Helloooo February! How did you sneak around so soon?! Well, the start of a new month can only mean one thing at Adventures & Tea Parties HQ - Blog Gem interview time! I've admired this particular blogger for some time now and so I'm super chuffed to be finding out more about her creative world! So, lets dive on in!
Hi, I'm Sam. I'm 35 and I like to crochet very much indeed. I live in a lovely village a couple of miles from Barnstaple in North Devon with The Mr, our 2 kids - Missy (12) and Matey (10) - and our delinquent black Labrador, Milo.
When I left college at 18 with my Law, History and Computing A Levels I got a job at the local District Council as an Admin Trainee. A few months in I got a permanent role in the Land Charges and Elections Team and then moved to the Planning Unit where I worked and studied my way through the admin and technical roles to become a Planning Officer. 13 years after starting on this career path, including several years of distance learning at Degree and Masters level, it turned out this wasn't the career for me after all and, with The Mr backing me all the way, I made the decision to leave. That was really scary as I felt like I'd grown up at the Council and thought I'd always work there. Deciding to leave a good job and good money, with no idea of what I was going to do, was absolutely petrifying but also extremely liberating.
That was in 2010. After leaving I went to work for a friend's log house company drawing plans part time and I began volunteering at my kid's school, listening to children read. Fast forward 3 years and I successfully applied for a job at the school as a one-to-one Teaching Assistant. I've been doing that for just over a year now and I really, really love it. Although, it's physically exhausting sometimes (I am getting very good at playing 'It' and I'm awesome on the monkey bars), mentally I'm in a much happier place and my work-life balance is on a far more even keel.
It was also at the time I left the Council that I began crocheting again after a break of about 15 years. The repetition and rhythm of crochet makes it a really relaxing craft - very therapeutic. A couple of years later I thought I'd try my hand at blogging and selling my makes.
What is your creative space like?
Well, I don't really have one. For a little while in the summer I hijacked The Mr's home office and turned it into my craft room. But then it turned out he really does need that space, so I handed it back over. I have retained some shelves in there though for my crochet magazine library, my sewing machine and fabric stash and my crochet hooks and yarn bowl. I have a drawer or two (ok, it's actually 3 drawers) full of yarn in the bedroom. I tend to keep projects all over the house - bedroom, dining table, kitchen. I keep them in biscuit tins and pretty wash bags and lunch bags - a bit strange, I know, but they're very practical.
If you had to take only one craft tool to a desert island, what would you choose and why?
A crochet hook would be the obvious one, but having had no access to my hooks before I did manage to successfully finger crochet a pretty awesome cowl for my sister's birthday last year. So lack of hooks shouldn't be a problem.
I think I'd go for a darning needle and yarn. Maybe I could use it to stitch together palm tree leaves to make a roof for a shelter or to create a tasteful outfit. And of course, it'd be handy for weaving in the ends on my crochet makes!
How do you work and get inspired?
I get inspired by lots of things. Pinterest, Instagram, people, seasons, yarn...... The rainbow V-stitch blanket that I made for my nephew last year was all down to a flurry of v-stitch makes on Instagram and my sister's love of bright colours.
My Vintage Sunburst Motif was purely inspired by some gorgeous delicate yarn given to me by sister and the cushions I make were inspired by a tutorial I saw on The Purl Bee for cross stitching on crochet - ingenious! The Crochet Trimmed Orders of Service I made in the summer were a request from a friend that I'd given a crochet trimmed birthday card to earlier in the year.
I have notebooks that I try to jot my ideas down in but I tend to do this after I've made something and by then I've forgotten exactly what I did and I make it differently next time. I am trying to get better at scribbling things down as and when I think of them. I get a bit obsessed with an idea and won't let it go until it's right. The motif for the Evie Star Blanket was started over several times.
I work wherever the kids are. So, usually in the lounge or kitchen, or in the car if I'm on mum's taxi duty. I'm quite a busy person, always on the go, so I tend not to actually sit down until I know I've absolutely nothing else to do. This is when I will usually crochet as once I sit down I don't actually seem to be able to stay awake unless I'm doing something.
What top tips would you give to anyone starting a blog and running an online shop?
I consider my blog to still be very much in its early stages so I feel very cheeky handing out tips, but here goes.
I know I'm repeating what a lot of Blog Gem interviewees have said before but, to be yourself really is good advice. I think it comes across if you're not. Don't try to be like anyone else. You won't be able to maintain it and readers won't be able to connect with you. I'd also say don't put too much pressure on yourself - don't commit yourself to posting weekly or monthly if it's not achievable - you'll lose your enjoyment. Also, don't be afraid to put yourself out there. I was really worried about posting my first tutorial. What if it was rubbish and didn't make sense to anyone but me? What if people think I'm trying to be something I'm not or am getting too big for my crochet boots? These are all thoughts that went through my head before I posted my Crochet Heart Tutorial, but it was actually really well received and is my most popular post, being viewed everyday since it was posted.
In terms of running an online shop, don't be afraid to ask for advice. Social Media platforms like Twitter and Instagram are a great resource and the craft community is so helpful and giving of their time. Claire of Claireabellemakes was an absolute super star when I opened my Etsy shop. I felt she really went that extra mile to help me get started and I really appreciate that.
Your Starting an Online Shop series is full of great advice and I'd encourage anyone thinking about opening an online shop to read through it. I also took part in Etsy School last year to critique and improve my shop. Both of these resources really made me think about product photos and the appearance of my shop.
What's great about an online platform such as Etsy is that you can do things at your own pace. I closed my shop over the Christmas period - "madness!" I hear you say - because I knew that as lovely as lots of cushion orders would be, we were going through a busy time at home and there's no way I'd be able to cope with it all. I've burnt out before and it's important to me that that doesn't happen again.
Is there a story behind the name 'Pattern Piper Crochet'?
Sort of. Piper is my surname so that's that bit. And to me crochet is all about PATTERN. The first thing I think of when I think of crochet is brightly coloured granny squares and the lovely patterns that they create. But we all know that crochet isn't just about granny squares and whether you are following a pattern or working freeform the end result is always a gorgeous PATTERN, either bright and bold or simple and understated.
If you could go to a Creative Blog Award dinner with any 5 people and/or fictional characters (dead or alive), who would you choose?
Assuming that yourself and Claire (claireabellemakes) are already there because it'd be a travesty if you weren't, then I love to go with Olivia Colman. She's an amazing actress and hilarious! Claudia Winkleman too. I think she'd be a giggle and we could talk Sewing Bee. Lucy from Attic24, hers is the first crochet blog I ever read when I began to crochet again and she's definitely one of my first crochet inspirations. Matt, from According to Matt. He creates the most amazing makes. His crochet wedding bouquet, crochet flower lamp and Japanese Flower Blanket each had me floored when I saw them - all stunning! I hope one day to be able to create things as beautiful.
Finally, I would absolutely have to take my Nanny. She's the reason I crochet, and to me Granny Square blankets will always be Nanny Square Blankets and beanies will always be Nanny Hats. She also loves a good party.
And finally...if you had to choose one song to represent Pattern Piper Crochet, what would it be and why?
We all have our own playlists at home so listen to lots of
different genres of music from Missy's My Chemical Romance to my soulful playlist full of songs from the Scandal TV series (love it!). So, I had to really think about this one as it's not something I've thought about before.
I asked The Mr what he thought and his immediate reaction was to start signing "if you're happy and you know it clap your hands!" At first I told him to stop being daft but then when I thought about it I do think that pretty much sums it up. If I was to think a bit more like a grown up then I'd have to say Pencil Full Of Lead by Paulo Nutini (which my sister had as her first dance song at her wedding). Life is good and I'm very content with my lot. I can be a moody madam sometimes but generally I'm a happy, cheery person and I hope that that comes across on my blog and in my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Thanks so much, Sam! It's been fabulous hearing all about your creative world and how you made the leap from your days working at the Council. Your blogging/shop tips are brilliant! And that's a great song to choose! It's now in my head! Thanks again for dropping by Sam! And don't forget to check out Sam's gorgeous Etsy shop!
I hope you've all enjoyed this month's Blog Gem! Stay tuned for more and catch up previous Blog Gem interviews here.
Have a great February everyone!
All of the images and interview answers are the copyright of Sam at Pattern Piper Crochet. Please do not use without seeking permission first. Thank you.