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Book Review and Giveaway: Curvy Girl Crochet by Mary Beth Temple

This post contains affiliate links.

Today, I’m excited to review Curvy Girl Crochet by Mary Beth Temple.  I actually received a review copy of this book from Taunton before I interviewed Mary Beth at Vogue Knitting Live last January (egads!) but life got in the way of me finishing the book and writing the review.  To reward you for the long delay, I’m also offering a giveaway today!

Book Review

Curvy Girl Crochet

In Curvy Girl Crochet: 25 Patterns that Fit and Flatter, Mary Beth Temple takes a two-pronged approach to crocheting for the plus-sized woman.  In her introduction and the first two chapters, she shares the information you need to find, alter, and crochet garments that fit.  In the last three chapters, she shares 25 patterns (designed by Mary Beth and 5 other designers) that are developed with the curvy woman in mind.

Mary Beth opens the book by explaining that

[i]f you put 50 plus-sized women in a room, no two of them will be plus-sized in quite the same way.

I worried about this when I began creating this book – how would I come up with patterns that would suit everyone?  In the end, I decided this was a wonderful opportunity to create flattering garments for all sorts of different body types.  Not every piece will suit every body, but everybody will find something within these pages that will satisfy their need to create and to express their individual styles.

In Chapter 1: Projects that Fit and Flatter, Mary Beth suggests readers explore what flatters them in the ready-to-wear world before choosing patterns to crochet for themselves.  She also shares tips for taking accurate measurements and for selecting an appropriate yarn for a garment project.  In Chapter 2: Finding Your Fit, Mary Beth discusses how to modify your crochet garment.  She deeply explores gauge (critical for crocheting garments), how to assess the pattern, decide on the size and amount of ease to select, and adapting hemlines, waist shaping, and sleeves.  She walks us through a sample project, describing how and where all the modifications could be made.  And Mary Beth reminds us that a strong finish – with blocking, seaming, and details like buttons – can really make a crocheted garment outstanding.  While both chapters are chock full of information, the clear writing and the formatting make them easy to read.

Chapter 3: Pullovers, Tunics, and Tank Tops, includes 9 patterns (5 are easy and the other 4 are intermediate level).  My favorite patterns in this section are Verdant Pullover and the Progressive Tunic.  The Essential Pullover is a simple pattern that will ease a newbie garment crocheter into their first sweater and which can be modified easily.

In Chapter 4: Cardigans, Coats, and Jackets, there are 7 outerwear designs (1 beginner, 3 easy, and 3 intermediate level).  Again, Mary Beth includes an Essential Cardigan pattern that is simple to crochet and easy to modify.  It also has delightful details, like the picot edging.  My favorite patterns in this section are the Intertwined Poncho (available as a free download from Lion Brand here) and the Peacoat for Rule Breakers.

Chapter 5: Wraps, Bags, and Accessories, includes 9 patterns (5 easy and 4 intermediate level).  My favorites here are the Sensible Shawl, Charles Voth‘s Coalesce Wrap, and Andee GravesSkirt the Issue.  (You can check out my interview with Charles here.)

Each pattern in Chapter 3 and 4 includes multiple pictures of the garment on a plus-sized model, and, true to Mary Beth’s introduction, there are quite a few different shapes represented by the models.  Additionally, there are clear schematics and the major stitch pattern is also included in international stitch symbols, while the full pattern is written with U.S. pattern abbreviations.  All garment patterns are written for six sizes (L, XL, 2X, 3X, 4X, and 5X).  In Chapter 5, some of the projects are only shown in one photo, but since they aren’t garments, it isn’t a problem.  (Ravelry members can see all the patterns from the book on its source page.)

The Appendix includes “a little extra how-to information” such as tips for pattern reading, creating linked stitches, beading, the crab stitch, and blocking.  There are no illustrations here – the book assumes you already have the crochet basics down – but the written explanations could be helpful to an intermediate crocheter.  This section also includes an explanation of the skill levels, a key to the stitch symbols and U.S. crochet abbreviations, a sizing chart, information about yarn weights and hook sizes, a metric equivalency chart, and information about the yarns used in the samples.  The book ends with a project index with a thumbnail of each pattern for easy reference, a detailed index, and designer bios.

While, as Mary Beth notes in the introduction, a crocheter may not like all of the designs in this book (or find them flattering for her figure), overall the book includes a lot of great information for a plus-sized woman who wants to crochet her own flattering projects that fit. The target market for this book is quite specific, so it isn’t for everyone.  It also isn’t a beginner book – you really must have the basics down or expect to seek help elsewhere.  And, like all paperback books, it doesn’t lay flat so you can read while crocheting.   For all curvy ladies who are eager to dive into garment crocheting but afraid of being disappointed with ill-fitting results, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Giveaway

Are you ready to win your copy of Curvy Girl Crochet, courtesy of Taunton Press? This giveaway is open to all readers with a shipping address in the United States.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, January 18, 2014.

Blogiversary and A Tour Through Crochet Country!

Today marks my two year blogiversary, and I’m one of the stops on A Tour Through Crochet Country!  If you haven’t been following along, this is a wonderful blog tour organized by Crochetville.  The tour features over 50 Associate Professional or Professional members of the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA).

Click here for the free pattern for the Recantgular Sampler Blanket.

If you’re new here, welcome!  I’m a crochet (and knitting) teacher, designer, and blogger.  In addition to sharing my own projects and news on my blog, I also do a lot of interviews (I’ve even won a few awards) and book reviews.  I’m really honored to be part of A Tour Through Crochet Country.  To celebrate National Crochet Month and my blogiversary, I’ll be sharing a free pattern below.  But first I’d like to talk about how important the CGOA has been to me.

As many of my regular readers know, my grandmother taught me to crochet.  After she passed away in 2007, I didn’t have any important people in my real life to talk with about crochet.  Through my membership in CGOA and my involvement in the CGOA Professionals listerv, I’ve had the chance to virtually meet many wonderful crocheters who share the same passion for the hook as I do.

Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.

Me and my grandparents, at about the age when I learned to crochet.

Back in 2009, I had the honor of being introduced to a wonderful mentor, Mary E. Nolfi, through the CGOA mentoring program.  When I was first exploring design, Mary guided and encouraged me.  Her primer is a great intro for aspiring crochet designers.  I still remember my excitement at emailing her when my first designs were selected for publication.   I’m also grateful to Michelle Maks, yesterday’s stop on the the tour, for taking a chance on me when she was the editor of Crochet World.  I’m thrilled to have another mentor, Marty Miller (March 13′s stop on the tour), who is helping me explore tech editing.

Now I’m paying it forward by volunteering to write book reviews for the CGOA newsletter and blog, and by serving as a mentor to another designer.

My first designs, published in Crochet World in 2010.

And, of course, CGOA membership has other benefits, even if you aren’t a professional (or aspiring professional) in the industry.  You get a subscription to Crochet! magazine and discounts at national retailers as well as on CGOA educational offerings.  You can also participate in your local chapter.  (I’ve been a member of the NYC Crochet Guild for years and in addition to great monthly meetings where I can hang out with fellow crocheters, they also offer classes and local discounts.)

I’d like give a shout out to a some other CGOA members I’ve met (in real life or virtually) who have been very helpful to me in the past few years.

Vashti Braha (interview) has taught me so much through her Crochet Inspirations newsletter, which has also inspired me to keep experimenting! Kim Guzman (interview) is so generous with her knowledge online and is a great teaching author.  Juanita Quinones (interview) is a wonderful tech editor that is volunteering on the Home work project on Ravelry, which is giving a second life to vintage designs.  Mary Beth Temple (interview) is a very strong advocate for crochet and has been a professional inspiration.  Charles Voth (a.k.a. Stitch Stud) (interview) is a talented – and nice! – designer and tech editor who always shares so much of his knowledge with his fellow hookers online.

If you’ve made it this far, your probably asking yourself, “Didn’t she promise a freebie?”

Charity Crochet for Project Night Night – The Rectangular Sampler Blanket

Early in my career, I worked for an organization that provided temporary housing for hundreds of homeless families, so the tour’s featured charity, Project Night Night, is really close to my heart.  I wanted to create a project that was beautiful to look at but also fun to make.

blog Rectangular Sampler angle view

The Rectangular Sampler is a variation on the traditional granny square that incorporates a stitch sampler to keep things interesting.  There’s a granny rectangle, an alternating v-stitch, staggered puff stitches, and a fun edging.

blog Rectangular Sampler flat

Click here for the Rectangular Sampler Blanket pattern!

This makes a great stroller blanket or play mat, or even a baby or comfort blanket.  I plan to donate my sample to Project Night Night, and I hope you’ll consider making one to donate to Project Night Night or a local children’s charity.
Rectangular Sampler V st detail

I crocheted the sample with Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash in Pacific, Cordovan, and Alaska Sky.  None of these pictures really do justice to the Alaska Sky, which is a pale, sky blue.  I like using non-traditional colors for children’s blankets because I think it gives them a longer life cycle when they can be displayed in more settings.

blog Rectangular Sampler on chair

And now back to a A Tour Through Crochet Country

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the tour.  I’ve actually had the pleasure of interviewing several of the CGOA pros on this list, so I’ve also included the links to those interviews below.  I hope you will stop by and check out all the posts (and tutorials, giveaways, and discounts) the other participants have to offer.  Enjoy the rest of National Crochet Month!

March 1 Shelby Allaho

March 2 Ellen Gormley (interview) and Nancy Nehring

March 3 Phyllis Serbes and Mona Muhammad

March 4 Amy O’Neill Houck and Akua Hope

March 5 Mary Jane Hall and Lindsey Stephens (interview)

March 6 Edie Eckman and Shannon Mullett-Bowlsby

March 7 Jennifer Cirka and Annette Stewart

March 8 Andrea Graciarena and LeAnna Lyons

March 9 Dawn Cogger and Angela Whisnant

March 10 Andrea Lyn Van Benschoten and Renee Rodgers

March 11 Joy Prescott and Donna Childs

March 12 Pam Daley and Deb Burger

March 13 Tammy Hildebrand and Marty Miller

March 14 Jocelyn Sass and Jennifer E Ryan

March 15 Andee Graves and Kimberly McAlindin

March 16 Laurinda Reddig

March 17 Brenda Bourg and Susan Lowman for CGOA

March 18 Rhonda Davis and Tammy Hildebrand for CGOA

March 19 Julie Oparka and Cari Clement for CGOA

March 20 April Garwood and Mary Colucci for CGOA

March 21 Alaina Klug

March 22 Erin Boland and Jenny King

March 23 Margaret Hubert (interview) and Jane Rimmer for CGOA

March 24 Bonnie Barker and Marcy Smith for CGOA

March 25 Kim Guzman (interview) and Susan Huxley (interview)

March 26 Susan Lowman and Michele Maks

March 27 me! and Brenda Stratton

March 28 Kathy White and Lori Carlson

March 29 Amy Shelton (interview) and Donna Hulka

March 30 Linda Dean and Kristin Dragos

March 31 Karen CK Ballard and Gwen Blakley-Kinser (interview)

Book Review and Giveaway: The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein

Every Tuesday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet books.  Today’s post features  a giveaway of my review copy of The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This post contains affiliate links.

new tunisian crochetIt’s no secret that I’m a fan of Tunisian crochet, and I’m thrilled to see it regaining popularity.  Dora Ohrenstein‘s latest book, The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, is one of several recent crochet publications that explore the versatility of Tunisian crochet.  I recently received a review copy from Interweave/F+W Media.  Though it pains me to part with such an awesome book, I will be giving away my review copy, so read on for details.

The New Tunisian Crochet opens just as anyone familiar with Dora’s writings at Crochet Insider and elsewhere would expect: with a history lesson.  The first chapter, What is Tunisian Crochet?, reviews the appearance Tunisian crochet stitches in needlecrafts publications in the 1850s and discusses the possible origins of the craft.  This section will delight your inner history nerd and will also appeal to your intelligence.  Dora’s writing style assumes her readers have brains and she doesn’t feel the need to talk down.  She sites her references and even includes a reading list.  Dora also mentions some of the contemporary Tunisian crochet designers, such as Carolyn Christmas and Angela “ARNie” Grabowski, who have helped to re-popularize and reinvigorate the craft.

In the next chapter, Tunisian Crochet Techniques, Dora writes in a conversational tone and provides tips and explanations that are useful even to an experienced Tunisian crocheter.  The book includes illustrations along with descriptions of the basic Tunisian crochet stitches.  In general, I don’t find Interweave’s illustrations helpful and it is hard for me to tell where the yarn and hook are placed.  I wish that these illustrations made use of multiple colors (as most of the Japanese stitch guides do) so that it would be easier for me to identify the difference between the previous rows and the current stitch.  In many ways, the illustrations are in keeping with the general tone of this book, which assumes a level of knowledge of the basics of crochet and Tunisian crochet.  More experienced crocheters will find this lack of review refreshing, but Tunisian newbies may need to consult other resources for more support.

Chapter 3, Tools for Tunisian Crochet, reviews the various available hooks and tools for blocking.  Dora includes a list of web resources.

The next chapter, Special Techniques and Effects, is where things start to get very interesting.  Dora covers a myriad of Tunisian techniques here, including basic double-ended crochet, short rows for circles, stranded colorwork, and entrelac.  Each technique includes a small project or pattern and you will want to pull your hooks out right away and get swatching.

For all you stitch guide junkies, Chapter 5, Stitch Dictionary, is for you.  This section includes 33 Tunisian stitch patterns organized into five sections: Basic, Intermediate, Lace, Textured, and Tunisian and Standard Crochet.  Each pattern includes US abbreviations and international stitch symbols.

The final chapter, Projects, includes 12 project patterns.  The project breakdown is

  • Women’s Accessories – 6 (a shawl, a hat, mittens, a scarf, a bag, and slippers)
  • Garments – 4 (a cardigan, a pullover, and a skirt for women, and a vest for men)
  • Home Decor – 2 (a sampler throw and a rug)

This section features patterns by many talented designers, including Dora herself.  My favorites from this section are actually the first four patterns: the Marisol Cardigan by Andrea Graciarena, the Mago Vest by Charles Voth (interviewed by me here), the Rivuline Shawl by Vashti Braha (interviewed by me here), and the Shantay Skirt by Doris Chan.  I also like the Sierra Bag by Margaret Hubert (interviewed by me here), which changes up the typical entrelac pattern by including different sizes.  I can also imagine myself trying out some of the stitch patterns from the Ariadne Sampler Throw by Lisa Daehlin.  (Ravelry members can see all of the book’s designs on its source page.)

The book closes with a reference section in the back, which includes a key to the stitch symbols used throughout the book and a glossary of US pattern abbreviations.  It also includes illustrated and written instructions for all of the basic crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches.  Finally, a bio of each contributor is included.

Overall, this is a great book for a crocheter interested in going beyond the basics of Tunisian crochet.  In addition to the wonderful tips and tricks, stitch guide, and history lesson, the book includes many great projects – several of which highlight or teach a specific Tunisian crochet skill.  The stitch guide and the patterns use both US pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  The downside to this book is that the illustrations assume prior knowledge and are really just there to trigger your memory of particular stitches.  Also, it is a softcover and it doesn’t stay open when flat.  If you are a true Tunisian crochet newbie, you may need to supplement this book with something else (I would recommend Kim Guzman‘s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet).  I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars for any crocheter interested in learning more about Tunisian crochet.

Full disclosure: A free review/giveaway copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Giveaway

As I mentioned earlier, I’m hosting a giveaway for my review copy of Dora Ohrenstein‘s The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 31, 2013.

Interview with Mary Beth Temple

Every Monday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be interviewing crocheters.  Today’s interview is with Mary Beth Temple, crochet designer, author, podcaster, teacher, editor, and publisher.

I’m thrilled today to present my interview with Mary Beth Temple.  Like many crocheters, I first became aware of Mary Beth through her Getting Loopy podcast.  This interview has been a long time in the making.  Mary Beth was kind enough to sit down with me – twice – during Vogue Knitting Live back in January.  We spoke at length about some of her current projects, trends in the crochet industry, and our mutual buddy, Charles Voth.  (Charles is my cyber friend, and he is Mary Beth’s friend in real life.)

Much of the interview was informal and chatty, so I’ve edited it down for the blog today.  Mary Beth is often known online as Hooked for Life (her publishing company) and she can be found on its website, Facebook, PatternfishTwitter, and on Ravelry (as MBTemple, on her designer page, and in the Hooked for Life Publishing group).  Archived episodes of her podcast, Getty Loopy, can be found on Blog Talk Radio.  I somehow forgot to take a picture with Mary Beth at Vogue Knitting Live (chalk it up to being starstruck), but she has granted me permission to use pictures from her designs and website in this interview.  Unless noted, pictures are copyright Hooked for Life, and will link to the pattern page on Ravelry.

This post contains affiliate links.

Mary Beth Temple.

Mary Beth Temple.

Underground Crafter (UC): You’re pretty outspoken about including crochet at knitting events, and the extent to which people sign up for crochet classes (versus their level of complaining about the lack of crochet at an event). Can you talk about how you first got into that role as the crochet advocate at knitting events?

Mary Beth Temple (MBT): Part of it was because I had the Getting Loopy podcast. I don’t produce new episodes anymore but there are over a hundred episodes still available at Blog Talk Radio. I wound up speaking to a lot of people in the industry, not just in my role as a designer and an editor, but also in my role as podcast host. Getting Loopy won three awards, we had thousands and thousands of listeners – not as big as some of the knitting podcasts, but at the time, Getting Loopy was really the only ballgame for crochet only. There were other podcasts that addressed crochet, that were crochet inclusive, but we were it for crochet only.

I found myself really advocating as the leader of the Loopy Groupies. It was something that was a problem. I would sit at The National NeedleArts Association (which is our trade association), and we would go to the Yarn Group meetings and they would go, “The knitters…” and I would yell, “And crocheters!” People got sick of that so now they say knitters and crocheters.

V-neck Pullover from Crochet Noro.  Picture (c) Sixth & Spring.

V-neck Pullover from Crochet Noro. Picture (c) Sixth & Spring.

There is no one right answer to this. On the one hand, I would like the knitting shows to be more supportive of crochet.  On the other hand, the crocheters have to step up.  On the other hand, there are crocheters that say, “Well, I can’t afford to go these big conferences.”  Sometimes I feel like, particularly near the end of Getting Loopy, I was preaching to the choir.  I mean, the people that were listening to Getting Loopy were advocating, they were the people taking classes and buying patterns and whatnot. So I couldn’t very well go on the show and rant that crocheters were not supporting the shows, because, of course, my listeners were, by and large.

So I get it – not everybody has unlimited funds. I get that there’s a swath of the market that does not want to be preached to about having to support the shows when they don’t want to. I’m not here to put a gun to anybody’s head. And I think that’s different for me. I think I was a “gun to the head” person five years ago and then the recession happened. If you can’t afford a $90 class – or, it’s not even an affordability issue, if you choose not to spend your money that way – it is not up to me to tell you how to spend your money.

I do think if it is not an affordability issue, and somebody is coming into your town or to your show, and you’re going to be there anyway, and it’s something you’re interested in, you should make a little extra effort to support that person. I’ve taken classes from teachers I admire that I didn’t even particularly care about the class subject, but I wanted to support the event.

Garniture, published by Hooked for Life.

Garniture, published by Hooked for Life.

So here at Vogue Crochet (laughs)… Vogue Crochet – Trisha [UC comment: Malcom, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Knitting] will kill me! Here at Vogue Knitting Live, in New York City, because I am local, there is somewhat less pressure on me to sell out because I don’t require an airline ticket and all that other stuff.

I will say, without pandering, Trisha Malcolm has been trying every year. This is never going to be a 50/50 crochet and knitting show, but that’s not what it’s meant to be. So let’s just say that in the same way that a girl doesn’t have to join the Boy Scouts, not everything is for everybody, and I do understand that. But we’ve tried different crochet classes every year, and we’re getting the hang of it. We’re starting to find out what works in this venue, and once we figure it out, we’ll get to do more.

Last year, for example, I was on the schedule and Jennifer Hansen was on the schedule. Jennifer Hansen, who I think is a gifted teacher and has a huge following – she teaches online and she has Stitch Diva Studios - her classes did not hit the budget.

Crocheted Mitered Square Throw/Shawl, published in Koigu Magazine #3.  Image (c) Koigu.

Crocheted Mitered Square Throw/Shawl, published in Koigu Magazine #3. Image (c) Koigu.

UC: I know, I actually registered for her class last year and they contacted me and said it was cancelled.

MBT: And that had nothing to do with Jennifer. I had someone come up to me yesterday and say that Jennifer Hansen cancelled. Jen Hansen didn’t cancel – she would have been here! But at that point, it’s dollars and cents.

Again, I have a little more latitude because I’m not as expensive at this event for them. We’re trying new things. I’m teaching Bead Crochet tonight, we’ve never taught that here, so I don’t know. I’m teaching Tunisian Crochet Basics – that is a guaranteed sell out every time I teach it. I’m teaching Crochet Entrelac for the second time – that was very successful last year.

The other thing that I’m sort of interested in is using the numbers from this show. For example, last year, Crochet Entrelac was on the schedule and when we went into the final week, we had 11 students signed up which is not wonderful, but it’s ok – nobody’s unhappy with 11. 23 showed up.

Unisono Crochet Vest, published by and image (c) Skacel Collection, Inc.

Unisono Crochet Vest, published by and image (c) Skacel Collection, Inc.

UC: Hmm, so a lot of people registered on the day of the class or that weekend.

MBT: Right. To the point where we had to go find another room, because the room I was in would not accomodate 23 people, even with additional chairs. We did a little Girl Scout field trip through the hotel, looking for a ballroom, which again, Vogue Knitting was right there. They got us a bigger room, they helped us move everybody, I offered to stay late, so that nobody missed any material, and we did it.

That is a very small study. Extrapolating that data, I wonder if crocheters are not necessarily cheap so much as slower to sign up.

Afghan Makeover, published by and image (c) Coats & Clark.

Afghan Makeover, published by and image (c) Coats & Clark.

UC: Are you finding that most of the people in your classes identify themselves as crocheters, as bicraftual, or as knitters looking to learn crochet? Who do you usually attract at these more knitting focused events?

MBT: Tunisian, believe it or not, is mostly knitters.

UC: I do believe that, actually.

MBT: The other classes are, by and large, knitters who crochet. Now, again, shout out to the local guilds, because they do put their money where their mouth is. If I’m going to be anywhere within a 5 hour drive – God Bless the New York City guild, the Long Island guild, and the Connecticut guild. Now are they all coming to Crochet Entrelac tomorrow? No, because they took it last year. But that class is selling very nicely. So I’ll find out tomorrow if they’re knitters or crocheters or people that identify as bicrafty. It’ll be interesting.

I’m teaching Bead Crochet, tonight, and that’s new, and I happen to know that has a lot of guild members in it. That’s something new that they can take from me that they haven’t taken before. Tonight, we’re experimenting with shorter classes, sort of entry level, that are two hours, they’re less expensive, it’s not as big of a time commitment, they don’t have homework, and they only accomodate 20 people. It would be an easier sell out. As of yesterday, the class was not sold out, but as of tonight – you never know what you’re going to get when you walk in the room.

The Essential Cardigan from Curvy Girl Crochet.  Image (c) Susan Pittard.

The Essential Cardigan from Curvy Girl Crochet. Image (c) Susan Pittard.

UC: I’m wondering about your new book, Curvy Girl Crochet: 25 Patterns that Fit and Flatter. Again, I feel that you’re the torchbearer. There are so few books about garment design – not just patterns – for crocheters.  Can you tell me a little about the process behind this book and how it came to be?

MBT: Curvy Girl was an absolute labor of love. When I agreed to write… You know, there’s a whole process for getting books to market. The publisher has a vote, the sales department has a vote, the author has a vote, you know, everybody’s got what they want. A successful book is one where everybody goes in, if not happy, then at least content with how things worked out.

When we were negotiating to do Curvy Girl, [there were] two things that I felt very strongly about:

  • That we did not have size 8 models and call them plus sized. I wanted actual size 22 models in the book. And I felt strongly enough that I might lose that battle that I made sure we talked about it going in. This was not an adversarial thing, but I wanted to make sure that everybody was on the same page, that when I said plus sized, I don’t mean the size 6 girl that won America’s Next Top Model. I wanted actual adult women who wear larger sizes.
  • The other one, and I was fairly insistent, [was] that I be given the real estate to get that modification in there. I’ve said this 18 times, but I’ll probably say it 100 more: If you put five size 0 women in a room, they’re built very similarly. If you put five 2X women in a room, they’re not built very similarly. Beautiful plus sized patterns are one thing, but for the vast majority of that audience – including myself – it’s not going to fit right without modifications.
The Essential Pullover from Curvy Girl Crochet.  Image (c) Susan Pittard.

The Essential Pullover from Curvy Girl Crochet. Image (c) Susan Pittard.

The thing I’m leading the torch on now [is] I think there are hundreds of thousands of competent crocheters who stick to scarves and blankets and hats because they’re afraid that they are going to spend a lot of time, or a lot of money, or a lot of both, and come out the other end with a garment that does not suit them. And that’s not just plus sized women, that’s everybody.

If you want to know what torch I’m carrying around now, it’s to try and convince some of these rectangle and square crocheters that they can dip their toe in the garment water and it’s not so scary as they think. It’s not scary because they don’t have the skills; it’s scary because they didn’t have the information. And now they do.

Progressive Tunic from Curvy Girl Crochet.  Image (c) Susan Pittard.

Progressive Tunic from Curvy Girl Crochet. Image (c) Susan Pittard.

UC: They tried that pattern that didn’t have enough information, and they couldn’t resize where they needed to.

MBT: Or, it was boxy, or it was bulky, or both. So here [in Curvy Girl Crochet, you have]: lightweight yarns, elastic stitch patterns, waist shaping – or take it out if you don’t need it. Here’s how you measure you arm and find out how your sleeve needs to be.

You don’t want to measure yourself because that makes you uncomfortable, for whatever reason? Go to the store, buy a sweater that fits nice on you, take it home and measure it. Take it back, if you need to. I’m trying to put every trick in there that I have to take the stress level off garment crochet.

Opera Cardigan from Inside Crochet issue 36.  Image (c) Tailor Made Publishing.

Opera Cardigan from Inside Crochet issue 36. Image (c) Tailor Made Publishing.

UC: Can you talk about what motivated you to start the Getting Loopy podcast, and your reasons for deciding to finish it?

MBT: This sounds kind of silly, but I had seen an advertisement for Blog Talk Radio (it was new at the time), and I thought, well that looks like fun, I want to play with it! Our first couple of shows were on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m., because when you’re new to Blog Talk Radio, before you’ve developed a following, you can’t get the prime time hours. And I thought, I’m going to talk about crochet, because that’s what I’m interested in.

Our first guest was Amy O’Neill Houck, who is now in Alaska, who is a designer friend of mine. I called up and said, I want to do this thing, and she said, “I’ll do it!” So the first six or eight episodes were mostly my friends. Somebody said later, why do you have so many designers on the show?  Well, who else am I going to torture but my friends? (laughs) That’s how it got started and the first episode had like 37 listens that week, and it went on from there.

We moved to the prime time spot on Monday night. The fun thing about Getting Loopy was the chat room. There’s a group of people that still talk to each other because of the Getting Loopy chat room. They call themselves the Loopy Groupies. They’re all over. It’s really cool to go out into the world five years later and they’re like, “We’re Loopy Groupies!” and they’re there and they’re waiting for you.

Crochet Lace Pullover, published by and image (c) Willow Yarns.

Crochet Lace Pullover, published by and image (c) Willow Yarns.

The downside to that is it committed me to Monday night at 9 p.m. I did Getting Loopy for three years, I did over 100 episodes, and it got to the point as my design career started to take off, that… I hate to put everything down to money, but it’s a lot of time to run Getting Loopy. So then Blog Talk Radio said the only way that I could keep my time slot now that I had made it valuable was to pay for it. So a year before I was ready to end the show, some of the Loopy Groupies got together and did a pledge drive, and raised the $500 I would have needed to keep the time slot. So I ran it one more year, and [the fee] was going to roll around a second time, and they offered to do it again, but… I’m gonna offend some people here.

It’s much like public television, in which the same 50 people would have contributed again, and the other 23,000 that had listened to the show were not going to chip in a dime. Again, I didn’t want to charge for it, and I know some podcasters have gotten sponsors. I never wanted to go that route. The only way that I could manage Getting Loopy on my schedule was to do whatever the heck I wanted. I just didn’t want to take to take money from a yarn company or a magazine or a publisher, because no matter that they said you can keep control of your show, I would have felt in the back of my head that it might have changed my outlook on things and I never wanted to do it. That is not to say that people who take sponsorship are bad – I don’t mean that.

Fleuron Shawl, published by Hooked for Life.

Fleuron Shawl, published by Hooked for Life.

UC: Right, it’s just not your personal approach.

MBT: It just wasn’t for me, and in addition, it would have had to be managed. Somebody would have had to deal with the artwork and putting up ads and collecting the money, and really this is the stuff I have no time for.

So we ended when we did because the money that they had fundraised the year before had run out. And even so, that money only paid for the Blog Talk Radio fees, but it didn’t pay the website hosting, or the graphic design, or all that other stuff. I had a totebag sale and that raised some money. But it got to the point where I’d rather be designing new projects than running fundraisers for Getting Loopy.

In addition, I also felt toward the end like I had said everything I had to say. I found myself repeating a little bit. And then it suddenly turned into we were plugging whatever the new book was, which doesn’t interest me. As a platform, I felt I was getting ranty, and nobody listens to you when you rant. I just felt like we were done.

Lubina Wrap.  Image (c) Fairmount Fibers.

Lubina Wrap. Image (c) Fairmount Fibers.

I have had many, many requests to bring the show back. I would consider doing it monthly, and I would more than likely tape in the afternoons to avoid the fees. So is it dead forever? Absolutely not. And there’s 115 episodes that people can still listen to. It amazes me that I still get emails from shows that I taped four years ago. People will say, “When you taped that episode, I was not interested in that topic, but as I’ve grown as a stitcher, I’ve gotten interested. And I can go to Blog Talk Radio and I can listen to the show you did on that topic, and now it’s really relevant for me.”

Some of the shows have tens of thousands of listens because people just get interested in them. We had the wacky phase – I had the lady that specializes in equine crochet, she made things for horses. We had some wild stuff go on there!

And, we used to host the Flamie Awards, so we would do a huge 2 hour extravaganza with people calling in from all over the world. So it was fun, but as my business has grown, I don’t have the time to give it the attention it needs, and it doesn’t earn enough money for me to hire somebody to do the scut work.

Fanciful Gauntlets, published by Hooked for Life.

Fanciful Gauntlets, published by Hooked for Life.

UC: Considering that you’ve worked in so many aspects of the industry – as a designer, podcaster, self-publisher, author, tech editor, etc. – do you have any tips you would give someone that is considering coming into the yarn industry as a professional?

MBT: The reason I do so much, and the reason I do what I do, is multiple income streams. And that makes me sound like a Amway salesman, but there’s going to be an ebb and flow in the natural dynamic of any small business. You’re going to have a hit pattern that sells 1,000 copies in two weeks, and the next four patterns are not going to sell at all, or they’re going to sell slowly, or they’ll sell a year later, and you cannot predict that.

So my theory is if there’s magazine money coming in, and there’s indie pub money coming in, and there’s book publishing money coming in, and then there’s royalty checks coming in, and then there’s a kickback from KnitPicks coming in from their IDP program, and then I get a teaching fee, it all balances out.

Damask Crochet Shawl, published through the KnitPicks IDP.

Damask Crochet Shawl, published through the KnitPicks IDP.

UC: So you would basically recommend that people diversify their income.

MBT: Yes. That said, I don’t want people to feel like they have to start doing everything at once. I mean, I started out doing magazine work, and then said, well that’s not enough money so I started Hooked for Life. Hooked for Life is very well established right now, so then I added the teaching.

UC: So you staged your growth.

MBT: Yes, but not on purpose. That’s just how it worked out.

UC: What’s next for you?

MBT: My next booklet that’s coming out the first of a series I’m writing for SoHo Publishing. It’s called Easy Cowls to Crochet.  It will be out January 27 and it will be exclusively available at Jo-Ann Fabric for six months.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see patterns from the booklet here.)

There’s some new Hooked for Life stuff coming out. The Hooked for Life website has been upgraded and there’s a store coming with crochet kits.

I have a series of beaded jewelry designs that are being released over the next few weeks, some of which made their debut here at Vogue Knitting Live.

I’ll be at the Knit and Crochet Show in October. That’s a biannual event, but I’m not going to [the summer show in] Indianapolis. I’ll be teaching four classes in October.

I haven’t sold my next book yet, but I’m doing three more booklets for SoHo Publishing that will come out in 2013. I’m also a contributing pattern editor for the next Vogue Crochet issue with Charles Voth. We come as a team. And Robyn Chachula is also a contributing editor.  We’re helping put the issue together. We don’t pick what goes in, but once they’ve made the selections, Charles and Robyn and I help them make the magazine, and that’s actually a lot of fun.

Tunisian Lace Tunic, published in Vogue Knitting's 2012 crochet special issue.  Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

Tunisian Lace Tunic, published in Vogue Knitting’s 2012 crochet special issue. Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

UC: Did you work on the last issue of Vogue Crochet?

MBT: Yes, I did. I had one design in the last one, and I’ll have two in the next one.

UC: That’s great. I heard the last issue sold out.

MBT: In about a minute and a half.  (UC comment: Issues are still available for the iPad here.)

UC: People say that those special issues won’t sell, but I think people are starved for fashion crochet.

MBT: Well, here we’ve been saying for all these years that crochet doesn’t have to look crappy. So let’s get some crochet stuff and give it to a Vogue stylist! The stuff looked awesome. Even if it wasn’t your personal style, looking through that issue was like candy.

UC: That’s definitely Vogue’s strength in terms of how they present their look. It looks great, and you might want to make it. Sometimes the pattern can be great, but it looks frumpy the way it has been styled.

MBT: It also looked fashion forward. We’ve been saying for years that crochet can be fashion forward – because it can be! I mean, look at the runways! But if you style it on someone with too much hairspray, in a turtleneck under a corduroy blazer, then it looks old, like it’s old fashioned. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid. That’s the ballgame, so far as far as I’m concerned – to make this stuff look as good in the craft magazines as it does on the runway.

Thanks so much for spending time talking to me at such a busy show, Mary Beth!  And for your patience in waiting for me to publish this interview :).

 

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Charles Voth a.k.a. Stitch Stud

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

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. You can find Charles online at his website, Charles Voth Designs, on Ravelry (as StitchStud and on his designer page), and on Twitter.  All photos are used with permission.

Charles Voth.

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.

Joni Kimono by Charles Voth, published in Inside Crochet, Issue 33. Photo (c) Inside Crochet 2012 via Ravelry.com.

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.

Crantini Sophisticate by Charles Voth, published on the Annie’s website. Photo (c) Annie’s 2010.

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!)

Mock Cable Men’s Pullover by Charles Voth.

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.
  • Embrace technology.
  • 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.”

All in One Cardi by Charles Voth.

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

UC: What are you working on right now?

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!

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