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Favorite Online Crochet Resources: Tips and Tricks from FreshStitches

Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources.  Today’s featured site is FreshStitches, my favorite source of tips and tricks for crochet and small (crafty) business.

I’m a huge fan of Stacey Trock, also known as FreshStitches.  I had the pleasure of interviewing her and participating in her blog tour for Crocheted Softies: 18 Adorable Animals from Around the World back in 2011.  I also had a blast working up my very first knitting pattern as part of her Knit and Crochet Design Week in 2012.  And I even made a rough and tumble version of her Lala the Panda pattern for my pre-school aged cousin.  (Stacey also happens to have an enormous giveaway going on through today at 6 p.m. Eastern time here.)

 

FreshStitches

 

Stacey’s blog is filled with wonderful pictures.  For amigurumi fans, there is a lot to enjoy as Stacey shares projects from her own patterns as well as tips and customer projects from CALs that she hosts.  And Stacey also shares her own projects, which include a range of crocheted and knit garments and accessories.

But the main reason I’m highlighting her blog today is because of the regular tips and tricks that Stacey shares with her readers.  Here are a few of my favorites for yarn crafts in general:

And a few of my favorites for crochet amigurumi:

This was tough!  Stacey has a lot of great amigurumi tips and tutorials to choose from on her blog.

Although she is an extremely busy lady with an active Facebook page and Ravelry group, classes on Craftsy, and is prepping for the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival next weekend, among other things, Stacey had a few minutes to answer some NatCroMo13 questions.

 
Underground Crafter (UC): Can you share a favorite crochet project with us?

Stacey: Oh, I don’t know if I could really pick a favorite, but I’ll pick a nice one…

From the time I was 12 years old, I entered my crochet in the county fair every summer. It was a lot of fun, and I really liked getting ribbons.

Then, when I was 17, I was waiting in line to submit my crochet pieces for the year. A supervisor came up to me and said that my work was so lovely… and asked if I wanted to do a demonstration!

I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited! So, I got booked in for a timeslot, and I spent a few hours crocheting at the fair.

I think it was the first time that I viewed my crocheting as something exciting and interesting. Before then, I just thought of it as something my mom and I did… it never occurred to me that other people didn’t!

Stacey Trock.
Stacey Trock demonstrating crochet at the county fair.

UC: What are your favorite types of crochet projects to make?

Stacey: I love making stuffed animals. They’re cute, they’re quick, and they make use of the best properties of crochet fabric. They benefit from the density that a crochet stitch can provide.

UC: What are your favorite websites for crochet-related content and community?
I’m in love with Ravelry. I spend a lot of time chatting in the forums, there!  I also love Kathryn Vercillo’s blog.  It’s full of really great crochet content & trends.  (UC comment: I guess great minds think alike because I highlighted Crochet Concupiscence last week as my favorite source of crochet news!)

 

Thanks Stacey, for stopping by, and for providing such wonderful content on your blog!

 

Favorite Online Crochet Resources: News with Crochet Concupiscence

Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources.  Today’s featured site is Crochet Concupiscence, my favorite source of crochet-related news.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Kathryn Vercillo‘s blog, Crochet Concupiscence.  I’ve interviewed Kathryn twice on my blog (here and here), and I’ve previously described Crochet Concupiscence this way:

It is sort of like the USA Today of crochet blogs – a roundup of everything going on in the crochet world, plus Kathryn’s personal projects – but with much better/more engaging writing.

Crochet Concupiscence logo

It’s because of that combination – Kathryn’s tireless efforts at gathering crochet news along with the quality of her writing – that I find myself returning to her blog again and again.  I always discover new blogs through Kathryn’s weekly Crochet Link Love on Saturdays, and I also love her vintage crochet discoveries (which can be found in her new 50 Years of Crochet feature and her series on Edgy 1970s Crochet Designers).

Although Kathryn’s a busy lady – she maintains three different blogs, writes books, and is organizing a multimedia project to teach people to use crochet to improve their overall wellness –  she took some time to answer a few NatCroMo13 questions.

Kathryn Vercillo

Underground Crafter (UC): What’s your favorite crochet memory?

Kathryn: My sister and I sometimes crochet together when she is here. I remember one time that she came here and we had a fire going in the fireplace and I was working on my crochet work while she was reading out loud to me by the light of the fire. It felt like I was part of an amazing 19th century novel.

 

UC: What are your favorite types of projects to crochet?  

Kathryn: This varies so much depending on my mood. Crochet can serve so many different emotional needs! Lately I’ve been in a complicated emotional space in both my personal and professional lives and as a result I’ve been drawn to really simple, instant gratification projects that offer the opportunity to focus and go inwards. For example, I’ve been crocheting a lot of post stitch and cable stitch crochet hat patterns because I can follow the pattern, focus on the work at hand and kind of let everything else slip away but the project is never so complicated that it feels draining or trying.  (UC comment: I love to make granny squares when I’m stressed out, for the same reason!)

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet websites?  

Kathryn: It’s so hard to choose just a few websites. That’s why I do crochet link love every week, to link to all of the best crochet content from around the web because there is so much of it and the sources change from week to week! I like Pinterest for finding crochet inspiration, Ravelry for finding patterns and I’m learning to like the Facebook crochet community although the Facebook platform has taken me some getting used to. (UC comment: Kathryn frequently shares a crochet question of the day on her Facebook page and it’s very fun to play along!)  I’m increasingly interested in Twitter chats and hangouts where you can connect with a smaller group of people in real time but there are only a handful of those; I’d like to get more involved in that.

UC: You’re a very organized blogger.  Can you share your current blog schedule with us?

Kathryn: My current posting schedule varies depending on what’s in the news but you can usually count on these things:
  • Crochet artist profiles on Mondays
  • My new 50 Years of Crochet History posts on Wednesdays (starting with crochet in the 1930s)
  • Designer crochet or crochet fashion posts on Thursdays
  • Something about crochet health or crocheting for creativity on Fridays
Then throughout the week some of the other things that I feature include crochet news, roundups of crochet pattern links, and info on crochet designers. Occasionally I’ll do crochet book reviews or giveaways. I’ve also just started accepting crochet sponsors on this blog so there are posts introducing the amazing things that they offer and usually featuring a giveaway at some point during the month.
Thanks, Kathryn, for stopping by, and for regularly scouring the web to share such amazing crochet content with your readers!
What’s your favorite online resource for crochet-related news?

Interview with Joan McGowan-Michael of White Lies Designs

About a month ago, I had the pleasure of checking out Vogue Knitting Live with a press pass.  I actually recorded three different interviews at the event, and I’m pleased to share one today.

Joan McGowan-Michael is the designer behind White Lies Designs.  In addition to her extensive collection of (mostly) knit (with some crochet) designs, she is also a nationally recognized knitting and crochet teacher and author, and has appeared on Knitty Gritty and Needle Art’s Studio with Shay Pendray.

You can find Joan online on her website, blog, Facebook page, Etsy shop, and on Ravelry (as whitelies and on her designer page).  All images are used with her permission, and link back to the patterns.  Unless otherwise noted, images are (c) White Lies Designs.

Joan McGowan-Michael at Vogue Knitting Live New York.
A picture I snapped of Joan McGowan-Michael at Vogue Knitting Live New York.

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

Joan: I was taught to knit as a child, to keep me busy and out of trouble. I’ve been knitting for over 40 years.

UC: You don’t look it!

Joan: Thank you. Thank you very much. But I have. I was not horribly young, not kindergarten age, but, in the first grade, second grade and I was very fascinated by it. My mom, however, had very little patience for certain things. She taught me how to knit but not to purl. She taught me how to cast on but not how to bind off. I was just dying to get into it, so I would just invent these ways to finish off things.

It’s really interesting. I recently cleaned out my parents’ house and found a little shoebox of some of the little doll clothes I made. And the little vests started ok from the bottom, but as they got towards the top I just ran thread through the loops! It looked a little weird but it worked.

Joan McGowan-Michael's Marlaina Stockings.
Marlaina Stockings.

And the other thing that was interesting is, at the time, in the ’60s, those big window pane vests were kind of hip, with the big holes in them. I was dying to make one of those for my dolls, but did not know how to do a yarn over. So I had to figure out how to make a hole in the fabric that wouldn’t run. What I came up with was knitting each stitch 3 times and then moving to the next stitch – passing it back and forth, almost crocheting. This made a nice little hole. So I found these things and I went, “I remember how I did that. That was kind of clever.” I tried it up again and so I sell stockings now – fishnet stockings – using the mind of a 7 year old or an 8 year old that made up this stitch. I’ve never seen this stitch anywhere else.

 

Joan McGowan-Michael's Gina Fishnet Stockings.
Gina Fishnet Stockings.

 

UC: It’s true, we have the ingenuity to figure things out. Before there were stitch dictionaries, people had their own ways of making it happen.

Joan: They got where they wanted because they wanted to get there.

UC: Yes, through trial and error. How did you first get started designing?

Joan: I actually went to fashion design school. I had always been fascinated with fashion design. I was one of those people that knew what they had to do with their life. To me, it’s very strange when you have a person that’s an adult and says I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I knew, always, what I wanted to do. That must be an odd feeling, to not know.

In any event, I was always making my own clothes and when I got to college level, I did Costume Design. They have very good pattern drafting classes and you get to do weird shapes if you’re costuming plays, or super intricate historical things. A lot of what I’d learned previously was confirmed when I was in design school – that this was the right way to do things.

I did go to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco and took a couple of years there and then went to Los Angeles and took my last year in Los Angeles. I then stayed in Los Angeles for the next 15 years doing regular clothing design.

Joan McGowan-Michael's Olivia.
Olivia.

I had done work for OP Sunwear and others, but the most important was Frederick’s of Hollywood. I worked for them for three and a half years. That’s really where I got my hands into stretch fabrics, and close to the body type garments, and realized that knitting and stretch fabrics had so many of the same properties that you could almost interchange them. So I filed that away in my mind for later use. There was no knitting career on the horizon at that time.

Things happened, I got married, moved north to Sacramento with my husband, and was really having trouble settling into the city up there. It’s a different vibe and you really have to try to integrate yourself. I can imagine New York’s not that way, but it is in Sacramento. So I joined the local knitting guild there and found it to be rather cliquish and really also hard to integrate into. I said, “Maybe this is a mistake.” But before I left that first meeting, somebody shoves a little notebook at me and says sign up to bring cupcakes sometime during the year. So, I turned to the last page (December) and I write my name in December and I close the notebook and I forget about it.

Joan McGowan-Michael's Luminous Lace Camisole.  Photo (c) Interweave Knits.
Luminous Lace Camisole. Photo (c) Interweave Knits.

December rolls around and I get a call, “It’s your turn to bring the cupcakes.” Oh, crap.

UC: To those people? ;)

Joan: Exactly. I could just blow them off or I could do some boxed cupcake mix and drop them off and come back home. It wasn’t that far from where I lived, so I thought, yeah, I’ll do that. So, I make the cupcakes and I go down there. The speaker that month was a woman who was putting together a company to do knit kits. She was doing marketing surveys. She was showing people a Vogue Knitting magazine and asking if this is something you would make, and if you were going to buy a kit, how much would you pay for it, and what would you expect from the kit.

As she was talking about this, I got this hot feeling, this freaky hot feeling. It’s the finger of God coming down and going, “You need to go this way, young lady.” Before I knew what I was doing, I went up to her and said, “I need to offer you my services as a designer. I don’t design knitwear but I do design and I do knit. That must mean something!”

 

Joan McGowan-Michael's Plus Sized Pencil Skirt.
Plus Sized Pencil Skirt.

 

And sure enough, it did. And the first sweater that I did for that knit kit company was fantastic. It had bobbles, it had cables, it had lace, it had button bands, a high collar. It had everything. It was angora.

UC: You put all of your years of knitting experience in one sweater.

Joan: I did! I really did. And forgot to take any notes.

UC: Oh, God!

Joan: It was really hellish. Through tears and fire, I recreated the pattern somehow and it was just hellish. But it became their best selling item. They had me under contract for about two years. During that time, I found the hole in the contract. It said what I could not do, but I saw what I could do. What I could do was submit designs to magazines and that’s what I did. I submitted something to Interweave Knits. The first thing I submitted was on the cover.

Joan McGowan's Lace Panel Jacket on the cover of the May, 1998 issue of Interweave Knits.  Image (c) Interweave.
Lace Panel Jacket on the cover of the May, 1998 issue of Interweave Knits. Image (c) Interweave.

UC: Wow.

Joan: So I knew I had something going on there. In the meantime, the other people who I was under contract with were not very happy about me finding the loophole.

UC: They wanted you exclusive?

Joan: They wanted me exclusive or first right of refusal. The suit that I did was on the cover of Interweave and my boss saw it.

UC: It would be a little hard to hide it.

Joan: It was. It was hard to hide. Especially when you’re in that business. I just didn’t think I needed any permission to do anything like that. I did not like the way it went and I terminated my contract a little early with them.

So anyway, it was fine. I went on to do a few more things for magazines. By that time, I’d become divorced and my new boyfriend said, “You know, if you would like to start some kind of a little publishing thing, you have some designs here, you’re writing them anyway. Why don’t we publish them for you and sell them yourself? Why sell them off to a magazine?” The man has vision and that’s why I married him!

Joan McGowan-Michael's Stephanie Tee.
Stephanie Tee.

 

UC: Sounds like a good business decision.

Joan: It really was and that’s really how we got started. He works with me in the business now. We travel and do shows like STITCHES and Vogue Knitting Live and whatnot, and it grew into a business from there. I took a lot of the experiences and things that I’ve done previously.

For example, when I was at Frederick’s of Hollywood, I just had the foresight to trace off the patterns that I was cutting on brown paper and just archive them – keep them in a big box, kept them with me whenever I moved, kept them in the attic. Then came the opportunity to do my book, Knitting Lingerie Style: More Than 30 Basic and Lingerie – Inspired Designs. Melanie Falick at Abrams publishing, she had heard in an interview from me somewhere that I did used to work for Frederick’s of Hollywood and she said would you like to do a book about lingerie?

 

Rita Mae.
Rita Mae.

 

UC: That was going to be my next question. How did you get into the lingerie?

Joan: There it is. I went up to the attic, and got my big box down, and said, “Well this would work! This would work, too.” I had really the basic pieces all there. It was just a matter of transfering them to knitting – knitting the shapes instead of cutting them out of fabric – and assembling them like I would have if I had cut them out of fabric. Consequently, I was able to use a bra wire that I had designed when I was working for Frederick’s. It was a w – a continuous underwire.

 

Ruby.
Ruby.

 

UC: Wow, one piece?

Joan: Yes, the reason I designed it that way was I always have my wires popping either in the center or at the side.

UC: Yes, I think everybody has that problem. Well, not everybody, but most of us with the regular bras.

Joan: With the big boobs.

UC: The combo!

Joan: Well, the weight of them makes them float around inside their channeling. And the w wire stays right where it is. The breasts are holding them in place, then you have this v coming up in the center, they can’t go anywhere. This is just the perfect wire for long wearing bras. Don’t know why I don’t see it more.

UC: I don’t know either, I would love to see this more because I have the same exact problem!

Joan: So anyway, we went into that project using so many of the ideas from Frederick’s, but my dear editor kept me from doing sequined pasties or anything like that. She let me do a few things that were a little on the risque side, but for the most part she kept me under her thumb and on the right side of the line of good taste.

 

Corset-Bodice Nightgown from Knitting Lingerie Style.
Corset-Bodice Nightgown from Knitting Lingerie Style.

UC: Can you just talk a little bit about what you’ve been doing here at Vogue Knitting Live?

Joan: I’ve done a Crochet for Knits class. It’s very interesting. My classes that people choose sometimes have nothing to do with knititng. One of my most popular classes – unfortunately, we didn’t do it here this time since we didn’t have room in my schedule for it – is Whip Your Knits into Shape. What we do is take copious measurements of the student’s body and then we transfer those to brown paper. Now we have an actual flat pattern.

UC: Kind of like a sloper?

Joan: Yes, a sloper. And then, without having to know anything about pattern making, they can just start knitting. If they’re knitting the back of a sweater, compare it. Oh, too big, I’ve gotta rip back. Before you get finished, you know it’s fine.

The other thing, I do a 6 hour class of Whip Your Knits into Shape where we take those measurements, do the brown paper patterns, and then we learn to design with them. It’s a really very popular class and a lot of poeple have had their aha moments. When they’re in the class saying why doesn’t this fit me – well, you can’t see yourself from the back.

UC: Absolutely, you don’t see what’s going on back there.

Joan: Too many people don’t want to know, either. The other classes that we’ve done this time was Bead Embroidery for Knits which was based on my little collection of 1950s beaded sweaters. I have 4 or 5 pieces that have fabulous beadwork on them. There was one in particular that I took and made into a chart and we just copy that essentially and I teach them how to do the beadwork without having to do it one by one by one.

Beauty and the Beads.
Beauty and the Beads.

 

UC: Oh, that’s awesome.

Joan: It’s not done that way. They can take that skill and use it for Christmas ornaments or decorating clothes, t-shirts, jeans jackets. I’m a child of the ’70s, it’s going to be my flares, man! It’s a very fun class for everybody and it has nothing to do with knitting – you can do it on anything.

The other class, Crochet for Knits, is fine finishing touches that you can use for your knitting, to keep edges from rolling, to be decorative, to join things together, just learning how to handle a hook when you’re a die-hard knitter. They’re a little afraid of that.

UC: Yes, it’s interesting because people are always saying crocheting is so much easier. But I’ve found, now that I’ve started knitting, that a lot of knitters are really intimidated by crochet.

Joan: Very. You should have seen the big eyes in my class.

 

Crochet Thong.
Crochet Thong.

UC: So what do you do to put them at ease because I know crochet’s a phobia for a lot of knitters.

Joan: We just jump in. I ask them how do you hold your hook? Some hold it like a spoon, some hold it like a pencil. And as soon as I start requiring them to use it, they do. They just do because they have to. I have them do a chain with their fingers first so they can get the structure of the stitch and then stitch the hook in and continue. Now they’re getting comfortable and we can roll from there. It’s just getting them comfortable and not afraid of the hook. And you can rip it out so easy! They go, “Hey, there’s only one stitch at a time that you have to worry about!”

UC: That is a huge plus of crochet.

Joan: It’s quite a revelation.

UC: Yeah, when you’re knitting and it’s really stressful to do that (pull out stitches). Since you also crochet… I’m sure you have not too much down time when you can actually make your own projects, but if you do, do you have a preference between crocheting or knitting? Or do you have a totally other craft that you do to relax?

Joan: You know, I would love another craft. That I use to relax? I do sew. And I have to sew, because I’m a hard fit. So I do sew and I make things for myself on the sewing machine. And after so many years of knitting, sewing seems so easy and fast! Instant gratification. Putting a pair of pants together – no sweat. Lining a coat – not a problem. Things that would have been really daunting before, now that you put three weeks into a sweater, I can put ten hours into a coat – that kind of thing. I guess I want to say sewing is my other, non-professional hobby.

 

Julianne 2-Piece Dress.
Julianne 2-Piece Dress.

UC: It sounds like it’s also utilitarian – it’s not just for fun.

Joan: Sometimes it is. Sometimes I just want something knew and I just whip up a little knit top or something. I also do machine knitting and sometimes I will combine that with fabric and sewing things together. It’s kind of automated – it’s not hand knitting – and it’s very fast. You can do a front or back of a tank top in literally twenty minutes. That’s really instant gratification. Yep, sewing is pretty much the other white meat there :).

UC: You’ve had a lot of experience in all different aspects of the yarn industry and the fashion industry. Do you have any advice for people that are considering trying to come into the yarn industry?

Joan: Boy, keep your day job. At this moment, keep your day job. Didn’t use to be that way, but things got really rough here for the economy. Putting out a few patterns may or may not be something that becomes viable, but the main advice is have somebody read your patterns. Tech edit your stuff or test knit your stuff. A lot of people maybe have done that for themselves, and they can’t see the forest for the trees anymore when they are working with their own pattern. There’s just nothing more off-putting then buying a pattern from a new designer and finding it not working. To keep your reputation good, take that extra little step and have somebody read it, tech edit it, something. That’s really one of the most important things, I think.

Kimber Bustier and Panty.
Kimber Bustier and Panty.

 

UC: Do you have any upcoming activities you’d like to talk about?

Joan: Yes, I’m going to be doing some classes on Craftsy in the upcoming months. I’m actually looking for Stephanie Japel today because she’s the acquisitions editor there now. I will definitely be doing a Continental Knitting class, which may be one of the free ones. It just introduces you to the teacher and how their teaching style is, but there will also be others on fit most definitely. So look for me in about four or five months on Craftsy.  (UC comment: You can now find Joan’s Feminine Fit class for sale on Craftsy here.)

We always do STITCHES West at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I always have a booth there, so people can come by and see the garments that I do in person. I’m about to pitch another book. I’m not going to say what it’s about, but it’s along the lines of Knitting Lingerie Style, so it’s more romantic, kind of sexy, pretty things.

UC: Good luck! More pretty stuff is definitely needed. Anything else you’d like to share?

Joan: I also have a pretty good blog. I’m running a fitting series which started last Monday (UC comment: on January 14, 2013), so anyone can go to my blog and check out the first installment of Knit to Fit. I wrote about the five different mistakes knitters make in terms of fit. I’m going to expand that because the reaction to that has been really positive. I’ll possibly do an e-book with that.

UC: There’s a lot of fears and concerns and horror stories surrounding knit fitting – and crochet fitting, too.

Joan: And wasted money and disappointment. I’m all about avoiding disappointment, especially when you’re working on something you think you’re going to love, and then you put it on and go, “Oh, that looks awful!” If I can help anybody avoid that, I’m all over it!

Thanks so much, Joan! I really appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule at Vogue Knitting Live to meet with me!

Interview with Kim Guzman, a.k.a. CrochetKim

I am so incredibly pleased to share an interview with Kim Guzman today.  As a lover of Tunisian crochet and a member of the very active Yahoo group that she co-moderates with Angela “ARNie” Grabowskitunisiancrochet, I’ve been a big fan of Kim’s work for years.  (Kim also does a lot of “regular” crochet design, too, as she discusses in this recent blog post.)

Kim is incredibly prolific as a designer, author, and teacher, and always seems to me to be the hardest working woman in show (er, um, yarn) business.  Yet if you are active on Crochetville, Ravelry, or almost any other social network where crochet is being discussed, you have probably interacted with Kim, who is very generous about sharing tips, advice, and her knowledge of crochet.

You can find Kim online through her main website (which links to her Crochet Kim/free pattern website and her Kimane Designs/self-published pattern website) and her blog, WIPs ‘n Chains.  Kim’s free videos can be found on her YouTube page and on the website of the new crochet magazine, Crochet 1-2-3 here.  She also teaches online classes at Annie’s and Crochetville.  Kim is also on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Ravelry (as crochetkim, in her group, and on her designer page).  All pictures are used with Kim’s permission and, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Kim Guzman.

 

Kim Guzman.

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

Kim: When I was about 9 years’ old, my parents joined the Army together. During their basic training, my sister and I stayed with my grandparents. It was quite a long stay with grandparents and I believe that she taught us to crochet just to give us something to do while away from home. She started us off with granny squares and I learned from verbal instruction only. It wasn’t until I was about 18 years old that I purchased my first patterns. I wasn’t even aware of patterns and had been designing my own for all that time.

 

Sunday Best Sweater, one of Kim's self-published designs.

UC: When were you first introduced to Tunisian crochet, and how did you come to work with it so often?

Kim: In about 2000, Darla Fanton had turned the crochet world on its ears with her double-ended Tunisian crochet designs. She did a lot of books, but the publishers wanted more. Annie’s Attic sent me some double-ended hooks and asked me to try my hand at double-ended Tunisian. I had never done it before, but I immediately set to work. My double-ended designs weren’t accepted. I found that I preferred the look of regular one-sided Tunisian and I had three books commissioned within six months.

 

 

Kansas City Cowl. Photo (c) Caron.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Kim: I have been designing since I learned to crochet. It was at least 10 years of crocheting before I sat down with a pattern and taught myself how to read it. Not knowing about patterns was the key to my “no fear” attitude toward design. My grandmother’s doilies inspired me to design my own when I was only 10 years’ old.

 

Lacy Bobbles Scarf and Wristlets. Photo (c) DRG Publishing (Annie's).

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Kim: My creative inspiration is usually in the yarn itself. I bond with a yarn for awhile by swatching with it. When I come up with a stitch pattern and drape that I find pleasing, I bond with it awhile until it tells me what it wants to be. While I do browse the internet and catalogs for trendy clothing, I don’t usually have the ability to see something in fabric and be able to translate their shapes into crochet. Well, I take that back. I don’t usually find myself doing that. But, publishers will sometimes choose a photo of something in a pleasing shape and then ask that I translate that shape or construction into crochet. It’s design-on-demand. I never feel like my design-on-demand work is very good. It doesn’t come from the heart.

 

 

Cabled Mitts from the Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Tunisian Crochet. Photo (c) Leisure Arts.

UC: Your four latest books, the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet, Tunisian Cables to CrochetShort Row Tunisian Fashion, and the forthcoming Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide, all focus on Tunisian crochet. What was the design process like for these books?

Kim: You act as if I’m organized. ha! I am the furthest thing from organized.

For the Beginner’s Guide, I thought about yarns and projects. I thought about beginner projects and intermediate projects. And, I just started crocheting and writing. I put every little trick I know about Tunisian crochet in that book. It includes things normally not found in Tunisian crochet books like seaming horizontally or vertically, how to change colors, how to work with a lot of colors, step-by-step on how to felt projects and so much more. Everything that I had seen over the years which I had seen caused some questions. Even how to work with a self-striping yarn so that wide pieces of the body of a garment match the same sort of striping in the upper pieces around the arms and neck is included. It was the very first time I was given full control over what went into the book and I went all out.  (UC comment: I highly recommend this book for Tunisian crochet newbies!  You can read my review on the Crochet Guild of America’s blog here.  Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

 

Dublin Owl Hat and Mitts from Tunisian Cables to Crochet. Photo (c) Annie's.

For the Cables book, I did it right after I finished my Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide.  (UC note: This book is expected to be published in March.)  When I was working on the stitch guide, I did a swatch of a cable, then I did another, and another. I had about 10 cables in next to no time. I wanted to somehow keep the cables together, but I had already done the required number of stitch patterns for the Stitch Guide (65). This would have put me over the expected number by ten, so I decided to pull those cable stitch patterns from my proposed stitch patterns and create a separate book. Since the cables required special instruction, I didn’t want to put them in a book with only charted stitch patterns. I wanted them to have a further instruction.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

 

Sapphire Wrap from Short Row Tunisian Fashion. Photo (c) Leisure Arts.

In Short Row Tunisian Fashion, which is currently available in hard copy and download, I have six projects which use the short row technique in Tunisian. But, the real surprise is the crescent wrap which includes a pineapple stitch pattern. No, not a regular crochet pineapple stitch pattern. It’s Tunisian crochet from start to finish. I believe it to be the first ever published pineapple stitch pattern in Tunisian crochet.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

Then, in March, my new Stitch Guide will be available. It’s already available on Amazon for pre-order. I’ve never done a full stitch pattern book before. But, I’m especially pleased with it because, although there are some classic Tunisian crochet stitch patterns, most of them are completely out of my head. I wanted a charted book and this book really challenged me because I had to draw out all the symbols myself. But, it was well worth it and I feel that this book is my biggest contribution to crochet yet.

 

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

Kim: I think the sweetheart, Margaret Hubert, put it best: “Don’t quit your day job.” While I have somehow been able to do these wonderful things as my career, as a single mother, it has been tough! There isn’t a lot of money in it. Most times, we’re just barely surviving and we’ve had to make numerous sacrifices. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been able to stay at home with my kids and do a job that I love. I can’t think of a better way to go through life.

 

 

Luna Sweater. Photo (c) Interweave.

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

Kim: I am especially fond of the Japanese stitch pattern books. They have spent more time with me on the couch than in the book shelf.

 

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

Kim: Well, I’m just going to look at my computer and see what websites I always have up there.

  • Yahoo Mail. Yep, always there.
  • Yahoo Groups. I’m a moderator of the Tunisian Crochet group, so I always have that up.
  • Facebook. Seriously, I think I would go into withdrawals if I didn’t have my Facebook peeps. ;-)
  • Crochetville. Staying on top of the students’ questions for my classes and responding to any pattern questions asked in the forums.
  • Annie’s. Also, staying on top of the students’ questions. I like to respond to questions immediately. I respond as quickly as I possibly can. If I was doing a project, and I had a question, it would really be bothersome to have to set it down and wait for a week to get a response. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, but I really do my best to get to questions immediately.
  • Pinterest. Oh, the crochet pretties!
  • Tweetdeck: I like to stalk my friends. :-)

 

Laced Cables, a pattern from Kim's online Tunisian Cables and Lace class at Annie's. Photo (c) Annie's.

 

UC: You’ve been teaching online for years.  Tell me about your experiences as an online teacher. 

Kim: I prefer teaching online over teaching in live venues. Like I said, I’m a single mother. I have a small child. I want to stay home with him and I don’t want to leave him for a week at a time. Online teaching allows me to stay at home with him. But, it’s more than that. Online teaching gives me the opportunity to give well-thought-out answers to my students. And, I don’t walk out suddenly remembering that I forgot to teach something.

I have been teaching online for over 10 years. I’ve been teaching project classes, but I’ve just started adding some design classes to the mix which will begin in February at Crochetville.

 

Thank you for stopping by, Kim, and sharing your answers with us!

Interview with Karia from Kouture Crochet

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Karia (also known as KoutureCrochet on Ravelry).  As a Brooklyn native, I’m always excited to meet crocheters in my home borough online – somehow, it often seems easier than meeting them in real life!  Karia is organizing an interesting Kickstarter project and also co-owns an Etsy shop.  You can also find Kouture Crochet online on Facebook.


Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Kouture Crochet (KC): I started crocheting as a teen. My sister was in high school taking an art class where she was learning to crochet. As any self respecting younger sister, I wanted to do what my big sister was doing.  So with the help of my mother, my sister taught me how to crochet. I crocheted all through high school, college and beyond. I learned to knit years later after graduating college. These two art forms quickly become a big part of who I am and how i relax, how I watch tv and why I love audio books.

A unisex black alpaca scarf by Kouture Crochet. (Click photo to link to Etsy shop.)

UC: What inspired you to start selling your creations on Etsy?
KC: I started selling on Etsy because I was going broke making scarves and gifts for friends and family! Selling on Etsy was a way to continue to craft without losing money. I quickly realized I wanted to make this into a career. I’ve been selling on Etsy since March 2011, and I hope to be selling my crafts for a long time to come.

Knit skinny tie made with handdyed yarn by Kouture Crochet.

UC: Tell us about your Handspun Single Sheep Breeds Yarn Kickstarter project and your inspiration for developing it.

KC: For my shop on Etsy and for my personal projects, I used only natural fibers. One thing I found is that the selection of high quality 100% natural yarns is limited and often extremely expensive. I was able to find easy accessible camel and alpaca yarns through some luck and research. Wool yarns was more difficult. It felt like I had one option: merino. I love working with merino but I wanted to try something different.

When I started trying to find wool from other sheep breeds I was completely overwhelmed. There are hundreds of breeds and countless varieties. Purchasing finished yarns from more than one or two breeds was just not in my budget. In the end, I taught myself to spin yarn on a drop spindle in order to be able to try different breeds and varieties. I was lucky enough to be able to make my own yarns and learn to spin on a drop spindle, but most people don’t have the time or patience to learn to make their own yarns. There is a such a need for single breed yarns and it seemed to me like the market was not filling that need.

The best way to know “what is what” is to feel the yarn and work with it. However, there are hundreds of breeds and thousands of varieties. One skein of single breed yarn can be anywhere from $15 – $70. I had been a backer of many Kickstarter projects, and Kickstarter was a perfect format for this kind of idea. The project took months to research and price even though the goal was simple: affordable, an easy to understand way to try different single breed yarns. I have narrowed down the list to just 26 breeds. They vary wildly in softness, crimp, coarseness, strength and even the natural colors the fibers come in. I don’t cut corners in quality, but by offering samples of one ounce mini skeins its possible to offer many breeds for an affordable price.

Few, if any, local yarn shops will have more than 5 breeds of yarn to try, let alone 26! As a lover of natural fibers, it is great to be able to feel and sample a yarn in your hand. My hope is there are just a few people like me who wanted to try these fibers and yarns. Crafters who love natural yarns will be able to do so at a very reasonable price. I also hope that people who think wool is that “itchy, expensive stuff” will also give it a try.  (UC comment: This is really a great project!  If you’d like to contribute, check out Kouture Crochet’s Kickstarter page here.)

Handdyed merino yarn by Kouture Crochet.

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

KC: I’m new to Ravelry, but I love having such a large and active community of crafters.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Karia!