Tag Archives: dora ohrenstein

Guest Post: Sharon Silverman on Tunisian Crochet

Today, I’m sharing a guest post with Sharon Silverman as part of her blog tour for her latest book, Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets.  I previously interviewed Sharon here as part of her blog tour for Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques.  I was all ready to write an introduction to Sharon, but she’s been kind enough to introduce herself in the guest post!  You can also find links to where to find her online at the end of her post.  All photos are copyright Sharon Silverman and used with permission.

I’ve inserted a few comments in purple.  Enjoy the post!

Tunisian Crochet Hits Its Stride

by Sharon Silverman

Tunisian Honeycomb Stitch.
Tunisian Honeycomb Stitch.

Thank you to Underground Crafter for the invitation to write a guest blog. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on Tunisian crochet.

First, a little bit about me. I became a crochet designer in a roundabout way. After writing several travel guides for Stackpole Books, editor Kyle Weaver asked me to do another guide to an area about ninety minutes away from my home. It just wasn’t the right project for me. My children were little, it would have involved a lot of commuting, and I didn’t have the essential insider knowledge that the book deserved. However, we really liked working together, and Kyle mentioned that Stackpole had just started a craft line. His exact question to me was, “Can you do anything?”

Why, yes! I crochet. The timing was perfect, since Stackpole had just released Basic Knitting. They hired me to write Basic Crocheting: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started. I rediscovered my love of the craft, was introduced to the fabulous yarn produced today, met a lot of fantastic designers, developed a great working relationship with photographer Alan Wycheck and editors Mark Allison and Kathryn Fulton at Stackpole, and have never looked back. After that first volume, I wrote Beyond Basic Crocheting, Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting, Crochet Pillows, Crochet Scarves, and Tunisian Crochet for Baby (coming September 2014), all for Stackpole; and Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets for Leisure Arts. My designs have appeared in the 2006 Crochet Pattern-a-Day Calendar and in Crochet Red: Crocheting for Women’s Heart Health (reviewed by Marie here).  I am a design member of The National NeedleArts Association and a professional member of the Crochet Guild of America. I have taught at venues large and small, and was featured on three episodes of HGTV’s “Uncommon Threads.”

When I was browsing through a stitch dictionary while designing for Beyond Basic Crocheting, I came across something I hadn’t seen before: Tunisian crochet. I didn’t have a long Tunisian hook, but I tried a few stitches on a regular crochet hook. Wow! I had never seen fabric like that created with a crochet hook. It immediately hit me that Tunisian crochet was the perfect solution to the problem I refer to as “rivers of double crochet.” That look does not have much to commend it, in my opinion, and I am always disappointed when I see it in today’s designs. (I think when people disparage crochet, that’s the style they’re reacting to. Can’t blame ‘em.)

Anyway, Tunisian had none of that “loopy” look. I started with a swatch of Tunisian simple stitch. It went so fast! I remember laughing out loud because it was simply so much fun to do. Soon I grabbed some scrap variegated yarn to see how that would look. The way the colors on the return pass appeared between the vertical bars of the forward pass…it was stunning. In short order I tried every single Tunisian stitch pattern in that book. Wait a minute: you mean I can make fabric that looks knitted and purled? Lace? Cables? Relief stitches without having to work around a post? And I can do all of that with a crochet hook? I’m in!

Tunisian Checkerboard Stitch (Medium)
Tunisian Checkerboard Stitch.

After putting one Tunisian pattern in Beyond Basic Crocheting, I started thinking about a book with all Tunisian patterns. With the right size hook and the right weight of yarn, Tunisian didn’t have to be bulky or just for blankets. It was perfect for garments and accessories as well. I wanted to call the book Tunisian Crochet: Not Just for Afghans Anymore! but Stackpole preferred the more sedate Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting.

At that time is wasn’t unusual for crocheters to say, “Huh?” when I mentioned Tunisian crochet. But everyone I taught it to was crazy about it. This was near the beginning of what I happily think of as the Tunisian crochet renaissance. Other designers were discovering or re-discovering Tunisian and doing fantastic things with it.

Fast forward to today. The Tunisian crochet group on Ravelry has almost 5,000 members—we’re waiting for you! Major magazines now feature Tunisian patterns as a matter of course. And the books! Scads of books either exclusively Tunisian crochet, or with a substantial number of patterns. The Tunisian Crochet Group on Yahoo is an excellent resource and a place to get questions answered. And, of course, you can check YouTube for tutorials.

One indefatigable proponent of Tunisian crochet is Kim Guzman (interviewed by Marie here). I think I have all of her Tunisian crochet books. Kim wrote a wonderful post encouraging all of us to be Tunisian crochet cheerleaders. You can read it here.

Along with Kim, many other designers are hard at work creating fantastic Tunisian patterns. I hesitate to name them because I know I’ll forget somebody—whoever you are, please forgive me, and post your name in the comments!—but some people whose work you might be interested in are Doris Chan, Dora Ohrenstein (interviewed here, book reviews here and here), Kristin Omdahl, Robyn Chachula (book review here), Vashti Braha (interviewed by Marie here), Marty Miller, Lily Chin, Karen Whooley, Sheryl Thies (book review by Marie here), Tammy Hildebrand (interviewed by Marie here), Darla Fanton, Jennifer Hansen, and others. A quick search for “Tunisian crochet” on Amazon gives a long list of titles.

As for my own work, my most recent Tunisian publication is Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets from Leisure Arts, available here.  (Ravelry members can see the book’s patterns on its source page here.)

TCBB cover (Medium)

The book gave me the opportunity to try some interesting Tunisian techniques, including stranded colorwork. I used that for the Bright Strands blanket.

Bright Strands (Medium)

Tunisian Crochet for Baby is currently going through the editing process. Here is a sneak peek at some of the projects.

Sharon Silverman Sneak Peak Collage

I hope you are inspired to do some projects in Tunisian crochet! Please share them with me on my Facebook page and my website. You are welcome to visit my Pinterest page also. Happy crocheting!

 

Thanks for stopping by, Sharon! 

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!

Book Review: Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet by Sheryl Thies

My regular readers know that I’m a lover of Tunisian crochet.  I recently finished reading an ebook copy of Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet: Learn How with 13 Projects by Sheryl Thies from Martingale, and I’m sharing the review today.  (Sheryl’s second Tunisian crochet book with Martingale, Tunisian Crochet Encore, was published this spring.)

Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet

In Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet, Sheryl Thies takes an interesting approach to the craft.  The other beginner Tunisian crochet books I’ve recently read (Kim Guzman‘s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet, reviewed here, and Dora Ohrenstein‘s The New Tunisian Crochet, reviewed here) are written by (primarily) crochet designers.  When Sheryl wrote the book, she was primarily a knitting designer and it’s interesting to see how that lens impacted her writing.

Get Hooked opens with a brief history of the craft (which, like most crochet histories, has gaps) and then moves onto an overview of different hooks.  Then there is a written and illustrated tutorial of Tunisian crochet basics.  As someone who learns best through reading, I found Sheryl’s detailed explanations of each stitch very helpful.  My regular readers know that I personally find line illustrations useless for learning crochet techniques – my brain just doesn’t work that way.  I can imagine that the lack of photo tutorials might make this book challenging for a true newbie who learns best through images.

Sheryl includes a troubleshooting chart right in this section, with causes and fixes to common beginner Tunisian crochet issues, and I applaud her for not burying that critical information in the appendices.  Similarly, Sheryl includes information on increasing and decreasing and color changes right up front, rather than hiding it in the appendices.  This formatting decision makes the book very beginner friendly, as you can see immediately what instructions are available to you while reading through the book.

Sheryl then dedicates a few pages to a discussion of gauge and blocking.  I think her background as a knitting designer influenced her to emphasize blocking, which is generally discussed minimally in crochet books.  For Tunisian crochet, which tends to curl, blocking can truly transform a project so it is great to see it discussed right up front.  (Actually blocking instructions are in an appendix, however.)

Button Down pattern.
Sheryl’s Button Down pillow cover pattern.

 

The book then dives into the patterns.  I count 17, while the book subtitle lists 13.  There are a few patterns with multiple components (i.e., a pullover with matching handwarmers) that could be completed separately, which accounts for the difference.

Pattern difficulty:

  • 1 beginner pattern,
  • 10 easy patterns, and
  • 6 intermediate patterns.

Project types:

  • 8 home decor projects, including 3 pillow covers, 2 bags, a blanket, placemats, and coasters,
  • 6 accessories projects, including 4 shawls/wraps, a scarf, and a pair of handwarmers, and
  • 3 women’s garments, including a cardigan, pullover, and jacket.
Sheryl's Rogue Ribs unisex scarf pattern.
Sheryl’s Rogue Ribs unisex scarf pattern.

All of the home decor patterns use medium weight yarns, and the accessories and garment designs feature several weights (mostly lighter than medium weight).  There is a diverse mix of yarns including some large brands and smaller, independent companies.  Again, I think Sheryl’s background as a knitting designer made her (and her publisher, and the yarn companies) more open to including lighter weight yarns.

My favorite patterns are the Button Down pillow cover, the Motivated Heretic entrelac shawl, and the Rogue Ribs scarf.  While Sheryl includes a range of pattern difficulty levels, the projects are beginner friendly.  Most have minimal shaping, and for the entrelac project, she uses one, multi-color yarn rather than have beginners using many different skeins.  Even the garments use simple construction techniques.

The book ends with appendices which discuss finishing (seaming, blocking, and adding “regular” crochet edges); charts for yarn and hook sizes, metric conversions, and pattern skill levels; and a list of materials resources.

Sheryl's Motivated Heretic entrelac shawl pattern.
Sheryl’s Motivated Heretic entrelac shawl pattern.

Like many books which include techniques and patterns, your enjoyment of the book will be improved if you like the patterns and are enthusiastic about learning the techniques by crocheting them.  (Ravelry members can see all of the patterns from the book here.)  While the book does include technical information about Tunisian crochet which would be helpful to a newbie, it may not be enough to let the book stand alone if you don’t find some patterns that you enjoy.  I recommend this book to new Tunisian crocheters, particularly those who enjoy working with lighter weight yarns, who enjoy learning the background details (the “whys”) of different techniques, and who learn from reading rather than primarily visually.  If you are an experienced Tunisian crocheter, you should take a look through the patterns to decide whether this book may be right for your style.

 

Full disclosure: A free review copy of Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet by Sheryl Thies was provided by Martingale. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Interview Series: Teresa Alvarez

Today’s Hispanic Heritage Month interview is with Teresa Alvarez, a Spanish crochet designer.  Teresa primarily self-publishes and last year had her first designs published in magazines.

Teresa can be found online on Ravelry (as teresacompras and on her designer page) and on Twitter.  All pictures are used with her permission and are copyright Teresa Alvarez unless otherwise noted.  Click on the pictures of the designs to link to the pattern pages.

 

Teresa Alvarez.
Teresa Alvarez.

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

Teresa: I suppose this is a classic answer: I was taught to crochet by my mum. I’d been watching my mum knitting jumpers for my sister and myself for several years and I was intrigued by how to transform a skein of yarn into something so different. Now, let’s relate this to the summer I learnt to crochet…

I’ve always lived in cities where you have all sorts of shops and amenities, but when I was a child, my family used to spend a month in a small (really small) village in Castille. Imagine for a 10 year old girl spending 30 days without friends, playing all day with her younger sister, running out of books and comics and no bike! Let’s say it was exciting to learn how the cereal crop was harvested or looking for ant’s nests, but … there was something missing for me. So, one afternoon we went walking to the neighboring village (even smaller than the one we were holidaying!) to visit one of my mother’s aunts, and there I saw a scene I will never forget: all the old ladies were sitting on chairs outside their houses chatting and knitting … no!!! they were not knitting, they were crocheting!!!

I was intrigued and I said: I want to learn, who can teach me, please? And that’s how it began. My mother taught me the basic stitches: single crochet, double crochet and a new world opened for me. The remaining weeks were spent crocheting dresses for my dolls and for my sister’s dolls and for my aunts’ dolls. In fact, my aunts have kept the dolls with the dresses and when I visit them, they show them to me.

Polka Dot Funky Bear.
Polka Dot Funky Bear.
Then, I stopped crocheting. At the age of 15, I decided I wanted to knit, so I spent the summer knitting, then, guess? I stopped until 11 years ago, when I was pregnant with my son: I decided I wanted a blanket, a very colorful blanket…so I picked up my needles again…and I didn’t finish the blanket before he was born. Two years later, my daughter was born and then I decided that I was going to crochet again. Why? Well, I wanted to make toys for them and bags for me…and a crochet hook is safer than a knitting needle (at least that is what I think!).
The only thing that saddens me is that my mum hasn’t seen what I’m doing now, because she passed away 8 years ago. I would like to let her know, that I would never forget what she taught me. Now that my girl is learning the basic stitches, I feel like I’m continuing with something beautiful, something that bonds generations and people from all ages. I’ve tried out with my boy, but he prefers football (soccer!).
Dotty, the Ladybug full of surprises.
Dotty, the Ladybug full of surprises.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Teresa: My way into the designing world is curious.  I’ve been up in Ravelry for some time. I uploaded my finished projects and I was delighted when someone favorited any of them. One day, I received a message from one guy working at Inside Crochet, asking if they could show one of the finished pieces in the reader’s section.  Of course, I agreed.

 

When I saw the photo in the printed magazine, I was so delighted that I said to myself: ‘Tere, you have ideas, write them down, upload them to Ravelry and see what happens.’
In my own way, I’m a creative person. I don’t paint or make sculptures, but I’m a computer engineer, I’m used to ‘creating’ programs to solve problems and to writing papers about computers and routers (‘boring stuff’). I think that writing down a pattern is more fun than writing about the Internet.
The next step was to send patterns to magazines. When Inside Crochet accepted the Vintage Granny Clutch, I was jumping like crazy! But it was even better when the Abracadabra Bag was accepted for publication. Call it the luck of the novice! But it was very gratifying.
Vintage Granny Clutch, published in Inside Crochet.  Photo (c) All Craft Media.
Vintage Granny Clutch, published in Inside Crochet. Photo (c) All Craft Media.

 

UC: Most of your patterns are for toys and bags. What appeals to you about crocheting these items?
Teresa: When I re‐entered the world of crochet, my son was almost 3 years old, and his sister was a few months old (a chubby baby!!!). I bought Ana Paula Rimoli’s book of amigurumi and a grey elephant was born. After several toys, I gained enough confidence to make a dress for my daughter, and many projects later I felt it was time to write my own patterns.
It seemed logical to go for toys and bags: the toys had two avid children waiting for them,whereas the bags had a bagaholic wanting to wear them(myself!!!!). Moreover, I usually crochet while my children are doing their homework, so I need something that is not very complex because my abilities of multitasking are quite limited: going through multiplications, sums, orthography, and the water cycle is not very compatible with designing a dress. Moreover, if they see me crocheting a toy, I can blackmail them: finish the homework and then the doll/monster/fish… will be yours!
Abracadabra Bag, published in Interweave Crochet.  Photo (c) Interweave Crochet.
Abracadabra Bag, published in Interweave Crochet. Photo (c) Interweave Crochet.
Most of the bags I design were made for me, although my sister usually ‘borrows’ them and I end up without them, which is a good incentive to design a new one. You know! A woman cannot have enough bags!
A flower toy called Rosita.
A flower toy called Rosita.

 

UC: Most of your current patterns are self-published. What do you enjoy about being a self-published designer? What are some of the challenges?
Teresa: Designing is a hobby for me.  My day job is at the University and I love it. I teach/lecture future Engineers, and research about congestion in Internet.  Although secretly I would like to be a full time designer, I’m not. Truly, I do not know if I should say I’m a designer…I see my patterns as a way of tidying up the ideas I have in my head.
Self‐publishing is faster and I can publish all the weird ideas I have. Some designs are better than others. I wouldn’t even dare to send one of my monsters to amagazine, but I like them and I like to share them. So, when Ravelers send me messages telling me they like this or that toy, it’s rewarding.
My self‐published patterns are free. I think I will go on like this, self‐publishing, and from time to time, publishing in a magazine. However, I have to reckon that a book full of my toys would be a dream come true!
Tunisian Cat Amigurumi.
Tunisian Cat Amigurumi.

 

UC: You’re originally from Gijon but now you live in Valladolid, Spain.  What was the yarn crafts scene like in Gijon when you were younger?  How does it compare to the current scene in Valladolid? 
Gijon and Valladolid are two middle size cities: there are around 300,000 inhabitants in Gijon and 400,000 in Valladolid. They are 240 km apart. The first is in the coast and the other almost in the center of Spain.  I was raised in Gijon. Thirty years ago, there were quite a few yarn shops in the city. Knitting was more fashionable than crochet. Crochet was made by grannies. The pieces were usually bedspreads and tablecloths in white using a very fine thread. No fantasy there!
However, my mum made some crocheted clothes for my dolls. Knitting was a different matter: scarves, pullovers, coats, jackets,… Maybe, times were different and knitting garments was at the same time fun and a necessity.  Slowly, yarn shops closed. Only those where the owners had a very good knowledge of knitting and crochet resisted the passage of time.  Nevertheless, the variety of yarns decreased. Now, I lived in Valladolid. My mother-in-law has told me that the scene was the same as in Gijon.
Sara the Lovely Security Blanket.
Sara the Lovely Security Blanket.

 

UC: What about in 2013?

Teresa: I can say that both cities have evolved in the same way. There is a new interest for crochet and for knitting. Maybe, the newcomer is crochet: there is the possibility of attending courses of amigurumi, fabric yarn (trapillo in Spanish), and there are more varieties of yarns, but British and American shops (at least online) have more things to offer.
I think that this new interest has grown exponentially during the last two years.  The first time I used the word amigurumi, no one understood whatI wassaying. If we talk about
hairpin crochet or Tunisian crochet, the same story… And, if we talk about tools: soft grip hooks, Tunisian hooks, it was like asking for an impossible mission. Now, some Clover hooks can be bought locally.

 

Five years ago, if I wanted a good selection of yarns or tools, I had to go online. Now, I can find more things locally. Even, I can buy online in Asturias (Gijon’s county) top‐end yarn brands. The same applies to Valladolid.  We are talking about two medium‐sized cities, they are not Madrid or Barcelona. But I can say we have great expectations!
Smiling Sun.
Smiling Sun.
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?  
Teresa: I think that I’m not a typical Spaniard, let me explain this: Although I’ve lived most of my life in Spain, I’ve spent several short periods living in the UK after finishing my degree. These stays have broadened my mind. So, when I began to crochet again and I couldn’t find what I was looking for in Spanish, I turned to the Internet and Amazon, and searched for patterns and books in English. Funnily enough, I learnt the term Tunisian crochet in English and then found the translation into Spanish: ganchillo con horquilla.  I am more familiar with crochet terms in English (American and British) than in Spanish. A shame!

 

Scrap Soft Toy.
Scrap Soft Toy.
UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet or craft blogs to share?
Teresa: I do not follow many blogs. I rather prefer to look for designers or patterns in Ravelry.  I really like Amo el Amigurumi, Fresh Stitches (a.k.a. Stacey Trock), and Las Teje y Maneje.
I also visit their pages, follow on Ravelry and buy their books: Ana Paula Rimoli, Stacey Trock, Dora Ohrenstein, Doris Chan, Kristin Omdahl, and Robyn Chachula. Each of them is different: Paula’s designs are beautiful in their simplicity. Stacey’s toys are unique with the blo sc stitch. And what can be said of those dresses without seams by Doris. The designs of Dora, Kristin and Robyn are impressive!  I cannot decide!!!!!

Thanks so much for stopping by Teresa!  (And yes, I do think you can call yourself a designer!)

 

The next interview in the series will be posted on October 10 with Cirilia Rose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Giveaway

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

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

To enter:

  • Leave a comment telling me about your experience with Tunisian crochet.  How did you learn, what are your favorite types of projects, and what would you like to learn to make with Tunisian crochet?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

Interview with crochet designer Annette Petavy

Today’s featured NatCroMo interview is with Annette Petavy, a crochet designer, blogger, and podcaster.  I first became aware of Annette’s work when I saw her Tulip Skirt in Interweave Crochet.

Annette can be found online on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Ravelry (as AnnettePetavy, on her designer page, and in the multilingual Annette Petavy Designs group).  Annette also has a French podcast, Mon crochet et moi, which is available on iTunes as well.  All images are used with her permission, and clicking on the photos will lead you to the pattern page.

Annette Petavy.
Annette Petavy.

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

Annette: I learned as a child, perhaps around 6 years old. My mother taught me, because I asked her to. All women in my family were doing some kind of textile craft (sewing, embroidery, weaving, knitting…) and both my paternal grandmother and my mother were avid crocheters.

Thirds, a free CrochetMe pattern by Annette Petavy.
Thirds, a free CrochetMe pattern by Annette Petavy.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Annette: After crocheting quite a lot as a child and a teenager, I became more of an occasional knitter. In my late twenties, an injury in my neck caused lots of problems with my left arm, and I stop fondling yarn altogether. But when I was pregnant with my second child twelve years ago, I couldn’t fight the urge any longer, and walked into a yarn store. I decided to try to take up crocheting again, since I could do this without putting too much strain on my left arm, which was still fragile at that point (I’m glad to say it is much better now!). This was twelve years ago, and there weren’t many crochet patterns to my taste around. I wanted to make a little jacket for my daughter, so I just winged it. It was my first crochet design!

 

Trickle Shawl, published in Inside Crochet.  Image (c) Tailor Made Publishing.
Trickle Shawl by Annette Petavy, published in Inside Crochet.  Image (c) Tailor Made Publishing.

UC: Can you tell us a little about how your experience as a Swedish designer in France impacts your design process?

Annette: From my Swedish background, I have a profound respect for all things handmade, and the feeling that you can make just anything by hand. I grew up seeing people making beautiful things themselves all the time, and I think that was very important.

 

Tulip Skirt by Annette Petavy,.  Image (c) Interweave Crochet.
Tulip Skirt by Annette Petavy,. Image (c) Interweave Crochet.

From my life in France (and I have now passed the point where I have been living longer in France than in Sweden), I have (I think!) a sense of style and elegance and a love for beautiful materials. A wonderful thing about French culture is that it gives you permission to think that things like beautiful clothes and accessories or delicious food have a lot of importance – and they have! Enjoying a great meal with family or friends, wrapping a gorgeous scarf around your neck or wearing a flattering garment that makes you feel pretty are things that create beauty, wonder and joy in everyday life.

 

Violet Points Scarf, a free pattern by Annette Petavy.
Violet Points Scarf, a free pattern by Annette Petavy.

With time, connecting my Swedish background and my life in France becomes more and more important to me, on all levels in life. There are a lot of very interesting developments in Sweden and the other Nordic countries around traditional textile techniques. I have also started importing Swedish yarns to France, and their specificity and character nourish my design process.

 

Arc de Triomphe Cardigan, published in Interweave Crochet.
Arc de Triomphe Cardigan, published in Interweave Crochet.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Annette: Sometimes, the idea for a design just comes into my head and I don’t know from where!

Sometimes, I get inspired by learning or exploring a specific technique. It can even be a knitting technique that I try to transpose to crochet that works as my starting point.

Other times, I find inspiration in a photo or a painting.

Or I just sit down and swatch different stitch patterns from a book, and start building my ideas from them. It’s so interesting to see how a stitch pattern evolves when you start modifying it!

What I think is the most interesting in my current design process is trying to free myself from existing stitch patterns and finding ways to create shapes in crochet myself. I’m currently working on a design where the stitch pattern is based on a picture of an exotic flower a friend in Florida sent me. The stole “Cirkel”, for which you can find the pattern in my web shop, is one of the first examples of finished designs in this vein. I wanted to design real, rounded circles on a filet background, which required quite a bit of drawing, swatching and creative use of stitches.

 

Ecume by Annette Petavy.
Ecume, a self-published pattern by Annette Petavy.

UC: Your blog is bilingual and your Ravelry group is trilingual. What do you see as the advantages and difficulties of maintaining a multi-lingual presence online?

Annette: Actually, my entire life is multi-lingual! I speak Swedish with my friends and family in Sweden, French in my everyday life, English with other friends and for work… Europe is a multi-lingual place, and if you want to be present on this market, you must communicate in several languages.

 

So, the advantages are that you include many more people, and get a bigger market. The difficulties? Essentially that it’s very time-consuming. Translations take time! Also, I only know three languages really well.

 

Arrows, a self published pattern by Annette Petavy.
Arrows, a self-published pattern by Annette Petavy.

Today, I’m basically working with those three: French, English and Swedish. I’m rebuilding my website to adapt for multilinguism. The next step is to create a stronger presence on the Swedish market, and the step after that is to branch out to German, Spanish… But then I’ll need help!

 

Road to Bruges by Annette Petavy.  Image (c) Interweave Crochet.
Road to Bruges by Annette Petavy. Image (c) Interweave Crochet.

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

Annette: I love stitch dictionaries, of course! I also really enjoy books that focus on specific techniques. Right now I’m trying to learn and explore Tunisian crochet seriously, and Dora Ohrenstein‘s book The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions is on my nightstand. I slowly learn different variations of this technique by making cotton potholders, a few rows at a time, before I fall asleep at night.

 

Cirkel, a self-published pattern by Annette Petavy.
Cirkel, a self-published pattern by Annette Petavy.

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community that you would like to share?

Annette: I have a lot of blogs that I read and enjoy, but I don’t have the time to follow them on a very regular basis. Of course, I use Ravelry several times a day! I’m also an avid podcast listener, be it when I crochet or when I do household chores. I recently re-painted my son’s room, and yesterday I painted a wall where I’m going to put a bookshelf for my cookbooks. My favourite podcast for painting is Jane and Jen Knit Funny!

When I do research on a specific technique, I come across lots of interesting sites and blogs. I’m always in awe of all the knowledge and inspiration that is out there!

 

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, Annette, and sharing your enthusiasm about design with us!

Interview with Amy Shelton, CGOA President and Crochetville Co-Owner

Today, I’m interviewing Amy Shelton, the co-owner of Crochetville and the current President of the Crochet Guild of America.  Amy is obviously a big supporter of the crochet community, both online and “in real life,” and she happens to be a pretty busy lady, too ;) – so I’m really glad she had some time to share her thoughts.

You can find Amy online as AmyS on Crochetville and Ravelry, on her Ravelry designer page, and on Twitter.  You can find Crochetville online at the main site, the pattern store, on Facebook, and on Twitter.  All photos are copyright Amy Shelton/Crochetville and are used with permission.

Amy Shelton.

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

Amy: My third-grade teacher taught all the girls in the class how to crochet.  (The boys weren’t interested.) We sat on the back steps of the elementary school during recess and learned how to make the basic stitches. My mom and grandmother were both skilled crocheters, so they helped me further my skills and knowledge at home. By the time I was in 8th/9th grade, I was making all sorts of thread projects using my mother’s Magic Crochet and Decorative Crochet magazines.

 

UC: Many crocheters know you as one of the owners of Crochetville.  How did you go from being a member to a co-owner?

Amy: It’s sort of a long story. Are you sure you really want to know? Actually, I think it’s a pretty interesting story, and I’m happy to share.

In 2004, my aunt sent me a gorgeous purple scarf using four or five different novelty yarns that she had crocheted for me as my Christmas present. I hadn’t crocheted much for several years, but the scarf made me pull out my old hooks. I searched for online crochet message boards and came across Crochetville in January, 2005.

At the time, there were fewer than 800 members and the site used free message board software. In February of that year, Donna Hulka (co-owner of Crochetville with me) had to move Crochetville to a new site host and new message board software due to the number of members and site visitors. I didn’t post much at the time, as I was admin for a message board for a small indie business in another industry.

In 2006, I became involved in helping run the site when someone with extensive message board admin experience was needed to help Crochetville make the transition from being a small site where everyone knew each other intimately to a much larger site with new members joining on a regular basis. Within a month of my involvement, Donna made me a co-administrator of the site.

As 2006 progressed, Crochetville continued to grow exponentially. The number of concurrent members and guests on the site meant we had to move from a shared server to a dedicated server, because our site volume was crashing the entire server. Crashing the sites of those businesses that share the server with you doesn’t tend to make you a lot of friends!

Dedicated server hosting plans are quite expensive. Donna and I decided it was time to turn Crochetville into a business so it could pay its own bills. We could no longer justify paying Crochetville’s operating expenses out of our personal household budgets. In January of 2007, we took the plunge and formed the legal entity of Crochetville LLC. We’re pleased to say that Crochetville LLC has been profitable from the very beginning!

We now have over 63,000 registered members and an average of 123,000-170,000 unique site visitors each month. Our periods of heaviest traffic tend to be the months of October through February.

 

Amy's version of the Collette Poncho by Jenny King Designs. (Click for pattern link.)

UC: Sometimes joining an online community can be a bit overwhelming.  What suggestions do you have for a newbie who wants to get her (or his) feet wet on Crochetville?

Amy: Crochetville is now so large (with over 2.4 million posts) that it can definitely be a bit overwhelming for people new to the site, especially if someone is also new to message boards in general. Crochetville is a very friendly community thanks to all of our wonderful members who spend time there every day. Here are my tips on how to make friends and begin to feel at home at Crochetville:

  1. If you’re new to message boards in general, take the time to read our FAQ document. It has lots of information on how to navigate the forum, respond to a discussion thread, start your own discussion thread, and more.
  2. If you’re just new to Crochetville, spend some time on the main page of our site. Make note of the different sections into which the site is organized. Read the folder descriptions so you’ll know where you’ll be able to find certain types of information. That will also help you know the best place to start a new discussion thread.
  3. Before making your first post, spend some time reading through current posts on the forum. Once you’ve got a feel for the atmosphere of the forum, jump right in and post a thread to introduce yourself. Jump into any other discussions of interest. Our forum members are some of the nicest crocheters I’ve found. They’re always happy to welcome new members, answer questions, help direct you to patterns.
  4. If you have a crochet business, take some time to read our general advertising policies. If you have an indie crochet business (pattern designer, hook maker, yarn dyer, etc.), read our free advertising policies. There are many different ways you can promote and advertise your business for free on Crochetville, getting your name out to hundreds of thousands of dedicated crocheters throughout the year. Indie businesses frequently have very limited advertising/marketing budgets, if they have one at all. We know it’s difficult to get the word out about your business, so we’re happy to provide an easy, free outlet to help you reach your target market of dedicated, enthusiastic crocheters.  (UC comment: Thanks for sharing this great resource for indie crochet entrepreneurs!)

 

Amy's Dreamcatcher Crystal Earrings design.

UC: You’re currently the President of the Crochet Guild of America – thanks for your volunteer efforts on behalf of the crochet community!  How can crocheters become more involved with the CGOA or local chapters?

Amy: Serving on the board of the Crochet Guild of America has been an amazing experience. I’ve truly enjoyed the opportunity to help promote CGOA’s mission to preserve and advance the art of crochet. I encourage everyone to join the CGOA. The cost is only $35 per year and many benefits come along with membership.

For more information on CGOA, please visit the website.  You can check out the list of member benefits here. One of the best things about CGOA is Chain Link, our crochet conference. Held twice a year, the conference offers crochet classes to suit every level of crocheter. There is also a show floor with vendors selling yarn, patterns, hooks, tools.

For those aspiring to become a crochet professional, CGOA offers a free mentor program to members. You can be paired with a crochet professional who will provide information, assistance, and encouragement to you.  Members can also become involved at the national level by serving on various committees.

There are also many CGOA local chapters around the country. Most chapters offer monthly meetings where you can meet with others who share your love of crochet. Some meetings are informal sit-and-stitch events while other meetings may include classes, workshops, and other in-depth instruction.  Many chapters also contribute to various crochet charities on a regular
basis. To find a chapter near you, visit this page. If there’s not a chapter near you, consider starting one. You can find information on how to start a chapter here.  (UC comment: I also recently learned about the Cyber Crochet online/virtual chapter on Ravelry when I interviewed crochet tech editor, Juanita Quinones.)

 

Amy's Midnight Relaxed Cardi. (Click for free Red Heart pattern.)

UC: I’m sure it is hard to find time to crochet for yourself with such a demanding schedule.  When you do have a few moments to crochet, what are your favorite types of projects to make?

Amy: It is sometimes difficult to find time to crochet, but I do my best to work crochet time into my schedule as often as possible, even if it’s only a short period each day. Garments and accessories are my absolute favorite things to crochet. I love to make tops, sweaters, jackets, shawls, scarves, and handbags.

 

Amy's Business Card Case design.

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

Amy: Don’t quit your day job right off the bat! Most crochet professionals are in the business because of their deep love of crochet, not because it’s a get-rich-quick industry. It takes a lot of effort and time to create a regular, sustainable crochet income.

If you want crochet to become your full-time job paying you a full-time living wage, be prepared for a lot of hard work. Most professionals find that in order to make a full-time income from crochet, they have to wear many different hats: selling designs to publishers, independently publishing patterns, teaching (locally and/or nationally), writing books and pattern leaflets, tech editing, and more. The more you can diversify with different income streams, the more financially successful you will be. The number of people who can make a full-time living from crochet is quite small indeed when compared to all those who consider themselves crochet professionals or aspiring professionals. I don’t want to discourage people or crush anyone’s dreams, but it’s important to recognize the current reality of the industry.

If all you want is some extra income as a supplement to your other income, then things will be much easier for you.

Social media is becoming more and more important as well. You need to have an outlet to reach customers and build a relationship with them. Having a presence on Crochetville, Ravelry, Facebook, and your own blog or website is imperative. Be careful with what you post. Customers want to feel a connection to you, but you don’t need to draw them into the minute details of your personal life.

The best piece of advice I can give is to take advantage of CGOA’s free mentor program. The professionals who volunteer their time to serve as mentors are doing so because they love this industry and they want to give back some of what was given to them on their way to professional status. I think it’s pretty amazing that they’re willing to train and instruct their future competition, all for free, don’t you?  (UC comment: I participated in the mentor program a few years ago, and learned so much from my mentor, Mary Nolfi.  I can’t speak highly enough of this opportunity!) 

Do a lot of research and network with other professionals. Attend Professional Development Day at CGOA’s Chain Link conferences. You’ll get to meet and talk with many other professionals in pretty much every crochet discipline. At Chain Link, designers can also participate in Meet-and-Greet sessions with crochet editors on Saturday. It’s an excellent opportunity to show your portfolio to editors face-to-face, a chance that you’ll only find at this conference.

 

Amy's version of Doris Chan's Lipstick on Your Collar.

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

Amy: My crochet friends who know me well can tell you that I have a love for making garments designed by Doris Chan. The first conference I attended, I think 90% of my crochet wardrobe were pieces designed by Doris, and I hadn’t even realized it at the time! So I’d have to say my favorite crochet books include all of Doris’s books.

For reference books, I love Edie Eckman’s books, Margaret Hubert‘s The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet (which I have on my iPad), and Lily Chin‘s Crochet Tips & Tricks. Dora Ohrenstein’s books are also a valued part of my collection as well as several different Japanese stitch dictionary books.

 

Amy's version of the Circle Vest by Kimberly K. McAlindin.

UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?

Amy: Crochetville will be unveiling our new blog in the near future. (If we haven’t done so by your time of publication.) The blog will provide us an ideal format to post our own articles about the crochet industry, crochet tutorials, book and product reviews and more. We have many exciting things planned for the new blog in 2013!

I really enjoy reading Vashti Braha‘s crochet newsletter. She includes wonderful insights into her design process and detailed information about stitches or techniques she’s currently working with. You can sign up for her newsletter here.  (UC comment: I’m also a huge fan of Vashti’s newsletter, and I interviewed her about it here.)

Doris Chan’s blog is another favorite full of crochet information.

 

Amy's Ladybug set for the PJ party at STITCHES Midwest 2012.

UC: Besides the blog, what else is new at Crochetville?

Amy: Crochetville has undertaken a new partnership with Red Heart Yarns this past year. We have joined together for a vendor booth at the Chain Link conferences/Knit and Crochet Show events as well as STITCHES events across the country. We currently plan to have a booth at these six shows per year, and we’re looking to expand our travels.

You’ll find a variety of Red Heart’s yarns in the booth, especially Boutique yarns, Aunt Lydia’s bamboo threads, Luster Sheen, and other yarns that are sometimes difficult to find in your local stores. We also carry a good selection of Susan Bates crochet hooks and tools. If you live anywhere near one of these conferences, come by our booth for the perfect chance to see and touch the yarns in person.

Our booth also features exclusive crochet kits, crochet books (and author book signings), custom-made jewelry, shawl pins,and buttons in colors designed to perfectly match/coordinate with Red Heart yarns, Dreamz interchangeable flexible Tunisian crochet hook sets, and something new: access to our digital pattern store.

You can purchase digital patterns right in the booth, print them in the booth, then log in to your account later to download your pattern to your own computer or mobile device. This makes it so easy to buy and print a pattern, buy the yarn and other supplies you need, and take everything with you so you can start your project immediately.

We do our best to make our booth the most fun booth at these events. Drop by to play our game show called “Let’s Make You Squeal.” Drop by many times throughout the day to see what will be on sale for a 15- to 20-minute period during our special Flash Sales.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Amy, and sharing your advice with us!

 

 

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

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Juanita Quinones

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! 

Interview with Sharon Silverman, author of Crochet Scarves, with book review and giveaway

Today, I’m really excited to interview Sharon Silverman.  Sharon is a crochet designer, author, teacher, and now, TV crochet expert.  I was first introduced to her work through her book, Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting, and I’ve had the pleasure of taking a Tunisian crochet class with her at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio.  I’ll also be reviewing Sharon’s new book, Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques, and hosting a giveaway of the book, courtesy of Stackpole Books, so read on for more details!

Sharon can be found online at her website, blog, and Facebook page.  She is also on Ravelry (as CrochetSharon and on her designer page).

 

The Interview

Sharon Silverman.

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.

 

 

Cascading Beads Shawl, one of Sharon's self-published patterns.

(Available for download here.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

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.

Springtime Miters Pillow, from Crochet Pillows with Tunisian and Traditional Techniques.

 

 

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.

Red Hot Heart Pillow, from Crochet Pillows with Tunisian and Traditional Techniques.

 

 

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.

Marabou from Crochet Scarves, using woven yarn.

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.

Accordian Arrows, from Crochet Scarves.

 

 

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.

Classic Plaid, a Tunisian crochet pattern from Crochet Scarves.

 

 

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 Threads qualifies me for that title, but maybe I’ll make your compliment come true one day!

My advice for aspiring professionals:

  1. Get organized. Find a way to keep track of your work, your proposals, your finances.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!)

Diamond Loop, a pattern from Crochet Scarves.

 

 

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

Sharon: I have several stitch dictionaries I turn to often, including The Crochet Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden, and some Japanese stitch guides. Shirley Paden‘s Knitwear Design Workshop is fabulous. I have two of Tine Solheim‘s books, which are in Norwegian but have such interesting designs that the language hardly matters. Tunisian crochet books and patterns by Kim Guzman are some of my favorites. I admire the work of my designer colleagues Doris Chan, Ellen Gormley, Kristin Omdahl, Annie Modesitt, Robyn Chachula, Dora Ohrenstein, Mary Beth Temple, Lily Chin, and Marlaina (Marly) Bird. I try to keep up with new books and magazines regularly.

Premium Cable pattern, from Crochet Scarves.

 

 

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!)

Honeycomb Skirt pattern, from Tunisian Crochet.

 

 

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 Giveaway

The nice folks at Stackpole Books have been generous enough to donate a second copy of Crochet Scarves for 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.

To enter:

  • 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?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

FO Friday: In the Mail! and Blog Hub Swap, Day 3

Last week, I was frantically knitting up swatches for the Craft Yarn Council Certified Instructors Program in Knitting class.  Over the weekend, I learned a lot, met some wonderful people, and had a great time in the class.  This week, I collected all of the sign in sheets from knitting classes I have taught in the last few months.  (In addition to taking the certification class or correspondence course, you have to show that you’ve taught for 15 hours for each level of certification.)

My teaching forms are in the envelope. I get to keep the stack of swatches (to use as class samples or to unravel).

It is great to have that completed.  I remember when I sent in my materials for the crochet certification, it took several months to process, so I’m still hopeful that I can meet my goal of becoming certified by May 1.

And now on to Day 3 of the Blog Hub Swap!

Today is Loopi Loopi day.

 

Sheepi sheepi, Loopi loopi, Yummi yummi, Scari scari, Citi citi, and Scarfi scarfi.

 

I suspected that this package might be a book of some kind because of the size and shape.

Loopi loopi is revealed to be Issue 27 of Inside Crochet!

What an interesting surprise.  You may remember that one of my crochet patterns was published in Inside Crochet in August, 2011.  (I’ve since renamed it the Sunshine of Your Love blanket and pillow set, and will have both U.S. and U.K. versions of the pattern available for sale on Ravelry in a week or so.)

Heather from the Nude Ewe has really gone “above and beyond” with this item, as one of the required swap elements is a pattern and this magazine has thirteen patterns.  I particularly enjoyed the articles (about crochet artist, Nathan Vincent; SIBOL; and fit by Dora Ohrenstein, whose new book I reviewed here).  I think Irina Kireeva’s Spin-O-Rama pattern is really fun – what a great color work project.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the firestorm of internet activity related to the publisher of Inside Crochet, All Craft Media.  Alex Tinsley at Dull Roar has summarized the issues pretty well in this blog post (along with links to other blog posts and Ravelry threads), so I don’t feel the need to rehash everything.  Yes, I know they have appointed a new publisher, but let’s just say I’ll be waiting a while before submitting any patterns to Inside Crochet again…

 

For more Finished Objects, visit Tami’s Amis!