As 2014 has drawn to a close and we’re at the start of 2015, I wanted to reflect on my year and what a year it’s been!
2014 started off quite quiet and as I was still Rowan’s head designer I spent most of the month researching trends for Magazine 57 which is just about to be launched in a few weeks time. We also finalised the designs for the home-ware feature in Magazine 56 and I excitedly saw my first independent book ‘Windswept’ go to print! As I was planning to run the Great North Run for the Alzheimer’s Society later in the year, I started my training!
My first independent book.
The new Rowan Magazine out on the 15th January
February again was mostly taken up with Rowan work…art directing the ‘Colourful Home’ shoot for Magazine 56, sending the design brief out to freelance designers for Magazine 57 and towards the end of the month I briefed the 2nd year students of the BA Fashion Knitwear and Knitted Textiles course on the Wool Week project I was going to teach at Nottingham Trent University. February also saw me design for my second independent book ‘Lakeland’ which I was planning to photograph at the end of April.
Two of the Wool Week designs from the students of Nottingham Trent University. They were on display at the Wool Interiors exhibition at Southwark Cathedral during Wool Week in October.
‘Windswept’ was launched this month and I was so happy with the response I got, lots of amazing comments and my stock of copies sold out really quickly! The rest of the month was spent designing for Rowan Magazine 57 and teaching at Nottingham Trent University. I also planned my ‘Lakeland’ photography shoot, arranging to photograph at Shacklabank Farm in the Lake District… the home of the lovely Shepherdess, Alison O’Neill.
Some of the designs from Windswept…
April was a really busy month for me, finishing designs for Rowan and for a Rowan online collection in the Pure Wool Worsted yarn. The rest of the month was taken up with planning the ‘Lakeland’ shoot and preparing for my first workshop at the Watermill in Tuscany! I held my colour workshop at the village hall in Hoby, which went down really well but on Wednesday 30th in the early hours, I suffered a heart attack!
Shacklabank Farm, the location for Lakeland
It wasn’t until the first weekend in May that I started to become ill and suffered, what turned out to be several angina attacks and one more suspected heart attack. I went into the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester on Sunday 4th May and had a stent fitted on Thursday 8th May after discovering that I had a narrowing in my right coronary artery apparently caused by my genetic makeup. A massive thank you to the staff at Glenfield, I had fantastic care.
My life changed this month! A lot of my planned work had to be cancelled, including my first workshop in Tuscany (thankfully Nancy Merchant stepped in for me) and all my work with Rowan. I came out of hospital feeling rather delicate and weak but slowly started to recover (once I had gotten used to the drugs!) I received so many well wishes which helped me to come to terms with what had happened to me and to accept how lucky I had been! Thankfully my ‘Lakeland’ book was more or less put to bed and I only a few things to do before it could go to print, it was launched at the end of May.
My second independent book
Some designs from Lakeland…
…saw me starting to do a little work for Rowan again. I researched the trends for next autumn winter and wrote the design brief for Magazine 58. Lisa Richardson and Sarah Hatton kindly stepped in for me and art directed and styled the two location stories for Magazine 57. However I did manage to art direct and style the Essentials collection at the end of June, maybe a little too soon in hindsight, as I was very tired a lot of the time. On a personal note, we managed to get away for a weekend to the Goodwood Festival of Speed towards the end of the month, which was lovely as I previously had to cancel a trip to the Chelsea Flower Show in London, which I was really looking forward to.
Philomena, one of my designs from the Rowan Mag 57 Essentials collection
This was another designing month…for Rowan Magazine 58. I also held my first workshop week at the Watermill in Tuscany. Mark came with me for moral support and it was great. The Watermill at Posara in Tuscany, Bill and Lois, and all the ladies, were simply fabulous. I’m already looking forward to holding two more workshops there this year in May and September. Bill has already told me that the May workshop is already full and there is only one place left on the September one! This is great news, despite the fact that I’ve not even designed the projects yet!
…was my 50th birthday month and we had a week’s holiday in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. It was great just to be able to walk in such breathtaking landscape and enjoy the company of good friends and my dogs! Prior to this, all my family came to visit, including my brother, his wife and daughter from the US and a great time was had by all. The Campaign for Wool commissioned me to design two cushions for Wool Week and a throw for their forthcoming exhibition in London. This commission resulted in the popular Herdwick and Bluefaced Leicester sheep cushions and the ‘Sage Fairisle Throw’.
I started my workshops back up this month with the popular Mosaic Lap Rug. It was great to return to more or less normal life again! I also decided to alter how I work with Rowan. With mutual agreement we decided that I would no longer be head designer and that I would only be contracted to do some designing and art direct and style a couple of shoots for them each season. It was a big decision as it meant a sizeable cut in my income but it’s a decision that I’ve not regretted. I thought I would miss doing the job but I’m now so much happier!! I’m a lot less stressed and I am really enjoying growing my own business. I also started work on my third independent book, ‘Filigree’ which is out later this month.
The Mosaic Lap Rug
October saw me holding mostly workshops…free ones at the Wool Interiors Exhibition at Southwark Cathedral for Wool Week and my own weekend workshop where I welcomed a delightful group of ladies from Chicago in the US. It was great to see my ‘Sage Throw’ exhibited at the Cathedral and I received so many positive comments about it and what I was doing…a big boost to my confidence!
November saw my ‘Filigree’ photography shoot (I will be writing a post about the book very soon)…I must confess that I’m so pleased with this book! I also held my very popular crochet cowl workshop. I’ve had a lot of enquiries about this design, so I’ve decided to offer it as a kit later this year. I also art directed and styled three photography shoots for Rowan…two for Magazine 58 (one on location at Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire and the other was a studio ‘Essentials’ shoot) and the third shoot was for an accessory book featuring a Rowan new yarn.
Filigree – my third independent book, available from the 15th January
My crochet cowl
Beacon Hill Country Park, the location for ‘Tranquil’, one of the collections for Rowan Mag 58
After my last workshop (Christmas Ideas) at the beginning of the month I decided to take a bit of time off from my work…and what did I do, decorated our dining room of course! Well it’s finished and the curtains are made and we both love it. It’s more of a library than a dining room really as all our books are in here. It’s also a music room as my much awaited piano has finally been delivered. This beautiful antique walnut piano was my 50th birthday present from Mark, and I love it…I now only need to learn how to play it!
The hot water bottle cover from the Christmas Ideas workshop
Well as the new year starts I plan to be back working from Monday, I’ve got lots of designing to do….for a new exciting idea I’m planning for this year (soon to be announced) and for my fourth book, which will be a vintage children’s book called ‘Once Upon a Time. I’ve also got to design the projects for my various workshops so that I can release the online bookings for these and organise and plan my new online shop which will be live in the spring.
I want to thank you all for your support this year and I wish you all a very Happy New Year and I hope that you will enjoy reading about my forthcoming knitting adventures!
Happy 2015 from me, Norah and Nelly!