Knitted Luxury for Women, Children & Home by Jemma Helliker

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Jemma Helliker is a fellow Handmade Philly member and is on the Handmade Philly Etsy Team.  Her shop, Squidge & Bean, contains hand-knit accessories crafted from the finest merino and alpaca wool sourced from independent hand dyers from the USA and Uruguay. Each item is lovingly created by Jemma in my smoke-free, pet-free home. We got a chance to ask her a few questions about exactly what it is that she does.  Check it out below.

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Where does the name of your shop come from?

Squidge & Bean comes from my children’s nicknames. Squidge is my adorably bossy almost four-year-old daughter and Bean is my frighteningly fearless almost two-year-old son. As my children inspire so much of my work, it is only natural that my shop is named after them.

 Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?

I am originally from the great city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (think the Brown Ale) in England. Eight years ago I followed my heart and moved to Philly.

While here, I have had quite a journey. I first became a middle-school teacher, then I became a mum, and now I design and create hand-knitted accessories for Squidge & Bean and sell my items online and at craft fairs.

I’m happy to say my British roots are still alive and kicking; I am unable to get through a day without multiple cups of tea with milk and I continue to insist it is pronounced, “tom-are-toe”.

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What is your favorite…

Color: Purple

Animal: Elephant

Season: Spring

Movie: Dirty Dancing

Book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

What would you call your style?

My style is classic and simple. I am committed to using only independently produced animal and plant-based yarns and I create items that allow the yarn to be the star.

When and where did you start?

My grandma and mother introduced me to the art of knitting on a cold winter evening in 2009. They patiently fixed my mistakes as I struggled through my first baby beanie. The finished hat was ugly, but I was hooked.

Knitting is my addiction and now my work. I dream about new patterns and spend my free time experimenting and creating new accessories out of beautiful yarns.

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 What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

I have transformed a corner of the spare bedroom into my studio/office space. With two small kids, it is a little difficult to create any sort of regular pattern and routine, but during naptimes (if I’m lucky) and in the evenings I love to retreat to “the office” to design, create, and enjoy some quiet time.

Do you listen to music when you create?

I’m a Pandora addict. The Mumford and Sons station is my current favorite.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m busy getting ready for the 30th Street Craft Fair on June 15th. I love the challenge of creating knits for spring and summer. For the kids, I’m working on Montessori inspired toys, for the home, I’m creating beautiful covers for vases and candle holders, and for her, I’m working on a range of detachable collars and yoga socks.

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What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Custom orders always produce the best responses from customers. There is something very special about developing a relationship with a customer and picturing them as I work. Last year, I worked with a great customer to create a pair of cashmere fingerless mittens for her cousin. They turned out fabulously and I keep her happy feedback and photos close by if I’m ever in need of motivation.

What’s the best thing about being a handmade artist?

Creating beautiful things with my hands.
What’s the worst thing about being a handmade artist?

Too many ideas and not enough time.

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Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years I would love to be working on Squidge & Bean full time. I hope to not only be knitting, but also producing my own yarns and teaching others how to knit. And who knows, maybe in ten years I may have some folks helping me achieve all this!

If you could give one piece of advice to a new etsy seller, what would it be?

I’m still new to Etsy, but the one thing that has stood out to me is the importance of good photography. Learn how to take drool-worthy photographs and get familiar with the photo-editing tools on your computer. I am amazed by the improvements to my photos with a few clicks.

How do you keep in touch with the public?

I update my blog, closeknitblog.wordpress.com, with behind the scenes news and updates and Etsy treasuries inspired by my life.

You can also keep in touch with me on Facebook (squidgeandbean.facebook.com), follow me on Twitter (@squidgebean) and shop online at squidgeandbean.etsy.com and in person the 30th Street Craft Fair on June 15th.

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