Welcome to Ingrid van Willenswaard’s Workroom
Handcrafts alone can make you go all warm and fuzzy, but wait till you combine them with the world’s cutest house/stitching studio. Ingrid van Willenswaard is a knitter, crocheter, artist and blogger and the happy occupant of the sweetest, tiniest, timber cottage in beautiful Amsterdam. She opens her doors to Homespun readers. By Susan Hurley
“The most important thing for me is that everything I do and make feels right.”
“I still feel the magic of making something, just like when I was seven years old.”
If more people in the world felt like Ingrid van Willenswaard, the planet would gently turn on its axis with a soft, contented hum, rather than crashing and banging and spinning to the roar of traffic and the blast of battles.
“I knit and crochet because it gives me a feeling of peace; it’s a kind of meditation, the counting of the stitches and the focus on your hands leaving little room for worries. I don’t have a special goal doing it – it’s just the fun of it.”
It’s a sentiment that every crafter can relate to. Not that most of us need convincing – is there a single stitcher alive who wouldn’t choose to spend their hours in a craft studio, creating, creating, creating, rather than dealing with the clatter of modern life?
Ingrid’s cosy craft retreat is as comforting as her thoughts – a reflection of her philosophy, not to mention a historical and architectural gem. It welcomes you with its crowd of projects and cosy unpretentiousness. But the truth is that her whole home is her workroom. Has to be, because it’s monumentally small. It’s a storybook of a house in northern Amsterdam … a cute cottage that’s so weeny, passersby actually stop to take pictures.
“In the morning, when I spread my things out on the dining table, it’s a complete mess, because I have nowhere to put anything, ” says Ingrid, of Ingthings. “In the afternoon, when I clean everything up, I take my knitting and crochet to the couch to watch Netflix, so it doesn’t feel like work at all. I have to keep everything very organised, because, in the evening, we have to eat at the dining table. And a messy house makes me restless.”
For all the sense of paradise found here on the Dutch dykes, Ingrid’s squeezy surroundings can sometimes cramp her style. There’s just one cupboard in the living room to store what she needs, and the bedroom has to house basket-loads of wool. When things really crowd in on her, she hankers for a separate studio space outside her home so that she wouldn’t have to perpetually tidy, but that might have to wait a bit until her piggy bank bulges enough to afford Amsterdam commercial real estate.
“Before I moved in here, I used to live in bigger houses and I was busy decorating. I love nice furniture, and I collected lots of things, like vintage fabric. When I moved here, I sold or gave away most of my things and I still had to change the living room over and over again, trying to maximise the space. There’s not much furniture here, but the things I have make me happy. Now, it’s a combination of comfort and practicality. But the few things I have must look good. I always say I want things in my house that make me smile.”
It’s been a circuitous route to her crafting life in Amsterdam – via art studies, psych nursing, B&B hostessing and vintage-fabric retailing – mostly from larger premises in rural villages. Today, her urban studio-home is her career castle, albeit pint-sized. She’s been here for nearly five years now and says she loves her four-centuries-old home. It’s just a few minutes by bicycle to the countryside, and not far, on a ferry, to the city centre. “Here in Amsterdam North, I have everything I need – the market, shops, thrift stores and, most importantly, a nice wool shop.”
The comforts of home feed her creativity. Everywhere has a casual warmth to it in Ingrid’s living spaces. There’s not an ounce of affectation. The rooms call you in, and the crafts invite you to touch. Knitted bags hang from wall hooks; crocheted scraps fill boxes and baskets; yarns make tactile rainbows on benchtops; jugs are packed with coloured knitting needles; and the essence of the creator is everywhere.
“Because I can’t choose what I like most, I make a lot of different things,” says Ingrid. “I like to crochet, to knit, embroider, draw, make cards and fold paper. I am not a specialist – I like to keep things simple and easy.”
And the same is apparently true of her popular blog (ing-things.blogspot.nl) and Instagram (@ingthings). “They are really what I am and what I like to share. I don’t care about trends. When I first started my blog, I didn’t intend to share all my craft ideas, but when I did show a simple crochet scarf, my readers responded in an overwhelming way. So I started telling them more and more about my projects. Now, I try to make a blog post every day. People now show Instagram posts of the things of mine that they’ve made from my blog or my three books. It makes me happy and I also feel honoured if people buy something handmade in my shop. It’s really rewarding when people like your work.”
Ingrid must be doing something right, because these days, she has foregone a full-time job elsewhere and concentrates solely on her creativity. Along with her handcrafts and books, she also contributes to Dutch and English magazines in the form of DIY projects or illustrations.
Most of that is just raw talent, but we wouldn’t mind betting that a little dose of her daily inspiration comes straight from her sweeter-then-sweet surroundings.
A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS
WHITE CABINET – The big white cabinet in the living room was from my mother. It is very old. I love it, and it goes where I go!
MY NOTEBOOK – I’ve had the same notebook for years. It’s almost falling apart, but I am very attached to it. It contains notes of ideas and things i want to remember.
BOOKS I’VE WRITTEN – I have created three craft books and one colouring book. They’re stacked on my desk, so every time I question my own work or I think it’s not good enough, I look at them and feel proud. They give me self-confidence.
FOUNTAIN PEN – My fountain pen was given to me as a gift years ago, and I am still using it. It’s one of the nicest things I own.
SPECIAL CROCHET NEEDLE – I have many, many different crochet needles, among them some pretty fancy ones, but I cherish the simple metal crochet needle that I have had since I was a child.
APPLE COMPUTER – Maybe a strange things to say, but I love my desktop Apple computer. It has a big screen, and I had to save for a long time to buy it. I used to have a very old laptop that didn’t work very well. Now it’s a joy to work on the computer, especially since learning Photoshop.
You can see more of Ingrid van Willenswaard’s work or contact her at: