My second day at Vogue Knitting Live started off with no hot water at home (and who doesn’t love showering in cold water when it’s sleeting outside?). In the rush to get out the door, I forgot to take the ceremonial pre-show picture of me in my handmade goodies. (I was wearing my 2013 Temperature Scarf, which is perfect for cold weather.)
From there, I snuck over to the Leilani Arts table. You see, they sell this Soft Donegal yarn, which has become the favorite amongst the men in family: soft but charcoal (with a little tweed to keep my interest).
Shirley was really quite friendly and we had a nice chat about her class on Craftsy, which is a companion to the book, as well as the We Love Shirley Paden group on Ravelry. (Shirley assures me she didn’t name the group!) The group sounds like a lot of fun and they have even hosted three Design-a-Longs.
I had a few minutes after the book signing to watch the beginning of the Fiber Factor Fashion show. I learned there will be KALs throughout 2014 and the next “season” will begin in 2015, but I missed the announcement of the winner.
I helped out in Michelle’s booth for a few hours in the afternoon, so she could stretch her legs and walk around the Marketplace for a bit. It was a great opportunity to learn more about her creative process. She’s sponsoring two months of prizes for my 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long, so it was great to meet her in real life and see all of her awesome shawl pins, bookmarks, and stitch markers.
I particularly like Michelle’s round shawl pins. It was also great to see her collaboration with other indie business owners. Michelle had several samples from Ash Kearns on display to show off her shawl pins including Havelock (left) and Everton Lace Wrap (right), along with the print versions of the patterns.
Of course, I couldn’t spend all that time in Michelle’s booth without falling in love with some shawl pins. I was initially drawn in by the circles, I ended up choosing two straight pins for myself.
These will definitely need to be re-shot in natural lighting because you can’t see the beauty in this picture. I’m off to get some rest before Day 3!
Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources. Today’s featured site is FreshStitches, my favorite source of tips and tricks for crochet and small (crafty) business.
Stacey’s blog is filled with wonderful pictures. For amigurumi fans, there is a lot to enjoy as Stacey shares projects from her own patterns as well as tips and customer projects from CALs that she hosts. And Stacey also shares her own projects, which include a range of crocheted and knit garments and accessories.
But the main reason I’m highlighting her blog today is because of the regular tips and tricks that Stacey shares with her readers. Here are a few of my favorites for yarn crafts in general:
Underground Crafter (UC): Can you share a favorite crochet project with us?
Stacey: Oh, I don’t know if I could really pick a favorite, but I’ll pick a nice one…
From the time I was 12 years old, I entered my crochet in the county fair every summer. It was a lot of fun, and I really liked getting ribbons.
Then, when I was 17, I was waiting in line to submit my crochet pieces for the year. A supervisor came up to me and said that my work was so lovely… and asked if I wanted to do a demonstration!
I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited! So, I got booked in for a timeslot, and I spent a few hours crocheting at the fair.
I think it was the first time that I viewed my crocheting as something exciting and interesting. Before then, I just thought of it as something my mom and I did… it never occurred to me that other people didn’t!
UC: What are your favorite types of crochet projects to make?
Stacey: I love making stuffed animals. They’re cute, they’re quick, and they make use of the best properties of crochet fabric. They benefit from the density that a crochet stitch can provide.
UC: What are your favorite websites for crochet-related content and community?
I’m in love with Ravelry. I spend a lot of time chatting in the forums, there! I also love Kathryn Vercillo’s blog. It’s full of really great crochet content & trends. (UC comment: I guess great minds think alike because I highlighted Crochet Concupiscence last week as my favorite source of crochet news!)
Thanks Stacey, for stopping by, and for providing such wonderful content on your blog!
It’s a very straightforward little leaflet aimed at the multi-crafter who likes lace. And edgings.
It has crochet edgings…
and more crochet edgings…
and specialized crochet edgings…
and knit edgings…
and tatted edgings.
Although these are all done with threads of various kinds, you could obviously create the same designs with larger hooks, needles, and… tats? Ok, time for a confession. I know nothing about tatting. I did a web search about it for this post to discover that you can tat with a shuttle or a needle. If you’re interested in learning more about it, Marilee Rockley offers a class on shuttle tatting on Craftsy.
If any tatters are reading, tell me how you learned :).
About a month ago, I had the pleasure of checking out Vogue Knitting Live with a press pass. I actually recorded three different interviews at the event, and I’m pleased to share one today.
Joan McGowan-Michael is the designer behind White Lies Designs. In addition to her extensive collection of (mostly) knit (with some crochet) designs, she is also a nationally recognized knitting and crochet teacher and author, and has appeared on Knitty Gritty and Needle Art’s Studio with Shay Pendray.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you get started knitting?
Joan: I was taught to knit as a child, to keep me busy and out of trouble. I’ve been knitting for over 40 years.
UC: You don’t look it!
Joan: Thank you. Thank you very much. But I have. I was not horribly young, not kindergarten age, but, in the first grade, second grade and I was very fascinated by it. My mom, however, had very little patience for certain things. She taught me how to knit but not to purl. She taught me how to cast on but not how to bind off. I was just dying to get into it, so I would just invent these ways to finish off things.
It’s really interesting. I recently cleaned out my parents’ house and found a little shoebox of some of the little doll clothes I made. And the little vests started ok from the bottom, but as they got towards the top I just ran thread through the loops! It looked a little weird but it worked.
And the other thing that was interesting is, at the time, in the ’60s, those big window pane vests were kind of hip, with the big holes in them. I was dying to make one of those for my dolls, but did not know how to do a yarn over. So I had to figure out how to make a hole in the fabric that wouldn’t run. What I came up with was knitting each stitch 3 times and then moving to the next stitch – passing it back and forth, almost crocheting. This made a nice little hole. So I found these things and I went, “I remember how I did that. That was kind of clever.” I tried it up again and so I sell stockings now – fishnet stockings – using the mind of a 7 year old or an 8 year old that made up this stitch. I’ve never seen this stitch anywhere else.
UC: It’s true, we have the ingenuity to figure things out. Before there were stitch dictionaries, people had their own ways of making it happen.
Joan: They got where they wanted because they wanted to get there.
UC: Yes, through trial and error. How did you first get started designing?
Joan: I actually went to fashion design school. I had always been fascinated with fashion design. I was one of those people that knew what they had to do with their life. To me, it’s very strange when you have a person that’s an adult and says I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I knew, always, what I wanted to do. That must be an odd feeling, to not know.
In any event, I was always making my own clothes and when I got to college level, I did Costume Design. They have very good pattern drafting classes and you get to do weird shapes if you’re costuming plays, or super intricate historical things. A lot of what I’d learned previously was confirmed when I was in design school – that this was the right way to do things.
I had done work for OP Sunwear and others, but the most important was Frederick’s of Hollywood. I worked for them for three and a half years. That’s really where I got my hands into stretch fabrics, and close to the body type garments, and realized that knitting and stretch fabrics had so many of the same properties that you could almost interchange them. So I filed that away in my mind for later use. There was no knitting career on the horizon at that time.
Things happened, I got married, moved north to Sacramento with my husband, and was really having trouble settling into the city up there. It’s a different vibe and you really have to try to integrate yourself. I can imagine New York’s not that way, but it is in Sacramento. So I joined the local knitting guild there and found it to be rather cliquish and really also hard to integrate into. I said, “Maybe this is a mistake.” But before I left that first meeting, somebody shoves a little notebook at me and says sign up to bring cupcakes sometime during the year. So, I turned to the last page (December) and I write my name in December and I close the notebook and I forget about it.
December rolls around and I get a call, “It’s your turn to bring the cupcakes.” Oh, crap.
UC: To those people?
Joan: Exactly. I could just blow them off or I could do some boxed cupcake mix and drop them off and come back home. It wasn’t that far from where I lived, so I thought, yeah, I’ll do that. So, I make the cupcakes and I go down there. The speaker that month was a woman who was putting together a company to do knit kits. She was doing marketing surveys. She was showing people a Vogue Knitting magazine and asking if this is something you would make, and if you were going to buy a kit, how much would you pay for it, and what would you expect from the kit.
As she was talking about this, I got this hot feeling, this freaky hot feeling. It’s the finger of God coming down and going, “You need to go this way, young lady.” Before I knew what I was doing, I went up to her and said, “I need to offer you my services as a designer. I don’t design knitwear but I do design and I do knit. That must mean something!”
And sure enough, it did. And the first sweater that I did for that knit kit company was fantastic. It had bobbles, it had cables, it had lace, it had button bands, a high collar. It had everything. It was angora.
UC: You put all of your years of knitting experience in one sweater.
Joan: I did! I really did. And forgot to take any notes.
UC: Oh, God!
Joan: It was really hellish. Through tears and fire, I recreated the pattern somehow and it was just hellish. But it became their best selling item. They had me under contract for about two years. During that time, I found the hole in the contract. It said what I could not do, but I saw what I could do. What I could do was submit designs to magazines and that’s what I did. I submitted something to Interweave Knits. The first thing I submitted was on the cover.
Joan: So I knew I had something going on there. In the meantime, the other people who I was under contract with were not very happy about me finding the loophole.
UC: They wanted you exclusive?
Joan: They wanted me exclusive or first right of refusal. The suit that I did was on the cover of Interweave and my boss saw it.
UC: It would be a little hard to hide it.
Joan: It was. It was hard to hide. Especially when you’re in that business. I just didn’t think I needed any permission to do anything like that. I did not like the way it went and I terminated my contract a little early with them.
So anyway, it was fine. I went on to do a few more things for magazines. By that time, I’d become divorced and my new boyfriend said, “You know, if you would like to start some kind of a little publishing thing, you have some designs here, you’re writing them anyway. Why don’t we publish them for you and sell them yourself? Why sell them off to a magazine?” The man has vision and that’s why I married him!
UC: Sounds like a good business decision.
Joan: It really was and that’s really how we got started. He works with me in the business now. We travel and do shows like STITCHES and Vogue Knitting Live and whatnot, and it grew into a business from there. I took a lot of the experiences and things that I’ve done previously.
For example, when I was at Frederick’s of Hollywood, I just had the foresight to trace off the patterns that I was cutting on brown paper and just archive them – keep them in a big box, kept them with me whenever I moved, kept them in the attic. Then came the opportunity to do my book, Knitting Lingerie Style: More Than 30 Basic and Lingerie – Inspired Designs. Melanie Falick at Abrams publishing, she had heard in an interview from me somewhere that I did used to work for Frederick’s of Hollywood and she said would you like to do a book about lingerie?
UC: That was going to be my next question. How did you get into the lingerie?
Joan: There it is. I went up to the attic, and got my big box down, and said, “Well this would work! This would work, too.” I had really the basic pieces all there. It was just a matter of transfering them to knitting – knitting the shapes instead of cutting them out of fabric – and assembling them like I would have if I had cut them out of fabric. Consequently, I was able to use a bra wire that I had designed when I was working for Frederick’s. It was a w – a continuous underwire.
UC: Wow, one piece?
Joan: Yes, the reason I designed it that way was I always have my wires popping either in the center or at the side.
UC: Yes, I think everybody has that problem. Well, not everybody, but most of us with the regular bras.
Joan: With the big boobs.
UC: The combo!
Joan: Well, the weight of them makes them float around inside their channeling. And the w wire stays right where it is. The breasts are holding them in place, then you have this v coming up in the center, they can’t go anywhere. This is just the perfect wire for long wearing bras. Don’t know why I don’t see it more.
UC: I don’t know either, I would love to see this more because I have the same exact problem!
Joan: So anyway, we went into that project using so many of the ideas from Frederick’s, but my dear editor kept me from doing sequined pasties or anything like that. She let me do a few things that were a little on the risque side, but for the most part she kept me under her thumb and on the right side of the line of good taste.
UC: Can you just talk a little bit about what you’ve been doing here at Vogue Knitting Live?
Joan: I’ve done a Crochet for Knits class. It’s very interesting. My classes that people choose sometimes have nothing to do with knititng. One of my most popular classes – unfortunately, we didn’t do it here this time since we didn’t have room in my schedule for it – is Whip Your Knits into Shape. What we do is take copious measurements of the student’s body and then we transfer those to brown paper. Now we have an actual flat pattern.
UC: Kind of like a sloper?
Joan: Yes, a sloper. And then, without having to know anything about pattern making, they can just start knitting. If they’re knitting the back of a sweater, compare it. Oh, too big, I’ve gotta rip back. Before you get finished, you know it’s fine.
The other thing, I do a 6 hour class of Whip Your Knits into Shape where we take those measurements, do the brown paper patterns, and then we learn to design with them. It’s a really very popular class and a lot of poeple have had their aha moments. When they’re in the class saying why doesn’t this fit me – well, you can’t see yourself from the back.
UC: Absolutely, you don’t see what’s going on back there.
Joan: Too many people don’t want to know, either. The other classes that we’ve done this time was Bead Embroidery for Knits which was based on my little collection of 1950s beaded sweaters. I have 4 or 5 pieces that have fabulous beadwork on them. There was one in particular that I took and made into a chart and we just copy that essentially and I teach them how to do the beadwork without having to do it one by one by one.
UC: Oh, that’s awesome.
Joan: It’s not done that way. They can take that skill and use it for Christmas ornaments or decorating clothes, t-shirts, jeans jackets. I’m a child of the ’70s, it’s going to be my flares, man! It’s a very fun class for everybody and it has nothing to do with knitting – you can do it on anything.
The other class, Crochet for Knits, is fine finishing touches that you can use for your knitting, to keep edges from rolling, to be decorative, to join things together, just learning how to handle a hook when you’re a die-hard knitter. They’re a little afraid of that.
UC: Yes, it’s interesting because people are always saying crocheting is so much easier. But I’ve found, now that I’ve started knitting, that a lot of knitters are really intimidated by crochet.
Joan: Very. You should have seen the big eyes in my class.
UC: So what do you do to put them at ease because I know crochet’s a phobia for a lot of knitters.
Joan: We just jump in. I ask them how do you hold your hook? Some hold it like a spoon, some hold it like a pencil. And as soon as I start requiring them to use it, they do. They just do because they have to. I have them do a chain with their fingers first so they can get the structure of the stitch and then stitch the hook in and continue. Now they’re getting comfortable and we can roll from there. It’s just getting them comfortable and not afraid of the hook. And you can rip it out so easy! They go, “Hey, there’s only one stitch at a time that you have to worry about!”
UC: That is a huge plus of crochet.
Joan: It’s quite a revelation.
UC: Yeah, when you’re knitting and it’s really stressful to do that (pull out stitches). Since you also crochet… I’m sure you have not too much down time when you can actually make your own projects, but if you do, do you have a preference between crocheting or knitting? Or do you have a totally other craft that you do to relax?
Joan: You know, I would love another craft. That I use to relax? I do sew. And I have to sew, because I’m a hard fit. So I do sew and I make things for myself on the sewing machine. And after so many years of knitting, sewing seems so easy and fast! Instant gratification. Putting a pair of pants together – no sweat. Lining a coat – not a problem. Things that would have been really daunting before, now that you put three weeks into a sweater, I can put ten hours into a coat – that kind of thing. I guess I want to say sewing is my other, non-professional hobby.
UC: It sounds like it’s also utilitarian – it’s not just for fun.
Joan: Sometimes it is. Sometimes I just want something knew and I just whip up a little knit top or something. I also do machine knitting and sometimes I will combine that with fabric and sewing things together. It’s kind of automated – it’s not hand knitting – and it’s very fast. You can do a front or back of a tank top in literally twenty minutes. That’s really instant gratification. Yep, sewing is pretty much the other white meat there :).
UC: You’ve had a lot of experience in all different aspects of the yarn industry and the fashion industry. Do you have any advice for people that are considering trying to come into the yarn industry?
Joan: Boy, keep your day job. At this moment, keep your day job. Didn’t use to be that way, but things got really rough here for the economy. Putting out a few patterns may or may not be something that becomes viable, but the main advice is have somebody read your patterns. Tech edit your stuff or test knit your stuff. A lot of people maybe have done that for themselves, and they can’t see the forest for the trees anymore when they are working with their own pattern. There’s just nothing more off-putting then buying a pattern from a new designer and finding it not working. To keep your reputation good, take that extra little step and have somebody read it, tech edit it, something. That’s really one of the most important things, I think.
UC: Do you have any upcoming activities you’d like to talk about?
Joan: Yes, I’m going to be doing some classes on Craftsy in the upcoming months. I’m actually looking for Stephanie Japel today because she’s the acquisitions editor there now. I will definitely be doing a Continental Knitting class, which may be one of the free ones. It just introduces you to the teacher and how their teaching style is, but there will also be others on fit most definitely. So look for me in about four or five months on Craftsy. (UC comment: You can now find Joan’s Feminine Fit class for sale on Craftsy here.)
We always do STITCHES West at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I always have a booth there, so people can come by and see the garments that I do in person. I’m about to pitch another book. I’m not going to say what it’s about, but it’s along the lines of Knitting Lingerie Style, so it’s more romantic, kind of sexy, pretty things.
UC: Good luck! More pretty stuff is definitely needed. Anything else you’d like to share?
Joan: I also have a pretty good blog. I’m running a fitting series which started last Monday (UC comment: on January 14, 2013), so anyone can go to my blog and check out the first installment of Knit to Fit. I wrote about the five different mistakes knitters make in terms of fit. I’m going to expand that because the reaction to that has been really positive. I’ll possibly do an e-book with that.
UC: There’s a lot of fears and concerns and horror stories surrounding knit fitting – and crochet fitting, too.
Joan: And wasted money and disappointment. I’m all about avoiding disappointment, especially when you’re working on something you think you’re going to love, and then you put it on and go, “Oh, that looks awful!” If I can help anybody avoid that, I’m all over it!
Thanks so much, Joan! I really appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule at Vogue Knitting Live to meet with me!
Through my travels through the internet, I often come upon interesting designers. Cheezombie is one such talent. She is one of the (relatively) few knit amigurumi designers I’ve come across, and her work has a distinctive style. Cheezombie is shrouded in mystery, so I’m honored that she stopped by for an interview (but don’t expect a picture!). You can find Cheezombie online on Etsy, Twitter, and Ravelry (as cheezombie, in her Slug Love group, and on her designer page). All pictures are used with permission and link to the patterns.
Underground Crafter (UC): What inspired you to start designing?
Cheezombie: I found other knitters online (thank you Ravelry!) who wanted to make the same wacky stuff I did. So I put out the patterns. Then all these people take these patterns & turn out amazing, creative things I never would have thought of in a million years. I am continually astounded at how a few written lines & silly pictures can spark a veritable flood of awesome. So THE PEOPLE are why I design. Shout out to EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO EVER KNIT A CHEEZOMBIE PATTERN. I love you all. You blow my mind on a regular basis.
UC: How did you develop your Knitting Manifesto and how does it connect to your designs?
Cheezombie: The Manifesto is what all cheezombie patterns strive for: brevity, clarity, & fun. It’s serious stuff. Sort of. Plus it’s good to have a manifesto. Everyone should have one. (UC comment: If you aren’t familiar with Cheezombie’s manifesto, check it out in this interview she did with FreshStitches!)
UC: Your work is primarily self-published. Can you talk about your decision to focus on self-publishing rather than on designing for other publishers?
Cheezombie: What can I say, they’re my babies. I’m a bit retentive about how they’re presented to the world, and retaining all rights to the designs is very important to me, and it’s gotten so easy to self publish with all the pattern sites popping up all over, it just makes sense. I’m not opposed to publishing for others, and I have and will continue to do so, but I’m super picky about where I submit designs. It’s like interviewing daycare centers, it has to be a perfect fit.
UC: What are your favorite knitting books in your collection?
Cheezombie: The book collection has gradually dissappated what with virtually endless online resources. Knittinghelp.com & YouTube have changed my life. but I still have a Kaffe Fasset book (for the colors of course!), and I regularly check out Mochimochi books from the library just to read them over & over like picture books.
UC: Your business name is awesome. How did you come up with it? (Or will you have to kill us if you tell us?)
Cheezombie:Take a gaming avatar (unabashed nerd here) that looked like a zombiefied piece of cheese. A cheese-zombie, if you will. Add a midwestern twang and it becomes a cheezombie. Add a bunch of starey-eyed animals of ridiculous proportions and a bunch of slug loving creepy cute obsessed knitters and you get cheezombie patterns.
UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community that you would like to share?
Cheezombie: Ravelry is my people! It amazes me that I can immediately connect with like minded knitters from all over the world, anytime. We have the Slug Love group for sharing photos, swaps, & general squeeeing, I post sneak peeks, coupons, and gratuitous cat photos there too.
I also like Craftsy for cruising projects from crafts of all types, from sewing to jewelry & all kinds of other fun stuff.
UC: Tell us about your newest patterns.
Cheezombie: The newest pattern is Splat Cat & I have one coming out in an upcoming issue of Knitty.
We had so much fun with the Ripple Mania CAL that some people in my Ravelry group wanted to start another one right away! With the holiday crafting season upon us, the Chubby Sheep pattern seemed like the best fit.
This cute little critter is crocheted with about 100-120 yards of the main color and 35-45 yards of the other color. You will also need a small amount of embroidery floss for the eyes and a yarn needle for assembly. I used Galler Yarns Flore II, which is a mohair blend yarn, and that added a fun, fuzzy texture.
The Chubby Sheep took me and most pattern testers about 5 hours to make, including all the (dreaded) amigurumi assembly.
If you’d like to make the Chubby Sheep as a Christmas gift, the pattern includes optional instructions to convert it to an ornament.
If you’ve never made crocheted popcorns before, I have a photo tutorial on the Galler Yarns blog here. Some nice folks from Ravelry who have already made the pattern allowed me to share their project pictures with you.
The CAL will run from now through January 31, 2013. You can download the pattern for free on my blog here or as a Ravelry or Craftsy download.
I will have two giveaways for participants to share a photo of their completed project. One will be for projects completed between now and December 31, and the other one will be for projects completed in January. More details will be available as we get towards the end of December. Ravelry members can chat and share progress in through the Underground Crafter group. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!
It turns out that there was room for me. But, um… well, you can be the judge.
Clearly, I have a long way to go before I can actually spin some yarn that anyone (myself included) would ever use. While I did resist the urge to buy a stunningly beautiful hand made drop spindle from Hearthwise, I couldn’t stop myself from getting some super cool roving. You know, for that day when I’m an accomplished spinner and stuff.
If these don’t help, there’s always Drucilla Pettibone‘s Craftsy class. I think spinning is something I’ll need to set aside a fair amount of time for (since a 90 minute class was definitely not enough!). That probably means that my next self-guided spinning lesson will take place over Thanksgiving weekend or the break from work between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
This seems as good a time as any to share an update on my general YOP progress so far.
1) Crochet 52 granny squares for charity. I’m furthest along here. I have 25 blocks finished (I made 26 but one was frogged).
2) Knit my first complete pair of socks. It appears I’m not a sock person. My socks have stalled since the end of the Ravellenic Games.
At this rate, they should be finished during the 2016 Olympics.
3) Make my mom a special bedspread for her milestone birthday. I might need a little help here. I already started working on these squares…
… and then I realized there’s a Tree of Life crochet pattern. I started thinking maybe I should switch to a Tree of Life project? What do you think? (If it helps you decide, the yarn is a little more cream and less yellow than it appears in the picture.)
4) Learn to spin. See above for update.
5) Design my own Bruges lace pattern. Done! I released Visit to the Kantcentrum this week. If you’ve never done Bruges lace crochet before, there is a photo tutorial inside. As a thank you to all my YOP friends for your support, you can download it for free on Ravelry with coupon code BrugesYOP (or by following this link) through October 31.
6) Learn overlay crochet. No progress yet.
7) Create my own hairpin lace pattern. No progress yet.
8 ) Try double knitting. No progress yet.
9) Try domino (modular) knitting. I’ve looked over the book, and even had a false start. Perhaps I should make a charity domino square?
12) Design a crochet lace shawl pattern or recipe for my DC 37 crochet class students. As I’ve mentioned before, this is actually finished. The design has even been tested and edited. You’ll just have to wait until it is ready for release…
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet?
Paola: When I was a kid, my mom and grandma taught me the basic crochet stitches. But back then, I wasn’t too interested in crocheting or knitting. Then, as a teenager, I became more attracted to this craft and some years ago, I just completely felt for it!
UC: When did you first become interested in amigurumi?
Paola: I always loved designing toys! Even as a kid, I used to sew some dolls and teddies! Then, just by accident, I stumbled across amigurumis and discovered they were just perfect for me, because they give me the possibility of combining two passions: crochet and toy design.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Paola: In fact, I always did my own designs, and not just for crochet. And everything inspires me, specially my hubby and nieces.
UC: Tell us about crochet in Argentina.
Paola: In Argentina, both crochet and knitting are almost exclusively practiced by women. Most women learned from a family member, like their grannies, moms, or old aunts. And to a lesser extent, at school.
A couple of years ago, some yarn sellers started teaching adults and kids how to crochet and knit in their stores on Saturday afternoons and this was a great success. Also, you can see some grown women crocheting in doctor’s waiting rooms, parks, while waiting in bank lines, and even in buses! (UC comment: I crochet on the subway all the time, so I guess I’d fit in if I moved to Argentina!) Not so the young women. They prefer crocheting or knitting in their homes. Just some people know how to do both, but knitting is more common among Argentinian women.
UC: Can you tell me about your decision to offer your patterns in English and Spanish?
Paola: Well, as I can speak both, I thought this was a great idea to help my designs reach more people across the world. Most of my buyers are used to crochet patterns written in English, but Spanish speakers are somewhat reluctant to use patterns in a foreign language, specially if they are crochet beginners. And having the possibility of using a pattern in their own language gives them more confidence.
UC: Your pattern photos have a signature style with a white outline and a solid background. How did you start using that style?
Paola: This is a way of giving my photos, as well as my amigurumis, the same signature style and more consistency to my shop. Then, when someone sees an amigurumi photo with this style, they will think: this MUST be from DeliciousCrochet.
UC: You have over 15,000 Etsy sales. (WOW!) Can you share some tips for new Etsy sellers?
Paola: All my designs are original and have my own style. When you see one of my designs, you know its mine even before seeing its name or my signature elsewhere. I think finding your own personal style instead of trying to imitate others and printing it in your creations is something buyers really value.
There are no secrets for running a shop. Just do what you love the best way possible and always take good care of your buyers.
Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing, Paola!
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I’ve been really trying to reduce my yarn stash this year. But, you also know that I find giveaways very hard to resist – and I’m kinda lucky.
So when I saw this giveaway on Robyn Chachula‘s blog, I had to enter. In my defense, it wasn’t clear exactly how much yarn would be in each of the five goodie bags Robyn was assembling. Even after winning, I was blissfully ignorant for the next few days.
And then, this arrived.
And when I opened it, this is what I saw.
I may have lost consciousness for a few seconds. But then I came to and took some more pictures. Here’s what I found inside the box:
A notions case - I’ve been using this to store all the goodies for the socks I’m making for the Ravellenic Games. It is the only one I have long enough to fit the size 1 double pointed needle I’ll be using as a cable needle.
A circular Susan Bates Velocity knitting needle – This looks like just the right size for subway knitting.
Thanks, Robyn, for sharing all of these wonderful goodies with me! It certainly didn’t help with my stashbusting efforts, but I’m thrilled nonetheless.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Sharon: I always liked arts and crafts. When I was little, I used to make mosaics from kits, do paint-by-number, and make what we used to call “horse rein”–I think the device is called a “Knitting Nancy” or something like that. My mother taught me to knit, which I didn’t do very well, then she taught me to crochet when I was 7 or 8. I loved it from the beginning.
Sharon: I often made up my own patterns for home decor and accessories, but never considered myself a designer. For my first crochet title,Basic Crocheting, I needed a sweater pattern. I hired a designer to provide one, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. I thought to myself, “Well, you’ve made so many sweaters over the years from other people’s patterns, how hard can it be to come up with one yourself?” I developed a chevron sweater pattern that was easy to scale up to various sizes. It had some simple shaping so it fit well. It was at that point that I started to think of myself as a designer.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Sharon: Inspiration is everywhere! I get ideas from nature, architecture, artwork, furniture, fashion…and sometimes from what’s missing in my closet. You know the scene in The Sound of Music where Maria looks at the draperies and thinks, “Play clothes!”? Sometimes it’s like that for me. I see the colors in a flower or the shape of a cabinet pull, and I can picture a crocheted item based on that. I often feel like a crochet engineer.
My esthetic at home leans toward the Japanese style, with clean lines, a few carefully chosen embellishments, and a minimum of clutter. I appreciate subtlety in design, which I suppose is why in variegated yarns I prefer ones that change slowly around a strong central color rather than the more rainbow-y colorways.
UC: Your newest book, Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques includes scarf patterns using crochet, Tunisian crochet, broomstick lace, and filet crochet. You also work with some unusual yarns (such as a woven yarn). What was the design process like for this book?
Sharon: My overall goal was for crocheters to have an excellent experience with the book, and to find interesting patterns they could successfully complete and would be proud to wear or to give as gifts. I wanted to make sure that newer crocheters would find friendly patterns and would be comfortable enough to extend their skills, and that experienced crocheters would find fun and intriguing designs to hold their attention.
Within that framework, I had several design goals for the book. The scarves had to be variety of shapes, textures, colors, and techniques. There are skinny scarves, chunky scarves, a shaped collar, a turtleneck cowl, solid colors, variegated colors, stripes…some are for warmth while others are purely for fashion.
I wanted to introduce crocheters to some wonderful hand-dyed yarns, like those from Space Cadet Creations and from Kangaroo Dyer. I also use some high-quality mass-produced yarns. Price can be a consideration, even for something like a scarf that does not use a tremendous amount of yarn, and I kept that in mind when I was sourcing the yarns.
Woven yarn is one of those products that seems impossible to figure out at first glance. I kept looking at the knitted sample in the yarn store, and realized that if you can knit with it, you can crochet with it, too. The funny thing about that yarn is when non-yarn folks see your creations, they gasp, “You MADE that?” They think you made the yarn itself! It’s actually quite easy to work with, so I included a scarf that uses woven yarn to create a beautiful ruffle.
As for the variety of techniques, my Tunisian Crochet book got a lot of interest so there is definitely a need for more Tunisian patterns. Seven of the twenty-one scarves in the new book are Tunisian crochet. I’ve been intrigued with broomstick lace for a while, so I included one broomstick lace design. Filet crochet is another technique that I think everyone should try. The right filet crochet design makes a gorgeous garment–it’s not just for tablecloths and doilies.
UC: You have a lot of step-by-step photos and picture tutorials in the book. Tell use about your decision to include those.
Sharon: Ideally, I would be able to look over your shoulder while you crochet so I could answer questions and offer guidance. “Put the hook here, not there.” “Remember, in Tunisian crochet you don’t turn the work.” “Pull the fringe through from the right side.” Since I can’t be there in person, I want the written instructions, technique photos, and charts to be my surrogate. I try to anticipate where a crocheter might get tripped up, and insert a photo to clarify things.
It takes a lot of time and planning to think all of that through and to get the step-outs ready. Alan Wycheck, the book’s photographer, is terrific at capturing motion in still photos.
This is the first book in which I’ve included symbol charts. A lot of people are visual learners who appreciate charts to supplement written instructions. I responded to this need by developing the charts.
UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including writer, designer, writer, teacher, and TV star. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?
Sharon: Ha ha, TV star! I don’t think that three appearances on HGTV‘s Uncommon Threadsqualifies me for that title, but maybe I’ll make your compliment come true one day!
My advice for aspiring professionals:
Get organized. Find a way to keep track of your work, your proposals, your finances.
Hone your crocheting and your pattern-writing skills. Take classes. Attend conferences. Study magazines and books to learn the proper format. It is ESSENTIAL to write your patterns as you go along, not to try to figure out what you did when the item is all finished. Believe me, I know how tempting it is to crochet something to completion and not take the time to write down the row-by-row instructions, but that is the path to pattern doom.
Have your patterns edited and tested. You can start by asking friends do this for you. Remember that making something and writing the instructions for someone else to make it are two very different skill sets. Don’t assume that everyone using your pattern will know what you do–make the instructions complete.
Take advantage of the resources available to you, including the Crochet Guild of America, Ravelry, books, and websites. (UC comment: I have to second Sharon on this one. I had a wonderful mentor, Mary Nolfi, through CGOA’s mentoring program.)
Assess your skills and potential realistically. If you are fantastic at making things but hate writing patterns, maybe you are better off selling your finished items than doing design. Just because you love crocheting, doesn’t mean you can make a living at it. But that’s okay, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: many designers have family responsibilities and/or other work to supplement their crochet business. There’s nothing wrong with having a hobby that earns you a few extra dollars now and then.
Be professional and respectful. When approaching people in industry, be it designers, editors, or yarn company representatives, keep in mind that their time is their most precious resource. Don’t ask them to create your business plan. Don’t ask them how to get started–it’s your job to figure that out. Book and magazine publishers have guidelines that potential contributors must follow. Research those before you approach an editor with a submission, and make sure you follow their procedures. That said, most people in the industry are happy to help. Ask a specific question rather than an open-ended one, and you will most likely get a useful answer. Follow up with a thank-you when you get a response.
ALWAYS respond calmly and constructively to a question or criticism, even if the person asking is completely off-base. Keep any indignation and sarcastic thoughts to yourself! I’ve had someone complain about a book because she was disappointed that it didn’t contain a design for a purse…when in fact there is a pattern for a clutch! (Maybe she didn’t realize that a “clutch” is a kind of purse…?) You can’t get too worked up about stuff like that. Be gracious if someone finds a mistake in your work, and correct the error immediately. Keep things professional, not personal.
Keep track of your expenses as well as your income. It may feel exciting to be offered $300 for a pattern, but that has to be examined in the context of what you spent–including your time. If you paid $40 for yarn, $10 on shipping, 30 hours crocheting and writing up the pattern, and $25 to a friend to test it, $300 of income might not seem so great.
(UC comment: Wow, thanks, Sharon, for being so generous with your advice. Many newbies have to find out these things the hard way!)
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?
Sharon: StitchDiva has excellent patterns and online tutorials in several techniques including Tunisian crochet, broomstick lace, and hairpin lace. NexStitch also has very helpful videos. Everyone should check out Craftsy. And your blog and others like it are wonderful resources for crocheters! (UC comment: Aww, thanks, Sharon!)
UC: What are you up to next?
Sharon: During the next few months I’ll be doing the blog book tour for Crochet Scarves. I’ll be at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in NYC–in person!–on October 4 for a talk and book-signing. Anyone who is interested in the event should sign up on the Studio’s mailing list.
I’m currently evaluating my short- and long-term business plans. With so many free patterns available, it’s important to consider whether selling patterns is a viable long-term proposition. In the meantime, I have several book and leaflet ideas that I’m working on. Some of my patterns have been chosen by a yarn shop owner who is packaging them into kits–I hope that venture is successful. I’ll share more about that when her business is up and running.
I’m also in discussions with interior designers who are interested in high-end custom crochet pieces for their clients.
I love to teach (especially Tunisian crochet) and am open to invitations from any group or shop that wants to host!
Most of all, I want to express my appreciation to people who use my patterns. I enjoy hearing from them and hope they will share pictures of their work.
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Sharon, and for sharing your advice with us!
The Book Review
Although I generally prefer “technique books” to “pattern books,” I was eager to check out my review copy of Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques from Stackpole Books. On the surface, this seems like it would be a straightforward book of scarf patterns. Instead, it is chock full of step-by-step tutorials and lessons for different crochet techniques.
The book includes 21 scarf patterns. The patterns use Tunisian crochet, broomstick lace, filet crochet, and “standard” crochet techniques like increasing and decreasing, bobbles, and post stitches. The patterns includes a range of skill levels (4 easy, 11 intermediate, and 6 experienced). Each pattern is introduced briefly, shown in a photograph (usually on a mannequin), and then presented as a pattern. Even the simpler patterns include several photographs of the stitches being worked, and the more complicated patterns include several pages of step-by-step photos. The progress pictures are presented before the pattern instructions, which are shown using both U.S. crochet terminology and international stitch symbols.
Although all of the patterns are for scarves, Sharon manages to keep the styles diverse enough to hold your attention. My favorite patterns are Accordian Arrows, Changing Tides, Diamond Loop, Grecian Ladders, Premium Cable (which includes a great tutorial on Tunisian cables), Monet’s Village, and Sea Splash. This is a book that you can definitely grow with, as there are plenty of techniques and stitches to learn. There is even a Techniques section in the back which includes step-by-step photos of all the basic crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches, as well as tips on pattern reading. At the end of the book, there is a small photo of each pattern with the corresponding page number, so it is easy to find your favorites.
There are a few things that could be improved. The book is a paperback, and, like most paperbacks, doesn’t lay flat when open. This makes it challenging to read along or look at the step-by-step photos while crocheting. The projects are shown on mannequins and against neutral backgrounds, but it would be helpful (and more attractive) to see the scarves on people. Finally, I don’t agree that the Cactus Lace broomstick lace pattern is at the experienced skill level. I think that designation may scare off a relative newbie to crochet, when broomstick lace is actually quite simple (especially with Sharon’s step-by-step photos).
Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for beginner and intermediate crocheters who want to make relatively simple projects while also learning new skills. An adventurous newbie who learns well from photographs could use this book to learn to crochet. And, of course, if you like making scarves, this is definitely the book for you.
The nice folks at Stackpole Books have been generous enough to donate a second copy of Crochet Scarvesfor this giveaway, so I get to keep my review copy :). This giveaway is open to all readers. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, July 19, 2012.
Leave a comment telling me about your crochet scarf experience. Do you like to make scarves for yourself or for gifts, or are you new to crocheting scarves?