It’s Friday again, AND its time for another edition of Hooked In! This month, I want to introduce you to my friend Helen who is one half of the CEO partnership of Sunflower Cottage Crochet. Full disclosure: I have had one heck of a busy week and my brain is fried. So I’m going to skip the usual fluff and head right on into the interview:
Welcome to the Straight Hooked blog! I am so excited to learn more about you.
Please tell me a bit about you:
HI, I’m Helen Wilkinson and I am one half of Sunflower Cottage Crochet. I am a wife to a workaholic and mother to one gorgeous daughter who is 8 going on 16. I also have my furbabies who I adore – a cranky old dalmation and a young great dane. In a few months I will hit my fabulous 40’s and it doesn’t bother me one bit! I’m looking forward to seeing where my crochet journey will take me.
What is the name of your business?
Sunflower Cottage Crochet – This is a partnership with Sara Marsh whom I met whilst testing patterns for another designer and we became firm friends. Funny thing is that Sara lives in Kansas and I live in the UK so we have never actually met in person! Sara started Sunflower about 20 months ago and I was her tester from the start. I officially came on board just over a year ago. We make a pretty great team and have come such a long way in a year!!
How long have you been in business?
Sunflower was going for about 6 months before I joined Sara just over a year ago. In the last year we have come so far; 60 published patterns and counting (at least a dozen more ready to publish), a new website, an awesome facebook community. We are going from strength to strength and are looking forward to seeing where the next stage in our crochet adventure takes us!
What made you decide to take the leap and start hooking for money?
Because Sara asked me! LOLOLOL About the time Sara was thinking about setting up Sunflower Cottage Crochet I took a 5-year career break. I was a manager within HMRC (a civil servant working in a strategic government department). My husband had just got a well-paid contract and the time was right. So I had a few months to ‘relax’ i.e. scrub every millimeter of the house, walk the legs off my dogs, crochet enough for 7 Christmas’ and help my friends out with their childcare while they worked. When Sara officially asked me to join and help her I figured the time was right, nothing to lose and I might learn something in the process! Who knew there was so much computer work being a crochet designer? The apps you have to learn … I mean you literally have to become a web developer, SEO expert, journalist, graphic designer, professional photographer and marketing manager as a minimum overnight! Then if you want to have a YouTube channel …. Oh my gosh! I am now half way through my career break and unless something serious happens I have no intention of going back!
What is your favorite yarn to work with?
I don’t really have a favourite. Here in the UK we get a lot of Stylecraft, James C Brett, Hayfield and such. We use a lot of aran weight in our designs. I have just recently finished a design for Joy of Motion’s guest designer slot with Stylecraft Batik Swirl in Meadow which is just stunning!
What kind of hooks do you prefer?
I need ergonomic handles on mine so I have a full set of knitpro hooks, a couple of Susan Bates after Sara recommended them and I also really like the sirdar hooks for their handles and the fact that they are a little longer. Unfortunately I haven’t tried a furls hook but they recently opened a warehouse in the UK so I am itching to get one, I just don’t want to be disappointed when I get it with all the hype lol. I’m like that with movies too – if there is a lot of hype around it I don’t tend to go watch them because in the past I have been a little disappointed with it.
How long have you been a crocheter?
I started crocheting when I was 14 and used it as a revision aid for my exams. My mum taught me how to make a simple granny square so I just kept making them while I repeated dates and events over and over (I love history). After those exams I didn’t really pick it up again until I was revising for my law society exams and so off I went making granny squares again. When I had my daughter (she is now 8) I just had an urge to make things for her. There was something about being her mum that made me want to be creative and actually make her the cute dresses she wore, the hats to keep her head warm and the stuffed flamingo she walked around with for almost a year.
What are your hobbies? (Other than crocheting, of course!)
I sew and quilt. I have made Jorja a lot of what she calls her spinney dresses. And, much like with crochet, quilting is just so creative and fun. The patterns today are modern, clean and just gorgeous. I also love to read, although I haven’t been doing as much of that as I should have been lately because I have been so busy. I would much rather read the book than watch the movie of anything.
Where do you love to crochet?
I literally take my crochet everywhere with me. I have even been known to crochet in the dark in a cinema when a deadline has been looming LOL. Mainly I crochet in my living room or my craft room, but no-where is off limits for me.
What inspires you?
My daughter. Also, probably working from home also is a big inspiration. It’s easier to crochet a new throw, pillow or table setting than decorate the whole room if I get bored with it lol. I love texture and so I like to play around with that a lot too which often then becomes something that I can use, like my mixed toffee cowl.
What is your biggest struggle with your crochet business?
Other than the persistent tiredness? Honestly, it’s probably having a business partner that lives so far away! We make it work though with facetimes and lots of phone calls, emails and Facebook messenger. There has also be a couple of occasions when the lingo (even though we both speak English) has caused a little misunderstanding because a word means something different. It’s so much easier when you can get together and chat things over with a cup of tea (proper tea not your yucky iced tea!), a piece of cake and move things along. Time zones also don’t help, especially when we are on a deadline. But we do work well together, and misunderstandings get sorted out very quickly. It’s part of the process.
What is unique about your business?
Probably it’s set-up – I mean who goes into business with somebody that they have never been within 2000 miles of? LOLOL Typically most crochet businesses are one person behind everything. Sunflower Cottage Crochet has 2 people so we can achieve a lot and provide input on each other’s designs, suggest tweaks and changes that would improve the look and design etc.
Tell me about a crochet nightmare:
Probably the biggest challenge we have had was a Halloween e-book we tried to publish on Amazon last year. It was completely ridiculous in that even their so-called approved formats were not approved to be able to upload the book. Even IT professionals couldn’t fathom it and these people do this for a living!!
Why is crochet important to you?
Crochet is the first thing I have done that allows me to just be me! I have never had a job like that before. Crochet and crochet designing just makes both Sara and I happy and when people also like what you do it makes you do a happy dance.
What is your favorite crocheting snack and beverage?
A good cup of hot Tetley tea and a biscuit. I’m very British like that.
What do you like to watch (aka have on in the background) while you are crocheting?
I love historical dramas so Vikings, Outlander, even time team is great. Or I will watch nature programmes and chill to the sound of David Attenborough. I also love to watch old movies and musicals – Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, Bette Davies, Howard Keel, Rock Hudson, Errol Flynn, you get the idea.
What is your signature design?
Our Coffee Beanie Cozies are our first trade-marked design! They have also been super popular with crocheters. We have well over 12 of them now. They fit on a 20oz starbucks takeout cup and most travel cups. The idea is that they are like a beanie for your cup. They protect your hands from the extreme temperatures of your cups, add stability to them so they don’t crumple in your hands (I have had that happen to me before!) and just look fabulous.
How are you changing the world with your crochet?
One stitch at a time!
I can’t change the world, but I can use my crochet to change my world a little with a positive outlook, pride in my work and something that my daughter sees me doing that she is proud of me for. Working in an office it was just ‘Oh, Mummy tells people what to do!’ but now it’s ‘Look what my mum made, shall I show you how she did it?!’ Or when Jorja’s friends come and they specifically ask me to make them something. They joy on their faces with a little woven stitch bookmark is just priceless.
If you could do anything without the constraints of time and money, what would it be?
Spend more time actually learning how to do the IT stuff properly rather than as it comes up crossing my fingers and hoping it will work LOL. Actually, maybe we would just hire people to do the boring stuff like that and just get on with designing the patterns, getting them tested and interacting with our facebook community!
Tell me about the exciting things you have coming up in your business:
In August we are hosting the first the Preemie Crochet Challenge. Each day in August a featured designer will be sharing a free pdf pattern that can be donated to a local NICU or other appropriate charity for premature babies. Most of these are designs that have been specifically created for this event, which is awesome! There was research last year that baby hats in hospitals were not necessarily a good thing and so we have encouraged designers to come up with any pattern that they think would be appropriate. You will need to check whether your local NICU will accept them. We have designers contributing octopus patterns, cardigans, blankets, cocoons, bonding squares, hats and booties. If you download any or all of the patterns, we are asking that you make at least one of that item to donate before the end of November (which is Preemie awareness month) and each download is treat as one pledge. Depending on how the current situation with Coronavirus goes people may have to donate later in the year or in 2021 but it’s the thought that counts and the crocheting community is such a giving and generous one! This is a cause close to home for both Sara and myself as we both had premature babies.
Thank you for joining me today and sharing your story with me and my readers. I am so excited to be one of the designers participating in your Preemie Crochet Challenge. I had so much fun designing a tiny blanket for this amazing event!
Helen has also graciously set up a coupon code just for you! Enter the code STRAIGHTHOOKED at checkout to receive the Wenona Market Bag pattern for FREE between now and July 30th! How rad is that?! Click here for the pattern
If you want to find out more about Sunflower Cottage Crochet, you can find Helen and Sara here:
I hope you enjoyed learning about Helen and her part of Sunflower Cottage Crochet as much as I did. Next month, I will be interviewing Emma Wilkinson (no relation, just a fun last name coincidence) as well as participating in Sunflower Cottage Crochet's Preemie Challenge, PLUS I will also be participating in another blog hop, which means more FREE patterns for you! Make sure you have subscribed to my newsletter so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming Free Pattern Goodness coming up!
Next week's blog post is a surprise, even for me! (I apparently didn't think July had 5 Fridays when I was scheduling posts, and I just looked at the calendar and said, "aw, crap") So make sure you pop by next Friday to see what amazing news I have to share with you!
Until next week,