Hooked on Shakespeare: Shakespeare Crochet with Gurinder Kaur Hatchard

Posted by Adam Sherratt on

"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together"

All's Well That Ends Well

crochet figures in a groupGurinder Kaur Hatchard


Join us as we ask author and crochet designer Gurinder Kaur Hatchard a few questions about her new book, her enthusiasm for Shakespeare and her love of crocheting. Hooked on Shakespeare: Crochet Projects Inspired by the Bard features 15 fun crochet projects inspired by William Shakespeare. 


When did you learn to crochet and why do you enjoy it so much?

My mum taught me to crochet when I was about 7 or 8. I picked it up fairly easily and used to crochet little blankets and clothes for my toys. I didn’t do it for a few years until I was pregnant with my first child and wanted to make her something special. The amount of effort and love that goes into a crochet item or anything handmade is such a contrast to our fast fashion/disposable world. I love that it’s so versatile and I love making clothes and accessories as much as I do figures. As long as I’ve got some yarn and a hook in my hand I’m happy!

This is your first book offering amigurumi patterns. Can you explain what the amigurumi technique is?

The word comes from Japanese “ami” meaning knitted or crocheted, and “nuigurumi” meaning (sewn) stuffed doll. You usually only use a handful of simple crochet stitches, and can use it to create lots of fantastically versatile things!

What inspired you to choose Shakespeare’s characters as a theme? Have you always been drawn to Shakespeare?

I always crochet on my way into work, and I used to work very near the Globe Theatre. My mind is always looking for new inspiration and I remember one day wandering past and thinking… wouldn’t it be cool to crochet some of the characters? There’s been so many interpretations of Shakespeare over the years, it’s only right that crochet should get in on the action!

I loved the idea of putting them all together in a book because there is so much variety. Some of the plays are set in ancient times, some in a magical landscape and others in Tudor times. I knew that none of the characters would look the same so it was quite exciting to start designing and picking and choosing colours and costumes.

My love for Shakespeare was sparked from my school in Birmingham. We did A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I thought it was so much fun. We did all the classics as I’m sure most British school kids did, like Romeo and Juliet and Othello. I went on to do English Literature and Theatre Studies for A-Level and my love for how theatre and wonderful storytelling can transport you grew and grew!

Being based in Birmingham, we were lucky enough to be close to Stratford so I’ve got lots of fond memories of trips to Shakespeare’s Birthplace and the rest of the houses, as well as being able to see a few productions at the RSC.

crocheted Shakespeare









Which character did you start with and why? Did you have favourite characters that you wanted to include, and how did you decide which ones to leave out?

The first figure I designed was Nick Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As soon as people see him, they know who he is. The play is so much fun and he steals the show, and it’s great to start with such a fun character.

It was very hard choosing which plays and which characters would make the final book – I seriously could have done loads more! I chose a lot by figuring out which characters would actually look different enough from each other. It was great doing Cleopatra, Antony, Caesar and Brutus as they are dressed so differently to other characters. The Tempest was fun too, as Ariel and Caliban can be interpreted in any way you like. Creating Falstaff was an opportunity to make someone look a bit ragged and mismatched so this was a good one to include – everyone else is all in their fineries!

I tried to have a range of female and male characters and look at which time they were set in, how they would all be dressed, and could I make them all different enough from each other. I also tried to have a mix between the tragedies and the comedies, with a few histories thrown in. Hopefully, if your favourite character is missing, there is another one in a similar outfit you can create.

While crafting these characters, did you play with them, perhaps involving your children, or do you view these figures more as decorative pieces? How do you imagine they will ‘live’ in their new homes when they are created?

I love to create videos and stop motion with my crochet so I could use this as an excuse to play with them all in the name of social media content. I’ve taken them with me a lot on a few trips and tried to get a few silly pictures, Julius Caesar came with me to Las Vegas so we could visit Caesar’s Palace, Henry VIII and Anen Boleyn came with me to see the musical Six and I took my Shakespeare to Stratford over the October half term so we could visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace and all the houses. The kids are usually the ones holding them and trying to get in the best place for a shot, they’re used to mummy taking strange videos and pics now.

It'd be nice to see them played with by children, but I think there’s lots of adults who’ll enjoy having a few sat on their bookshelves or desks to keep them company or inspired while they’re getting on with their day!

In order to keep the amigurumi characters relatively easy to crochet you had to simplify the clothing and the accessories of the figures. How did you overcome this challenge?

There was a lot of trial and error, and sometimes I think I had to weigh up whether giving the characters a lot of extra detail would be worth the frustration to the crocheters! Most of the figures are only 15 cm high so as long as I had the essence of a time or character, I thought it would be ok. They’re not exact replicas and I’ve used a lot of dramatic licence to create them.

When you were creating the patterns did you draw inspiration from external sources like films, theatre productions, or book illustrations, or did you primarily rely on your own imagination?

I had a great time researching it all to be honest! It was a lovely excuse to immerse myself in Shakespeare by going to see some fantastic productions and watching some of the movies. A couple of books that were really helpful were Tudor Fashion by Eleri Lynn and What People Wore When by Melissa Leventon, as well a lot of children’s Shakespeare books. I also went to a talk at the Globe with their costume designers and got to see a lot of the clothes used in productions up close. I even met an Egyptologist at the Petrie Museum and we had a great chat about Cleopatra’s clothing and heritage.

For the figures that aren’t based on historical people it was great putting my own spin on them. I’ve tried to include a lot of characters with different skin tones too as Shakespeare should be for everyone, as his plays are performed all over the world.

I also looked around closer to home for a bit of inspiration. Mistress Page’s hair and skin tone was inspired by my mum, who used to have a lovely beehive. I also based Benedick and Beatrice on my husband and me – I wanted to find an iconic couple that don’t end up dead at the end!

The biggest challenge was Henry VIII – there are such classic portraits of him, and everyone is so familiar with his look, it was quite daunting to take on! He was the one that took the longest to design and there was a lot of unpicking and discarded bits that never made it through to the final version. I’m very proud with how he turned out in the end!

In your introduction you encourage practising crocheters to ignore Lady Macbeth’s comment “What is done cannot be undone”. Are there any other quotations from Shakespeare that you think would resonate with the arts and crafts community?

I think it would have to be "The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together" from All’s Well That Ends Well.

Which is your favourite figure and why? Are there any other literary characters you’d like to create?

Oh dear, that’s a difficult question…I love them all! The Witches from Macbeth, Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Caliban from The Tempest… no I can’t choose. I did end up crocheting a jumbo Shakespeare that’s currently sitting in my lounge so I’ve grown quite attached to him!

I’ve always loved Alice in Wonderland and there are so many amazing characters from there, as well as The Wizard of Oz - any story with a bit of magic is very appealing so they are definitely on the to-do list.















Gurinder's book Hooked on Shakespeare can be purchased from our online shop here.

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