As we pass the midway point of National Crochet Month, I’m excited to share an interview with indie designer, Anastacia Zittel, today. Anastacia is active online as a blogger and on Ravelry, and you may have come across her as anastaciaknits. She’s primarily a crochet designer, so I thought it appropriate to interview her during NatCroMo!
You can find Anastacia online on Ravelry (as anastaciaknits, on her designer page, in the Anastacia Knits Designs group, and in the Afghans & Blankets group, which she founded and co-moderates), in her Etsy shop, on her Facebook page, on Pinterest, and as @anastaciaknits on Twitter.
All photos in this post are used with permission and are copyright Anastacia Zittel unless otherwise noted.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Amastacia Zittel (AZ): I remember learning as a little kid, like so many of us, from our mothers and grandmothers. I don’t really remember learning to crochet – both of my grandmothers were crafty (including knitting, crocheting and sewing), and dad’s family were especially crafty, and my mom made a lot of my clothes and toys growing up. I do remember moving and desperately wanting a new afghan for my new bedroom, and I couldn’t convince anyway on to make me one, so I went out and bought yarn and a hook and made myself an afghan – I was 14.
I got completely “hooked” and my grandmother started “lending” me patterns, which I wouldn’t return, and I quickly went from hooked to obsessed. Right around the same time, a church friend taught me to knit but it didn’t stick – I didn’t know that there were different methods and ways of knitting, I just knew I couldn’t knit. I kept trying though, and finally about ten years ago I just figured out how to do it on my own. Years after that, I realized that my style of knitting is different from any method I’ve ever seen – it’s sort of combo knitting but I do things backwards! It works for me.
Leafing for Spring, a crochet wrap pattern by Anastacia.
UC: What was your original inspiration to start designing?
AZ: I always tweaked patterns – I couldn’t help myself, I always had to change things up! Around the time I was seriously crocheting, one of my grandmother’s developed Alzheimer’s. Part of me has always just wanted to honor the memory of her, sitting crocheting granny squares and ripples everywhere she went. I remember them hosting Bible study classes at their house, and even then, her crochet would be right by her side. So as corny as it may sound, I wanted my grandmother to be proud of me. (UC comment: It doesn’t seem corny to me at all, Anastacia! As I mentioned here, I started my crochet business for similar reasons.)
Triangle Trellis, a crocheted shawl design by Anastacia, published in the Contrarian Shawls ebook. Photo (c) Universal Yarn.
UC: You’re known online as “anastaciaknits” but most of your designs are in crochet. Tell us about how that came to be (both the name, and the focus on crochet designs).
AZ: I know, it’s crazy right? *laughs*. When Ravelry first started, I was big into knitting. I still really loved to crochet, but I was knitting pair after pair of socks. I’ve never been very creative when it comes to names (for years, my online name was zorrosmommy, named after my cat!). I like to use my name in profiles because it IS a unique name, so that’s why I came up with anastaciaknits. This was way before Ravelry offered pattern sales!
I had done some designing on my blog but had never really considered designing as a career, and by the time I realized I did want to design, I was already known as anastaciaknits & I didn’t want to change that. It’s frustrating sometimes because I get a lot of comments from people “Well I like your designs but I don’t knit!” Well, I don’t really design knit, either! But I feel it’s way too late to change my name now.
Around the Twist Log Cabin, a knit blanket design by Anastacia.
UC: Though you have a range of designs, your patterns are mostly for shawls, scarves, and blankets. What do you enjoy about making those projects and designing those patterns?
AZ: I’ve always made a ton of afghans in my “personal” fiber arts – I make them mostly for charity and for fundraisers. I make a ton of scarves for charity, too, so it just seemed to fit that I design that stuff, too. The shawls were pretty much an accident! No seriously!
Scrap Shawl, a customizable crochet pattern by Anastacia.
I was trying to design an afghan square for my first paid self published design, but my square wouldn’t turn into a square shape. I kept staring at it & realized I had a shawl started and I just kept going. The first design did really well and I started getting a lot of emails and PMs from people saying “I really like your shawl, but could you make a triangle shawl?” or “could you make one with more lace?” etc etc. Most of my shawl designs now are because someone specifically asked me to design it – often times it’s just a rough idea (like my Short Sands Shawl) and sometimes more specific – like the Scrap Shawl. There is so much endless variety that can be put into designing a shawl, and I’m just never ever bored designing and making them!
Anastacia’s 2013 Alzheimer’s charity afghan.
UC: Every year you make an afghan and raise money for Alzheimer’s. How did that start?
AZ: As I mentioned, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately a few years ago, my uncle at the age of 50 was also diagnosed with the disease. My cousin Adrienne started doing the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk and one year she happened to mention that she wasn’t raising as much money as she was hoping to. My mom and I started brainstorming so we came up with the idea of the afghan, and then Adrienne had some ideas and input, too.
I crochet an afghan that uses granny squares and ripples (my grandmother’s two favorite types of afghans to make) and uses predominately the color purple (the Alzheimer’s color) and we sell raffle tickets. Any amount will get you one ticket, but additional tickets are sold at $5 a piece. Last year, we had several additional items also added to our prize pool & I’m working on making this year’s raffle bigger and badder than ever! I’m really proud and honored to be a part of this, and we raised over $850 last year alone for Every Mile’s a Memory, Adrienne’s team.
Blueridge Shawl, a knit shawl pattern by Anastacia.
UC: Most of your designs are self-published (although you’ve been published in several yarn company collections and magazines, too). What do you see as the challenges and rewards of self-publishing? Do you plan to continue this ratio of self-published to externally published patterns?
AZ: I love self-publishing for a lot of reasons. As a professional, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but the number one reason for me, is I am really, really bad at deadlines – they stress me out really bad, and when I’m stressed, I do stupid things – like forget to check gauge and realize your whole afghan is weirdly disproportionate & you have to take apart 3 seams and frog the whole thing. (Yes, this happened very recently for a design I just finished last month for Love of Crochet magazine!).
Hawaiian Sea Glass Shawl, a crochet design by Anastacia.
I also really, really like the control one has over one’s designs when you do everything yourself. When you are working for a yarn company, not only do you lose control over the yarn and the color, but the finished design may not look anything at all like the design that started in your head. But it’s a LOT of work, and a LOT of time to do it right, and there’s definitely a big learning curve. I was lucky in that I already worked hard at taking decent photos, and photography is a big part of self-designing, and there’s always room for a lot of improvement!
I will probably concentrate mostly of self-publishing in the future. I’d really like to work regularly for one or two smaller yarn companies – that’s really my big dream!
Julia Heliconian Shawl, a crochet pattern by Anastacia.
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
AZ: I have a HUGE pattern collection – though mostly vintage magazines. My favorite crochet book (besides stitch dictionaries) is the Woman’s Day Book of Granny Squares and Other Carry-Along Crochet – yes, that I got from my grandmother! Most of my first projects came from that book. I also love the The Ultimate Book of Scrap Afghans (from American School of Needlework that came out in 1999) – I’ve made a ton of charity afghans from that book!
Anastacia’s Scrap Afghan, a free crochet pattern by Anastacia (perfect for stashbusting!).
UC: Do you have any crafty websites you frequent for inspiration or community?
AZ: Pinterest! I spend way, way, way too much time on that site looking for inspiration! (UC comment: You can find Anastacia’s boards on Pinterest here.)
Thanks for stopping by, Anastacia! I hope you break your fundraising record for the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk this year!
Readers, if Anastacia’s story has inspired you to donate, Anastacia contributes to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
This week, I’m sharing another square pattern inspired by the Spring Garden theme of Crochetville’s National Crochet Month Designer Blog Tour. I started off the tour by sharing my Hydrangea Shrub granny square pattern, and last week, I released A Ray of Sunshine. I’ll be releasing one square a week during NatCroMo, and the patterns are available as free Ravelry downloads through March with the coupon code NatCroMo14.
I call this square Coming Up Roses, and once again, it’s inspired by childhood memories at my maternal grandmother’s house. Pink roses used to grow on the fence between her back yard and her neighbors’s yard. I think the roses actually belonged to the neighbor, but sharing didn’t seem to be a problem.
I have to say that I also have some…thorny memories related to those roses (imagine climbing a fence with roses growing on it and you’ll have an idea). But don’t worry, I focused on just the happy memories when designing this square!
What better way to celebrate NatCroMo than to spread the word about crochet? Today, Larry Keltto at The Solopreneur Life shared an interview with me as part of his “How I Made My First $10,000″ series.
You can find the interview, about my experience starting and growing Underground Crafter part-time, here. You can also follow Larry’s blog to read great tips for aspiring or existing solopreneurs! (And, if you are wondering what the heck a solopreneur is, Larry shares his definition here.)
Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with Frankie Brown. Frankie is a multi-craftual designer. I first discovered Frankie’s work last year when I used her Jelly Mould Blanket motif in a baby blanket I made for my newborn cousin. After doing a little digging on her designer page, I realized that I had was already familiar with several of her designs (especially the Ten Stitch Blanket) through other blogs that I follow.
Frankie offers all of her self-published crochet and knitting patterns as free downloads through her Ravelry designer page. She asks her fans to contribute to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, and, to date, over 600 of her supporters have contributed over £7,000 (over $12,000)! Frankie is known as rosemily on Ravelry, where she also co-moderates the Frankie’s Knitted Stuff group.
All pictures are copyright Frankie Brown and are used with permission.
Country Rose, a crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Frankie: All the women in my family (and some of the men, too) knitted, crocheted, and sewed, so it was inevitable that I would, too. One of my earliest memories is my Mum teaching me to knit at the age of three. It was a pink square and I don’t think I actually knitted much of it. Later, I would be allowed to do the occasional row in my Mum’s or my Granny’s knitting. As I grew up, I would knit a lot with my Granny, who was probably the keenest knitter in the family, but it was my Great Aunt who taught me to crochet. I made endless giant granny square blankets, using random wool.
Treat Bag knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Frankie: I was a member of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, which invited submissions for its quarterly magazine. They would have a theme for each issue and these themes caught my imagination. The first thing I designed for them was a knitted ammonite for the ‘Sea’ theme and then the Ten Stitch Blanket. Mostly I interpreted the themes literally so I knitted a pile of holes for Holes and little people for Bodies (Bendy Bodies). This was where I developed my taste for quirky knitting.
Woodland Wreath knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Frankie: Most of my inspiration comes from things with straight lines: ironwork, tiles, things with patterns worked into them. I’m also a quilter and I’ve interpreted various patchwork blocks in knitting. I love Mathematical shapes and patterns, spirals, flexagons, tessallations. This leads on to origami which has been the starting point for various designs. Many of my patterns are worked in garter stitch which lends itself well to straight lines and angles. As well as shapes, I also love playing with colour and here I am inspired by just about everything I see. Often, I will get a colour scheme from fabric but the colours for one of my blankets came from a packet of tea. If all else fails, I use the colours of the rainbow.
Apple Core Blanket, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: All of your Ravelry patterns are available for free, but you ask people to donate to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation. Tell us what was behind your decision to offer all of your patterns for free, why you chose this particular charity, and how you feel this has worked out.
Frankie: When my Mum died, I thought about how she had used her creative talents throughout her life to raise money for various charities and I decided I wanted to do that, too. This coincided with me joining Ravelry and finding that people were already talking about the Ten Stitch Blanket. I chose to raise money for the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation as a friend’s son was born with biliary atresia and I have seen how this has affected them and also the help they have received from the charity. To be honest, most people that download my patterns don’t donate, but those that do are very generous and as more people find my patterns and they grow in popularity so the charity gets more money. I think the fact that my designs are free has also helped to spread the word about them. Many people have also used my patterns to knit things to help other charities, something which really pleases me. To be honest, even if nobody ever donated, I think I would still want my patterns to be free. I like sharing new ideas, just as you would tell a friend when you’d found something exciting, I like to share my discoveries with as many people as possible.
Jelly Mould Blanket, a crochet pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: Most of your patterns are self-published. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?
Frankie: Really, I only see the advantages of self-publishing. I can design what I want, when I want and in my own time. I have control over how my pattern looks and I do my own proof-reading so there are less likely to be mistakes. I also really love the feedback that I get through Ravelry. I’ve learnt how to write more clearly and the importance of good photos from people telling me when they get stuck on one of my patterns. Seeing what is popular also gives me ideas for new designs and I particularly enjoy the community that is building up on my Ravelry group, Frankie’s Knitted Stuff.
School Tweed, a knit pattern by Frankie Brown, available in the Tea Cozies 2 collection.
UC: You also have patterns in three collections by the Guild of Master Craftsman. How did you become involved with these projects?
Frankie: This happened at about the same time that I was writing for the Knitting and Crochet Guild. There was a competition in Knitting magazine for tea cosy patterns so I entered one year, then the next, then they had a coffee cosy competition … The books feature their favourite patterns from these competitions. The most exciting thing about these books for me was seeing my designs professionally photographed – they look so grown-up!
Big Dots, Little Dots crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: What are your favorite crochet and knitting books in your collection?
Frankie: The books that I use most as practical tools are the Barbara Walker treasuries and Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book. I also love any books with a historical slant and collect Victorian knitting books. My favourites though are the Elizabeth Zimmermann books; I read those again and again. What she does is encourage you to play with your knitting and see what happens and that’s what I do.
Wheels Within Wheels crochet motif pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community?
Frankie: This is a tricky question. You’re talking to the woman whose mobile phone is so old, it can’t even take photos, and who refuses to have a Facebook page. Ravelry is the only craft site that I use regularly, and although I enjoy chatting to people on my group there, that’s enough for me. I read various blogs for relaxation but none of them have much to do with knitting.
Double Spinning Star, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: Do you have any future plans you’d like to share?
Frankie: I would like to write a book one day. I have in mind something that would show how to knit all sorts of shapes and textures, illustrating each one with a few simple patterns. That way, knitters could use it as a starting point to design their own projects. Most of my designs are based on really simple ideas and it would be good to share those with others.
Squares on the Roll knit blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.
Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts, Frankie. We’re looking forward to seeing that book – it sounds great!
It’s been a very cold winter here in the Northeast. Yesterday, temperatures were in the teens! But March is National Crochet Month, and this year’s Crochetville Designer Blog Tour has a Spring Garden theme. I kicked off the tour by sharing my Hydrangea Shrub granny square pattern, and then the dreary weather inspired me to design some more spring-themed grannies. I’ll be releasing one square a week during NatCroMo, and the patterns are available as free Ravelry downloads through March with the coupon code NatCroMo14.
I call this pattern A Ray of Sunshine. My maternal grandmother, who taught me to crochet, had a small strip of garden in her mostly concrete backyard. She often grew sunflowers back there, and as a child I remember them often being taller than me! I loved running up and down on the angled metal cellar door as a kid, and the sunflowers were the first thing I would see as I slid/ran down. Sunflowers always brighten my day, and I hope this block does the same for you!
I used some leftover yarns to crochet the square. I had a lot of fun making the petals.
Yesterday, while going through my neglected blog reader, I came across a Moogly tutorial for wet blocking crochet squares. I usually spray block, so I thought I’d try it out on this square. I was able to spread out the petals a bit more.
For this particular block, I can’t decide which version I prefer. What do you think? I’m wondering how I should block the next square I make!
Download the pattern here for free through March 31, 2014.
This month, I plan to highlight crochet on my blog by sharing interviews with crochet designers, reviews of crochet books, and introducing several new crochet patterns. (For my own sanity, I won’t repeat last year’s daily NatCroMo blogging though!)
I think all of my regular readers know that crochet is my favorite craft. (Ssshh, don’t tell the knitting – it could get jealous!) My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 9 years old, but I didn’t learn to read patterns until I was 27. One of my first attempts at pattern reading was inspired by my desire to crochet a granny square. (I learned using Julie A. Bolduc‘s Basic Granny Square.)
The theme of this year’s NatCroMo blog tour is Spring Garden, and since granny squares were my original inspiration for learning to read patterns (which eventually led me into designing), I thought I’d introduce a new motif pattern today.
I call this 6″ (15 cm) square the Hydrangea Shrub. When I was growing up, my grandmother’s neighbor had delightful, multi-colored hydrangea shrubs in her front yard. I loved looking at them as I walked up to my grandmother’s house, and ever since, hydrangeas always remind me of spring.
I took pictures of those hydrangeas in the small park adjacent to the American Museum of Natural History. I love all the vibrant and pastel colors you can find hydrangeas in.
To crochet the Hydrangea Shrub square, you’ll use basic crochet stitches (the chain, double crochet, and single crochet); working in rounds; increasing; joining new colors; and bullions, crossed stitches, and post stitches. Written instructions for the last three stitches are provided in the pattern.
Download this pattern free with coupon code NatCroMo14 through March!
Halos of Hope is the featured charity for the blog tour. They provide volunteer-crafted hats to cancer centers around the country. If you’d like to crochet some hats for your local center, you can find recommended patterns here.
Enjoy the rest of the tour, and happy crocheting!
You can find more information on the 2014 Sampler MKAL here, and can order the pattern here. Join in any time for a fun project with great prizes!
This month’s giveaway sponsor is Michelle’s Assortment. Michelle sells her wireworked shawl pins, stitch markers, bookmarks, and charms on Etsy and at fiber events around the country. You may remember that I had the opportunity to meet her at Vogue Knitting Live in January.
I snapped that picture of her in her booth, where I helped out for a few hours. Michelle has some lovely work. In fact, I’m the proud owner of three of her stunning shawl pins.
In addition to her Etsy shop, Michelle can be found online as CraftyFlutterby on Ravelry and on the Michelle’s Assortment Facebook page. Michelle will be a vendor at several upcoming fiber events, including the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival from March 14 through March 16. (I had a fabulous time at the festival last year, which you can read about here.) She’ll also be at several Ohio events in the next few months: A Knitter’s Fantasy in April, OddMall in May, the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair in August, and the Autumn Fiber Festival in October.
Michelle will also be the MKAL giveaway sponsor in November. Thanks, Michelle, for your generosity and support!
Michelle will be providing the winner’s choice of any straight pin with a single bead in her shop inventory. You can find her current inventory of straight pins in her Etsy shop here. Be aware that her stock is likely to change by the end of March after the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival. (The shawl pins shown above are, from left to right: the Heart Shaped Stone Bead, the Winter is Coming Shawl Pin, and the Glass Bead with Hot Pink Wrap.)
To enter the giveaway, post a picture of any 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-A-Long sampler square you knit during Marcj in the relevant spoiler thread onRavelry by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Monday, March 31, 2014. (KAL participants who are not Ravelry members can instead share pictures with theUnderground Crafter Facebook page or Tweet pictures to @ucrafter.) Each square you share a picture of will count as one entry. One winner will be chosen at random on or about April 3.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!