All project pictures are from Crochet Wraps Every Which Way, are copyright of Stackpole Books, and are used with permission. You can find pictures of all 18 patterns here in the Stackpole lookbook.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Tammy: My second grade teacher offered to teach crochet to anyone in our class that wished to stay after school. I was the only one that stayed! My first project was a floppy, purple hat that we worked on together sitting at her big wooden desk.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Tammy: We moved to North Carolina from Niagara Falls when my kids were babies. I saw an ad in the newspaper for crocheters and thought it would be a great way to make a little money while I stayed home with my girls. After a couple weeks a light bulb went off and I thought “Wow! I could do this!” and so I started designing myself.
UC: You’ve held a variety of positions in the Crochet Guild of America. Can you talk about why you become involved with CGOA, and share any advice for professional crocheters who are interested in becoming more involved?
Tammy: I have served as the mentor coordinator, the professional development chairperson and I currently serve as the vice president. Initially I became involved because I wanted to give back to CGOA after how beneficial the organization had been for me but with each new opportunity, I find myself learning and receiving even more. To anyone that wishes to be involved, contact me or anyone of our board of directors and let us know. Each person has wonderful talents and strengths which are such a huge asset when we all work together as a team.
UC: Tell me about the development process for Crochet Wraps Every Which Way. How was it similar or different from the process of developing your previous booklets?
Tammy: I’m not much of a planner so in typical fashion, I learn as I go and tackle obstacles as they present themselves. The photography was done by a local photographer so it was my first time participating in the styling and photo shoots. That was a lot of fun!
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides yours, of course)?
Tammy: My Harmony Guides as well as a Japanese stitch dictionary are always on my desk and I refer to them all the time.
UC: What’s next for you?
Tammy: I am scheduled to teach my first two classes at Crochetville‘s 10th anniversary retreat in February. The details are here. (UC comment: If you can get to Huntsville, Alabama in February, this looks like a great event!)
Tammy, thanks so much for stopping by for the interview. We wish you the best for the rest of the blog tour!
Are you ready to win your copy of Crochet Wraps Every Which Way, courtesy of Stackpole Books? This giveaway is open to all readers with an email address. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, January 26, 2014.
Check out Stackpole’s lookbook and leave a comment telling me which pattern you’d crochet first and why.
Today, I’m pleased to interview crochet designer, Cristina Mershon. Cristina is originally from Galicia, Spain, and she currently lives in Oklahoma. Although she has only been publishing her designs since 2011, she has been quite prolific. You can find Cristina on Ravelry as CristinaMershon or through her designer page.
Each photo is linked to the pattern page on Ravelry.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet?
Cristina: It seems like avid crocheters have similar beginnings: mom or grandma taught them around 8 years old, and my story is no different. I loved seeing my mom knitting and crocheting beautiful things. Knitting used to be my favorite thing to do when I was younger back in Galicia, but with time crochet became my obsession. My mom and her friends only crocheted with white thread that they bought in big skeins from a factory in Portugal, and they would only do household items. Knitting was for wearing, and crochet for the home.
When I first come to the United States, I was shocked at the new world of crochet in front of me. I could do anything and everything with yarn and a hook!
I am graphic designer during the day, working on book covers, web layouts, logos and all kinds of promotional materials, trying to make my clients happy with the use of color and fun shapes. But at night, when I am home, after spending time with my hubby and 4 little kids, it’s my time to create crochet items with a modern twist.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Cristina: A lot of my inspiration comes from knitting. I love the seamless flow of the knitted fabric, and the intricate detail of the lace. So when I stared designing, I wanted to accomplish a knitting look using a crochet hook. One of my first published works was a series of shawls, but not your old school grandma ones. I wanted to do modern style shawls for everyday use, for the office, or to take your kids to school. In fact, I wear them all the time, and they make any everyday outfit into a sophisticated look.
Designing helps me create what I really want and I cannot find. I love creating super easy to make items, nothing complicated, easy shapes, simple stitches… all combined to created something really special.
UC: You have many great designs for children as well as lovely accessories for women. What appeals to you about crocheting wearables?
Cristina: I reconnected to crochet when I first got pregnant with my first baby. Something in me (crazy hormones!!) pushed me to make things all the time, a nesting instinct that wouldn’t go away. So that’s when I began to crochet baby items. I started with lacy edges for receiving blankets and it just went off from there.
I got pregnant again with my second (they are only 1 year apart!), so I made everything from jackets, to blankets, to towel edges, and booties… and then baby number 3 and number 4 came along… then my collection of baby hats and jackets was so big, that my friends asked to me sell some to them.
Then, I went to a baby boutique and the owner asked where did I buy my baby’s hats… so I started to sell those too. All of that while working full time in the advertising agency. Those were a few crazy years!
And one day I realized that I never did anything for me, so I started designing shawls and shrugs, and anything that would inspire me to use basic shapes, like circles, squares, rectangles, and hexagons, to create one of a kind items. A great example of that was my first work for Vogue Crochet, where they asked me to design two different projects. It was an amazing experience.
UC: How did you make the shift from designing finished objects to designing patterns?
Cristina: I am always going to be very thankful to Cascade Yarns and Crochet Today! They gave me my first opportunity to create crochet patterns. I didn’t even know I could do that, or that anybody would ever like them. I knew how to crochet visually, but I didn’t have any idea of how to follow a pattern. Everything I did before then was by looking at a existing finished piece or graphic pattern.
I remember working on my first design ever for Cascade Yarns, the Alpine Shawl, and trying to figure out how to write a pattern. It was very very hard! After that pattern was published and liked by hundreds of people within a few weeks, I started getting requests for designs. I couldn’t believe that a hobby like mine could translate into a little career, but how exiting.
UC: In 2012, you published your first booklet, Exquisite Crochet Shawls. Tell us about what that was like and what the design process was like for those shawls.
Cristina: When I got the opportunity to create the shawls for Annie’s, Exquisite Crochet Shawls, I was delighted. Every shawl in that book is inspired by my country of Spain. I am from the Northwest region of Galicia, a very magical place where knitting and crochet were not just a hobby a few years back, but the only way to create wearables and items for the home. My mom used to get the whole fleece from her own sheep, wash it, card it, rove it, spin it and wind it all by herself.
So the Alborada Shawl (meaning “dawn”) has the purple tones of the sun coming up in the morning, with beautiful pineapple lace motifs. The green Celtic Nature Shawl was inspired by the round markings by the Celts found in ancient stones; the blue Galician Sea Shawl shows the ripples and waves of the wild Atlantic ocean; the Volvoreta Stole (meaning “butterfly”) is light and airy; and the Art Deco Shawl is a mix of structured and freeform crochet, if that even exists.
UC: Last year, your design also graced the cover of Crochet Noro. Tell us about that experience.
Cristina: The cover of Crochet Noro: 30 Dazzling Designs was a huge surprise. I never though the shawl would make to the cover since all of these incredible crocheters were a part of it.
One day I stumbled onto the book on Amazon.com before it was published, and I thought that the shawl looked very familiar. When I realized it was my own design, that was a great feeling. The same thing happened with my first cover of Crochet Today!: I couldn’t believe my first ever magazine project would make it to the cover.
Vogue was very unexpected, to the point that when I got the email to be a part of it, I though it was a joke. I felt so blessed.
UC: How does your background influence your design process?
Cristina: My art and design background definitely influence my crochet design. I want to push the envelope with every design. Right now, I am working on a series of crochet wearable patterns that I will be selling on my own through Ravelry. I think it’s time to work on patterns where I get create what I really want to wear, maybe pushing the envelope a little bit.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Cristina!
The next interview in the series will be posted on September 23 with Monica Rodriguez Fuertes/Hand Made Awards.
I am so incredibly pleased to share an interview with Kim Guzman today. As a lover of Tunisian crochet and a member of the very active Yahoo group that she co-moderates with Angela “ARNie” Grabowski, tunisiancrochet, I’ve been a big fan of Kim’s work for years. (Kim also does a lot of “regular” crochet design, too, as she discusses in this recent blog post.)
Kim is incredibly prolific as a designer, author, and teacher, and always seems to me to be the hardest working woman in show (er, um, yarn) business. Yet if you are active on Crochetville, Ravelry, or almost any other social network where crochet is being discussed, you have probably interacted with Kim, who is very generous about sharing tips, advice, and her knowledge of crochet.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Kim: When I was about 9 years’ old, my parents joined the Army together. During their basic training, my sister and I stayed with my grandparents. It was quite a long stay with grandparents and I believe that she taught us to crochet just to give us something to do while away from home. She started us off with granny squares and I learned from verbal instruction only. It wasn’t until I was about 18 years old that I purchased my first patterns. I wasn’t even aware of patterns and had been designing my own for all that time.
UC: When were you first introduced to Tunisian crochet, and how did you come to work with it so often?
Kim: In about 2000, Darla Fanton had turned the crochet world on its ears with her double-ended Tunisian crochet designs. She did a lot of books, but the publishers wanted more. Annie’s Attic sent me some double-ended hooks and asked me to try my hand at double-ended Tunisian. I had never done it before, but I immediately set to work. My double-ended designs weren’t accepted. I found that I preferred the look of regular one-sided Tunisian and I had three books commissioned within six months.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Kim: I have been designing since I learned to crochet. It was at least 10 years of crocheting before I sat down with a pattern and taught myself how to read it. Not knowing about patterns was the key to my “no fear” attitude toward design. My grandmother’s doilies inspired me to design my own when I was only 10 years’ old.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Kim: My creative inspiration is usually in the yarn itself. I bond with a yarn for awhile by swatching with it. When I come up with a stitch pattern and drape that I find pleasing, I bond with it awhile until it tells me what it wants to be. While I do browse the internet and catalogs for trendy clothing, I don’t usually have the ability to see something in fabric and be able to translate their shapes into crochet. Well, I take that back. I don’t usually find myself doing that. But, publishers will sometimes choose a photo of something in a pleasing shape and then ask that I translate that shape or construction into crochet. It’s design-on-demand. I never feel like my design-on-demand work is very good. It doesn’t come from the heart.
Kim: You act as if I’m organized. ha! I am the furthest thing from organized.
For the Beginner’s Guide, I thought about yarns and projects. I thought about beginner projects and intermediate projects. And, I just started crocheting and writing. I put every little trick I know about Tunisian crochet in that book. It includes things normally not found in Tunisian crochet books like seaming horizontally or vertically, how to change colors, how to work with a lot of colors, step-by-step on how to felt projects and so much more. Everything that I had seen over the years which I had seen caused some questions. Even how to work with a self-striping yarn so that wide pieces of the body of a garment match the same sort of striping in the upper pieces around the arms and neck is included. It was the very first time I was given full control over what went into the book and I went all out. (UC comment: I highly recommend this book for Tunisian crochet newbies! You can read my review on the Crochet Guild of America’s blog here. Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)
For the Cables book, I did it right after I finished my Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide. (UC note: This book is expected to be published in March.) When I was working on the stitch guide, I did a swatch of a cable, then I did another, and another. I had about 10 cables in next to no time. I wanted to somehow keep the cables together, but I had already done the required number of stitch patterns for the Stitch Guide (65). This would have put me over the expected number by ten, so I decided to pull those cable stitch patterns from my proposed stitch patterns and create a separate book. Since the cables required special instruction, I didn’t want to put them in a book with only charted stitch patterns. I wanted them to have a further instruction. (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)
In Short Row Tunisian Fashion, which is currently available in hard copy and download, I have six projects which use the short row technique in Tunisian. But, the real surprise is the crescent wrap which includes a pineapple stitch pattern. No, not a regular crochet pineapple stitch pattern. It’s Tunisian crochet from start to finish. I believe it to be the first ever published pineapple stitch pattern in Tunisian crochet. (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)
Then, in March, my new Stitch Guide will be available. It’s already available on Amazon for pre-order. I’ve never done a full stitch pattern book before. But, I’m especially pleased with it because, although there are some classic Tunisian crochet stitch patterns, most of them are completely out of my head. I wanted a charted book and this book really challenged me because I had to draw out all the symbols myself. But, it was well worth it and I feel that this book is my biggest contribution to crochet yet.
UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?
Kim: I think the sweetheart, Margaret Hubert, put it best: “Don’t quit your day job.” While I have somehow been able to do these wonderful things as my career, as a single mother, it has been tough! There isn’t a lot of money in it. Most times, we’re just barely surviving and we’ve had to make numerous sacrifices. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been able to stay at home with my kids and do a job that I love. I can’t think of a better way to go through life.
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
Kim: I am especially fond of the Japanese stitch pattern books. They have spent more time with me on the couch than in the book shelf.
UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?
Kim: Well, I’m just going to look at my computer and see what websites I always have up there.
Facebook. Seriously, I think I would go into withdrawals if I didn’t have my Facebook peeps.
Crochetville. Staying on top of the students’ questions for my classes and responding to any pattern questions asked in the forums.
Annie’s. Also, staying on top of the students’ questions. I like to respond to questions immediately. I respond as quickly as I possibly can. If I was doing a project, and I had a question, it would really be bothersome to have to set it down and wait for a week to get a response. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, but I really do my best to get to questions immediately.
UC: You’ve been teaching online for years. Tell me about your experiences as an online teacher.
Kim: I prefer teaching online over teaching in live venues. Like I said, I’m a single mother. I have a small child. I want to stay home with him and I don’t want to leave him for a week at a time. Online teaching allows me to stay at home with him. But, it’s more than that. Online teaching gives me the opportunity to give well-thought-out answers to my students. And, I don’t walk out suddenly remembering that I forgot to teach something.
I have been teaching online for over 10 years. I’ve been teaching project classes, but I’ve just started adding some design classes to the mix which will begin in February at Crochetville.
Thank you for stopping by, Kim, and sharing your answers with us!
The booklet opens with a three-page section called Mixed Miters which walks readers through the basics of creating mitered square projects including materials, gauge, and techniques for casting on, decreasing, and joining squares. Fans of Edie know that she likes to include the knitting math, and in this section you will also learn how to design your own mitered squares and determine the appropriate number of stitches to cast on. Edie also explains why you might want to use different cast on methods, which is helpful for other projects, too.
The next several pages are devoted to the Modular Mix Afghan, made up of 20 blocks (some of which are formed by 4 to 16 smaller blocks). Because modular projects are joined as you work, this overview is helpful before diving into the square patterns if you plan to recreate the sampler featured on the cover.
The 12 module patterns are presented in the next section. Each pattern includes a brief introduction, information on the stitch multiples in case the knitter wants to adjust the size, the color sequence, and the pattern. The patterns are simple, but Edie doesn’t do as much handholding as some modern knitters may expect. These patterns are written like recipes, not as line by line instructions. I found them easy to understand, but a beginner (or beginning pattern reader) might be confused when reaching the last set of decreases, for example. Each square is also clearly photographed, so it is easy to see the differences in the patterns. Each square is available in 3 sizes (3 inch, 6 inch, and 12 inch). The projects all use medium (worsted) weight yarn and size 9 (5.5 mm) knitting needles, but of course could be adapted to other size yarn and needles for a different effect.
The book closes with a list of knitting abbreviations used in the booklet, charts showing recommended needle sizes for different yarn weights and conversions from inches to metric measurements, and an illustrated Knitting Basics section. There is also a photo index in the back that makes it easy to find patterns in the book. Like other Annie’s booklets, this lays flat and is easy to read while knitting.
Overall, this is a fun pattern booklet for anyone interested in exploring mitered squares. While the booklet is brief (only 28 pages), Edie does pack in a lot of information, so it is suitable for knitters with a range of abilities. An adventurous beginner would have fun learning new stitch patterns, decreases, and increases, and a more advanced knitter could follow Edie’s tips to design their own mitered squares. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
My favorite patterns are Sakura by May Ho, Dahlia by Ashley Forde Rao, Daphne by Lorna Miser, Roses in Bloom by Jodi Lewanda, and the flowers on the Quick Color Wheel Wreath by Carri Hammett, who I interviewed here earlier this year. (The patterns aren’t on Ravelry yet, but Sakura is the orange flower at the top center of the picture of the front cover, above, and the two flowers beneath it are Daphnes.)
If this was just a pattern booklet, it would be unremarkable. Some folks would love the patterns, others would hate them, and others would be indifferent. But this is actually a technique book disguised as a pattern collection. Each pattern includes a step-by-step photo tutorial demonstrating at least one technical aspect of that project. Many of the tutorials focus on gathering and finishing techniques, but there are others showing cast on methods (crochet and Channel Island), picot bind off, attaching beads, and stitches for increasing and decreasing.
The book also displays the flowers as part of a range of projects including as embellishment for shoes, a hat, a lampshade, and a clutch. While this is great inspiration for how to use your finished flowers, I wish more of the tutorials (or even the written directions) explained how to create such a project. The ring, lariat, and wreath projects include instructions on how to connect the flower(s) to the rest of the piece. If you’re not the type to experiment with a glue gun, you may prefer a book with more detailed assembly instructions. Another minor drawback: The booklet is a little thicker than other Annie’s titles, so it doesn’t lay flat so you can’t read and knit.
If you are looking for tips on how to attach flowers and other appliques to projects, look elsewhere. If you’ve ever seen a cute flower pattern but after knitting, ended up with a shapeless blob, this is the book for you! I would also recommend this book to advanced beginners who like quick projects, embellishments, and/or are looking for ideas for those little scraps of yarn left over after finishing a project.
I’m really excited to interview Charles Voth, also known as Stitch Stud, today. Charles is a crochet and knitting designer and tech editor. (If you’re not sure what a tech editor is, you may want to check out this interview with Juanita Quinones. And if you get really excited about tech editing, you may want to sign up for these upcoming tech editing classes Charles is teaching at online at Crochet Insider.) Charles is an active participant in several online forums for crochet designers, and over the years I’ve seen him generously sharing his knowledge with more junior designers (including me!). In the past year, I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to (virtually) meet Charles when he tech edited one of my patterns.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet and knit?
Charles: When I was 5, a woman visiting my mother was crocheting a blue hat. I was fascinated with the movement of her hands and that a 3-d object was appearing from a piece of yarn. I asked her to teach me. She taught me to finger chain that day, and came back another time to teach me how to use a hook. What I made after with the basic stitches I learned, I can’t recall.
I remember making a doily in thread following a pattern when I was 8 or 9. I had no-one to help me crack the code of pattern text and abbreviations, but somehow with the photo and the index of stitches I figured it out. When I was 10 or 11, I saw some Guambiano tribesmen knitting and spinning with drop-spindles (in Popayan, Colombia) and I asked my dad what they were doing. He explained what it was and I asked him if I could learn to knit. Fortunately, my grade 5 teacher was a knitter and my dad asked her to teach me. He bought me my first yarn and needles.
I am a “thrower”, and faster at it than at “picking”, but when my Russian-born grandmother saw me throwing upon my visit with her in Canada, she was dismayed, and tried to get me to knit Russian-continental. Which I can now do fairly well, but at that age, I found it hopeless to change over.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Charles: The yarn store I frequented in Medellin, Colombia only had yarn, no pattern booklets. The women would sketch a schematic, do a swatch, and figure out the sweater. They taught me how to do that so I could make my mom a sweater and a vest. But I wanted to knit something for myself. Fortunately, another expat woman lent me an English pattern book with women’s patterns. I analysed the shaping, schematic, gauge, etc, and with the help of my math teacher I designed a men’s sweater based on the woman’s pattern, making it more masculine. I even got a home-ec credit for that. I just kept going from there and only stopped during the first 10 years of my kids’ lives. I was the full-time stay at home parent for half of those years and just didn’t have time.
UC: Many of your patterns are available in both English and Spanish. Tell us about your decision to offer your patterns in both languages. Are Spanish language patterns universally understand by Spanish speakers, or is there a great divide like we see between U.S. & U.K. terminology? If so, how do you address that in your work.
Charles: I wish I could spend more time writing my patterns in both languages. I know that Spanish-speaking knitters and crocheters don’t cling to patterns the way English-speakers do…and seem to thrive on the “swatch, and follow a schematic” formula, but there are many learners and intermediate crocheters who perhaps haven’t benefited from a relative who could teach them the intricacies of shaping, etc, and they do look for patterns. The many Spanish groups of Ravelry who translate with designers’ permission are a testimony to this growing need.
While there are differences in the names of stitches, for knitting needles, the crochet hook, and even yarn, the labels do seem immaterial to Spanish-speaking crafters. Rather than stigmatizing one set of labels as incorrect or inferior, each geographic region is happy to use what they know and even to borrow from each other. It’s rather refreshing. The other mentality that I enjoy and return to often for a breath of fresh air, is that there is no knit-crochet dichotomy like in North America. In Colombia, as in many other countries, the word “tejer” is universal for “weaving, knitting, and crochet” and the tool that is used is given when the activity is being described. So I would “weave with a loom,” “weave with 2 needles,” or “weave with a hook,” for example. I use the words that I was taught in Colombia and the terms and abbreviations I first found when I found other Hispanic bloggers and stitchers online.
UC: In addition to your crochet life, you’re also an ESL teacher. Does your teaching experience impact your design or pattern writing process, and if so, how?
Charles: Second language learners struggle constantly with accuracy and fluency, and the two aspects of language compete with each other. Either one can talk with native-like speed and tone yet have many embedded grammatical or micro-level pronunciation errors, or one can speak/write accurately, with near perfect grammar and spelling, but it takes forever and the speech is robotic and the writing painfully slow.
Crocheters and knitters, depending on their exposure to patterns and the time they’ve been stitching, and what kind of support they’ve had, and more importantly, what kind of learner they are (visual, aural, kinesthetic, text-biased) often struggle with the same fits and false starts when they encounter pattern instructions and charts until they are more experienced, but if a stitcher works faster than they are ready to, things get missed and frogging is more common.
I have written patterns that bore the experienced knitter/crocheter to tears because they are full of pedagogical text, and I’ve written patterns that are so sparse that a newbie takes up hours of my time on Ravelry giving pattern support. I’m a visual learner, so I’m fine with a chart, a schematic and minimal text, yet I know that if my patterns were only like that I’d loose 75% of stitchers out there, so I now try to find a happy medium.
UC: You were born and raised in Colombia. What was the yarn crafts scene like there when you were growing up?
Charles: From what I recall, different tribes of pre-European Colombians have a vibrant craft movement and the lore is well documented and perpetuated. Colombia is the textile centre of Latin America, and Medellin, where I grew up, has many textile corporations. The tallest sky scraper in the city is actually a stylized sewing needle. When I was there, mostly grandmothers were the knitters and depending on the social class, younger women either learned out of necessity (to make blankets and clothes for themselves and/or for sale) or if they were middle or upper class, they just dabbled in it once in a while. I’m not at all in touch with the current knitting/crochet culture in Colombia. Colombians on Ravelry appear to come from all age groups.
When I lived there, the main yarn purveyors were the French company Pinguoin, and Cisne yarns (from Chile), and I believe Coats had and still has a line of yarn with Spanish labels. These yarns were in the store at the mall near my house. The yarns were mostly acrylic. My favourite store was a different one, 15 blocks from my house and it was frequented mostly by little grandmothers from working class families. The store consisted of a small room with walls made of cinderblock and red-clay brick; it was poorly lit, and had a very sparse non-yarn décor. But it had wall-to-wall cones of what now would be deemed lace-weight acrylic yarn in about 100 colours. I would go there, ask for 15, 23, 60, or any number of grams of yarn, and I could specify the number of strands they would hold together and wind off into cakes. 4 yarns together worked great on my 3.5mm or 4mm needles, so it must have been somewhere been a sport or DK weight. I’d ask for 3 strands together to make baby booties and 6 strands together to work at a worsted weight gauge. It was VERY splitty, naturally, but I think my getting control of this was what really helped me develop a very even tension. (UC comment: This sounds like a really fun store!)
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
Charles: The deepest influence my cultural heritage gives me is my sense of colour and of proportion. I know it’s nothing unusual now, but when I first arrived in Canada and made things with orange, fuschia, and red right beside each other, I sure got looks. Naturally, when I discovered Kaffe Fasset at 19 and saw that colours transcended culture, I feel liberated.
I don’t know whether I can say this here, but as a teenage boy interested in the local beauties, I was drawn to girls that had curves, naturally, but it was the relative proportion that mattered. The guys and I would comment on how North American models were twiggy and sickly and we were never surprised that Miss Universe was often won by a South American beauty queen. To be beautiful in our eyes, a girl had to have calves and thighs, but it was just as important to have narrow ankles and knees, and so on—proportion was key. This definitely has influenced my design aesthetic, when designing women’s garments, because I like to accentuate curves and relative differences in proportion rather than create the baggy box or the wraith-like sack-on-a-scare-crow look. You could say that my muse for women’s designs is “la belleza latina.” Of course, for men’s designs, I now consult my 2 teenage sons and what they and their friends would wear.
UC: You’ve held a lot of roles in the yarn industry, including designer, podcaster, tech editor, and magazine editor. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?
Charles: I would say,
“Don’t ever think you’re too young to start, or too old to start.
Don’t give up, take small steps, be humble amongst the great talent that’s around you, but don’t hide your skills and art out of sight.
Don’t have a sense of entitlement, accept rejection without tears. A rejected design only means your creation doesn’t fit in someone else’s big picture creative concept; it doesn’t mean it’s a terrible design.
Act professionally, and as much as you can, don’t let emotions cloud business matters, particularly in public.
Befriend many, but give to many in return.
Find one or two trustworthy and extremely honest (even painfully so, sometimes) mentors to guide you and to listen to your emotional venting privately.
Most of all, enjoy creating, have a knitting or crochet project that doesn’t have a deadline, and is just there to be savoured, touched, and to fill the senses.
If you have a life-partner, engage in, and support his/her passion without expecting the same in return.
Lastly, be a life-long learner.”
UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet or craft blogs to share?
Charles: I’m busy tech-editing mostly. A few designs in the works, but nothing I can talk about at the moment. (UC comment: And if you’re interested in becoming a tech editor, don’t forget to sign up for Charles’s upcoming classes at Crochet Insider!)
Thank you, Charles, for sharing your thoughts with us, and for giving some great advice!