Today I’m interviewing Catherine Hirst, the author of Granny Square Crochet: 35 Contemporary Projects Using Traditional Techniques. I’m also hosting a giveaway for my review copy of the book, courtesy of CICO Books. (I’m actually going to be sharing the review at another time, but here’s a spoiler: There are a lot of really cute granny chic patterns! My personal favorites are the White and Bright Bedcover and the Granny Square Gloves. I also liked the motif designs in the Sweet Posies Pram Blanket and the Dot in a Square Cot Blanket.)
Catherine describes herself as a contemporary crafts instructor, and she teaches and writes about crochet, knitting, and embroidery. She can be found online at her website, her blog, Ravelry, Twitter, and Facebook. Several of her instructional videos in knitting and crochet are available on Videojug.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?
Catherine: My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 7 years old. I liked it right away and haven’t stopped since!
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Catherine: Designing is, in the end, a practical consideration, because I can make finished products that fit perfectly or look exactly as I want them to look. For me, designing from scratch happened gradually; I started modifying patterns first, finally losing my fear of changing the original pattern, and then as I grew more confident, the modifications became more and more elaborate until it didn’t seem like a big deal to take the step of just starting to crochet a piece without a pattern at all.
UC: What about the granny square, and motifs in general, appeals to you as a designer?
Catherine: I love the geometric regularity of a granny square – if done properly, it always looks neat and clean. I prefer not to have too much frill and fluff in my designs. Motifs are brilliant because they can be joined together in novel ways to make different shapes and items – and of course you can incorporate a lot of colour as well.
UC: Crocheters and granny squares (and granny square home decor items) sometimes get a bad rap. When you’re designing with granny squares, do you feel any additional pressure to break those stereotypes?
Catherine: I definitely wanted a modern approach when designing for Granny Square Crochet. I used techniques like the granny stripe, granny hexes, and granny triangles to make items that were designed to appeal to the modern eye and look clean. I also didn’t use the traditional black or very dark outside round colour that is so prevalent with old-fashioned granny square items.
UC: There are many techniques for joining grannies, and in your book you advocate a join as-you-go method. What do you like about JAYG motifs?
Catherine: Excellent question! When joining after the fact with a crochet hook or needle, you always end up with a solid ridge line between the squares, which I think detracts from the open, airy appeal of the granny square. Join as you go joins only in the open spaces of the outside round of a granny, mimicking the construction of the granny itself. It makes the join invisible, the squares lay flatter, and the entire piece looks less heavy to the eye.
UC: You teach a variety of crafts, including crochet. Does your experience as a teacher influence your design process, and if so, how?
Catherine: Definitely! I always eliminate extraneous steps that seem unnecessary to me. I’ll rarely use two sizes of hook in one design, for example. I try to make colour changes, increases and decreases, and finishing/seaming as straightforward as possible. I try to use nice round numbers of stitches as often as is practical, and I try to make my patterns as easy to follow and understandable as I can. As both a teacher and a crafter myself, I know well the horror of a poorly-written pattern!
UC: What is your favorite crochet book in your collection (besides yours, of course)?
UC: Do you visit any crochet or craft blogs or websites regularly?
Catherine: In my feed reader, I have The Purl Bee, which is Purl Soho‘s blog and features knitting, crochet, and stitching/embroidery; The Yarn Harlot for knitting; Posie Gets Cosy for embroidery; Crochet with Raymond and Attic 24 for crochet; Knitty Blog for all sorts of yarn-y goodness; and many, many more. (UC comment: This interview was written before Alice announced that she was discontinuing the Crochet with Raymond blog.) I also have a Twitter feed (@craftyexpat) which is filled with wonderful crafty people and it’s a tool that really helps me keep up with craft events, etc here in London. On my website, I have all the up-to-date information about what I’m up to. Please visit and say hi!
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Catherine!
Giveaway I’ll be giving away my review copy of Granny Square Crochet by Catherine Hirst, courtesy of CICO Books. This giveaway is open to all readers on the planet Earth. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, October 12, 2012. To enter:
Leave a comment telling me about granny squares: have you made a lot or a few, do you have a favorite pattern or joining technique, what do you usually make with the squares? For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog. (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!) One winner will be chosen at random.
I’m blogging daily throughout October. Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways. Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.