Tag Archives: charity

Interview with Andres Nevarez (Hispanic Heritage Month Series)

Interview with crochet/knit blogger/designer Andy Nevarez on Underground Crafter

I’m excited to kick off my 2014 Hispanic Heritage Month series with an interview with Andres Nevarez, also known as Crafty Andy. Andy is a crochet and knitting designer and blogger. He can be found online on his Crafty Andy website and blog, Pinterest, Facebook, on Twitter as @Crafty_Andy, Flickr, and Ravelry (as CraftyAndy and on his designer page). Andy also has some great videos on YouTube, and his Tapestry crochet work was featured on Carol Ventura‘s Tapestry Crochet blog here. (I previously interviewed Carol here.)

All images are copyright Andy Nevarez unless otherwise noted, and are used with permission. Click on the photos to visit that pattern’s page on Ravelry.

This post contains affiliate links.

Interview with crochet/knit blogger/designer Andy Nevarez on Underground Crafter

Andy Nevarez’s Enconium, A Lace Scarf knitting pattern.

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

Andy: I honestly don’t remember when I learned to crochet, but I picked it up around the year 2000 or so. I had some help from a friend that knew how to crochet well. I did a lot of pot holders and wash cloths, then graduated to afghans.

I learned to knit around 1988, when I was on bed rest for about a month. I asked a friend to take me to Woolworth’s to get a book and some needles. I taught myself to knit, and believe it or not, my first project was a sweater.

Interview with crochet/knit blogger/designer Andy Nevarez on Underground Crafter

Andy’s Capello Di Lana crochet pattern.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Andy: The inspiration to start designing came from the fact that I love hats. My love for hats sent me into a search for men’s hats and I did not like anything that I saw that was crochet. The crochet hats that I found on the internet were very interesting, from Kufis, toques, beanies to fancy kippahs. I wanted something stylish, unique and challenging and that is how I got into designing Tapestry crochet hats.

There were a lot of knitted hat patterns, but I was only focusing on making crochet hats at the time. I started crocheting hats and decided to go into Tapestry crochet. At the time, I did not know it was called that. I was bored with just one color and decided to play with two colors in hats. Almost everyone that knows me knows me by my hats. Carol Ventura was the first Tapestry Crocheter that I was inspired by. These are some of my Tapestry crochet designs.

Interview with crochet/knit blogger/designer Andy Nevarez on Underground Crafter

Andy’s Heracles Lace Scarf knitting pattern.

UC: You have roughly an equal amount of crochet and knitting patterns. Is that something you have done intentionally or just a happy accident?

Andy: More intentionally than accident. I have so many ideas for hats in my head, either in knit or crochet. Whenever I am looking at yarn, the first thoughts that cross my mind are how can I make a hat out of these skeins, what shape will it take? The same goes with lace scarves for men. What kind of lace pattern can I make with this yarn that I want to wear.

Interview with crochet/knit blogger/designer Andy Nevarez on Underground Crafter

Pythagoras Cap, a crochet design by Andy Nevarez.

UC: You talk about living with AIDS and being a longterm HIV survivor on your blog. What kind of reaction have you received in the yarn crafts community about your status, as well as your fundraising efforts for Project Open Hand?

Andy: My status as HIV/AIDS person does not come up, unless I see it fit to come into the picture. I guess the biggest surprise is the fact that I have an AIDS diagnosis and I “look normal” or “healthy,” whatever that means. I do not complain about things unless it is to my doctor, which is the person I need to complain to or rather than complain, let him know what is up with my body, my aches and pains. I am not a complainer. I make the best out of everything in my life and being HIV/AIDS is just a piece of the 1001 pieces puzzle that is Andy.

My Project Open Hand efforts have not raised lots of money yet. My friend Kyle Kunnecke mentioned that he was making a hat called Cause and would ‘t it be nice if there was a crochet version. Well, what a great opportunity for me to give back and take a colorwork challenge. I am hoping my hat pattern will outlive me for hundreds of years or until there is a cure.

Interview with crochet/knit blogger/designer Andy Nevarez on Underground Crafter

Ribbons, a crochet hat design by Andy Nevarez.

UC: What was the yarn crafts scene like in your community in Puerto Rico when you were growing up?

Andy: Well, people – men, women and children – that craft with yarn are artisans or apprentices. There are different levels of craftsmanship and techniques.   Everyone likes to see people make things by hand. People are always curious about how things are made.

UC: How does it compare to the current scene in San Francisco?

Andy: I have had a mostly positive experience with my crafts. A lot of people look down at crochet, believe it or not. I consider myself to be the Tapestry Crochet Ambassador and nobody puts down my work. Most people that see one of my hats think that they are knit, not that it matters. San Francisco makes me feel like an Artisan. I make hats that are wearable art, sculptures made out of yarn, a mosaic of color to make the mind wander.

UC: If you’re still in touch with crafters on the island, do you know anything about the current yarn crafts scene there?

Andy: The times that I have knit or crochet in public on the Island, I get so many people that come to take a closer look at what I am doing. They ask me questions and admire my work, and they talk to me with a silent kind of respect. People actually acknowledge the fact that I am Artisan. People in San Francisco are very kind as well. They are not really surprised that I am a man that crafts, they are more surprised that a lot of my pieces are crochet.

The one thing I know about the craft scene on the Island is mundillo. This is a craft of handmade bobbin lace and is mostly done by women. I have never seen a man making mundillo.

Interview with crochet/knit blogger/designer Andy Nevarez on Underground Crafter

Thermopylae Scarf, a crochet pattern by Andy Nevarez.

UC; Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?

Andy: Of course it does. There are some [Hispanic] artisans that have inspired me and I still get inspiration from: Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo.

I like to think outside the box, I like to be daring, creative and make people think about the beauty that can be created. These artists had to think outside the box. Part of me likes earth tones, but there is that part of me that likes bright contrasting colors, orange and blue, teal and fuchsia.

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

Andy: Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Without Tears, Barbara G. Walker‘s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns book collection, and More Tapestry Crochet by Carol Ventura.

UC: Are there any Spanish- or English-language crafty websites/blogs you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Andy: I visit Tapestry Crochet, Men Who Knit, TECHKnitting, and Ravelry. I get a lot of inspiration from what surrounds me as well. Even though my first language is Spanish, I have no idea how to crochet or knit in Spanish yet.

Interview with crochet/knit blogger/designer Andy Nevarez on Underground Crafter

Andy’s Tempo Crochet Caps, published by Skacel. (Image (c) Skacel.)

UC: What’s next for Crafty Andy?

Andy: I want to share my love of crafts with other people. I am an introvert of sorts, yet my desire to connect with people is bigger than my introversion. I live life to the fullest and live without regrets. There are plenty of pattern ideas for hats and scarves in my head, waiting to come out and see the light. I can say there will be more knitted lace scarves and stoles from me. There will be more Tapestry crochet hats and knitted hats.

I have been featured at the Malabrigo website  and I have a pattern published by Skacel. Is there a book in my future? Probably so, but the way that it will probably happen is that I will start writing and will not stop until it’s done. It will be in spurts, which is kind of a contradiction to what I just said, but that is my kind of energy. I work when I am inspired, and in the meantime I collect data.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Andy, and for sharing your designs and artistry with us!

Interview with Frankie Brown

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.

This post contains affiliate links.

Country Rose by Frankie Brown
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 by Frankie Brown

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 by Frankie Brown

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 by Frankie Brown

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 by Frankie Brown

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 by Frankie Brown

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 by Frankie Brown

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 by Frankie Brown

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 by Frankie Brown

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 a Roll Blanket by Frankie Brown

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 National Crochet Month!

I’m thrilled to be participating in the Crochetville National Crochet Month Designer Blog Tour for the second year in a row.

NatCroMo2014Button

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.

Hydrangea Shrub edit

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.

Hydrangea shrubs

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 the pattern on Ravelry, free with coupon code NatCroMo14 through March!

Halos of Hope

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!

Interview with Danielle Chalson of Makewise Designs

Today, I’m very excited to share an interview that has been very long in the making.  Back in January, I was at Vogue Knitting Live in New York (posts here, here, and here), and I had the chance to spend some time with Danielle Chalson.   Danielle is a (mostly) knitting (with “a smidge of crochet”) designer.  You may know her as Makewise Designs.  Danielle can be found online on Ravelry (as makewise, on her designer page, and in the Makewise Designs group), her website, and Twitter.

(As a side note, this interview has taken so long to write up that I can no longer say that both Danielle and I live in New York City – since our interview, she has relocated to Long Island.  On the other hand, now I can share that her Mackinac Tank pattern made the cover of the summer issue of Knitscene!)

Danielle has generously shared a coupon code for any of her self-published patterns with my readers!  (Read on for more details.)  All pictures of Makewise Designs patterns are used with Danielle’s permission.

Me (left) with Danielle Chalson at Vogue Knitting Live.  (Forgive our super close up self-portrait!)

Me (left) with Danielle Chalson at Vogue Knitting Live. (Forgive our super close up picture – I have short arms!)

Underground Crafter (UC): Can you tell me first how you got started knitting?
Danielle: Growing up, my mom always knew how to knit and crochet, and I started doing it all the time, but I wasn’t really all that interested.

When I went to college, I lived in a dorm that had a community setting, and one of the people in my dorm wanted to do the Warm Up America program where you knit blanket blocks and then they’re sewn together for charity and donated. For some reason, at 20, all of the sudden I wanted to learn how to make these blanket blocks, whereas I’d never wanted to do it before. So, she taught me garter, stockinette, whatever. I don’t know why, but the fabric started growing off the needles and it was like magic. I thought to myself, “All of these wasted years!”

Agnes Shaped Scarf

The Agnes Shaped Scarf pattern.

UC: Well, you have the (knitting) genes, obviously.

Danielle: Exactly. It just started from there, so it’s been going on 15 years at this point.

UC: Did your mom get mad that she wasn’t the one who taught you, or was she like, “Finally, you’ve taken it on!”

Danielle: No, just the opposite. She was thrilled. She still does quite a bit of knitting and crochet. Since then, she’s taught me how to crochet. She’s totally embraced it and we love to share tips, share things we’ve learned, and have a conversations with each other in that language that only two knitters are going to understand, like “I moved that ssk…” and people are just like, “What are they talking about?”

Corinne Blanket

The Corinne Blanket, one of Danielle’s crochet designs.

UC: That’s awesome, now you guys have a secret language. How did you get started designing?

Danielle: I love to follow other people’s patterns. I love to see other people’s creative processes. At some point a switch just flipped and I thought, I’m looking for this thing, I didn’t find it anywhere, I didn’t find it on Ravelry (which is probably a representative sample of the knitting universe, at this point). I just thought, “Well, I’ve taken a lot of math, I know how stockinette behaves and garter.” There’s certainly still a lot of trial and error involved, but I thought why don’t I just try it?

I’m definitely kind of a Type A person, kind of I’ll do it myself, self-starter kind of person so I gave it a whirl. I gave it a shot and tried it and it was that same rush that I felt the first time [knitting]. Oh my gosh, the fabric, it’s growing off these needles, and now there’s that extra element of, and, it’s working out the way I expected in my head.”

Nor'Easter Cowl

The Nor’Easter Cowl pattern.

UC: And that doesn’t always happen. You left out the part where you have to tear out the thing…

Danielle: Well, I’m trying to glaze over those parts! I actually just was working on a design where the downside of being a Type A rears its head. Take it out, take it out, to the point where I think one of the most important things that any really successful designer has captured is not only knowing themselves, but knowing their style and knowing when to stop designing a piece. Don’t keep designing, and don’t over design it. You don’t need to add that one more textural element, it doesn’t need that second lace pattern. What you’ve done is what should stay. It’s the editing process – that’s what I call it in my head.

UC: Where you keep out those extra pieces that are overkill.

Danielle: RIght. So when you look at something by Debbie Bliss or Jared Flood or Hannah Fettig (who’s one of my big favorites), lots of times you can look at their pieces and know that’s one of their designs because their internal editing is so strong. So for me, this internal editing is what I find the most challenging obstacle. When is it exactly what I have pictured in my head? Have I tried to overdesign it? Does it need to be that complicated? That type of thing is tough. That’s the learning curve for me.

Knitscene Cover Mackinac Tank

Danielle’s Mackinac Tank, on the cover of the Summer, 2013 issue of Knitscene.  Photo (c) Interweave.

UC: Related to that, I’ve noticed that your designs are primarily self-published or though some branch of Interweave. I’m wondering if that’s a conscious decision or did it just work out that way based on where you’ve submitted?

Danielle: I think it’s a blend. Self-publishing, a lot of designers will tell you, has a liberating aspect at the end. You miss that deadline, something comes up – personal nature or professional (your day job) nature – then you bump your publishing deadline a week, that’s life.

For me, I am a good deadline person, I’m a good time manager, I always have been, so I wanted to reach out for that third-party publication recognition and also wanted to challenge myself in that way to be working with a reputable publication, work with the yarn that they’ve chosen on their timeline. Working with Interweave, I’m just really familiar with their publications. I’ve long loved Knit Scene, one of my very favorite magazines, so I think I was specifically targeting them. I really wanted to part of that family because I love their style, their ethos, their way of expressing themselves.

UC: You could see yourself fitting into their publications.

Danielle: Yeah, I think so.

Belle Epoque Scarf and Wrap

The Belle Epoque Scarf and Wrap pattern.

UC: So what was that like the first time you have your printed pattern in one of their publications? Did you frame it on the wall?

Danielle: When you get something published in their magazines, they send you a copy of the magazine, but then they also send you copies of pages that were not inserted in the magazine – printed copies – so I put those in plastic sleeves because… Type A.

UC: That’s really nice of them. A lot of publishers don’t do that.

Danielle: So you get the bound copy and then you get the flat copy as well. But it wasn’t so much seeing it in print as it was getting that email from the editor saying that they would love to take the design and put it in.

The first time that happened to me, I think I looked at the email and thought, “This is a hoax!” Or, “Wait a minute, they didn’t mean to send this to me.” There’s that moment of self-doubt, and then your second thought is “Oooh, that is so cool!” My very first design for Interweave was for Interweave Knits and it was pillows. They were wool, bulky gauge, and I had to do it in July. It was a little bit of a steamy process, but it worked out.

Courchevel Beret

The Courchevel Beret pattern.

UC: Do you have knitting books, for your own collection, or do you do everything online?

Danielle: When I need technical resources from the technical planning/pattern writing side of things, I much prefer written resources. I like to have them out in front of me. Obviously, stitch dictionaries. Interweave has a lot of publications that include charts for sweater sizing in different yarn gauges.

When I have the time to knit anything, other than what I’m hopefully designing for myself, I love online PDFs because I can keep them all in one place. The wealth of choices is overwhelming so I try to balance between the two, but I find that if I need a technical resource, I need it printed out.

Kinokuniya booth

Danielle and I bonded over our love of the Kinokinuya bookstore booth at VK Live.

UC: I know people think it is weird when you publish your patterns online that you don’t personally do everything online, but I feel the same way. For patterns, it’s one thing, but I want a tangible thing I can flip back and forth. Do you have any favorite stitch guides or books in your collection that you always go back to?

Danielle: You probably hear this a lot, but I love Kinokinuya, the Japanese bookstore that’s exhibiting here at VK Live. I love Japanese stitch dictionaries. I find that they include a lot of complex patterns, and sometimes I think my designing tends more towards simplicity, so sometimes I use those stitch patterns as a jumping off point and then I think, “Could I take out an element? Can I thin that idea out?” Because their patterns have cables, lace, and bobbles all in one stitch pattern, but maybe I just want the lace.

Lots of times, nothing ever comes of that brainstorming, but at the same time, I think it’s instructive. If I do want to edit that stitch pattern, how am I going to do it? If I take that cable out, what’s going to happen to the gauge and what’s going to happen to the texture? I think you can never get enough of that. I think it’s just like an established designer saying if you want to learn about designing and learn about the business, the best thing you can do is read patterns. Read other people’s patterns. Some people are going to shape that shoulder with a bind off and then seam that edge. Some designers are going to shape that shoulder with short rows and then do a three needle bind off. Why do you choose between them? Does it depend on the fabric, does it depend on the shape, does it depend on the style?

Integral Shawl

The Integral Shawl pattern.

UC: Speaking of the Japanese stitch guides, do you have a preference for written patterns or charted patterns? Some people seem very committed to one or the other.

Danielle: I think that goes to my inherent way of learning, which is to write things down. I retain things better if I write it down myself. For me, written instructions make more sense to me than charts lots of times.

UC: So if you see it in the Japanese stitch guide, you’re writing it down for yourself.

Danielle: Often. And even, look at the chart, decipher what I think is happening in the chart, knit, and write it down at the same time – because even if I successfully translate it from the chart into actual knitting, a week later, I’ll forget half of what I did. I’m looking at it saying, “How did I manage this?”

Integral Shawlette

The Integral Shawlette, which Danielle wore to Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: While you’re here at Vogue Knitting Live, what exciting things are you planning to do?

Danielle: I took a seaming class with John Brinegar – I think a refresher course is always valuable. I’m taking a steeking class this afternoon with Ragga Eiríksdóttir. I’ve never done it, and she’s teaching it in the round. Usually for me, knitting in the round is greater than or equal to knitting flat, so I’m going to try that. Tomorrow, I’m going to work for the String Yarns booth all day because I used to work for them.

Ripened Scarf

Ripened Scarf, one of Danielle’s free patterns.

UC: Do you have any exciting yarn store employee stories to share, or can you talk about how that influenced you as a designer?

Danielle: I think the influence is huge because you’re looking at different yarns from different manufacturers. On your feet, you need to know the gauge; the construction of the yarn – is it plied, is it a chainette, is it a single ply; you need to know how it blocks; how to treat it after it’s been knitted; what the construction of the ply is – 2 ply, 4 ply, 6 ply. It just exposes you to the entire world of options. So if you are comfortable working with a smooth Merino superwash, you don’t always spring to a Shetland wool option. You think it’s scratchy or something like that. But the upside of Shetland is it’s incredibly hard wearing and durable with really reliable gauge.

I think it broadens your horizons, it shows you what the options are, and it is really a good education into what you need to know as a designer. If you get into a third-party publication, they’re going to send you the yarn that they’d like you to work with it, and it might not be something you’re familiar with. You need to be able to look at it and say, “Oh, I see it has this construction, these many plies, these care instructions…”

Winterberries Hat Fitted Cowl and Fingerless Mitts

The Winterberries Hat, Fitted Cowl, and Fingerless Mitts Set.

UC: And even on proposals, you can say, I’m looking for an x type of yarn because you have that background knowledge.

Danielle: Yes, I think it isn’t just what comes in so you’re prepared to work with it, but exactly like you said, it also informs your choices of when you even make a submission, to a magazine or something you want to produce yourself. You make that educated decision about this design really isn’t good for a single ply yarn. I really need a plied yarn for this.

UC: That’s great. A lot of people just learn that through arduous trial and error, and you got paid to get that experience!

Danielle: And I got to touch a lot of really nice yarn, too.

UC: String has a fancy collection!

Danielle: Yes, the beautiful cashmere that comes in from Italy is amazing.

Sugarplums Blanket

The Sugarplums Blanket pattern.

UC: What’s next on the horizon for you?

Danielle: I have some publications coming up this year for different outlets, and that’s really exciting. I always try to blog about anything that I’ve done that’s new. I try to expose a little bit of the thought process behind it – the inspiration, or a spot where I struggled – because I think that designing, even for somebody who is really experienced, is so much of a journey. I mean, sure, there’s a lightening strike of inspiration from time to time, but it’s also a very measured, thoughtful, mechanical process of needle selection, yarn selection, seamed, or unseamed, lace, texture, and that type of thing, and that’s what keeps me so excited about it still.

There is so much to learn and I frankly think I’ll never learn it all. Somebody will always know more than you about a specific thing, but it’s that excitement of learning it and trying to make myself better, while at the same time producing something with my own two hands that at the end of the day, I can actually hold it and touch it. That’s what’s most gratifying.

Danielle has offered a 20% discount on her self-published designs for my readers through midnight Eastern time on Saturday, July 20, 2013.  Just use the code MAKEWISE in her Ravelry shop or on her website.

Thanks, Danielle, for taking the time for the interview, and for sharing the coupon code!

The end of an era

Tubby in the window 2013-05-14.jpg

My longtime kitty friend, Yin (also known as Mr. Tubby), was quite sick for the past few weeks and departed this world for the next early Wednesday morning.  This is a recent picture MC snapped of Mr. Tubby, resting in his favorite window spot, surrounded by handmade goodies because he was feeling a little chilly.

I have so many fond memories of Yin and his brother Yang, who passed back in 2009.  The past few days without Mr. Tubby’s cheerful presence have been tough.

Yin and Yang, back in 2004.

Yin (back) and Yang (front) in 2004.

I’m grateful to the staff at Manhattan Cat Specialists, who took compassionate care of Yin in his final few weeks.

I also want to thank the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Humane Society of New York, who introduced me to these two furry gentlemen back in 2000.  I’m planning a donation in their memories soon, and if you’d like to contribute, $1 from the sale of each copy of my 30 Purrfect Stitches for Pet Blankets ebook will be included in my donation.  The ebook includes a variety of crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches that are perfect for pet charity blankets (and other projects, too).  The Humane Society operates an adoption center and free and low-cost vet care, among other services.

I’ll be slowly returning to regular blogging during the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I encourage you to hug your furry friends a little bit closer.