We asked crochet blogger and designer Ruby McGrath how her hobby blossomed into a successful business with the help of her friend Kimberley Batty.
When we stumbled across frankandolivecrochetblog.com, we soon found that it was impossible to turn away. Ruby, 24, taught herself crochet when her daughter Olive, four, was still a bump. It soon took over and in the blink of an eye, Ruby, originally from York, was in huge demand for designs, workshops and collaborations with big brands like Patons.
We asked her to take a break from her busy schedule and tell us about juggling design ideas with family life.
Where did the name Frank & Olive come from?
When I was pregnant with my first, I'd already decided exactly what names I'd choose. Frank for a boy (after my late grandfather) and Olive for a girl. Olive came first and a couple of years later, my son Frank, now 18 months, was born.
How did it all begin?
I started out on my own but in January 2015 my best friend Kimberley, 30, came on board to help with the workload. Now we both own the business, designing and making and running The Crochet Retreat (thecrochetretreat.co.uk) together.
Having had no business training or experience, building a brand was certainly tricky (especially with two children), but I absolutely love it, which must be the secret of my success, really.
What are your favourite colours?
Mint, bright pink and yellow – especially when they’re all together. I’ve been told you can spot a Frank & Olive colour scheme a mile off (and this is definitely reflected in my home).
What's your favourite project to get your hook into?
I genuinely can’t answer that. I’m so impulsive that, when I see a gorgeous yarn, I'm dazzled and just have to make something out of it. So I guess I most enjoy making whatever is currently on my hook, until I'm distracted by another colour. I suppose I like making things for myself, but I don't have the time these days with the children running around!
Do you do any other crafts? If so, what are you currently making?
I haven’t done any for years, but I’m actually an illustrator. I studied it at college and university, and I was always doodling weird little people. But when I had Olive, the crochet took over and I haven’t looked back.
What's your absolute favourite yarn?
Mrs Moon's Plump (mrsmoon.co.uk) is just amazing; so soft and the most beautiful colours. Not to mention that the people who run the company are possibly the loveliest ladies in the industry.
When did it hit you that crochet had become your career?
By complete accident. One minute, I was crocheting clothes and accessories for my baby, and the next I was inundated with requests for commissions. So, I started a Facebook page so that people could reach me and in a whirlwind I had thousands of followers and orders coming out of my ears! It definitely wasn’t something I’d planned and created on purpose – but it turns out it led to me finding the thing I love doing most of all.
How do you find inspiration for your crochet?
Kimberley and I are always looking at current trends online, in magazines and on the high street – but I wouldn’t call that work, I’d call that shopping! I guess in this day and age, it’s difficult not to come across interesting ideas when you spend your time on Instagram and Pinterest. We definitely like to keep up to date with the fashion world, perhaps more so than the craft world.
Who are your favourite crochet designers?
I love Stephen West, of West Knits. He’s so fun and colourful and his designs are to die for. Donna Wilson is my all-time favourite too. Her toys and cushions are such fun. I also really like some of the designs that Rico come out with. I’m a sucker for anything modern, contemporary and bright.
Where do you create your designs?
Mostly on the sofa in the living room. Or in my head when I’m trying to go to sleep in bed. We have our workroom at my house. It is a gorgeous space but, with the two children running around, we don’t get the chance to design in there as much as we’d like.
Where is the weirdest place you've ever crocheted?
I certainly got some pretty funny looks in the hospital when I was cracking
out a hat for Olive just a few hours after she was born.
How do you keep your studio organised?
I don’t really. I try to, but I like to tell myself that the messiest people are also the most creative.
What gadget should every crocheter have at their disposal?
A massive glittery crochet hook. Also, a pompom maker. Yes, I know you can make a pompom using cardboard or your hand, but pompom makers come in such pretty colours and are much more fun.
If you could design absolutely anything, what would it be?
Clothes for Zooey Deschanel (I love her), or maybe a new line at Liberty’s or a collaboration with Vivienne Westwood. I’d be super stoked to design a range with Topshop or Urban Outfitters. To think that so many people could access and wear our designs would be amazing.
Find out more about Frank & Olive's design collaborations with Patons at coatscrafts.co.uk