Tag Archives: interview

Interview with Michele DuNaier

Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with crochet and knitting designer, Michele DuNaier. You may know Michele as the designer behind MAD Cap Fancies. Michele can be found on Ravelry as MADuNaier, on her designer page, and in the MAD Cap Fans group. All photos are copyright Michele DuNaier and used with permission.

This post contains affiliate links.

Michele DuNaier

Michele DuNaier.

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

Michele: My first lessons were as a child at my grandmother’s knee.  She came from a long line of knitters and crocheters; when she was young in “the Old Country” that was how the family’s clothes were made.  She could knit a thigh-length stocking in one afternoon, so she was exempt from farm work!  I would say I am more of a crocheter than a knitter, although I love both.

Ron's Skulking Cap

Ron’s Skulking Cap, a Harry Potter inspired crochet hat design by Michele.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Michele: After retiring, I became heavily involved in knitting and crocheting for charity.  After making over 100 hats in the space of a few months, I began to find it simpler to just design my own.  Then, when I realized Ravelry made it so easy to self-publish, I thought – why not?

Amagansett Girl

Amagansett Girl, a crochet shawl design by Michele.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Michele: My inspiration comes from a variety of sources.  The seasons inspire me, of course, as well as favorite books, movies, and television shows. A lot of my designs are inspired by old Victorian patterns and doilies.  I also like to design what Ravelry friends tell me they are interested in – for example, they currently have me looking into crocheted crescent-shaped shawls.

Victorian Mantelet

Victorian Mantelet, a crocheted shawl design by Michele.

UC: Most of your patterns are self-published.  What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

Michele: I actually have 3 designs published in pattern books so far, and a fourth due out this July in a magazine.  I prefer self-publishing, however; it gives me the creative freedom to design whatever I like, format the pattern as I wish, include photographs, poetry, creative writing, and whatever else I want to throw in!  Plus, I am always loathe to sell away the rights to my patterns – each one seems like one of my children.  I can’t say that self-publishing contains “challenges” – more like “opportunities” to express myself as I wish.

Meg's Hug-Me-Tight

Meg’s Hug-Me-Tight, a crochet design by Michele, inspired by the 1994 adaptation of Little Women.

UC: What are your favorite things about designing?

Michele: I love the Math inherent in needlework design.  Not that I always totally understand it or can predict what will happen, but I love wrestling with it in shawl design.  I also love parts of needlework design which I did not even expect I would be doing, such as photography, design layout of the pattern file, and doing some creative writing to get things out of my mind and onto the page (or rather, the screen).  I think of my grandmother often as I crochet and knit, and wonder what she would have thought of her granddaughter’s patterns virtually traveling the world via Ravelry!

First Love

First Love, a crochet shawl design by Michele.

UC: Since you’re multi-craftual, do you have a favorite “go to” craft when you’re working on projects for yourself?

Michele: It depends on the project.  Certain types of projects seem to call for knitting, others crocheting.  But then I love to try and create a design to use the other craft instead, just to see if I can. For example, hats and baby boy sweaters just seem to me better done in knitting than crochet, so I have tried to design some in crochet just for the fun of doing it differently.

Tropical Heatwave

Tropical Heatwave, a crochet shawl pattern by Michele.

UC: From your Rav profile, it seemed like you transitioned from a life in tech to a life on a farm/homestead.  Can you tell us about this transition and how it impacted your crafty life?

Michele: I do not live on a farm or homestead, really.  I live on the edge of a forest, but did that even when I was working in the technical field.  However, the transition from work to retirement was what enabled me to have the time to begin designing.  And ironically, I found there are so many steps involved in designing and self-publishing which are similar to software design and support. Sometimes I mistakenly refer to my patterns as “programs…”

Secret Crush

Secret Crush, a knit hat design by Michele.

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

Michele: I love Doris Chan’s Everyday Crochet: Wearable Designs Just for You and Edie Eckman’s The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask; I love reprints of old crochet patterns from the 1800s, as well as old doily patterns.  I also love Barbara Walker’s Treasuries of Knitting Patterns.

Daydream Shawlettes

Daydream Shawlettes, knit shawlettes designed by Michele.

UC: Are there any crafty websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Michele: I am compulsively on Ravelry throughout each day, especially now that I have my own group, MAD Cap Fans.  I also frequent (all too often) websites which sell yarn, such as Jimmy Beans and WEBS

Thanks so much for stopping by, Michele! Good luck with your upcoming releases!

Interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager

Today, I’m happy to share an interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager. Though we’ve never met in real life, Julie and I share a love of crocheting squares and blankets, and of participating in crochet related swaps. (And, I learned from the interview that we also both grew up shopping for yarn at Woolworth’s in New York City!)

Julie can be found online on Ravelry (as JulieAnny, on her designer page, in the Julie Yeager Designs group), Facebook, and Etsy. Julie also founded and co-moderates the Vanna’s Choice Fan Club group on Ravelry, where you can exchange squares and share pictures of your Vanna’s Choice creations. All photos are copyright Julie Yeager and are used with permission.

This post contains affiliate links.

Julie Yeager

Julie Yeager.

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

Julie: I’m honored to talk to the readers of Underground Crafter, Marie.  Thanks for having me. (UC comment: Thanks so much, Julie! It’s great to have you stop by.) I’ve been knitting and crocheting since I was about 8; learned from my Irish mom. I would buy sparkly crochet thread at Woolworth’s in the Bronx, NY and crochet clothes for my Barbies. I also made my share of granny square tote bags. I didn’t do much crafting in my 20s, maybe an occasional baby blanket, but then when I became a stay at home mom I got back into knitting and machine knitting for my daughter. When I discovered Ravelry I got into crocheting afghan squares and blankets and I haven’t stopped.

Stained Glass Afghan Square

Stained Glass Afghan Square, available as a 12″ block pattern.

UC: What inspired you to start designing? 

Julie: I’ve always changed patterns to my taste and would put together the yoke from one sweater with the sleeves from another so I guess I’ve been “designing” a little for years.
I joined some afghan square swap groups on Ravelry and perfected my technique using the patterns of many great designers. Interweave Crochet magazine and the Crochet Me website sponsored a contest in which readers could submit afghan square patterns and the winners would become part of a published pattern called the Chain Reaction Afghan Project. I just picked up my hook and started playing around and submitted a few designs. Three of my designs were chosen and appeared in Interweave Crochet in 2010 – 2011. It was very exciting and the start of my designing career. With Ravelry, I had a great tool to share my work.

Hexaghan

The Hexaghan, including 6 different hexagon designs joined together into one 61 hexagon blanket.

UC: You primarily design crocheted squares. What is it about square motifs that you enjoy designing? 

Julie: I love designing 12-inch squares in aran weight yarn and I have an obsession with Vanna’s Choice. I like the modern look of large scale stitching and I feel like a sculptor with my hook in hand. Fitting my idea into a 12-inch square and getting it to square is very satisfying. My squares are small enough to design and crochet quickly, and I enjoy writing a clear pattern that is easy to follow. I also like an unfussy and repetitive design; as a pattern-user I do not like to have to constantly refer to the instructions and I want my customers to enjoy themselves. Also, there are no fitting problems with blankets.

Catalina Afghan Square

Catalina Afghan Square, a free pattern available in both 9″ and 12″ sizes.

UC: Most of your patterns are self-published. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing? 

Julie: With Ravelry and Paypal and a head full of ideas, it is easy and stress-free to work this business around my life. I have a full-time job as a Registered Nurse and am raising a 16-year-old, so I can write and publish patterns around my schedule. Although I would love to have my patterns in magazines and books, for now I find this a great outlet for my creativity and am very happy with how it’s going. It is not for everyone; you have to be a jack-of-all-trades and competent with designing, writing, proof-reading, and know your way around the internet. No editors or publicists on my staff, haha.

Tangled Web Afghan Block

Tangled Web Afghan Block, a 12″ square design.

UC: You’ve hosted several Mystery Crochet-a-Longs. What do you enjoy about using this format to release your patterns? Do you have any tips for designers who want to dip their toes into the MCAL waters? 

Julie: Mystery Crochet-a-Longs are a fun way to draw interest to my patterns. I am lucky to have a base of fans who trust me and are willing to blindly follow where I go! I can only do it about once a year because designing, crocheting, and writing and proofreading a pattern for a whole blanket is very time-consuming! I need a compelling idea to keep my interest through the work! My fans seem to enjoy it and it keeps them interested in my new work. It also brings new fans. I’ve kept the Mystery’ghan free for participants and then later I put the pattern up for sale. The finished projects become a marketing tool. I’m always a little nervous hoping that people will like it after they’ve invested their time and money into a “Mystery.” My only advice is that you have your pattern fully tested before you start.

Garden State Afghan

Garden State Afghan, which Julie originally offered in June, 2013 as a MCAL design, includes eight 4″ squares, four 8″ squares, and two 12″ square patterns.

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

Julie: When I first started swapping afghan squares, Jan Eaton’s 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans was my favorite. I also worked my way through a few other square reference books, like 101 Crochet Squares by Jean Leinhauser. I love Edie Eckman’s Around the Corner Crochet Borders for finishing after I have a pile of squares to join! I sometimes use The Crochet Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden for stitch inspiration. I try to invent my own stitches these days!

Sun Catcher Afghan Square

 

Sun Catcher Afghan Square, a 12″ block.

UC: Are there any crafty websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Julie: I am a Ravelry addict and check in there several times a day. I like to check the Hot Right Now pattern list and I also check in with my group to see if anyone has any questions or if anyone has posted an awesome photo. :)

In Treble Afghan Square

In Treble Afghan Square, a 12″ block.

UC: What projects do you have coming up this year?

Julie: I am currently working on the pattern for my next Mystery-Ghan and hope to have that ready for a June 2014 start. Stay tuned to my Ravelry board for information on that. Clues will be given out over a six-week period and you will have a complete afghan finished!

Thanks again for stopping by, Julie, and I wish you and your fans the best for a fun summer Mystery-Ghan!

Interview with Viola E. Sutanto, Author of Packaging Your Crafts & Giveaway

This post contains affiliate links.

Today I’m sharing an interview with Viola E. Sutanto, a graphic artist and product designer. Viola’s new book, Packaging Your Crafts: Creative Ideas for Crafters, Artists, Bakers, & More,  explores different materials and techniques that can be used to design pretty packaging for your handmade goodies. Using artisan profiles, tutorials, and plenty of pictures, she shares a ton of packaging inspiration with her readers.

Viola can be found online at the MAIKA website, and on FacebookInstagramPinterest, and as @MaikaGoods on Twitter. All photos are from Packaging Your Crafts and are used with permission.

Viola Sutanto

Viola Sutanto.

Underground Crafter (UC): Tell us about your businesses, chewing the cud and MAIKA. What inspired you to launch them?

Viola: When I first started my studio (chewing the cud), I was working on mostly branding and identity projects, but since then, the studio has evolved into a creative space and our services encompass brand strategy, product development in addition to graphic design. There was a need to differentiate the service business with our own product line, hence the MAIKA brand was born. As the parent company, chewing the cud will continue to evolve and expand in terms of the services and products it will bring to market, but at the heart of every project, I hope it will remain true to being a sustainable and creative think tank.

Designing Your Packaging

Printed fabric drawstring bag by Soma Intimates.

UC: You come from a long line of entrepreneurs. What did you learn from growing up around entrepreneurs, and how did it motivate you to become one yourself?

Viola: Trust your gut and take calculated risks. Timing is everything. Know that it’s ok to fail. That’s how you learn. These are all qualities I learnt (and am still learning), growing up around entrepreneurs. Watching them fail, get up and try again is truly inspiring. As inspiring as watching and learning from their successes.

Working with eco friendly fabrics

Hand-printed market bag with kraft card, hang tag by Nicole James, Yardage Designs.

UC: You recently published your first book, Packaging Your Crafts. What was the development process like for this book?

Viola: Like the saying goes, it takes a village. The team at RotoVision and Lark Crafts were instrumental in solidifying the book concept, and providing continual support throughout the process. It was fun to work together with my husband (also a designer) on the tutorials. He shot all the photos for the tutorials, and it was great fun collaborating with him.

UC: Why do you think packaging is so important for artisans and crafters?

Viola: Presentation is key. It can enhance the perceived value of your product and ultimately, your brand.

UC: What tips can you share for crocheters and knitters who are packaging their (often unusually shaped) projects as gifts?

Viola: Fabric packaging options such as cloth wraps or bags work well for unusually-shaped items. Boxes are also a great option as the item is protected, and makes wrapping that much easier. If the item is “fragile”, wrap it with tissue or papers first, before inserting into the box. All of these packaging materials can easily be embellished using stamps or stencils (see tutorials in the book) so they are “gift-ready”. Even adding a simple element like a pretty hangtag makes the item immediately more personal and gift-like.

Designing Your Packaging 3

Fabric bags by Amie Nilsson, Merino Kids.

UC: What crafts do you personally enjoy? How did you learn/get started?

Viola: There isn’t really a specific craft per say. I enjoy working with ink, paper and fabrics, and have a lifelong love affair with hand-lettering. But I have a 3-year-old daughter, so these days, many of our craft projects involve fishing household items out of our recycling bin and making something “creative” out of them. Monsters, rainbows, fairies, castles… you name them. I’ve been tagging these projects on Instagram with #lifewitha3yearold.

Designing your packaging 2

Inkjet-printed kraft bellyband by Christopher MacManus, Bittle & Burley.

UC: Are there any crafty websites/blogs you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Viola: Honestly, with time being a scarcity these days, I rarely visit blogs anymore. However, I will own up to the guilty pleasure of browsing on Pinterest for some eye candy!

Ribbons

Fabric bundles tied with ribbon.

UC: What’s next for you?

Viola: This year, my goal is to keep building the MAIKA brand and expanding the product line. Other client projects include consulting on store design and strategy, and product development. On the personal front, we are moving to a new house, so I’ve been happily working on designing our new nest. Let’s just say, making home decor decisions with a partner who is also a designer is no easy feat!

Thanks for joining us Viola!

2014 Sampler MKAL May Giveaway Sponsor: Erin.Lane Bags

blog MKAL logo supplies with sample block edit

You can find more information on the 2014 Sampler MKAL here, and can order the pattern here.  Join in any time for a fun project with great prizes!

This month’s giveaway sponsor is Erin.Lane Bags. Lindsey and her mother, Lisa, sell their fabulous knitting organizer bags and cases on Etsy.  In addition to the Etsy shop, Lindsey can be found on Twitter and as followingaslan on Ravelry. Lindsey was nice enough to stop by for an interview today. All pictures are copyright Erin.Lane Bags and are used with permission.

Interview

ErinLaneBags bucket bag 3

A bucket bag from Erin.Lane Bags.

Underground Crafter (UC): Tell us about your company, Erin.Lane Bags. When did you start it and how has it grown since the beginning?

Lindsey: When my mom and I learned to knit, we were a hugely unaware of how expensive a hobby it was. However, we learned quickly. As a teacher, I know most of you know, I am pretty much, broke, all the time. My aunt, who owned a yarn shop for 23 years in Grosse Point, Michigan, was kind enough to set us up with a few balls of yarn, and some needles. Yarn meaning Rowan, and needles meaning, Addis. She wasn’t setting us up to have good taste at all, right?!

I lost 6 sets of needles, and when I went to replace them, I realized I was in it for almost $100 bucks. I couldn’t do that. So I spread it out over several months. While I was working on rebuilding my needle collection, I went to my mom, the consummate seamstress, and asked for help. She had had similar problems with her needles so we started working, and when we finally liked a case, we showed it to our ladies at our local knit night. One lady asked for one, then another, and then we realized we had a business here.

We started developing other products to help everything be coordinating, and we took some big risks.

In 2006, my father had quadruple bypass surgery and one month later had to have his sternum removed due to a MRSA infection inside the bone. Shortly thereafter, he lost his job, and then about 6 months after that, my mom lost hers. We needed the money, and so Erin.Lane Bags became a business. We worked hard to try to get ready for our first show, STITCHES South, and then basically started going on a yearly STITCHES Tour. We have done all of the shows several times with great success.

We have been blessed to have wonderful customers who always have an unique problem, They need something to do this, or that, or the other, and that is really how we grew our product line. Our goal because being the best solution for knitters’ organizational woes.

When we went to our first show we had six products, and now we have almost twenty. It is super exciting to see what we have accomplished, and how this has impacted so many people’s lives. It is so amazing when someone tells you how much she loves her bag, or how her needle organizer is perfect for what she needs it to do. It makes the long hours at the sewing machine seem worth it in so many ways.

Erin LaneDrawstring Bag

Large drawstring bag from Erin.Lane Bags.

UC: How did you first get started sewing?

Lindsey: When we started this crazy journey, my mom sewed, and I did all the prep work. I cut the fabric and ribbon, ironed the ribbon, and did ALL of the seam ripping. (Trust me, that was almost a full time job.) I watched my mom sew. I studied her hands, the way the used a seam ripper as a regulator to turn the perfect corner, and didn’t think I was learning anything.

Then providence stepped in. The owner of our local yarn shop asked for a cute, functional project bag to sell. We developed it, and then, armed with 10 bags, my mom went in to the next knit night. By the time I got there after a faculty meeting at school, they were all sold, AND we had requests. We knew we were on to something. We decided to make more that weekend, and they were simple enough for me to be able to sew, so we bought a $100 machine and I sewed a few things. I then realized how much I had actually learned watching my mom sew. I started saving money to buy a “real” sewing machine. After a year, I had enough and bought my first machine – a Brother NX-Q850. I loved it. We used my mom’s 20 year old machine and that little Brother to get us to our first four shows.

The rest, I guess, is history. I have been sewing ever since, and now I have LOTS of sewing machines that do LOTS of different things!

Erin Lane Bucket Bag

A bucket bag from Erin.Lane Bags.

UC: Do you still have time for knitting? 

Lindsey: I am a knitter. At least, sometimes I pretend to be. I buy LOTS of yarn at all the events I go to, but mostly I don’t have time to knit due to all of the sewing I have to do. I love knitting, and when I can throw a couple rows into a sock or scarf, I do. Mostly I knit small things though.

We started making organizers because when I learned to knit, my aunt taught me she taught me on Rowan wool an Addi Turbos. Nothing too expensive (smile). When I learned how expensive this hobby was going to be, I realized quickly that on a teacher’s salary, I couldn’t afford to lose even one set of needles. However, by that time, I had lost like 6 sets of Addis. I went to my mom who had been sewing since forever, and asked her to help make something for me. We tinkered and tinkered. There were lots of “prototypes.” When we figured out a design we liked, we made one and took it to our local knit night. The people at my local yarn shop are still my market research. They are some amazing ladies!

ErinLaneBags Small drawstring bagSmall drawstring bag by Erin.Lane Bags.

UC: You have over 1,600 sales on Etsy (!). What tips do you have for a new Etsy seller?

Lindsey: Stick with it. I know it is hard to look at a shop and see that the number of sales is in the thousands. To be honest, I look at shops, and think 10,000 sales? When did they open? Oh, great same time as me. Perfect. But at the end of the day it is about perseverance. If you don’t stick with it, it will never be successful. Sometimes, it sucks. Sometimes, you think you are not doing anything correctly, just keep going.

I know that social media has played a huge roll in getting me to that number of sales. Also, Etsy is an amazing community. You can find a tutorial on just about every topic. Etsy wants you to be successful, and they have the best tutorials on how to be successful in their online marketplace.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Etsy is a wonderful community of like minded people. Ask someone who has been doing it longer. I know I have asked people for help, and it has been great. Mostly, everyone on Etsy is happy to see others succeed. I think that is what sets it apart from places like Ebay and other online shop sites.

Also, have a plan. Make all of your listings when your sales are slow and just keep them as drafts. Set up a regular update. A lot of the searches are based on what is most recently listed and not what is most relevant. That helps a lot. That way when you have a few minutes you can list something from your computer or phone/tablet without having to interrupt what you are doing or stop a work flow.

ErinLaneBags Bucket bag

A bucket bag from Erin.Lane Bags.

UC: What’s on the horizon for Erin.Lane in the next year?

Lindsey: This next year is going to be a whirlwind. (And by year, I mean school year: I’m a teacher – that is how we think.) We are planning on being a several shows like STITCHES Midwest, Arkansas Fiber Arts Extravaganza, and maybe a few more. (We are on a couple of waiting lists.) And that just takes us through September!

We are also working on a club with A Hundred Ravens called Random Fandom. If you are a nerd or geek, or just a big fan, you should totally check it out!

On the design front, we are working on developing a spinning bag. My husband just took up spinning, thanks to a few friends from DFW Fiber Fest, and he can tell me what works and what doesn’t. I have no idea when it will roll out, but know that it is in the process of being developed. We also have another new needle case to roll out, hopefully this summer.

Other than that, I will be teaching another year, hopefully my last, but we will continue to sew to meet all of your organizational needs!

Thanks for sponsoring our giveaways, Lindsey, and for stopping by for an interview!

Giveaway

Erin.Lane Bags is offering the winner of this month’s giveaway their choice of any bucket bag or drawstring bag in their Etsy inventory.

To enter the giveaway, post a picture of any 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-A-Long sampler square you knit during May in the relevant spoiler thread on Ravelry by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, May 31, 2014.  (KAL participants who are not Ravelry members can instead share pictures with the Underground Crafter Facebook page or Tweet pictures to @ucrafter.)  Each square you share a picture of will count as one entry.  One winner will be chosen at random on or about June 3.

Interview with Gale Zucker

Today, I’m sharing an interview with Gale Zucker. Many knitters know Gale as a knitwear/knitting photographer, but Gale is also a designer, teacher, and photojournalist. We attempted to meet up for an interview at Vogue Knitting Live back in January, but schedules were too crazy all around, so we opted for an email interview instead. (Gale was nice enough to stop by and say hi while I was working a shift at the Michelle’s Assortment booth, so we did get to officially meet.)

You can find Gale online on Ravelry (as SheShootsSheep and on her designer page), on her knitting blog, She Shoots Sheep Shots, on her website, as @galezucker on Twitter and Instagram, on Pinterest, and on her Facebook page.  You can read more about her Photography for Knitters workshops here. All photos are copyright Gale Zucker and used with permission.

This post contains affiliate links.

GailZucker

Gale Zucker.

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

Gale: I grew up in an extended knitting family. You’re female? You knit..and crochet, embroider, sew, you name it. The sound of needles clicking (always the metal ones) is the sound of my childhood. I really don’t remember who taught me first, it was either my grandma or mom. I knit as a little kid (poorly and impatiently), and then off and on through high school. Crochet was really big then for me, too. I did a lot of other crafts also. I like to make stuff. In college, knitting settled in as my go-to habit. I have been known to go off on other crafting binges, but I always have something on the needles. And..even though I keep saying knitting in answer to the questions in this interview, I also mean crocheting. Not trying to dis my hooking friends!

Putney Mountain Vest

Gale’s photo of the Putney Mountain Vest pattern. (Read more about her shoot here.)

UC: What first drew you to photography and photojournalism?

Gale: Here’s another “since I was a kid” answer, coming right up! I’ve always loved the storytelling power of photography, and memorized Life magazines that were around when I grew up. I started college majoring in Environmental Sciences but spent more time playing around in a darkroom than in a science lab. I switched to journalism school, with a photojournalism major. I wanted to be a newspaper and magazine photographer, which is what I did for many years before switching over to more commercial work.

Ellen

Gale’s photo of Ellen Mason wearing her Mary Rebecca pattern. (Read more about the shoot here.)

UC: When did you first combine your interests in knitting and photography?

Gale: I used to keep the two separate, although I kept on getting travel magazine and New York Times (at one time, my main client) assignments on farms. I jokingly started a portfolio called She Shoots Sheep Shots. Little did I know it would become part of my identity! In the early 2000s, I was doing a lot of work photographing youth at risk, youth in the judicial system, foster care for books and non-profits—and it was knitting that I turned to to de-stress when it got grim. I discovered knitting blogs and the new wave of knitting stores in 2004, so I started a knitting blog too and connected to new friends. (She Shoots Sheep Shots became my blog name).

In 2005, a book editor client asked me if I had any ideas for a book. She was expecting me to suggest some visually stunning social issue topic but instead, I blurted out that I wanted to travel around the country photographing fiber farms and show where yarn comes from, intentional lifestyles, and have knitting patterns at the end of each chapter. (The idea was met by dead silence and an incredulous “no..really? you don’t…..knit??!!) The timing for my idea was good, so we put together a book proposal that ended up becoming my book Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farms, Twenty Patterns, and Miles of Yarn from Potter Craft. Since then I try to bring knitting and photography together as often as I can.

Aria Tunic

Gale’s photo of the Aria Tunic pattern.

UC: You’ve collaborated with Joan Tapper on two books. How did you two come to work together? What was the development process like for the two books (or was each one quite a different process)?

Gale: As I was developing the idea and book proposal for Shear Spirit, I needed to bring a writer on board. I truly believe in recognizing your strengths and collaborating with others. I approached a very talented travel writer I’d worked with on some longer magazine assignments, and he agreed to jump in. Just as we were going to send the book proposal out to publishers, he called to say he’d had a great offer for two book contracts, and he needed to pull out of my proposal. He felt so terrible about it that he said was calling his former editor at National Geographic Traveler. He promised she would look at our idea and match me up with someone good, since she had the bead on all the top travel writers working. I was totally intimidated by her reputation. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. It was Joan Tapper, the editor from NatGeo saying “I love this idea! I’m not passing you on to anyone, I want to work on it with you!”

It was the best professional “blind date” ever – we work together really well and have become close friends. She lives in Santa Barbara, California; I’m in Connecticut. We email a lot, and talk on the phone, as we develop material. We have very different styles of working and organization but it make for harmony. (and she deserves an award for patience with me). Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In was put together the same way Shear Spirit was–we research and compare notes via email and phone, we break down the tasks of making/producing a book and share them, we travel together to some of the subjects and separately to others. I am in awe of her writing and editing talents, and we have a very similar take on what we encounter.

Decibella

Gale’s Decibella pattern.

UC: How did you get started teaching photography classes for fiber enthusiasts?

Gale: After Shear Spirit was published in 2008, I received photo questions regularly from knitters saying how frustrated they were with their photography. It was at about that time that prices dropped on good quality digital cameras, and faster online connections became the norm for knitbloggers, and Ravelry started–so there was a real interest in better, bigger, eyecatching images for knitters & crafters. I noticed a lot of horrible photo information online–from overly tech-y talk that focussed on equipment more than vision, to outright misinformation, and mean-spirited blabbing.

I’d taught photography before at a community arts center and as a college level guest lecturer, so a workshop where I combine my two passions? No problem! I started teaching at some yarn shops- which I still do, all anyone has to do is email me and ask–and now I teach at knitting events, like VK Live and fiber festivals, and retreats. I’ve done two live webinars for Interweave, which were recorded and are available to watch and learn at your convenience.

Palisades Cowl

Gale’s Palisades Cowl pattern.

UC: Without giving away all of your secrets, can you share a few tips for those among us whose photos never quite live up to the beauty of our finished fiber objects?

Gale: My mantra: Keep shooting. Pixels are free. Which means, keep shooting, trying different angles, compositions, more shade, less shade, even if you think you’ve got the shot, try it from a different perspective. Don’t stop at “eh that’s good enough.”

The other most important tip is turn off your flash! There’s always a way to use natural light and keep that straight-on harsh flash from ruining your photos. Look for open shade, and light coming from the side to bring out texture.

mittens

Gale’s photo of mittens, a pattern by Theresa Gaffey.

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

Gale: I have many photography books, and many knitting books but few that combine the two to suit my picky picky picky tastes. I had an Alice Starmore guernseys book that I loved–it didn’t matter that I’d never knit any of the sweaters in it, I wanted to be the woman in the images, on the rocky UK coastlines, and in pubs with sailors wearing oversized guernseys. That’s the kind of knitwear photography I love, that tells a story. Can’t take the photo journalist out of the knitter! The Brooklyn Tweed Wool People publications are gorgeously produced and I enjoy looking at Stephen West’s more recent images. They’re leaning more toward performance art with sweaters than anythng else, and are so very entertaining. And Carrie Bostick Hoge’s style is awesome. It’s way more quiet and subdued than I am, but I love it. I like anyone who creates a look and visual stamp–I find a lot of knitwear photography to be super formulaic. (Wow, I sound like a grouch. I’m not. You asked!)

Mason Dixon 2 , coats handknits, NYC

Gale’s photo of Metropole by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

UC: Do you have any crafty websites you frequent for inspiration or community?

Gale: SO MANY! Working from a home office, the online crafting community is my virtual coffee break and offers world-class procrastinating opportunity to this world-class procrastinator. These days Pinterest is often my launch pad to explore other sites, I follow a bunch of designers & artists who lead me all over. I still read a lot of blogs. I love a well-written blog.

Mason Dixon 2 , coats handknits, NYC

Gale’s photo of Yank by Bonne Marie Burns.

UC: What are you working on now, in the crafting/knit world?

Gale: So much! I feel like spring has sprung and I’m busting out!. I’m shooting more for indie knitwear designers and sweater companies. I’m incorporating some video work in, as I did for my client, Camp Kitschy Knits. I am pretty sure that is the first and only retro knitwear stop action video with original banjo-uke and concertina soundtrack.

I’ll be at TNNA, so anyone interested in talking to me about a photo project or workshop or something new and different can grab me there–I think I may even book some location photo shoots while in Indianapolis. And I’ll booth sit for friends at the show.

I’m still editing and getting out a book from my epic photo shoots at the NY Sheep & Wool Festival in 2010 and 2012. Pretty sure it’ll come out by the end of summer as an ebook and print, perhaps in an unorthodox format. Sneak peek video, here.

Joan Tapper and I are brainstorming new book ideas. Stay tuned there!

And more teaching! Check on my Photography for Knitters page to see more listings-I am nailing some very cool ones down now. And, Fiber College of Maine, one of my favorite annual events, Sept 3-7th. This year I’m co-teaching a Savvy Storytelling – writing + photography blogging workshop with the wonderful Beverly Army Williams, and a workshop that is a Photo Scavenger Hunt. The Gees Bend Quilters will be teaching there this year so we will have PLENTY to look at with our cameras.

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story (and your pictures) with us, Gale!