Cheryl Lampard is a knitting enthusiast, designer and educator who thrives on sharing her love for the craft. Through her Facebook Live instructional videos, Cheryl shares her skills with as many people as possible. And if you’re not sure what will be just the right project for you, Cheryl can take care of you. She is a Style Coach, too!
How long have you been knitting? How did you get started?
It feels as though I’ve always knitted as I don’t remember specifically learning how to knit. Fortunately, I grew up in a family with parents and grandparents with skills in a variety of handcrafts. I watched them do certain things – knitting was one of them. It was almost by the process of osmosis I learned how to do it too. I have a vague recollection of being given a small basket containing little balls of colored yarn and a pair of kiddie-sized plastic knitting needles when I was around age 4 or 5. So on that basis, I’ve been knitting for sixty years now! As to whether it was my mother or grandmother who taught me, I can’t recall.
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What part of knitting do you enjoy most?
It’s almost easier to say what part I find least enjoyable! (Which would be sewing in all the ends after I finish a project.)
But I do love choosing the yarn. Sometimes the yarn dictates what I’ll make with it – I just want to get my hands on it! Other times there’s a design or pattern I want to make, and that’ll inform my yarn decisions. Then of course, there’s the tactile aspect of working with gorgeous yarn; the feel of it running through my fingers is very special.
You previously owned a yarn store in the UK – what motivated you to open it?
It was the mid-1980s, and knitting was enjoying a big revival with lots of creative designs and innovative new yarns. Yet when I went shopping for yarn, it wasn’t the same experience as going into fabric shops. They were energizing and fashion driven, but many local yarn stores felt dated and unexciting; they just didn’t reflect the knitting trends designers
I named my store, in Brighton, England, “YōMō” (Japanese for wool, literally meaning “hair of the sheep”). We created an environment that drew people in, for them to enjoy and be inspired by gorgeous yarns. One of the most interesting things we did was to color block the yarn display rather than organize by category. By that, I mean all the reds were together, all the blues together, whites and creams together, and so on, regardless of whether a smooth yarn, a fluffy yarn, a worsted, a chunky, etc.
I’d seen it done with clothing, but I’d never seen it done before with yarn. Initially, I was concerned it might confuse the customer, but it didn’t at all! In fact, it helped the customer’s purchase decision; people didn’t always know what they wanted to knit when they walked through the door, but they’d see a fabulous textured yarn, or a color that spoke to them, and they decided more easily.
During this time, I’d been designing knitwear and knitting kits for the store. Then William Bill, a long-established cashmere house founded in 1846, commissioned me to design an exclusive range of intarsia sweaters for their shop in Old Bond Street, London. The range was called “Heraldic”, and the garments were all made in Scotland using 4-ply cashmere. It was a wonderful opportunity, albeit a different experience, designing machine-made garments as opposed to handknits.
Tell us about Knitter Matters. What inspired you to start the video series and what do you hope it will accomplish?
Although I sew as well as knit, I find knitting very therapeutic; I do it every day, usually in the evening. Like a lot of knitters, I do it while I’m watching something on TV – it’s my relaxation.
Then in March, COVID-19 became a pandemic. I thought with everyone staying home or in lockdown, learning to knit, or picking it up again, could be a calming and creative outlet for people, one that didn’t need a ton of equipment or expenditure to get started. Sitting knitting one evening, I announced to my husband I was going to teach people how to knit via Facebook Live. He looked up and said, “You’d better do it then!” Of course, once I said it out loud, I was committed! Less than a week later I did the very first one via my personal Facebook page; within a few weeks, it became obvious it needed to have its own dedicated page. That inspired Knitter Matters Facebook page, Instagram account and YouTube channel as well as a page on my website for Style Matters International.
Excitingly, the media picked up the story. They were looking for a “good news” angle – and Fox 4 TV interviewed me. Shortly after that I was a guest on the Open for Business with Gibbons & Cipolla radio show. As a result, the online yarn and craft retailer Mary Maxim approached me to use and showcase their products.
My goal was – and still is – to inspire and educate. Whether it’s someone who’s never picked up knitting needles before or someone who tried it once and then forgot how to do it, I want to get them started with the basics, help them progress and discover what a wonderful fiber art knitting is.
What projects would you suggest to a beginner knitter? Do you have specific patterns you would recommend?
It’s hard to recommend specific patterns because everyone’s tastes vary, but it should be something of interest to the knitter. The first project we made in Knitter Matters was a neck cowl using a pattern from Ravelry. It was simple and quick to knit and covered some new-to-the-beginner techniques, including making basic buttonholes. At the end of it the knitter had a
wearable accessory, not just a knitting sample.
Another project that’s great for newbie knitters is a cushion cover or afghan made from squares. Each square can be a different stitch pattern and/or color, so it’s a great way to practice different stitch techniques. It doesn’t feel as onerous as starting on an entire blanket.
Can someone who has failed at learning to knit become successful?
Absolutely! Not everyone takes to it at first. It also has a lot to do with what you knitted in the past. If the project didn’t appeal to you, or you disliked the color or yarn, you wouldn’t have enjoyed it. I’d suggest having another go and watch Knitter Matters’ videos to help you!
What do you do with all of those little bits and ends of yarn? Do you have some suggested projects?
I always keep them, and the first thing I do is wind them into yarn butterflies or around cardboard bobbins so they don’t become a tangled mess. Even the smallest lengths are useful as color swatches when picking several colors for a project. For longer lengths, I knit up sample squares, block them, and label them with the yarn and needle size used. They’re not only handy for reference purposes, but for matching buttons and trims. I always have swatches in my purse as I just know I’ll find the perfect buttons when I’m not looking for them!
Who or what has inspired/influenced/empowered you?
I get inspiration from all sorts of things – color, art, museum exhibitions, fabric, nature, etc. So many people have inspired and encouraged me, from designers and writers to colleagues and mentors, friends and family. All have been incredibly supportive. The person I must give massive credit to is my husband. He believes in me and my talents wholeheartedly, even when I have doubts.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I’m an organizer, a detail person, so I generally plan first. But as the project goes on there’s often an organic shift, and improvisation takes over. That said, there’s something very liberating about just “going for it” and seeing where it takes me!
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
When I first opened YōMō, I wanted to do all the knitting and make all the custom sweater orders myself. I almost felt that I had to. As orders came in, I soon recognized that was totally unrealistic, and I had to trust in other people – but it was my job to manage the process. It took time and some false starts to find the right knitters, but it was so worth it to get the right team.
What I learned: (a) You can’t grow a business – a creative one or otherwise – if you continue to do everything yourself. Trust that others can do as good a job as you – and if they do a better job than you, you really want them on your team! (b) It’s my failure if I don’t put systems and processes in place or if I don’t give clear directions or set expectations. Train people, trust them.
(c) Never stop learning!
How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
I like being organized and able to find things. That’s not to say my studio doesn’t look like a battle zone at times, but I can’t leave it in a mess! I’m more productive and it helps my thought process when there’s a modicum of order around me.
What is your favorite storage tip for your yarn and creative supplies?
I keep my yarn in free-standing mesh drawer units, knitting needles and crochet hooks are in roll-up fabric or zippered cases, design ideas and patterns are in plastic sleeves in ring binders.
My knitting books (which I refer to a lot) are in a bookcase, organized in a way that makes sense to me. On display, because I find them attractive as well as practical, are my wooden yarn butler, skein winder and pottery yarn bowl.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Quality knitting needles, tools that feel good in the hand, are the things I can’t do without. When making samples and demonstrating techniques, I have the beginner in mind, so I work with yarns that are readily available and inexpensive; they’re not always the easiest yarns to
work with, but using good tools really makes a difference.
My dress form – Mabel Mannequin – has become an indispensable fixture in Knitter Matters videos! Thinking of creative ways in which to dress Mabel each week has become something of a challenge. I task myself with only using what’s on hand in my studio. It has to be yarn/knitting related, can’t take more than 15 minutes to put together and be a different outfit every week. Creating her look each week clears my mind and helps me refocus.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I don’t like working in silence. Although I enjoy audiobooks and podcasts, I don’t play them while I’m working as interesting little nuggets distract me and I have to stop and listen.
What works for me is streaming a radio channel or music via my iPad – it’s like aural wallpaper.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people? Or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
Creativity means different things to different people. We can’t all become a great painter or designer, and we don’t have to! I do believe we all have a creative side – we just don’t always know how that will manifest itself. It might be as simple as trying something we never thought we’d enjoy doing that sparks creativity. We just need to learn to trust the process, to let go – and see where it takes us.
What’s next for Cheryl Lampard and Knitter Matters?
Clearly with Knitter Matters I’ve come full circle and returned to my knitting roots. I’d like to do more designing and would like to produce a book on knitting. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but I’m drawn towards a fashion and vintage theme. As for teaching, I want to continue doing it. And I look forward to creating more strategic alliances with yarn companies and developing various online and in person opportunities, not just in the USA but around the globe.
Interview posted November 2021
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