Even though crochet is not our first craft we know that for many of you it is. In an attempt to offer more than just knitting and sewing projects in the London Craft Guide we were extremely happy to come across French designer Cécile Balladino and her Candy Bag - and even more so when she agreed to let us have it for the book! The bag builds upon granny squares, their modular nature making them eminently portable and with a pattern that is easy to memorize.
YITC: Tell us about the inspiration for your design.
CB: It is the yarn that inspired me. I love self-striping yarns and this one was perfect for crochet. I started making simple squares to see what it looked like and enjoyed how it turned out. I thought the project was great for London where people are more audacious with colours than in France. It's a versatile bag that you can use during your crafty vacations.
YITC: Do you travel for your craft? How do travel and craft fit together in your world?
CB: Yes! I teach crochet in various places in France. Twice a month I teach at La Bien Aimée (sister shop to l'Oisive Thé and like my second home!) and this last year I've taught in Belgium, Switzerland and even Iceland. Crochet and design are both solitary activities for me so it's a good opportunity to meet new people and discover new places. I mostly travel by train and always have some yarn and crochet projects with me so a lot of my projects are made while travelling. Travelling always brings new inspiration!
YITC: What was your most memorable crafty vacation? What did you do?
CB: It was Iceland last September. I went there with my friend Christine who sells Icelandic yarn online. I taught two crochet classes and the rest of the time was spent exploring the country. Enjoying a geothermal bath just before a crochet class was an unforgettable experience! It was a magical place, full of colours.
YITC: Tell us about you and your personal design style. How does your project fit in?
CB: Bohemian chic with a vintage touch.
YITC: What is your crafty background?
CB: As far as I can remember I've always played with yarn. I learned to knit before I was able to read! I can sew, quilt, embroider, make jewellery, paint - but crochet is still my favourite! I've also studied fashion design and I've been a fashion designer in Paris for 15 years.
YITC: What's your favourite part of the designing/creative process and what are your designing essentials?
CB: Choosing the colours and creating an atmosphere. I love that each of my items tells a story. As for designing essentials my phone is like my personal assistant. I take notes, pictures and publish on social media with it. And of course my Tulip Etimo crochet set and a good cup of tea.
YITC: Do you have a favourite designer who's work you follow?
CB: I've long admired the work of Kaffe Fasset - although he doesn't crochet!
YITC: What creative (or travel!) plans do you have for 2016?
CB: I'll be in London to teach two classes at Loop this weekend and then in the coming months I'll be teaching classes in Belgium, Spain, Italy and of course in Paris. My latest project is a shawl design for Simply Crochet magazine. Beyond that, I have lots of creative plans but I'm kind of superstitious about saying anything...
Cécile also has two crochet books available: Crochet Bohème and Au fil des Couleurs. They're in French but contain graphic charts for all the designs so you can understand them whether you speak French or not. As Cécile often says: crochet is an international language!