Hello and Happy Friday!! Are you ready to meet an amazing designer? I’m thrilled to be introducing you to Helen Wilkinson with Sunflower Cottage Crochet!

About Helen

Helen’s “mum tried to teach me how to knit when I was young, but it never stuck. In fact, knitting frustrated me. I think it was maybe because she was trying to teach me all the things at once – how to cast on, the stitches and reading patterns, which looked like gibberish to me without actually explaining how to read it. At 14, she showed me how to double crochet and away I went!

I actually started crocheting as a means to revise for my exams when I was around 14 years old. I loved history and factual lessons. Crocheting while revising historical facts and dates worked well for me. Watching what my hands were doing. I wasn’t tempted to review my notes to check if I was saying things correctly. I used to get annoyed with myself when I had to stop crocheting and check my dates and facts! That year I made A LOT of dc granny squares. I think there are about 6 blankets in my family that I made while revising!”

Helen’s journey as a designer

I asked Helen to tell me about her journey as a designer, “I have only been designing for just shy of 2 years. Sunflower Cottage Crochet is actually a partnership. Sara and I met whilst testing for another designer and we became firm friends. We actually have a lot in common! Sara wanted to dabble with the idea of becoming a designer and was encouraged to do a short pattern writing challenge. I tested that pattern for her – it was the Paige hat.

A couple more patterns followed and Sara asked me to join her as I had helped her work out some kinks and made some suggestions for her patterns. At the time, I had just designed my very first pattern – the Mixed Toffee Cowl (if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to check it out – it is still one of my favorites!). It wasn’t made to be a published pattern but was designed to help out another designer who was struggling with her group. As it happens, the Mixed Toffee Cowl was never used for that purpose, but still it took us a while to publish it as Sunflower because we were both so new to designing and nervous! Since then, we have never looked back.

What kind of patterns do you design?

We design patterns for you, your family and your home. In 2021 we are starting to look at more garments, which I am excited about. We also started the Preemie Crochet Challenge in 2020 and are busy organizing this year’s event now.

In 2 years, we have over 100 patterns published and a thriving Facebook community with our following growing at an awesome rate!”

“I kind of fell into designing when Sara asked me! Recently I had taken a career break from my government job and things were settling down at home. I was getting used to being at home and was starting to think about what I could do. So, Sara asked me at the right time and I figured why not? If you don’t try something, you will never know whether you can do it! For me, it is the ultimate work from home career! I’m located in the north east on England, UK. In fact, I am about 90 miles south of Edinburgh. I live right on the coast and absolutely love where I live. Sara, on the other hand, lives in Kansas, US! Fun fact, we work together but have never actually met in person! Perhaps once the travel restrictions are lifted, we can rectify that!”

How long have you been designing?

Helen has been designing for almost 2 years, “It’s amazing how many patterns have been released in that time and what we have achieved! But don’t be fooled if you are thinking about becoming a designer – only about 20% of it is designing, especially if you have a blog, YouTube channel and facebook groups too! It can also be quite a lonely profession if you let it. I am super lucky that I have always had Sara to talk to, bounce ideas off, and work with. I have also made some amazing designer friends as I have become more confident and become involved in more events. Most designers are so friendly and supportive. As a community, this is definitely one of the best if you are willing to go out there and meet people (even if it is usually online!)”

What inspires you to continue designing?

“At the moment I have so many ideas for patterns I would like to make. I like to try new things – whether that is stitches or techniques, and then challenge myself to create something with them. I am also going to challenge myself in 2021 with designing more garments, such as tees and sweaters. We have a cocoon cardigan which I designed and a couple of ponchos, but I am ready for the next step! The grading of garments and the maths for these has always put me off, but Susanna from Fosbas Designs and my Co-work crew have been so helpful and supportive I am excited to start!

I enjoy trying new stitch combo’s, playing with different types of yarn and love the feeling when a pattern is finally finished. I do get a little rush when I put out a testing call in our testers group and lots of people volunteer to test it! Most of all, I think one of my favorite parts is that I get to reach out to people all over the world and, for maybe a few minutes, be part of their world; whether I am helping them with a stitch, commenting on a picture of something they made using one of our designs or getting to know them more in our community group!”

What’s on the hook?

Currently Helen has “a couple of patterns in test at the minute and I am writing the pattern for another cocoon cardigan. I also have ideas drafted on paper or graph for a few other projects I want to do. Mainly, I’m finishing off the design ideas I had while I ponder the garment designs I want to make. I am waiting for some yarn from a couple of yarn companies who want me to design something with it for them, so that is exciting!”

Tips for a new crafter?

Helen’s biggest tip to share with a new crafter? “Do not compare yourself to other crafters! Everyone has a different crafting journey – maybe like my daughter; they learned Tunisian crochet before they could double crochet, or they only learn via video tutorials and cannot read written patterns and charts. Likewise, do not judge your beginning by someone else’s middle. Falling into the rabbit hole of comparing yourself to others is not a good place to be and should be avoided at all costs. I feel so passionately about this that I actually wrote a blog post titled ‘The Comparison Pitfall’. Be proud of what you craft whether you just started learning today or have been at it for a lifetime!”

Helen has hand-picked a few crochet projects for you and is offering a very generous discount of 40% off Sunflower Cottage Crochet’s patterns on Ravelry, Etsy and their blog shop. Use the code STACYJ – but, do so soon, as the code expires on April 5th, 2021! Just click on any (or all!) of the images below to be directed to the pattern).

Some personal bits

Helen is married to “Richard, who is a workaholic, but I am immensely proud of what he has achieved. I do wish he would slow down a bit. We have had conversations about wanting to spend a good few years in retirement driving each other crazy! I worry that he works too hard sometimes; but he reminds me that in the last year I have put in more hours with Sunflower than he has at work. We have been married 7 years this year, but together for 22 (eek … it’s never been that long already!!). I have a daughter, Jorja, who is 9 and spent lockdown learning to crochet. She’s doing awesome at it and I am so proud of her.

My fur babies are most definitely my babies! We have a dalmatian called Holly who unfortunately is getting near her time. She’s an old girl at 12 ½ years old now and has DCM which is progressing. Hugo is our 2 year old great dane and just the gentlest, cheekiest chappie you could ever wish for! In January we also had a young Horsfield tortoise join our family – I have always wanted a tortoise. You can’t tell the gender of a tortoise until they are about 4 years old, so for another 3 years he (I really think he is a he) is called Joey until we know whether it should be Harry or Hermione!”

Helen’s other hobbies

In addition to crochet, Helen has some other hobbies, as well. “Before Sunflower I had so many hobbies – now I don’t have much time for them, although I am trying to carve time out for them again. I love to read. Phillippa Gregory, John Grisham, Karin Slaughter are some of my favourite authors. I recently read the Tattooist of Auschwitz, which was a book that had been on my shelf for over a year while I mentally prepared to read it. It was soo good that I have bought the follow up book about Cilka to read!

I also love to quilt and sew. When Jorja was younger she used to beg me to make her dresses but they had to be ‘spinney dresses’ which meant that my 3, 4, 5, and 6 year old had 2 width of fabric piece in each skirt part of her dresses! That made ironing so much more of a chore lol. Then my friends started asking me to teach them to sew and make dresses for their girls.”

Check out more Sunflower Cottage Crochet designs

To see more of Helen and Sara’s designs, please visit them at the links below and show them some love:

1. Website (Be sure to sign up for the newsletter – It’s lovely!) www.sunflowercottagecrochet.com

2. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SunflowerCottageCrochet

3. Community Facebook group is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/851570451884519

4. Instagram: www.instagram.com/sunflower.cottage.crochet.too

5. YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC99X9Pzmt4M6qx67aU5lrPg

6. Ravelry: https://www.ravelry.com/designers/sunflower-cottage-crochet

7. Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/sunflowercottagecrochet/_created/

8. Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SunflowerCottageCo

Thank you so much for stopping by to learn about Helen and Sunflower Cottage Crochet. I do hope you’ll take her up on her offer of 40% off and visit her socials and website. Hoping that you have a fabulous weekend with lots and lots of yarn.

Stacy J

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