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All week I’d been telling all my friends how excited I am to be going to the Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair – but more importantly, how excited I was to be meeting Kerry Lord: creator of Edwards Menagerie and founder of Toft UK! They’d look at me like I was crazy, or smile and nod politely (but clearly thought I was crazy)…
But I’m so happy to say, she didn’t disappoint! She was so incredibly lovely and had so much time for each and every person who walked up to her stand. She was chatting, autographing, selfie-ing, *AND* crocheting, all at the same time!? Wow, what a lady…
I was lucky enough to find her stall right when there seemed to be a lull in the crowd; so we got to chatting about her trip out here (and her longer-than-expected, 12-hour stop over in a seemingly random city in China…), her beautiful family and how they’re enjoying their holiday in Australia, how she got started crocheting, how I’m stupid excited to have signed up to her Yarn Club (I’ll definitely be posting more about that later), the fact that I have my own blog and write my own patterns… Then came this simple conversation:
K: Do you follow me on Instagram?
G: Of course I do!
K: Cool. What’s your Insta-handle? I follow a crazy number of people, but I’ll look you up.
G: Awesome! It’s @thesweetestgeekcrochet…
K: Oh yeah! I already follow you!
Um, what…? Just ignore the part about how she follows tonnes of people already, and let’s focus on the fact that *she-already-follows-me*! She knew my Insta before she even looked me up! I don’t really remember what happened next but I probably looked, if not sounded, like a complete and utter fangirl… *ultimate blushing*
Then all of a sudden I’m getting photos with her, she’s signing my Craft and Quilt Fair programme and my brand new copy of Edwards Menagerie – Birds… And then I remembered I should probably share her with others at the Fair, so Mum and I went to find a table to wait at until Kerry’s seminar started. I don’t think I said a word to my Mum that whole time – nothing coherent anyway – I was so speechless at how nice Kerry was and was too busy Instagramming my encounter with her. (Actually I do remember finally saying, “Do you think we should head over to the seminar now?”; to which my Mum just laughed and said, “that’s exactly what I just asked you!”)
That all sounds a bit silly now that I type it ‘out aloud’ – how in awe I was of her – but I guess it was only then that I realised how much I look up to her and what she’s done. She’s so young, she’s only been crocheting for 4 years, she has a family to look after, a business to run, an alpaca farm to help manage… And yet she already has 29,000+ followers on Instagram, 17,000+ followers on Facebook, hundreds of followers on Twitter, a yarn shop, a cafe, her own line of wool, three (3) pattern books and many more individual patterns (for both crochet and knitting)… She’s living my dream!
“Wait, what about the alpaca farm?” I hear you say… Well, part of my dream is to have a colony of Angora Rabbits (yes, ‘colony’ is actually the correct word for a group of rabbits!), to harvest their fur (it’s not cruel at all, trust me – it’s actually necessary for their health), and spin my own yarn!! *sigh* But until that happens, I’ll be continuing to help fund Spotlight and Lincraft and LoveCrochet.com…
So then the seminar came around, and she was just as charming. So easy going, so easy to listen to. Her introduction was fascinating: her family had owned their alpaca farm for about 20 years by the time she finished University. After Uni she was still deciding what to do next, so her parents put her to work figuring out what to do with all the alpaca fleece they’d been storing away. At that time, Kerry couldn’t find a market of anyone interested in buying alpaca fleece (a crazy thought, these days), so she decided to use it herself – and that’s when she learned to spin!
She joked about how her first batches of yarn we’re terrible… And how they still use it today – but as string to tie on labels and things! But even still, clearly she was doing something right because her perserverence paid off and we now have Toft UK: a beautiful range of all natural alpaca yarn, ready to use for all types of fibre art.
What I found particularly incredible was the fact that much of their alpaca yarn isn’t dyed! Of course their newer range of pinks, blues, greens, yellows etc is dyed… (have you ever seen a blue alpaca?) But their original range isn’t and never was! Their whites, browns, greys and blacks are just the natural colour of the alpaca’s fleece! (Although she did note the difficulty in keeping up stock of black wool – apparently during particularly sunny summers, black alpaca fleece is bleached brown by the sun! So, early on, some times they literally had no black yarn stock available.)
Kerry said it was her learning to spin that increased her curiosity in how to use the yarn she was making – so she learned to knit. She quickly became involved in designing knitting patterns for clothes and hats, and still commits to producing at least 40 knitting patterns a year!?
Fast forward a number of years and her first son – Edward – was due. I mean literally due, that day, but didn’t look like he was going to budge. So she *finally* went on maternity leave on his due date, but quickly became bored and thought she’d try her hand at crochet. I guess her expert knowledge of wool and knitting helped her quickly pick up the single crochet stitch (US) / double crochet stitch (UK) and by the evening of her first day crocheting she’d made an elephant! And by the time Edward was finally born 2-weeks later, she’d made 14 animals in total – all of her own design!
And so Edwards Menagerie (and Edward, for that matter) was born…
Then we went into a time of learning everything you need to know in order to make any of her amigurumi. “Level 1” covered how to make a magic circle, single crochet (US) / double srochet (UK), increasing and decreasing. “Level 2” covered basic colour changes and specialty stitches, like the loop stitch. “Level 3” covered complex colour changes. I think everyone in the audience was quite impressed, surprised and relieved at just how easy making one of these beautiful animals could be. After encouraging everyone that we could all make one of these toys, Kerry went through some final basics regarding stuffing, sewing on the head and limbs, adding eyes and noses, and sewing in the yarn ends.
Plus much of this information is found in her pattern books: Edwards Menagerie, Edwards Menagerie – Birds, and Edwards Crochet Imaginarium. This level of thought from Kerry to support and appeal to all levels of crochet is what I aspire to develop – the fact that someone who has never picked up a crochet hook before could make something so sweet using just one stitch type is quite remarkable; and even for more experienced crocheters, the final product is nothing less than impressive. The animals look so complex, but they’re so simple in their design (although I’m sure Kerry would say the actual design process was far from simple, haha).
Even their body shapes have had so much thought go into them – Kerry has designed the body’s of most of the ‘Edwards’ animals and birds to be a specific pear shape, just so they can sit up on their own! She said this is what gives each of them life and character, so that they’re not just sitting limp and resting against a wall or a cushion. And when you think about it, she’s so so right! *genius*
I really can’t speak any more highly of Kerry and her amazing wool and crochet business. She has encouraged me to keep going with my pattern writing and blogging, and has inspired me to get cracking on the crochet pattern book I have in my head. She is truly an inspiration to me, I am so honoured to have met her, and I really hope I can visit her shop in the UK one day! *hint hint, dear husband, who I know reads my blog…!*
Who inspires you? Crochet-related, or otherwise… I’d love to hear about the heroes in your life, in the comments below!