Julie Brocklehurst crochets cosy works of art from her home in Logy Bay.
By Nicola Ryan
Do you remember your grandmother’s house? I remember my nanny’s living room in her Southern Shore home - the cluttered china cabinet, the television with the rabbit ears, and the armchair (its side pocket stuffed with knitting supplies and half-finished slippers) draped with one of those blankets crocheted in a rainbow of colours. You know the ones. They’re as familiar as a loaf of homemade bread, and seeing one today would likely fill you with sentimentality or wistfulness for those days gone by.
Well, they say everything old is new again and the proof is in the pudding for Julie Brocklehurst. She is the designer and maker behind Logy Made, the brand that’s creating granny square blankets and crocheted pieces inspired by traditional styles but perfectly at home in modern spaces.
When I catch up with Julie, she’s at home in Logy Bay where she lives with her husband Andrew and their two children. She tells me the inspiration behind her creations started with her nanny, Olive.
“I remember my grandmother trying to teach me to crochet when I was really little. She crocheted and made granny square blankets and lots of little doilies and tablecloths and that kind of stuff. I think I was interested at the time because I always wanted to be involved in whatever she was doing, but it certainly didn’t stick. I haven’t been crocheting ever since,” she laughs. “She died several years ago, but every time I’m working on a blanket, I feel like I can feel her. I know that sounds like a line, but it’s really something. And I kind of wish she was still here to see what I’m doing because it wasn’t until after she passed away that I took it up again.”
Julie makes her blankets with mindfulness and love, patiently crocheting each colourful square. “I do the squares first,” she explains. “Each square is done separately and then I join them afterwards. That’s the way, I think, that they were always made. I certainly didn’t invent anything, but I’m just so happy to carry on an old tradition.”
While the blankets are made in the traditional style, the beautiful colourways Julie chooses makes them feel modern. We crack up laughing when I recall the traditional blankets being mostly black- “and orange!” Julie says, finishing my thought. “Whether it was the ’60s or ’70s, maybe that’s just what was in at the time and what was available.”
Today, Julie likes to shop locally for yarn when she can, mentioning she likes to pop into Cast On Cast Off or order from local small-batch yarn dyers. She tries to avoid using 100 per cent wool as it tends to be itchy, and opts instead for soft and comfortable blends of fine wool and nylon or cashmere. Her blankets are incredible combinations of hues inspired by the familiar landscapes of our province - the bright burgundy of fresh partridgeberries, the golden yellow of sunrays crowning pine clad hills, the silvery greys and blues like the clouds of stormy skies.
“Maybe I’m just good at colours,” Julie says, playing down her artistic talent. “Sometimes they’re more carefully thought out, but sometimes it’s just pretty random. Sometimes I’m making a square with, say, four different colours and I think ‘oh god, that doesn’t go,’ but it looks so good when it’s finished and they’re all put together and there’s no rhyme and reason to it. They’re my favourite.”
Julie mainly creates customer orders. “Mostly commissions are from individuals looking for something that would remind them of something that they had years and years ago. I get lots from people that are from Newfoundland but now live away, and they want something to remind them of home. As I’m making them, it helps to know who they’re for. There’s always a story, and each one is special.” Some of Julie’s favourite creations were the most meaningful, including one made from squares that a grandmother had started but didn’t get to finish, or a new blanket made from yarn found in a late mother’s possessions.
“Honestly, it’s hard to part with them,” she says. “I spend so much time on each one and then I have to hand them over. It’s hard to let them go, but that’s just part of it, I guess.”
Julie’s beautiful artworks can also be found displayed at B&Bs and heritage homes around the province, and they are sold in a selection of boutiques and gift shops. Last summer Julie was invited to showcase her work at the Festival of Quilts - a celebration of handmade tradition and cultural creativity that toured Bay de Verde, Red Head Cove and Grates Cove, where quilts were displayed in churches and halls and on clotheslines. You may have also spotted her works as yarn bombs - pop-up artworks adorning rocks at Middle Cove Beach or Quidi Vidi by the artisan studio.
Through her work with the blankets, Julie has been able to appreciate the practice of slow living, taking a calmer and more balanced approach to life. “Being intentional with my time allows me to curate a meaningful and conscious lifestyle that’s in line with what I value most,” she says. “I’m really happy with the way things are going. It does bring me a lot of joy, and since COVID this has become my full-time work. For me, that allows me to be able to stay home with my children, which is the most important thing. Our children have medical issues, so it’s really important to me to have that sense of comfort at home. We spend most of our time at home, and we try to provide a safe and loving space. I think my blankets contribute to that.”
As for the blankets that now adorn couches all across Newfoundland and Labrador and farther afield, Julie hopes they’ll be cherished as much as those old time originals. “My hope is that they’ll become almost like an heirloom piece,” she says. “That they’ll be passed down then through generations in the same way that I’ve got my grandmother’s blanket. I hope that my blankets are around for generations to come. Imagine! It’s a crazy thought, but it’s kind of nice.