Knitter Spotlight: Debbie (thecrimsonrabbit on Ravelry)
Lying down on the beach or travelling on a plane, we’ve all tested out our personality in some sort of magazine… When Debbie (thecrimsonrabbit on Ravelry) did, I bet she found out she was the creative type. Based in England, she runs a small business that keeps her busy, sewing and knitting all types of accessories.
Even if she really enjoys her work, she always make sure to take a day off to relax and have some fun. Great observer and playful, she loves to wander in the woods in search of inspiration. Never rushed and open-minded, trying new things and keeping on learning make her happy.
First name: Debbie
Ravelry name: thecrimsonrabbit
From: Now living in Great Dunmow, Essex, England but originally from North Yorkshire
I learned to knit… Most of what I know about knitting (and crochet) is self taught. I love to learn all kinds of things under my own steam using books and online resources. I am so grateful to anyone who has shared their knowledge and skills in any format, but especially on YouTube! My Mum did knit when I was very little and her closest friend always had some piece of knit or crochet on the go, but my only hands-on lessons came from the granny of my best friend Ann. She gave us several lessons in knitting and crochet and Ann was far more proficient than I was. We were only about eight and I remember that my first tension squares were all about the tension in the wrong way, with very tight and sloping edges! Granny advised me to concentrate on making crochet chains for the time being… Actually, that turned out to be the very best advice, because making endless chains is such a wonderful way to train your hands to tension correctly. I believe this is the real secret to mastering knit and crochet, especially when it comes to lace work or when using big needles or hooks with fine yarn.
I usually knit… Most of my knitting is done on the sofa in front of the TV during my down time. I find working with yarn very relaxing and tend to gravitate towards the more mindless stitch patterns so that I can switch off my brain and let my hands take over. This seems to make knitting a sensory and more meditative process that you can literally get lost in. When travelling anywhere, I always take a knit or crochet project with me and often work out of a project bag on my knee when I’m a passenger on the motorway, with nothing interesting to look at.
My typical day… I make bags and purses of all kinds for my small business and sell them in my Etsy shop. Most of my day is spent in my home work room, cutting out, interfacing and sewing together, but my mind is constantly hopping about amongst various design ideas, whether for fabric or yarny projects. I usually try and keep Friday somewhat clear so that I can have what I call a ‘play day’ where I can work on new designs or learn new skills, and this often spills into the weekend too. When I have an idea for something new, I find it difficult to keep focused on anything else until I’ve let it out of my head to see if it works, so making that time for new things is essential.
My favourite time of the year… I find it impossible to choose a favourite time of the year, I really do love them all in their own ways, although Spring and Autumn are the times when I’m happiest – I don’t enjoy the extremes of Summer and Winter as much. I love the seasons and would hate to live anywhere that doesn’t have that kind of climate. I don’t function well in hot and humid weather and for that reason I miss Yorkshire where I grew up – the south of England is frequently muggy and airless in the summer. On the other hand, Yorkshire winters can be harsh and wet and relentless. We English do obsess a bit about the weather, don’t we?
My favourite travel destination… I know that it’s unusual, but I don’t like travel so much. I think I could definitely love it if I had a private yacht and unlimited funds, but travel on anything less than this often seems more tiring and uncomfortable than the actual holiday can make worthwhile. We love to visit different parts of the UK and the Northumberland coast is a favourite destination with its dramatic scenery, clean sandy beaches and woodlands.
My favourite yarn… I love many types of yarns and trying out new ones, but at the moment I tend to gravitate to merino, silk and yak, in varying proportions to each other. Selecting the fibre really does depend on what I’m making of course, but colour is a major factor for me and is what often inspires me. For this reason, I’m more drawn to yarns from Indie dyers and may have been known to buy the odd skein when I have no budget for buying yarn, just because I can’t resist a colour. One of the main joys of knitting for me is that you can make the same pattern many times over with different yarns and get so many different results! This is my excuse for repeating patterns I love and become comfortably intimate with, like Janina’s Interlude shawl. I first made this with a 4ply Polworth wool from Eden Cottage yarns called ‘Oakworth’. It is an incredibly woolly and crisp yarn and gave the most amazing stitch definition after blocking. I made this shawl again quite recently with a very different yarn – a merino and silk blend called ‘Selkino’ from Skein Queen in a colourway called ‘Chesil Beach’. This time, I wanted to try and echo the pattern of the shawl in the colour choice – Interlude always makes me think of fishing nets and beaches.
Right now I have on my needles a new cowl design in an undyed creamy baby alpaca. I made a smaller version of this cowl last year with a merino / silk mix yarn, but hadn’t written up the pattern yet. As I was thinking about getting around to doing this, I imagined another, larger version of it in something super squishy for winter and just had to make it.
Next project on my needles… Choosing the next project is always difficult and I usually have several possibilities in mind, but I’m as likely to have another random idea by the time I get around to starting something new. I’m currently thinking about making my Mum some bed socks for Christmas but I have also just bought a new silk skein from Skein Queen in the most beautiful red purple shade that is begging me to knit it into a beaded shawl! I made Janina’s Diamond Ice shawl for the first time recently using the same yarn in a different colour, and I may be drawn back to this with the addition of some beads.
My other creative passions include… I probably crochet as much as I knit, although I tend to have periods where I do a lot of one or the other, depending on my mood. Sewing is a large part of my working life and I thoroughly enjoy making pieces for my business as well as sewing for fun. Although I use my sewing machine constantly, I love hand sewing and when I have the time, I enjoy English Paper Piecing and hand quilting. I also really enjoy cooking and making dishes up as I go, sometimes they even work out to be tasty! I’ve written fiction and poetry (not the emotional end rhyme type – shudder) for as long as I could hold a pen, but have not been so active with this since I’ve had my own small business. I think this is probably because my creative appetite is being satisfied by my fabric and yarnie adventures.
I’m very good at putting things off. This is particularly true of writing up my knitting patterns, although it also applies to other things I don’t enjoy, like doing the housework or going to the dentist. I know I’ll feel better after doing any or all of these things, but somehow that doesn’t help me find the impetus to get on with them.
I’m slightly obsessed with learning. My curiosity about any number of things is never really satisfied. I didn’t enjoy learning at school, or any kind of organised learning, but like to go at my own pace and approach things in my own way. This single mindedness has frequently led to me taking a very long and / or painful path to enlightenment, but that hasn’t put me off. Almost 20 years ago, to prove to myself that I could be successful in a more structured way, I completed an Open University degree and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course this was distance learning, which isn’t strictly ‘structured’, but it was super flexible and, as a result, I did manage to successfully complete essays and exams!
Something I’d still love to do in this lifetime… It feels like it may now be nothing more than a dream, but I’ve always wanted to live in a house in the woods. Although I love the coast and the open countrywide, woods are my happy place – I find them so atmospheric and magical. I think I may blame my obsession on Enid Blyton and the Magic Faraway tree books in the first instance, but this grew into a lifelong love and I’m still to be found walking in a wood somewhere at least a few times a month. If simply walking there brings me happiness and inspiration – just imagine what living there could do!
My favourite quote… One quotation I try to live by is from one of my favourite authors, Henry James: “Do not mind anything that anyone tells you about anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself”.
All photos ©Debbie/thecrimsonrabbit