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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!

Book Review: Crochet Red

This post contains affiliate links.

Today is National Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association‘s annual event to bring attention to women’s heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S.  This year, Jimmy Beans Wool founder Laura Zander is bringing her Stitch Red campaign to crochet, with Crochet Red: Crocheting for Women’s Heart Health, a collection of 31 patterns. Since I don’t have much red in my wardrobe, I thought I’d spread awareness by reviewing Crochet Red, instead.  (A portion of the proceeds from this book are donated to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to support The Heart Truth campaign.)

crochet red

The book opens with a stunning image of a stack of red crocheted items, and then shares a thumbnail of each of the designs in the table of contents.  Not surprisingly, the book then launches into a series of notes, forewords, and prefaces (by the director of the Heart Truth, Deborah Norville, Vanna White, and Laura Zander), each of which discusses women’s heart health.

The next section of the book, Projects and Profiles, includes 30 patterns.  Each pattern includes a designer profile.  In many of these, the designer shares their own story related to heart health.  Most patterns also include a health tip from the designer, such as their favorite heart healthy foods or exercise.  Most patterns, especially the wearables, include multiple views of the project.  The exceptions are the two wraps, neither of which is shown on a model, and the smaller projects, like the mitts, which just include one picture.  The garment patterns also include schematics (in red, naturally).  All patterns are written in U.S. crochet abbreviations, and five patterns also include international stitch symbols.

The next section, Heart-Healthy Living, includes a variety of information about heart health, such as self test, exercise recommendations, tips for staying motivated about healthy lifestyle changes, and nine recipes.

The Crochet Know-How section shares the standard “back of book” information like a glossary of abbreviations, hook sizes, yarn weights, and a US to UK abbreviation conversion chart.  It also includes short photo tutorials of the basic crochet stitches (chain, single, slip stitch, half double, and double crochet) and the adjustable ring for crocheting in the round.  The book ends with a bonus pattern, a list of yarn suppliers, and an index.

Throughout the book, images of mountains of red yarn, piles of red crocheted fabric, and models in red garments are presented against mostly white backgrounds.  The contrast creates a really beautiful effect and you just want to keep flipping through the book.  The layout is particularly helpful in the Heart-Healthy Living section because it contains a lot of text.  The contrasting colors and the images break up the wall of text and keep the book visually interesting.

Overall, the book includes 31 patterns.

Pattern Type

  • Women’s top (cardigans, tunics, shrugs, pullover, etc.): 9
  • Women’s coat or jacket: 4
  • 3 each: cowls, scarves, bags
  • 2 each: hats, blankets, wraps
  • 1 each: pillow, mitts, sachet

 

Difficulty Rating

  • 13 easy,
  • 13 intermediate, and
  • 4 experienced.

 

Three of the designs – the Tunisian Chevron Scarf by Sharon Silverman, the Tunisian Shrug by Kristin Omdahl, and the Vintage Tunisian Shell by Rohn Strong – are Tunisian crochet patterns.

My favorite designs are the Flower Garland Cowl by Robyn Chachula, the Gingham Afghan by Tanis Galik, the Heart Shaped Coat by Nicky Epstein, the Petal Cabled Hat by Linda Permann, the Slouchy Cowl by Edie Eckman, and the Sweater with Cowl by Marly Bird. Ravelry members can see the 30 main patterns on the book’s source page here.  (The bonus pattern, Kristin Nicholas‘ Heart Sachet, is visible on the book’s front cover.)

Although this book has a stunning layout and a great collection of patterns by many of today’s most popular designers, there are a few things I wish were done differently.  I would have liked to see the wraps on models, particularly since they can be challenging to style.  I think many crocheters would want to see more patterns with international stitch symbols.  Most of the garment patterns are in 3-4 sizes and some crocheters will be looking for more.  The Heart-Healthy Living chapter is a bit lost at the end – putting it up front would have made everyone look through it and would probably have a greater impact on awareness.  I wish there was more information about how much of the proceeds were going to The Heart Truth.  (Is it a percentage?  A fixed amount per book?  Is there a maximum donation? etc.)

This is a surprisingly affordable collection of patterns, particularly since there are so many garments.  I would give it 4 out of 5 stars for a crocheter who likes pattern collections and who enjoys crocheting projects for women.

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Giveaway: Artyarns Shawl for All Seasons Kit

Confession time: Before I started working on surmounting my stash, I pretty much entered every yarn giveaway I came along.  It was by winning one such giveaway from Jimmy Beans Wool that the Artyarns Shawl for All Seasons Kit became part of my collection.

This is actually a pretty cool kit in the Purple Velvet colorway.  Apparently, it usually sells for over $60.  It is even available for both knitting and crocheting.

So why am I giving it away? Well, I’ve discovered that I don’t need quite as much bling in my crochet projects as this kit provides.  And since I don’t plan to use it, I’d rather it ends up with someone else who might get a lot of pleasure from it.

This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, January 4, 2013.