10 Questions with The Fairthorn
1. Name, business name & where you are from.
Ciara Doyle, TheFairythorn, from Ireland.
A ‘Fairythorn’ is a traditional Irish nickname for a hawthorn tree that grows by itself away from the hedgerow. They were believed to be home to fairies, but also protectors of the environment.
2. What 3 adjectives that best define your business.
Slow fashion, sustainable, inclusive
3. How did you get started designing?
I first tried designing my own knitting patterns as a child and continued knitting design as a young adult when my son was born. The older ladies in the local yarn shop used to sneer at me, and call me ‘the arteeest’ (but not in a nice way) because I didn’t always just use paid for patterns. This was in the 1990s when ravelry and online yarn shops didn’t exist. So I used to pretend my own designs were patterns I bought. People I knew would ask to borrow them, and I would pretend I lent the pattern to someone else, because I didn’t want to admit it was my own design.
I stopped knitting completely because of arthritis, but that left a big hole in my life, so I decided to try crochet, something I’d always wanted to learn, and I suspected might be a gentler movement to knitting. But I never had anyone to teach me. I looked up ‘how to crochet mittens’, and followed a YouTube video, and had one mitten by that evening, the second one the next day. The day after, I made my first granny square. I have had some crochet in my hand every day since. This was not long before Covid and lockdown hit, so I was maybe a couple of months ahead of the curve learning to crochet along with the rest of the world.
As I had always designed my own knitting, it felt quite natural for me to start designing crochet too, but the big difference was that now there is an established way to publish online, and instead of hiding it, I can shout about it and show off my designs. There are books and tutorials available, websites, contact with tech editors, it’s fantastic how design has opened up and become possible for more people in the internet age.
A year ago I took ill health retirement from my career, and threw myself seriously into crochet design. There may even be a few knit designs in my future.
4. Favorite part of designing?
The idea process - coming up with a plan, swatching, maybe making a prototype in doll size. (Although I hate sketching). Trying out stitches and imagining is the point where it all feels so open to possibly and wonder.
5. What is most important to you when choosing yarn for a design? Look? Feel? Weight?
I am a bit obsessed with the environment and climate change, and I’m also autistic with lots of sensory issues, so I am *incredibly fussy* about what yarn I use. It has to feel just right, and it also has to be sustainable. People can make my patterns in acrylic if they like, but I always design for a sustainable yarn. I like to use local wool where possible, and I’m currently working with some hand spun, hand died Jacobs wool I bought from a local craft woman, which just sets my heart a-flutter. I also like to work with plant based yarns, and love to change things up with some cotton, linen and bamboo or viscose fibers.
6. What is your favorite yarn. Right now, as I mentioned, I’m in heaven using my hand spun Jacobs fleece. I truly love Shetland wool. My favourite plant based yarn until recently was a specific mix of cotton and eucalyptus based viscose. But the company that made ghosted me on the yarn support after I had agreed to a magazine design, so I’m not naming it, and need to fall in love with a different brand, because I sadly won’t be using that yarn again.
7. Which project are you most proud of.
My ‘Winter Troll’ hat, scarf and mittens set was my first proper release, and set me on my track. I wrote it 2 years ago, and was very unwell for a long time afterwards so didn’t do another design until this year, but made up a set recently, and felt very proud of myself.
8. What inspires you when you create?
My designs all start from one of three things - Nature, Need or Nagging
I am very inspired by the beauty of the natural world, and a desire to reflect that through my stitches. I’m also driven by practical concerns. As a disabled person, I often can’t find just the right thing, so I set out to solve a problem in my design. And much of the work I have done has resulted from friends or family nagging me to make them specific things.
9. If you could tell a beginner one thing about crochet, what would it be?
Your mental and physical health will thank you. Once you learn the stitches, crochet is a wonderful practice that combines the calm of meditation with the boost of creating.
10. Where can we find you online?