This is Hannah, the amazing artist behind Lalele Fibre Arts. I came across her profile when I was browsing the hashtag for crochet home decor. Instantly, I fell in love with her Walk Along the Shore Mat. I couldn’t stop browsing her feed because along with great patterns such as her crochet cozy patterns, she had some great reminders regarding self-care and mental health!
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m Hannah. I’m a married mother of three children (8, 4, and 1 years old). I was born in the UK and lived there until we moved to Romania just over two years ago.
Being a maker can be lonely sometimes. I don’t know anyone in ‘real’ life who knits and crochets and where I live handcrafts are not that popular so there aren’t little yarn shops and knit nights. I miss being able to go into a shop to squish ALL the yarn! The online community is where I connect with other makers and I have ‘met’ some amazing and supportive people online.
Tell me a little about your business.
I started my business while I worked full time. After my second baby was born, I became a stay at home mother and sold finished items, mainly baby items, blankets, hats, and scarves online. We moved to Romania and I needed a new direction. My business didn’t feel like it represented who I was and I wasn’t enjoying making all the finished items needed to stock an Etsy shop. Modifying patterns that I was using was something I really enjoyed doing. I would think of a way to change things so that I liked the finished result more or so that the garment fit better. I started writing my first pattern and that was it, I was hooked!
Last year, I released that pattern, a crochet design, and then took the end of the year off to focus on self-care and better business planning. At the beginning of 2019, I re-branded my business. It finally felt like my brand was true to who I am and the journey that I am on. Lalele Fibre Arts is a values-led business with accessibility and inclusivity at its’ core. For this reason, you will find that my patterns have a ‘Pay What Works’ structure to allow for financial flexibility, while still valuing the work that goes into the designs. Feedback has been good so far.
I set myself a loose target of releasing 5 patterns by the end of the year. As it stands, I have released 4 more patterns, some of which are crochet cozy patterns, and have plenty more in the pipeline. I have upped the target to 8-10 patterns! Juggling motherhood, a house and small business can be really hard sometimes so I don’t set my targets in stone! If I do, I pressure myself too hard to meet those targets and that is no good for my health. I’ve learned that one the hard way!
How many years have you been knitting/crocheting for?
Twenty-plus for both. It’s a bit scary putting that on paper. I can’t believe it’s been so long. My late grandmother taught me the knitting basics. She was an incredible knitter. She was one of those people who could adapt patterns including lace patterns in her head, on the needles without the need for paper and a pen. As a child, I didn’t realize how skilled she was and didn’t appreciate all of the time that she put into knitting us the endless supply of knitted sweaters. I bet she never could have imagined that those hours I sat on her bed with some plastic knitting needles would set me on the path to becoming a knit and crochet designer. I like to think that she would be proud of the legacy that she left behind.
What are your current WIPs?
At the minute I have a couple of WIPs. A new knit cowl design which I am hoping to have finished very soon and also the Breeze Racerback pattern from Jessie Mae Martinson. I am also searching for the right yarn for a sweater for my husband. He is LONG overdue this sweater. I told him I would have one finished for last winter and somehow it never happened. Since then, I have frogged the sweater and used the yarn in a pattern test (oops!). The Marshland Sweater by Tin Can Knits is what I finally settled on since I want to make him something special. I can’t wait to start another WIP. I really am not a one-WIP kind of person!
What is your favorite thing to design and why?
I go backward and forwards on this one. Designing bits for the home like the crochet cozy patterns I have in my store has been really great, but I have also loved designing my shawl and the cowl that I am currently working on. I have a whole mix of designs dotted down in my notebook. What I work on next really does depend upon how I’m feeling at the time.
What are your goals for this year?
I would like to continue to learn and grow. I will focus on self-care, making sure that my mental health is in a good place. Without this, I can’t do anything! This year I will be releasing more patterns. My long term target is to start designing garments. I am learning as much as I can about sizing and grading at the moment so that I can put out beautiful, size inclusive designs. I have made a good start on this goal already. By the end of 2019, I would like to have a clearer understanding of sizing and grading (no one should feel excluded from making patterns because they stop at an M or L!)
I also started the SWATCH Studio Course by Francoise of Aroha Knits this year. By the end of the year, I would like to have finished the main parts of this course by the end of the year. I already had a lot of the skills, but hearing them set out as a good way to do things, has really increased my confidence and I have picked up some great time-saving tips so far.
How do you balance mom-life and making?
This is a hard one! I mainly work at night so that I can be present and be a mum during the day. Looking after them and managing the house is a full-time job in itself. Children are only small for a short amount of time and I don’t want to miss that! It means a lot of late nights but little fingers playing with your yarn is no help at all and untangling those knots takes FOREVER!
It can be hard knowing how much faster patterns and makes could be completed if I was working on them full time. I constantly have to remind myself that this is my journey, at my own pace and not to compare myself to any of the other designers or makers I see online.
Hannah’s mental health journey as a mama maker.
At the end of last year, I was really struggling with my mental health. I couldn’t focus to create and that was a hard place to be in. I didn’t feel like my husband or children were getting the best from me. After I talked to my husband about it, I had to take a step back to refocus and take time to take care of ‘me’ without feeling pressured to carry on as normal online.
Hannah’s reflections and resources for maintaining positive mental health.
I have started bullet journaling. This has helped me more than I could ever have imagined. Setting up the months is relaxing for me. I enjoy doing some drawing and coloring. I’m not an artist but that doesn’t matter! I make a basic plan for the month ahead and every evening I complete my journal and fill in the tasks for the next day.
I have never really been consistent with standard diaries. They always felt too rigid and didn’t have space to properly track the things that I needed. Bullet journaling is great because it is so flexible. You can use it for whatever YOU need. I track my personal and work life, as well as self-care. Planning pages and business tracker are things I use daily. I track my moods and my health. A monthly habit tracker is also something I use to track my daily routine, self-care, cleaning plan, water intake, etc. I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore. Everything is written down in small tasks which I can tick off as I do them. It keeps me focused.
This year I started a cleaning plan called ‘The Organised Mum Method’. I used to spend far too long cleaning and this has helped me to break it down. Every day has a different room to focus on It with the end goal of everything being cleaner, all the time because you are focusing on one room at a time rather than trying to do everything at once and missing bits. It really works!. Cleaning doesn’t feel like an effort anymore and I don’t feel anxious about it. I have a clean house, spend less time cleaning and more time with the children and I like that!
One piece of advice for fellow mama makers?
I posted about my mental health on Instagram. People seemed to appreciate the openness and honesty. I will continue to share more about this on my online platform. I think it is important to be ‘human’ and to get away from only showing the perfect side of everything. You look online and all the photos are perfect, edited beautifully, the wording is happy and everyone is smiling. That is great but isn’t a reflection of real life. By being open about our struggles, our feelings, and experiences, we and others feel less alone. We are real people with real emotions and real lives. It does not make you less of a person to share those. I want other people to know they are not alone and it is ok, not to be ok sometimes.
Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to look after yourself and your mental health. Although it is hard, do not compare yourself to others that you see online. Your journey is your journey. It is ok to take time off to rest and regroup. If you are not feeling yourself everything is harder.
Hannah’s crochet cozy patterns and more
I released ‘The Explore Collection’ which is a collection of three crochet cozy patterns. These crochet cozy patterns were inspired by nature and the sea: Pebbles, a boardwalk and little stones. The crochet cozy patterns have been designed to complement one another as a set or to shine as stand-alone pieces. For this reason, I made these crochet cozy patterns available to purchase as single patterns. My own covered cans sit on my desk and I use them every day!
You can check out the full recorded Live video conversation over on my YouTube Channel here.