Earlier this year I stumbled across a lovely instagram account @coastalcrochet run by the equally lovely Eleonora. Eleonora lives a few miles to the east of me on the Sussex coast where the South Down cliffs meet the sea. Not only is she an avid crocheter, she has also been supporting some rather special wellbeing activities using her crochet skills. I went to meet her and talk about crochet and wellbeing.
LS: Can you introduce yourself, tell us when you started crocheting, who did you learn from, and what inspired you to start?
ET: I’m Eleonora. I’m a wife, a mother, a nurse, and I love crochet. I first learned crochet in my childhood at home. I’m half Dutch on my mother’s side. Both my mum and my grandmother crocheted, in fact my mum crocheted her wedding dress. On my mum’s side of the family there is a lot of yarn and needle craft, whilst on my father’s side my grandmother was more into woodwork, so there was a lot of creativity about.
As a teenager I knitted a lot but I wanted to crochet too so I taught myself through the use of books. Then I got really into sewing, making my own clothes. I made my own wedding dress (from fabric, not crochet though)! When the children came along I got back into knitting and I stuck with this for a few years. When my daughter was a little older she needed a pretty dress for Holy Communion and I wanted to crochet it rather than sew it. I’m not sure why, perhaps it was because of my mum’s wedding dress. I loved the dress, I loved making it and this is when I fell in love with crochet all over again. It completely won me over, and from that moment it became the craft I enjoyed the most. I just love that it’s one hook one yarn and off you go.
After I finished the dress I realised I wanted to be really good at crochet, and I wanted to make something of my crochet so I enrolled on this International Diploma in Crochet course. It’s a correspondence course and quite formal. I am still working on it. I get set certain tasks to complete and send samples away for assessment and feedback. Some of the samples I have had to crochet are things that I probably would never have crocheted. For example, Tunisian crochet, Broom-stick crochet, Filet crochet. I have always been able to crochet but the course is providing me with more skills, and confidence to take my crochet to another level.
There’s a whole modern crochet movement out there and there are some people designing and creating some amazing crochet pieces. I would love to be able to be able to make my living from crochet, and dream of one day publishing my own book of crochet designs.
After I started the diploma course, I began blogging about crochet and posting on instagram followed. I find blogging and posting a motivation – although I do have to keep in check how much time I spend doing this rather than doing my crochet.
What was the first thing you crocheted after you learnt the ropes?
I knitted myself a bag and then I crocheted a trim for the bag and I think that was why as a teenager I wanted to learn to crochet. I knitted loads and I wanted to get more into crochet.
What about your latest FO, can you tell us about that?
As it happens yesterday I just finished a crochet cushion using the Tunisian crochet technique, which I designed myself. It’s due to be published in Simply Crochet Magazine so I can’t say too much about it. I’ve also been doing a lot of surface crochet and sampling for some future design ideas.
Looking through your blog at costalcrochet.com, all your work is gorgeous; my favourite piece was a Frida Kahlo brooch – very on trend! Do you have a favourite make of your own, and why?
There was a blanket that I made about 18 months ago with lots of different stitch combinations with a fluffy trim that I am quite keen on. I designed it myself but I never got around to writing up the pattern. It was inspired by the cliff top flowers near where I live. One day I was out on the cliffs as usual walking the dog and I was just struck by all the flowers. The turf was really green and the sea thrift was blooming. It was a mass of green and purple. I could see the pattern in my mind.
It is a labour of love crocheting a blanket. After I had the idea for it I started it on holiday and it just grew and grew and grew. I have so many happy memories wrapped up in it so I really think fondly of that blanket. It now lives on our sofa.
What’s in your WIP basket?
I always have lots of things on the go. I’m not just a one-project girl. At the moment a poncho that I am doing as part of my diploma, I am playing around with some design samples for Simply Crochet, and some wrist warmers I have designed. I haven’t shared these yet as I am not sure what to do with them. They are a little bit special and I am keeping them in the wings.
What’s on your ‘I’ve always wanted to make…’ list or a technique you would like to master?
I really want to make and design a garment; I have a cardigan in my mind. I want to make that leap to shaping and sizing a garment for various sizes and feel confident that I can publish a garment pattern others can be inspired to make.
You mentioned that you have done some designing and had some of your patterns published. Can you tell me about that?
I have had a couple of patterns published in a magazine and popular website. I now get regular design briefs from Simply Crochet which I love. They send out mood boards and invite designers to submit ideas, including sketches and yarn choices. I really enjoy this. When I thought about what I wanted to do with my crochet I thought about whether I wanted to go down the design route, or the making route. I love both. However I didn’t want to become a production line. For me it’s all about the initial creativity and the designing. I don’t want to crochet things for people, I want to inspire and teach them how to crochet for themselves.
Designing for deadlines can change things. It’s not stressful because I love all crochet. It’s just a different angle. I try to be mindful of what I take on and that way I continue to just love what I do. I get such a buzz from seeing my pattern published, especially if they spell my name right!
You’ve participated in a wellness at work festival and blogged about crochet and wellbeing. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved?
I am school nurse and I work for a local community NHS trust. The trust I work for has thousands of staff and as a large employer they encounter sickness and stress amongst the workforce. They decided they wanted to host a ‘wellbeing at work’ festival. I saw a notice that asked ‘do you have a skill to share?’ and I thought ‘yes!’ I just couldn’t say no, so I offered to run a crochet class. It was so popular I had to run another one and they were both full.
This was my first experience of teaching crochet in a formal way. I’ve taught the children at home, and this was for adults so it was quite different. I really enjoyed it. It was so good to see people enjoying themselves and there was a real buzz in the room, it was such fun. I received some lovely feedback too which made the whole experience worthwhile. Teaching crochet was already on my ‘to do’ list and this experience made me realise I definitely want to do more.
A few weeks after the festival I was contacted by another colleague to ask if I would run a short course for colleagues as an introduction to crochet after work. So I am now in the middle of this and there is a waiting list for the next one. I only charge a nominal fee to cover materials and travel, so it’s more of a voluntary teaching role. It’s great fun and very rewarding. There is one student who is struggling a little but I’m there to encourage and support her and I love being able to do that in a small class like this one.
I found out recently that as a consequence of the Wellbeing Festival the Trust has been short-listed for an award. I’m really proud to have been a part of it and I hope they run it again next year as it really did bring people together.
What does wellbeing mean for you, and how is crochet a part of that?
Wellbeing for me is about being comfortable with who you are and feeling at ease so that you can be happy to be in the world. I think there are so many ways crochet and wellbeing are connected.
Crochet is very like mindfulness. The physical art and motion of crochet can be a meditative action that you can loose yourself in, or it can help you focus if you need to perhaps not dwell on something. It can of course just be a relaxing, enjoyable past time. Then there’s the community aspect whether that is a virtual or a physical group; or perhaps attending a class to learn a new technique. Sharing the experience of a craft with others can help build connections and take you on unexpected journeys. Having a finished object, something tangible that you can enjoy as well as think ‘I made that’ can give a real sense of achievement. I also love the design process and I like to see my ideas take shape.
Thanks to Eleonora for taking the time to share her story with me. You can find more details including further reading about crochet and wellbeing on her blog:
Louise Spong is the founder of SouthDowns Yarn and produces woollen spun Southdown wool grown and dyed in the South Downs. You can visit her website at https://www.southdownsyarn.co.uk/ and you can find her on instagram as @louise_sdy and twitter as @SouthDownsYarn