Category Archives: New York

Interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager

Today, I’m happy to share an interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager. Though we’ve never met in real life, Julie and I share a love of crocheting squares and blankets, and of participating in crochet related swaps. (And, I learned from the interview that we also both grew up shopping for yarn at Woolworth’s in New York City!)

Julie can be found online on Ravelry (as JulieAnny, on her designer page, in the Julie Yeager Designs group), Facebook, and Etsy. Julie also founded and co-moderates the Vanna’s Choice Fan Club group on Ravelry, where you can exchange squares and share pictures of your Vanna’s Choice creations. All photos are copyright Julie Yeager and are used with permission.

Julie Yeager

Julie Yeager.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?

Julie: I’m honored to talk to the readers of Underground Crafter, Marie.  Thanks for having me. (UC comment: Thanks so much, Julie! It’s great to have you stop by.) I’ve been knitting and crocheting since I was about 8; learned from my Irish mom. I would buy sparkly crochet thread at Woolworth’s in the Bronx, NY and crochet clothes for my Barbies. I also made my share of granny square tote bags. I didn’t do much crafting in my 20s, maybe an occasional baby blanket, but then when I became a stay at home mom I got back into knitting and machine knitting for my daughter. When I discovered Ravelry I got into crocheting afghan squares and blankets and I haven’t stopped.

 

Stained Glass Afghan Square

Stained Glass Afghan Square, available as a 12″ block pattern.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing? 

Julie: I’ve always changed patterns to my taste and would put together the yoke from one sweater with the sleeves from another so I guess I’ve been “designing” a little for years.
I joined some afghan square swap groups on Ravelry and perfected my technique using the patterns of many great designers. Interweave Crochet magazine and the Crochet Me website sponsored a contest in which readers could submit afghan square patterns and the winners would become part of a published pattern called the Chain Reaction Afghan Project. I just picked up my hook and started playing around and submitted a few designs. Three of my designs were chosen and appeared in Interweave Crochet in 2010 – 2011. It was very exciting and the start of my designing career. With Ravelry, I had a great tool to share my work.

 

Hexaghan

The Hexaghan, including 6 different hexagon designs joined together into one 61 hexagon blanket.

UC: You primarily design crocheted squares. What is it about square motifs that you enjoy designing? 

Julie: I love designing 12-inch squares in aran weight yarn and I have an obsession with Vanna’s Choice. I like the modern look of large scale stitching and I feel like a sculptor with my hook in hand. Fitting my idea into a 12-inch square and getting it to square is very satisfying. My squares are small enough to design and crochet quickly, and I enjoy writing a clear pattern that is easy to follow. I also like an unfussy and repetitive design; as a pattern-user I do not like to have to constantly refer to the instructions and I want my customers to enjoy themselves. Also, there are no fitting problems with blankets!

 

Catalina Afghan Square

Catalina Afghan Square, a free pattern available in both 9″ and 12″ sizes.

UC: Most of your patterns are self-published. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing? 

Julie: With Ravelry and Paypal and a head full of ideas, it is easy and stress-free to work this business around my life. I have a full-time job as a Registered Nurse and am raising a 16-year-old, so I can write and publish patterns around my schedule. Although I would love to have my patterns in magazines and books, for now I find this a great outlet for my creativity and am very happy with how it’s going. It is not for everyone; you have to be a jack-of-all-trades and competent with designing, writing, proof-reading, and know your way around the internet. No editors or publicists on my staff, haha.

 

Tangled Web Afghan Block

Tangled Web Afghan Block, a 12″ square design.

 

UC: You’ve hosted several Mystery Crochet-a-Longs. What do you enjoy about using this format to release your patterns? Do you have any tips for designers who want to dip their toes into the MCAL waters? 

Julie: Mystery Crochet-a-Longs are a fun way to draw interest to my patterns. I am lucky to have a base of fans who trust me and are willing to blindly follow where I go! I can only do it about once a year because designing, crocheting, and writing and proofreading a pattern for a whole blanket is very time-consuming! I need a compelling idea to keep my interest through the work! My fans seem to enjoy it and it keeps them interested in my new work. It also brings new fans. I’ve kept the Mystery’ghan free for participants and then later I put the pattern up for sale. The finished projects become a marketing tool. I’m always a little nervous hoping that people will like it after they’ve invested their time and money into a “Mystery.” My only advice is that you have your pattern fully tested before you start.

 

Garden State Afghan

Garden State Afghan, which Julie originally offered in June, 2013 as a MCAL design, includes eight 4″ squares, four 8″ squares, and two 12″ square patterns.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?

Julie: When I first started swapping afghan squares, Jan Eaton’s 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans was my favorite. I also worked my way through a few other square reference books, like 101 Crochet Squares by Jean Leinhauser. I love Edie Eckman’s Around the Corner Crochet Borders for finishing after I have a pile of squares to join! I sometimes use The Crochet Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden for stitch inspiration. I try to invent my own stitches these days!

 

Sun Catcher Afghan Square

 

Sun Catcher Afghan Square, a 12″ block.

 

UC: Are there any crafty websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Julie: I am a Ravelry addict and check in there several times a day. I like to check the Hot Right Now pattern list and I also check in with my group to see if anyone has any questions or if anyone has posted an awesome photo. :)

 

In Treble Afghan Square

In Treble Afghan Square, a 12″ block.

 

 

UC: What projects do you have coming up this year?

Julie: I am currently working on the pattern for my next Mystery-Ghan and hope to have that ready for a June 2014 start. Stay tuned to my Ravelry board for information on that. Clues will be given out over a six-week period and you will have a complete afghan finished!

 

Thanks again for stopping by, Julie, and I wish you and your fans the best for a fun summer Mystery-Ghan!

Interview with Gale Zucker

Today, I’m sharing an interview with Gale Zucker. Many knitters know Gale as a knitwear/knitting photographer, but Gale is also a designer, teacher, and photojournalist. We attempted to meet up for an interview at Vogue Knitting Live back in January, but schedules were too crazy all around, so we opted for an email interview instead. (Gale was nice enough to stop by and say hi while I was working a shift at the Michelle’s Assortment booth, so we did get to officially meet.)

You can find Gale online on Ravelry (as SheShootsSheep and on her designer page), on her knitting blog, She Shoots Sheep Shots, on her website, as @galezucker on Twitter and Instagram, on Pinterest, and on her Facebook page.  You can read more about her Photography for Knitters workshops here. All photos are copyright Gale Zucker and used with permission.

 

GailZucker

Gale Zucker.

 

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting?

Gale: I grew up in an extended knitting family. You’re female? You knit..and crochet, embroider, sew, you name it. The sound of needles clicking (always the metal ones) is the sound of my childhood. I really don’t remember who taught me first, it was either my grandma or mom. I knit as a little kid (poorly and impatiently), and then off and on through high school. Crochet was really big then for me, too. I did a lot of other crafts also. I like to make stuff. In college, knitting settled in as my go-to habit. I have been known to go off on other crafting binges, but I always have something on the needles. And..even though I keep saying knitting in answer to the questions in this interview, I also mean crocheting. Not trying to dis my hooking friends!

Putney Mountain Vest

Gale’s photo of the Putney Mountain Vest pattern. (Read more about her shoot here.)

 

UC: What first drew you to photography and photojournalism?

Gale: Here’s another “since I was a kid” answer, coming right up! I’ve always loved the storytelling power of photography, and memorized Life magazines that were around when I grew up. I started college majoring in Environmental Sciences but spent more time playing around in a darkroom than in a science lab. I switched to journalism school, with a photojournalism major. I wanted to be a newspaper and magazine photographer, which is what I did for many years before switching over to more commercial work.

 

Ellen

Gale’s photo of Ellen Mason wearing her Mary Rebecca pattern. (Read more about the shoot here.)

 

UC: When did you first combine your interests in knitting and photography?

Gale: I used to keep the two separate, although I kept on getting travel magazine and New York Times (at one time, my main client) assignments on farms. I jokingly started a portfolio called She Shoots Sheep Shots. Little did I know it would become part of my identity! In the early 2000s, I was doing a lot of work photographing youth at risk, youth in the judicial system, foster care for books and non-profits—and it was knitting that I turned to to de-stress when it got grim. I discovered knitting blogs and the new wave of knitting stores in 2004, so I started a knitting blog too and connected to new friends. (She Shoots Sheep Shots became my blog name).

In 2005, a book editor client asked me if I had any ideas for a book. She was expecting me to suggest some visually stunning social issue topic but instead, I blurted out that I wanted to travel around the country photographing fiber farms and show where yarn comes from, intentional lifestyles, and have knitting patterns at the end of each chapter. (The idea was met by dead silence and an incredulous “no..really? you don’t…..knit??!!) The timing for my idea was good, so we put together a book proposal that ended up becoming my book Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, Twenty Patterns, and Miles of Yarn from Potter Craft. Since then I try to bring knitting and photography together as often as I can.

 

Aria Tunic

Gale’s photo of the Aria Tunic pattern.

 

UC: You’ve collaborated with Joan Tapper on two books. How did you two come to work together? What was the development process like for the two books (or was each one quite a different process)?

Gale: As I was developing the idea and book proposal for Shear Spirit, I needed to bring a writer on board. I truly believe in recognizing your strengths and collaborating with others. I approached a very talented travel writer I’d worked with on some longer magazine assignments, and he agreed to jump in. Just as we were going to send the book proposal out to publishers, he called to say he’d had a great offer for two book contracts, and he needed to pull out of my proposal. He felt so terrible about it that he said was calling his former editor at National Geographic Traveler. He promised she would look at our idea and match me up with someone good, since she had the bead on all the top travel writers working. I was totally intimidated by her reputation. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. It was Joan Tapper, the editor from NatGeo saying “I love this idea! I’m not passing you on to anyone, I want to work on it with you!”

It was the best professional “blind date” ever – we work together really well and have become close friends. She lives in Santa Barbara, California; I’m in Connecticut. We email a lot, and talk on the phone, as we develop material. We have very different styles of working and organization but it make for harmony. (and she deserves an award for patience with me). Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In was put together the same way Shear Spirit was–we research and compare notes via email and phone, we break down the tasks of making/producing a book and share them, we travel together to some of the subjects and separately to others. I am in awe of her writing and editing talents, and we have a very similar take on what we encounter.

 

Decibella

Gale’s Decibella pattern.

UC: How did you get started teaching photography classes for fiber enthusiasts?

Gale: After Shear Spirit was published in 2008, I received photo questions regularly from knitters saying how frustrated they were with their photography. It was at about that time that prices dropped on good quality digital cameras, and faster online connections became the norm for knitbloggers, and Ravelry started–so there was a real interest in better, bigger, eyecatching images for knitters & crafters. I noticed a lot of horrible photo information online–from overly tech-y talk that focussed on equipment more than vision, to outright misinformation, and mean-spirited blabbing.

I’d taught photography before at a community arts center and as a college level guest lecturer, so a workshop where I combine my two passions? No problem! I started teaching at some yarn shops- which I still do, all anyone has to do is email me and ask–and now I teach at knitting events, like VK Live and fiber festivals, and retreats. I’ve done two live webinars for Interweave, which were recorded and are available to watch and learn at your convenience.

Palisades Cowl

Gale’s Palisades Cowl pattern.

 

UC: Without giving away all of your secrets, can you share a few tips for those among us whose photos never quite live up to the beauty of our finished fiber objects?

Gale: My mantra: Keep shooting. Pixels are free. Which means, keep shooting, trying different angles, compositions, more shade, less shade, even if you think you’ve got the shot, try it from a different perspective. Don’t stop at “eh that’s good enough.”

The other most important tip is turn off your flash! There’s always a way to use natural light and keep that straight-on harsh flash from ruining your photos. Look for open shade, and light coming from the side to bring out texture.

 

mittens

Gale’s photo of mittens, a pattern by Theresa Gaffey.

 

UC: What are your favorite knitting and photography books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?

Gale: I have many photography books, and many knitting books but few that combine the two to suit my picky picky picky tastes. I had an Alice Starmore guernseys book that I loved–it didn’t matter that I’d never knit any of the sweaters in it, I wanted to be the woman in the images, on the rocky UK coastlines, and in pubs with sailors wearing oversized guernseys. That’s the kind of knitwear photography I love, that tells a story. Can’t take the photo journalist out of the knitter! The Brooklyn Tweed Wool People publications are gorgeously produced and I enjoy looking at Stephen West’s more recent images. They’re leaning more toward performance art with sweaters than anythng else, and are so very entertaining. And Carrie Bostick Hoge’s style is awesome. It’s way more quiet and subdued than I am, but I love it. I like anyone who creates a look and visual stamp–I find a lot of knitwear photography to be super formulaic. (Wow, I sound like a grouch. I’m not. You asked!)

 

Mason Dixon 2 , coats handknits, NYC

Gale’s photo of Metropole by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

 

UC: Do you have any crafty websites you frequent for inspiration or community?

Gale: SO MANY! Working from a home office, the online crafting community is my virtual coffee break and offers world-class procrastinating opportunity to this world-class procrastinator. These days Pinterest is often my launch pad to explore other sites, I follow a bunch of designers & artists who lead me all over. I still read a lot of blogs. I love a well-written blog.

 

Mason Dixon 2 , coats handknits, NYC

Gale’s photo of Yank by Bonne Marie Burns.

UC: What are you working on now, in the crafting/knit world?

Gale: So much! I feel like spring has sprung and I’m busting out!. I’m shooting more for indie knitwear designers and sweater companies. I’m incorporating some video work in, as I did for my client, Camp Kitschy Knits. I am pretty sure that is the first and only retro knitwear stop action video with original banjo-uke and concertina soundtrack.

I’ll be at TNNA, so anyone interested in talking to me about a photo project or workshop or something new and different can grab me there–I think I may even book some location photo shoots while in Indianapolis. And I’ll booth sit for friends at the show.

I’m still editing and getting out a book from my epic photo shoots at the NY Sheep & Wool Festival in 2010 and 2012. Pretty sure it’ll come out by the end of summer as an ebook and print, perhaps in an unorthodox format. Sneak peek video, here.

Joan Tapper and I are brainstorming new book ideas. Stay tuned there!

And more teaching! Check on my Photography for Knitters page to see more listings-I am nailing some very cool ones down now. And, Fiber College of Maine, one of my favorite annual events, Sept 3-7th. This year I’m co-teaching a Savvy Storytelling – writing + photography blogging workshop with the wonderful Beverly Army Williams, and a workshop that is a Photo Scavenger Hunt. The Gees Bend Quilters will be teaching there this year so we will have PLENTY to look at with our cameras.

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story (and your pictures) with us, Gale!

Interview with knitting designer, Michele Wang

Today, I’m excited to share an interview with a fellow New Yorker, Michele Wang. Michele is a knitwear designer, and if you’re a fan of Brooklyn Tweed, you’ve definitely seen her work before. In addition to appearing in numerous BT publications, Michele’s work has been published by Vogue Knitting, Quince & Co., knit.wear, and amirisu, and she also self-publishes as mishi2x. By strange coincidence, we both recently had a pattern published in the same issue of Pom Pom Quarterly (her Aureus cardigan and my Vintage Bullion scarf).

 

Michele can be found online as mishi2x on her website/blog, FlickrInstagramPinterest, Ravelry, and Twitter. She can also be found on her Ravelry Designer page and in her Ravelry group, mishi2x by Michele Wang Fans. All photos in this post are are copyright Michele Wang unless otherwise noted and are used with permission.

 

Michele Wang

Michele Wang.

 

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting and spinning?

Michele: I first started knitting at a friend’s suggestion. I had just ran my first (and only) marathon, and wanted to do something less physical to allow my body to heal. Since I had always been interested in fashion, textiles, and working with my hands it seemed to make sense. Of course now, not only does it make sense but I wonder why I didn’t take it up earlier in life. And spinning is a much more recent fascination. I think like most knitters, what hypnotized me at first was the sheer variety of yarns available. I would buy yarn because of the color and its softness. But once I learned more about different fibers and how they behaved I really became fascinated by untreated wools, different breeds of sheep and the beauty in their subtle differences. And this is what led me to spinning. I think yarn manufacturers are educating knitters more by specifying breeds that they use, but generally you see that it’s “wool”. I loved how roving is sold by breed and how I can spin up exactly the yarn I want.

 

Seedy Scarf by Michele Wang

Seedy Scarf, a free knitting pattern by Michele Wang.

 

UC: What was your original motivation to start designing?

Michele: My original motivation was the “cowl.” It’s so funny to think about that now since they’re so popular, but when cowls really hit the media in 2008, there weren’t a lot of fashionable cowl patterns out there. So I designed my first piece, the Eternity Scarf, which is a simple cowl and threw it up on Ravelry simply because I wanted to make one that I liked. After that, an editor at Vogue Knitting contacted me because I had been doing sample knitting for Shirley Paden. She asked if I’d be interested in submitting a design. Without her prompting, I probably would have never submitted a design to a magazine. But with her encouragement, I took the chance.

 

Eternity Scarf photo c Brooklyn Tweed

Eternity Scarf by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Brooklyn Tweed.

 

UC: How did you become involved with Brooklyn Tweed?

Michele: Jared Flood contacted me through Ravelry, and the rest is history. Sometimes I can’t believe how simple life can be, because usually it’s pretty difficult! But at the time I was working in technology at a law firm, and not very happy. Jared reached out and asked if I’d be interested in doing a design for his new yarn line, Shelter. The timing was perfect. I dug right in and ended up designing Perry for his very first edition of Wool People. Since we both live in the NYC area, we met up for coffee a few times and he mentioned creating a Design Team to put out seasonal collections. And it just evolved from there. Soon I couldn’t handle both jobs, so I left my career in technology and focused on designing for BT.

 

Fade photo c Brooklyn Tweed

Fade by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Brooklyn Tweed.

 

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Michele: I would say half of my inspiration is found online and on the streets in NYC. I do love fashion and I love seeing what trends are introduced on the runway, and what eventually sticks around and ends up on the streets for the everyday. I can spend hours on sites like Pinterest just flipping through pictures and creating fantasy moodboards. I also try to people-watch as much as possible. It’s easy to bury my nose in a book on the subway, but I try to take a look around and find design elements here and there. And, the other half would be the traditions and history of knitwear. I love flipping through old knitting books and looking at fisherman or icelandic yoked sweaters. My latest obsession is Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island. I am completely blown away by the use of color, and the intricate hand work. For someone like me who shies away from colorwork, this book has been very inspirational. It’s truly a celebration of color and I hope to incorporate more colorwork into my designs.

 

Wickerwork photo c Carrie Bostick Hoge

Wickerwork by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Carrie Bostick Hoge. Published by Quince & Co.

 

UC: You mention your love of wool on your Ravelry profile. Tell us what you enjoy about working with this fiber. Do you have a preference for working with any breed-specific yarns, too?

Michele: I love wool for so many reasons. The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s sustainable and earth-friendly. It’s just something you can’t ignore these days. Also, I love the life in it. It has just enough elasticity. It blooms to perfection after just a little light blocking. The bit of lanolin left on your hands while knitting is a natural moisturizer. And with minimally processed wool, I find that it ends up being softer than anything else. Too many yarns are soft in the skein, and then completely lifeless after it’s knit up. And, of course, I just love sheep. They’re absolutely adorable, and with so many different breeds you could never get bored knitting with just wool. When I went to Rhinebeck a few years back, I bought a few ounces of Ronaldsay. I didn’t know much about this breed, but I liked the color. So after I brought it home, I looked up the breed online and found out that it’s a sheep that lives mainly on seaweed. Of course, this breed fast became one of my favorites. But, as for spinning, I really enjoy working with Jacob. It’s an ancient breed and the resulting yarn is so textured and beautiful. (UC comment: You can read more about breed specific wool in this interview with Karia from Kouture Crochet, and, specifically, about the North Ronaldsay yarn and Jacob fleece I received in a wonderful swap from the owner of the Nude Ewe, a non-profit yarn company.)

 

Cables and Lace Beret by Michele Wang

Cables and Lace Beret by Michele Wang.

 

UC: What are your favorite knitting books in your collection?

Michele: All of my Japanese stitch dictionaries. I live dangerously close to Kinokuniya and go there often. I love swatching, and I can sit and swatch the stitch patterns from those books endlessly. (UC comment: I’m glad I don’t live dangerously close to Kinokuniya, as I’ve already demonstrated my inability to pass their booth at any event without buying books!)

 

Stonecutter photo c Brooklyn Tweed

Stonecutter by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Brooklyn Tweed.

 

UC: Do you have any crafty websites you frequent for inspiration or community?

Michele: I really enjoy Fringe Association. It has the perfect balance between modern and tradition, and Karen has such a beautiful aesthetic. But to be perfectly honest, most of the crafty websites I frequent are more focused on sewing and quilting. I love the Japanese Sewing Books blog, and Sew Mama Sew. They have really great tutorials, tips and sew alongs.

 

Thanks for taking the time out for an interview, Michele, and for sharing your love of sheep and wool!

Interview with Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm

At Vogue Knitting Live 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm.  Laura’s yarns were extremely colorful – and so was she! – so I was immediately drawn over to her booth.  It was wonderful to learn that she’s a New York State local (about 90 minutes north of New York City).  I ran into her again at 2014′s event, and she was kind enough to take some time from the busy lifestyle of a farmer/shearer/spinner/dyer/entrepreneur to share an interview.

You can find Laura online at the Full Moon Farm website and their Facebook page.  You can find out more about their yarn and fiber here and learn where to buy their products here.

 

Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm's Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.
Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm’s Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.

Underground Crafter (UC): Besides shearing, spinning, and dyeing, do you also crochet, knit, and/or weave?

Laura: I knit, but am a rank amateur. It is on my list to get better. I felt and do Australian Locker Hooking.

 

The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.
The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.

 

UC: Tell us more about your motivation for starting Full Moon Farm, and about its expansion.

Laura: I grew up on a sheep and beef farm. I (like all my siblings) moved away from the farm but then, in the end (like all my siblings) I returned to farming. I stuck with the sheep. I like them and can manage them, physically, without assistance. My flock started with 1 bred ewe, Border Leicester.  I added Corriedale and then Merino, so now my flock is a motley mix with decent body size for meat, and nice, fine wool for spinning and felting.

 

Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm's booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014.
Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm’s booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014.

 

UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm. Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working?

Farming is a 24/7 life. One must be prepared for fencing or haying a field in the heat of the summer or checking on the flock in the middle of the night in the cold during lambing season. The benefits are the beauty of the pasture or hay field, the coziness of a full hay loft, new born lambs – so sweet and bouncy – and fiber.

 

Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

 

 

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your colorways. Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?

Laura: I love color and have so much fun dying my yarns and spinning fiber. I usually go with colors I like. I am not afraid to combine colors and just go with my gut to choose what combinations to make. I have recently started trying to be more focused and going with a theme such as “Mom’s Flower Garden” or “Field of Sunflowers.”

 

Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

 

UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events. Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.

Laura: I love going to fiber festivals because I know that the people attending are there because they love (or like a lot) fiber, so we already have something in common. I like to see what the other vendors are doing too because there is such versatility in wool and other fibers. It makes me smile just writing about it.

 

More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

 

My favorite event is a little fiber festival in Clermont, NY at an historic site. It is called The Chancellor’s Day Sheep and Wool Festival. The setting, on the banks of the Hudson River, is idyllic, and they do historic re-enactments, such as shearing sheep using an antique shearing machine. It has grown in size and popularity over the years but remains small, quaint, and very friendly.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura!

 

By the way, I love the look of the skein I bought from Laura in 2013.  It has since been wound into a yarn cake and is awaiting transformation into a beautiful project!

Full Moon Farm Fabulous Yarn

Interview: Dora Ohrenstein, Crochet Designer and Author

Today’s interview is with fellow New Yorker, Dora Ohrenstein.  Dora is the publisher of the Crochet Insider ezine; a designer whose work has appeared in Crochet!, Crochet Today!, Crochet World, Interweave Crochet, and Vogue Knitting Crochet, among other publications; the author of Creating Crochet Fabric, Custom Crocheted Sweaters (reviewed here), and The New Tunisian Crochet (reviewed here); and a crochet teacher.  Along with Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Dora is also the co-editor of Talking Crochet, which recently won Crochet Concupiscence‘s Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for Best Crochet Newsletter.

You can find Dora online at the Crochet Insider website or on Ravelry (as crochetinsider, on her designer page, and in the Crochet Insider group).  All images are used with permission.

 

Dora Ohrenstein

Dora Ohrenstein.

 

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?

Dora: When I was about 20, I lived in Amsterdam on a tiny little houseboat. It was the Age of Aquarius and everyone was getting crafty. I learned to crochet and since I had no background whatsoever, I just started making clothes without knowing what I was doing. But then I totally stopped for literally decades. I became a professional singer and that consumed all my time. I didn’t pick up the hook again until early in this millenium.

 

Shawled Collar Tunic

Shawled Collar Tunic from Custom Crochet Sweaters.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Dora: I wasn’t performing much by that time, and needed a creative outlet. I made a few sweaters and went to a CGOA conference, where I met Jean Leinhauser. She and Rita Weiss liked my stuff and bought several sweater designs for their books. Then Jean taught me how to write patterns, since I’d never followed one!  (UC comment: Dora has a wonderful interview with Jean here.)

 

new tunisian crochet

 

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Dora: So many places! Sometimes it’s a fashion silhouette, sometimes a yarn or stitch. I keep many swatches lying around and then one day I find the right project for them. I’ve also learned that once you’re a pro, you can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit, you have to be generating ideas constantly. I would also say my motivation often comes from wanting to continually grow as a designer, try new techniques and strategies in my work.

 

Kerala Tank c Crochet Today

Kerala Tank.  Image (c) Crochet Today!

 

UC: Tell us about your motivation for launching Crochet Insider. What are some of the challenges and joys of publishing an online crochet magazine?

Dora: I haven’t really been publishing Crochet Insider as a magazine for a couple of years, it was just too much work once my design career really got going. But I loved doing it because of meeting and talking to so many interesting people. Challenges: it took huge number of hours and did not earn much, so it couldn’t continue indefinitely. There is still a lot of great content at the site and I wish more aspiring designers would read the interviews, because there is so much to learn.  (UC comment: Besides the Crochet Insider interview with Jean Leinhauser I linked above, two of my other favorites are this one with Vashti Braha and this one with Myra Wood.)

 

#15 Lace Pullover c Vogue Knitting

#15 Lace Pullover.  Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

 

UC: Your books place a lot of emphasis on teaching techniques and skills, along with the inclusion of patterns. Tell us about your decision to work this way rather than through pattern collections or historical work, which you’re also known for.

Dora: Many of these decisions are economic. I would love to publish a book on crochet history, but can’t afford to do so without a publisher. But no publishers wants such a book, because it will not sell in the numbers they need to be profitable. It’s sad but true. I try to get as much history into my books as they will tolerate. Hey, I’d love to go around the world and make film about crochet traditions, but again, where’s the funding? Publishers have been interested in my books that combine good designs with educational material, and I love teaching and empowering, so that works for me. In addition to being a designer, I teach singing and have for many years, so teaching comes naturally to me.

 

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt c Tension Magazine

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt.  Image (c) Tension Magazine.

 

UC: You design mostly women’s garments and accessories. What appeals to you about designing wearables?

Dora: This comes back to my background in crochet, or the total lack of it! I never was exposed to afghan making, thread crochet, or any of those fine American traditions. My parents were WWII immigrants and craftiness was not their heritage. I live in NYC and never had the chance to shop at big box stores, which didn’t even exist here until a few years ago. I do love fashion and had discovered for myself that crochet could make great wearables. It was shocking to encounter the yarn industry’s negativity about crochet wearables. So I’ve been very motivated to change that viewpoint with my work. And I’m in some very fine company there of course.

 

DoraBookCover.low.res

 

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, publisher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Dora: I would say to aspiring designers, don’t be naive about this industry – it’s very tough to make money, very competitive, and takes tremendous perseverance and drive. I’ve done all these things to build my career and earn money. And I enjoy all of them too. But I’d be happy to restrict my activities and lead a more sane life if it were possible.

 

Ariadne Scarf

Ariadne Scarf from Creating Crochet Fabric.

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet books (besides yours, of course) in your collection?

Dora: The books I bought when I started getting serious, about 10 years ago, are still my favorites. They are “vintage” ’70s and ’80s books by designers like Jacqueline Henderson, Sylvia Cosh, James Walters, Judith Copeland. (UC comment: I love those books, too!  I shared several from my collection in my Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week series.)  I adore Japanese pattern books, and the Ukrainian magazine Duplet — I stocked up on about 100 magazines when I visited the Ukraine! I also use stitch dictionaries, any I can get my hands on, including the huge Linda Schapper book, the old Harmony Guides, and Japanese stitch dictionaries.

 

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community?

Dora: Pinterest and Etsy – lots of great inspiration. And Ravelry!

 

UC: What’s coming next for you?

Dora: I have a crochet reference book coming out in the fall of 2014 by Storey Publishing. The working title is The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Handbook. They are fantastic publishers, I’m very excited about it. A reference book not just for beginners but for intermediate crocheters too, with lots of information on working stitch patterns, shaping, construction, colorwork, and flexible tension. What I mean by the latter is the ability to control tension so you can really sculpt stitches.

Crochet Insider will get a facelift soon and I will be enlarging my indie pattern line and store at the site. I also plan to develop video classes, sort of like Craftsy, but as an indie venture so I can go direct to students.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Dora!

New in town: Stitched TriBeCa

Some of my longtime readers know that I teach crochet and knitting for DC37, New York City’s largest union of public employees, as part of their Saturday Activity program.  Today was our first class in 2014, and one of my students mentioned that she saw a new yarn shop on Warren Street.

Though it was probably only 10 degrees Fahrenheit, I walked a few blocks out of my way to check it out.  After all, can I really miss out on a New York City yarn shop?  (Check out my reviews of my favorites here.)

Stitched TriBeCa signage

While wandering about on Warren Street, I came across Stitched TriBeCa, a relative newcomer in the neighborhood.  While Stitched sells yarn, I wouldn’t really call it a yarn shop.  As the sign suggests, it’s a place where you can learn, make, shop, and connect.

I didn’t have much time to chat with the owner, Val, since there were two classes in session, but she was very welcoming and she did let me take a few pictures.  (You can read Val’s inspiration for opening the shop here, and I think quite a few of us can relate to her experience of finally being able to “go balls out & unabashedly explore” her love of crafts.)

Stitched TriBeCa buttons

I was immediately drawn to the button bowl (no surprise there).  I love that you can just dig in and make your own button discoveries!

Stitched TriBeCa sergers

The decor is simple, bright, and functional, and there is plenty of room for sewing and serging classes.

Stitched TriBeCa sewing machines

(The store is bigger than these pictures suggest, but I was avoiding certain areas so I wouldn’t snap a picture of any students.)

Stitched TriBeCa shopping

There’s a small shopping area.  Stitched sells Cascade Yarns (the January sponsor of the 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long) and basic knitting needles and hooks, along with fabric, embroidery supplies, and some cool upcycled crafts.

Stitched TriBeCa classes

Stitched has an interesting vision: combining classes for adults and children with shopping for essential supplies as well as crafts by local makers.  It has a clean and orderly look, but it’s also vibrant and the classes seemed to be going well.

Stitched TriBeCa fireplace

I really love the fireplace – especially since it was insanely cold outside.

Stitched TriBeCa yarn window display

And the window display is fun and welcoming.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you should check them out!  You can see a list of their current classes along with a schedule on the Stitched TriBeCa website.

 

 

 

FO Friday: Phoenix Sunset

Years ago, I was in a job I didn’t love which required me to travel to Phoenix for a conference.  After a long, dreary day under artificial, hotel conference room lighting, I stepped outside just in time to see a stunning sunset.

The beautiful browns, yellows, and oranges really lifted my spirit.  The colors were in contrast with the blues and purples I usually see in New York City sunsets.  I tucked that image away in my mind for a future project.

A few years later, Knit Picks was seeking designs for a collection that was heavily influenced by the same colors.  I matched my idea for that design with a really cool stitch pattern and submitted the design.  It wasn’t chosen for the collection, but Knit Picks provided me with yarn so that I could submit the pattern to their Independent Designer Partnership Program.

And thus, the Phoenix Sunset was born.

blog Phoenix Sunset 2

I used one skein each of City Tweed Aran/Heavy Worsted in three colors.

blog Phoenix Sunset 1

I crocheted it flat, so it could be worn as a scarf.  I decided to join the short edges to make a circle scarf/infinity cowl, since I tend to wear those more often.

blog Phoenix Sunset 3

It’s so cozy and we’re experiencing a cold spell.  It was pretty tough to mail away the sample to Knit Picks (so they can add it to their pattern collection).  This is definitely a project I’ll be excited to see again.  I love the ripples and the texture, as well as the colors (which work well with my winter coat).

The Phoenix Sunset pattern is now available for pre-order on Ravelry.  You can save 50% using the coupon code phoenix through Friday, February 7.  The completed pattern will be uploaded this weekend, and you’ll get an email/Ravelry message update if you’ve already ordered it.

blog Phoenix Sunset 4

The pattern uses chains, double crochets, increases, and decreases.  I’m including two photo tutorials – one for the front post cluster (the stitch creating those beautiful, textured v shapes) and one for the invisible seam if you want to make it into a cowl.

 

For more Finished Object Friday posts, visit Tami’s Amis.

Vogue Knitting Live 2014: Day 3 and Stash Musings

VKL NYNY

Today was the last day of Vogue Knitting Live, and I felt a bit under the weather (perhaps that cold shower yesterday was to blame).  I did actually take my obligatory pre-event picture, but I looked so grumpy that I decided not to post it.  I was wearing my All Weather Cowl (you know, the one that brought me fame and fortune), which turned out to be just right because I could wear it indoors comfortably.

I had a chance to interview Sally Melville today, as well as catch the back end of her lecture on Creativity.  She had some fabulous samples on display, including several sizes of the lovely L’Enveloppe.  Sally was wearing her own version over a stunning coat with a coordinating pair of Fluevogs.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Sally Melville

I walked through the Marketplace one last time before saying goodbye to Vogue Knitting Live for 2014.  Though it was extremely tempting, I managed just to touch the buttons at Dusty’s Vintage Buttons without buying anything.  (I think we all know that I have way too many buttons at home to buy them at random.  I have to at least pretend there’s a plan for using them first!)

blog VKL NYC 2014 vintage buttons3

And then I visited the Feederbrook Farm booth.  Yesterday, in the rare quiet moments at the Michelle’s Assortment booth, I would look across at their yarns, and I ended up developing quite an attachment.  I decided on four skeins of Shepherd Spun, which is quite a bit of yarn for someone allegedly trying to reduce their stash.  In my defense, I fell in love with two of the hand dyed yarns, and rather than have them sit in my stash forever, I paired each with a coordinating solid.

blog Feederbrook Farm Mocha & Ava with shawl pin

These two are a bit out of my comfort zone, but I really was drawn to the skein on the bottom, called Ava, which is surprising because it isn’t in my typical colors.  And then I had to buy a coordinating Matryoshka pin from Michelle – I had been eyeing them, too, but couldn’t decide on a color until I had the yarn.

The other two skeins are much more “me” – purples, blues, and greens.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Feederbrook Farm Wia and Michelles Assortment shawl pin

This skein is called Win and is paired up with the shawl pin I picked up yesterday.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelles Assortment shawl pins

So after 3 days of Marketplace exposure, I ended the show with 3 shawl pins, and 5 skeins of yarn.

blog VKL NYC 2014 yarn haul

It was more than I (consciously) planned to spend, but I did happen to have cash left over, so apparently it was within the budget I had (subconsciously) created for the event.  I actually spent less than the cost of registering for a class, so in the end things seem to have worked out.

The charcoal Studio Donegal yarn in the center is already dedicated to being a cabled hat for my dad, and I have ideas about what I want to do with each of the other pairs.  But (head hanging in shame)…

I have yet to use any of the yarns I bought at last year’s Vogue Knitting Live.  (They’re pretty too, don’t you think?)

Vogue Knitting Live Yarn Haul

Partly it’s because I suffer from the “I must make something extra super fantabulous with yarn bought at a special event” syndrome, and the rest of it is because none of these lovelies are machine washable, which means they are unsuitable for most of my gift crafting.

I’m not going to feel too bad about buying five more skeins of yarn, since I did use over 19,000 yards of yarn (through both knitting and crocheting projects) last year.  I do, however, think it’s time to go through my stash again and see what I might be able to donate or sell.  Not only will that free up room for these five new skeins, but it will probably excite me about what I have on hand to use.

In my mind, I actually have new designs waiting for each of these pairs of yarn, but I think we all know that our initial ideas and our final plans don’t always align…

YOP3 sheep

For more Year of Projects post, visit this thread on Ravelry.

Vogue Knitting Live 2014: Day 2

VKL NYNY

My second day at Vogue Knitting Live started off with no hot water at home (and who doesn’t love showering in cold water when it’s sleeting outside?).  In the rush to get out the door, I forgot to take the ceremonial pre-show picture of me in my handmade goodies.  (I was wearing my 2013 Temperature Scarf, which is perfect for cold weather.)

My first stop was an interview with the delightful Kate Atherley from Wise Hilda.  I should be posting it in a few weeks.  I asked her to pose with her two books, Beyond Knit & Purl and Knit Accessories.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Kate Atherley

Then I walked through the fashion and art exhibits.  I’m planning a separate post about these, so I’m sharing just one picture today.  This is a crocheted piece by fashion designer, Gabriela Serigatto.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Gabriela Sarigatto2

My next stop was the Marketplace.  I learned a lot from Rosemary Drysdale‘s Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting, and she was signing books at the Vogue Knitting booth.

VKL NYC 2014 Rosemary Drysdale Autograph

From there, I snuck over to the Leilani Arts table.  You see, they sell this Soft Donegal yarn, which has become the favorite amongst the men in family: soft but charcoal (with a little tweed to keep my interest).

VKL NYC 2014 Studio Donegal

I promised my dad I’d make him a version of this cabled hat, so I needed another skein.  Melissa Leapman rung up my sale.

Then, I went to the Knitty City booth (it’s always a treat to see your favorite local yarn shop at an event) to get my copy of Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits signed by Shirley Paden.

VKL NYC 2014 Shirley Paden autograph

Shirley was really quite friendly and we had a nice chat about her class on Craftsy, which is a companion to the book, as well as the We Love Shirley Paden group on Ravelry.  (Shirley assures me she didn’t name the group!)  The group sounds like a lot of fun and they have even hosted three Design-a-Longs.

I had a few minutes after the book signing to watch the beginning of the Fiber Factor Fashion show.  I learned there will be KALs throughout 2014 and the next “season” will begin in 2015, but I missed the announcement of the winner.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Fiber Factor Rachel Henry Gates of Dawn

This stunning felted dress, Gates of Dawn by Rachel Henry, was one of my favorite Fiber Factor projects on display.

Believe it or not, I had time for two more quick stops before reaching my final VK Live destination.  I took a picture of Virginia from Yellowfarm (interviewed here), who I met at last year’s event.

blog VKL NYC 2014 YellowFarm Virginia

And, then I visited the Full Moon Farm booth, to snap a picture of Laura.  My interview with her will be coming up soon.  We met last year, too.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Full Moon Farm Laura

And then I headed off to the Michelle’s Assortment booth.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelle's Assortment Michelle

I helped out in Michelle’s booth for a few hours in the afternoon, so she could stretch her legs and walk around the Marketplace for a bit.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about her creative process.  She’s sponsoring two months of prizes for my 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long, so it was great to meet her in real life and see all of her awesome shawl pins, bookmarks, and stitch markers.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelle's Assortment circles

I particularly like Michelle’s round shawl pins.  It was also great to see her collaboration with other indie business owners.  Michelle had several samples from Ash Kearns on display to show off her shawl pins including Havelock (left) and Everton Lace Wrap (right), along with the print versions of the patterns.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelle's Assortment Ash Kearns samples

Of course, I couldn’t spend all that time in Michelle’s booth without falling in love with some shawl pins.  I was initially drawn in by the circles, I ended up choosing two straight pins for myself.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelle's Assortment goodies

These will definitely need to be re-shot in natural lighting because you can’t see the beauty in this picture.  I’m off to get some rest before Day 3!

Vogue Knitting Live 2014: Day 1

VKL NYNY

I was thrilled to receive a press pass again this year to attend Vogue Knitting Live.  My big plans for Friday included possibly taking a class (depending on what was still open), and meeting a fellow blogger for dinner.

Desert Sunset Infinity Cowl outside3

I left home very excited this morning.  (Ok, my smile looks a little forced, but that’s because I was waiting for MC to snap the picture.  You’ll have to take it on faith that I was stoked!)  Unfortunately, things went a little haywire at work and I didn’t get to leave early.

I made it down to VK Live just in time to meet Tien.  I’ve been reading her blog, AutumnGeisha, for the past few years and when I found out that her husband got her tickets to come to New York for VK Live, I knew it was our chance to meet up.  The Marketplace was just opening and we had the chance to make our first run through.  (It turns out that we both like to scope out the shops first, then go back to make purchases.  I think it’s how we can convince ourselves that we aren’t buying too much yarn.)

MichellesAssortmentlogo

I also wanted to introduce myself to Michelle from Michelle’s Assortment.  I’m going to be helping out at her booth on the Fifth Floor in the Marketplace Saturday from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.  She is one of the sponsors of my 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long.  Michelle will be providing a shawl pin as the March prize, and a set of 4 stitch markers as a fall prize.  They are even more beautiful in person than they are on her Etsy page, so the winners are in for some treats.

Tien bought a lovely Matryoshka doll shawl pin from Michelle, and then we were off to dinner at John’s Pizzeria. It was great to chat with Tien about blogging, designing, yarn, and other fun things.

You may be wondering where all the pictures are.  Confession: Tien let me leave my bag in her hotel room, and I forgot to take my camera out with me.  I promise tomorrow’s post will have some more pictures!

Curvy Girl Crochet

Until then, if you haven’t already, enter my giveaway for Curvy Girl Crochet, which ends Saturday at 11:59 p.m. Eastern!