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Behind The Stitches: James-William

“I was in absolute awe watching her (my Gran) knit, and I loved the sound of her metal needles clinking against each other, so of course, I asked her to teach me"

Sam: Where are you from and where are you currently based?
James: I am from, and still currently living in a small town called Stroud, in Gloucestershire, which is surrounded by the beautiful Cotswolds.
Sam: Have you always been a creative person? Can you tell us about your grandmother and how she encouraged your relationship with crafting?
James: For as long as I can remember, I have always been a creative person and from a young age, I have been surrounded by many like-minded people. I was lucky enough to have parents who both really supported and encouraged my creativity. My Gran, however, was my biggest supporter and she has continued to be the biggest influence in my life. My parents worked throughout the summer months, so in the school holidays, I would spend all of my time with her doing mini craft projects together. I predominately remember making little purses out of scrap fabric on a hand-controlled, original Singer sewing machine. I was so proud of them, I would show them off to all my classmates when I returned to school!

Sam: What is your craft of choice?
James: I have two. My crafts of choice would most definitely be knitting and crochet. I would not be able to choose between them. I knit when I want to craft something challenging, and then I like to crochet when I want to relax.
Sam: How did you learn to knit and crochet? What was your first WIP?
James: I first learnt to knit when I was 14 years old by my Gran. No surprise there really! As I said, she really was my biggest supporter and would always encourage me to learn new things. I was in absolute awe watching her knit, and I loved the sound of her metal needles clinking against each other, so of course, I asked her to teach me. Like many others, my first project was a scarf. With crochet, I stumbled across the brand ‘TOFT’ by Kerry Lord on Instagram, who create patterns of amigurumi animals, and I became obsessed! I attended a craft show where they were exhibiting, and I could not help but to purchase the ‘Edwards Menagerie Birds’ book and some wool. I went straight home and spent a few weeks watching their tutorials on YouTube until I finally understood how to crochet. My first crochet project was ‘Sophia the Flamingo,’ which I later learnt was a harder project to start with.
"When I started to knit again properly a few years ago, it completely helped with my mental health and changed me for the better"

Sam: What has your crafting process brought to your life?
James: Crafting has brought many things to my life. One thing being an amazing community, that I really connect with. It is so incredible how supportive everyone is of one another. When I have been stuck on certain projects, I have had people offering to help me with video calls from halfway across the world! It is definitely a special community to be part of! The second thing being meditation. I suffered really badly from anxiety while growing up. When I started to knit again properly a few years ago, it completely helped with my mental health and changed me for the better. Having a pattern keeps my mind focused and busy in the evenings and the joy a project brings when finished is so rewarding.

Sam: Are you more of a process or a finished object crafter?
James: I would say I am more of a process crafter. With each project I start, I will choose something that has a skill I am yet to master. I love watching lots of videos on how to do that skill until I finally teach myself. I really love a challenge.
Sam: What does your yarn stash look like? How do you like to organize it?
James: I’m in the middle of creating a craft room and studio space, so my stash is not the most organised at the moment. But, I have recently purchased a glass cabinet which will eventually house all of my skeins, which will be organised by colour.

Sam: How do you support your crafting habit (aka your day job)?
James: I support my crafting habit by hairdressing. It is a job that I love as I get to meet lots of different people, and I still get to be super creative and make people feel beautiful. It can be a very rewarding job!

"I have come to realise recently how short life is and that you should grab every opportunity by the horns and not waste time not fulfilling your dreams"
Sam: When did you start experimenting with dyeing yarn?
James: I have always admired my fellow yarn dyers and the artistry that goes into dyeing yarn. I have always invested in my favourite indie dyers, and I really cherish any skeins of hand-dyed yarn that I am lucky to get. The brand TOFT, that I spoke about in a previous question, have a headquarters in the town of Rugby, where you can go and learn a craft at one of their many classes. I saw they were holding a yarn dying class, so I immediately signed up. The class was amazing, and I left feeling inspired. I began to watch dozens of videos focusing on yarn dying and I started to experiment at home. So it all started from the enjoyment I had at the class, and the excitement I felt when creating my own colour ways.

Sam: You recently announced that you are going to be launching your own collection of hand-dyed yarn. Can you walk us through what led you to make this leap into creating your upcoming yarn brand?
James: Without sounding too cliche, I have come to realise recently how short life is and that you should grab every opportunity by the horns and not waste time not fulfilling your dreams. As much as I love being a hairdresser, I have had an overwhelming urge for some time now to start my own brand and turn a real passion of mine into a business, that I can share with people who, like me, appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into dyeing yarn. I was nervous to make the leap and I became riddled with self-doubt, but luckily I had many people around me who filled me with encouragement. One person in particular, who happens to be a successful indie dyer herself, was nothing but reassuring and approving. She sat me down and gave me ‘the chat.’ She told me to follow my dreams, and start believing in myself. It worked, and it really helped in me taking the leap.

Sam: What are some of the biggest hurdles and lessons you've learned from the process of starting your own business so far?
James: This is only the beginning for me, so I am sure there will be plenty more hurdles I will have to overcome, but for the time being, it has been the juggling of working full time and creating my own brand that has been the biggest hurdle. I’m dedicated to my job and like I have said I really love hairdressing, so it is trying to find the spare time, along with balancing everything else going on in my life, to try and build my brand and actually dye the yarn itself. It’s not as easy as just dyeing beautiful coloured yarn and selling it. I want my brand to have an identity, and be something visually and aesthetically I am proud of. So for me, at the moment, my Instagram and social media presence is fundamental in building my brand. That in itself is a hurdle and a lesson I have learnt from the process, as I am constantly trying to improve my imagery and generate engaging content. I have learnt that the more time you put into your posts, and the more you interact with your following, the more exposure it brings to your brand which in turn builds your brand.

Sam: Have you ever thought about designing your own patterns? Is that something you might consider in the future?
James: This is something I have been asked a number of times by friends and fellow crafters but for the time being, it is not something I am considering. I would really like to focus on the yarn business and see where that takes me, but I would never say never.
Sam: Are there any books, youtube channels, or classes that you would recommend to people who are thinking about starting their own brand?

James: I think when starting out, the identity of the brand is one of the most important things. I would start with Instagram. It has taken me a couple of years to establish what my brand is about and what I want to portray through my imagery. The book ‘Hashtag Authentic’ by Sara Tasker is an incredible learning tool for finding an identity on Instagram.
Sam: What do you like to binge-watch or listen to while you craft?
James: I love watching podcasts about knitting and crochet. My all-time favourite is ‘The Chelsea Purls Podcast’ I have never missed an episode! Watching Christina, Miriam and Red Bank Mike is like hanging out with best friends. Although the podcast is primarily about knitting, they always go off on a tangent, telling the most hilarious stories!

..........

If you want to see more of James's work and follow his crafting journey you can follow him on Instagram @jamesmakesthings.
Who should I talk to next? Leave your suggestions in the comments section along with any thoughts you have about James's interview. I’m always on the hunt for inspiring crafters. Also, don't forget to follow along on my Instagram account @bobbleclubhouse for your daily dose of all things fiber. Until next time, happy crafting!

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