Recently we told you about a new set of blog posts we have been planning, interviewing your favourite designers. The first name that was nominated on our Facebook page was the legendary Susan Crawford, who is know for her sympathetic interpretations of beautiful vintage knitting patterns. We caught up with her after a trip to Edinburgh where she was researching her next book.
How did you get started as a hand knit designer?
I studied fashion and textiles at college and had wanted to be a designer of some description since my early teens. I initially began sewing one-off dresses/outfits for people, even making stage clothes, but became more and more drawn back to my first love, knitting.
Why are you so drawn to vintage patterns?
The vintage aesthetic has always appealed to me – long before it became so fashionable in fact. My grandmothers taught me to knit using vintage knitting patterns and to sew making vintage dirndl skirts. I have also always been obsessed with film and as a young girl it was the 'old' films that I loved the most. starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford to Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and oh so many more. The clothes were the stars for me
Where did the idea for your book A Stitch in Time come from?
A Stitch in Time was first published in the 1970s in a simpler form, only showing reproductions of the original single size vintage patterns and photos of some of these knitted up. I had owned a copy of this book in my teenage years and loved it but was frustrated by the lack of updated patterns. In around 2006 I met Jane Waller who created the 1970s book and got to know each other and decided that it would be great to bring back A Stitch in Time but with updated versions of the patterns, all multi sized and using currently available yarns. I don't think even I realised quite what a task I'd set myself, but I managed to update, rewrite, multi-size and have knitted 59 patterns in volume 1 and a truly ridiculous 80 patterns in volume 2. They were both enormously enjoyable but extremely challenging.
What are you favourite yarns?
Well obviously my own yarns, Excelana and Fenella. Both are 100% British wool, using fleece from flocks bred in the UK, spun in Devon and dyed in Scotland. I'm particularly proud of Fenella as it has successfully replicated the vintage 3ply yarns of yesteryear. I also created a colour palette which reproduced the colours I found in vintage garments from the 1930s to the 1950s so it really is the perfect replacement for these elusive vintage yarns. I am also a big fan of Finnish, Swedish and Estonian wools and particularly Snaelden yarns from the Faroe Islands.
How did your latest project The Vintage Shetland Project come about?
Several years ago, Carol Christiansen, the curator at the Shetland Museum asked me if I would like to study some of the archive knitwear with a view to doing a then undefined 'something' as a result of that study. I of course jumped at the opportunity and over a period of two or three visits the concept of The Vintage Shetland Project was born. The more I studied the pieces the more I appreciated the stories behind them, the history each and every item was sharing with us and the need to impart those stories to others. The knitted pieces I looked at all had signs of deterioration or damage in some way and this made me ever more aware of the need to pass on their histories. They were also such fascinating pieces with so much to say not just about themselves but the knitters, the wearers, Shetland, social history and fashion history.
Susan Crawford’s The Vintage Shetland Project will be published soon and can be pre-ordered here. As well as meticulously researched vintage patterns there will be a series of essays included and, of course, the stunning photography that always characterizes Susan’s work.