Tag Archives: embroidery

Interview with Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux

Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

I’m finally back on track with my posts for (Inter)National Crochet Month, and today I’m sharing an interview with one of my favorite crochet (and knitting!) bloggers and designers, Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux. Back in January, I was honored to be interviewed by Jennifer on her blog, and of course when NatCroMo came around, I wanted to share her story with you all.

This post contains affiliate links.

Jennifer can be found online at Fiber Flux, as well as on FacebookGoogle+Pinterest, Ravelry (as iheartfiber and on her designer page), Twitter, and YouTube. I’m also including a roundup of my favorite free crochet patterns from Fiber Flux (as well as one free knitting pattern thrown in for good measure!). All images are used with permission and are copyright Jennifer Dickerson/Fiber Flux.

Jennifer says,

Thanks so much, Marie, for having me here on your awesome site!  I have a lot of admiration for you as a crafter and business person and am honored to be here today.

Thank YOU so much for stopping by, Jennifer!

Free pattern roundup & Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

Jennifer Dickerson.

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

Jennifer: I taught myself to knit years before I learned to crochet.  Being a member of Ravelry, I often would come across gorgeous examples of crochet.  I wanted to learn for quite some time and a lovely (and very patient) aunt of mine who is a very experienced and talented crocheter taught me the very basic stitches.  She is known in our family as the “afghan queen” and was the perfect teacher.  After that I was quite taken with the craft and have had the crochet bug ever since!

Free pattern roundup & Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

Alpine View Wrap, free crochet pattern on Fiber Flux.

UC: What inspired you to start designing? 

Jennifer: It is really amazing all of the things you can do with some yarn.  My very first pattern, Lightning Fast NICU and Preemie Hats, was created because I wanted to make a large donation of little hats to a local hospital.  As a mother, I love the idea of wrapping the tiniest babies in something lovingly handmade.

I Like Crochet April 2015 banner

From there, I began making other things inspired by the people around me and from that came a scarf for a loved one, a hospice shawl, and lots more.  I still design each of my patterns with someone in mind as I am creating them.

Free pattern roundup & Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

Raspberry Sorbet Button Cowl, a free knitting pattern on Fiber Flux.

UC: Although you have a lot of variety in your patterns, you definitely have quite a few cowls and scarves. What do you enjoy about designing neckwarmers?

Jennifer: I am somewhat of a scarf and cowl fanatic.  From early fall to mid spring, I honestly wear one every single day!  I have very heavy ones for the coldest of days and lighter ones for the house and when it warms up a bit (hopefully that will be soon!).  One of my blog friends even dubbed me the scarf queen at one time!  When I get together with friends and family, I will often send them home with a scarf around their neck too.  I love to wrap those I care about with a warm wooly neck hug.

Free pattern roundup & Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

Pumpkins on a Fence Scarf, free crochet pattern on Fiber Flux.

UC: You have tons of videos available on YouTube. How’d you get started filming videos and they’re numbered in episodes. What’s your approach to sharing videos with your fans?

Jennifer: Actually I make videos entirely because of my readers.  They have been asking me for years (yes, years!) to make videos of my projects.  I launched my YouTube channel in the fall of 2013 and have had a great time exploring this fun way of sharing information.  I have the most awesome readers and they have been very supportive and appreciative of my new endeavor.  I often accompany a video along with my written patterns, so that people can refer to it if they get stuck or need additional information.

Free pattern roundup & Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

Philomena Shawlette, free crochet pattern on Fiber Flux.

UC: In addition to crochet, you also share knitting and embroidery patterns and tips on your blog. As a multi-craftual lady, how do you divide your time between these different crafts? Do you have a favorite?

Jennifer: Percentage-wise I definitely have more crochet patterns and videos, but I definitely find joy doing both.  Crochet and knitting are so similar in many ways, but just different enough, so when I feel stuck or need to take a break from one craft, I will often switch and pick up a pair of needles or vice versa.

Celebrate National Craft Month

I am thankful for both of them because it often will help me “reset” my creative button from time to time.  I will always knit and I will always crochet. They are both such a big part of my life!

Free pattern roundup & Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

Ocean Air Scarf, free crochet pattern on Fiber Flux.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Jennifer: I suppose many crafty people can relate to this, but I really do find inspiration everywhere…colors of produce at the farmer’s market, the high fashion runway, the local yarn shop, the way a particular fabric drapes over a shoulder, the juxtaposition of texture.  My background in art certainly helps me make creative decisions too…prior to being part of the yarn world, I was a painter, making large abstract paintings and showing them in local galleries.  This training in classical art making with regards to color theory, composition, perspective, etc. most definitely influences me as a designer too.

Free pattern roundup & Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

Crochet Class Cowl, a free crochet pattern on Fiber Flux.

UC: What is your favorite crochet book in your collection?

Jennifer: I am a bit of a book collector…I have piles and piles of them and enjoy flipping through them often.  I love Sarah London‘s use of color and pretty much anything from Linda Permann.

Laurinda Reddig‘s latest book (that I had the pleasure to review recently) has been an exciting read too.  My stitch dictionaries get a lot of milage are are jam packed with post-it notes, full of things scribbled in the margins, and most of the corners are folded in to mark a spot. (UC comment: I’ve previously reviewed Sarah’s book here and Laurinda’s books here and here.)

Free pattern roundup & Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

Cherries in Bloom Infinity Scarf, free crochet pattern on Fiber Flux.

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

Jennifer: To get a big picture view of what is going on in the craft word at any given time, I am a frequent visitor of Ravelry and craftgawker.  I just love to peruse the beautiful handiwork and see the collective beauty of so much talent!  I am so grateful to have made friends with lots of other bloggy stitchers who inspire me not only with their talents, but their wisdom and business savvy as well…I find myself hopping onto their blogs regularly too.

Free pattern roundup & Interview with crochet & knitting designer & blogger Jennifer Dickerson from Fiber Flux on Underground Crafter

Renaissance Button Wrap, free crochet pattern on Fiber Flux.

UC: How are you celebrating NatCroMo this year?

Jennifer: My crochet hook is pretty much an extension of my hand, I will most likely be doing what I already do on a daily basis…crochet, crochet, and more crochet!

Thanks again for stopping by, Jennifer! I’m looking forward to oodles more videos on your YouTube channel.

And, if you like neckwarmers as much as Jennifer and I do, you may want to check out my Crochet Neckwarmers Pinterest board!

Follow Underground Crafter’s board Crochet Neckwarmers on Pinterest.

New in town: Stitched TriBeCa

Some of my longtime readers know that I teach crochet and knitting for DC37, New York City’s largest union of public employees, as part of their Saturday Activity program.  Today was our first class in 2014, and one of my students mentioned that she saw a new yarn shop on Warren Street.

Though it was probably only 10 degrees Fahrenheit, I walked a few blocks out of my way to check it out.  After all, can I really miss out on a New York City yarn shop?  (Check out my reviews of my favorites here.)

Stitched TriBeCa signage

While wandering about on Warren Street, I came across Stitched TriBeCa, a relative newcomer in the neighborhood.  While Stitched sells yarn, I wouldn’t really call it a yarn shop.  As the sign suggests, it’s a place where you can learn, make, shop, and connect.

I didn’t have much time to chat with the owner, Val, since there were two classes in session, but she was very welcoming and she did let me take a few pictures.  (You can read Val’s inspiration for opening the shop here, and I think quite a few of us can relate to her experience of finally being able to “go balls out & unabashedly explore” her love of crafts.)

Stitched TriBeCa buttons

I was immediately drawn to the button bowl (no surprise there).  I love that you can just dig in and make your own button discoveries!

Stitched TriBeCa sergers

The decor is simple, bright, and functional, and there is plenty of room for sewing and serging classes.

Stitched TriBeCa sewing machines

(The store is bigger than these pictures suggest, but I was avoiding certain areas so I wouldn’t snap a picture of any students.)

Stitched TriBeCa shopping

There’s a small shopping area.  Stitched sells Cascade Yarns (the January sponsor of the 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long) and basic knitting needles and hooks, along with fabric, embroidery supplies, and some cool upcycled crafts.

Stitched TriBeCa classes

Stitched has an interesting vision: combining classes for adults and children with shopping for essential supplies as well as crafts by local makers.  It has a clean and orderly look, but it’s also vibrant and the classes seemed to be going well.

Stitched TriBeCa fireplace

I really love the fireplace – especially since it was insanely cold outside.

Stitched TriBeCa yarn window display

And the window display is fun and welcoming.  If you’re in the neighborhood, you should check them out!  You can see a list of their current classes along with a schedule on the Stitched TriBeCa website.




Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework (1984)

VintageNPotW 400

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This week’s pick: Complete Guide to Needlework (Reader’s Digest) by Reader’s Digest.

Source:  MC’s mother’s collection.*

Publication date: Eighth printing (1984) of 1979 edition.

Status: Out of print but available at reasonable prices online.

Condition: Very Good.

Crafts: Applique, Crochet, Embroidery, Knitting, Lacework, Macrame, Needlepoint, Patchwork, Quilting, and Rug-making.

Complete Guide to Needlework cover

You know a book is a classic when you find it in the collections of two amazing women.  I came across this book in my grandmother’s collection after she died, and I took it home with me when we cleaned up her apartment.  Two years later, when I moved in with MC, I found another copy in the books he kept to the side after his mother died.  (I ended up giving my grandmother’s copy to one of my best friends.)

This book is a great resource because it includes information on so many different needlecrafts, but also because it goes beyond the basics in a way that most contemporary books don’t.  There is definitely an assumption that the readers of this book will need these crafts to make garments and home decor items for their families, and as a result, the writers attempt to share the skills needed for designing and finishing great custom items.

From the section on crochet necklines.

From the section on shaping crochet necklines.

From the section on knitting necklines.

From the section on shaping knitting necklines.

The book starts off with a section on embroidery, a craft I love the look of but lack the patience for actually doing.


Complete Guide to Needlework 21 embroidery sampler

There are quite a few great embroidery samplers shown, followed by detailed illustrations for making loads of stitches.

Complete Guide to Needlework 46 running sts

I haven’t spent much time looking through the next two sections, Needlepoint and Applique.

The Patchwork section has a lot of beautiful and inspiring pictures, but I’ve mostly avoided it.  (As a fairly lazy quilter, I’m partial to newer books with detailed strip piecing instructions.)

Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern.

Grandmother’s Flower Garden pattern.

The Quilting chapter mostly focuses on hand quilting, but there are some tips for machine quilters, too.

The Knitting chapter is one of my favorites.  Some of the highlights include tips for getting neat selvages…

Complete Guide to Needlework 284 Selvages

illustrated and written instructions for different types of double increases and decreases…

Complete Guide to Needlework 291 decreases

Complete Guide to Needlework 293 decreases

and the above-mentioned tips for neckline shaping.

Complete Guide to Needlework knitting necklines 2

There are also some great patterns, like this one for a classic Aran sweater…

Complete Guide to Needlework 315 aran pullover

and this one for a lovely evening set.

Complete Guide to Needlework 354 evening set

And, naturally, I love the crochet section, too.  Like the knitting chapter, it includes a stitch guide…

Complete Guide to Needlework 377 motifs

and sections on quite a few specialized techniques including woven crochet…

Complete Guide to Needlework 383 woven crochet

Tunisian crochet…

Complete Guide to Needlework 387 Tunisian crochet

and broomstick lace.

Complete Guide to Needlework 389 broomstick lace

And also like the knitting section, there is plenty of information about shaping crochet garments.

Complete Guide to Needlework crochet sleeves

After the crochet section, I tend to lose interest since I don’t do any lacework, macrame, or rug-making.  But I do like that there are sections on all of these crafts, because you never know when I might pick one of them up!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Vanessa Laven

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

I’m thrilled to interview blogger Vanessa Laven today.  Vanessa was actually the first person I interviewed on my blog and I’m a regular read of her own wonderful blog, Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts.  Vanessa is also Cuban-American and from the NYC area, so I feel a strong connection to a lot of the stories that she shares about growing up and her family life.  In addition to her blog, you can find Vanessa online on Ravelry, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter.

Vanessa Laven in one of her knit cowls. (Click for blog post.)

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to knit, crochet, and embroider?

Vanessa: My mother had taught me how to knit but it never really stuck, ditto for crocheting. I picked up the Klutz book about crochet and suddenly it clicked with me. I fell in love and I joined a Stitch n Bitch group. I decided to give knitting another try and this time my mom’s advice stuck. My sister, Maritza, taught me how to embroider when I was in the fourth grade but again, it never really stuck. My mom kept nagging me to not embroider all the time because it would ruin my eye sight, so I dropped it. In college, I bought Jenny Hart’s book and kit and this time it stuck. I embroidered a bunch of doodles on to a pair of old jeans and while it looked super cool, I never wore them after that. Plus my hands were killing me. I didn’t know at the time that I should have used a better needle!

Vanessa’s multi-crafty Frida Kahlo doll. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You are multi-craftual. What is your favorite “go to” craft these days?

Vanessa: I find my knitting to be the most portable project, so it’s the one I do the most often. While I do like to crochet, I find that sometimes my crochet stitches end up coming undone if I try to tote it around with me. Plus, I have to look where I’m crocheting. I knit so much that I can do it by feel now, which has become a “party trick” of mine. I once managed to play Texas Hold ‘em Poker and knit at the same time. It was less impressive than it sounds because I really don’t know how to play poker all that well. Embroidery has become a sort of “in between projects” project, mostly because I tend to make much smaller pieces. Plus, it satisfies that part of me that still likes to color in coloring books.

Vanessa’s Lily Owl. (Click for blog post.)

UC: We both have parents who were born and raised in Cuba.  Tell us a bit about your background and the crafting scene at that time.

Vanessa: I grew up in Union City, NJ. At one point, Union City was called “Havana on the Hudson” because we had more Cubans living here than in Havana. (UC comment: Yes, this is where most of my Cuban extended family lives!) When I was growing up, I would say that 98% of my classmates were Hispanic. We had a few Indian and Egyptian students but they were the exception rather than the rule. I don’t remember many people outside of my family crafting, but there were a few businesses advertising hand painted signs. My niece Olivia took a bunch of photos of these signs.

Apparently, most of them have been taken down. I love the look of the lettering but I’ve never really seen them outside of the greater NYC area.  (UC comment: Olivia has a great website of her own here.) 

My town does have an interesting crafty history. Starting in the late 1880s up until the 1990s, there were tons of embroidery factories. My parents worked a few, actually, particularly during the Viet Nam war. The factory they worked at made military insignias like company badges and rank stripes. They would take the big sheets of these home to cut out and got paid for so many that they cut.

My mom also worked in clothing factories. It’s where and how she learned to sew. My father was part of the book binder’s union thanks to one of the places he worked at. He later stopped factory work and became the superintendent of the buildings we lived in. He wasn’t the best handyman but I think part of him really enjoyed it. He used to build and set up model trains and also enjoyed photography, though he was terrible at it.

Vanessa’s Featherweight Cardigan. (Click for blog post.)

UC: Tell us about your blog. How did you get started blogging?

Vanessa: My husband bought a “Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts” t-shirt for me and thought the name would make a great blog for me. I had just finished up chemo two months before and I needed an outlet. He encouraged me to blog about the things I made during treatment. I was really shy about it at first but I quickly dove in. I had a Live Journal account for years so the idea of blogging wasn’t new to me. I’m glad that I listened to hubby because I love to blog like this! It’s given me both an outlet and a sense of purpose which is what I needed especially so soon after being so sick. (UC comment: I’m glad you listened to him, too, because your blog has a really unique perspective to offer!)

Vanessa’s hexipuffs. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You share some of your personal life, including your experience as a cancer survivor and posts about your family, on your blog.  A lot of crafty bloggers struggle with how much is enough/too much to share of your personal life.  How do you find the balance between being part of a community and maintaining your privacy?

Vanessa: I try to keep my personal stories focused on either crafting or cancer. With my cancer experience, I felt best to share the good, the bad and the really ugly because I wasn’t prepared for most of what happened. And if I felt that way, chances are good that someone else does and hopefully I can better prepare them.

I do share a lot about my family’s history partly because I think it’s a unique story, particularly how my parents met. And it’s the easiest way to share with the rest of my family since we’re all around the world at this point. Thanks to Facebook, lots of cousins and uncles (my father’s half brothers) are coming out of the woodwork and finding us. Most of them are still in Cuba but a few are in Miami and Venezuela. My mother’s family are in Cuba but do have internet access so it’s been nice to share with them as well. I’ve often thought about turning some of their stories into a novel, so I try to write those entries as creatively as possible. I also feel like everyone has a great story. Hopefully, I can encourage other people to put the tales of the past down on paper to preserve them. I do regret that I didn’t get more memories out of my father before he passed away.

Vanessa’s Wurm Hat for Olivia. (Click for blog post.)

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

Vanessa: I’m not sure if I can say that there is a direct influence, but it certainly is a passive influence. Whenever I pick up my needles (be it to knit or sew or crochet) I feel like I’m part of the past. My mother remembers that her mother, sister, and later, her step-mother, would spend time making bobbin lace when they weren’t busy making clothing for the family. Her friends tell me that they were all taught to knit socks before they were taught the alphabet!  My parents didn’t have a lot of schooling (my mother left school around the 4th grade and my father the 6th) but they both learned trades. My mother’s was more domestic (making clothing for the family and housewares and how to cook) but my father was a cobbler. I think about them when I’m working away and I laugh. What today is considered “hip” and “novel” and “crafty” was, once upon a time, part of a normal education. I remember trying to sign up for Home Ec in High School only to be told that they changed the class format. It was now a parenting class for the girls (and boys) who were expecting. I’m very sad to hear that this isn’t something that was unique to my public school system. If we bring back these skills, I’m sure we’ll see an overall increase in math and reading scores. (UC comment: I agree, Vanessa. We use math all the time in the needlecrafts!)

Some of Vanessa’s embroidery. (Click for blog post.)

UC: You recently moved to Hermitage, Tennessee from the Northeast.  What’s the crafting scene like down there?  Do you have any favorite spots to share?

Vanessa: I’ve noticed that quilting tends to be a lot more popular in the South. I’ve been able to find more fabric shops than local yarn stores. Also, the big box stores like Joann’s tend to rule. Since I’m not really a quilter, it’s been difficult for me to find my niche.

Vanessa’s childhood kung-fu ID card. (Click for blog post.)


UC: One of the things that’s unique about your blog is your combination of needlecrafts with martial arts and self-defense.  (One of my favorite guest posts on your blog is by Packing Pretty.  Thanks for introducing me to someone who so stylishly conceals weapons for personal protection!)  Tell us about your interest in martial arts.

Vanessa: I started martial arts when I was in the first grade. My parents put me in ballet and I hated it. Then they tried tap dancing and I hated that, too. The last thing on their list was the kung-fu studio that was near. My brother had taken lessons with Sifu Vizzio and suggested that they sign me up. They did and I loved it! I was finally in training to become a Ninja Turtle. Unfortunately, I had to stop thanks to homework overload but I always carried that regret. I tried some other styles as an adult but it wasn’t the same. I missed Sifu and I missed Fu Jow Pai.

For me, martial arts helps me relax and focus on my goals. The philosophical aspect of it has also spoken deeply to me. I’m not sure I’ve discovered the meaning of life but it’s helped me really think about what I’m doing here. I come out of class feeling like I’ve honed both my body and my mind and I’ve got them working together.

UC: What are some of your favorite Spanish or English language craft blogs to share?
Vanessa: In Spanish, I love Che Crochet. She’s an Argintine crocheter and makes some really nice stuff. Of course, I also have to mention FreshStitches as an English crochet counterpart. Stacey’s designs are fun and really modern. Mighty Distractable also makes me feel better for having a thousand interests and a short attention span.

I also read Craftzine to keep up to date on the latest crafting news. And I love to listen to CraftLit while I’m busy. Heather Ordover is a great hostess and knitwear designer in her own right. She’ll be starting Jane Eyre (my favorite book), which has wonderful knitting references, in October. I think I’ll work on something lacey and fancy while I listen.

UC: What’s next for Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts?
Vanessa: I do have some pieces in the works of my own. I’m currently designing a cancer awareness hat that should be released in November. And I’ve got some more book reviews and tutorials in the pipeline so keep your eyes peeled in the next few weeks! I’m not quite sure what next year has in store for Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts, but I’m always open to suggestions.


Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story, Vanessa!

3KCBWDAY7 – Crafting Balance

I know how to do most needlecrafts, but if you’ve been following my blog you will already know that crochet is my true love.  Not only is crochet versatile and fast, but, since it is the one craft that I’ve done pretty much continuously since I learned from my grandmother back when I was 9 years old, I’m much more skilled at it.  For that reason, I haven’t (yet) found a crochet project I really wanted to make that I couldn’t tackle.

In the six months, I’ve been trying to give a bit more of my crafting time to knitting.  Last year, I dabble briefly in embroidery and even tried to rekindle my quilting mojo.  For this year, though, I know I’m going to need to devote more time to photography.

My newest toy, er, I mean, tool: the Canon PowerShot ELPH300HS.

I really need to step up my photography skills.  Photography allows me to show off my creations to their best advantage, makes my blog more interesting to read, and is helpful in marketing my patterns and projects.  I have been taking out a few minutes everyday to take pictures since I got the camera.  I’ll admit, most of these pictures are pretty boring so far :).  But I’m learning a lot about composition this way!