PROFILE: SARAH SHRIMPTON
Join us for a trip to Annaboo’s House to meet designer and author Sarah Shrimpton as she enters a new, yarn-infused chapter.
For Sarah Shrimpton, growing up in a craft-loving family meant there was no shortage of exposure to the delights of knitting. Crochet, however, was a discovery Sarah needed to make on her own – and she hasn’t looked back since!
“It’s quite strange really – I only have early memories of knitting!” she says. “My mum is a knitter and I remember she would make jumpers for my brother and I, and clothes for our toys. She tried to teach me to knit, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it – my tension was always awful and I remember the sound of the yarn squeaking on the needles.”
The next time Sarah picked up some yarn was a few years ago, when her daughter was a baby. “I remembered those disastrous attempts at knitting and decided to learn to crochet instead,” she says. “So I armed myself with some books and some blogs and taught myself.”
Sarah was keen from the outset to find her own route into the possibilities presented by crochet. “I don’t think I ever followed a pattern exactly, even when I first started,” she says. “I could always see how I could adjust something, or change the shaping to fit what I wanted. As my children were very little, I started with toys.”
GOING HER OWN WAY
At first, Sarah tried adapting patterns to suit, but soon realised she could create her own patterns from scratch. “From there, I began trying new techniques and expanded into creating other crochet patterns.”
It all fed beautifully into Sarah’s thriving blog, Annaboo’s House. “I set up Annaboo’s House initially to document my crochet journey,” she explains. “But now it’s become a place where I share free patterns and tutorials, and it gives me the opportunity to review books and products, too.”
Sarah launched her Etsy shop around the same time, selling completed items she’d designed and crocheted. “This developed into a pattern-only shop,” she says. “I realised that making multiple versions of an item was not something I really enjoyed – it was the designing stage that I loved.”
Social media is becoming increasingly important when it comes to spreading the word. “My blog is where I go when I have something to write about, but in terms of
every day, I use Instagram,” she says. “I find it’s the best place to share pictures of the projects I’m working on. I’ve found Instagram to be a brilliant place to connect with other designers and makers.”
But what prompted the name? “‘Annaboo’ is the nickname we called our daughter when she was little, and it just kind of stuck!”
Recent developments with Sarah’s business have included a new yarn-based venture. “I’ve started dyeing my own yarn,” Sarah says. “I’d been to a few yarn festivals and had fallen in love with the beautiful hand-dyed skeins I was seeing and was keen to try it for myself. ”
She was determined to teach herself, so she invested in a few kilograms of undyed yarn and some basic equipment, started dyeing in her kitchen at home, and tested her results out on her friends.
Sarah was keen to use natural plant extracts and dyes, and launched into her own investigations. “One of my most interesting dye experiments has been avocados – the skins and stones create the most beautiful blush pinks and so I’m dyeing gradient sets of mini skeins to really show these off.”
Alongside yarn development, Sarah continues to love designing new patterns for Annaboo’s House and shop, and, luckily for us, working with Simply Crochet. “I was also asked recently to join the Stylecraft Yarns team of bloggers, called the Stylecraft Blogstars,” she says enthusiastically. “This has been a wonderful experience and I have the privilege of travelling up to the mill in Yorkshire twice a year with my fellow Blogstars to see the new collections, try lots of new yarn and take part in some amazing workshops – it’s brilliant fun!”
Sarah has also published rather a lot of crochet books – a chapter of her work life that she finds particularly fulfilling. “Everything took off rather suddenly,” she tells us. “A commissioning editor from a publishing house approached me and asked if I’d like to write Beginner’s Guide to Crochet. I was absolutely surprised and, of course, agreed!”
She found the whole process fascinating. “I had the opportunity to design 20 projects to guide a beginner through those early phases of learning to crochet,” she says.
“I had to provide the text for the book, too, which took a lot of work, but I really enjoyed the writing.”
In contrast, Sarah finds the design process one of her more relaxing tasks. “If I’m just starting out, I sit on my comfy sofa at home, surrounded by my yarn and with a cup of tea nearby and the radio on in the background,” she says. “My essentials are kept in a basket within easy reach and contain the necessities: hooks, scissors, tape measure and my phone – particularly useful if I want to check a stitch or refer to a technique.”
This is a vital part of the process when Sarah is trying out new effects. “I’m really into mixing up stitches in designs at the moment, and using bands of different stitches to create texture and show off what the yarn can do,” she says. “When I’m working with some of the giant yarns, I’ve found that using simple stitches gives the best effect.”
HER OWN CREATIONS
Currently, Sarah’s enjoying designing patterns to use with her own hand-dyed yarns. “I want to create a series of patterns that my buyers can make from the yarn they buy from me,” she says.
For the immediate future, Sarah aims to continue doing everything she’s currently engaged in, with a few possible additions.
“I’ll be designing, of course, and I would love to write another book. I’m really enjoying dyeing and selling my own yarn and have plans to develop this further with some chunkier lines. I’ll also make sure that there are plenty of free patterns offered on my blog, as it’s the place where everything began.”
Written by Judy Darley
Find out more at www.annabooshouse. blogspot.co.uk and www.etsy.com/uk/shop/ AnnaboosHouse
Turn over to page 58 to find Sarah’s springtime ombre cowl made using her own avocado-dyed mini skeins of yarn.
“ONE OF MY MOST INTERESTING DYE EXPERIMENTS HAS BEEN WITH AVOCADOS – THEY CREATE PINKS!”
Sarah’s favourite part of crocheting is the design process.