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.
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:
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!
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!
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 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.
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).
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!”
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: 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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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” Grabowski, tunisiancrochet, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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!
I have just a small finished object today, my very first pair of knit booties. But they come with a long story! (And, to thank you for reading the whole story, I’m also including a book review and giveaway at the end of this post.)
I have a friend that I haven’t seen in ages. She used to date (and then was engaged to) a friend of mine from college. There were about 3 or 4 years when the three of us would get together very frequently and have a great time. They lived in a nearby neighborhood for a few years and then they moved to the Boston area, but I actually kept in touch and visited regularly for some time. Then there was a lot of upheaval in my life in 2007-08 and, at the same time, they broke up and this friend moved to California. I haven’t seen her since then and now we are “Facebook friends.” (You know what I mean – I think about her, occasionally see a status update, but haven’t actually called or written in ages.) Via Facebook, I learned that she got married and eventually that she was pregnant. She actually kept a rather entertaining weekly blog during her pregnancy which I only discovered in about the eighth month. The humor in her posts reminded me why I enjoy her friendship so much, so I decided to make her newborn baby girl some gifts.
Since we haven’t seen each other in about 5 years and I am completely pressed for time, I decided that my standard baby gift (a blanket) was out of the question. I also didn’t want to buy any yarn, so I started looking for a group of smaller projects that I could make with stash. And that’s where these cuties come in.
I recently received a review copy of 30 Min-Knits: What Can You Knit in Half an Hour or Less?by Carol Meldrum from Barron’s Educational Series. The book positions itself as “a collection of knitting projects that you can really fit into your spare time…creating fun and imaginative pieces in a half-hour or less.” The concept appealed to me totally, especially since I knit extremely slowly, but I’ll admit that I was dubious that anything can be knit (by me) in thirty minutes or less. The book comes with a few disclaimers that put me more at ease. Finishing is not included in the 30 minutes, and when the project is for multiple pieces (e.g., a set of mittens), only one piece can be made in 30 minutes. Ok, perhaps there is such a project out there.
The book includes 60 projects, most of which are small and can be made with stash yarn, or which are made with bulky yarn or two strands of yarn held together. You can tell that Carol is primarily a teacher, because the book is organized by skill level (40 Easy projects and 20 Intermediate projects), and then sub-divided by technique. At the beginning of the book, there is a gallery of project photos along with the page where you can find the pattern. Some of the patterns include a technique marker (e.g., Cable Knitting) on the side of the page. These techniques are explained in a 14 page illustrated section at the end of the book.
I made the Broad Strap Booties (pictured on the cover) to test out the 30 minute theory. I gave myself 90 minutes per bootie since I know that I knit extremely slowly. (As a reference point, it took me 25 minutes to make half a gauge swatch for the pattern – 22 stitches by 15 rows.) I was able to complete both booties (not including swatching but including knitting and assembly/finishing), in just under 2 hours and 15 minutes. I consider that a resounding success.
What I liked about this book:
Each project is photographed several times from different angles. The projects appear against a white background in the gallery, then again in “group photos” every few pages (with each item numbered for reference to the pattern), and then again on the pattern page. This gives you a really clear idea of how the finished project will look and is also visually interesting.
Even though I personally don’t see myself knitting some of these projects (e.g., a Dali mustache), everything inside is actually very cute. None of the projects “look” like they were thrown together in 30 minutes or less.
Most of the projects are great stashbusters.
There is an opportunity to try out techniques like shaping, cables, beading, or colorwork on a small and low-risk project. The technique section in the back includes a “Practice This” box which directs you to the appropriate patterns using the technique.
If you tend to procrastinate on gift knits, this could be a great “go to” resource for inspiration.
What I don’t like about the book, or what’s missing:
Like other paperback books, it doesn’t lay flat so it is difficult to knit and read at the same time. There are front and back cover flaps that you can use to hold your place, though.
When a pattern includes charts or a template, those are in the back rather than next to the pattern page, so you will need to flip back and forth a bit.
Though most projects are clearly made with just a small amount of yarn, the patterns list the full size of the skein used for the project. For example, the booties that I made used about 34 yards in the main color and about 9 yards in the other color, but the pattern just mentions that I need two balls of Rowan Handknit Cotton DK (93 yards each). I think the book could get more mileage as a stashbusting book if Carol included the approximate yardage for each project. Instead, the knitter needs to guess whether they have enough yarn in their stash for any given project.
On a related note, it would help if the weight of the yarn was listed for each project. If it isn’t part of the brand name (e.g., Rowan Handknit Cotton DK), then there aren’t many clues about the yarn weight. I’m guessing the Rowan and Coats yarns that Carol used for the book are ubiquitous in the UK, but it would be great if it was easier to make yarn substitutions.
While arranging the book in order of difficulty is a great idea, it is hard to find projects by type (e.g., women’s accessories) with this system. It is difficult to determine the scale of a project from the gallery, so it would be helpful if the index listed projects by type. (The baby projects are listed as a category in the index, though.)
Unfortunately, the patterns are not posted on Ravelry yet and you can’t “search inside the book” on Amazon, so it is hard to get an idea of what is included if you don’t see the book in person. I would recommend this book for a beginner, advanced beginner, or newly intermediate knitter who likes to make small, portable projects. If you are trying to bust some stash and enjoy gift knitting, this could also be the right book for you. The book includes 60 projects, which is more than you would generally find in a book at this price point, but many of the projects are primarily decorative. I think this would be a fun book to use when knitting with children or teens since the projects are cute and fast to make, and the accessories are on trend. If you are a more experienced knitter or like more detailed/involved projects, then this is probably not the book for you.
Whether you’re just joining in or you’ve been participating in the Ripple Mania Crochet-a-long since October, I know you’re excited to hear more about the prizes! The Ripple Mania CAL has four fantastic sponsors, Coats & Clark, Leisure Arts, Lion Brand Yarn, and Magique Enterprises, who have each put together a great prize package. This post describes the prizes, explains how you can enter the giveaway, and includes the schedule for the Ripple Mania CAL. All images are used with permission.
Lion Brand Yarn is sponsoring a wonderful Ripple Mania prize package – 4 skeins of Amazing in Strawberry Fields, enough yarn to crochet the Candy Color Ripple Cowl. You’ll have a fashionable accessory just in time for the deep cold of winter!
And for those of you who have been longing to try an Eleggant crochet hook after reading my review, Magique Enterprises is sponsoring a set including the Eleggant comfort crochet handle, six interchangeable hooks (in steel sizes 1.25 mm, 1.75 mm, and 2.25 mm, and in aluminum sizes 3.5 mm, 5.0 mm, and 6.0 mm), and o-rings.
Now that you’ve heard about all the amazing prizes available, you may be wondering how to enter this giveaway. Read on for details!
Ripple Mania Giveaway Rules
To enter the Ripple Mania giveaway for your chance to win one of these great prizes:
Photograph your Ripple Mania project! Smaller projects (accessories, baby blankets, cozies, washcloths, etc.) must be completed. Larger projects (adult sweaters, large throws, or bedspreads) must be at least 1/3 finished.
Projects must have been started and/or completed during the Ripple Mania CAL (between October 17 and November 28). You can use any crochet ripple pattern, though of course I’d love it if you used one of mine :).
Share a photograph and description of your Ripple Mania project by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, November 28. Each project counts as one entry in the giveaway.
To share your project on Facebook: Post a Wall photo on the Underground Crafter page. (Remember that if you don’t “like” the page, I won’t be able to message you on Facebook, so you’ll have to check back to see if you’ve won.)
To share your project on this blog: Post a link to a project photo (on your blog, Flickr, etc.) in the comments.
To share your project on Twitter: Tweet @ucrafter #ripplemania with a link to a photo of your project.
This giveaway is open to all crocheters worldwide.
By entering the giveaway, you are granting permission for your project photo to be shared in a collage of all entries on this blog.
On or about December 1, 2012, four winners will be chosen at random and contacted for mailing addresses. Winners must respond by December 15, 2012 or their prize will be forfeited.
Thanks so much for joining in, and I can’t wait to see the projects!
Today, I’m interviewing Kathryn Vercillo, one of my favorite crochet bloggers, for the second time. (You can check out the first interview here.) Kathryn recently self published a book, Crochet Saved My Life, about the ways crochet supports physical and mental healing.
Kathryn is a professional writer, and her work has been published in magazines such as Latina and Skope. Kathryn has also written for numerous websites and blogs, including PC Worldand Houzz. And, of course, Kathryn is the mind behind Crochet Concupiscence, and is also known as CrochetBlogger on Ravelry and Twitter. You can also find Kathryn and Crochet Concupiscence online on Facebook, G+, and Pinterest, and you can sign up for her newsletter (which generally features awesome goodies and discounts) here.
Underground Crafter (UC): Your new book, Crochet Saved My Life, shares your personal experience of using crochet to help deal with your depression. Tell us more about your decision to write the book and to share your experience with depression, which is often stigmatized in our society. What were some of the challenges you faced in starting this project?
Kathryn: I have been a writer for as long as I can remember and I knew that there was another book in me, but I wasn’t sure what it would be about or when it would happen. I started writing the Crochet Concupiscence blog shortly after beginning to heal from depression and it was a really great project for me. I enjoy writing about crochet every day and I’ve really been happy with the terrific support I’ve received from the online crochet community. So it began to get clearer and clearer that my next book would be related to this topic that was becoming increasingly important to me – meaning the topic of crochet.
There were actually a few false starts. For example, I had ideas for a crochet pattern book and was thinking at the time that I wanted to get into pattern design. But as I started doing that I just found that it wasn’t really that enjoyable for me for a variety of reasons. I admire and respect the terrific crochet designers that are putting out books, but making my own patterns turned out to not feel right. I like doing a lot of random crochet work and creating my own designs but I don’t enjoy the process of writing that down and translating it all into something that someone else can follow.
I also started writing some short stories about crochet. I enjoyed that but I can’t say that I was passionate about it. In the meantime, I was continuing to post a lot on the blog and I found that one of the topics I was drawn to again and again was how crochet helped in healing people and just improving quality of life. So it began to occur to me that this was really a topic I wanted to explore further and to do that I needed to get at the core of why it was so important to me, which meant confronting my own depression story. As I started to do that, I found myself not only having a lot to say but also feeling really positive while writing the material and that was what told me that yes, this was the right project at the right time.
One of the toughest things for me with this book was deciding how much of myself to share and in what way. I did not want this to be entirely a memoir about my own experience but I did think that it was important to share that story in detail. I wanted to be honest but not self-pitying. Finding that voice was a little bit tough. In the end I decided to write the book much like I write my blog – just casually talking to my reader. I found that it worked for me and I hope it works for the readers!
The other thing is just that the length of a project like this is tough in many ways. You sit there isolated at your computer and even though you’ve written 100 pages you aren’t anywhere near done. There’s no instant gratification. There is a lot of self-doubt. There is a lot of writer’s block to contend with. I’ve been writing long enough to know how to work through that but it’s never easy!
UC: What was the development process like for this book? How did you find the other people you profile and encourage them to share their personal experiences in your book?
Kathryn: In the beginning I just started by creating an outline of topics that I personally thought crochet might help in healing and that I wanted to learn more about. I started with my own story because I think that’s where all good writing begins. Then I began doing basic research (thanks Google) to start getting new ideas about the topics on my outline. So, for example, I knew I wanted to cover the topic of how crochet can help with anxiety so I did a bunch of searches into that to start fleshing out that chapter.
In the meantime, I did a few posts here and there on my blog about health-related topics. The response I received was terrific and really encouraged me to keep going with my research. I put out a few “calls for stories” on the blog. At first I really had no idea how I would use those stories other than just for getting ideas about what else to include in the book or maybe pulling a few quotes for chapters I’d already identified as interesting me. But then the stories I received were so incredibly powerful that I knew that they needed to be told in full.
Women were responding to my calls for stories and telling me really intimate, personal, difficult details about their lives. I felt like it was my responsibility to honor that and find the best way to share their stories in a way that celebrated their strength while conveying the role that crochet played in helping them to heal.
I had about a dozen stories from those calls on my blog but since they were now going to be such a key part of the book I knew I needed more. That was when I started putting out calls for specific topics, to help cover areas of the book that I didn’t have enough material for. So for example I put out messages on Twitter asking if anyone wanted to share their stories about using crochet as a pain management tool.
In a few cases, I actually found specific people who had blogged about a topic and reached out to them individually to see if they wanted to share their stories. Of course, some did and some didn’t. My whole approach to this process was believing that the stories that were meant to be told right now would be the ones that came forth. I made sure everyone had the right to choose how much personal detail to share, whether or not to share their real names, etc. I wanted to respect that everyone is in different stages of healing and should tell their story from that place. I hope I did a good job of that!
UC: This is your second self-published book. Can you tell us about the experience of self-publishing? Do you have any advice for those of us who are considering self-publishing?
Kathryn: Yes! In 2011 I put out my booklet of articles about cool elderly women who crochet. That was mostly a test run to see how I liked self-publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace tool. At the time I was still really undecided about whether or not to get a traditional publisher but the experience of self-publishing was so positive for me that it clinched it for me that I’d self-publish. I honestly believe it’s the best option for most writers today. You get to retain your rights, make many decisions for yourself about the entire process, collect more in royalties (usually), etc. and as a solopreneur that is all really important to me.
I have two pieces of advice for people who want to self-publish. First is to surround yourself with experts to help you in the process. I worked with a really great photographer for my book cover and she did images that I just never would have gotten on my own. And it’s a bit tangential but I have a really great web/tech guy who helps me keep my blog running right. If I didn’t have him, I would have spent tons and tons of time trying to keep the blog’s problems at bay (he helped in particular with a big issue I had with my web host) and I wouldn’t have had the time/energy to get the book out on schedule. Other professionals that a writer may want to work with include editors, marketing people, and interior layout designers.
The other thing is that you have to be willing to play many different roles to successfully self-publish. I needed to treat this like a creative work, almost a piece of art, as I was making it. And yet, I needed to be my own taskmaster and manager, insisting on maintaining a schedule to keep it on track. And now that it’s out, I can’t think of it as a creative work anymore, because then the critiques would be too emotionally tough to bear, so now I need to switch gears and think of it as a product I’m trying to sell to the right people. But still, it’s my baby and to promote it I need to stay genuine to its creative intent. So you just go back and forth a lot, utilizing different skills. I think if you aren’t prepared to do that then self-publishing can be really, really tough.
Practically speaking I think that the CreateSpace tool is a really good one. It was easy to understand. It affords you a lot of control but there is an online community there to support you with questions and help. There are other options (Lulu, Blurb) and I don’t know a lot about them but my experience with CreateSpace has been really positive.
UC: Your blog has some new features since I last interviewed you. What are some of your current and upcoming Crochet Concupiscence projects?
Kathryn: I am running two regular series right now that I’m really enjoying. And the first is one that I know you enjoy as well – my articles about the crochet designers from the 1970s! Each Wednesday I take a look back at the work of a crochet artist who emerged around the early 1960s. I explore the work they did at the time, the boundaries that they were pushing in the fiber art world, etc. Then I try to find out what they’ve been up to since. A large number of them are still creating art today, although it’s often not crochet art anymore, and it’s fun to see how their careers have gone over time. These people really contributed a lot to the growth of crochet, making it the craft we know today, and I think it’s not only interesting but important to honor them for that. (UC comment: Yes, it’s true, I’m completely addicted to this series since I love vintage crochet!)
The other regular series is my Designer Crochet Series where I take a look at a famous fashion designer each Thursday and see if there is any crochet in their collections. This is a yearlong project and I’m about halfway through it. I actually haven’t gotten a lot of feedback on this one so I don’t know if people are enjoying it as much as I am but it’s something I really love doing. (UC comment: I’m always amazed by all of the pictures you find for each of these posts!)
And finally I’ve recently begun to take a strong interest in crochet blogs published in other languages so I’ve been doing some posts sharing my favorites. People who are interested in that can start by checking out my posts on Spanish Crochet Blogs but I’ve also covered Italian, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Finnish and a few others.
UC: You do a lot to support the crochet community through your blog and other social media outlets. Do you have any suggestions for crocheters who are interested in being more involved in the online crochet community?
Kathryn: Thanks! I love being a part of the crochet community. My best advice is to be available everywhere but active in only your favorite spots. So for example people who want to can find me through Ravelry, Hookey, Etsy, and a whole bunch of other places because I do make myself available there. However, I’m only super active on Twitter and Pinterest, and to a lesser extent G+ and now Facebook. Facebook was a compromise for me because I’ve never really liked the format there but so many people wanted to see a Crochet Concupiscence Facebook page that I felt like it was important to get more active there.
My point here is that you want people to be able to connect with you but you don’t want to burn yourself out by trying to keep up with all of the latest social sites. Find the ones that you really enjoy. (UC comment: I think this is great advice. I try to focus my time on the sites that I enjoy using the most!) I like Twitter because for me it’s a place where it’s easy to have quick conversations with many different people. Plus I like participating in TweetChats, such as Crochet Chat, which is the first Wednesday of every month. I like Pinterest because of the visual beauty of it; I truly enjoy spending time there. And I like the G+ format for finding and sharing information. I enjoy those so I spend time there. I spend less time on the sites I enjoy less because if you’re not having fun with the community then what’s the point! I also want to give a shoutout to Hookey here – I haven’t spent nearly enough time on it myself (only so many hours in a day) but whenever I’m there I find a really great crochet community so anyone who is looking for a new place to start finding some great online connections would do good for themselves to try there.
I also really encourage people to comment on my blog and even to email me. I like the one on one connection of really getting to know people.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Kathryn, and for sharing your tips with us!
I’m really excited to share an interview with Nicky Epstein today. Nicky is a knit and crochet designer, bestselling author, and teacher. A few months ago, I received a review copy of one of her books (which I won’t name… yet) and thought it was “just a knitting book.” After reading it, I found that it was a book that would be equally beneficial to crocheters and knitters since it dives so completely into the world of felting. The book is Knitting Never Felt Better: The Definitive Guide to Fabulous Felting, and I highly recommend it if you’ve always wanted to explore felting – but more about that later.
After the interview, I’ll be sharing my review of Knitting Never Felt Better, as well as a giveaway, courtesy of Sixth & Spring Books.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting and crocheting?
Nicky: My mother and grandmother taught me at an early age.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Nicky: I entered a contest for McCall’s Needlecraft magazine and won first prize with my “Unicorn In The Garden” sweater. They asked me for more designs, which they published, and I began to get calls from other needlecraft publications, because I was doing intricate colorwork.
UC: Your book, Knitting Never Felt Better, is an in-depth exploration of felting, which could be used by crocheters as well. I was particularly intrigued by the dimensional felting. How were you introduced to these techniques, and what was it like exploring them for the book?
Nicky: I saw cloth shibori scarves at the American Folk Art Museum in New York and thought “Hey, I can do that with knitting.” It was so much fun, I couldn’t stop. And it expanded into the book. I used nuts, marbles, ping pong balls, shells, and more to create the dimensional designs and by the time I finished I had felted all the wool in my apartment and more!!!
UC: What was the design process like for Knitting Never Felt Better?
Nicky: I wanted to make the book a complete guide to felting, so I designed a wide range of pieces using various knitting techniques that lent themselves to felting, including techniques we thought couldn’t be done, like textured stitches and colorwork.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Nicky: From everything I see, from nature to gift wrap designs to vintage fashions. I try to expand the boundaries of knitting in my designs.
UC: What is your favorite “go to” craft for your personal crafting?
Nicky: Redesigning furniture using fun techniques like decoupage, painting, etc. I also like designing jewelry and buttons, and have designed 4 lines of buttons for JHB Buttons.
Nicky Epstein Alpaca Button. (Image courtesy of JHB International.)
Although the patterns inside are geared towards knitters, this book provides a really thorough examination of felting, so I would even recommend it for crocheters. The book opens with Go Felt Yourself, an overview of felting, which includes general felting instructions, FAQs, a list of ten great yarns to use for felting (as recommended by 60 yarn shop owners), and before and after photos of a 23 stitch stockinette swatch in 19 different yarns. The chapter closes with two patterns for knitting projects along with felting instructions.
The next chapter, Dimensional Felting, is by far my favorite. In this chapter, Nicky explores different techniques for creating dimensional projects by attaching marbles, balls, nuts, pebbles, shells, buttons, dowels, and other objects to your finished yarn creation while felting. She also shows some great examples of textures created by drying felted yarn with binder clips attached. This section is filled with swatch pictures that include details about how the effect was created, as well as 6 project patterns and 12 stitch patterns.
In A Potpourri of Stitch Patterns, Nicky explores stitch patterns that “still maintain their visual interest” after felting. This section includes 6 cable stitch patterns, 6 mosaic patterns, 39 color stitch patterns, 2 one-color slip stitch patterns, and 10 lace patterns, as well as one project made from a pattern stitch.
The next chapter, A Variety of Techniques, explores intarsia, stranded colorwork, color blocking, duplicate stitch, surface embroidery, entrelac, drop stitch, beading, and combining natural fibers with synethics. As in the previous chapter, each stitch is shown before and after, and there are many suggestions for felting with these techniques. (My favorite tip is to avoid weaving in ends with your intarsia project, and then to cut them off after felting.) This chapter includes 21 stitch patterns and 3 project patterns.
Appliques, Cords and Bag Handles includes tips for adding “unique adornments” to your projects. This section includes 8 applique patterns, 6 cord patterns, and 8 designs for bag handles along with two project patterns.
The next chapter, Cut It Out, focuses on cutting up felted fabric (from your own knitting or crocheting, or from upcycled garments) to make a variety of fun projects. Most of these projects require sewing. I love the 5-in-1 sweater projects, which shows how to create two hats, a decorative flower, a dog sweater, and a purse from one old sweater, and there are some great bags and toys in this chapter as well.
The next chapter, Sculptural Felting, includes patterns for 13 fruits and vegetables, a fruit bowl, and a covered bowl/gift box.
At the end of the book, there is a techniques section that reviews the pattern abbreviation terms and includes written instructions for some stitches, increases, and decreases. There are also illustrated instructions for a provisional cast on, three-needle bind off, kitchener stitch, duplicate stitch, and 9 embroidery stitches used in the patterns. Nicky includes 13 pages of pattern templates for the cut felted patterns.
The book is filled with great suggestions from Nicky’s readers, as well as tips for making and using your felted creations. Each stitch pattern includes before and after felting pictures, and all of the projects include directions for felting and assembly. Most patterns use U.S. pattern abbreviations, but many of the colorwork patterns include charts instead. The layout and photography is attractive, so the book makes great “eye candy.” As you might expect from Nicky, most of the patterns are women’s accessories, bags, and garments, but there are some items for men, children, and home. The book includes so many stitch patterns that a knitter can also create their own projects using the stitch patterns and felting techniques included inside. The introduction to each section also includes details about the type of yarn and needles used for the swatches in that section.
While this book is clearly aimed at knitters, as I’ve mentioned, there is a lot that crocheters can glean from it. For example, an intermediate crocheter could “translate” the types of color and textured patterns likely to felt well by comparing A Potpourri of Stitch Patterns to a crochet stitch guide. Similarly, most projects in Cut It Out could easily be made with a crocheted fabric.
To keep the review balanced, I’ll mention a few things that could be improved or that might turn off some readers. While I think much could be adapted by an intrepid crocheter, I would have loved to see some crochet stitch patterns included in the book. Some readers will wish that more of the patterns were charted. Like most paperback books, it doesn’t lay completely flat when you are reading, but there are flaps on both covers that can be used as page markers. The book is aimed at an intermediate knitter, so there isn’t much review of the “basics.”
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any intermediate knitter who enjoys working with natural fibers. This book presents a lot of wonderful information about felting in an easily digestible and beautiful form, and there are some wonderful knitting patterns included. I would also recommend this book to an adventurous intermediate or advanced crocheter who already has the basics of felting down and is interested in exploring dimensional and colorwork options.
In the early 2000s, when I first learned to read crochet patterns, there weren’t many good crochet websites. One that I would visit time and again for help understanding a new technique was Crochet Cabana. Even now, as a crochet teacher I often refer beginners to this wonderful site. So I’m really excited to interview Sandie Petit today, the founder of Crochet Cabana.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Sandie: In the summer of 1980, I went on vacation with some girlfriends in Mississippi. They pulled out their hooks and started crocheting and offered to teach me. That got the ball rolling. When I returned home the local TG&Y became my primary source for patterns, yarn, and hooks. The yarn was Sayelle at the time. For many years I thought Boye was the only kind of hook manufactured! With the advent of the Internet a whole new world opened up to me and I now have quite a nice hook collection! My house is often overrun by yarn and I have more patterns than I could complete in several lifetimes!
UC: What was the original inspiration behind Crochet Cabana?
Sandie: Crochet Cabana began in 1997 as a couple of pages on my personal website, Sandra’s Backyard. The original purpose was to have an area where I could jot down what I knew about crochet for my own reference. I also wanted to provide information for those just learning to crochet. I wanted to write it all down, with pictures, in a way that I hoped could be easily understood. All of my first tutorials were written with the new crocheter in mind. As I learned more myself – both in the field of crochet and also in web design – more was added.
In my wildest dreams I never imagined the site would get so large. As I got requests for information on this or that topic, I would add those topics also to the site. In 2001, my husband purchased a domain name for Crochet Cabana as a gift for me. Then in December 2004, we decided to purchase hosting space so I wouldn’t have to keep moving the site as it grew too large for the present host.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Sandie: For designing, inspiration is everywhere. The world around you. Television. The Internet. Sitting in a doctor’s office or in traffic I might notice a particular color or pattern that is intriguing. Quite often it is a matter of need. I need a gift and I have xx amount of time (usually a very short window). It’s actually quite difficult to come up with something new and I always wonder if someone else has already done it. There are so many wonderful designers out there! I don’t feel that I do that much designing really, but when I post a picture of something I’ve worked up I know someone will ask for the pattern as soon as it’s posted.
As to inspiration for tutorials and videos, that generally comes from visitors to the site who inquire if I can show them how to do this or that. If enough people seem to be having the same problem or are interested in a particular technique, I consider adding it to the site. I do fairly often get requests for me to do a video or tutorial on how to work a particular pattern. That is something I cannot do because of copyright issues.
(One of Sandie’s videos. We start our foundation chain the same way!)
UC: You are a true pioneer of the DIY/craft scene on the internet. What were the benefits of establishing yourself online early, and what are some of the changes you’ve had to deal with in recent years?
Sandie: How nice of you to say! When I first began, I had no clue how to put up a website. My husband created the original site and showed me how to update it. Since then, I’ve done most of the work myself though my family, who are much more computer literate than I, have been a great help over the years. My daughter created the logo presently on the Cabana.
One of the benefits of being established so many years ago is that I can appreciate the technological advances available today. I clearly remember having to move the site over a dialup connection! What took many hours then would take mere minutes now. I am still using the same program to update the site (Microsoft Front Page). It is no longer supported so I will eventually have to find a new program to use – which is something I dread.
In those beginning days, way back when, one didn’t have to worry about Internet theft. In recent years, there has been a problem with people taking the work of others and claiming it as their own. Just a few months ago I found photos lifted from one of my tutorials on which the person had placed her own name right on the photos and put them on her site as her own. It was a foreign site and though I requested she remove them, that didn’t happen. You really have no recourse in these situations and it is quite discouraging since it is a lot of work to take photos, edit them, and add all the text to a tutorial, as well as making videos. Sadly, this has also happened to other designers. Sometimes you will even find people selling your patterns on Ebay, particularly if they are free patterns. They just copy them and sell them. It’s really terrible. In fact, I removed all the patterns I had on the site after one such incident. Since then, I’ve put a few back and opened Etsy and Ravelry shops. There are still quite a number I haven’t put up anywhere again. I am really torn about what to do as I love sharing my work with others. (UC comment: What a shame!)
Another change is that people are more and more moving to video teaching. I LOVE video teaching. It is amazing to me that I can create a video demonstrating how to do something, giving the tips I’ve learned through the years, and have someone in another country watch it and learn the technique. I guess I am showing my age here, but it just fascinates me. I often wish I had my own video studio and staff! I still have much to learn. I hope the industry doesn’t change too much while I’m learning!
Yet another change I have seen is the availability of e-books and e-patterns, both free and for sale. Being able to get a pattern you want immediately certainly has its up side. One thing I like about this is if I sell a pattern this way, I know exactly who purchased it and if I update it or find a significant error, I can let them know quite easily. Along with this is the self-publishing industry, such as Lulu, which has grown tremendously in the past few years.
The problem with all this availability is that much of it is free. This hurts the designers for whom crochet sales are a significant part of their earning power. I think this may be why we are seeing more complex designs as magazine publishers have to find a way to entice people to spend their discretionary income. It’s a dilemma I’m sure we will be addressing for some time to come as the industry works to find a balance between paper publishing and e-publishing.
UC: You do a lot of charity crochet. Can you tell us about some of your favorite charity projects, causes, and organizations?
Sandie: There are so many worthy organizations out there. I find that people generally gravitate toward a cause that is in some way meaningful to them. For example, I have lost many loved ones to cancer so if an opportunity arises I might donate to that cause. I had two preemies so I will occasionally donate preemie hats and afghans.
I also like to help out organizations that are based in my own state when I can. I also love to make scarves and squares. Those things came together for me in Scarves for Special Olympics where I could donate to the Louisiana branch of their organization. I was even able to deliver the scarves and meet the people there. That was rather exciting. They do require you to use particular brand and colors of yarn and there are size specifications, but I find that a challenge. I like to try and find different ways to make the scarves unique within those boundaries. This is an annual project so if you haven’t participated in the past you can always pick up and join in the next go round.
Then there is the National WWII Museum’s Knit Your Bit which is also located nearby and accepts scarves. I have had many family members in the military, including my son, and I am happy to be able to do something for the soldiers who put their lives on the line for us. Knit Your Bit gives a bit of a thank you to those soldiers. They accept any pattern, any color so it’s very easy to participate. Most of the vets are men so colors tend to lean in that direction.
I also like to be sure my work makes its way to the people for whom it was intended. With that in mind, I am cautious about sending to people I don’t know. I have known Sandy Holladay for many years and have no qualms about sending items to her for The Bridge and Beyond Project, which helps the homeless. She accepts many different items including scarves, mittens, and socks. She does amazing things with donated squares, putting together afghans which are then given to one of several local missions. Each day I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, clean clothes, and food to eat. It’s a shame there are so many who don’t have these basic needs met.
Heartmade Blessings has been around quite a number of years. They accept 12” squares which are put together into comfortghans. Several people I know personally have benefited from this effort. (UC comment: I’m actually working on several squares right now to donate to Heartmade Blessings as part of the Crochetlist March charity challenge.)
Crafting for a Cause is a wonderful group that supports our Native Americans. Most of the items made are sent directly to the reservation so you can be sure they are getting where they are needed.
In addition to official organizations, I like to donate where I can locally. As time goes on, postage costs for mailing packages has gone up so anything I can deliver is a plus.
That said, I occasionally like to send to SIBOL, way across the pond from me. I just love to go to Sue’s blog and Flickr page and see all the beautiful things. Everything is so artfully shown. She accepts 6” squares which are joined into lapghans for nursing homes in her area. Her challenges are fun too!
UC: You are a CGOA Master of Advanced Crochet Stitches and Techniques and a CYC Certified Crochet Teacher. Tell us why you decided to pursue these certifications and how/if they’ve been helpful to you.
Sandie: I am going to share with you my REAL reason for taking these courses. Shhhh. I never think my work is good enough and I thought that if I took these courses someone else could tell me if I was doing things correctly and, if not, I could learn the proper way. Having the certificates does not mean that I am a wonderful crocheter, but it does mean, to me, that I’ve run the course and persevered to complete it successfully. I may have a tiny bit more confidence than I had before since I did pass the courses.
I also thought that having the certificate would give a bit more weight to my qualifications as an instructor if I decided to teach community education classes or even paid classes through a craft store. (UC comment: I am also a CYC Certified Crochet Instructor and Teacher, and will actually be attending classes this weekend to become a CYC Certified Knitting Instructor and Teacher. For more discussion on the pros and cons of certification, see this post.)
The two courses are very different. I did learn some new techniques through my work on both courses, particularly the CGOA course because it covered more of a variety – like hairpin lace, which I’d not done a lot of before.
I find that every step you take is one step closer to your goal. You mentioned knitting. I’ve been trying to learn to knit for many years. I can cast on and I actually can knit, but if I drop a stitch, that is it for me. However, every time I try I get a little bit further in my understanding. It is the same with crochet. When I did the CGOA course, I did not work much with thread and I had to complete a filet thread project with thread, which I did successfully. I did not pick it up again until recently, but those things I learned at that point have come back to me and I find I just love filet!
I don’t know if the certificates mean anything to those who look at my work. I think your work really has to speak for itself. When I pick up a magazine or look online at a pattern I may purchase, I don’t know if that person has a certificate or not. I just like the pattern, the colors, and the way it was photographed, perhaps the stitches used or the yarn. I think taking the course was for me more than anything.
I would dearly love to take Pauline Turner’s course. I understand it is difficult and I think if I passed that one I would really feel like a crochet master.