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Today, I’m pleased to present an interview with Kathryn Vercillo from Crochet Concupiscence, one of my favorite crochet blogs. It is sort of like the USA Today of crochet blogs – a roundup of everything going on in the crochet world, plus Kathryn’s personal projects – but with much better/more engaging writing. Kathryn is working on a new project Swaddle, which she will share with us.
Kathryn is a professional writer and blogger, and she lives in San Francisco, where I used to live as a toddler (yes, it is true, I haven’t lived in NYC for my entire life – I did spend three years elsewhere). You can find Kathryn on her blog, on her Twitter page, or on Ravelry as CrochetBlogger.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Kathryn: Like many other people, I learned a basic crochet chain from my mom when I was a kid but then didn’t really do anything else with crochet until I was an adult. A few years ago, I was struggling with a very serious bout of depression and I kept trying to force myself to explore different interests in order to escape from the clutches of such sadness. I can’t even tell you how many things I tried (hula hoop dancing, drawing, computer gaming) and somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to try crochet. It immediately resonated with me when nothing else had.
I started re-learning crochet at that time by trying to read vintage crochet patterns from my mom’s old magazines but those proved too difficult to understand (although I can read them now). I ended up getting some “how to crochet” books for kids from my library and learning from them, using YouTube videos as a supplement when certain stitches confused me. It started out as a possible hobby and became a true passion. Now I crochet daily and research the craft all of the time.
UC: What was your original inspiration for starting Crochet Concupiscence?
Kathryn: I am a freelance writer for a living and had been working as a professional blogger for other people for about five years. Every time that I had a new interest, I started a blog of my own to explore it further and share it with others. However, I never really devoted a lot of time to any of those previous blogs because I was busy blogging for others. Last year I started cutting back on my professional blogging work in order to focus on some other writing projects. That opened up a space for me to launch a blog of my own that I could really devote myself to. Crochet had become the love of my life by then and I wanted to spend as much time as I could researching it so it was a natural step to launch the blog. My favorite part of every day is the writing I do for Crochet Concupiscence.
UC: You’re a very active blogger with an established audience, but seem to have a life, too (or perhaps that is all a scam, and you are chained to your computer all day?). What tips do you have for emerging bloggers?
Kathryn: I do try to have a life although I admit that I probably spend more time crocheting and blogging than the average person would :). Based on my experiences both with Crochet Concupiscence and with the blogs I’ve done professionally for others, here are my blogging tips:
- Take the time to ask yourself what you want from your blog. The thing about the blog world is that there are many, many different tools for bloggers (Twitter, SEO stuff, WordPress plugins, etc. etc.) and you can easily get lost as you learn about each of these new things. If you know exactly what you want from your blog, it will be much easier to sift through all of this and choose only those things that make sense to you and keep you enjoying your blog. Your goal might be to keep track of your projects in one place, or to connect with other like-minded people around a topic like crochet, or to have hundreds of thousands of followers and be a big influencer in your niche. Whatever goal you have is fine but it’s important to know what it is.
- Establish a posting schedule. I write about the same things each day of the week so that I don’t have to think “what should I write today?” For example, I always do crochet artist profiles on Mondays and crochet book reviews on Tuesdays. It’s a time saver. I also recommend setting aside specific times of day or days of the week to do your blogging. This keeps you on track.
- Read other blogs that interest you. This will keep you inspired, give you ideas for what you want to do with your own blog, and help you connect to a larger community, which is a key thing that makes blogging fun.
UC: You are working on a new project, Swaddle, which explores the way women nurture the men in their lives. Tell me about your inspiration for this project and what type of support you are looking for from the crochet community.
Kathryn: Yes! Swaddle is a crochet art project that uses the traits inherent in crochet to explore the ways in which women communicate with the men in their lives and how this affects their relationships. I believe that women are generally taught to be the caregivers and problem-solvers in their relationships, and they often use words to do this. Sometimes the ways we communicate as women do a great job of nurturing the relationships we have and sometimes they go awry and really stifle those relationships. Swaddle explores both sides of this through crochet art.
Historically, mothers swaddled babies to keep them safe but it sometimes went wrong and ended up killing the child, and that’s where the imagery comes from for the project.
This crochet project will ultimately have 12 – 24 pieces in it for display in a gallery. The title piece is Swaddled. This is a collection of crocheted swaddling blankets wrapped around representations of male figures. Some are cozy and comfortable, as we expect crochet blankets to be. Some are strangling and suffocating. Some are too loose and the male is exposed. This represents the core idea behind the title project.
Communication, relationships, and women’s roles have long been themes I’ve explored in my writing and artwork. When I started getting into crochet, I knew that I wanted to do some type of art project with it. Crochet is stereotypically a female craft and can be constructed in both a delicate “feminine” way and a structural “masculine” form so it lends itself well to art that explores gender issues. I also think that the repetition in crochet with its constant loops and knots easily represents communication, so it works well for this project.
I would love to see the crochet community support this project and that’s why I’ve chosen to use Kickstarter to crowdsource funding to make it a reality. People can donate as little as one dollar to support the development of the project. People who donate $20 or more will be allowed to select a set of stitches in the color of their choosing which will go in to one large-scale art piece in Swaddle to represent the participation of those who have helped the project along.
I’d like to note that I’m using yarns from indie female yarn dyers and spinners so the funding through Kickstarter will also help the fiber community in that way.
UC: I usually ask about favorite blogs, but I think your Hooked Together project gives us all a great view into your blog reading habits. Instead I’ll skip right to asking about your favorite crochet books in your collection. Do you have some that you always return to, or new favorites, to share?
Kathryn: Yes, Hooked Together is a compilation of all of the crochet and fiber blogs you read. I’d also like to note that each Saturday I do a “link love” post with links to my favorite crochet posts from the week so that’s another great way to see what I enjoy reading. (UC comment: I love Link Love – I don’t read as many blogs as Kathryn, so that’s how I find out about posts I haven’t seen yet.)
As for books, I’m currently obsessing over Edie Eckman’s Around the Corner Crochet Borders. It features 150 crochet edging options, so it’s a great way to learn lots of different stitch combinations in a manner that is easy to follow.
I recently reviewed Sarah London’s Granny Square Love, and I adore many of the projects in that book because I’m kind of in love with grannies lately. (UC comment: Me, too! I had great fun reviewing Sarah’s new book, and have been on a granny kick lately.)
And I’m a huge fan of Crochet Master Class, which you actually turned me on to because of your great posts working through that book! (UC comment: Thanks, Kathryn! You can read my Crochet Master Class posts here.)
Finally, I am working my way through a great vintage crochet book called Crochet and Creative Design by Annette Feldman that is more about the theory behind crochet construction. (UC comment: Thanks for introducing me to this book, Kathryn. Of course, you know I had to rush out and buy a used copy for my vintage crochet book collection!)
UC: Has blogging about crochet influenced your personal crocheting? If so, how?
Kathryn: Great question! Blogging about crochet gives me an excuse and motivation to constantly research crochet, so it has exposed me to many different things in crochet that I might not have found otherwise.
It was through reading crochet blogs that I came to understand both the importance and the how-to of blocking crochet. And it was through crochet blogs that I learned about tapestry crochet, which is a type of crochet that I really want to delve into in the near future.
I think crochet blogging also helps to keep me productive because I always want to have new work to show off on my blog. I’m participating in Year of Projects through Ravelry and I always try to chip away at my list to present something for those weekly posts on my blog.
UC: What are your favorite types of yarn to work with?
Kathryn: I’ve never met a yarn I didn’t like! No seriously, in terms of fiber, I’m currently loving bamboo/ silk blends. They are soft, shiny, somewhat eco-friendly (bamboo is, silk isn’t always) and work up easily. I also just recently bought some crazy soft baby alpaca and that may be my brand new love.
I prefer to buy hand-dyed and / or hand-spun yarns from indie dyers and small stores. Six Skeins and Candy Skein are two examples of online stores I like. (UC comment: Candy Skein’s proprietress is Tami from Tami’s Amis, the host of WIP Wednesday and FO Friday.) I also like Yarns of Italy, which isn’t an indie dyer but offers a select set of yarns direct from Italy at affordable prices. I prefer variegated yarns and like to stick to a blue/grey spectrum with some infusion of bright colors (greens and purples, mostly) and neutrals (creams, black and white).
If I had to pick a name brand yarn type that most people know, though, I’d definitely go with Malabrigo. I can never pass up a Malabrigo that comes into my path. And I also like Lorna’s Laces. I have a ridiculous yarn stash, which is organized loosely by color and put on display in vintage metal containers throughout my home. (UC comment: I’ve been planning to check out Candy Skein and haven’t tried Six Skeins or Lorna’s Laces yet, either – so thanks for the positive reviews!)
UC: What are your favorite types of projects to pick up for your own personal crocheting?
Kathryn: I make a ton of capelets, cowls and scarves. I often buy just one or two skeins of yarn and these items are small enough that I can use just that small yarn amount. I also like those small projects because they allow me to see how various stitch combinations work out without a huge commitment. Plus one great crochet accessory like that can really pull together an outfit! (UC comment: So true!)
I do typically have one larger project on the hooks – lately it’s been a large granny square blanket but I’ve also done a lot of dresses – that I can go to when I want to crochet but don’t want to think about what I want to make! In general I like to work on seamless crochet projects with very few color changes.
UC: (Insert question here: If there is anything I haven’t asked about related to crocheting, blogging, yarn, etc., that you would like to talk about, please include it here.)
Kathryn: I would just like to add that one of my main goals in terms of what I can contribute to the crochet community is to strengthen the connections that crocheters have online. This is reflected in my Hooked Together project, of course. But I also try to do it steadily with my blog by reviewing books and yarn, interviewing crocheters, sharing links, highlighting daily Etsy selections, etc. I believe that the crochet community is a terrific community and think it’s wonderful that we can connect online in the twenty first century so I try to do my part to establish and strengthen such connections.
UC: Thanks so much for stopping by, Kathryn, and I think you are meeting your goal of strengthening the online connection between crocheters! Please stop by the Swaddled Kickstarter page and contribute to this exciting art project.