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Search Press

Search Press specialist art and craft booksellers

Search Press

Search Press specialist art and craft booksellers

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Meet the author: Trixie von Purl

Trixie von Purl is a grande dame from Bath, who lives in a formidable Georgian residence on the sweeping Royal Crescent. Her home is decorated in flawless Regency style, inspired by the enchanting novels of Jane Austen. The hub of the local social scene, she loves to entertain and her wit is razor-sharp. Like Austen’s heroine Emma Woodhouse her mantra is: “I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other”. She does have a softer side too, though, and loves knitting Austen-inspired dolls with her friends—the perfect time for a good gossip.

An Interview with Trixie von Purl

Where were you born?

I’m an Essex girl born and bred, originally from the end of the District Line. My parents were from the East End and migrated slightly further east along the estuary post-war, as so many did. After a few lengthy diversions via London and France, I now live in East Sussex.

What is your educational background?

I took what was then A’levels at school, then left to study French, German and tourism courses. That was cut short so I went out to work for 10 years, then decided to do a degree – it was either Art or Literature, and since Art required a further year’s Foundation course (plus my confidence was rather shaky in that area), I went for an English BA at the grand old age of 27. I’d still like to do an Art degree one day!

What first got you interested in craft?

It’s always been a part of my life, it’s never been a conscious decision to get involved. My mum and grandmas were all knitters and seamstresses so it was natural for me to pick up fabric and needles and play around with them. There have been times in my life when it hasn’t been as prominent as it is now, but it’s always been lurking in the background. Ours was a classic 70s TV-watching household, and (somewhat conversely) the limited channel providers seemed to urge kids to peel themselves away from the box, get out there and do something, so the DIY Blue Peter and ‘Why Don’t You’ culture also had their effect.

How long have you been crafting?

As long as I can remember … my earliest crafting memories are of trying to make clothes for my dolls, of cutting out the front of a dress and not realising it needed a back – some kind of 3-d form lack of recognition (in my defense, I was very short sighted)! My Christmas presents always included something crafty: how-to-draw books, a plastic potter’s wheel, an origami book, a macramé kit, always something along those lines.  As I got older the knitting took over and there was always a willing pair of hands around to help me out when I went wrong.

Where do you get your materials?

I’m always on the lookout for great yarns, so I try to go to as many craft and knitting events and fairs as possible to see what’s out there and buy up samples and yarn cards. I do like to see and feel my yarns but sadly there is such a dearth of great yarn shops around where I live, so I often resort to the web (often buying from the samples I’ve bought at events). Time (or lack of it) is usually a big factor when I’m working on a book project, so the web can be a great help. Predictably there are some great yarn shops in London including the amazing Loop, so I sometimes treat myself to yarn trip.

How/Where did Search Press discover you?

My first book for Search Press was ‘Knit Back In Time’, a ‘how-to’ vintage knitting book which came about through my blog. I was selling vintage knitting patterns at the time and writing about how to adapt them on my website Skiff Vintage Knitting Patterns. I’ve since covered new ground with my character books … I think versatile is the word!

What were your first thoughts when asked to write a book?

I was thrilled to be able to share my passion for my craft and hopefully to be able to de-mystify knitting, and to help give people the confidence to try out new things.

Has publishing a book changed your life in any way?

In one way life is very much outwardly the same – I still do the housework, school runs, dog walks etc! But I have had the joy of meeting like-minded souls and being able to collaborate with some wonderfully creative people. It’s also made me much more disciplined and focused. I’m often guilty of procrastination, but there’s no time for that when you’re working to deadlines. Nowadays if I have an idea I’m much more likely to give it a go and see it through to the finish rather than it milling around in my head for ages until I eventually dismiss it.

Any tips for beginners?

Give yourself time to get to grips with your chosen craft – it’s so easy to get disappointed and give up when things don’t go right immediately, especially in this instant-fix/immediate-gratification culture we find ourselves in, but many of these crafts aren’t meant to be quick (and that’s particularly applicable to knitting). Set your expectations – if you build in a bit of time for going wrong then you won’t feel so bad if you do and are more likely to put it right and carry on. If you don’t, then it’s a bonus!

What is your favourite craft tool?

I’m a recent convert to Knit Pro needles. I spent years using my Mum’s old steel needles in a bout of misguided nostalgia, but I got a set of Knit Pro’s as for Christmas a couple of years and there’s no going back now.

Have you travelled for your craft?

Not to any great extent, but I do get out and about doing workshops and classes. One of my most enjoyable trips has been to the Sirdar vaults in Wakefield, where I was allowed to rifle through their incredible archive of vintage patterns for a couple of days. I also had fun holding a vintage knitting workshop at a Rough Trade event in Nottingham.

Where does your inspiration come from?

So many places! The character books particularly have seen me drawing on ideas from my past which I never expected to re-visit. The techniques, clothing and yarns I use are still inspired by mid-20th century knitting (I prefer to use fine yarns and needles and put as much detail as I can into my projects). I’ve always worked in creative industries so our incredibly rich popular culture and imagery often finds its way into my designs. I really wanted to be a cartoonist or an illustrator when I was at school and although that didn’t work out, great illustrators are still a constant source of wonder to me, so in a (very modest) way my knitted characters are a way of channelling that early ambition. And then of course there’s my everlasting love of literature – so I’m not quite an illustrator, but I do feel like I’m getting to tell stories with my knitting!

 

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