Tag Archives: crochet concupiscence

Interview: Dora Ohrenstein, Crochet Designer and Author

This post contains affiliate links.

Today’s interview is with fellow New Yorker, Dora Ohrenstein.  Dora is the publisher of the Crochet Insider ezine; a designer whose work has appeared in Crochet!, Crochet Today!, Crochet World, Interweave Crochet, and Vogue Knitting Crochet, among other publications; the author of Creating Crochet Fabric, Custom Crocheted Sweaters (reviewed here), and The New Tunisian Crochet (reviewed here); and a crochet teacher.  Along with Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Dora is also the co-editor of Talking Crochet, which recently won Crochet Concupiscence‘s Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for Best Crochet Newsletter.

You can find Dora online at the Crochet Insider website or on Ravelry (as crochetinsider, on her designer page, and in the Crochet Insider group).  All images are used with permission.

Dora Ohrenstein

Dora Ohrenstein.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?

Dora: When I was about 20, I lived in Amsterdam on a tiny little houseboat. It was the Age of Aquarius and everyone was getting crafty. I learned to crochet and since I had no background whatsoever, I just started making clothes without knowing what I was doing. But then I totally stopped for literally decades. I became a professional singer and that consumed all my time. I didn’t pick up the hook again until early in this millenium.

Shawled Collar Tunic

Shawled Collar Tunic from Custom Crochet Sweaters.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Dora: I wasn’t performing much by that time, and needed a creative outlet. I made a few sweaters and went to a CGOA conference, where I met Jean Leinhauser. She and Rita Weiss liked my stuff and bought several sweater designs for their books. Then Jean taught me how to write patterns, since I’d never followed one!  (UC comment: Dora has a wonderful interview with Jean here.)

new tunisian crochet

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Dora: So many places! Sometimes it’s a fashion silhouette, sometimes a yarn or stitch. I keep many swatches lying around and then one day I find the right project for them. I’ve also learned that once you’re a pro, you can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit, you have to be generating ideas constantly. I would also say my motivation often comes from wanting to continually grow as a designer, try new techniques and strategies in my work.

Kerala Tank c Crochet Today

Kerala Tank.  Image (c) Crochet Today!

UC: Tell us about your motivation for launching Crochet Insider. What are some of the challenges and joys of publishing an online crochet magazine?

Dora: I haven’t really been publishing Crochet Insider as a magazine for a couple of years, it was just too much work once my design career really got going. But I loved doing it because of meeting and talking to so many interesting people. Challenges: it took huge number of hours and did not earn much, so it couldn’t continue indefinitely. There is still a lot of great content at the site and I wish more aspiring designers would read the interviews, because there is so much to learn.  (UC comment: Besides the Crochet Insider interview with Jean Leinhauser I linked above, two of my other favorites are this one with Vashti Braha and this one with Myra Wood.)

#15 Lace Pullover c Vogue Knitting

#15 Lace Pullover.  Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

UC: Your books place a lot of emphasis on teaching techniques and skills, along with the inclusion of patterns. Tell us about your decision to work this way rather than through pattern collections or historical work, which you’re also known for.

Dora: Many of these decisions are economic. I would love to publish a book on crochet history, but can’t afford to do so without a publisher. But no publishers wants such a book, because it will not sell in the numbers they need to be profitable. It’s sad but true. I try to get as much history into my books as they will tolerate. Hey, I’d love to go around the world and make film about crochet traditions, but again, where’s the funding? Publishers have been interested in my books that combine good designs with educational material, and I love teaching and empowering, so that works for me. In addition to being a designer, I teach singing and have for many years, so teaching comes naturally to me.

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt c Tension Magazine

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt.  Image (c) Tension Magazine.

UC: You design mostly women’s garments and accessories. What appeals to you about designing wearables?

Dora: This comes back to my background in crochet, or the total lack of it! I never was exposed to afghan making, thread crochet, or any of those fine American traditions. My parents were WWII immigrants and craftiness was not their heritage. I live in NYC and never had the chance to shop at big box stores, which didn’t even exist here until a few years ago. I do love fashion and had discovered for myself that crochet could make great wearables. It was shocking to encounter the yarn industry’s negativity about crochet wearables. So I’ve been very motivated to change that viewpoint with my work. And I’m in some very fine company there of course.

DoraBookCover.low.res

 

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, publisher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Dora: I would say to aspiring designers, don’t be naive about this industry – it’s very tough to make money, very competitive, and takes tremendous perseverance and drive. I’ve done all these things to build my career and earn money. And I enjoy all of them too. But I’d be happy to restrict my activities and lead a more sane life if it were possible.

Ariadne Scarf

Ariadne Scarf from Creating Crochet Fabric.

UC: What are your favorite crochet books (besides yours, of course) in your collection?

Dora: The books I bought when I started getting serious, about 10 years ago, are still my favorites. They are “vintage” ’70s and ’80s books by designers like Jacqueline Henderson, Sylvia Cosh, James Walters, Judith Copeland. (UC comment: I love those books, too!  I shared several from my collection in my Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week series.)  I adore Japanese pattern books, and the Ukrainian magazine Duplet — I stocked up on about 100 magazines when I visited the Ukraine! I also use stitch dictionaries, any I can get my hands on, including the huge Linda Schapper book, the old Harmony Guides, and Japanese stitch dictionaries.

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community?

Dora: Pinterest and Etsy – lots of great inspiration. And Ravelry!

UC: What’s coming next for you?

Dora: I have a crochet reference book coming out in the fall of 2014 by Storey Publishing. The working title is The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Handbook. They are fantastic publishers, I’m very excited about it. A reference book not just for beginners but for intermediate crocheters too, with lots of information on working stitch patterns, shaping, construction, colorwork, and flexible tension. What I mean by the latter is the ability to control tension so you can really sculpt stitches.

Crochet Insider will get a facelift soon and I will be enlarging my indie pattern line and store at the site. I also plan to develop video classes, sort of like Craftsy, but as an indie venture so I can go direct to students.

Thanks for stopping by, Dora!

2013 Crochet Blog Awards

I’m really pleased to share that I won two 2013 crochet blog awards.

Awesome Crochet Blogger Award

Kathryn from Crochet Concupiscence awarded me her 2013 Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for Best Crochet Interviews for the third year in a row (!).  (On a side note, wow, the pressure is really on now to come with some fantastic interviews!  Luckily, I already have a few up my sleeve that I’ll be posting later this year.)

Kathryn is one of my favorite bloggers, and this is really an honor.  I love her annual blogger award series and her weekly link love posts, which always introduce me to new crochet blogs.  You can read my interviews with Kathryn here and here, and find out more about what I love about her blog here.

I’m sharing links to four of my favorite crochet interviews from 2013:

You can find links to all of my interviews (mostly with yarn industry professionals) here.

Blog Button AllFreeCrochet

I’m happy to hear that my All Weather Cowl pattern (available for download here) was chosen by AllFreeCrochet as one of their 100 Favorites: The Most Popular Free Crochet Patterns of 2013, and so I’ve also been named one of their 2013 Top Bloggers.

This might explain why my Pinterest source page currently looks like this:

All Weather Cowl on Pinterest

(Usually, there is a variety of different photos!)  The All Weather Cowl is definitely one of my favorite samples to wear out.  (I even wear it around the house when it’s extra cold.)  I only wish the yarn I designed it with, Galler Yarns Aztec Boucle, hadn’t been discontinued this past summer.  You could make the entire cowl with just one skein!

Perhaps this award will motivate me to make another sample with a yarn that’s currently available…

Recent Crochet Book Reviews on CGOA Blog

You may know that I volunteer to review crochet books on the Crochet Guild of America‘s blog, CGOA Now!  In 2013, most of my book reviews have been published there.  Here are the links in case you missed the reviews.

This post contains affiliate links.

crochet-saved-my-life1

Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet by Kathryn Vercillo of Crochet Concupiscence

CGOA blog review * interview 1 * interview 2 * mini interview

 

 

Crocheting with Lucy Loop

Crocheting with Lucy Loop by Karen D. Thompson of Hooksations

CGOA blog review

 

 

Learn to Crochet Socks for the Family

Learn to Crochet Socks for the Family by Darla Sims

CGOA blog review

 

 

tunisian cables to crochet

Tunisian Cables to Crochet by Kim Guzman

CGOA blog review * interview

 

 

Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide

Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide by Kim Guzman

CGOA blog review

 

 

Ultimate guide to thread crochet

Ultimate Guide to Thread Crochet by Leisure Arts

CGOA blog review

 

Enjoy!

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Crochet Workshop by James Walters

VintageNPotW 400

This post contains affiliate links.

This week’s pick: Crochet Workshop by James Walters.

Source:  Amazon.com

Publication date: 1983 reprint of a 1979 publication.

Status: Out of print, but available online (sometimes, for exorbitant prices)  Update: Thanks to PlanetJune for letting me know that Crochet Workshop will be republished by Dover next year.  You can pre-order it on Amazon here.

Condition: Good.

Craft: Crochet.

Crochet Workshop cover

I first learned about this delightful book from Crochetbug.  (You can learn more about James Walters in this post on Crochet Concupiscence.)  Unfortunately, the book’s condition is such that it is difficult to enjoy.  You see, it reeks of smoke.  One day, I hope to air it out enough for me to actually want to read through it, but until then, I am limited to brief moments of picking it up until the smell is unbearable, and then washing my hands profusely.

I did take some time to photograph it so I could share some of it with you.

Crochet Workshop 8 suit

A freeform crochet body suit.

You can almost immediately feel the sense of whimsy, creativity, and joy that Walters has to offer.

Crochet Workshop 67 shaping

The book includes all kinds of information that you would rarely see in a crochet book today.  As a freeform pioneer, Walters shows you how to create your own projects, rather than rely solely on patterns.

Crochet Workshop 105 swirls

There are many great illustrations, and I can’t tell if these are by Walters or someone else.  Here is one showing the progression of various spiral crochet pieces

Crochet Workshop 156 motif2Crochet Workshop 157 motif1

These are part of a section that explains how to construct motifs of different kinds.

Crochet Workshop 207 freeform

There are examples of several freeform garments included in the book…

Crochet Workshop 214 hairpin

as well as explorations of specialized techniques, like hairpin lace.

Crochet Workshop 215 hairpin lace risque

Most of the projects are displayed artfully, rather than functionally.

Crochet Workshop 248 thigh highs

I really wish I could bear to read through this book, because I am sure I would learn a lot and be completely inspired.

Crochet Workshop 225 gown

Hopefully, one day it will come back into print (or be available as an ebook) and I will have the chance to read it cover to cover.  Until then, does anyone have any tips for removing foul odors from books?

NatCroMo13 in Review!

If you’re like me, you have been following along with many special National Crochet Month features and may be behind on your blog reading.

Here’s a quick roundup of my NatCroMo13 posts.

Free Wednesday posts!

blog Rectangular Sampler angle view

Crochet Book Reviews

NatCroMo13 Book Collage

Crochet Hook Reviews

Favorite Online Crochet Resources

Interviews

Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL

Pineapples with Underground Crafter CAL

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week

 

Now, I’m off to recover from posting daily for a month!