We chat to Mandy O’Sullivan of RedAgape, and nd out that a busy home life helps her creativity to thrive!
RedAgape’s Mandy O’Sullivan was initially attracted to crochet because she liked that it was versatile and portable, but then she had a revelation: “When I discovered the range of beautiful yarns that were available to play with, I fell completely head over heels in love with the craft.”
Mandy is entirely self-taught, with time, determination and good resources. “Most of what I know I’ve learned through books and online, or I’ve made it up myself! I don’t like to follow the rules too closely.”
Her first proper project was a colour block blanket. She recalls, “It was an ambitious beginner project. It took me six to eight weeks and I remember feeling so much joy watching the piles of coloured squares grow each day.” It was also a fantastic learn-as-yougo project. “Looking back now, I think this project helped to refine my tension and fluency, a bit like practising scales on the piano,” Mandy comments.
From here it was only a small skip to Mandy designing her own exuberant patterns. “Once I felt confident with the basics of crochet, I started to play with different stitch combinations just for fun – usually in the round, which meant I could use whatever I made as coasters, placemats or mandalas,” Mandy says. “I didn’t think of it as designing until I received pattern requests on Instagram. It was extremely flattering to know that other crocheters wanted my designs, which gave me the confidence to share more of what I was making.”
LAUNCHING AN EMPIRE
It was around this time that Mandy had the idea of launching her now hugely popular blog, www.RedAgapeblog.com.
“I wanted to change career to something more creative, so I launched RedAgape as an interior design, DIY and craft blog,” she says. “Over the last few years it has evolved into a fully-fledged crochet blog, which is just fine by me. You don’t need to know exactly where you’re going when you start something new, you just have to make a start and often life will pull you in the right direction. I love sharing ideas and introducing readers to crocheters from around the globe.”
Since launching the blog in 2012, it has sprouted a retail side, selling patterns, kits, yarn and more, which happily makes it the
“I REMEMBER FEELING SO MUCH JOY WATCHING THE PILES OF SQUARES GROW EACH DAY”
foundation of Mandy’s work life. We love how Mandy came up with the blog’s name… “Well, R, E and D, are the first initials of my children’s names (Rose, Eilish and Daniel), and ‘agape’ is Greek for unconditional love.” As well as her children, Mandy has four alpacas, two dogs, two cats, 10 goldfish and “too many chickens to count”, which begs the question: how do you fit your crochet time in? Mandy reveals, “I’m a freelance writer, photographer, crochet designer and blogger, as well as being a mum, which means life gets hectic. But isn’t everyone busy these days?”
Having a dedicated workspace at her home in New South Wales, Australia definitely helps. “My Hen’s Den is by far and away my favourite place to work on crochet designs,” Mandy shares. “It was a shed about 15m from the house which we transformed into my work space and craft studio. It’s 100% dedicated to colour and creativity. I’m surrounded by yarn, mood boards and books, and I have plenty of coffee on hand to keep me fuelled.”
One of the biggest challenges of running the business has been learning the skills to manage the blog and online store. “I knew nothing about the technology, but I was determined to do it myself,” says Mandy. “A lot of my time is spent behind the computer, more than I’d like, but that’s part of running your own online business.”
Reaching a broad audience of crocheters never fails to make Mandy smile, however. “One of the biggest delights is seeing other people make my designs! It never gets old,” she enthuses. “I especially love seeing my patterns made in different colour combinations. It completely changes how they look and makes the project really personal to the maker.”
This passion for boosting the creativity of others came to the fore when Mandy started #craftastherapy. “The hashtag was born during a particularly rough time in my life,” Mandy explains. “My mum had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and my own chronic illness was flaring out of control. I turned to craft as a way to distract and calm my restless mind, and I started to tag my craft images with #craftastherapy. Other crafters, who related to the therapeutic benefits of craft, started to use the tag too and it grew from there. The wonderful Nat from @littlecosythings now runs the @craftastherapy account and does an incredible job.” As well as the community support, Instagram is a wonderful source of inspiration for Mandy. “It’s not just about the crocheters – I follow photographers, stylists, artists and other crafters. The colours, textures and patterns from these varied feeds inspire me, but I find my best designs usually come from just sitting and playing quietly with my yarn.”
Mandy is no stranger to the occasional crochet disaster. “One of my biggest mistakes was not making a tension square for a granny stripe jumper before I got stuck in,” she remembers with a wry grin. “I was almost finished before I realised it was WAY too big! How did I fix it? Well, I didn’t. I decided that I would stick to making cushions, blankets and homewares. Maybe I’ll turn it into a cushion cover one day soon…”
Mandy’s currently bubbling with joy about the release of her first book, 12 Months of Crochet with RedAgape (www.meteoorbooks. com). “It’s a seasonal guide to year-round crocheting, with lots of step-by-step images, pretty pictures and charts,” Mandy says. “I’m my own harshest critic, so when I say I love it, I don’t say it lightly!” It’s a landmark moment for an ardent crocheter. We can’t wait to see what Mandy of RedAgape tackles next. Written by Judy Darley
“ONE OF THE BIGGEST DELIGHTS IS SEEING OTHER PEOPLE MAKE MY DESIGNS! IT NEVER GETS OLD”
Where all the magic happens – the colourful RedAgape studio, Australia