I love the internet! It’s thanks to the internet that, Sue from Yay Retro stumbled across me via the Granny CAL I’ve been running over on Instagram, Ravelry and this ‘ere crochet blog. As a result, Sue suggested an interview, which I thought was a great idea! A couple of weeks ago I wrote out my answers to Sue’s fab questions and sent over a massive wodge of photographs of my home (with vintagey stuff- it’s relevant, I promise) and things I’ve crocheted. That interview can be found HERE. In the interest of keeping things a two way street I thought it would be nice to get to know Sue too, so I sent her a few questions for her to answer as well. We have things in common, we both live in Devon, we both love crochet and both have a penchant for cool, old stuff! Also, (as an aside) I found all of this really interesting. The questions started a nostalgic trip into the past, which triggered a load of old memories. I think that’s the main reason why I accumulate all my seemingly random junk. They’re connections to places I’ve been and people I’ve known.
Righty, over to Sue…
How long have you lived in Totnes?
We moved here in 2015 to be nearer to our son and family. We felt at home as soon as we got here, it’s a very special, welcoming and friendly place.
How much does living in Totnes feed your creativity and/or love of vintage? [Totnes is a town in Devon known for having an alternative, arty scene]
I did a fine art degree at The Winchester School of Art and trained, then worked as a professional artist (large abstract paintings) for around seven years before becoming a wedding photographer with my husband for six years. After this I set up yay retro! and I think both of these have significantly fed into the look and feel of yay retro! especially as everything needs to be photographed attractively. Totnes and the surrounding area is marvellous for finding vintage wares. I love the beautiful historic buildings and surrounding wonderful countryside, as well as the ‘anything goes’ feel in Totnes, it makes life more interesting and everyone is friendlier and accepting, I think.
What other parts of Devon are your favourite?
I adore Woolacombe in the North as I had all my childhood holidays there, visiting around 5 times a year in our tent and caravan. Tavistock is also a beautiful town, I love the market there and the drive over the Moors. My other favourite spots are the steam railways in Totnes and Dartmouth. These remind me of my Gramp who was a steam engine driver in the 1950s/60s.
There seems to be quite a few creative folk in Devon. Do you think Devon in particular is a good base for creatives? What makes it so special?
I’m quite new here and so have met only a few other vintage sellers and artists. However I am aware of more here than I was in Hampshire where I lived before.
The country and seaside are so inspiring in Devon and the slower pace of life is really superb. I think people’s outlook on life is different to that of people who live or work in or near big cities. Perhaps this is what attracts creative people to the county? Totnes itself is known for its arty folk as it is close to Dartington, which used to be the home of the famous Dartington College of Arts until quite recently.
What is it about vintage/retro stuff that makes you happy?
I was very lucky to have a happy time growing up in the 1960s and 70s, everything I buy for yay retro! makes me think of my Gran, Nan or my Mum all of whom were great home makers. I can recall special, happy times in each of their kitchens, and because each of them had different tastes in home decor, it really is a case of finding and recognising things they had. I only ever buy things that make me smile, that I truly love and would want for myself. If I’m not keen to give it house room myself I don’t buy it! When I find something lovely I say ‘yay! retro!’ in my head and often feel quite elated. It’s a real feel good job to have as I am forever ‘buzzing’ about the lovely objects and textiles I find!
When did you know it was time to make it your full time job?
I started the yay retro! online shop in 2012, and by 2013 knew it was going to take off and that I would need to tail off my other work commitments which were in the family web development company. I now run yay retro! full time.
Do you hangout with other crafty folk?
Being new to Totnes I don’t know that many people yet who are crafty. I do know of other vintage sellers and they are all very friendly and supportive. it’s a lovely community to be part of. On the crafty side of things, I am currently mad on crochet thanks to getting back into it after seeing you publicise the #grannycal18 crochet along. I am currently teaching my daughter in law to knit and soon to crochet. I find joining groups like Hooked on Crochet on Facebook is a good outlet for feedback and crafty talk. It’s also nice to share pics on the yay retro! Instagram page as my followers are really supportive.
What are your thoughts on the maker’s renaissance we’re experiencing?
I think that the internet has allowed people to share their work easily and also to sell their ideas and makes. This probably makes it appear that we have a makers renaissance, when in fact there have always been heaps of creative people out there.
I picked up the ‘making’ bug from my Mum and Gran who were fantastic at making clothes whether it be sewing or knitting. Neither of them crocheted, and I recently taught my Mum so that she could make a blanket for her great grandson.
It’s superb that getting online can enable people to share so much, and get feedback on their work. I spend many an evening being inspired by other people’s beautiful workmanship.
I often think that if only the internet had been as dominant when I was painting as it is now, I would still actually be working as an artist and selling smaller works from a website. At the time I was a working artist going the gallery route, it was the only option, which made my paintings too expensive for most people.
Who are your favourite artistic people? Top blogs? Instagrammers?
There are SO many artists and makers that I love, currently the printmaker Jane Ormes’ work really strikes a chord with me,
Anna Wiscombe’s wooden birds and plants are gorgeous, Jane Foster’s screen prints adorn my home and Chris Made This and Ames_Likes_Toast Instagram’s feed always make me really happy. I have bought quite a few pieces from Anna, Ames and Chris too. My illustrator friend Sara Rhys based in Totnes has a beautiful Instagram page which always brings a smile to my face.
What are your favourite shops/places in Devon to find treasure? And/or further afield?!
I search everywhere I go to be honest. I adore Totnes market; there are some lovely, friendly, helpful sellers there and it’s always great to have a chat as well as browse and buy! Like everyone, I always search around charity shops and often strike it lucky. I particularly like Salisbury in Wiltshire, New Milton in Hampshire and Brixham in Devon.
www.yayretro.co.uk is an online shop where you can buy the very best Vintage & Flower Power wares from the 1940s to the 1980s. Browsing and buying from the website is really easy and worth doing regularly as fresh stock is added regularly… pieces are described honestly and postage and packaging costs kept low, posting across the UK twice weekly. The yay retro! online vintage shop features vintage kitchenware, tablecloths, bedding, ornaments, toys, books, and much more!
Thanks Sue! I really enjoyed your insightful comments. xx
The first week of the summer holidays was a trip to Southampton. In between the obligatory trips to Toys R Us and Ikea there are the visits to family. I always go and see Nanna and Grandad. They both turned 90 in January and are still surprisingly independent (to be honest, I’m always expecting them to pop their clogs). On this visit we went through some of Nanna’s crafty gubbins and it triggered a nostalgic twinge.
Look at this! She embroidered this table cloth in 1945 and she said that she’d like to pass it on to me. I’m quite chuffed about that. It’s really very pretty. It needs a bit of cleaning (anyone got any advice on how I do that?). She stitched it whilst her brother-in-law was in hospital (he’d had his face torn apart by shrapnel).
Who doesn’t love a bit of vintage embroidery?!
Now that it’s the holidays I won’t have much time but I would love to try something like this. I do tinker with embroidery but don’t do masses of it. It’s another thing to add to the list.
She also decided she didn’t want her spare knitting needles anymore. This is daft because I’m sure she’ll want some of them back. Also, I am terrible at knitting.
She hasn’t given me the ones she regularly uses. I think these are all surplus. In amongst them is a tunisian crochet hook. I got quite excited about this as it coincides with the growing fancy that I want to learn a bit of that.
Then there’s this awesome bag. It needs repairing but I think it’s pretty cool. I think she said a friend gave it to her, I’m not sure. My guess is 1970’s.
I’ve got no clue how to fix the broken bits. To be honest I haven’t checked out how broken it really is. I can just see that the fabric is coming away from the baskety bit.
Upon returning home to Devon I went and rummaged in my own cupboards and dug out a few things.
Nanna made this patchwork blanket for my 18th. For a good couple of years leading up to that birthday I’d see hexagons here and there and ask what they were for. She was always evasive and I wouldn’t get a straight answer, hah! I have to be careful with it, I think there might still be a pin lodged in the layers somewhere. I found about three when I got it and managed to get a couple out. I use it regardless, pins be damned. It is not quite twenty years of age.
Having made a patchwork bag using english paper piecing, I know how this sort of thing is a proper labour of love. And her hexies are smaller than mine!
This is the crochet blanket she made for my eldest boy just over seven years ago00000 when he was born. It’s a classic Granny and it is this blanket that made me go to my local wool shop and buy my first crochet hook!
Rewind to some point in the 1980’s… This tatty looking thing above is the first piece of crochet I ever attempted. I made this foundation chain and decided that crochet was rubbish. I don’t think it helped that I was told that I must hold the hook a certain way (me n Nanna don’t agree on hook hold). Knitting was easier; I could make squares and scarves and things. This crochet failure was tied to the middle of a Nanna made crochet blanket that I had as a little girl. (I threw it away last year. It was stinky and holey. The foundation chain is the only bit that remains).
She knitted this one, for Eldest boy also.
And as usual, the cat wanted in on it so she clambered on Nanna’s blankets and went to sleep.
I’m still feeling funny about old things (not Nanna and Grandad. The other stuff). I’ve been sorting through my old work from when I first started school. I blame going back to Southampton.
This was when I went to the Hall of Aviation in Southampton (now called Solent Sky). I took my boys last week. Still awesome.
I don’t know if I blame Southampton that much. It might also have been before that because I asked my sister to dig stuff out a few weeks ago. I was watching the Sewing Bee and had begun to wonder when I first started sewing.
I used to sit for hours, hand sewing outfits and accessories for my Sindy. After a while I graduated to the sewing machine. I was around ten when I made this wedding outfit from the leftovers of my other sister’s christening gown. My step mum helped me do this as I don’t think I could have managed those sleeves alone. I think I need to ask Sister to go back in the loft to see if she has the red cordoury dress I made her for Christmas when I was twelve… I was dead proud of myself!
What Sindy/Barbie wouldn’t want knitted clothes?! Some Nanna specials.
I particularly love this coat and I actually think my mum knitted this. It wasn’t passed on to my sisters, it was the only one I kept.
Speaking of my Mum. I’m fairly certain she made this one and the one below. One knitted, one crocheted. Both in the seventies, for my brother. I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’m wrong.
She said this one wasn’t suitable in the end. Too many holes for baby fingers.
Anyway, I’m gonna go. I didn’t realise there was so much from the past that still exists. What the blazes am I gonna do with it all?! Hope there’re no ghostly cooties clingling on to all the dust.