Bronnie of Cornflake Purl started up her knitted-goods business after relocating to the Manawatu from Wellington when her father was diagnosed with cancer. She confesses she’s a little bit obsessed with music and even more obsessed with coffee. She also claims to read too much (is that possible? -Ed.) and loves getting out and catching up with friends.
What do you make?
I make hand knitted scarves, cowls, beanies and mittens using a mixture of either New Zealand or vintage wool, along with ombre wool from Estonia. I love mixing texture and colour to make unique winter accessories that will keep you warm on those chilly winter days. My most popular pieces are scarves made using a vintage Shetland lace pattern or an old Victorian lace pattern which looks like interlocking arrows when knitted up.
How did you get into your craft?
Knitting is something that I had always wanted to learn and I was fortunate to have a friend teach me how about four years ago. My mother and grandmother were avid knitters so I was able to pick their brains if I got stuck or messed up when I was in the early stages of learning. Anyone who knows a knitter will tell you it can be an addictive craft. When my father was diagnosed with cancer we spent weeks at the hospital and I would always take my knitting needles with me as there was a lot of waiting around time. Other knitters at the hospital would come and have a chat and share some tips as well. I was able to really hone my skills during this period and now I’m at the point where I’m passing it on and teaching friends how to knit.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Nope. I have just picked up bits and pieces of knowledge from friends and family who knit, from books and from YouTube.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I mainly work with wool as it has so many amazing characteristics – it is a natural and renewable fibre, gives warmth, is breathable, as well as being a treasure to wear. I use vintage knitting needles – there is something special (and eco-friendly) about using a tool that has created clothing for generations gone by and still able to be used again and again. My labels are printed on organic cotton and then hand sewn using vintage cottons inherited from my great-grandmother.
What inspires you?
The idea of making modern accessories by using a craft that has existed for generations and passed down from one generation to the next. Knitting has been used to clothe everyone from newborn babies to soldiers going off to war. There is something special about starting off with a ball of wool and making a garment from scratch simply by making one stitch at a time. It is a skill that was used by sailors and samurai, yet is associated with little old ladies. It is great that things are changing and that there has been a huge resurgence in handmade and handcrafted items.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I aim to create pieces that will protect from the cold and let you get out there and do whatever you need to do with no excuses. Many of my scarves feature arrowhead designs, the arrow being a Native American symbol of protection. It is also a little reminder to point you in the right direction and follow your dreams no matter how horrible the weather (or life) might be on any given day.
Sustainable living is also a big part of my philosophy so I only use natural fibre and try to use local producers or vintage wool as much as possible. I am also excited to have just received a shipment of organic wool which I can’t wait to get started using!
Recommend an album:
Let England Shake by PJ Harvey.
Your favourite childhood book?
A well-thumbed old copy of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It’s probably not the best book for children, but my overactive childhood imagination was swept away by this dark brooding tale that transported me to another time and place.
What are you reading now?
The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family by Mary S. Lovell.
Who is your hero/heroine?
Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, along with Wellington born World War II resistance fighter Nancy Wake, who was known as the “white mouse” and one of the Gestapo’s most wanted people. Both showed incredible courage and valour in the most trying of circumstances.
A favourite quote:
“We all have our own Everests to climb. And just like there’s no shame in being defeated by the real one, there’s no shame in being defeated by our own personal mountains. It is all about never giving up, and acting with courage and dignity in the big moments. The only real shame lies in refusing to try.”
- Bear Grylls
Do you have any pets?
Yes. I have quite possibly the two naughtiest cats in the world – a tabby called Possum and a fluffy Manx called Mischief.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A pair of Candy Foxx men’s earrings from a designer in Lithuania. They are crafted from polymer clay and resin in gold and black and match perfectly with a pair of my glasses. Definitely not just for the boys though – I have kept this pair for myself!
You can see all of Bronnie’s gorgeous range of warm woollen accessories here. Bronnie has also generously offered a this prize of a gorgeous “Steptoe” teal wool cowl to one lucky Felt blog reader. If you’d like to be in the prize draw, just leave a comment below telling us what inspires you about Bronnie’s story and her work. The draw will be made on Friday 18 July and is open to New Zealand residents only.