Monday, 23 April 2018

Authors' Creative Pursuits - Erica James

Authors are a very creative bunch - and for many of them, this isn’t only with words on the page. From drawing to painting, pottery to needlework, composing to singing, here’s a look at some authors’ creative pursuits.

I am delighted to welcome 




Have you always been creative – and not just with words? 
I would say that I’ve always been creative with my hands; it started when I was a child.  I was seven years old when my father taught me to knit.  I have no idea how he learned, or when, but I have a very clear memory of him teaching me how to do stocking stitch.  I can picture now the very first thing I knitted – a bright green scarf that was actually more like a very narrow tie than anything that would keep anyone warm.
It wasn’t until many years later, when I’d left home at eighteen and was lodging with a couple in Oxford that I learnt to knit properly.  My landlady, a wonderful woman who chain-smoked and took me to the bingo with her, was the person who really taught me to knit, and most importantly, how to follow a pattern.  She had the patience to sit alongside me and encourage my first attempt at knitting a jumper.
As for other creative outlets, I learned to sew while at school and for some years in my early twenties I made quite a lot of my own clothes.  I was very small back then and could rarely find things to fit me, other than children’s clothes.  From making my own clothes I then had a go at making curtains, which at the time I probably thought were the bees-knees, but which now I would be embarrassed to own.
When I was expecting my first child, I made nearly all my own maternity dresses as well as baby clothes.  I even made babygros.  Does anyone do that these days?
But back to the knitting!  By the time I had my two sons, I was an obsessive knitter and was always knitting little jumpers for them.  Here’s something I knitted almost thirty years ago …

Friends frequently admired what Edward and Samuel wore and started to ask me to knit for their children.  Which I did.  I then bought a knitting machine to keep up with the requests, and the hobby took off in a completely new direction with me making sweaters to sell at craft fairs, which was great fun.  Here’s an example of one of my own designs in an adult size … 

But then life changed and while I was living in Brussels I decided I would try my hand at a new hobby … I would write a novel, and look where that lead!

How often do you knit and how easy is it to find the time?
These days, after quite a long time of not touching a knitting needle, I knit almost every evening while watching the television.  I find I don’t know what to do with my hands unless I have a pair of needles in them and a ball of wool at my side. 

Do you do any other arts and crafts?
During the years when I was ‘on a break’ from knitting, I took up needlepoint, which is wonderfully relaxing, a bit like painting by numbers.
Here’s a cushion I made.  Although I would have to be honest and admit that I gave the finished canvas to a professional upholsterer to turn into the finished cushion – my sewing skills would not have done it justice. 

A couple of years ago a writer friend, Adele Geras, tried to teach me how to crochet, but it was my daughter-in-law who really got me going with making granny squares.  Once I had that technique under my belt, I started making throws.  Here’s one I made and which I’m particularly fond of …

Do you think knitting (or the time you spend knitting) helps with your writing and overall wellbeing?  
Oh yes, without a doubt.  When I’m knitting, crocheting or doing needlepoint, my brain switches into a more relaxed mode and all sorts of ideas pop into my head, often the solution to a tricky plot situation.  There have been surveys carried out recently that suggest knitting is genuinely good for our wellbeing, mentally and physically.

What have you knitted recently?
I now have a grandson and have made him a couple of sweaters, but this is my most recent creation for me to wear, which took about three months to knit, by hand – I got rid of the knitting machine a very long ago.  While watching The Crown on Netflix I came up with the Fair Isle design – one eye on the television, the other on the pad of graph paper on my lap and selection of coloured pencils.  For those who like to know these things, I used Rowan merino 4 ply for the cream background and a mix of other 4 ply brands for the additional colours.


Erica James is the author of many bestselling novels, including GARDENS OF DELIGHT, which won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and her recent Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, SONG OF THE SKYLARK and SUMMER AT THE LAKE. Erica now divides her time between Suffolk and Lake Como in Italy.

Find Erica James on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @TheEricaJames

I'm hoping to feature more Authors' Creative Pursuits
on Off-the-Shelf Books in the future. 

So if you're a published author and have a talent for arts and crafts, music, photography, baking or other creative activities, and would like to feature on my blog, please do get in touch!

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