The Knitographer Interviews… Truly Myrtle

I first met Libby Jonson very briefly when I was making my first skirt at Sew Love Tea Do. Except it wasn't until afterwards, when she commented on an Instagram photo of the skirt-in-progress, that we realised who each other was! 

Libby aka Truly Myrtle, has just released her latest pattern and took a few minutes to chat about her designs and love of craft!

Truly Myrtle's Antipodes 

Tell me a bit about Truly Myrtle - who is Myrtle?

Well, I guess Myrtle would be me! My name is actually Libby and I'm not entirely sure how I came up with "Truly Myrtle" but I love everything the word "Truly" evokes and people remember it so it's kind of stuck. I've been making things for as long as I can remember; knitting and sewing since I was a small girl. 

Truly Myrtle started life as a wee on-line space where I could share all my creative adventures but over the past two and half years it's been exciting so see it evolve into something more than that. I didn't anticipate how a blog would connect me with so many fabulous people and I've loved the community that's grown around Truly Myrtle, the things I've learnt and experienced and how it's stretched me creatively in ways I didn't imagine.

You've recently started publishing patterns, with your most recent being Antipodes which was released earlier this month. Where do you get your inspiration from and what is your design process?

My aim is to design garments that are modern, feminine and interesting, that I'd enjoy wearing.  Most of my ideas hit me when I'm not actually thinking about designing or even looking at something terribly inspiring. Like when I'm driving or in the shower or falling asleep. There must be a part of my brain permanently wired to think about clothes and knitting that chugs away in the background. 

Sometimes I see a colour, shape or even an interesting person that might inspire the seed of an idea. I've learnt that it's best to sit back and watch that germ turn into something because the harder I try to come up with a particular idea, the harder it is to think of something. I do believe that if somethings meant to be, it'll work out a way of happening. I just have to trust that the idea will flesh out if it wants to. I'm sure that sounds quite airy-fairy and undoubtedly there is a more eloquent way to say it - but it works for me and makes the whole process very pleasurable rather than stressy. Once an idea is forming I start swatching to see how it feels "out loud". Sometimes things work out just as I'd imagined but more often than not they keep changing and evolving once I get started. 

My latest pattern Antipodes was one of these times. The yarn was destined for another pattern (due to be released early next year) but once I started knitting it became very clear that the yarn had other ideas. I could almost hear it telling me it wanted to be lacy and glamorous not the cute, fun pattern I was knitting! So I started again and in that case the beautiful yarn ended up being the inspiration behind my lace Antipodes shawlette.

Truly Myrtle's Skeppe hat 

You don't just knit! A quick look at your blog shows you sew, spin, dye things and do lots of crafty goodness! Have you always been into making or is it something you've come to quite recently?

I was a born "maker" and have many happy memories of spending hours as a child pottering away with fabric, fibre, clay, paper and paint. I was lucky to have parents who were both avid creators themselves so it felt very natural to do the same. In fact, when I look back, my childhood was full of creative adults and I guess that's had a huge impact on me in that I strongly believe we are all creative and all have a drive to create things whether it's with yarn, fabric, wood, glass or plants. It makes me sad to hear people say they're not creative or have no talent. I simply don't believe it. I think it's all about finding your "thing" and it although it might take time, patience and possibly a leap of faith, it's worth it.

You have a young family and live rurally, so you must be quite busy! How do you juggle your day-to-day stuff with blogging and designing?

I've never learnt to juggle, I drop all the balls all the time. My four small children keep me on my toes and since we've recently moved to a lifestyle block with chickens, calves,  gardens and a house that needs a makeover, there's always something that I could be doing. Quite simply, I just do what I can when I can and as long as the bathrooms get a swish and the floors are relatively clean I'm happy. 

I spend a lot of time sorting out squabbles, talking about homework, cooking and knitting and fit in everything else around that. Blogging often happens late at night and photos when I can catch a moment. My kids are quite used to me grabbing my camera and running outside or climbing into precarious places when the light is good. Meals are often late! My youngest is off to school next year and I've started thinking how my days might look once that happens. I've got grand plans involving more designing, writing and starting a podcast but I'm realistic that they might not happen quite as I imagine or all that fast!

 You moved to NZ from the UK last year - has the move inspired your crafting or changed they kind of things you like to make?

We've been in New Zealand exactly a year this past week and It's been a massive year for our whole family. I was really sad to say goodbye to the amazing creative scene that was all around me in the UK but it's been exciting to find out what's happening in New Zealand. There are so many fantastic people and events all over the country and it feels like we're on the brink of a big creative wave. I'm really optimistic. 

As far as my crafting goes, my wardrobe needs a complete overhaul. Before we arrived I was worried that I'd have to pack up my needles and put away all my woolies but I totally froze this winter. I was thrilled to be wearing all my hats and scarves and desperately need more chunky cardigans and jumpers to wear inside! My pretty fingering weight garments didn't work without central heating! Summer is the same. I melted in my UK summer clothes last summer and have already started sewing myself sleeveless tops and lightweight dresses to cope with the impending New Zealand heat. Overall, I'm feeling pretty inspired.

Truly Myrtle's Settler Shawl

Are you planning a new design at the moment? Any hints as to what you're working on?

I've got a couple of designs in the works. I've just finished a fun summery shawl that I'm planning to release early next year. In the meantime I'm working on a couple of new accessories and a cardigan that I designed a couple of years ago. I can't wait to get that one published, I've lived in my original version and just love it. I'm trying to use my stash for new designs but I'm afraid I'm failing miserably. New yarn is too irresistible! I'm full of ideas and my little sketch book is filling up faster than I can knit or write. It's so much fun.

 Summer's coming, so for me that means a bit less knitting! What kind of crafty things do you do when the weather warms up?

I'm not sure that I ever really stop knitting, my knitting just changes in warmer weather. A huge adult sweater draped over my knee doesn't work so well when it's hot but it's a great time for socks, accessories and children's clothes. Having said that, I'm hoping to sew more and make a bit of jewellery. I recently inherited a potters wheel so that's an adventure waiting to happen too. I'm thinking a yarn bowl? There's always something!

You can find out more about Libby on the Truly Myrtle blog or check out her designs on Ravelry.


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