Meet the Crafters: Fiona Blanchard
Only two more sleeps till Halifax Crafters, and hopefully our crafters are getting some sleep as they make their last minute preparations for the show. Just a reminder that our hours have changed, doors will be open from 10 AM to 5 PM on both Saturday and Sunday – see you there!
Today we’d like to introduce you to another of our Fresh Catch vendors, Fiona Blanchard. If you haven’t bought your annual pair of winter mitts yet, wait until Saturday and visit Fiona at the show! She has some really beautiful knitwear, and uses some repurposed materials like fur and tweed. She also designs her own beautifully detailed patterns (see photo below) and I’m excited to see her work in person!
What do you make?
I make knitted winter accessories. I use a combination of hand knitting and machine knitting to create my piece. This year I focused on women’s accessories, sorry guys if you were hoping to find something for yourselves. However, I’d love to take on a commission if you’re interested!
What is your process?
A lot of my pieces only require my knitting needles and some delicious yarn. My two favorite knitting techniques are cables and Fair Isle, so that’s what you’ll find the majority of the time on my table. Other pieces require much more. For example my fur mitts are made up of a knitted wool mitt, lined with fleece, then the cuff is a combination of a recycled fur and recycled tweed. I’m always on the hunt for clothing to recycle. It forces me to switch up my colour pallet and adds a one of a kind quality to certain pieces. When I can, I try to hand dye my wool by using natural dyes. This past year I did acquire a knitting machine. This helps me produce multiples faster but there’s still an incredible amount of time that goes into the planning and it’s also quite the workout. Each piece is then finished off by hand.
How long have you been a crafter?
I’ve been crafting since I was able to hold a pair of scissors. I was fortunate enough to have parents who let me run wild with whatever creative endeavor I was on. When I was little I set up a shop in my house. It was called, “Shop Till You Freak at Fi’s Boutique”. I would pester family friends to buy some sort of Popsicle stick craft covered in glitter when they were over.
What is your background/How did you get started?
I graduated from NSCAD with a Major in Textiles and Minor in Fashion in 2011. Throughout school I immersed myself in weaving, dyeing and printing. I often used my own textiles to build the foundation for my fashion pieces. My love of knitting came long before university, I was taught by my mother, who was taught by her grandmother Alice, who we are both named for. I knitted my first scarf when I was about twelve. It’s still floating around here somewhere. During my NSCAD years knitting was mostly a distraction from homework. It wasn’t till I did a semester abroad at The Glasgow School of Art in Scotland where I was able to study knitting as a subject. It opened my eyes to the possibilities knitting could lead to in the fashion and craft industries.
Why do you do what you do?
I do this because it was love at first stitch. If I wasn’t knitting it would be some other textile medium, and if it wasn’t textiles it would be another crafty outlet. Coming home from Scotland definitely gave me the motivation and inspiration to really dive into knitting. It was also a practical choice, knitting doesn’t require a hugh studio space with expensive equipment like other textiles. You can usually find me on the bus with my knitting!
When you’re not selling at Crafters markets, where can I find your work?
After this craft fair I have plans to get my own Etsy shop up and running. I also have a blog, check it out! You’ll see the latest collection I’m working on and also get a peak into my creative process.
What makes Halifax Crafters different from other shows?
I love the atmosphere created by the vendors and shoppers. I really admire and look up to the vendors here, maybe it’s because I can see a little of myself in them. They’re honest and passionate about their materials and craft.
What are you excited about seeing at the Winter Market?
Everything and everyone! I’m incredibly excited about meeting the other new crafters who are a part of Fresh Catch and also looking forward to catching up with some veteran crafters.
What inspires you to create?
I’m always inspired by my surroundings, whether it is here or while traveling. I look to past and current trends, my materials, nature, landscapes and even the weather. I think to myself, “What would I want to be wearing to keep me warm and cozy while I brave Halifax’s elements”.
What kind of music do you listen to while you work?
While working I much prefer to listen to the radio or an audiobook. In the morning I listen to my two favorite CBC Radio shows, The Current and Q. For the afternoon I’ll put on one of my favorite books, it might be The Hobbit, Harry Potter or A Song of Fire and Ice series.
A place you love?
Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
Favourite time of the year?
Definitely Fall into Winter. I love the colours and filling my closet back up with sweaters.
Three things you need in order to create?
Cup of tea, wooden needles, and yarn, perhaps some alpaca.
What’s your favourite way to procrastinate?
Watching X-Files with my boyfriend Brandon, knitting things for myself, and my cat Fergus, who is never too far when I need to be productive.