Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with crochet and knitting designer, Michele DuNaier. You may know Michele as the designer behind MAD Cap Fancies. Michele can be found on Ravelry as MADuNaier, on her designer page, and in the MAD Cap Fans group. All photos are copyright Michele DuNaier and used with permission.
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Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet and knit?
Michele: My first lessons were as a child at my grandmother’s knee. She came from a long line of knitters and crocheters; when she was young in “the Old Country” that was how the family’s clothes were made. She could knit a thigh-length stocking in one afternoon, so she was exempt from farm work! I would say I am more of a crocheter than a knitter, although I love both.
Ron’s Skulking Cap, a Harry Potter inspired crochet hat design by Michele.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Michele: After retiring, I became heavily involved in knitting and crocheting for charity. After making over 100 hats in the space of a few months, I began to find it simpler to just design my own. Then, when I realized Ravelry made it so easy to self-publish, I thought – why not?
Amagansett Girl, a crochet shawl design by Michele.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Michele: My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. The seasons inspire me, of course, as well as favorite books, movies, and television shows. A lot of my designs are inspired by old Victorian patterns and doilies. I also like to design what Ravelry friends tell me they are interested in – for example, they currently have me looking into crocheted crescent-shaped shawls.
Victorian Mantelet, a crocheted shawl design by Michele.
UC: Most of your patterns are self-published. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?
Michele: I actually have 3 designs published in pattern books so far, and a fourth due out this July in a magazine. I prefer self-publishing, however; it gives me the creative freedom to design whatever I like, format the pattern as I wish, include photographs, poetry, creative writing, and whatever else I want to throw in! Plus, I am always loathe to sell away the rights to my patterns – each one seems like one of my children. I can’t say that self-publishing contains “challenges” – more like “opportunities” to express myself as I wish.
Meg’s Hug-Me-Tight, a crochet design by Michele, inspired by the 1994 adaptation of Little Women.
UC: What are your favorite things about designing?
Michele: I love the Math inherent in needlework design. Not that I always totally understand it or can predict what will happen, but I love wrestling with it in shawl design. I also love parts of needlework design which I did not even expect I would be doing, such as photography, design layout of the pattern file, and doing some creative writing to get things out of my mind and onto the page (or rather, the screen). I think of my grandmother often as I crochet and knit, and wonder what she would have thought of her granddaughter’s patterns virtually traveling the world via Ravelry!
First Love, a crochet shawl design by Michele.
UC: Since you’re multi-craftual, do you have a favorite “go to” craft when you’re working on projects for yourself?
Michele: It depends on the project. Certain types of projects seem to call for knitting, others crocheting. But then I love to try and create a design to use the other craft instead, just to see if I can. For example, hats and baby boy sweaters just seem to me better done in knitting than crochet, so I have tried to design some in crochet just for the fun of doing it differently.
Tropical Heatwave, a crochet shawl pattern by Michele.
UC: From your Rav profile, it seemed like you transitioned from a life in tech to a life on a farm/homestead. Can you tell us about this transition and how it impacted your crafty life?
Michele: I do not live on a farm or homestead, really. I live on the edge of a forest, but did that even when I was working in the technical field. However, the transition from work to retirement was what enabled me to have the time to begin designing. And ironically, I found there are so many steps involved in designing and self-publishing which are similar to software design and support. Sometimes I mistakenly refer to my patterns as “programs…”
Secret Crush, a knit hat design by Michele.
UC: What are your favorite crochet and knitting books in your collection?
Michele: I love Doris Chan’s Everyday Crochet: Wearable Designs Just for You and Edie Eckman’s The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask; I love reprints of old crochet patterns from the 1800s, as well as old doily patterns. I also love Barbara Walker’s Treasuries of Knitting Patterns.
Daydream Shawlettes, knit shawlettes designed by Michele.
UC: Are there any crafty websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?
Michele: I am compulsively on Ravelry throughout each day, especially now that I have my own group, MAD Cap Fans. I also frequent (all too often) websites which sell yarn, such as Jimmy Beans and WEBS…
Thanks so much for stopping by, Michele! Good luck with your upcoming releases!