How Sue's helping to make crochet cool
- Credit: Sue Maton
A Norwich-based textile designer and teacher is on a mission to reinvent crochet for crafters with curious minds.
Sue Maton owns and runs The Mercerie, a company offering crochet patterns and masterclasses, as well as an active Instagram account with around 7,000 followers.
Sue has a long and storied background in crafting and creating. She said: “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing, designing and making stuff.
“Crochet just happened to be the craft that required the least amount of prep, equipment and space when my children were very young and I was teaching full-time; it fits into a busy lifestyle.
“I did a degree in knitwear design in the 1980s, and then got a Masters at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA, or Norwich School of Design, as it was then) and a teaching qualification.
I worked in the art and design department at City College Norwich for more than 20 years, and I also taught part-time on the MA Textiles programme at NUA from 2004 to 2010. I eventually took voluntary redundancy to start my own business.”
Sue started The Mercerie in 2012. Initially the company mostly sold wool online, but Sue used to write knitting and crochet patterns as a way of helping to sell more yarn.
She said: “I realised quite soon that I was better at designing and making things than I was at selling wool, so I spent more time developing my products. I also began teaching crochet classes at yarn specialist Norfolk Yarn, which is based on Pottergate in Norwich, in around 2014.”
The classes grew, and by 2019 Sue was teaching in several yarn shops in Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, London and Kent. Since coronavirus changed our world at the start of 2020, though, Sue began to think creatively about how she could continue to share her expertise and passion without being able to meet people physically.
“I feel that crochet tends to get a bad press,” Sue explained. “It’s traditionally associated with an older demographic, but I think that nowadays the crafting community is centred more around ethics than age. Today’s crafters think carefully about the materials they use, the products they make and the reasons why they make them; this new demographic will ensure a healthy and exciting future for these valuable crafting traditions.”
For example, the Japanese craft of amigurumi focuses on crocheting cute little creatures; a long way from the awkward 1970s fashion garments and dowdy tabletop doilies often associated with crochet. Sue’s approach blends the traditional and the modern, focusing on the principles of colour harmony, surface pattern and the traditions of painting.
She said: “Crochet has the potential to be very organic, so I think of it like drawing or painting. For me crochet is just the vehicle for exploring colour and pattern, which is why I prefer to make blankets; they’re more like paintings than conventional crochet objects.”
Back in March, as a response to the first coronavirus lockdown, Sue launched a free online project called ‘Crojoretro’ (‘crojo’ is a contraction of ‘crochet mojo’), whereby people signed up to her newsletter in order to be sent crochet patterns for an ever-evolving, improvisational ‘mystery blanket’.
The project is still ongoing, and has attracted crochet enthusiasts from all over the world – Sue has even been interviewed by a Japanese TV channel to talk about it!
She said: “I’ve been bowled over by the response to the project. I’ve had people from as far afield as South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland and Jordan getting involved, and it gives me so much satisfaction to see people from all over the world creating mindfully based upon my patterns and concepts.”
So what is the next stage in Sue’s mission to bring crochet to a wider audience? She said: “I will be running new online courses in January and April 2021, teaching people how to create complex and beautiful crochet products that are designed to seduce the maker into the colourful world of slow making.”
These courses encourage crafters to connect with people all over the world and work playfully, intuitively and mindfully on the creation of something uniquely beautiful.
The crochet acts as a vehicle to draw students into other disciplines such as colour theory, design/aesthetics, confidence-building, occupational therapy and mindfulness.
Sue is not focusing exclusively online, though, and there will also be ‘real-life’ courses resuming in Norfolk as soon as government guidelines allow them to take place.
She said: “As well as regular classroom courses, I also run crochet retreats at Quaker Barns in Haveringland; obviously I wasn’t able to run them in 2020, but I hope to resume them next year. It’s an opportunity for people to immerse themselves in a whole weekend of crochet and colour work, with optional massage therapies and excellent cuisine provided by local restaurateur Jayne Raffles, who used to run The Library in Norwich, among other restaurants.”
So what would be Sue’s advice for anyone considering dabbling in the world of crochet? She said: “It’s just a wonderful way to invest your time. You can slowly and mindfully create products that will stand the test of time – and before you know it, you’ll be making heirloom pieces. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction that seeing the fruits of someone else’s labour based on the timeless skills they’ve acquired.”
For more information see www.themercerie.co.uk or follow her @themercerie on Instagram.