UC: Tell us about your newest patterns.
Thanks for stopping by, Cheezombie!
UC: Tell us about your newest patterns.
Thanks for stopping by, Cheezombie!
I’m really excited to interview Charles Voth, also known as Stitch Stud, today. Charles is a crochet and knitting designer and tech editor. (If you’re not sure what a tech editor is, you may want to check out this interview with Juanita Quinones. And if you get really excited about tech editing, you may want to sign up for these upcoming tech editing classes Charles is teaching at online at Crochet Insider.) Charles is an active participant in several online forums for crochet designers, and over the years I’ve seen him generously sharing his knowledge with more junior designers (including me!). In the past year, I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to (virtually) meet Charles when he tech edited one of my patterns. You can find Charles online at his website, Charles Voth Designs, on Ravelry (as StitchStud and on his designer page), and on Twitter. All photos are used with permission.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you learn to crochet and knit?
Charles: When I was 5, a woman visiting my mother was crocheting a blue hat. I was fascinated with the movement of her hands and that a 3-d object was appearing from a piece of yarn. I asked her to teach me. She taught me to finger chain that day, and came back another time to teach me how to use a hook. What I made after with the basic stitches I learned, I can’t recall. I remember making a doily in thread following a pattern when I was 8 or 9. I had no-one to help me crack the code of pattern text and abbreviations, but somehow with the photo and the index of stitches I figured it out. When I was 10 or 11, I saw some Guambiano tribesmen knitting and spinning with drop-spindles (in Popayan, Colombia) and I asked my dad what they were doing. He explained what it was and I asked him if I could learn to knit. Fortunately, my grade 5 teacher was a knitter and my dad asked her to teach me. He bought me my first yarn and needles. I am a “thrower”, and faster at it than at “picking”, but when my Russian-born grandmother saw me throwing upon my visit with her in Canada, she was dismayed, and tried to get me to knit Russian-continental. Which I can now do fairly well, but at that age, I found it hopeless to change over.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Charles: The yarn store I frequented in Medellin, Colombia only had yarn, no pattern booklets. The women would sketch a schematic, do a swatch, and figure out the sweater. They taught me how to do that so I could make my mom a sweater and a vest. But I wanted to knit something for myself. Fortunately, another expat woman lent me an English pattern book with women’s patterns. I analysed the shaping, schematic, gauge, etc, and with the help of my math teacher I designed a men’s sweater based on the woman’s pattern, making it more masculine. I even got a home-ec credit for that. I just kept going from there and only stopped during the first 10 years of my kids’ lives. I was the full-time stay at home parent for half of those years and just didn’t have time.
UC: Many of your patterns are available in both English and Spanish. Tell us about your decision to offer your patterns in both languages. Are Spanish language patterns universally understand by Spanish speakers, or is there a great divide like we see between U.S. & U.K. terminology? If so, how do you address that in your work.
Charles: I wish I could spend more time writing my patterns in both languages. I know that Spanish-speaking knitters and crocheters don’t cling to patterns the way English-speakers do…and seem to thrive on the “swatch, and follow a schematic” formula, but there are many learners and intermediate crocheters who perhaps haven’t benefited from a relative who could teach them the intricacies of shaping, etc, and they do look for patterns. The many Spanish groups of Ravelry who translate with designers’ permission are a testimony to this growing need. While there are differences in the names of stitches, for knitting needles, the crochet hook, and even yarn, the labels do seem immaterial to Spanish-speaking crafters. Rather than stigmatizing one set of labels as incorrect or inferior, each geographic region is happy to use what they know and even to borrow from each other. It’s rather refreshing. The other mentality that I enjoy and return to often for a breath of fresh air, is that there is no knit-crochet dichotomy like in North America. In Colombia, as in many other countries, the word “tejer” is universal for “weaving, knitting, and crochet” and the tool that is used is given when the activity is being described. So I would “weave with a loom,” “weave with 2 needles,” or “weave with a hook,” for example. I use the words that I was taught in Colombia and the terms and abbreviations I first found when I found other Hispanic bloggers and stitchers online.
UC: In addition to your crochet life, you’re also an ESL teacher. Does your teaching experience impact your design or pattern writing process, and if so, how?
Charles: Second language learners struggle constantly with accuracy and fluency, and the two aspects of language compete with each other. Either one can talk with native-like speed and tone yet have many embedded grammatical or micro-level pronunciation errors, or one can speak/write accurately, with near perfect grammar and spelling, but it takes forever and the speech is robotic and the writing painfully slow. Crocheters and knitters, depending on their exposure to patterns and the time they’ve been stitching, and what kind of support they’ve had, and more importantly, what kind of learner they are (visual, aural, kinesthetic, text-biased) often struggle with the same fits and false starts when they encounter pattern instructions and charts until they are more experienced, but if a stitcher works faster than they are ready to, things get missed and frogging is more common. I have written patterns that bore the experienced knitter/crocheter to tears because they are full of pedagogical text, and I’ve written patterns that are so sparse that a newbie takes up hours of my time on Ravelry giving pattern support. I’m a visual learner, so I’m fine with a chart, a schematic and minimal text, yet I know that if my patterns were only like that I’d loose 75% of stitchers out there, so I now try to find a happy medium.
UC: You were born and raised in Colombia. What was the yarn crafts scene like there when you were growing up?
Charles: From what I recall, different tribes of pre-European Colombians have a vibrant craft movement and the lore is well documented and perpetuated. Colombia is the textile centre of Latin America, and Medellin, where I grew up, has many textile corporations. The tallest sky scraper in the city is actually a stylized sewing needle. When I was there, mostly grandmothers were the knitters and depending on the social class, younger women either learned out of necessity (to make blankets and clothes for themselves and/or for sale) or if they were middle or upper class, they just dabbled in it once in a while. I’m not at all in touch with the current knitting/crochet culture in Colombia. Colombians on Ravelry appear to come from all age groups. When I lived there, the main yarn purveyors were the French company Pinguoin, and Cisne yarns (from Chile), and I believe Coats had and still has a line of yarn with Spanish labels. These yarns were in the store at the mall near my house. The yarns were mostly acrylic. My favourite store was a different one, 15 blocks from my house and it was frequented mostly by little grandmothers from working class families. The store consisted of a small room with walls made of cinderblock and red-clay brick; it was poorly lit, and had a very sparse non-yarn décor. But it had wall-to-wall cones of what now would be deemed lace-weight acrylic yarn in about 100 colours. I would go there, ask for 15, 23, 60, or any number of grams of yarn, and I could specify the number of strands they would hold together and wind off into cakes. 4 yarns together worked great on my 3.5mm or 4mm needles, so it must have been somewhere been a sport or DK weight. I’d ask for 3 strands together to make baby booties and 6 strands together to work at a worsted weight gauge. It was VERY splitty, naturally, but I think my getting control of this was what really helped me develop a very even tension. (UC comment: This sounds like a really fun store!)
UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?
Charles: The deepest influence my cultural heritage gives me is my sense of colour and of proportion. I know it’s nothing unusual now, but when I first arrived in Canada and made things with orange, fuschia, and red right beside each other, I sure got looks. Naturally, when I discovered Kaffe Fasset at 19 and saw that colours transcended culture, I feel liberated. I don’t know whether I can say this here, but as a teenage boy interested in the local beauties, I was drawn to girls that had curves, naturally, but it was the relative proportion that mattered. The guys and I would comment on how North American models were twiggy and sickly and we were never surprised that Miss Universe was often won by a South American beauty queen. To be beautiful in our eyes, a girl had to have calves and thighs, but it was just as important to have narrow ankles and knees, and so on—proportion was key. This definitely has influenced my design aesthetic, when designing women’s garments, because I like to accentuate curves and relative differences in proportion rather than create the baggy box or the wraith-like sack-on-a-scare-crow look. You could say that my muse for women’s designs is “la belleza latina.” Of course, for men’s designs, I now consult my 2 teenage sons and what they and their friends would wear.
UC: You’ve held a lot of roles in the yarn industry, including designer, podcaster, tech editor, and magazine editor. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals? Charles: I would say,
UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet or craft blogs to share? Charles:
UC: What are you working on right now?
Charles: I’m busy tech-editing mostly. A few designs in the works, but nothing I can talk about at the moment. (UC comment: And if you’re interested in becoming a tech editor, don’t forget to sign up for Charles’s upcoming classes at Crochet Insider!)
Thank you, Charles, for sharing your thoughts with us, and for giving some great advice!
This post contains affiliate links.
Today, I’m interviewing Linda Wyszynski about her new book, The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework. I’ll also be reviewing the book and
giving away my review copy, courtesy of Creative Publishing International.
Linda Wyszynski has been a freelance needlework designer for over 20 years. Her work has appeared in countless books and magazines, including Cross-Stitch and Needlework, Crafts ‘ n Things, and Cross Stitcher. Linda also taught needlepoint, silk ribbon and needlepoint canvas painting earlier in her career. Linda can be found online at her website, Hearthside Creations. Pictures are used with her permission. (Project pictures are the property of the publishers.)
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started with needlework?
Linda: My paternal grandmother began teaching me needlework when I was 8 or 9. We didn’t have any iron on patterns and I wanted to learn to stitch. Grandma would take a piece of fabric, lay it over the bottom of the cast iron frying pan, and place a piece of her finished embroidery work face down on the cloth that covered the frying pan. She would then run a wooden spoon over the back of the needlework. The design would magically appear on the fabric that was next to the black cast iron. In my early twenties, I rediscovered needlework, and realized how much I loved to stitch.
UC: What originally inspired you to begin designing?
Linda: In the ‘80s, I fell in love with needlepoint, and wanted to stitch a painted canvas. As I was still a novice in needlepoint, I felt the pre-painted canvas cost was too high to justify purchasing one. Since I had taught Tole (decorative painting) and reverse painting, I decided to give canvas painting a try. To my surprise, it turned out great, and I took the painted canvas to a local shop to pick out threads. The owner liked my canvas painting and asked me to do custom canvas painting for her customers. I began Hearthside Creations LLC, and the next thing I knew, I was designing plastic canvas and needlepoint designs for magazines.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Linda: Design ideas come from all around me: nature, floral gardening books, home décor magazines, catalogs, antique embroidery work, shopping, even watching TV or movies. I have always loved magazines and subscribe to many different types. Sitting and leafing through them, I’ll see a painting or floral fabric or rug – there is always something to give me an idea. One thing I do not do is look at craft magazines to see what others are doing. I don’t even visit websites or blogs often. Our mind is always storing things and it would be way to easy to create a design like someone else without even realizing it! Observing the copyrights of other designers’ work is very important to me – just as I would like for others to observe my copyrights.
UC: Your latest book, the The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework, was just released. How did you approach the challenge of writing such a comprehensive guide covering several needlecrafts, and what was the overall writing and development process for the book?
Linda: Actually, this is my first authored book. I have been published in twenty multi-authored needlework books and in magazines for many years. For this book, lists were made of things I would like to see in a technique book, along with list of the stitches for each chapter. The gathering of the “types of information” we wanted to discuss or show in the book took several weeks. Once the lists were complete, and a schedule was in place, the rest was much easier to accomplish.
This book needed to have an edge the other published technique books did not have. It needed to show the stitcher through the photographs how the piece looked completely stitched, how it looked as you stitched each step, and, most of all, to have clear, easy to follow graphs. Dennis, my husband, who has created my graphs for years, worked hand in hand with me. He took the step-by-step photographs and created the graphics for each stitch. Having him to discuss the vision of the book and to help accomplish that was the greatest!
We wanted to show through photographs a close up of each strand of each type of thread, each tool, type of scissors etc., so when the stitcher is learning this craft, they are not in the dark about what to use and how to use the information given. Being a self-taught needle artist, this was important to me. The techniques chosen for this book are all related. Many of the same stitches are used for each technique. It was a hard decision to show the same stitch for several techniques. In the end I did do that so the stitcher would understand that once the rhythm of the stitch was learned it could be used in many forms of needlework. When using silk ribbon or embroidery floss or yarn or beads, a simple stem stitch will take on a very different look.
UC: You are obviously multi-craftual, but what is your favorite “go to” craft when working on projects for yourself?
Linda: I rarely have time to do something for myself, but I do enjoy hand quilting. I have only completed a small lap quilt. Currently, I’m working on creating quilted placemats from die cut pieces. It may be years before they are completed. I don’t worry about how long it takes to complete projects because it’s relaxing and fun to quilt by hand! My favorite color is black, so these will be black, white and red.
UC: What are your favorite needlework books in your own library (besides your own, of course)?
Linda: I love antiques and old books, so I lean toward books from the early 1900s forward. I have so many books, it’s really hard to define favorites! If you asked next week, my list could easily be different.
Some of the books are:
The one book I have used most in my library of over 800 books is A Pageant of Pattern for Needlepoint Canvas by Sherlee Lantz with diagrams by Maggie Lane. I love to just look at the graphics and envision what the stitch looks like when worked. This book is out of print. It was given away in grocery stores when you bought a certain item back in 1973. It took me years to find a copy – costing me $75, which was inexpensive at the time. It was selling for around $200. Now there are copies turning up in used book stores for far less. It was well worth the cost!
UC: Do you have any favorite craft or design blogs or websites to share?
Linda: There are so many wonderful bogs and websites it hard to decide which to share. I check out these designs once in a while.
UC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Linda: Needlework is a love I’m sure I’ll have the rest of my life. Times in my life I have missed not having a needle in my hand. I usually have work with me even on vacation. The highlight of my career was being asked by Creative Publishing to write a book on something I love, that was the greatest. Having control over the development of the book was very exciting. Most of all, being able to share my love of needlework with my husband. He has a logical mind and understands how to work the stitches without ever picking up a needle. Let me tell you that has come in handy with some of the more difficult stitches since I tend to transpose numbers!
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Linda!
About once a year, I decide that I’m going to take up embroidery again. This is usually triggered by seeing a super cute image on someone’s blog, or the discovery of a masterpiece in the closet by my grandmother or MC’s mother. Then, I try embroidering for a few hours and realize that I don’t have the patience (or the eyesight) for needlework. It was in this vein that I requested a review copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework from Creative Publishing International.
The book is organized into seven main sections:
There is also a resource section and a detailed stitch index in the back.
What I like about this book:
What I didn’t like (or what’s missing):
Overall, I found the book to be an excellent resource which clearly explains the differences between the different types of needlework, identifies the appropriate tools for different tasks, describes different techniques for image transfer, and presents a detailed stitch guide with both illustrations and photos. The projects are fairly classic/standard, and don’t display a range of styles. I think this book would be quite helpful for a needlework newbie who is looking for a resource and technique book to grow with. While at certain points, the text is not as graceful as I would like it to be, the pictures and the illustrations do most of the talking anyway. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
I’m giving away my review copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Needlework, courtesy of Creative Publishing International. Due to postage costs, this giveaway is only open to readers with a U.S. mailing address.
This post contains affiliate links.
Today, I’m interviewing Lisa Bogart, my virtual friend. I met Lisa on Ravelry and we have since helped each other establish our Rav groups and chatted about knitting and other projects. I will be reviewing her new book and offering a giveaway of my review copy, so read on for details!
Lisa is a Midwestern native who now lives in California. In 2010, she was selected to attend the Guideposts Writers Workshop in Rye, NY, and her second book, Knit with Love: Stories to Warm a Knitter’s Heart was recently published by Revell. Lisa also works at Piedmont Yarn and Apparel two days a week. Lisa can be found at her website or in her Ravelry group, Knit with Love. She is currently coming to the end of her book tour, and will be at Debbie Macomber‘s A Good Yarn Shop on Thursday, November 10. (For more details on the book tour, check out the News & Events page on Lisa’s website.)
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting?
Lisa: I learned to knit when I was 13. There was a class at the local library. But like many teens, the skill didn’t stick. Then I knit my son a little cardigan when he was born, 18 years ago. But I really didn’t pick up knitting again until about 10 years ago when I read an article in Guideposts magazine about their Knit For Kids Program. It has become my charity of choice. Their pattern is so simple it lends itself to creativity. Because I am not trying to fit a particular child, I can play with color and stitch patterns. I know there is a child out there that is a perfect match.
UC: What type of projects are your favorites to knit?
Lisa: I have knit a fair number of large sweater projects. But lately I like quicker things where I can see progress. So I’ve been making a lot of socks. My son stated school at Boston University and my California boy needed a lot of woolie socks. But the pendulum is swinging back. I’ve been looking at sweater patterns again. I’m itching to take on a challenge.
UC: Your latest book, Knit with Love: Stories to Warm a Knitter’s Heart, was just released. What was the original inspiration for this book? What was the writing/development process like?
Lisa: I really enjoyed reading Betty Christensen’s book, Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time. The best part was learning the stories behind all kinds of knit charities. I began to wonder if there were local stories like that. So I started digging. I looked on the internet. I asked friends and customers at the LYS where I work. And discovered all kinds of great stories. It was a delight to talk to so many different new fiber friends and write about their knit adventures. My current book tour has given me the opportunity to meet even more knitters and I am still collecting stories. A second book is in the works.
UC: What is your favorite knitting book in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
Lisa: I actually have a section in my book devoted to titles from my knit library. It’s so hard to narrow it down. For color inspiration, I love to look at Kaffe Fassett’s Family Album: Kniting for Children and Adults. For stitch inspiration, I like the Field Guide to Knitting by Jackie Pawlowski. And a recent fiction favorite was Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson. I have a soft spot for knit books and my library grows almost as fast as my stash.
UC: Do you have any favorite craft/writing/creativity websites or blogs to share?
Lisa: My go-to knit site is Ravelry. I love the community. I am beginning to venture further into cyberspace but it’s with suggestions from Ravelry. For example, I just discovered the podcast Cast-On with Brenda Dayne. So, I’m listening to all the old episodes as I am traveling.
UC: Your book tour is bringing you to yarn shops around the country. How did you choose these particular shops to work with?
Lisa: My tour was done a shoestring budget. I mapped out places where I could stay for free with family and then drew a 50 mile circle around each stop. Then I contacted shops in the circle. I started in Colorado staying with my mom and then moved to Minnesota to stay with my cousin. I’ll end the tour in New Jersey at my sister’s house. And along the way I managed to squeeze in Parents Weekend at BU so I get to see my son. All this plus yarn and new knitting friends? It’s been a great trip!
UC: Tell us about how your book tour is going so far, and about your project with Warm Up America.
Lisa: The Warm Up America blanket project got a slow start but picked up a full head of steam when I visited the Culver KnitWits in Coon Rapids, MN and they contributed 58 squares! They are a very active charity knitting group. I have a lot of seaming to do now but it is a delight to connect knitters from California to Minnesota. I will probably have enough squares for two blankets (each takes 63 squares) by the end of the tour. I hope to get the blankets seamed for the last stop on the tour November 10. I’ll be at Debbie Macomber’s A Good Yarn Shop in Port Orchard, WA. I’m really looking forward to signing the book with Debbie.
The tour has gone very well. No travel glitches unless you count trying to get on a plane for Tulsa when I was suppose to go to Minneapolis. Southwest caught my mistake right away and pointed me the right direction. I’d love to do it again and expand the list of shops. Of course I may need an assistant to help me! I’ll bet I could get a few volunteers though. What knitter would not want to join me on a national yarn crawl?
UC: Thanks, Lisa, for stopping by! We wish you a lot of success with your new book and look forward to seeing the next one.
I don’t generally read heart-warming, inspirational books along the lines of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and while I consider myself a spiritual person, I’m not affiliated with a particular religion, so I wasn’t quite sure how I would respond to Knit with Love: Stories to Warm a Knitter’s Heart. I grew up with an unusual, multi-faith background, and often feel excluded by or uncomfortable with faith-based authors. Lisa has a really warm and inviting personality, though, so I really wanted to give her book a try, and requested a review copy from Revell Books to accompany this interview.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It is a quick read – I was able to finish it over the course of about 2-3 days of commuting time. Each chapter is organized around a theme which is metaphorically linked to knitting. (For example, Chapter 3: Knit Two Together, is about friendship.) I enjoyed reading the stories about how knitting brought together communities, helped individuals through difficult times, and how knitting charities started. There were also some interesting tidbits about charity knitting in history. The book definitely has some tearjerker stories, and I confess that I did have “something in my eye” a few times on the subway ride. Lisa’s writing style is very casual and when reading you feel as though you are having a conversation with her. Towards the end of the book, she provides some tips for knitters and shares her favorite books and websites.
The beginning chapters are definitely geared towards a Christian audience in terms of the language used. However, Lisa addresses this exact issue in Chapter 2.
If you tell a new knitter to knit two together, yarn over, you will get a blank stare. The same barrier goes up if you launch into apologetics with someone who doesn’t speak Christianese. And even worse, they may tune you out immediately. “The Lord told me…” Suddenly, there’s a blank stare. If you want to help a new knitter get more comfortable with the lingo, explain as you go and show, don’t tell. Speak an inclusive language. If you want to share your faith, speak plainly the language of love.
I didn’t find the language after that point to be very exclusive, but some readers might be uncomfortable with the Christian emphasis of the book. From time to time, Lisa quotes Biblical verses that relate to service, charity, and love.
The book would be a nice gift for a Christian knitter and a great read for someone who enjoys inspirational books. It would probably be an awkward gift for most atheists or non-Christians, though some would certainly be willing to read through the first few chapters to arrive at the more inclusive language. It is lightweight and portable, and is a great read for a train or bus commute, or while waiting. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars for Christian knitters, the target audience.