We'd like to take the opportunity to introduce you to Jeska Harding, a mobile hairdresser from Suffolk with a penchant for crochet.
The 37-year-old - who's about to become a full-time mum through adoption - designed the wonderful Kids Mermaid Tail Crochet Pattern in our shop. This cosy blanket would make a wonderful gift for someone special and is easy to personalise.
We sit down for a chat with Jeska to talk all things creative, covering everything from how she honed her craft to her dream of crocheting gifts for Prince George and his little sister Princess Charlotte.
When did you learn to crochet?
I taught myself to crochet by watching video tutorials about 18 months ago. I had learnt to knit that way too, about six months before. I do enjoy knitting but I love crocheting.
What’s the first thing you crocheted that you were really proud of?
My first piece of crochet work I was proud of was a blanket I made for my nephew when he was born.
Do you ever crochet presents for your family and friends?
I crochet gifts for family and friends all the time. I love being able to make things for the people I love. I’ve always thought that handmade gifts are extra special.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of crochet?
For me I actually find following written patterns the hardest. I find it easier to learn if there are pictures explaining how the piece comes together or by watching tutorials.
The mermaid tail blanket was the first pattern that I put together myself and I actually think that by writing my own patterns, I’m finding it easier to read other patterns. I watched a few tutorials to give me some ideas and then picked certain stitch types that I thought would give the best outcome when I put them together.
What are your favourite colours to work with?
I love really bright and bold colours. My favourites at the moment are turquoise, pink, red and orange. I tend to use yarns that are variegated for my mermaid tale blankets as I love the mix of colours you get from using them without having to switch yarns.
Why did you start crocheting mermaid tails?
My cousin, who lives in America, is obsessed with mermaids so I made my first tail for her and sent it as a present for her 24th birthday! She absolutely loved it and after posting a picture on Facebook lots of friends got in touch with me about making them for their little girls.
What yarns work best when making mermaid tails?
I haven’t really got into yarn types yet. For me at the moment it’s all about colours! I love using the variegated yarns for the mermaid tails as they really show off the shell stitches and give a lovely rippled – almost iridescent – effect.
I tend to use acrylic or acrylic mix yarns purely because they’re inexpensive and easy for me to get hold of. I prefer to see the colours and feel the yarn before I buy it. I am planning to experiment with better yarns – initially with my smaller projects – and there are a couple of great wool shops near to the village I live in that I plan to explore!
If someone new to crochet was keen to get started on a mermaid tail, what advice would you give?
To make a big mug of coffee, be patient and find a comfy spot to sit! With the first tail I made, I would give myself a set number of rows to get done in one sitting as it would be quite a task to get one made in one go! But I think the pattern I have created is quite simple – mainly because I was quite a novice myself when I made it.
The pattern is a lot of repetition so once you get the hang of the first few rows you can get into a nice rhythm and keep going with relative ease. I think, with any new crochet projects, you need to accept that you may go wrong a few times and have to undo some stitches but don’t lose patience. Just keep going – it’ll be worth it when you get to the end!
How could a crochet fan add a personalised touch to their mermaid tail?
You could easily personalise the waistband by adding a little button or another crocheted adornment like a crocheted flower or heart. I think simply picking your favourite yarn in your favourite colours will make each tail unique to you.
If you could design and crochet a mermaid tail for anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I would love to design and make a mermaid tail blanket for Princess Charlotte because I think she is absolutely adorable! I could also make a shark blanket for Prince George.
Aside from mermaid tails, what do you like to crochet?
As an alternative to the mermaid tail blankets I have been making shark blankets for little boys.
They are really fun to make – and they look hilarious in photos! I’m trying out a new design for Crocodile Blankets at the moment, in between making my own versions of Amigurumi bears.
My own little soft toys are called Jeska’s Little Weirdos and they’re just little creatures that I have dreamt up, all of them totally unique, in different colours and shapes.
I also make baby blankets and throws, and cushions. My mum is a whizz on the sewing machine so she helps me out by making cotton cushion covers that I then cover with crocheted squares.
Where’s your favourite place to get creative?
I love to get creative at home. I have everything I need to hand, plus a super comfy sofa!
Who’s the biggest fan of your designs?
I get a lot of support from my husband and stepson, but all my family and friends are always keen to see what I will come up with next. My friend Jenny has four little girls and they love the Little Weirdos and started to collect them last year. They even commissioned some special Easter themed ones.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I think my current choice of bold colours definitely comes from my travels to Malta. I’m obsessed with all the bright colours on the doors there – I just find them beautiful!
I also love being outdoors and I’m really inspired by the colours in autumn with all the leaves turning burnished golds and reds.
Any crocheters you love following on social media?
I’m a big fan of Bella Coco’s tutorials on YouTube, and on Instagram I follow Jennifer Santos and Academy Of Handmade amongst many others.
What’s your 5-year plan for crochet?
My plan is to explore yarn types and then redevelop the products I have been making, especially the soft toys. I want to crochet them with soft wools and fill them with lamb’s wool to give them an extra special edge.
I started a craft page for my business, Wool String & Pretty Things, on Facebook last year and my mum and I supplied a few Christmas markets, but my main goal is to have an Etsy shop by the end of next year.
What project are you currently working on?
I’m working on a design for a crocodile blanket at the moment. I got the idea after making my shark blankets. Also with the run up to Christmas I’m busy making more Little Weirdos and Christmas decorations.