I have a hard time saying goodbye to summer. Winters in the Northeast can be brutal, and, to me, the end of summer is the first part of the long haul through the shortened days and cold weather.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been passing a display of sunflowers at a local market.
Sunflowers pretty much epitomize summertime for me. When I was a kid, my grandmother grew them in her (very small but extremely fertile) garden in Brooklyn, and they were usually taller than me!
I was inspired to make a sunflower-themed project a few weeks ago. I started with just one motif, using Galler YarnsParisian Cotton in Chocolate and Mimosa. I used to hate working with crochet cotton, but since I’ve gotten some comfort hooks in small sizes, crocheting with thread has become one of my favorite summer activities. When it is really humid and hot, crochet cotton is just about all I can tolerate working with.
Then I decided to make several more and transform these little motifs into a belt.
Even after commenting about how I seem to always be wearing the same shirt in my project photographs, I couldn’t resist. After all, the brown really works with these sunflowers!
If you’d like to make your own sunflower motifs or belt, the free pattern is available as a Ravelry download.
(Join along with me any time if you need a head start or moral support for your holiday crafting. You can read more details here.)
I was feeling really good about my Holiday Stashdown progress last week, when I somehow completed an entire gift in one day.
But then I happened to look at a calendar. You may remember that my personal Holiday Stashdown deadline is Sunday, November 18 because I hate shopping after Black Friday. Well, since that date is only about 11 weeks from now, it looks like I need to get moving on these holiday gifts.
Most of my projects are small and can probably be completed within a week if I create a schedule and stick to it. I decided to look at my list – again – and think about the order. I’m currently working on an infinity scarf using the Bruges lace pattern I designed for one of the ladies in my dad’s family.
I think I’ll work on the remaining projects in this order:
Week of 9/3: Knit a cabled for my dad’s partner.
Week of 9/10: Finish the hexagon Christmas stocking for my grandfather.
Week of 9/17: Crochet a scarf for another lady in my dad’s family.
Week of 9/24: Knit a hat for my uncle.
Week of 10/1: Crochet a scarf for another lady in my dad’s family.
Week of 10/8: Make a hat or a pair of house slippers in charcoal grey for my special guy. I’m not sure yet if this project will be crocheted or knit, or what pattern I’ll use.
Week of 10/15: Crochet the last scarf for a lady in my dad’s family.
Week of 10/22: Make something for my sister. I’ve thought about using these slipper soles I bought for her a few years back, but I’m not sure if that will be too warm for her since she now lives in New Orleans?
Week of 10/29: Crochet a scarf for my high school BFF, CG.
Week of 11/5: Knit a hat for my other high school BFF, JM. I’ve been thinking of using this pattern since he’s a coffee fiend.
Week of 11/12: Finish the Pineapple Doily Shawl, which I can give to my mom since it is made with yarn from her mother’s stash.
Week of 11/19: If everything on this list is completed, start working on pet gifts at a leisurely pace.
This sounds really (perhaps overly) ambitious, but I am going to go for it! If you are working on your holiday gifts now, have you had to switch around your priorities as the summer comes to an end?
Feel free to share your progress on your personal holiday gift making journey in the comments!
Truth be told, I’m a bit afraid of variegated yarns. Sometimes, there are mystery colors hiding inside of the ball, skein, or hank that are just plain scary. In the case of this yarn, the color changes are unexpected, but still attractive.
Most of the yarn is a darkish green, which looks grey in these pictures for some reason. It’s more obvious in the close ups, but there are little flecks of brown repeated throughout which kind of pull the whole thing together.
I expect that this will be a holiday gift for one of the ladies in my dad’s family. I have four that I’m making gifts for this year. I might even make each of them a variation of the same design.
Assuming I have enough yarn, I plan to make this one an infinity scarf.
Even though I mailed off the proof of my 30 hours of teaching months ago, I didn’t receive my certificates (and super awesome pins) until yesterday.
So now I’m officially a certified knitting AND crochet teacher. (If you’re considering certification, here’s a post I wrote about the pros and cons last year.) It’s been about a year in the making, so I’m glad to be finished!
I’m really excited to unveil my very first finished knitting pattern, the Sandworm’s Journey Beanie, today. The pattern is part of a collection for charity to support the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar, so I thought it would be fitting to share an interview with Marsha Cunningham, the founder of the Knotty Knitters for Autism. I’ll start with my interview and then share more details about the pattern.
The Knotty Knitters calendar features women of all ages posing tastefully au naturale with some of their handmade creations. You can find the Knotty Knitters for Autism online on Facebook and Ravelry. Marsha can be found on Ravelry as marshaknits or through her Etsy shop.
Ms. September (Marsha Cunningham) from the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting?
Marsha: I got started knitting when I took a two week class at Rhodes Department Store in Tacoma,WA. I was eleven years old. My girlfriend was taking the class so my sister and I camped on. I am the only one who continued and took it to the next level.
After that, there was no stopping me. My next project was a V-neck sweater and then socks for my dad. I didn’t know much about gauge then. I knit the socks on a #4 needle. My dad wore them once, but they were too thick for his shoes. They were really nice with cables. I took to wearing them as sleep socks from the time I was about 13 to my second year of marriage when my husband asked me to quit wearing them to bed. LOL.
UC: You’re an active member of a local knitting group in Tacoma. What is it like to be involved with a knitting group, and what suggestions do you have for people who are considering joining one?
Marsha: I belong to Tacoma Knitters and we meet every Wednesday from 2:30-4:00pm at Fibers, ETC. It is an informal group. We help out where necessary, show our projects, etc. We have lots of fun and lots of laughs.
We have one rule….no religion or politics! (UC comment: I think this rule explains why you have lots of fun and laughs!)
The ladies of March (Liz Tekus, owner of Fine Points Yarn; Becca Smith, owner of bagsmith.com; and Susan Thompson, employee at both companies) from the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar, wrapped in a Big Stitch afghan.
UC: What is the inspiration behind the original Knotty Knitters for Autism calendar?
Marsha: My grandchildren, Mollee May and Josef Andrew, fraternal twins aged 9 were the inspiration for the calendar. They both have autism. Mollee is mainstreamed in school as of last year at Skyline and Josef goes to a special class at Franklin elementary. Mollee and Josef both manifest their symptoms differently. Mollee still has “meltdowns” and a little echolalia (repeating words and sentences). Josef does not speak although he is trying very hard. He spins pieces of paper incessantly. Both children tend to wander off if not watched continuously.
Ms. June (Zoe Weber) from the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar, wearing crocheted granny square shorts.
UC: Tell us about the process of finding designers and models to work with you for this year’s calendar.
Marsha: It was a little difficult find models for the calendar. (UC comment: It takes a brave knitter or crocheter to bare all for charity!) Some people say they will and then are no shows. So this year, I planned for some extras and had just right amount. The one requirement is that they be able to knit. We met Becca Smith of the Bagsmith.com at STITCHES last year. She brought 3 models with her. Three are returning models, 1 is the granddaughter of another model, 1 is from the Puyallup Knitting Guild, and 2 are from Ravelry.
Designers were a whole lot easier to find. I had met some on various knitting trips I had been on, some responded to the article in Yarn Market News, and some I just asked. (UC comment: You can download the patterns donated to the Knotty Knitters here.)
Ms. October (Ola Leonard Kersely) from the Knotty Knitters 2013 calendar, modeling an afghan she made to donate for auction.
UC: How can people help support the project?
Marsha: You can help support the project by purchasing a calendar and/or by purchasing raffle tickets for the afghan that Ms. October is wearing and that she knit. (UC comment: You can purchase the pattern here for $20 + $5 shipping. To purchase raffle tickets, which are $1 each or $5 for a book of six, email Marsha at marsha AT marshasells DOT com. The drawing is scheduled for December 15, 2012.)
UC: What are your have any favorite crafty website/blogs to visit for knitting inspiration?
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Marsha!
I read about the Knotty Knitter’s project in Yarn Market Newslast year, and I immediately contacted Marsha about contributing a pattern. At the time, I had no idea what this pattern would be. Oh, and I had never written a knitting pattern ;). Marsha was very flexible and allowed the designers complete creative freedom in creating a pattern. Although this freedom was wonderful, I was overwhelmed by all the ideas I was thinking up in my mind and I didn’t start on the project for months.
But then, March rolled around, and Stacey at FreshStitches announced Knit and Crochet Design Week. Designing is usually an isolated experience for me, so I decided to try my hand at designing with moral support. The first version of this design was born.
From the beginning, the stitch pattern reminded me of the trail of a sandworm, the creatures who feature so prominently in the Dune series by Frank Herbert. The yarn I was using was a rich blue, like the eyes of the Fremen and Paul Muad’Dib, and so I called the projectKwisatz Haderach. Ultimately, I wasn’t very satisfied with the decrease pattern and I ended up ripping back the project since it didn’t have an intended recipient.
I was inspired to restart the design, and the orange yarn allowed me to maintain my Dune theme because it’s the same color as the desert planet of Arrakis. I finished the sample at the end of May, and shared it with the world in early June. Not only am I able to share the pattern to support a great cause, but I got to use up some stash and finish a gift from my holiday crafting list early.
You can download the PDF pattern for free from the Knotty Knitters website or Ravelry. Even though the pattern is a freebie, I hope you will consider donating to the Knotty Knitters or another autism charity in your area.
Today, I’m interviewing Kathryn Vercillo, one of my favorite crochet bloggers, for the second time. (You can check out the first interview here.) Kathryn recently self published a book, Crochet Saved My Life, about the ways crochet supports physical and mental healing.
Kathryn is a professional writer, and her work has been published in magazines such as Latina and Skope. Kathryn has also written for numerous websites and blogs, including PC Worldand Houzz. And, of course, Kathryn is the mind behind Crochet Concupiscence, and is also known as CrochetBlogger on Ravelry and Twitter. You can also find Kathryn and Crochet Concupiscence online on Facebook, G+, and Pinterest, and you can sign up for her newsletter (which generally features awesome goodies and discounts) here.
Underground Crafter (UC): Your new book, Crochet Saved My Life, shares your personal experience of using crochet to help deal with your depression. Tell us more about your decision to write the book and to share your experience with depression, which is often stigmatized in our society. What were some of the challenges you faced in starting this project?
Kathryn: I have been a writer for as long as I can remember and I knew that there was another book in me, but I wasn’t sure what it would be about or when it would happen. I started writing the Crochet Concupiscence blog shortly after beginning to heal from depression and it was a really great project for me. I enjoy writing about crochet every day and I’ve really been happy with the terrific support I’ve received from the online crochet community. So it began to get clearer and clearer that my next book would be related to this topic that was becoming increasingly important to me – meaning the topic of crochet.
There were actually a few false starts. For example, I had ideas for a crochet pattern book and was thinking at the time that I wanted to get into pattern design. But as I started doing that I just found that it wasn’t really that enjoyable for me for a variety of reasons. I admire and respect the terrific crochet designers that are putting out books, but making my own patterns turned out to not feel right. I like doing a lot of random crochet work and creating my own designs but I don’t enjoy the process of writing that down and translating it all into something that someone else can follow.
I also started writing some short stories about crochet. I enjoyed that but I can’t say that I was passionate about it. In the meantime, I was continuing to post a lot on the blog and I found that one of the topics I was drawn to again and again was how crochet helped in healing people and just improving quality of life. So it began to occur to me that this was really a topic I wanted to explore further and to do that I needed to get at the core of why it was so important to me, which meant confronting my own depression story. As I started to do that, I found myself not only having a lot to say but also feeling really positive while writing the material and that was what told me that yes, this was the right project at the right time.
One of the toughest things for me with this book was deciding how much of myself to share and in what way. I did not want this to be entirely a memoir about my own experience but I did think that it was important to share that story in detail. I wanted to be honest but not self-pitying. Finding that voice was a little bit tough. In the end I decided to write the book much like I write my blog – just casually talking to my reader. I found that it worked for me and I hope it works for the readers!
The other thing is just that the length of a project like this is tough in many ways. You sit there isolated at your computer and even though you’ve written 100 pages you aren’t anywhere near done. There’s no instant gratification. There is a lot of self-doubt. There is a lot of writer’s block to contend with. I’ve been writing long enough to know how to work through that but it’s never easy!
UC: What was the development process like for this book? How did you find the other people you profile and encourage them to share their personal experiences in your book?
Kathryn: In the beginning I just started by creating an outline of topics that I personally thought crochet might help in healing and that I wanted to learn more about. I started with my own story because I think that’s where all good writing begins. Then I began doing basic research (thanks Google) to start getting new ideas about the topics on my outline. So, for example, I knew I wanted to cover the topic of how crochet can help with anxiety so I did a bunch of searches into that to start fleshing out that chapter.
In the meantime, I did a few posts here and there on my blog about health-related topics. The response I received was terrific and really encouraged me to keep going with my research. I put out a few “calls for stories” on the blog. At first I really had no idea how I would use those stories other than just for getting ideas about what else to include in the book or maybe pulling a few quotes for chapters I’d already identified as interesting me. But then the stories I received were so incredibly powerful that I knew that they needed to be told in full.
Women were responding to my calls for stories and telling me really intimate, personal, difficult details about their lives. I felt like it was my responsibility to honor that and find the best way to share their stories in a way that celebrated their strength while conveying the role that crochet played in helping them to heal.
I had about a dozen stories from those calls on my blog but since they were now going to be such a key part of the book I knew I needed more. That was when I started putting out calls for specific topics, to help cover areas of the book that I didn’t have enough material for. So for example I put out messages on Twitter asking if anyone wanted to share their stories about using crochet as a pain management tool.
In a few cases, I actually found specific people who had blogged about a topic and reached out to them individually to see if they wanted to share their stories. Of course, some did and some didn’t. My whole approach to this process was believing that the stories that were meant to be told right now would be the ones that came forth. I made sure everyone had the right to choose how much personal detail to share, whether or not to share their real names, etc. I wanted to respect that everyone is in different stages of healing and should tell their story from that place. I hope I did a good job of that!
UC: This is your second self-published book. Can you tell us about the experience of self-publishing? Do you have any advice for those of us who are considering self-publishing?
Kathryn: Yes! In 2011 I put out my booklet of articles about cool elderly women who crochet. That was mostly a test run to see how I liked self-publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace tool. At the time I was still really undecided about whether or not to get a traditional publisher but the experience of self-publishing was so positive for me that it clinched it for me that I’d self-publish. I honestly believe it’s the best option for most writers today. You get to retain your rights, make many decisions for yourself about the entire process, collect more in royalties (usually), etc. and as a solopreneur that is all really important to me.
I have two pieces of advice for people who want to self-publish. First is to surround yourself with experts to help you in the process. I worked with a really great photographer for my book cover and she did images that I just never would have gotten on my own. And it’s a bit tangential but I have a really great web/tech guy who helps me keep my blog running right. If I didn’t have him, I would have spent tons and tons of time trying to keep the blog’s problems at bay (he helped in particular with a big issue I had with my web host) and I wouldn’t have had the time/energy to get the book out on schedule. Other professionals that a writer may want to work with include editors, marketing people, and interior layout designers.
The other thing is that you have to be willing to play many different roles to successfully self-publish. I needed to treat this like a creative work, almost a piece of art, as I was making it. And yet, I needed to be my own taskmaster and manager, insisting on maintaining a schedule to keep it on track. And now that it’s out, I can’t think of it as a creative work anymore, because then the critiques would be too emotionally tough to bear, so now I need to switch gears and think of it as a product I’m trying to sell to the right people. But still, it’s my baby and to promote it I need to stay genuine to its creative intent. So you just go back and forth a lot, utilizing different skills. I think if you aren’t prepared to do that then self-publishing can be really, really tough.
Practically speaking I think that the CreateSpace tool is a really good one. It was easy to understand. It affords you a lot of control but there is an online community there to support you with questions and help. There are other options (Lulu, Blurb) and I don’t know a lot about them but my experience with CreateSpace has been really positive.
UC: Your blog has some new features since I last interviewed you. What are some of your current and upcoming Crochet Concupiscence projects?
Kathryn: I am running two regular series right now that I’m really enjoying. And the first is one that I know you enjoy as well – my articles about the crochet designers from the 1970s! Each Wednesday I take a look back at the work of a crochet artist who emerged around the early 1960s. I explore the work they did at the time, the boundaries that they were pushing in the fiber art world, etc. Then I try to find out what they’ve been up to since. A large number of them are still creating art today, although it’s often not crochet art anymore, and it’s fun to see how their careers have gone over time. These people really contributed a lot to the growth of crochet, making it the craft we know today, and I think it’s not only interesting but important to honor them for that. (UC comment: Yes, it’s true, I’m completely addicted to this series since I love vintage crochet!)
The other regular series is my Designer Crochet Series where I take a look at a famous fashion designer each Thursday and see if there is any crochet in their collections. This is a yearlong project and I’m about halfway through it. I actually haven’t gotten a lot of feedback on this one so I don’t know if people are enjoying it as much as I am but it’s something I really love doing. (UC comment: I’m always amazed by all of the pictures you find for each of these posts!)
And finally I’ve recently begun to take a strong interest in crochet blogs published in other languages so I’ve been doing some posts sharing my favorites. People who are interested in that can start by checking out my posts on Spanish Crochet Blogs but I’ve also covered Italian, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Finnish and a few others.
UC: You do a lot to support the crochet community through your blog and other social media outlets. Do you have any suggestions for crocheters who are interested in being more involved in the online crochet community?
Kathryn: Thanks! I love being a part of the crochet community. My best advice is to be available everywhere but active in only your favorite spots. So for example people who want to can find me through Ravelry, Hookey, Etsy, and a whole bunch of other places because I do make myself available there. However, I’m only super active on Twitter and Pinterest, and to a lesser extent G+ and now Facebook. Facebook was a compromise for me because I’ve never really liked the format there but so many people wanted to see a Crochet Concupiscence Facebook page that I felt like it was important to get more active there.
My point here is that you want people to be able to connect with you but you don’t want to burn yourself out by trying to keep up with all of the latest social sites. Find the ones that you really enjoy. (UC comment: I think this is great advice. I try to focus my time on the sites that I enjoy using the most!) I like Twitter because for me it’s a place where it’s easy to have quick conversations with many different people. Plus I like participating in TweetChats, such as Crochet Chat, which is the first Wednesday of every month. I like Pinterest because of the visual beauty of it; I truly enjoy spending time there. And I like the G+ format for finding and sharing information. I enjoy those so I spend time there. I spend less time on the sites I enjoy less because if you’re not having fun with the community then what’s the point! I also want to give a shoutout to Hookey here – I haven’t spent nearly enough time on it myself (only so many hours in a day) but whenever I’m there I find a really great crochet community so anyone who is looking for a new place to start finding some great online connections would do good for themselves to try there.
I also really encourage people to comment on my blog and even to email me. I like the one on one connection of really getting to know people.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Kathryn, and for sharing your tips with us!
I am on the fence about using the same pattern I used for OB’s scarf (since the three of us celebrate the winter holidays in a group) or just designing a different scarf for JS. I have two design-related goals for the second Year of Projects, and with time being a premium these days, I might just need to combine my Holiday Stashdown Challenge with my YOP goals.
I haven’t made any other progress on my holiday crafting list since my last post, and I definitely want to finish at least one more project by the end of August. This Bitsy Knits yarn is so pretty that I’m itching to get started on the scarf. I just have a few secret projects to finish up first :).
Have you been working towards your holiday crafting goals? Or were you stalled by the summer heat like me? Feel free to share your progress on your personal holiday gift making journey in the comments!
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