This week we interview designer/maker Laura Strutt who lives in Colchester, Essex with her husband and their little pup, Waffle.
Laura is the former editor of the leading UK trade publication Craft Business and went on to work as the launch team of UK Knitting magazine Let’s Knit before moving on to work as the launch editor of Sew magazine. Now working as a freelancer, Laura creates knitting, sewing and craft designs for magazines and is the author of a number of crafting titles. As if all that doesn’t keep her busy enough, Laura also teaches at workshops around the country and shares crafting inspirations on her Creative Lifestyle Journal, www.madepeachy.com.
How and why did you decide to start your blog and did you ever imagine that it would become as popular as it has? Are you surprised by its success?
Writing is my first love, I specialised in post graduate journalism after completing an English Literature & Creative Studies BA Hons degree. After deciding to move from magazine journalism – having worked as the launch editor of Sew Magazine for a number of years – to pursue a freelance career I wanted to continue writing, and the concept of creating a blog and running my own Creative Lifestyle Journal was the perfect fit. I enjoy bringing together my love of writing, my editorial experience and my passion for creative projects together in one place. I have been running the site since July 2013 it never ceases to amaze me how many wonderful, talented and inspiring people that I have met (both in real life and online) and the incredible opportunities that have come to me through MadePeachy.
Have you always been creative? Do you have any early crafting memories that stick in your mind?
My family has always been very creative – both my mum and sister are keen and talented knitters. As kids we would always be drawing and sticking, baking and making, stitching and knitting. One of my earliest memories of making was sitting at my mum’s old treadle Singer sewing machine stitching a mermaid tail for a Barbie doll, which she later had to be cut free from!
Who or what inspires you?
A lot of the commissioned design work that I do is centred around a targeted brief so the inspiration here is usually driven by the materials, specific technique or products at the centre of the brief, whether that be showcasing yarns or fabrics, or creating designs to demonstrate the finished qualities of products, like interfacings and waddings.
I love to work with colours, patterns and prints, and enjoy the process of bringing together different elements, teaming colours, prints or motifs to create a finished design. Whether I am working on a commissioned design or something personal – for myself, a gift or for our home – colour is usually a starting point, I have a bunch of paint chip swatch cards and love to play around with them to begin building colour combinations that set the mood for a design before I begin to sketch it out or start considering the material or maths of the design.
Do you have any crafting disaster stories that you can laugh about now but didn’t feel very funny at the time?
Crafting disasters happen a lot more frequently than I should probably admit! I don’t have a lot of luck with tape measures – I am a firm believer in the “measure twice, cut once” principle, as there is nothing worse than that sinking feeling of cutting materials and realising only seconds later that you have made a mistake. However, I can’t even count the times that I have double checked measurements and then preceded to cut
through the tape measure with sheers or a rotary cutter because I’m so focused on not making a mistake that I forget to move the tape measure out
of the way!
What other skills do you have? Is there anything you’d like to try but haven’t done yet?
Recently I have fallen head over heels in love with modern calligraphy and have just completed an online self-study course. I am completely besotted with the elegant and modern style of pointed pen calligraphy and copperplate lettering. This medium is so very different from the usual creative projects I work on for my ‘day job’, which is usually focused on textiles, so this feels like a real creative adventure for me. It is taking me out of my comfort zone and the learning process is really challenging, despite this I find that all I want to do when I have five minutes of free time is set out my pens and inks and work on lettering drills! I would love to become more accomplished in modern hand lettering, I think I have a long journey ahead of me on that front!
How much of a part does art and creativity play in your life? Is it limited to just work or is it important when it comes to play too?
I think the creative part of our brain is, thankfully, something that can’t be switched off. Even though I work on creative projects as part of my day job I will still pick up some knitting, sewing or (most recently) pens and inks as a way to relax. My husband is a talented artist so creating and making is a daily occurrence in our home. I’m very thankful that he is creative too, as he not only understands that sometimes you cant just put a project down at a very crucial point, but also that he is a great support for new ideas, fixing problems and brainstorming with.
You have so many fabulous projects on your blog madepeachy.com! How do you decide what you are going to create next? Do you sit down with a plan or grab some supplies and see what you can do with them?
Ideas seem to pop up all the time – from conversations with friends, commissions, things that I see in the world around me – I keep a notebook
of sketches and ideas, which is great for dipping into for new ideas for projects and makes for the blog. But, often I will find supplies or get ideas that I really want to work on right away – the nature of running a blog means that you can mix it up between structured work and creative flashes of inspiration whenever the mood strikes!
Do you think traditional skills are becoming lost? Do you think younger generations are in danger of losing their creative skills, of actually doing and making, rather than swiping and clicking?
Traditional skills are so very important – not only for maintaining them and the life skills that they offer, but also for the benefits of working
on a creative project. I think it is very important to teach, share, learn and pass on traditional skills and I have discovered that I really enjoy
the process of teaching skills in a workshop environment – seeing people discover talents that they never realised they have, watching them create something, often for the very first time.
Making things with your hands – whether it is knitting, sewing, painting, wood work, sculpture or pointed pen calligraphy – is very satisfying, its soul food! Creative projects can be both great for relaxation and for giving yourself a personal challenge, or a way to boost skills and discover something new. There are so many great websites and online videos and self-study courses available that do help to bring creative skills to new (and often younger) audiences, but there is something to be said for face-to-face learning and the physical act of becoming part of a community that come from attending classes and workshops.
Can you tell us a little about your new book? Where did the idea come from?
Arm & Finger Knitting is a collection of 35 projects to wear, to gift and for the home all created without the use of knitting needles! Arm knitting
has attracted a lot of attention recently, with more and more people (knitters and non-knitters alike) looking to give this fascinating craft a try – when the lovely folks at CICO Books asked if I would like to create a collection of designs using this textile form I jumped at the chance – I mean what an exciting challenge!
Arm and Finger knitting takes many of the techniques from knitting and translates them to work with only your arms and hands – without the use of needles at all! This is a fantastic way to create rich textures and super sized designs in no time at all. This is a craft that is rewarding for beginners and more advanced knitters alike – novices will find the quick and easy makes a real confidence boost, while those with more experience will be fascinated at discovering how traditional techniques translate in this unique textile medium.
We love the patterns in the book – not least because they are quick projects to fill an hour or two here and there. How difficult was it to come up with the projects? Which is your favourite?
Arm knitting is so incredibly satisfying – it is amazing how quickly you can transform a ball of yarn into a finished make. I loved the process to
creating different textures and styles and translating standard (with needles) knitting techniques into the medium of arm knitting. As I had
never tried this craft before creating the designs for the book was an exciting challenge – learning how the different knitting techniques could
be applied, how to achieve different finishes and results. It is so tricky to pick out a favourite project from the book but I think my favourite arm
knitting project is the Twisted Stitch Throw – it was so fun to add a more advance technique to a simple arm knitted blanket. My favourite finger
knitting project is the Finger Knit Storage Tubs – fabric yarns are fantastic to work with, they create such a modern finish!
Finally, what are your plans for the future? What are your hopes for the future of your blog? What would you like to achieve or try out next? Are you planning any more books?
The next few months for me will be spent preparing for a series of sewing workshops at craft shows around the country – I’ll be sharing the details of these workshops and the schedule on www.madepeachy.com. I love teaching stitching skills at these workshops, it is fantastic to meet new creative people and to help them to master new skills and discover different techniques – not to mention see how happy they are walking away from a sewing machine after the workshops with their very own finished make!
I adore writing books it is fantastic to immerse yourself in a large scale project, explore the medium, experiment, and draw together ranges of different experiences and ideas. I am in the final stages of working on a crochet book – which will be out in September and I have a super fun jewellery making book out in August too! I’ll be sharing more details of these on www.madepeachy.com very soon!
Images reproduced with permission from Laura Strutt, Penny Wincer & CICO Books.
If you have an inspiring story of your own to share and would like to be interviewed in our ‘We Meet…’ feature (or know someone who should), email us at email@example.com.