Hooking With … Sarah Ruane from Ned and Mimi
This week we are thrilled that Sarah from NedandMimi.com has joined us as a Hooking With guest! If you have not seen Sarah’s designs before you really should go and take a look – they are gorgeous! As you can tell I have been a fan for a while 🙂
Let’s hear from the lady herself ….
Hi there, I’m Sarah and I’m so excited to share my ramblings here on Sunflower Cottage Crochet! I design and blog over at Ned & Mimi, where I share mostly free patterns for accessories, garments and home décor items. I am a mom of 3 and I work part-time as a software developer so unfortunately I don’t get to spend as much time on my crochet as I would like! I live in Cork in the south of Ireland with my family.
When did you start designing?
Hmm, short answer or long answer!? Long answer it is ☺ I learned to crochet as a child but didn’t pick it up again until I was expecting my first son in 2012. I decided to make him a blanket which I “designed” myself – really, I just made it up as I went along! In the years after that, I made some more baby blankets and home décor items; sometimes I scribbled down the patterns, sometimes I modified an existing pattern, sometimes I just kind of winged it. The addiction set in slowly and by the end of 2018 I looked at my Pinterest feed and it was almost 100% crochet. I felt like I was bursting with ideas for things to design and make so that’s when I “officially” decided to give it a try.
Do you have a blog? If so, when did you start that up?
Yes, it’s Ned & Mimi, and I started it at the very end of 2018. It’s named after the initials of my 3 kiddos and me ☺
What was your initial plan with your blog and designs?
I’m afraid I started out with not much of a plan! But in hindsight I think a little bit of naivety was actually a good thing. A lot of work goes into designing, making and testing a pattern, and then releasing it out into the world. I think if I’d known how much work was involved, I might have been slower to start. But I kind of just dived in headfirst. I knew that I wanted my designs have a stylish and modern aesthetic, but I have found sticking to that hard sometimes. When I look back at my designs over the last 12 months there are some that I’m super proud of and some that are just not really “me.” But it’s all a learning and growth process and I do feel that I am getting closer to solidifying my “style.”
How have your designs and designing process evolved?
Oh my goodness, they have evolved so much. When I first started, I was literally just looking at things in my home that I had already made; if it was something that I had designed myself I would write out the pattern. I wouldn’t recommend this! I had no style guide. Every pattern was worded a bit differently, it was not pretty! But I guess the most important thing was that it was a start (and the only way was up ☺)
After that, once I had an idea for a design, I would just start crocheting and see where it took me. I was still not big into swatching (it’s a waste of time, right!? Wrong!), but at least I was taking notes as I went. That approach was mildly more successful but still resulted in a lot of half-finished or frogged projects.
Now, while I still feel that I am refining my process all the time, I am definitely taking what I would call a more “professional” approach. These days, as soon as I have an idea, the first thing I do is make a swatch. Once I’m happy with that, I get my gauge and sketch out my design with approximate finished measurements. I don’t usually write out the entire pattern at this point, but I do write down an outline of the different sections. If there are increases/decreases I make sure I know exactly how I’m going to do these before I start crocheting. Finally, I make up the sample, making adjustments to the pattern as I go. So, I am definitely taking a more measured approach to designing these days.
What designs do you specialize in?
I have been doing a bit of everything! I tend to go through phases of having loads of ideas for one particular category. I have gone through a pillow phase, a hat phase, a garment phase! I am trying to get myself to spread things out a bit. And I do feel like I am still working on defining my own “style”, I’m still very much a work-in-progress but I think I am getting there.
Do you have a favorite few stitches you like to use or do you always try to do new ones?
I have a love affair with the moss stitch! I can think of endless things to make with it and they all look great. This is definitely my go-to stitch when I’m stuck or don’t want to do anything too complicated. Aside from that, I tend to lean more towards closed stitch patterns with a great texture over very lacy stitches. But I am trying to broaden my horizons ☺
When you come up with an idea, does it come first from yarn you have or do you find yarn to fit the idea?
Usually for me, the idea comes first and then I look at the yarn that I have and see anything will fit the idea. I’m trying really (really, really!) hard to use up the yarn that I do have before I go buying more. Sometimes I find it really hard though because I just don’t have the right combination of colors or weights to make what I want to make. Usually when this happens, I just make a note of the idea and move on to the next thing. Or if I can’t let go of the idea, I buy more yarn!
When did you start crocheting?
I learned when I was about 9 I think – my mom taught me.
What made you decide to become a designer?
Initially, I started just because I was already coming up with my own designs (albeit very haphazardly), and if I was following a pattern, I would often find myself making changes to it. And, if I’m being honest, I thought “how hard can it be!?” Of course, the answer to that was that it was harder than I thought, but luckily the barrier to entry is really low so it was very easy to just get started and then improve form there. I was inspired by a lot of the US based bloggers and designers who seemed to be making an income from designing and I just thought it would be amazing to have even a small bit of side-income from it.
My motives have evolved a bit over the last year. I love designing and seeing my own ideas turn into something tangible. So, I think even if I was making absolutely nothing from it I would still do it (but probably at a slower pace!) And this will sound a bit cliched but I also feel so lucky to get the opportunity to share my ideas with others; whenever I get a nice comment or a note or a picture from someone who has made one of my patterns I just feel all warm and fuzzy. So, while that didn’t make me decide to start designing it definitely helps me to keep going.
Are there any patterns not your own that you just love?
Yes – Sophie’s Garden by Dedri Uys. This pattern is completely unlike anything I would make myself, it’s so intricate and beautiful and mesmerizing, once I start looking at it, I just can’t take my eyes off it. And seeing all the different color combinations that people have used to make the blanket is just awe-inspiring. Plus, the amount of effort that Dedri has put into the pattern is phenomenal, there are photo tutorials for every section and it even has its own dedicated book! Someday I will start (and finish!) Sophie’s Garden.
Who/what inspired you? Does this still inspire you? Why?
I am definitely inspired by the women in my family. My nana worked as a seamstress (she even made my mom’s wedding dress, which is just mind-blowing to me), and my mom is very artistic and crafty – she paints, knits, crochets, sews; the whole lot. So the notion of taking an idea and then making something feels very natural to me. Color-wise, I think I have been unconsciously inspired by the Irish weather! I love all shades of gray and neutral tones – we get plenty of that here!
Of your patterns, which is your favorite and why?
Ooh this is a tough one! So far, I think my favorite is my Christmas Tree Pillow. There are so many reasons. First, it turned out exactly how I pictured it in my mind, which doesn’t happen often! It’s an easy pattern but I think it just looks so stylish and modern – it’s exactly the kind of aesthetic I am going for. If I could channel that look into all my designs I would be delighted! Finally, I made my pillow in cream and grey and it makes me feel calm and festive all at the same time when I look at it.
Are there any crochet techniques/stitches you wish to learn this year?
Yes. I dabbled with some Tunisian crochet a couple of years ago and I loved it, so I really want to get more into that, and learn some more stitch patterns beyond the basics. Also, I’d really like to hone my garment making and grading skills this year; designing a garment is still a big undertaking for me so I’d get better at the process and the math side of it.
What are your biggest crochet challenges and how do you plan on overcoming that?
I feel like my biggest challenge is that there is not enough time! But in reality, I think I have an organization problem more than a “lack-of-time” problem. I’m trying to overcome it by being a lot more intentional with my designs – planning out what I want to make in advance, and laying all the groundwork so that when I actually sit down to crochet my finished piece I have already tackled a lot of the trial and error steps. This is an ongoing struggle as I still hate swatching and once I have an idea, I literally just want to drop everything and start making it. But “plan and have patience” is my new motto that I have to keep repeating to myself!
Another thing that I struggle with is the feeling of “imposter syndrome” and I don’t think that’s uncommon. There are so many super talented crochet and knitwear designers out there, sometimes when I see a really clever design it’s hard to not feel a bit deflated or feel like I’m never going to reach that point. But I have to keep reminding myself that we are all on our own journeys, and there is no point in comparing my beginning to someone else’s middle. It’s not always easy to do this but I am trying!
Have you ever lost your crojo and how did you overcome that?
Oh yes. Earlier this year I was working on a commission; I had a deadline, so not finishing was not an option. But the design just kept going wrong! In hindsight some better planning on my part could have helped but really it was a combination of that plus yarn not behaving as I expected plus a host of other things. Anyway, once I got that project finished I literally could not even look at a crochet hook. I just felt stressed out and tired and in need of a break. So, that’s what I did for a week. I looked at nothing crochet related, I read, watched TV without anything in my hands (that was weird) and just did a complete reset.
To get myself back into it I started really small. I made a few granny squares, then a little headband, then a little pouch – all things that would be finished quickly and give me a quick hit of satisfaction! It worked and I’m back to normal (i.e. obsessed with crochet) again ☺
What three tips can you offer to anyone that crochets?
1. Crochet is a skill, not a talent.
You don’t need to be arty or crafty to learn to crochet, anyone can do it. Also, in the same vein, I truly believe that no matter how many years you have been crocheting for, there is always something new to be learned, some technique that you haven’t tried – you’re never too old to learn something new!
2. Swatch, swatch, swatch!
I know, I hate it too; it feels like such a waste of time! But after you’ve frogged a huge project due to a miscalculation that could have been detected had you done a gauge swatch, you’ll never skip this step again. I think this applies equally to designers and hobbyists. If you’re designing, you absolutely need to know your gauge so you can write the pattern. And if you’re following a pattern and you want your item to turn out like the designers (especially if it’s a garment) then you should really take that extra hour to do a gauge swatch.
3. Finally, I truly believe that crochet should (as much as possible) be a source of calm and stress relief, and not something that induces stress.
So, if a big project is getting on top of you, put it away for a few days or a week and come back to it with a fresh head. For designers, it’s totally ok to park something if it’s just not working, and (this is one of the absolute best things about working with yarn), if you have to frog it you just have more yarn to work with in the future! If you’re testing a pattern for a designer and life happens (which it does to all of use), most people are completely reasonable if you explain why you might miss a deadline. I know I’m personally always OK when something like this happens, I would hate for one of my patterns to be causing someone undue stress. In short, crochet to calm ☺.
Thanks so much for reading and I’d love to connect with you over on my blog or wherever you hang out ☺ You can find me on Instagram (https://instagram.com/nedandmimi), Facebook (https://facebook.com/nedandmimi), or Pinterest (https://pinterest.com/nedandmimi).
My Bunny Wall Hanging is available for free on my blog: https://nedandmimi.com/bunny-wall-hanging-free-crochet-pattern/
The PDF version (which includes the colorwork chart) is available for free on Ravelry to Sunflower Cottage Crochet readers until April 15th 2020 – just use the code SUNFLOWER at the checkout.