Hailing from the lovely Hawke’s Bay, Ellen Hamlin grew up crafting and will try her hand at most things, but harbours a particular passion for crochet. Her love of vintage, handmade and retro styles (“all smooshed together”) inspired her to pick up a crochet hook upon discovering that she was not alone in her tastes and “granny chic” was officially on the rise. And so emerged Alexandra Mackenzie.
What do you make?
Granny squares!! I love love love granny squares and I use them to create all kinds of crocheted goodness, from hot water bottle and cushion covers to takeout coffee and tea pot cosies. My one rule for the things I create – it must be colourful…
How did you get into your craft?
It all started about two years ago when I spied a very ugly jersey in the 50c bin at my favourite oppy. As a jersey it was ugly, but I bought it because the colours were so vibrant. I unravelled the jersey and made my first granny squares with it; I hunted down another jersey to match and made my first blanket. From there I was hooked (pun intended!).
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Not a one – after a few false starts trying to learn from a book I tried a YouTube tutorial – success! I am very definitely a product of being self taught, I can’t read a pattern and would be lost in the terminology. Because of this, everything I make is completely my own, all my patterns are original and stashed safely in my head.
How did you choose the name of your business?
Alexandra Mackenzie are my middle names – I have always thought they sounded just a tad bit posh and they have a strong family connection as Mackenzie is my grandmother’s maiden name.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
A 4.5mm hook and a basket of thrifted yarns. I love gathering nasty jerseys and blankets with holes to unravel and create wonderfully colourful items – it is amazing the colours you come across; what might have been the most awful puce coloured jersey looks great in a granny square. This also adds to the uniqueness of my items as many colours can’t be sourced again – once they have gone, they have gone.
What inspires you?
The recycling aspect is quite inspiring – a large portion of the yarn I use is recycled and I enjoy making something beautiful from the ugly and unloved. When I am making up granny squares I try to be pretty random, the colour combos are not overly thought out and this creates some wonderful combinations (okay and a few completely hideous monsters) – it’s these random combinations that often inspire new ideas.
Describe your workspace:
Chaotic and widespread, I would love to say that I keep my crafting contained to a set space but in truth it always ends up spread from one end of the house to another – even the car. I love being the passenger now – you can get a lot of crochet done in the passenger seat.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I always want to produce something that I would want in my home, especially when given specific requests for custom orders. I trust that my customers choose to use me to create their items because they like my aesthetic. I have had some tricky custom orders that I have thought “oh my god how am I going to make those colours work together?” It might take a wee bit longer playing around with the colour combos but in the end I always love what I produce.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
This is the feedback from my very first sale – it was so encouraging: “I couldn’t be happier dealing with this seller, and will definitely purchase again. The cushion cover is absolutely gorgeous – beautifully made with excellent craftsmanship and of extremely good quality. I’m very particular and faults, if there are any, usually hit me in the eye, but this purchase is just perfect. I can’t stop looking at it and it looks great on my couch. Thank you! I absolutely love it.”
What was the last handmade item you bought? A stripy pair of fingerless gloves, soft and wintery warm.
More colourful creations by Ellen are available in her Felt shop, Alexandra Mackenzie. Comment below to go into the draw to win one of her custom made coffee cup cosies – in your choice of colours! The draw is open to New Zealand residents only until Friday 31 August.