CulturePurl-fect Stitches

Purl-fect Stitches

She’s a professional business coach and trainer by day, and has run her own business (CIEC) for nearly twenty years. But when Tracey leaves her office, the knitting needles come out. Click clicking together to create knitted pieces of all forms: from jumpers to bags, sunglasses cases and mini shorts, knitted necklaces and skirts. For Tracey, knitting’s not just a productive hobby, it’s a mindful and meditative process, and she radiates a genuine enthusiasm for wool, sewing and all things reworked.

Growing up with two keen-knitter grandmothers, Tracey says she was taught and has practised knitting from a young age. She tells me that in her late teens, when she was away doing voluntary work, she knitted a jumper for her then-boyfriend but got the sizing wrong, and sent a jumper that was rather large. He wrote a note back saying, ‘Thank you for my jumper. My friends and I go out in it at weekends.’ That boyfriend is now her husband, but Tracey laughs that she hasn’t knitted anything for him since!

Knitting has become something more than just passing wool from needle to needle for Tracey. In her own words: “Knitting (along with swimming in the sea) definitely helps me stay sane!”

“When you’re in the flow of knitting, the rhythmical nature of the stitches is quite meditative, and I find it settles my thinking, which incidentally, swimming does too. There is also something about the tactile nature of good quality, natural yarn and bamboo needles that I find therapeutic”

“As an added bonus, having a knitting project on the go allows me to sit with my husband and sons while they watch the sports channel, without the guilt I associate with sitting around watching telly!”

Knitting is a skill that allows one to constantly be learning, and Tracey is very open about that process- telling me she often asks for advice from people at the wool shop or looks up technique videos on Youtube. Her process of knitting a new creation usually starts with researching online. For example, when Tracey’s niece asked for a pair of knitted mini shorts, the first step was to look for a quirky pattern. The shorts involved knitting eyelets for a drawstring waist and ruffles on the hems, which she’d never done before. But once a technique has been learnt, it can be applied to other forms- for example, a drawstring in a pair of knitted shorts can then be replicated on skirts or sunglasses cases.

Tracey says, “If like a project, I often end up making multiples in different stitches and colours. Needless to say, my family and friends all got sunglass cases as presents that year. They have mastered the art of appearing genuinely pleased when they open their rather random presents every year!”

Tracey tells me her sewing skills are much more limited than her knitting skills. Following a pattern isn’t her forte, so she often makes it up as she goes along.

“I actually enjoy finding creative solutions to get around my limited skills! I decided to make a skirt. However, I don’t know how to put in zips so I bought some shirring elastic and created a ruched section at the top to hold it up without the need for a zip.”

Tracey’s handcrafted wardrobe is all about taking something and seeing what you can do with it. The Japanese-print material, worn as a skirt (pictured) is sourced from the textile shop in Colomberie, though it can also be pulled up and worn as a strapless sundress, with the ruched bit forming the bodice. The silk skirt with knitted trim, the two-tone knitted top, and the tube knitted necklace (pictured) are also original creations. Genius!

It’s clear that this is a passion project and one that she is more than happy to share with others. In fact, I first crossed paths with Tracey when (as a stranger) I complimented her knitted tank-top and asked where she got it. She told me about how she’d made it, all about the wool she’d used and how she starts the pattern. I asked if she would ever knit one for someone else, and now, I sport my own bold green version of the iconic sleeveless jumper!

I asked Tracey if she would consider turning her skills and work into a brand. She tells me that it is an idea that she’s considered but that she loves her day job too much. She does, however, ‘file’ her patterns and notes (in her head and on her laptop) under a rather unusual pseudonym, inspired by her childhood nicknames. As a young girl in the 70’s her nickname was Tippy. She loved Snoopy, was obsessed with animals, especially horses and wanted to be a forest ranger in America! Fast forward to her teenage years, Tippy turned into Trash- a slightly rebellious teen who had eight earrings in one ear, wore second-hand Docs, gave up eating meat and protested against the circus coming to Jersey with its caged animals!

“Decades later (I’m 56) I can see how both Tippy and Trash are still in there somewhere and have made me who I am today. In a whimsical moment, I imagine that Tippy Trash would be my brand, as it pretty much sums me up!”

When Tracey has the time, she already occasionally takes on knitting commission projects for others. Watch this space!

Ask the knitter

Favourite thing you’ve knitted?
Probably that bubble-gum pink tank-top!

Do you ever get impatient with your projects?
Not with the projects, but with myself. I’m knitting something right now that I need to concentrate on quite a bit, so it’s not very relaxing – and is taking AGES! Another reason why I couldn’t do this as a job.

Where do you take inspiration from?
Everywhere. It might start with some lovely wool or fabric, or an idea for a garment or a picture on Pinterest or in a magazine. My favourite thing is to take something and give it the Tracey ‘tweak’.

Favourite colours to work with?
I love teal, jade green and pale pink. My favourite colour combos at the moment are pink with green or red.

Any tips for upcoming knitters?
Just give it a try. Once you can do the two basic stitches (knit and purl) you can actually make some useful things. YouTube is great for videos or just ask someone. It’d be great to see a Highlands College course!

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