Inspired by… Nicola Gouldsmith of Halfpenny Home Haberdashery

Nicola - Halfpenny Home

Craft Editor at Oh Comely Magazine, Beth Davies has kindly added another fascinating story of creative inspiration to our ‘inspired by‘ series of posts…

I’ve always loved making and doing and have done so all my life, but in the past year or so there has been one person in particular that sticks in my mind in as being an inspiration as far as craft is concerned.

I first met Nicola when I took a chance on following a small embroidered sign hanging on a wall and found myself inside the most magical haberdashery I’ve ever come across- housed in a barn and quite literally packed to the rafters with glass bowls of buttons, bunting, antique dressers full of ribbon, rolls of fabric, hats, stacks of books, feather thimbles, wools, china jugs of knitting needles and the occasional baby chicken.

Even in those fleeting ten minutes I knew I’d found somewhere special, but needing to be somewhere else I had to turn and do my best impression of Cinderella leaving the ball. However a week later I turned up on a Wednesday morning with a pair of plastic needles I’d been flailing about with on and off for a couple of years and a ball of thick grey wool that was definitely deserving of better things.

The needles were whisked out of my hands faster than you can say ‘purl-one’ and quickly replaced with a cup of tea and a pair of bamboo ones, and after sitting with me for half an hour or so Nicola had got me casting on and knitting no-one ever had. A couple of weeks later I was sewing in the ends of a knitted cushion sampler, and feeling as proud of it’s slightly imperfect panels than I’d felt about anything- and after that the place became my haven.

As a teacher Nicola has the perfect balance of enthusiasm and tact, as best witnessed when gently telling me that perhaps translating a 1940s parrot jumper pattern wasn’t the ideal second project to move onto. But she searched the internet for a fishnet sock pattern that she knew I’d instantly fall for instead, which proved to be so popular that she can be entirely credited for spurring the sock-knitting frenzy to have swept Suffolk over the past year or so.

I’ve seen her be brilliant with everyone from seven year olds through to seventy year olds – which in itself speaks volumes about the place – but always full of friendly banter and frequently bursting into one the best laughs I’ve ever heard. Everyone is treated equally, and the Haberdashery itself is a continuation of this, being the sort of place that you are welcome just to browse, or wander round emitting the odd excitable squeak (consciously or otherwise.) If you arrive at 11 and don’t leave until five then that’s fine too, but the kettle’s always on (‘except when it’s not’) and should you manage to break your elbow coming off your bike – ahem – then I can throughly recommend it as a place to convalesce, drinking tea and reading Selvedge in an old velvet chair.

She’s a selfless crafter who barely has enough time to indulge in a slice of cake most days – let alone finish anything of her own, though given the opportunity is incredibly talented herself and has a wealth of knowledge to pick her brains on, but beyond craft there’s a hundred other reasons as to why I see her as being such an inspiring figure.

For one she has an amazing waste-not-want-not mentality that we could all do with learning a bit from and which results in glorious things such as denim windbreakers. She also has the most unbelievable community spirit, buying local and supporting other local businesses as much as she can (she’s a particularly loyal patron of Aspall Cider…) and organising events such as craft fairs that everyone can share in.

On a less virtue-based note though, she rides a vintage bike that used to belong to a clown, will never leave you wanting for a cup of tea, has a cracking taste in music and has made grown men weep with her home-made scotch eggs. What more could you ask for in a person?

I recently moved away, and saying goodbye to Wednesday mornings in the barn was one of the hardest things. about leaving. She’s still the first person I’d choose to go to with my charity shop finds or to gush over a vintage liberty print given the chance, but I’m also delighted to say that she is also now the joint author of one of the loveliest books on craft I have ever come across. I truly wish that everyone that loves craft could have a place like this to call their ‘Halfpenny Home’, and someone like Nicola to inspire them.

You can visit Halfpenny Home online too! www.halfpennyhome.co.uk and don’t forget to check out the latest copy of Oh Comely Magazine too

We would love to read about who has inspired you? Please leave a comment and let us know all about them and why they have been such an important influence in your creative life.

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12 Comments

  • May 5, 2011

    kirsty

    Fascinating read! I’m off to visit the online shop now!

  • May 5, 2011

    bhmakes

    So much of my work is inspired by my grandparents. I spent most of my childhood experimenting with dyes, embroidering, mending, knitting etc with Gran and Grampa teaching me the rudiments of wood work (cue blunted tools and ‘sculptures’ agogo!). I use the things they taught me in my work today, and one of the best things – I am never bored!

  • May 5, 2011

    Linda

    Yes Nicola is inspirational and a lovely person. She remembered my name from my very first visit last year and I have been back several times since when I am back in Suffolk.It is a wonderful emporium and also, last Saturday, I thoroughly enjoyed myself there at a felting workshop, and to add to that, went away with two pieces of rhubarb cake,a piece for me and a piece for my long suffering hubby,who was waiting outside!

  • May 5, 2011

    Nicola

    Oh, I’m weeping and also smiling at this! What a lovely surprise and how much to I miss our very own Dolly Beth – Knitting Pin-up?!

    Bit pink around the cheek (face!) area too and remembering the day that photo was taken…and how excited we were to see it in Oh Comely!

    Lots of love Nic x

  • May 5, 2011

    baggieaggietoo

    Great article! Off to have a peek at Nicola’s shop. :)

  • May 5, 2011

    littlewrenpottery

    Nicola sounds like quite the powerhouse of craft, I too love Aspall Cider! : )

    Great story, its lovely to read about those connections we make with each other through crafting.

  • May 5, 2011

    Jane V Southgate

    Too right Dolly Beth! Nicola is an inspiration to us all and quite frankly one of the best friends you could wish to make, as for Halfpenny Home, it is the haberdashery promised land- we miss you on wednesdays knitting pin up x

  • May 6, 2011

    Jools (Umbel HM)

    Really brilliant reading. Makes me feel al warm yet insanely jealous at the same time!

    I love to hear of inspirational people. I like to think everyone has one at some time. Mine was a tutor I had at college, an older chap with a Victorian thing going on. He was my inspirational guru for many years and even now he’s gone I can hear him over my shoulder some days when I’m making an absolute pig’s ear of something. He believed in people and gave of himself, though with the greatest humility I’ve ever known.

    I often wonder if people like him or Nicola here actually know what they give to the world on a personal level. They’re heroes.

  • May 6, 2011

    Just Bev Soaps

    This sounds like my ideal place!! Thank you for letting us know about this gem, I’m off to look at the website now.

    Thanks

    Katie x

  • May 6, 2011

    Konnie Kapow!

    What a lovely piece, I want to meet nicola too!

  • May 7, 2011

    Amy Nettleton

    Great article Beth, Nic is fab – ‘nuf said.

  • July 5, 2011

    Haberdashery

    Excellent piece.
    I’ve recently discovered a new craft website.
    It’s got loads of craft, haberdashery, materials etc..
    Just google ‘oh sew crafty’…