swatches for the umpteenth time!

I don’t use test knitters; I like to knit all my socks myself, taking the time to check the pattern as I go along in case there are errors that need correcting before my tech editor looks at it and finds more!


6.     Does your home reflect your crafting passion?

Only in terms of there being sock yarn everywhere! :)  Actually, that’s not quite true – our sock drawers are full of hand knitted socks.  My husband calls them his “proper socks” and won’t wear anything else these days.  Luckily, I’ve managed to persuade him that it’s OK to wear coloured socks instead of black ones and recent pairs have been gorgeously bright stripes which are much nicer to knit!

7.     What designers are you loving at the moment?

I’m always impressed with Hunter Hammersen’s patterns, whether they’re socks or other fun knits (knitted acorns, anyone? :)) and I’ve recently discovered Impeccable knits – Luise creates beautiful cable patterns and I adore cables! 


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

Just jump in!  We can spend our lives waiting for the “right moment” and there’s often no better time that the present moment.

Don’t let being perfect get in the way of being good – mistakes are simply “design elements” and unless you simply can’t live with them (an extra sleeve, perhaps, or forgetting to turn the heel on a sock), they are what make your work unique.

Buy decent kit from the beginning (especially with socks – it’s always worth spending the money on good needles), but don’t buy more than the basics to start off with – there’s so much choice you can spend more time choosing kit than getting started!

Be kind to yourself.  You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive a car or ride a bike without practising first, and it’s the same with crafting.  Even if you’ve been a knitter for many years, sock knitting is a new skill so it’s OK to take your time, to ask questions and to make mistakes.  For some reason, we tend to think that as adults we should be able to do new things straight away but everybody needs time to learn something when it’s new.


9.     Describe your style in 3 words.

Encouraging

Approachable

Engaging

10. What yarns do you like using the most?

I don’t think it’s any secret that I pretty much only knit socks and my favourite yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply!  I love that it’s a British yarn, that they can trace the provenance of the fleece, that the mill is family-run and employs local people, but also the yarn is excellent quality, great value, washes and wears well and ideal for beginners as it copes very well with being unravelled.  They should make a yarn with my name on it, I’m such a fan … ;)

I also love to try out other British yarns in no-nylon blends; we’ve got 72 pure breeds of sheep here on our island and their fleece is ideal for pretty much every use depending on the breed.  It’s been fascinating to see how yarns which blend different fleeces have worked for socks and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself trying them out!  I’ve got a selection of no-nylon reviews on my blog from the yarns that I’ve tried out, and no shortage of more in my queue!

Colourwork Socks Calcite Socks Don't You Want Me Socks

 

To finish off this wonderful interview with Christine, we asked:

What does the future look like for Winwick Mum?

Oh, it’s always sock-shaped! :) I’m having the best time doing what I’m doing, and I hope to continue for a very long time to come!

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