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Friday, 31 October 2014


You will probably best know the incredibly talented Sue Stratford for her knitted meerkats, dogs, puppies, cats and kittens! She often refers to herself, with a rueful smile, as 'the meerkat lady' - it is after all the book that first catapulted her to the heady heights of the Top Ten best selling craft books on Amazon, and earned her a loyal fan base eager to knit and collect her menagerie of cute creature characters.

Sue's talents don't end at conjuring up knitted animals though. She owns The Knitting Hut yarn shop (which does stock MillaMia!), has presented on Create and Craft TV and as well as writing her knitted characters books, has published a book of Mini Christmas Knits and a book of Merry Christmas Sweaters.

With the launch of a brand new FREE Sue Stratford Christmas Sweater pattern in conjunction with Deramores and to support Christmas Jumper Day on Friday 12th December for Save the Children AND knitted entirely in our lovely new Naturally Soft Aran yarn, we thought it was high time we asked Sue for an interview. Luckily for us, she agreed!
The FREE Christmas sweater pattern designed by Sue for Deramores

1) Can you introduce yourself, the shop and tell us a bit about how you came to start designing.
Well my name is Sue Stratford and I have owned and run The Knitting Hut since December 2005 when I started work on getting the shop ready to open. I have stocked unusual and interesting yarns over the years, always trying to find something a bit different whether expensive or at the cheaper end of the market. I started designing or 'making patterns up' as I called it to use up yarn which had not sold. This is where the Fluffy Mousies came from. Originally they were knitted in a boucle yarn which just had not sold, however once I made the mousies out of it, it flew off the shelves and I had to look for an alternative yarn. A good friend of mine gave me a little mousie knitted using angora yarn and that was it, I had found my new yarn!

 2) You are most well known for your knitted collectables – how did you find yourself designing a Christmas Sweater?
The idea for a Christmas Sweater book came about from a conversation I had with Caroline, one of the directors of Search Press. At first it was going to be a much smaller project which then took on a life of it's own and twelve sweaters later the book was born! I have been lucky enough to be involved with the Save The Children Christmas Jumper Day campaign for the last two years as a result of the book which is a fantastic charity and one I have been proud to support.

3) I am always interested in the design process – where did the idea for the sweater come from and how did you go about bringing your idea to life?
I love the idea of having something extra and the design for the Christmas Tree and Dog was one that I originally did for the book but didn't make it in. I had great fun making the dog and tree 'wrap' around the jumper, I think it is great with a novelty knit like this to have something to see on the back too. The Reindeer design which is in the book also wraps around, the Reindeers' bottoms are on the back of the sweater.

Deramores are also generously donating £2.50 from the sale of every copy of Merry Christmas Sweaters to Save The Children 

4) We loved that you chose to use the new MillaMia Naturally Soft Aran – what is it about MillaMia yarn that so attracts you?
I have always loved MillaMia yarn and I have used the Naturally Soft Merino sportweight in a number of my designs. I love the feel of the yarn and the stitch definition is lovely although I would be hard pressed to decide whether those are the things I love most or the colours! Putty Grey has to be my all time favourite colour and I used the Limited Edition Cobalt and Lime to make Danger Dog in my last book. I also used Petal for a pink French Poodle - of course! The addition of the Naturally Soft Aran range has just increased the possibilities of what I can do with the yarn and it was just perfect for this project! I used the lovely new Cherry Red for the main body of the sweater, Emerald for the tree, Latte for the sausage dog and Ochre for the garland and star.
MillaMia Naturally Soft Aran was perfect for the Christmas Sweater

5) What else have you got on the needles at the moment? Is there a new Sue Stratford book on the horizon?
At the moment I am trying to finish the next book which is 'More Mini Christmas Knits'. This is a result of people saying they have knitted everything from Mini Christmas Knits and want more! I am also working on a design I made in the summer for a yoked cardigan, initially knitted in a cotton but now also in wool which is nearly ready to be published. I have promised myself the reward of a new project for me when I've finished the book - the project is Unicorn Stripes by Antonia Shankland.

6) Lastly, where can we find the pattern?
Deramores and Search Press have been very generous in publishing the pattern for free in all four adult sizes which is great! The pattern can be downloaded direct from Deramores . . .
(posted by Max)

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