Tag Archives: design

Interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager

Today, I’m happy to share an interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager. Though we’ve never met in real life, Julie and I share a love of crocheting squares and blankets, and of participating in crochet related swaps. (And, I learned from the interview that we also both grew up shopping for yarn at Woolworth’s in New York City!)

Julie can be found online on Ravelry (as JulieAnny, on her designer page, in the Julie Yeager Designs group), Facebook, and Etsy. Julie also founded and co-moderates the Vanna’s Choice Fan Club group on Ravelry, where you can exchange squares and share pictures of your Vanna’s Choice creations. All photos are copyright Julie Yeager and are used with permission.

Julie Yeager

Julie Yeager.

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

Julie: I’m honored to talk to the readers of Underground Crafter, Marie.  Thanks for having me. (UC comment: Thanks so much, Julie! It’s great to have you stop by.) I’ve been knitting and crocheting since I was about 8; learned from my Irish mom. I would buy sparkly crochet thread at Woolworth’s in the Bronx, NY and crochet clothes for my Barbies. I also made my share of granny square tote bags. I didn’t do much crafting in my 20s, maybe an occasional baby blanket, but then when I became a stay at home mom I got back into knitting and machine knitting for my daughter. When I discovered Ravelry I got into crocheting afghan squares and blankets and I haven’t stopped.

 

Stained Glass Afghan Square

Stained Glass Afghan Square, available as a 12″ block pattern.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing? 

Julie: I’ve always changed patterns to my taste and would put together the yoke from one sweater with the sleeves from another so I guess I’ve been “designing” a little for years.
I joined some afghan square swap groups on Ravelry and perfected my technique using the patterns of many great designers. Interweave Crochet magazine and the Crochet Me website sponsored a contest in which readers could submit afghan square patterns and the winners would become part of a published pattern called the Chain Reaction Afghan Project. I just picked up my hook and started playing around and submitted a few designs. Three of my designs were chosen and appeared in Interweave Crochet in 2010 – 2011. It was very exciting and the start of my designing career. With Ravelry, I had a great tool to share my work.

 

Hexaghan

The Hexaghan, including 6 different hexagon designs joined together into one 61 hexagon blanket.

UC: You primarily design crocheted squares. What is it about square motifs that you enjoy designing? 

Julie: I love designing 12-inch squares in aran weight yarn and I have an obsession with Vanna’s Choice. I like the modern look of large scale stitching and I feel like a sculptor with my hook in hand. Fitting my idea into a 12-inch square and getting it to square is very satisfying. My squares are small enough to design and crochet quickly, and I enjoy writing a clear pattern that is easy to follow. I also like an unfussy and repetitive design; as a pattern-user I do not like to have to constantly refer to the instructions and I want my customers to enjoy themselves. Also, there are no fitting problems with blankets!

 

Catalina Afghan Square

Catalina Afghan Square, a free pattern available in both 9″ and 12″ sizes.

UC: Most of your patterns are self-published. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing? 

Julie: With Ravelry and Paypal and a head full of ideas, it is easy and stress-free to work this business around my life. I have a full-time job as a Registered Nurse and am raising a 16-year-old, so I can write and publish patterns around my schedule. Although I would love to have my patterns in magazines and books, for now I find this a great outlet for my creativity and am very happy with how it’s going. It is not for everyone; you have to be a jack-of-all-trades and competent with designing, writing, proof-reading, and know your way around the internet. No editors or publicists on my staff, haha.

 

Tangled Web Afghan Block

Tangled Web Afghan Block, a 12″ square design.

 

UC: You’ve hosted several Mystery Crochet-a-Longs. What do you enjoy about using this format to release your patterns? Do you have any tips for designers who want to dip their toes into the MCAL waters? 

Julie: Mystery Crochet-a-Longs are a fun way to draw interest to my patterns. I am lucky to have a base of fans who trust me and are willing to blindly follow where I go! I can only do it about once a year because designing, crocheting, and writing and proofreading a pattern for a whole blanket is very time-consuming! I need a compelling idea to keep my interest through the work! My fans seem to enjoy it and it keeps them interested in my new work. It also brings new fans. I’ve kept the Mystery’ghan free for participants and then later I put the pattern up for sale. The finished projects become a marketing tool. I’m always a little nervous hoping that people will like it after they’ve invested their time and money into a “Mystery.” My only advice is that you have your pattern fully tested before you start.

 

Garden State Afghan

Garden State Afghan, which Julie originally offered in June, 2013 as a MCAL design, includes eight 4″ squares, four 8″ squares, and two 12″ square patterns.

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

Julie: When I first started swapping afghan squares, Jan Eaton’s 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans was my favorite. I also worked my way through a few other square reference books, like 101 Crochet Squares by Jean Leinhauser. I love Edie Eckman’s Around the Corner Crochet Borders for finishing after I have a pile of squares to join! I sometimes use The Crochet Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden for stitch inspiration. I try to invent my own stitches these days!

 

Sun Catcher Afghan Square

 

Sun Catcher Afghan Square, a 12″ block.

 

UC: Are there any crafty websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Julie: I am a Ravelry addict and check in there several times a day. I like to check the Hot Right Now pattern list and I also check in with my group to see if anyone has any questions or if anyone has posted an awesome photo. :)

 

In Treble Afghan Square

In Treble Afghan Square, a 12″ block.

 

 

UC: What projects do you have coming up this year?

Julie: I am currently working on the pattern for my next Mystery-Ghan and hope to have that ready for a June 2014 start. Stay tuned to my Ravelry board for information on that. Clues will be given out over a six-week period and you will have a complete afghan finished!

 

Thanks again for stopping by, Julie, and I wish you and your fans the best for a fun summer Mystery-Ghan!

Interview with Tamara Kelly from Moogly

I can’t believe the last day of March is already here! I had so much fun celebrating National Crochet Month, and I’m happy to end the festivities with an interview with crochet designer and blogger, Tamara Kelly.

You may know Tamara from her blog, Moogly, or from crocheting one of the more than 130 designs she has published since 2008. Besides her blog, you can also find her online on Ravelry (as tamarairene or on her designer page), on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on Twitter as @mooglyblog.

All photos are used with permission and are copyright Tamara Kelly unless otherwise noted.

Tamara Bio Photo 2013

Tamara Kelly. Photo (c) RSH Photography.

 

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

Tamara: I tried to teach myself in my early twenties from a pamphlet I’d picked up at a craft store – what a disaster! And it didn’t help that I’d decided on a super fuzzy chunky boucle and a Tunisian hook (not that I knew the difference). I set it aside, thinking crochet wasn’t for me, until a few years later. At that point I’d gained a baby, as well as a sister-in-law who’d been crocheting for years. She showed me how to chain and single crochet, and in those 5 minutes I was “hooked!” I taught myself the rest from a stitch dictionary, and crochet quickly became my favorite craft!

 

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Tamara: I made many projects from other people’s patterns, but I often found I was making my own changes and improvements. When I started doing commission crochet work, other crocheters asked me to share my patterns – and I found I liked the design side better! With designing, I get to crochet what I want, when I want it, and never have to make the same thing twice if I don’t want to.

 

Riley Cross Body Bag

Riley Cross Body Bag.

 

UC: You self-publish all of your work. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

Tamara: The advantage is definitely control – I love being my own boss! All my deadlines are ones I set, and if I need to take a week off, or scrap an idea completely, or change directions, there’s no one telling me no. The challenge is not having a team – people to bounce ideas off of, people who are media and promotion experts. Luckily, I’ve been able to join a community of other crochet bloggers, and we support each other and help each other out.

 

Moroccan Midnight Cowl

Moroccan Midnight Cowl.  (Tamara also designed a matching pair of fingerless mitts and slouch hat.)

 

UC: You’ve undergone a few transformations online – from a mommy blogger, to a maker, to a designer/blogger. How did you make the decision to focus on designs, and then to offer your patterns free on your blog?

Tamara: I love new challenges, and I love being my own boss. When I tried mommy blogging, I got bored – it just wasn’t for me. When I started taking commission work, I loved getting paid for my hobby, but I didn’t love making the same things over and over again – and suddenly I had a whole bunch of bosses, with their own unique demands! When I design, I design for myself, for my kids, to my own tastes. I always love what I’m doing, and I think that that’s what comes through on the blog! I decided to make most of my patterns free, for several reasons. During the 10 years I spent crocheting as a hobby, free patterns were almost all I could afford. Additionally, I have a husband who works in the advertising field, so that model was familiar to me. By having ads on my blog, I’m able to provide free patterns, and give back to the community, while still earning a much needed income for my family – everybody wins! And that makes me happy.

 

Easter Lily

Easter Lily (November Lily).

 

UC: Do you see yourself primarily as a blogger, designer, or publisher, or do you wear all three hats equally?

Tamara: Definitely a blogger and a designer – and blogging and social media certainly take more actual hours of the day… but I’m always designing in the back of my head at the same time. I crochet in my sleep! Publishing is a side effect of running a blog I suppose, but it’s not something I think about too much. I just love putting together a great blog and fun patterns, and sharing them with others!

 

Circle of Love Afghan

Circle of Love Afghan.

 

UC: What tips or advice do you have for emerging crochet bloggers?

Tamara: Keep it positive, and be true to yourself and your own voice. Don’t worry too much about what will “sell” – share the things you love, and let that love show. Be generous with your time and talents, and find like-minded bloggers to network with. If you have a question, someone else has likely had it too!

 

Wavy Baby Blanket

Wavy Baby Blanket.

 

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

Tamara: Hands down my favorites have to be my stitch dictionaries. I have big ones, little specialized ones, and I hope to get some Japanese ones soon! The Harmony Guides 300 Crochet Stitches Volume 6 is what taught me how to read a pattern, how to read charts, and what amazing things crochet can do! (UC comment: This is one of my favorites, too, because it is so thorough. I’m also a stitch dictionary junkie, and you can see my reviews of this book and 20+ other crochet stitch guides here.) It is sadly out of print, so I had my copy specially spiral bound to preserve it. I still use it regularly!

 

Magic Spike Mandala Square

Magic Spike Mandala Square.

 

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

Tamara: So many! Ravelry is a great go-to of course, as well as The Yarn Box and All Free Crochet. I visit dozens of other crochet blogs every week, including Stitch 11, Repeat Crafter Me, Petals to Picots, Fiber Flux, The Crochet Lounge… and so many more!

 

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket.

 

UC: What plans do you have for the rest of 2014?

Tamara: There’s so many exciting things happening this year – not all of which I can talk about yet! I’m always planning new crochet and yarn related giveaways – and I love promoting small businesses that might be interested in giveaways, including other designers, indie yarn dyers, hook makers, you name it! Also in 2014, I’m leading the Moogly Afghan Crochet-a-Long, where we crochet a different 12″ square every 2 weeks from now until November – that will give us enough for a 4′ x 6′ afghan at the end of the year, and the month of December to put it all together in time for gift giving! It’s not too late to join up, and it’s all free. (UC comment: There’s an unofficial Moogly Afghan CAL 2014 group started by fans on Ravelry, too.)

 

Thanks for stopping by for an interview, Tamara! 

Interview with crochet designer, Sarah Jane

I’m continuing the (Inter)National Crochet Month festivities today with an interview with Australian crochet designer, Sarah Jane.  I was first introduced to Sarah Jane when I saw her beautiful Frostberry Hat pattern during the Indie Design Gift-a-Long last fall.  (And, after reading through Sarah Jane’s pattern descriptions, I learned that we frequently share the same tech editor, Juanita Quinones, who I interviewed here.)

You can find Sarah Jane online on Ravelry (as SarahJaneDesigns or on her designer page), Etsy, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter as sjjack44.  All pictures in this interview are copyright Sarah Jane Designs and are used with permission.

 

Sarah Jane

Sarah Jane.

 

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

Sarah Jane (SJ): No one in my immediate family crocheted but Mum was always a knitter. Once, at a family function when I was about 4 or 5, I was completely fascinated by a great Aunt who was crocheting an intricate doily.  Amazingly she was blind! She was kind enough to take the time and show me the basic stitches and send me away with a hook and some yarn. After that I never stopped. Mum kept me in yarn and I used the same hook for years…

 

Acacia Cloche

Acacia Cloche pattern.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

SJ: I never learned to follow patterns until I was an adult, so I guess I was always designing. I saw a small ad on a yarn website here in Australia for crochet designers/testers and emailed them. They were kind enough to take on an inexperienced designer and I did some work for them. When I came across Ravelry in a pattern search, I decided it was a match made in heaven. I haven’t looked back since!

 

Perennial Bag

The Perennial Bag pattern.

 

UC: You primarily self-publish your designs. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

SJ: For me there are some great advantages in self-publishing – the flexibility being the main one, as I have a large family. It’s great being able to set my own schedule. I also like having control over the final product and the look of the patterns.

The disadvantages for me are mainly promotional. I’m not very good at promoting myself, and this year I intend to focus on that more. I can be a bit scattered if I don’t set myself targets and goals, so I have to be careful to do this. Otherwise I end up with lots of WIPs and no written patterns.

I have submitted to a few magazines but so far without much success…maybe this year will be the one!

 

Frostberry Hat

Frostberry Hat pattern. (A matching Frostberry Cowl pattern is also available.)

 

UC: Most of your designs are hats, neckwear, and bags. What do you enjoy about these types of projects?

SJ: I like the smaller type projects for now because there is less of a time commitment involved. They are easier for me to complete while also looking after my family. My absolute favourites are hats. I love them, and here in Brisbane, where it’s often not cold enough for other crochet, you can always wear a hat! I would like to expand my range to include a few more garments in the future though.

 

Clio Hat and Cowl

Clio Hat and Cowl pattern.

 

UC: You also knit. Why did you choose to focus on crocheting for design?

SJ: While I love to knit, I am very slow so any knit designs would take me a year to complete. Crochet has always been my first love and I do feel that there are far more knit designers than crochet designers so I have chosen to focus on the crochet for now. I like to believe that I can offer something to enhance the crochet pattern market.

 

Serpensortia Hat

Serpensortia Hat pattern.

 

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

SJ: Goodness, there are so many I don’t know how to pick! For inspiration though, I love magazines and will spend far too long looking at all the pretty pictures.

 

Asperous Hat and Cowl

Asperous Hat and Cowl pattern.

 

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

SJ: Aside from yours, you mean :D ….

I spend a lot of time on Pinterest and Ravelry looking at all the pretty pictures.

 

Cottage Garden Beanie

Cottage Garden Beanie pattern.

 

UC: What are you planning for the rest of 2014?

SJ: I have quite a few designs in the works at the moment, it is always a busy time of the year for me as we are heading into winter here. I am lucky to have been given yarn support for a Steampunk themed collection so I am very excited for that and can’t wait to get it started!

 

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah Jane (and for the kind words about my blog!).  Best of luck with your upcoming designs!

Interview with (mostly) crochet designer, Anastacia Zittel a.k.a. anastaciaknits

As we pass the midway point of National Crochet Month, I’m excited to share an interview with indie designer, Anastacia Zittel, today.  Anastacia is active online as a blogger and on Ravelry, and you may have come across her as anastaciaknits.  She’s primarily a crochet designer, so I thought it appropriate to interview her during NatCroMo!

You can find Anastacia online on Ravelry (as anastaciaknits, on her designer page, in the Anastacia Knits Designs group, and in the Afghans & Blankets group, which she founded and co-moderates), in her Etsy shop, on her Facebook page, on Pinterest, and as @anastaciaknits on Twitter.

All photos in this post are used with permission and are copyright Anastacia Zittel unless otherwise noted.

 

Anastacia Zittel

Anastacia Zittel.

 

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

Amastacia Zittel (AZ): I remember learning as a little kid, like so many of us, from our mothers and grandmothers. I don’t really remember learning to crochet – both of my grandmothers were crafty (including knitting, crocheting and sewing), and dad’s family were especially crafty, and my mom made a lot of my clothes and toys growing up. I do remember moving and desperately wanting a new afghan for my new bedroom, and I couldn’t convince anyway on to make me one, so I went out and bought yarn and a hook and made myself an afghan – I was 14.

I got completely “hooked” and my grandmother started “lending” me patterns, which I wouldn’t return, and I quickly went from hooked to obsessed. Right around the same time, a church friend taught me to knit but it didn’t stick – I didn’t know that there were different methods and ways of knitting, I just knew I couldn’t knit. I kept trying though, and finally about ten years ago I just figured out how to do it on my own. Years after that, I realized that my style of knitting is different from any method I’ve ever seen – it’s sort of combo knitting but I do things backwards! It works for me.

 

Leafing for Spring

Leafing for Spring, a crochet wrap pattern by Anastacia.

 

UC: What was your original inspiration to start designing?

AZ: I always tweaked patterns – I couldn’t help myself, I always had to change things up! Around the time I was seriously crocheting, one of my grandmother’s developed Alzheimer’s. Part of me has always just wanted to honor the memory of her, sitting crocheting granny squares and ripples everywhere she went. I remember them hosting Bible study classes at their house, and even then, her crochet would be right by her side. So as corny as it may sound, I wanted my grandmother to be proud of me.  (UC comment: It doesn’t seem corny to me at all, Anastacia!  As I mentioned here, I started my crochet business for similar reasons.)

 

Triangle Trellis

Triangle Trellis, a crocheted shawl design by Anastacia, published in the Contrarian Shawls ebook.  Photo (c) Universal Yarn.

 

UC: You’re known online as “anastaciaknits” but most of your designs are in crochet. Tell us about how that came to be (both the name, and the focus on crochet designs).

AZ: I know, it’s crazy right? *laughs*. When Ravelry first started, I was big into knitting. I still really loved to crochet, but I was knitting pair after pair of socks. I’ve never been very creative when it comes to names (for years, my online name was zorrosmommy, named after my cat!). I like to use my name in profiles because it IS a unique name, so that’s why I came up with anastaciaknits. This was way before Ravelry offered pattern sales!

I had done some designing on my blog but had never really considered designing as a career, and by the time I realized I did want to design, I was already known as anastaciaknits & I didn’t want to change that. It’s frustrating sometimes because I get a lot of comments from people “Well I like your designs but I don’t knit!” Well, I don’t really design knit, either! But I feel it’s way too late to change my name now.

 

Around the Twist Log Cabin

Around the Twist Log Cabin, a knit blanket design by Anastacia.

 

UC: Though you have a range of designs, your patterns are mostly for shawls, scarves, and blankets. What do you enjoy about making those projects and designing those patterns?

AZ: I’ve always made a ton of afghans in my “personal” fiber arts – I make them mostly for charity and for fundraisers. I make a ton of scarves for charity, too, so it just seemed to fit that I design that stuff, too. The shawls were pretty much an accident! No seriously!

 

Scrap Shawl

Scrap Shawl, a customizable crochet pattern by Anastacia.

 

I was trying to design an afghan square for my first paid self published design, but my square wouldn’t turn into a square shape. I kept staring at it & realized I had a shawl started and I just kept going. The first design did really well and I started getting a lot of emails and PMs from people saying “I really like your shawl, but could you make a triangle shawl?” or “could you make one with more lace?” etc etc. Most of my shawl designs now are because someone specifically asked me to design it – often times it’s just a rough idea (like my Short Sands Shawl) and sometimes more specific – like the Scrap Shawl. There is so much endless variety that can be put into designing a shawl, and I’m just never ever bored designing and making them!

 

Anastacia Zittel Alzheimers blanket

Anastacia’s 2013 Alzheimer’s charity afghan.

 

UC: Every year you make an afghan and raise money for Alzheimer’s. How did that start?

AZ: As I mentioned, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately a few years ago, my uncle at the age of 50 was also diagnosed with the disease. My cousin Adrienne started doing the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk and one year she happened to mention that she wasn’t raising as much money as she was hoping to. My mom and I started brainstorming so we came up with the idea of the afghan, and then Adrienne had some ideas and input, too.

I crochet an afghan that uses granny squares and ripples (my grandmother’s two favorite types of afghans to make) and uses predominately the color purple (the Alzheimer’s color) and we sell raffle tickets. Any amount will get you one ticket, but additional tickets are sold at $5 a piece. Last year, we had several additional items also added to our prize pool & I’m working on making this year’s raffle bigger and badder than ever! I’m really proud and honored to be a part of this, and we raised over $850 last year alone for Every Mile’s a Memory, Adrienne’s team.

 

Blueridge Shawl

Blueridge Shawl, a knit shawl pattern by Anastacia.

 

UC: Most of your designs are self-published (although you’ve been published in several yarn company collections and magazines, too). What do you see as the challenges and rewards of self-publishing? Do you plan to continue this ratio of self-published to externally published patterns?

AZ: I love self-publishing for a lot of reasons. As a professional, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but the number one reason for me, is I am really, really bad at deadlines – they stress me out really bad, and when I’m stressed, I do stupid things – like forget to check gauge and realize your whole afghan is weirdly disproportionate & you have to take apart 3 seams and frog the whole thing. (Yes, this happened very recently for a design I just finished last month for Love of Crochet magazine!).

 

Hawaiian Sea Glass Shawl

Hawaiian Sea Glass Shawl, a crochet design by Anastacia.

 

I also really, really like the control one has over one’s designs when you do everything yourself. When you are working for a yarn company, not only do you lose control over the yarn and the color, but the finished design may not look anything at all like the design that started in your head. But it’s a LOT of work, and a LOT of time to do it right, and there’s definitely a big learning curve. I was lucky in that I already worked hard at taking decent photos, and photography is a big part of self-designing, and there’s always room for a lot of improvement!

I will probably concentrate mostly of self-publishing in the future. I’d really like to work regularly for one or two smaller yarn companies – that’s really my big dream!

 

Julia Heliconian Shawl

Julia Heliconian Shawl, a crochet pattern by Anastacia.

 

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

AZ: I have a HUGE pattern collection – though mostly vintage magazines. My favorite crochet book (besides stitch dictionaries) is the Woman’s Day Book of Granny Squares and Other Carry-Along Crochet – yes, that I got from my grandmother! Most of my first projects came from that book. I also love the The Ultimate Book of Scrap Afghans (from American School of Needlework that came out in 1999) – I’ve made a ton of charity afghans from that book!

 

Anastacias Scrap Afghan

Anastacia’s Scrap Afghan, a free crochet pattern by Anastacia (perfect for stashbusting!).

 

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

AZ: Pinterest! I spend way, way, way too much time on that site looking for inspiration! (UC comment: You can find Anastacia’s boards on Pinterest here.)

 

Thanks for stopping by, Anastacia!  I hope you break your fundraising record for the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk this year!

Readers, if Anastacia’s story has inspired you to donate, Anastacia contributes to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Interview with Frankie Brown

Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with Frankie Brown.  Frankie is a multi-craftual designer.  I first discovered Frankie’s work last year when I used her Jelly Mould Blanket motif in a baby blanket I made for my newborn cousin. After doing a little digging on her designer page, I realized that I had was already familiar with several of her designs (especially the Ten Stitch Blanket) through other blogs that I follow.

Frankie offers all of her self-published crochet and knitting patterns as free downloads through her Ravelry designer page.  She asks her fans to contribute to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, and, to date, over 600 of her supporters have contributed over £7,000 (over $12,000)!  Frankie is known as rosemily on Ravelry, where she also co-moderates the Frankie’s Knitted Stuff group.

All pictures are copyright Frankie Brown and are used with permission.
Country Rose by Frankie Brown
Country Rose, a crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.

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

Frankie: All the women in my family (and some of the men, too) knitted, crocheted, and sewed, so it was inevitable that I would, too. One of my earliest memories is my Mum teaching me to knit at the age of three. It was a pink square and I don’t think I actually knitted much of it. Later, I would be allowed to do the occasional row in my Mum’s or my Granny’s knitting. As I grew up, I would knit a lot with my Granny, who was probably the keenest knitter in the family, but it was my Great Aunt who taught me to crochet. I made endless giant granny square blankets, using random wool.

 

Treat Bag by Frankie Brown

Treat Bag knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Frankie: I was a member of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, which invited submissions for its quarterly magazine.  They would have a theme for each issue and these themes caught my imagination. The first thing I designed for them was a knitted ammonite for the ‘Sea’ theme and then the Ten Stitch Blanket. Mostly I interpreted the themes literally so I knitted a pile of holes for Holes and little people for Bodies (Bendy Bodies).  This was where I developed my taste for quirky knitting.

 

Woodland Wreath by Frankie Brown

Woodland Wreath knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Frankie: Most of my inspiration comes from things with straight lines: ironwork, tiles, things with patterns worked into them. I’m also a quilter and I’ve interpreted various patchwork blocks in knitting. I love Mathematical shapes and patterns, spirals, flexagons, tessallations. This leads on to origami which has been the starting point for various designs. Many of my patterns are worked in garter stitch which lends itself well to straight lines and angles. As well as shapes, I also love playing with colour and here I am inspired by just about everything I see. Often, I will get a colour scheme from fabric but the colours for one of my blankets came from a packet of tea. If all else fails, I use the colours of the rainbow.

 

Apple Core Blanket by Frankie Brown

Apple Core Blanket, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: All of your Ravelry patterns are available for free, but you ask people to donate to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation. Tell us what was behind your decision to offer all of your patterns for free, why you chose this particular charity, and how you feel this has worked out.

Frankie: When my Mum died, I thought about how she had used her creative talents throughout her life to raise money for various charities and I decided I wanted to do that, too. This coincided with me joining Ravelry and finding that people were already talking about the Ten Stitch Blanket. I chose to raise money for the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation as a friend’s son was born with biliary atresia and I have seen how this has affected them and also the help they have received from the charity. To be honest, most people that download my patterns don’t donate, but those that do are very generous and as more people find my patterns and they grow in popularity so the charity gets more money. I think the fact that my designs are free has also helped to spread the word about them. Many people have also used my patterns to knit things to help other charities, something which really pleases me. To be honest, even if nobody ever donated, I think I would still want my patterns to be free. I like sharing new ideas, just as you would tell a friend when you’d found something exciting, I like to share my discoveries with as many people as possible.

 

Jelly Mould Blanket by Frankie Brown

Jelly Mould Blanket, a crochet pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: Most of your patterns are self-published. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

Frankie: Really, I only see the advantages of self-publishing. I can design what I want, when I want and in my own time. I have control over how my pattern looks and I do my own proof-reading so there are less likely to be mistakes. I also really love the feedback that I get through Ravelry.  I’ve learnt how to write more clearly and the importance of good photos from people telling me when they get stuck on one of my patterns. Seeing what is popular also gives me ideas for new designs and I particularly enjoy the community that is building up on my Ravelry group, Frankie’s Knitted Stuff.

 

School Tweed by Frankie Brown

School Tweed, a knit pattern by Frankie Brown, available in the Tea Cozies 2 collection.

 

UC: You also have patterns in three collections by the Guild of Master Craftsman. How did you become involved with these projects?

Frankie: This happened at about the same time that I was writing for the Knitting and Crochet Guild. There was a competition in Knitting magazine for tea cosy patterns so I entered one year, then the next, then they had a coffee cosy competition … The books feature their favourite patterns from these competitions. The most exciting thing about these books for me was seeing my designs professionally photographed – they look so grown-up!

 

Big Dots Little Dots by Frankie Brown

Big Dots, Little Dots crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

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

Frankie: The books that I use most as practical tools are the Barbara Walker treasuries and Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book. I also love any books with a historical slant and collect Victorian knitting books. My favourites though are the Elizabeth Zimmermann books; I read those again and again. What she does is encourage you to play with your knitting and see what happens and that’s what I do.

 

Wheels within Wheels by Frankie Brown

Wheels Within Wheels crochet motif pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

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

Frankie: This is a tricky question.  You’re talking to the woman whose mobile phone is so old, it can’t even take photos, and who refuses to have a Facebook page. Ravelry is the only craft site that I use regularly, and although I enjoy chatting to people on my group there, that’s enough for me. I read various blogs for relaxation but none of them have much to do with knitting.

 

Double Spinning Star by Frankie Brown

Double Spinning Star, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: Do you have any future plans you’d like to share?

Frankie: I would like to write a book one day. I have in mind something that would show how to knit all sorts of shapes and textures, illustrating each one with a few simple patterns. That way, knitters could use it as a starting point to design their own projects. Most of my designs are based on really simple ideas and it would be good to share those with others.

 

Squares on a Roll Blanket by Frankie Brown

Squares on the Roll knit blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts, Frankie.  We’re looking forward to seeing that book – it sounds great!

Interview: Dora Ohrenstein, Crochet Designer and Author

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!

FO Friday: Phoenix Sunset

Years ago, I was in a job I didn’t love which required me to travel to Phoenix for a conference.  After a long, dreary day under artificial, hotel conference room lighting, I stepped outside just in time to see a stunning sunset.

The beautiful browns, yellows, and oranges really lifted my spirit.  The colors were in contrast with the blues and purples I usually see in New York City sunsets.  I tucked that image away in my mind for a future project.

A few years later, Knit Picks was seeking designs for a collection that was heavily influenced by the same colors.  I matched my idea for that design with a really cool stitch pattern and submitted the design.  It wasn’t chosen for the collection, but Knit Picks provided me with yarn so that I could submit the pattern to their Independent Designer Partnership Program.

And thus, the Phoenix Sunset was born.

blog Phoenix Sunset 2

I used one skein each of City Tweed Aran/Heavy Worsted in three colors.

blog Phoenix Sunset 1

I crocheted it flat, so it could be worn as a scarf.  I decided to join the short edges to make a circle scarf/infinity cowl, since I tend to wear those more often.

blog Phoenix Sunset 3

It’s so cozy and we’re experiencing a cold spell.  It was pretty tough to mail away the sample to Knit Picks (so they can add it to their pattern collection).  This is definitely a project I’ll be excited to see again.  I love the ripples and the texture, as well as the colors (which work well with my winter coat).

The Phoenix Sunset pattern is now available for pre-order on Ravelry.  You can save 50% using the coupon code phoenix through Friday, February 7.  The completed pattern will be uploaded this weekend, and you’ll get an email/Ravelry message update if you’ve already ordered it.

blog Phoenix Sunset 4

The pattern uses chains, double crochets, increases, and decreases.  I’m including two photo tutorials – one for the front post cluster (the stitch creating those beautiful, textured v shapes) and one for the invisible seam if you want to make it into a cowl.

 

For more Finished Object Friday posts, visit Tami’s Amis.

Interview with knitting designer and LYS owner, Aimee Alexander

Today, I’m really happy to share an interview with Aimee Alexander, a knitting designer, publisher, and local yarn shop owner.  Like me, Aimee is also participating in the Indie Design Gift-a-Long.  You can find Aimee online on Ravelry (as getknitty, through the c

Aimee Alexander.
Aimee Alexander.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to knit?
Aimee: I became interested in knitting at a young age when watching my mother knit. I’d help her ball yarn and learned soon after. She taught me the basics, but then dropped me off at our LYS and the owners there shared what they knew.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Aimee: I own an lys and started designing when I couldn’t find patterns for things my customers were interested in knitting. This, of course, was long before the Ravelry In-Store sales program. We don’t have that problem anymore, but I found I really enjoyed designing and I continue to do so.
I also edit and publish other peoples patterns. No long ago, I created Polka Dot Sheep Publications to encompass the addition of designers. Ravelry members can read more about it here.
Aimee's Crisscross Applesauce. (Click to link to pattern.)
Aimee’s Crisscross Applesauce. (Click to link to pattern.)
UC: Most of your patterns are for children’s items (and hats!). What do you enjoy about designing these types of projects?
Aimee: I have three small kids, ages 6, 5, and 3…
UC: Several of your patterns are published through the Knit n Needle yarn shop. Tell us how that collaboration began.
Aimee: I own Knit ‘n Needle Yarn Shoppe/PolkaDotSheep.com in Whitefish, MT. It’s a brick and mortar LYS. We just celebrated our 10th anniversary.
Aimee's Charlie's Sock Yarn Hat. (Click to link to pattern.)
Aimee’s Charlie’s Sock Yarn Hat. (Click to link to pattern.)
UC: What’s your favorite knitting book in your collection?
Aimee: Just one?
UC: Tell me about a designer you discovered through participation in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long. What attracted you that designer’s work?
Aimee: I really admire Jean Clement of Desert Rose Designs. I’ve had the splendid opportunity to moderate a Gift-a-Long thread with her and have appreciated getting to know her more. Her patterns appeal to our customer base, too. We’ve had some success with her Treyi Vest without having knit a shoppe model.
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Aimee!

Book review: Sweater 101 by Cheryl Brunette

Last June, I had the great pleasure of taking a series of Bruges crochet classes with designer Tatyana Mirer at Knit-a-Way.  Tatyana had some stunning sample garments, and I asked her about her favorite resources for sizing.  She brought me over the bookshelf and pulled out Cheryl Brunette‘s Sweater 101: How to Plan Sweaters That Fit… and Organize Your Knitting Life At the Same Time.  Though the price tag on the book was high, I decided to buy it.  I figured that I was supporting two small businesses (the LYS and the author/publisher) with my purchase.

sweater101

The book sat on my shelf for a while, mostly unread, but I did look through the charts in the back.  I even brought it several times to the knitting classes I teach when students asked about sweaters.  But I only finally got around to finishing reading it last month.

Cheryl has a wonderfully conversational (but not overly chatty) writing style that makes it easy for you to follow along.  Her introduction reminds us of the complexities of contemporary knitting, which for most of us is about an abundance of choice (in yarns, needles, and notions).  The downside of this abundance is that each project is a completely new adventure in tension, gauge, the habits of the yarn before and after washing, etc.  This contrasts with the past, when most knitters used the same needles and the same yarns predictably for most of their knitting lives.  As a result, knitting a sweater today is different than it was when my grandmother made one.

The next chapter, Basic Sweater Styles, provides detailed explanations with illustrations of the differences between drop shoulder, raglan, and set-in sleeve styles.  A Couple of Math Skills, the third chapter, provides an excellent tutorial for using your calculator memory to use your tension to calculate stitch and row counts.  Cheryl also shares what she describes as the “More-or-Less Right Formula,” a series of steps for increasing and decreasing (e.g., for sleeves).    The fourth chapter, Finding Your Gauge, goes into that zone that oh so many knitters dread – swatching.  In thorough but enjoyable detail, Cheryl outlines the process for swatching so that you can obtain useful information for perfectly fitted sweaters.

How to Size a Sweater to Get the Fit You Really Want is the chapter that many knitters will be drawn to (but I encourage you to read the book in order, nonethless!).  Cheryl describes several techniques for identifying the right bust size and length for a sweater pattern.  She also cautions readers not to follow her fashion advice (or anyone else’s, really) and to stick with “colors and styles that make you feel beautiful.”  Perhaps my favorite chapter is the one that comes next, How to Take Body Measurements.  Using delightful vintage illustrations, clear text, and some directional lines, Cheryl explains what to measure for different sweater types as well as how to measure it.

The next three chapters are really the core of Cheryl’s method.  In How to Assign Pattern Measurements, and Filling in a Picture Pattern, she explains where all of those measurements you just took fit into the picture patterns she encourages you to make.  Essentially, she suggests using an annotated “picture pattern” (similar to a schematic) to help you design your sweater projects.  These chapters help you match the measurements to different parts of the pictures and make calculations for knitting the sweaters flat.  After walking you through the process for creating your own picture pattern, Cheryl also shares sample written patterns of all three sweater types, matched with annotated picture patterns.  The final chapter, Beyond the Basics, provides a written explanation of how to vary necklines and sleeves and create vest and cardigan patterns.

Her appendices are what brought me to the book to begin with: schematics for 30 standard sizes, from 6 months to men’s size 50, for all three sweater types.  While measuring the intended wearer of your sweater would be ideal, it isn’t always possible, and these schematics will help you create sweaters for all of your loved ones.  (Or, if you are a designer or maker of finished sweaters, for your clients.)  The second appendix includes worksheets you can copy and use to plan and track your own sweater designs.

I haven’t provided a lot of detail on the Cheryl’s methods (you’ll have to buy the book for that), but I will say that Cheryl succeeds in sparking your enthusiasm for knitting a sweater of your own design while explanation (and then simplifying) the math involved.  Her method is clearly developed, understandable, and a wonderful start.  I can honestly say this is the only book I’ve ever read that really has made me say, “Wow, I want to knit a sweater” (and I’ve read a lot of sweater design books).  The hardcover version is spiral bound, which allows you to easily knit and read at the same time.  She offers an ebook version on her website, which is cheaper and interactive – you can fill in the worksheets before printing.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone who has wanted to take the leap into making a sweater.  While the book is clearly targeted at knitters, there are many elements (the process, the worksheets, etc.) that could be used by crocheters.  This would also be a wonderful book for an emerging designer looking for help with sizing sweater patterns.  Other than the price (which makes sense, as it is published by a small company), there are truly no downsides to this book.

A Challenge Accepted

YOP3 yarn

After posting my initial list and one brief update, life became rather too complex for me to do much work towards my Year of Projects goals.  And, then, suddenly it was December.

Last year, I did a lot of advanced holiday crafting, and I even finished all of my gifts by mid-November.  This year, not so much.  When Thanksgiving rolled around last week, I realized I was in for some trouble and sat down to look at my handmade holiday list.

Amigurumi Nativity heads

I started this nativity set for my Mom at the end of May, using Carolyn Christmas‘s Amigurumi Nativity pattern.  Currently, I have six heads and I just bought fiber fill, pellets for the bases, and some safety eyes.

My mom also liked this hat I designed, and asked for one in black.  Luckily, I have just the yarn in my stash.

Mountain Colors Twizzle

A few weeks ago, I received this beautiful skein of Mountain Colors Twizzle in Swift Current from Mountain Colors to review.  I figured you can’t review a yarn without trying it out, and something about it said shawl to me.  On Friday, I picked up the delightful Shaping Shawls by Anna Dalvi (an awesome book, by the way) and decided to try my and at designing a simple knit crescent shawl for my younger sister.  It’s about two-thirds finished now.

Geaux SaintsAnd speaking of my sister, I started an earwarmer for her boyfriend.  They currently are in law school in New Orleans but he’s accepted a job in Houston after graduation in May.  This will be reversible: one side will be for the New Orleans Saints and the other for the Houston Texans.  I’ve finished the first side in Tunisian crochet and it will need some serious blocking before it is gift.

Bill hat notes

I have little more than these notes I took earlier this year about my Uncle Bill’s hat.  He has one of those factory made cashmere hats, and I was planning to make a handmade version with some scrumptious Galler Yarns Pashmina I have on hand.  So far, other than the finding the note (which took some time!), identifying the yarn, and picking out needles, I’ve done nothing.

Diagonal blanket both sides

Luckily, I have finished one project - from my original YOP list, no less - a baby blanket for my dear friend’s newborn.

And then there are the 7 or so more handmade gifts that I haven’t even started yet. Oh, and 4 design samples due in mid-December for a magazine (but I haven’t received the yarn support yet).

So here’s my challenge to myself: finish a project every 2 days between now and the end of December.  What do you think?  Can it be accomplished?

For more Year of Projects posts, visit this thread on Ravelry.