Interview with Rhelena from CrochetN’Crafts

Underground Crafter Crochet Specialty of the Month 2015

Welcome to my themed blog series, Crochet Specialty of the Month! Each month in 2015, I’ll feature a specialized crochet technique, stitch pattern, or project type through several posts.

As part of this month’s focus on broomstick lace, I’m sharing an interview today with Rhelena, the blogger behind CrochetN’Crafts. Rhelena shares free crochet patterns along with craft and sewing tutorials on her blog. Rhelena happens to have quite a few broomstick lace patterns and tutorials available, and I’m also sharing a mini roundup of my 4 favorite free broomstick lace crochet patterns from her collection.

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You can find Rhelena online at CrochetN’Crafts, or on Facebook, Pinterest, Ravelry, and Twitter. She also maintains a free pattern directory, Crochet Pattern Bonanza. All photos are copyright Rhelena/CrochetN’Crafts and are used with permission.

Interview with Rhelena from CrochetNCrafts on Underground Crafter with free crochet pattern roundup
Rhelena from CrochetN’Crafts.

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

Rhelena: My sisters taught me the double crochet when I was kid. One of my older sisters and I crocheted a huge blanket using scrap yarn that someone had given us. After that I learned by following pattern books. In my late teens/early 20s, I began working with crochet thread and enjoyed making pretty doilies.

Broomstick Lace Wrap, free crochet pattern by CrochetN'Crafts.
Broomstick Lace Wrap, free crochet pattern by CrochetN’Crafts.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Rhelena: One of the biggest reasons behind it was that nothing ever fit me when I followed patterns. I’m very short, and it didn’t matter what pattern I followed it was always way too big for me. So I found it easier to just design my own from scratch. A few of my first patterns were a pair of slippers and a tank top.

Broomstick Lace Cowl, free crochet pattern by CrochetN'Crafts.
Broomstick Lace Cowl, free crochet pattern by CrochetN’Crafts.

UC: Several of your patterns include broomstick lace. How were you introduced to broomstick lace, and what do you enjoy about designing with it?

Rhelena: I learned about broomstick lace when I began to study the history of crochet. I was intrigued to discover that in the olden days, they had used actual broom sticks to create the lace. Knitting needles are commonly used today, which in my mind makes broomstick lace a cross between crochet and knitting. And for me it’s simpler than knitting because you work with only one needle and one crochet hook.

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Another reason why I love broomstick lace is because it creates a nice lacy texture on the fabric. It’s great for wraps, blankets, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

An 18-inch doll dress Rhelena sewed for her niece.
An 18-inch doll dress Rhelena sewed for her niece.

UC: You also sew and share sewing tips on your blog. Do you have a favorite craft or does it depend on the project or season?

Rhelena: Crochet is by far my favorite hobby because it’s so easy to do. In school I was taught the very basics of knitting, but I soon discovered that holding one hook was far less complicated than trying to work with two knitting needles. At the same time, I love the gorgeous drape of knit fabrics and I hope to one day learn how to knit beautiful sweaters and other tops.

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As for sewing, at one point I had this crazy dream to be a seamstress. During the course of that dream I made quite a few pajamas and simple clothes for myself. I also made a graduation dress for my one niece and a doll dress for her younger sister. Both dresses were done in a satin material, which is difficult to work with. As a matter of fact, I ruined the first dress and had to go back to buy new material and start over. At that point I realized that although I enjoyed sewing, it wasn’t something I wanted to do for a living.

Broomstick Lace Chunky Crochet Scarf, free crochet pattern by CrochetN'Crafts.
Broomstick Lace Chunky Crochet Scarf, free crochet pattern by CrochetN’Crafts.

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

Rhelena: The books that taught me how to read and follow crochet patterns will always be my personal favorites. My sister-in-law once gave me an old worn out book that gave you basic instructions on various arts and crafts, including crochet. I no longer have that book, but it will always have a special place in my heart because that book taught me how to read a crochet pattern. After that I resorted to those Leisure Arts pattern booklets that I picked up at Walmart. Two of my personal favorites are Dainty Little Doilies and Pineapple Doilies.

I also have a digital stitch directory that I’m finding very inspirational, especially when it comes to designing patterns.

Broomstick Lace Beaded Valance, free crochet pattern by CrochetN'Crafts.
Broomstick Lace Beaded Valance, free crochet pattern by CrochetN’Crafts.

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

Rhelena: Yes, there are many designers who inspire me. A few of my favorite websites are Cre8tion Crochet, Jessie At Home, Kim GuzmanPatterns For Crochet, and Red Heart. (UC comment: I previously interviewed Kim Guzman here.) I love their designs and seeing them inspires me to bring out my own creativity.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Rhelena, and sharing your love of broomstick lace with us!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Juanita Quinones

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

Today, I’m interviewing Juanita Quinones, also known as BoricuaCrochet, a crocheter I met on Ravelry who is also a crochet tech editor.  Originally from Puerto Rico, Juanita moved to the mainland U.S. about 20 years ago and now lives in Pennsylvania.  Her projects can be found on Ravelry here.  All pictures are used with her permission.

BoricuaCrochet’s version of #15 Lace Pullover by Dora Ohrenstein. (Click for project page.)

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

Juanita: My journey began by watching a neighbor making doilies when I was about six years old. After that, I picked up a stitch dictionary, Mon Tricot Knitting Dictionary Stitches Patterns Knitting & Crochet, that my mother had and learned each of the stitches. It is my preferred stitch dictionary, and I do still keep that copy. I always wanted to make wearable projects. I remember and still have my first poncho done when I was 13 years old. (UC comment: Wow, that’s impressive!  As much as I love stitch dictionaries, I’ve never worked my way entirely through one.)

UC: Can you tell us about your involvement with the Home work project through the Cyber Crochet chapter of the Crochet Guild of America?

Juanita: This group has taken the task of creating samples of the patterns provided in the Home work publication that is available online.  (UC comment: I love the full title of this book – Home work: a choice collection of useful designs for the crochet and knitting needle, also, valuable recipes for the toilet.  It was published in 1891 and is now in the public domain.)

It is a collection of vintage patterns of stitches, motifs, edgings, insertions, and other patterns both in knit and crochet. We are making the crochet samples. I’ve taken the task of coordinating these efforts and adding the patterns to Ravelry with pictures from several volunteers. We hope to have the samples available for display at one of the future CGOA conferences. We hope they inspire crocheters and designers alike to incorporate in future projects.  It is always better when you have a picture of what these patterns look like. It is a big project and we have completed about a third of the samples.  (UC comment: Thanks for your work on this great project which has benefits for the entire crochet community!)

BoricuaCrochet’s Mikado Lace, from Home work. (Click for project page.)

UC: You are a crochet tech editor. For my readers who don’t know, can you explain what a tech editor is and tell us how you got started tech editing?

Juanita: In a nutshell, a tech editor revises patterns from designers in an attempt to make them error-free before they are published. The tech editor makes sure the pattern is accurate and complete in how it uses the correct abbreviations, follows standards, and/or provides explanation for new or uncommon stitches used. We don’t need to make the item to know when something is missing, needs more clarification, or needs consistency.

I don’t know why – perhaps because of my mathematical background and/or experience writing technical documents – but it has always been easy to identify when a pattern has an error. Always, I’ve sent the comment(s) to the publisher and/or designer. It was after submitting several corrections that a well-known designer influenced me to pursue the career.

UC: Tell us about the crochet scene in Puerto Rico.

Juanita: There are a lot of artisans in Puerto Rico that work with thread, in what is called “Mundillo” (a bobbin lace). There are only a few yarn stores in Puerto Rico. There are classes offered by different groups for both knit and crochet, but they are scarce.  My passion for the craft increased when I moved to the States about 19 years ago as there were more yarns readily available.

I don’t think there is rivalry amongst crocheters and knitters in Puerto Rico. I think most learn to do both even when they prefer one or the other. Like I prefer crochet and my mother prefers knitting, but we know both.

BoricuaCrochet’s Prim Wheel Lace from Home work. (Click for project page.)

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

Juanita: I think my cultural background influenced the type of yarn that I prefer to work with. I prefer to crochet with cotton, bamboo, linen, or silk, but not wool (although at times I do use wool for felting). Since we don’t have changes in seasons, I do prefer colorful yarns all the time, and not according to seasons.

UC: What are some of your favorite Spanish or English language craft blogs to share?

Juanita: I prefer to read from the groups available in Ravelry. There are only a few blogs that I read, for example, Laughing Purple Goldfish Designs and Jimmy Beans Wool.  I also like the Talking Crochet newsletter and Crochet Insider.


Thank you so much for stopping by to share your experiences with us, BoricuaCrochet! 

Crochet Book Review: Crochet Compendium

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Today I’m reviewing Crochet Compendium: The Ultimate Collection of Crochet Techniques, edited by Connie Ellison.  I have recently updated my crochet book collection, which is why you are seeing so many book reviews!  The Crochet Compendium is an interesting book for the crocheter who is looking to branch out and learn new skills. It is basically a compilation of many DRG crochet books. DRG’s Annie’s Attic books often feature an innovative approach to a crochet technique, or a re-introduction to a lost crochet art.

The chapters in this book are:

Broomstick lace
Crocheting doilies
Double-ended crochet
Filet crochet
Crochet with fleece
Mosaic crochet
Hairpin lace
Learn to crochet socks
Symbol crochet
Wiggly crochet
Crochet basics

Each chapter includes an introduction to the technique and one or two patterns. I happen to own two of booklets exerpted in this collection, Learn to Do Hairpin Lace and Learn to Crochet Socks the Toe Up Way! by Kim Kotary.

I compared the original books to see what is actually included in the Crochet Compendium. The Crochet Compendium includes the entire set of instructions for each of those two books, so I assume that it includes the full instructions for the other books in the compilation as well. The benefit of this, of course, is that you have all of the same technique/skill information in this one book as you would get from purchasing about fifteen or so booklets. In addition to saving you money, having the one book saves some room on the bookshelf and you can actually find it later since there is a name on the spine (which the booklets lack).

I’ve always found the DRG booklets helpful for explaining techniques because they use a combination of illustrations and photographs showing exactly where the hook should be placed. This book continues that tradition (because all of the content is previously published). The Crochet basics section would be helpful to a beginner crocheter and reviews the basic stitches as well as simple color changes and finishing techniques. This is definitely a book that a crocheter could “grow” with since many different skills are included.

On the other hand, you have one or two patterns for each technique instead of the 5-10 included in the original booklet. I tend to rely less on patterns and am more interested in learning different techniques (I have been crocheting for 27 years after all!), so I don’t personally have a problem with that aspect of the book. The patterns are typical of what you would expect from DRG booklets (i.e., primarily using medium/worsted weight yarns from big box stores, clear instructions, and not particularly groundbreaking from a style or fashion perspective). Again, this is alright for me but this isn’t the book for you if you are expecting trendy designs with luxury yarns (or fitted fashions with a lot of drape). Rather, it is a book that emphasizes technique with a pattern or two to help you apply the technique. If you are the type of crocheter that really needs to work through several patterns to get comfortable with a new technique, this book may not include enough patterns for you.

The booklets were thin enough to lay flat when reading so you would be able to look at photos and diagrams very easily when learning a new technique; in book form, it is actually rather difficult to do that. The hairpin lace section, for example, is near the center of the book. Hairpin lace is a technique that is increasingly popular and I imagine many readers may want to learn it first. You would basically have to damage the spine in order to spread the book out so you could read the instructions and look at the visuals while you work. Your alternative would be to keep flipping to the book, working on your crochet, opening the book up again, etc. This is no different than most crochet books, but it is a definite disadvantage compared to owning the booklets that are compiled in this collection.

Is this book a must-have? I don’t think so. Is it a nice addition to your crochet library? Probably. Someone who has been crocheting for while and likes to shop at Annie’s Attic may already have several of these booklets in his/her collection. If you are interested in learning many of the techniques featured in the book, there is a definite cost savings compared to buying each booklet (and some are out-of-print or difficult to obtain). From that perspective, the book would save you some money and you would probably be willing to deal with the binding (no worse than most crochet books, just not as easy to use as a booklet). The book would also make a nice gift for a crocheter who is trying to learn new things – it includes some of the hottest techniques and skills in crochet right now (e.g., broomstick lace, hairpin lace, symbol crochet, crochet socks, and tunisian crochet) as well as others which are really fun.  I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.