Tag Archives: afghans

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.

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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!

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Better Homes and Gardens Crocheting & Knitting

VintageNPotW 400

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This week’s pick: Better Homes and Gardens Crocheting & Knitting

Source: Paperbackswap.com

Publication date: 1977

Status: Out of print but available online.

Condition: Smells like a basement, but in relatively good condition.

Crafts: Crochet and knitting.

BH&G C&K cover

I went on a hunt for this book after seeing Crochetbug’s version of the afghan on the cover.  (For those of you considering making your own, Crochetbug has set up a page with details about how she made hers.  You can also find more information on her Ravelry project pages for her original and reprised versions.)

BH&G C&K afghan

Jackie H. Curry’s Granny Square Sampler Afghan.

I even tried my hand at some of the blocks, which I eventually donated.

This book has a lot of fun home decor crochet and knitting projects.

Some of my favorites…

The Old Fashioned Windowpane Knitted Afghan by Winnie Juhl.

BH&G C&K scraps

Spiral Crocheted Table Toppers by Mary Walker Phillips.  (Side note: Mary Walker Phillips was a fascinating woman.  You can read more about her cultural impact in her obituary.)

BH&G C&K placemat

 

Crocheted Bed Throw.

BH&G C&K bedspreadFilet Crochet Chair Set.

BH&G C&K chair

Cozy Quilt Patterned Throw by Susan Toplitz.

BH&G C&K cozy quilt

This book is unusual for the time because it actually lists the names of the designers (in the back, but still).  Until recently, relatively few designers were actually able to include their names in their publications.  Most designs were unattributed, with the yarn company or magazine acting as the implied author.

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Quilts & Afghans from McCall’s Needlework & Crafts

This week’s pick: Quilts and Afghans From McCall’s Needlework & Crafts

Source: PaperBackSwap.com

Publication date: 1984

Status: Out of print, but widely available online

Condition: Acceptable

Craft(s): Crochet, knitting, and quilting

This is a collection of patterns that originally appeared in McCall’s Needlework & Crafts magazine.

The book includes 14 quilt patterns, 11 crochet patterns, and 5 knitting patterns.  The last chapter includes general instructions for patchwork, applique, quilting, tufting, embroidery, crochet, and knitting.

I was amused to see that the introduction talks about the “modern interpretations of old-fashioned patterns.”  I guess that phrase never gets old.  (Naturally, the book now appears dated.)

It opens with the quilting patterns.  Some of my favorites are the Fan Quilt and the Broken Star Quilt.

The patterns are pretty detailed, but mostly use templates.  I’m guessing that many of today’s quilters might prefer strip quilting (or is that just me because I’m lazy?).  Of course, you can always convert the projects or just use the quilts for inspiration.

One major difference from many modern quilting books is that there are actual instructions for how to quilt the tops, including templates for the stitch outlines.  There are even tips for enlarging the templates (without a scanner or copy machine).

The next section is the crochet patterns.  Most are also quilting inspired.  Some of my favorites are (clockwise, from top left) Color Wheels Afghan, Star Quilt Bedspread, Florentine Afghan, and Autumn Windows Afghan.

Another sign of the times: The Florentine Afghan is made with Tunisian crochet and then there is a chart to work needlepoint over it.  Today, it would probably be charted as a crocheted (or Tunisian crocheted) colorwork pattern.

The Star Quilt looks like an awesome scrap buster, but I don’t think I could handle making all 114 blocks (each of which is made up of 12 pieces!).

Most of the knitting patterns are not really to my taste, but I did like the Argyle Afghan.  The chart could also be used for Tunisian crochet or single crochet.

Overall, this book has some nice patterns and some good tips.  I like the fact that it is multi-craftual and that doesn’t seem to be a problem as it might be today.  It has great inspiration inside, but I think many of today’s crafters would probably take some shortcuts and make adjustments to the patterns.

 

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Sara Palacios from Arrorró en Colores

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

Today, I’m interviewing Argentinian crochet designer Sara Palacios, the mind behind Arrorro en Colores (known as Colorful Lullabies in English).  Sara can be found online on her website, Ravelry (as SaraBea and in the Colorful Lullabies store), Etsy, Facebook, and Flickr.  All pictures are used with her permission.

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

Sara: I’ve liked handicrafts since I was a child. My mother was a dressmaker and I grew up watching her as she created new things, being passionate about fabrics, textures, shapes, and colors. When I was 10, she taught me the basics of crochet, knitting and embroidery. I also learned a lot from my aunts, who where always crocheting doilies, and from the craft magazines that they used to give me: they were the best gift I could get!

UC: When did you first become passionate about afghans?

Sara: At age 15, I crocheted a multicolor granny square using yarn remains and made a pillow with it. It was then that I discovered the magic of harmonizing colors and I wanted to crochet a blanket for my bed. This time I made it with new brightly colored wool. Since then, I came up with several ideas that I kept as projects to do some day, such as the illusions of stacked cubes. During the following 27 years, I crocheted some simple blankets and other things, but I did not realize any of these early projects because there was always something missing: time or money.

In 2008, I could make the first of the blankets I had been planning to do for so long. After that I could never stop imagining new things.

 

Hexagon Spiral pattern.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Sara: To copy other people’s models in an exact way – as beautiful as the model may have been – bored me. For example, I needed to combine the design of a pattern with a different stitch from another, and the colors of a flower in my garden. In other words, I needed to add something personal to it. And so, unexpected things started to come up. Any aspect of life that makes me feel passionate or that suggests beauty or excellence to me can be the source of inspiration for a crochet design: nature, art, dreams, maths, science or everyday experiences.

 

Flower Rug pattern.

UC: Tell us about crochet in Argentina.

Sara: In general, crochet is picked up within the family as grandmothers, mothers and aunts teach you. However, today it is also learned through the Internet. In some places, they teach courses to learn or perfect crochet techniques. Usually, we learn both knitting and crochet but, as time goes by, we tend to choose crochet.

I believe that in the last years we, crocheters, are becoming more and more well-known, and we have started meeting in groups mostly thanks to social networks. In addition, there are also more young people crocheting nowadays.

This increasing popularity in crochet has to do in part with initiatives for solidarity that consist in getting granny squares of a certain size so as to make blankets to donate to hospitals and retirement homes. In particular the group Tejiendo por un Sueño (Knitting/Crocheting for a Dream) on Facebook gets thousands of knitters and crocheters together, and it also provokes an infectious enthusiasm that is both enriching and motivating. In this way more people want to crochet again which, the way I see it, has to do with the ‘magic’ of the granny squares: The possibility of combining colors, of giving new life and use to the leftovers of other handicrafts, of getting unique products and also of working with and for the community.

UC: Most of your patterns are available in English (both US and UK terms) and in Spanish.  What made you decide to sell bilingual patterns?

Sara: I had always wanted to write patters, but I had never imagined myself doing it in English. I opened my shop on Etsy with the intention of selling blankets, but people started to ask me for the patterns, and so I decided to write them in both languages. I am happy to be able to share them with more people.

Joy: Hexagon and Triangle Blanket pattern.

UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet or craft blogs to share?

Sara: Crochet soñado by Claudia Daneu is an Argentine blog with many video crochet patterns that explain very nice stitches and interesting variations.  Tejido Crochet is another Argentine crochet blog with original designs and graphics.  Mi Sala de Costura is a Spanish patchwork and craft blog, which also includes beautiful crochet patterns.

In English, I like Fiddlesticks and the crochet techniques of Vashti Braha, among other blogs.  (UC comment: I’m a huge fan of Vashti’s blog and newsletter, and I also interviewed her back in January.)

 

Wonder, crochet flower blanket pattern.

UC: What’s next for Arroro en Colores?

Sara: I have a lot of projects. Most of my patterns are still in my head or in a draft. I crochet and write when I have free time to do it. I make my living working on computing with computers and crochet is just a hobby.  I would like to be able to spend more hours on it, although I don’t want to hurry: crocheting is precisely about going slowly step by step.

 

Thanks so much, Sara, for stopping by to share your thoughts with us!

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.

 

Year of Projects 2: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

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Like U2, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (in an afghan motif).

I’ve done a lot of swatching this week and I’m not that much closer to choosing a pattern for the bedspread I want to make my mom for her milestone birthday.

At first, I was thinking that a hexagon motif was the way to go.  This is motif 14 from Lace Crochet Best Pattern 238.  It was very hot, so I was crocheting with Parisian Cotton.

Then the weather broke (from 100s to 80s/90s) and I decided to combine my swatching for this blanket with my goal of making 52 granny squares using different patterns.  So I picked out a bunch of square patterns to try.

This is my version of Dream Catcher, by Sherry Welch in Caron Simply Soft scraps.  I don’t think it is quite right for my mom’s bedspread, but I enjoyed making it.

This is my version of Locutus by Penny Davidson.  I started with a really ancient ball of white yarn from my stash that used to belong to my grandmother.  When it ran out, I moved on to some Caron Simply Soft in Buff for the edges.  I had some trouble with the pattern for the fourth round but I actually think this motif (the center of it) is in the running for my mom’s bedspread.

My next square was Crown Jewels by Melinda Miller.  This one is made with two colors of Red Heart Super Saver.  This one is also in the running, but I’m not sure how much my mom likes bobbles.

Then a friendly crocheter on Crochetlist heard of my quest for the perfect motif and pointed me towards the Renaissance Beauty by Carol Alexander.  Although this is available as a free pattern, I actually have it in one of my favorite books in my collection in 100 Afghans to Knit & Crochet.  This motif is much more beautiful than the pictures (of the blanket draped over a person or a chair) would lead you to believe.  My version of this motif probably my top choice right now, especially since it looks so good in a Lion Brand Baby’s First.  The idea of using a bulky yarn for this bedspread is very appealing – not only will it work up much faster, but I think the heavier yarn adds a modern look to a classic motif.


One of the hardest things about this search is that many of the best granny patterns are made with multiple colors.  It is really hard to envision them in one solid color, which is what I have planned for this bedspread.  My version of the Waterlily from 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans by Jan Eaton is an example.  It looks sort of dull and lifeless without the color changes.

The Venetian Star from Margaret Hubert’s The Granny Square Book is another motif that I’m strongly considering.  My version is a few rounds shorter since I ran out of yarn, but I like the look anyway.

I tried two other Jan Eaton blocks, which I think are successful in one color, but not quite what I’m looking for in this bedspread.  This is my version of the Peach Rose

…and this is my version of the Gothic Square.  Both were made with an old skein of Lion Brand Cotton-Ease that has been in my stash since around 2007.

If nothing else, I’ve made progress in stash busting.  I finished off three partial skeins and one full skein of yarn.  And, I’ve finished 8 more squares towards my YOP goal of 52.

A few questions: Do you have any favorite motif patterns that work well in a solid color?  And what do you think of the bulky yarn idea?

For more YOP posts, visit Come Blog-a-long on Ravelry.