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Crafty chat with Niamh Holcroft

Members of our Official Facebook Groups will be familiar with our amazing moderators. They are at the heart of our creative community, offering year-round pattern support and endless encouragement for anyone working on a Scheepjes project. One of our mods, Niamh is also a pattern tech editor and designer. She knits, crochets, loves to use her sewing machine and enjoys embroidery, cross stitching and quilting. She also likes cooking, decorating and woodworking.

When it comes to creative crafts she says,you know what, I'll try anything!’

Another of Niamh’s passions is photography.Right now, I'm living in the middle of Canada. We have an acreage and I keep sheep, chicken, geese and turkeys. It’s far away from my favourite place by the ocean in the UK. On the upside we get some amazing auroras, and you can see fabulous thunderstorms coming for miles. All opportunities for taking photos. I especially love taking photos of the ocean. It's amazing when you manage to take a photo that captures the colour and power of the waves. I mostly find inspiration for my projects from my photos. Autumn in Canada is wonderful for colours too.’

We were interested to hear how Niamh’s crafting journey began.My first experience of sewing was in infant school; I'd have been maybe 6. We made a project bag, and I embroidered the outline of a butterfly using chain stitch. Aged 9, my mum taught me to knit. She was pregnant with my brother and knitting him things, and I wanted to make something too. I ended up making a wee matinee coat in stocking stitch with garter cuffs, hem and neckline. I'm pretty sure she must have been pulling it back at night and knitting to where I'd left it because I remember it being “lacier” than hers!’

Scheepjes 2016 CAL – The Last Dance on the Beach got Niamh into crochet. She says,‘I've never looked back. It's great being bi-stitual, the world is at least twice as big! I love learning new things and now I have a weaving loom my hubby got me for Christmas and an Inkle Loom he made for my birthday.’

After hugely enjoying the Cosy Moments MAL and participating in the group, Niamh was asked by the team if she’d consider being the new mod they were looking for. Conversations with Scheepjes went well, and ‘boom, there was I, a mod!’

We asked Niamh what qualities are needed to be a moderator. Aside from knowing Scheepjes yarns, understanding the patterns and knowing where to find answers she says‘Patience, understanding, empathy. Most times when someone asks for help it's something pretty specific, other times it's not always easy to spot how someone's project has gone astray and then formulate the words to best help them.’

What are the best parts about being a mod? ‘Oh goodness there's loads, I love being part of the Mod team, it's like a wee family. And the Scheepjes groups too, there's a lovely positive, community feel to them, and the talent and creativity is wonderful. It's fab to see novice members in the group wanting to learn to knit and crochet. I love my crafts and helping others. There's a particular satisfaction to be had when you're working through something with someone who knows you only through a screen but trusts you to get them through, and they finally manage to work a part they've really been struggling with. You can really feel the joy and relief.’

Niamh’s first Scheepjes pattern, the Dually Beanie was published in 2023. We asked how that came about?‘I've often bounced ideas off my amazing friend, she's a constant encouragement. So, one day I was playing around with some Our Tribe, and I made this beanie. She convinced me to show Scheepjes, who were pretty excited about it too and it went from there.’

Which is Niamh’s favourite yarn? I love them all! Scheepjes Our Tribe is up there with my real favourites obviously, I used it for my beanie. It's so light, soft and warm. I made Read Between the Lines with it, also, which feels like you're wearing a layer of warm air around you. I've an idea on the go for a sweater design which I'm really excited about. I also love Maxi! It's easy to work with, there's a whole boatload of colours and you can make anything. Actually, my first design, the Clement Bell, a 3D Christmas/ Wedding bell was made with Maxi.’

We asked if Niamh has joined in any other Scheepjes CALs, KALs or MALs. ‘Yes lots, I love the projects and the feeling in the group during them. Occasionally time is too short and I'm not able to make a full project so I like to make a swatchy style one, that way I can experience the project. As well as being fun and exciting it helps a lot in understanding the pattern and project, and you're better prepared for members' queries. If there's any "fiddly" parts you get the opportunity of taking photos which also assists in helping members.’

Does she have a favourite item to make? ‘I like anything and everything, knit or crochet. I do love the more advanced items; testing Tammy's Big Sister Shawl was an amazing knit for me. I couldn't put down the Shimmy Shawl from YARN Bookazine 14 – Expression either.’

When asked to name her favourite ever Scheepjes project she laughs and says‘I'm not sure I can narrow it down to one! I love the Big Sister Shawl, but if I was forced to choose, I think it would be my version of Esme Crick's Snaggletooth MAL. My inspiration photo was one I'd taken of a huge ocean wave, lots of teal, turquoise and white foam, it's always been one of my favourites. I had this idea of using Whirls and attempting a sort of Escher type thing with the colours. Most of the way through I was thinking "this isn't going to work; I'm going to have to frog". I should have taken the advice I so often give members which is "have faith" because it turned out perfectly, the look, the colours, everything.’

Niamh's snaggle Rav2
Screenshot 2023-10-24 111241

Crafty chat with ... Sharon Houwerzijl

Our first crafter interview is with Sharon Houwerzijl (46) from Vlagtwedde, a village near Groningen in the Netherlands. From an early age Sharon was taught various craft techniques by her mother, but her interest never took hold. Ten years ago, that all changed.

"It all began after a visit to my mother-in-law while she was crocheting a cardigan. She was keen to teach me, gave me a ball of cotton yarn and a hook and I started crocheting at home watching YouTube tutorials. Despite some trial and error, my enthusiasm was sparked. Since then, I have crocheted non-stop. It's a kind of addiction."

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After mastering chains, Sharon switched to patterns. "I searched for a pattern and made my first coaster. When that turned out well, I tried something more complicated, then went full steam ahead. My mother was so proud that I could do it and gave me the iconic stork scissors. 'If you craft, you must have craft scissors' was her message!"

Sharon talks about how her yarn collection quickly grew. Laughing, she says: "To get through my stash, I will have to live to at least 100! I almost have enough at home to open a yarn shop. It’s partly stored under my bed and other things like my wool winder and buttons live in the garage." Sharon's stash is constantly topped up from new purchases and Marketplace acquisitions. "I have a nose for treasure" she says.

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To keep her stash under some sort of control, Sharon regularly starts new projects: "If I want to make something new, I look at my yarn, then choose the pattern. When picking out yarn, I always smell the yarns first when no one is looking. I love that smell," she chuckles.

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"I'm not really into making clothes. I have made jumpers, cardigans and dresses, but I get much more pleasure out of making blankets, wraps and cuddly toys. By now I have so many that I always have readymade gifts in the house - I can't keep them all myself! I really enjoy process and afterwards I’m glad if they make someone else happy."

After hooking several larger projects, Sharon and her mother-in-law joined their first Scheepjes CAL in 2017 - the Scandinavian inspired Hygge wrap. This was followed up in 2020 by the d'Histoire Naturelle CAL. "We gave those as gifts to each other for our birthdays,". Sharon tells us how excited she was when she found out that the 2023 CAL had a scientific theme: "I'm a medical lab technician so I walk around wearing a white coat every day. When the Colour Lab CAL was announced, I was immediately thinking, 'I can't miss this!"

Some beautiful traditions were also passed down from her late mother: "My mother had a tradition of crocheting a little something to give with her Christmas cards. I adopted that. At first, only for the neighbours, but now I crochet something to give with every card. Last Christmas, I crocheted forty angels. I already have an idea for next Christmas, but first I have to work it out and test to see if it will work."

Would you like to share your own creative journey with us? We would love to hear from you. Send a brief e-mail to newsletter@scheepjes.com and maybe next time it will be your crafting story and projects featuring here.

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