Saturday 19 July 2014

Talking Vintage With Susan Crawford

Picture courtesy of Susan Crawford
I've long been an admirer of Susan Crawford's books and designs. I first came across her at a Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show where her stand with lots of garments knitted up from her A Stitch in Time books drew me in. This was my first foray into vintage fashion and the make do and mend movement and Susan was very happy to tell me about her patterns, yarn range and which colours would suit me.

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting her again and hearing her vintage fashion talk at Toft Alpaca. It seems that Susan was born to be a vintage knitwear designer. Both her grandmas taught her knitting and sewing, and hers was a house where make do and mend wasn't a trend but a way of life. After school she took various art, design, textiles and teaching courses, which led her to a job at Rowan. When she decided that what she really wanted to do was update the book A Stitch in Time with its original 1970s author Jane Waller she set up her own publishing company with husband Gavin and hasn't looked back since then.

Shrimpton Collarette
Susan created her own yarns, Excelana, Fenella and Coquette, to support her patterns. The colour schemes echo those of vintage fashions, and the 2 ply and 4 ply yarns were vital to recreate the type of yarn our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used to knit with.

Self-publishing isn't easy and Susan is the first to say that it has involved lots of time, stress and effort. Yet the A Stitch in Time books helped kickstart the renewed interest for British knitters in vintage (or did it ever go away?). I'm in awe of her ability to take an old pattern and rewrite it for modern sizes and yarns. Susan now has legions of fans who are eagerly awaiting her next project, Vintage Shetland, due in early 2015, which will feature the patterns for and history of 25 knitted items from Shetland Museum's archive.

I'm writing a piece for The Knitter magazine about Susan's Vintage Shetland project. Look out for that in a few months' time.  Right now I'm getting started on a pattern I bought today, the Shrimpton Collarette, knitted in Excelana DK. Susan said it's a one-night knit, so let's see if she's right!

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