While putting together our Christmas Special issue, we caught up with knitting designer Sue Stratford to chat about her latest book, Merry Christmas Sweaters. Here’s what she had to say!
Tell us about writing Merry Christmas Sweaters. What inspired you to design jumpers for your next big project?
I was asked by Search Press to design a book of Christmas Sweaters. I was very excited to be asked because Christmas Sweaters were so popular last year. I only had three months to design and knit the sweaters which was a huge challenge, but with the help of some very good friends I managed it. One of my friends knitted over 70 red bobbles and another spent a good two days sewing them all into place.
Did you own a Christmas jumper when you were younger?
I have to confess I did have a Christmas jumper and I’m sure it is still somewhere in my loft. My Dad bought it for me one Christmas and it even has rhinestones on it, very blingy!
Are you a big Christmas lover?
I do love Christmas. I have five children and although some of them are beginning to get to the stage of not being so excited about Christmas, there is nothing better than seeing a small child’s excitement on Christmas Eve. I love getting the decorations out and I have a special garland which I put all my precious decorations on. Our tree is a bit of a ‘free for all’ - definitely no theme in this house, just ‘the more the better’!
Where do you think the craze for Christmas jumpers has come from?
I think the craze for wearing Christmas jumpers may have started with celebrities wearing them. Although perhaps people are ready for a bit of fun, and if you can’t wear something a bit out of the ordinary at Christmas, when can you? Just think of all those Christmas parties that have been brightened up with festive Jumpers. I went to a big clothing shop at the beginning of December last year with a friend, and we nabbed the last one in the shop. They couldn’t believe how quickly they had sold out!
What was the design process like?
I had no problem at all coming up with the designs, I knew the basic themes I wanted to do - a Christmas pudding had to be one of course. I also wanted a bit of humour in the sweaters, for example the adult’s reindeer jumper with a behind view of the reindeers featuring on the back of the jumper, and the robin on the back of the Snowman jumper.
Do you have any tips for beginners who might be unsure about knitting their first garment?
I would say stick to something simple. The jumper patterns in this book would be ideal as they are a basic shape and are written out row by row. Also, don’t look at the pattern as a whole, that is enough to put anyone off! Break it down and start with one piece, the rest will seem a lot easier after that. YouTube is also a fabulous resource for the beginner knitter - you can find any technique on there. If you want to knit an easy jumper easy then go for the Christmas Pudding. The pudding is knitted and then sewn on to the sweater.
What do you do with your designs once they’re made? Will your family be benefiting from lots of festive jumpers this winter?
The jumpers themselves seem to be on a bit of a tour this Autumn. They will be visiting various John Lewis stores, and will be exhibited at The Knitting and Stitching Shows in Alexandra Palace and Harrogate. I think my husband and two youngest daughters (who modelled for the book!) would like to wear one - but I don’t think I will be able to persuade my teenagers to put one on!
And finally, if you could just use one yarn for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?
Could I be greedy and have two? I would choose a pure Merino such as the Millamia yarn as it knits up so beautifully and gives great stitch definition. The other choice would be Alpaca, such as Artesano Alpaca, which feels so gorgeous and has a lovely weight and drape when it is knitted. Being made in natural fibres, both these yarns also come in such a beautiful range of colours.
You can download Sue’s Snowman Sweater here, in association with Save The Children. Why not knit yours in time for Christmas Jumper Day on December 13th? Just be sure to tweet us a picture to enter our special Readers’ Makes competition!