Tag Archives: knitting

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.

 

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!

Free Pattern: Tadley’s Diagonal Blanket

My regular blog readers know I have a soft spot in my heart for baby blankets. I actually love crocheting blankets in general, but by the time I get about halfway through a full sized blanket, I’m usually questioning my own sanity. Baby blankets are much faster to make, and they always seem to be cherished by parents and babies alike.

Last year, one of my dearest friends was expecting her first born, and I knew I had to make something special. I had recently finished the sample for the Checkerboard Cable Scarf that was published in Love of Knitting‘s Holiday, 2013 issue.

blog LoK Checkerboard Cable Scarf

Photo (c) Creative Crafts Group, LLC.
The generous folks at King Cole had sent me quite a lot more Merino Blend Aran than what was required for the scarf, and I knew my friend was having a boy.
King Cole Merino Blend Aran
I had 9 skeins in each color left after knitting the scarf!
The white and blue seemed like just the right colors for his blanket, and the easy care of the superwash wool seemed a great fit for a newborn.
blog Tadley blanket folded1
I used double-ended crochet because it looks great – but different – on both sides, and it makes a nice, thick blanket. After all, Tadley was due in late December, so I thought he might need something very warm for his stroller or car seat during the winter.
blog Tadley blanket blue1 edit
To combat the love-hate relationship I develop with all of my crocheted blankets during the last few rows, I crocheted this on the bias, increasing towards the center and then decreasing until the end. Once I reached the center, each row was shorter than the one before it, so finishing the blanket was a breeze.
blog Tadley blanket white1
Well, almost a breeze. On the last few rows, I ran out of yarn. I ordered one extra skein in each color, and by some strange miracle, both skeins were from the same dye lots as the yarn I received from King Cole almost five months before.
blog Tadley blanket triangle on chair blue

This blanket is very lush and thick, and works equally well as a playmat in the spring or a stroller blanket in the winter. Gauge isn’t critical, and it can be easily resized (though you may need more or less yarn).
blog Tadley blanket triangle on chair white edit
I used a flexible double-ended crochet hook made from my Denise 2go interchangeable crochet hook set, but my pattern testers used other types of double-ended crochet hooks, including long, straight hooks.

You can download the free pattern for Tadley’s Diagonal Blanket here.

You can also find the pattern as a Ravelry download here, or on the Knitter’s Pride Blog here (along with a giveaway through May, 2014). I hope you have as much fun making this blanket as I did!

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.

 

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!

Blog tour: Interview with Amy Gunderson, author of Knitted Mitts & Mittens

Today, I’m excited to be part of the blog tour for Amy Gunderson’s new release, Knitted Mitts & Mittens: 25 Fun and Fashionable Designs for Fingerless Gloves, Mittens, and Wrist Warmers. I’ll be sharing an interview with Amy and offering a giveaway of the book, so read on for details!

Amy is a (mostly) knitting designer who is also the creative lead for Universal Yarn. Previously, she was the design coordinator for both Universal Yarn and Premier Yarns. Amy can be found online on Ravelry (as AmyGunderson, on her designer page, and in the Amy Gunderson Designs group), on her blog, Get Off My Lawn Designs, and on Twitter as @gundersonamy. All images are used with permission, and are copyright Burcu Avsar unless otherwise noted.

 

Interview

Amy Gunderson

Amy Gunderson. Image (c) Sarah Heady.

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

Amy: When I was about 20, I had a job cooking pizzas back in Iowa City, Iowa, home of the Iowa Hawkeyes (University of Iowa). Our busiest times were after 1 am when drunken college kids are in their prime (joke). But when it wasn’t bar time, things could get very quiet. Crossword puzzles entertained me for only so long, so I decided to learn how to crochet. My grandmother crocheted but her Alzheimer’s got the better of her before she was able to teach me. I picked up a “how to crochet” booklet at my local craft store and took off from there. I learned the basics from that little booklet but “invented” everything else I did. I’m so happy that was the way I learned, because it taught me to be in tune with what I was doing, and that nobody could tell me I was doing something wrong. I totally thought I had come up with a brand new idea which I eventually learned was called tapestry crochet. Ha!

Fast forward about 10 years, when my (now) husband and I owned our own pizza place. He delivered the pizzas, I cooked them. This was in the same college town with the same sort of down periods when college kids weren’t living it up. I unsuccessfully tried to learn knitting a couple of times before it finally clicked. Because I was a crocheter first, the throwing method of knitting where yarn is tensioned with the right hand just didn’t make sense to me. I found a video online that demonstrated continental knitting and I was finally able to “get it”. I delved into as many aspects of knitting as I could and drowned myself in technique knowledge. I did eventually learn how to throw-knit when I got into stranded knitting. Being able to hold one color in each hand makes the job much faster.

 

Twisted Brown Sugar

Twisted Brown Sugar pattern.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Amy: My answer is probably very similar to a lot of knitwear designers out there. I would have in my mind this perfect sweater that I wanted to make and would scour the internet for such a pattern. When I couldn’t find what I wanted, I’d end up starting out with a base pattern and then adding my own modifications. It was soon clear that I didn’t really need that “base” pattern to start with, and that I could simply start from scratch. Ravelry makes it possible for someone like me to write up a pattern and offer it to the world, so that’s what I did. It was this combined with my incessant need to be “making stuff” constantly that led me to design knitwear. Ravelry also made it possible for me to have a place to house my portfolio. When I made my first submissions to Knitscene, Lisa Shroyer was able to see what I had done previously and that I actually know how to knit.

 

Gradient Flip-Top Mittens

Gradient Flip-Top Mittens pattern.

 

UC: You’re currently the design coordinator for Universal Yarn and Premier Yarns. Tell us how you entered that work. What are your favorite aspects? What are some of the challenges?

Amy: I’d been knitting for a couple of years and designing for maybe 6 months when I saw a post on Ravelry advertising for the position. I asked Kirk (my husband) how he’d feel about moving to North Carolina before applying for the position. I’m sure neither of us imagined I’d actually get the job, but after an interview process, I did! I don’t have a design degree or formal training. Being formerly self-employed taught me a lot about understanding people on both sides of a situation. In addition to crochet and knitting, I have a sewing background (self-taught) that has been instrumental in garment construction, shaping, grading etc.

I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have my job. I get to help develop yarn, pick colors, name them, draw, knit, etc every day. I just got back from our mill in Turkey where I was able to learn more about exactly how our various yarns are produced. After that, I was in Cologne, Germany at the annual Handarbeit craft trade show where I was overwhelmingly inspired for a couple of days by all the up and coming trends and new products in the craft world. I also feel lucky that I actually still love to knit and crochet, even though it’s my job!

Although I work for a yarn company, we’re not this huge corporation. The number of people in the office is actually very small. It can be very challenging to be constantly creative and have good ideas. The trick is realizing which ideas are not so great and trying to forget I had them! But that’s a joke, really. It’s a process, this creative thing is. And it’s important to keep an open mind and explore all options. Another thing that plagues me are pattern mistakes. Everyone who writes and edits patterns has them from time to time. I do my best to make sure the patterns I’m responsible are as accurate as possible, but they still work their way in some times. When I field a phone call or email from a customer with a pattern problem, I always take it fairly personally and feel awful. I know what it’s like to be confused in a pattern and wonder if it’s me or the pattern. It stinks!

 

Swedish Mittens

Swedish Mittens pattern.

 

UC: Your first solo book, Knitted Mitts & Mittens, has just been published. What was the development process like for this book? Will you take a mitt(en) hiatus after this, or are you more excited to knit them than ever?

Amy: Pam Hoenig, the craft editor at Stackpole Books, gave me great freedom with the projects in this book. It was basically just like, make 25 fingerless gloves and mittens, I know you’ll do a great job. And that was it. I thank her in the book for this liberty and I will thank her again now: Thank you Pam for your trust! Limitations can be helpful, but it was great to not really have any with this book. This was a liberating experience! Obviously, that all the patterns are for mitts/mittens are a limitation in and of itself. But I can’t lie, there were times when I wondered if I could possibly come up with another idea for a fingerless glove. In those times, I’d do what I usually do when I’m blocked about something in life: forget about knitting completely and do something else (possibly involving a glass or two of wine). It’s fun how one idea can lead to another. I think it’s so important to keep an open mind in designing. If I’ve imagined something and sketched it out and my stitching ends up going a different direction I let it take me there if that’s where it needs to go. I try not to robotically do things, but to be mindful of each step and detail.

I naturally am drawn to knitting garments. What can I say; I love clothes! But doing all these small projects that can be completed in such a short period of time have made me rethink my garment love. Yes, I’m excited to make more fingerless gloves. I forgot how nice it can be to start and finish a project over the course of just a day or two!

 

Boutros the Beetle

Boutros the Beetle pattern.

 

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

Amy: I actually own almost no knitting books. I have the first three books in Barbara Walker‘s library which I love to refer to from time to time. The most recent knitting book I purchased was Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor. (UC comment: You can find my review for Bestor’s book here.) I’m always most interested in finishing details and other persnickety things in knitting. (I’ve been trying really hard to find a good reason to use “persnickety” lately).

 

Energy Mitts

Energy Mitts pattern.

 

UC: What’s your favorite fiber to work with and what do you love about it?

Amy: Linen, definitely. It just feels good. I read lots of complaints by people who don’t like working with it. Certainly, it’s not as pleasant as knitting with springy wool. Soaking linen (and letting dry) helps the stiffness. The drape and breatheability of linen are just unbeatable. Something about the raw natural texture draws me in like nothing else. Plus, it only improves in softness each time it’s washed and dried!

 

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

Ravelry! And the Universal Yarn blog and Premier Yarns blog, of course!

 

Thank you for stopping by Amy!

 

Giveaway

Knitted Mitts & Mittens cover

 

Are you ready to win your copy of Knitted Mitts & Mittens: 25 Fun and Fashionable Designs for Fingerless Gloves, Mittens, and Wrist Warmers, courtesy of Stackpole Books? This giveaway is open to all readers with an email address.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

To enter:

  • Check out Stackpole’s lookbook and leave a comment telling me which pattern you’d knit first and why.
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter or Pinterest, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or your blog.  (And then, leave a comment here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner of will be chosen at random on or about Thursday, April 24, 2014.

Good luck!

Interview with knitting designer, Michele Wang

Today, I’m excited to share an interview with a fellow New Yorker, Michele Wang. Michele is a knitwear designer, and if you’re a fan of Brooklyn Tweed, you’ve definitely seen her work before. In addition to appearing in numerous BT publications, Michele’s work has been published by Vogue Knitting, Quince & Co., knit.wear, and amirisu, and she also self-publishes as mishi2x. By strange coincidence, we both recently had a pattern published in the same issue of Pom Pom Quarterly (her Aureus cardigan and my Vintage Bullion scarf).

 

Michele can be found online as mishi2x on her website/blog, FlickrInstagramPinterest, Ravelry, and Twitter. She can also be found on her Ravelry Designer page and in her Ravelry group, mishi2x by Michele Wang Fans. All photos in this post are are copyright Michele Wang unless otherwise noted and are used with permission.

 

Michele Wang

Michele Wang.

 

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

Michele: I first started knitting at a friend’s suggestion. I had just ran my first (and only) marathon, and wanted to do something less physical to allow my body to heal. Since I had always been interested in fashion, textiles, and working with my hands it seemed to make sense. Of course now, not only does it make sense but I wonder why I didn’t take it up earlier in life. And spinning is a much more recent fascination. I think like most knitters, what hypnotized me at first was the sheer variety of yarns available. I would buy yarn because of the color and its softness. But once I learned more about different fibers and how they behaved I really became fascinated by untreated wools, different breeds of sheep and the beauty in their subtle differences. And this is what led me to spinning. I think yarn manufacturers are educating knitters more by specifying breeds that they use, but generally you see that it’s “wool”. I loved how roving is sold by breed and how I can spin up exactly the yarn I want.

 

Seedy Scarf by Michele Wang

Seedy Scarf, a free knitting pattern by Michele Wang.

 

UC: What was your original motivation to start designing?

Michele: My original motivation was the “cowl.” It’s so funny to think about that now since they’re so popular, but when cowls really hit the media in 2008, there weren’t a lot of fashionable cowl patterns out there. So I designed my first piece, the Eternity Scarf, which is a simple cowl and threw it up on Ravelry simply because I wanted to make one that I liked. After that, an editor at Vogue Knitting contacted me because I had been doing sample knitting for Shirley Paden. She asked if I’d be interested in submitting a design. Without her prompting, I probably would have never submitted a design to a magazine. But with her encouragement, I took the chance.

 

Eternity Scarf photo c Brooklyn Tweed

Eternity Scarf by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Brooklyn Tweed.

 

UC: How did you become involved with Brooklyn Tweed?

Michele: Jared Flood contacted me through Ravelry, and the rest is history. Sometimes I can’t believe how simple life can be, because usually it’s pretty difficult! But at the time I was working in technology at a law firm, and not very happy. Jared reached out and asked if I’d be interested in doing a design for his new yarn line, Shelter. The timing was perfect. I dug right in and ended up designing Perry for his very first edition of Wool People. Since we both live in the NYC area, we met up for coffee a few times and he mentioned creating a Design Team to put out seasonal collections. And it just evolved from there. Soon I couldn’t handle both jobs, so I left my career in technology and focused on designing for BT.

 

Fade photo c Brooklyn Tweed

Fade by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Brooklyn Tweed.

 

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Michele: I would say half of my inspiration is found online and on the streets in NYC. I do love fashion and I love seeing what trends are introduced on the runway, and what eventually sticks around and ends up on the streets for the everyday. I can spend hours on sites like Pinterest just flipping through pictures and creating fantasy moodboards. I also try to people-watch as much as possible. It’s easy to bury my nose in a book on the subway, but I try to take a look around and find design elements here and there. And, the other half would be the traditions and history of knitwear. I love flipping through old knitting books and looking at fisherman or icelandic yoked sweaters. My latest obsession is Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island. I am completely blown away by the use of color, and the intricate hand work. For someone like me who shies away from colorwork, this book has been very inspirational. It’s truly a celebration of color and I hope to incorporate more colorwork into my designs.

 

Wickerwork photo c Carrie Bostick Hoge

Wickerwork by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Carrie Bostick Hoge. Published by Quince & Co.

 

UC: You mention your love of wool on your Ravelry profile. Tell us what you enjoy about working with this fiber. Do you have a preference for working with any breed-specific yarns, too?

Michele: I love wool for so many reasons. The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s sustainable and earth-friendly. It’s just something you can’t ignore these days. Also, I love the life in it. It has just enough elasticity. It blooms to perfection after just a little light blocking. The bit of lanolin left on your hands while knitting is a natural moisturizer. And with minimally processed wool, I find that it ends up being softer than anything else. Too many yarns are soft in the skein, and then completely lifeless after it’s knit up. And, of course, I just love sheep. They’re absolutely adorable, and with so many different breeds you could never get bored knitting with just wool. When I went to Rhinebeck a few years back, I bought a few ounces of Ronaldsay. I didn’t know much about this breed, but I liked the color. So after I brought it home, I looked up the breed online and found out that it’s a sheep that lives mainly on seaweed. Of course, this breed fast became one of my favorites. But, as for spinning, I really enjoy working with Jacob. It’s an ancient breed and the resulting yarn is so textured and beautiful. (UC comment: You can read more about breed specific wool in this interview with Karia from Kouture Crochet, and, specifically, about the North Ronaldsay yarn and Jacob fleece I received in a wonderful swap from the owner of the Nude Ewe, a non-profit yarn company.)

 

Cables and Lace Beret by Michele Wang

Cables and Lace Beret by Michele Wang.

 

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

Michele: All of my Japanese stitch dictionaries. I live dangerously close to Kinokuniya and go there often. I love swatching, and I can sit and swatch the stitch patterns from those books endlessly. (UC comment: I’m glad I don’t live dangerously close to Kinokuniya, as I’ve already demonstrated my inability to pass their booth at any event without buying books!)

 

Stonecutter photo c Brooklyn Tweed

Stonecutter by Michele Wang. Photo (c) Brooklyn Tweed.

 

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

Michele: I really enjoy Fringe Association. It has the perfect balance between modern and tradition, and Karen has such a beautiful aesthetic. But to be perfectly honest, most of the crafty websites I frequent are more focused on sewing and quilting. I love the Japanese Sewing Books blog, and Sew Mama Sew. They have really great tutorials, tips and sew alongs.

 

Thanks for taking the time out for an interview, Michele, and for sharing your love of sheep and wool!

2014 Sampler MKAL April Giveaway Sponsor: Bending Flow Designs Guest Post

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 Bending Flow Designs (formerly known as Alchemic Viscera). Jesse sells blown glass and wire wrapped creations on Etsy.  In addition to the Etsy shop, Jesse can be found on the Alchemic Viscera Facebook page.

I asked Jesse to share a guest post today, so we could all learn a bit more about the creative process behind Bending Flow Designs and the origins of those glass knitting needles! All pictures are copyright Bending Flow Designs and are used with permission.

 

Riding the Glass Ship

Guest Post by Jesse W. from Bending Flow Designs

Glass Daisy by Bending Flow Designs

Glass Daisy by Bending Flow Designs.

How to begin to explain my journey into the world of glass is a feat in itself. One thing, though, that I can say is that journey has been an inspiring, enlightening, humbling, and an extremely engrossing experience. Art, sculpture, and creating has always been a part of my life. I have been creating and conjuring since I can remember. Whether it was weird paper sculptures constructed of used loose leaf paper and Elmer’s glue, skate ramps built of salvaged wood, or clothing and bags made of scrapped remnants from an upholstery factory my neighbors owned, I was always creating something. Most of the time it was out of some salvaged material, but the satisfaction of finishing a piece that was built from “garbage” and being able to wear it to school the next day kept my drive alive. I also loved that I was able to create something with my own hands and energy, and I could enjoy it or even use it throughout the day. I just kept creating; flitting from project to project, medium to medium. Eventually, after trying many different mediums (metals, textiles, ceramics, etc.), I came across the wondrous medium of glass and got on board the “glass ship.” From there on it’s a continuous story that keeps unraveling itself as my life goes on.

 

Glass Fish and Fishing Net by Bending Flow Designs

Glass fish in glass fishing net by Bending Flow Designs.

Throughout my journey on the “glass ship,” I have created many different things. Many of them custom orders, and all of them drawing inspiration and building confidence. Working with both hollow and solid glass forms, I started to build knowledge and explore the parameters. Doors just kept opening, and I kept discovering more and more of what was possible. Making the glass daisy and the fish in the fishing net pictured above have really helped show me how much I was able to push the limits of glass.

Custom Boulder & Fire Opal Sterling Silver Wire Wrap Pendant by Bending Flow Designs

Boulder and fire opal sterling silver wire wrap pendant by Bending Flow Designs.

My work does not trend towards an specific style. I just really like to create things that can be worn or are useful. I like to use mixed media for some of my pieces. Intricately wrapping them with wire to see how I can accentuate features. And sometimes not using glass at all, and just using metal and minerals. High energy and the relentlessly turning gears in my mind are constantly driving me to create. Everything that’s built is derived from that ruthless energy, and I have learned over time, not to fight it. If there’s a project that I don’t want to give my time to, but I have already conjured it up and started it; I found that it’s best to just go with the flow and stick it out. Some of my best work has resulted in this. This was how the glass knitting needles were born.

 

Custom Beach Glass and Sterling Silver Wire Wrap Pendant

Beach glass and sterling silver wire wrap pendant by Bending Flow Designs.

With all the different types of arts and crafts that I like to explore, I decided one day that I wanted to make myself a scarf. To challenge myself, I decided to try to knit this scarf. I do not have the most extensive background in knitting as I somewhat do with crocheting, so naturally all I had laying around the house were several different size crochet hooks. Though they are nice hooks, and have helped me along many times before, they were not going to aide me in my knitted scarf journey.

 

Tourmaline Aquamarine Ring

Tourmaline aquamarine ring by Bending Flow Designs.

 

That’s when it began. I started to search the house for long slender items that could substitute for knitting needles. Well, I tried chopsticks, pens, pencils, smooth pieces of drift wood; nothing worked.The diameters weren’t right with some, and the others weren’t long enough. I started to get frustrated, and wanted to quit even before I started. Then it dawned on me, I had piles of clear glass stock in my studio in whatever diameter I wanted. I ran down to my studio and made the first pair, let them cool, and started knitting with them. AMAZING! They were the smooth and exactly the length that I wanted them. They helped me so much with my project that I decided to make more of them, and share them with whomever was interested.

 

Black & White Glass Knitting Needles by Bending Flow Designs

Black and white glass knitting needles by Bending Flow Designs.

 

Since that point in time, I have been making more and more of them and selling them in stores around my town and in my Etsy shop, Bending Flow Designs. I have been getting great feedback on there design and function. I am going to continue to come up with more styles. I have several different styles of toppers now, but I enjoy getting custom orders from people because they open up my mind to new things.

Colorful Glass Knitting Needles by Bending Flow Designs

Colorful glass knitting needles by Bending Flow Designs.

Art, glass, and the process of creation has always been something that has intrigued me. I love the way that you become fully entranced by the beauty as you first see a piece that draws wonder, and audible ooohs and aaahs. The connecting energy between myself and the piece seems to be stronger when I am using it. I appreciate fine arts and the beauty that can send your mind swirling, but the appreciation that I get out of a piece of art that I am able to use everyday, and at the same time its upholding its own beauty is enchanting.

 

Giveaway

Glass Knitting Needles by Bending Flow Designs

Jesse will be providing the winner’s choice of a set of swirl top knitting needles in US Size 10 (6 mm) or US Size 11 (8 mm). The winner can also choose from a blue, green, red, purple, orange, yellow, or pink color blend in the swirl top.

To enter the giveaway, post a picture of any 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-A-Long sampler square you knit during April in the relevant spoiler thread on Ravelry by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, April 30, 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 May 3.

Interview with (mostly) crochet designer, Anastacia Zittel a.k.a. anastaciaknits

As we pass the midway point of National Crochet Month, I’m excited to share an interview with indie designer, Anastacia Zittel, today.  Anastacia is active online as a blogger and on Ravelry, and you may have come across her as anastaciaknits.  She’s primarily a crochet designer, so I thought it appropriate to interview her during NatCroMo!

You can find Anastacia online on Ravelry (as anastaciaknits, on her designer page, in the Anastacia Knits Designs group, and in the Afghans & Blankets group, which she founded and co-moderates), in her Etsy shop, on her Facebook page, on Pinterest, and as @anastaciaknits on Twitter.

All photos in this post are used with permission and are copyright Anastacia Zittel unless otherwise noted.

 

Anastacia Zittel

Anastacia Zittel.

 

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

Amastacia Zittel (AZ): I remember learning as a little kid, like so many of us, from our mothers and grandmothers. I don’t really remember learning to crochet – both of my grandmothers were crafty (including knitting, crocheting and sewing), and dad’s family were especially crafty, and my mom made a lot of my clothes and toys growing up. I do remember moving and desperately wanting a new afghan for my new bedroom, and I couldn’t convince anyway on to make me one, so I went out and bought yarn and a hook and made myself an afghan – I was 14.

I got completely “hooked” and my grandmother started “lending” me patterns, which I wouldn’t return, and I quickly went from hooked to obsessed. Right around the same time, a church friend taught me to knit but it didn’t stick – I didn’t know that there were different methods and ways of knitting, I just knew I couldn’t knit. I kept trying though, and finally about ten years ago I just figured out how to do it on my own. Years after that, I realized that my style of knitting is different from any method I’ve ever seen – it’s sort of combo knitting but I do things backwards! It works for me.

 

Leafing for Spring

Leafing for Spring, a crochet wrap pattern by Anastacia.

 

UC: What was your original inspiration to start designing?

AZ: I always tweaked patterns – I couldn’t help myself, I always had to change things up! Around the time I was seriously crocheting, one of my grandmother’s developed Alzheimer’s. Part of me has always just wanted to honor the memory of her, sitting crocheting granny squares and ripples everywhere she went. I remember them hosting Bible study classes at their house, and even then, her crochet would be right by her side. So as corny as it may sound, I wanted my grandmother to be proud of me.  (UC comment: It doesn’t seem corny to me at all, Anastacia!  As I mentioned here, I started my crochet business for similar reasons.)

 

Triangle Trellis

Triangle Trellis, a crocheted shawl design by Anastacia, published in the Contrarian Shawls ebook.  Photo (c) Universal Yarn.

 

UC: You’re known online as “anastaciaknits” but most of your designs are in crochet. Tell us about how that came to be (both the name, and the focus on crochet designs).

AZ: I know, it’s crazy right? *laughs*. When Ravelry first started, I was big into knitting. I still really loved to crochet, but I was knitting pair after pair of socks. I’ve never been very creative when it comes to names (for years, my online name was zorrosmommy, named after my cat!). I like to use my name in profiles because it IS a unique name, so that’s why I came up with anastaciaknits. This was way before Ravelry offered pattern sales!

I had done some designing on my blog but had never really considered designing as a career, and by the time I realized I did want to design, I was already known as anastaciaknits & I didn’t want to change that. It’s frustrating sometimes because I get a lot of comments from people “Well I like your designs but I don’t knit!” Well, I don’t really design knit, either! But I feel it’s way too late to change my name now.

 

Around the Twist Log Cabin

Around the Twist Log Cabin, a knit blanket design by Anastacia.

 

UC: Though you have a range of designs, your patterns are mostly for shawls, scarves, and blankets. What do you enjoy about making those projects and designing those patterns?

AZ: I’ve always made a ton of afghans in my “personal” fiber arts – I make them mostly for charity and for fundraisers. I make a ton of scarves for charity, too, so it just seemed to fit that I design that stuff, too. The shawls were pretty much an accident! No seriously!

 

Scrap Shawl

Scrap Shawl, a customizable crochet pattern by Anastacia.

 

I was trying to design an afghan square for my first paid self published design, but my square wouldn’t turn into a square shape. I kept staring at it & realized I had a shawl started and I just kept going. The first design did really well and I started getting a lot of emails and PMs from people saying “I really like your shawl, but could you make a triangle shawl?” or “could you make one with more lace?” etc etc. Most of my shawl designs now are because someone specifically asked me to design it – often times it’s just a rough idea (like my Short Sands Shawl) and sometimes more specific – like the Scrap Shawl. There is so much endless variety that can be put into designing a shawl, and I’m just never ever bored designing and making them!

 

Anastacia Zittel Alzheimers blanket

Anastacia’s 2013 Alzheimer’s charity afghan.

 

UC: Every year you make an afghan and raise money for Alzheimer’s. How did that start?

AZ: As I mentioned, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately a few years ago, my uncle at the age of 50 was also diagnosed with the disease. My cousin Adrienne started doing the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk and one year she happened to mention that she wasn’t raising as much money as she was hoping to. My mom and I started brainstorming so we came up with the idea of the afghan, and then Adrienne had some ideas and input, too.

I crochet an afghan that uses granny squares and ripples (my grandmother’s two favorite types of afghans to make) and uses predominately the color purple (the Alzheimer’s color) and we sell raffle tickets. Any amount will get you one ticket, but additional tickets are sold at $5 a piece. Last year, we had several additional items also added to our prize pool & I’m working on making this year’s raffle bigger and badder than ever! I’m really proud and honored to be a part of this, and we raised over $850 last year alone for Every Mile’s a Memory, Adrienne’s team.

 

Blueridge Shawl

Blueridge Shawl, a knit shawl pattern by Anastacia.

 

UC: Most of your designs are self-published (although you’ve been published in several yarn company collections and magazines, too). What do you see as the challenges and rewards of self-publishing? Do you plan to continue this ratio of self-published to externally published patterns?

AZ: I love self-publishing for a lot of reasons. As a professional, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but the number one reason for me, is I am really, really bad at deadlines – they stress me out really bad, and when I’m stressed, I do stupid things – like forget to check gauge and realize your whole afghan is weirdly disproportionate & you have to take apart 3 seams and frog the whole thing. (Yes, this happened very recently for a design I just finished last month for Love of Crochet magazine!).

 

Hawaiian Sea Glass Shawl

Hawaiian Sea Glass Shawl, a crochet design by Anastacia.

 

I also really, really like the control one has over one’s designs when you do everything yourself. When you are working for a yarn company, not only do you lose control over the yarn and the color, but the finished design may not look anything at all like the design that started in your head. But it’s a LOT of work, and a LOT of time to do it right, and there’s definitely a big learning curve. I was lucky in that I already worked hard at taking decent photos, and photography is a big part of self-designing, and there’s always room for a lot of improvement!

I will probably concentrate mostly of self-publishing in the future. I’d really like to work regularly for one or two smaller yarn companies – that’s really my big dream!

 

Julia Heliconian Shawl

Julia Heliconian Shawl, a crochet pattern by Anastacia.

 

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

AZ: I have a HUGE pattern collection – though mostly vintage magazines. My favorite crochet book (besides stitch dictionaries) is the Woman’s Day Book of Granny Squares and Other Carry-Along Crochet – yes, that I got from my grandmother! Most of my first projects came from that book. I also love the The Ultimate Book of Scrap Afghans (from American School of Needlework that came out in 1999) – I’ve made a ton of charity afghans from that book!

 

Anastacias Scrap Afghan

Anastacia’s Scrap Afghan, a free crochet pattern by Anastacia (perfect for stashbusting!).

 

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

AZ: Pinterest! I spend way, way, way too much time on that site looking for inspiration! (UC comment: You can find Anastacia’s boards on Pinterest here.)

 

Thanks for stopping by, Anastacia!  I hope you break your fundraising record for the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk this year!

Readers, if Anastacia’s story has inspired you to donate, Anastacia contributes to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Interview with Frankie Brown

Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with Frankie Brown.  Frankie is a multi-craftual designer.  I first discovered Frankie’s work last year when I used her Jelly Mould Blanket motif in a baby blanket I made for my newborn cousin. After doing a little digging on her designer page, I realized that I had was already familiar with several of her designs (especially the Ten Stitch Blanket) through other blogs that I follow.

Frankie offers all of her self-published crochet and knitting patterns as free downloads through her Ravelry designer page.  She asks her fans to contribute to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, and, to date, over 600 of her supporters have contributed over £7,000 (over $12,000)!  Frankie is known as rosemily on Ravelry, where she also co-moderates the Frankie’s Knitted Stuff group.

All pictures are copyright Frankie Brown and are used with permission.
Country Rose by Frankie Brown
Country Rose, a crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.

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

Frankie: All the women in my family (and some of the men, too) knitted, crocheted, and sewed, so it was inevitable that I would, too. One of my earliest memories is my Mum teaching me to knit at the age of three. It was a pink square and I don’t think I actually knitted much of it. Later, I would be allowed to do the occasional row in my Mum’s or my Granny’s knitting. As I grew up, I would knit a lot with my Granny, who was probably the keenest knitter in the family, but it was my Great Aunt who taught me to crochet. I made endless giant granny square blankets, using random wool.

 

Treat Bag by Frankie Brown

Treat Bag knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Frankie: I was a member of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, which invited submissions for its quarterly magazine.  They would have a theme for each issue and these themes caught my imagination. The first thing I designed for them was a knitted ammonite for the ‘Sea’ theme and then the Ten Stitch Blanket. Mostly I interpreted the themes literally so I knitted a pile of holes for Holes and little people for Bodies (Bendy Bodies).  This was where I developed my taste for quirky knitting.

 

Woodland Wreath by Frankie Brown

Woodland Wreath knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Frankie: Most of my inspiration comes from things with straight lines: ironwork, tiles, things with patterns worked into them. I’m also a quilter and I’ve interpreted various patchwork blocks in knitting. I love Mathematical shapes and patterns, spirals, flexagons, tessallations. This leads on to origami which has been the starting point for various designs. Many of my patterns are worked in garter stitch which lends itself well to straight lines and angles. As well as shapes, I also love playing with colour and here I am inspired by just about everything I see. Often, I will get a colour scheme from fabric but the colours for one of my blankets came from a packet of tea. If all else fails, I use the colours of the rainbow.

 

Apple Core Blanket by Frankie Brown

Apple Core Blanket, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: All of your Ravelry patterns are available for free, but you ask people to donate to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation. Tell us what was behind your decision to offer all of your patterns for free, why you chose this particular charity, and how you feel this has worked out.

Frankie: When my Mum died, I thought about how she had used her creative talents throughout her life to raise money for various charities and I decided I wanted to do that, too. This coincided with me joining Ravelry and finding that people were already talking about the Ten Stitch Blanket. I chose to raise money for the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation as a friend’s son was born with biliary atresia and I have seen how this has affected them and also the help they have received from the charity. To be honest, most people that download my patterns don’t donate, but those that do are very generous and as more people find my patterns and they grow in popularity so the charity gets more money. I think the fact that my designs are free has also helped to spread the word about them. Many people have also used my patterns to knit things to help other charities, something which really pleases me. To be honest, even if nobody ever donated, I think I would still want my patterns to be free. I like sharing new ideas, just as you would tell a friend when you’d found something exciting, I like to share my discoveries with as many people as possible.

 

Jelly Mould Blanket by Frankie Brown

Jelly Mould Blanket, a crochet pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

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

Frankie: Really, I only see the advantages of self-publishing. I can design what I want, when I want and in my own time. I have control over how my pattern looks and I do my own proof-reading so there are less likely to be mistakes. I also really love the feedback that I get through Ravelry.  I’ve learnt how to write more clearly and the importance of good photos from people telling me when they get stuck on one of my patterns. Seeing what is popular also gives me ideas for new designs and I particularly enjoy the community that is building up on my Ravelry group, Frankie’s Knitted Stuff.

 

School Tweed by Frankie Brown

School Tweed, a knit pattern by Frankie Brown, available in the Tea Cozies 2 collection.

 

UC: You also have patterns in three collections by the Guild of Master Craftsman. How did you become involved with these projects?

Frankie: This happened at about the same time that I was writing for the Knitting and Crochet Guild. There was a competition in Knitting magazine for tea cosy patterns so I entered one year, then the next, then they had a coffee cosy competition … The books feature their favourite patterns from these competitions. The most exciting thing about these books for me was seeing my designs professionally photographed – they look so grown-up!

 

Big Dots Little Dots by Frankie Brown

Big Dots, Little Dots crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

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

Frankie: The books that I use most as practical tools are the Barbara Walker treasuries and Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book. I also love any books with a historical slant and collect Victorian knitting books. My favourites though are the Elizabeth Zimmermann books; I read those again and again. What she does is encourage you to play with your knitting and see what happens and that’s what I do.

 

Wheels within Wheels by Frankie Brown

Wheels Within Wheels crochet motif pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

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

Frankie: This is a tricky question.  You’re talking to the woman whose mobile phone is so old, it can’t even take photos, and who refuses to have a Facebook page. Ravelry is the only craft site that I use regularly, and although I enjoy chatting to people on my group there, that’s enough for me. I read various blogs for relaxation but none of them have much to do with knitting.

 

Double Spinning Star by Frankie Brown

Double Spinning Star, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

UC: Do you have any future plans you’d like to share?

Frankie: I would like to write a book one day. I have in mind something that would show how to knit all sorts of shapes and textures, illustrating each one with a few simple patterns. That way, knitters could use it as a starting point to design their own projects. Most of my designs are based on really simple ideas and it would be good to share those with others.

 

Squares on a Roll Blanket by Frankie Brown

Squares on the Roll knit blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts, Frankie.  We’re looking forward to seeing that book – it sounds great!

Interview with Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm

At Vogue Knitting Live 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm.  Laura’s yarns were extremely colorful – and so was she! – so I was immediately drawn over to her booth.  It was wonderful to learn that she’s a New York State local (about 90 minutes north of New York City).  I ran into her again at 2014′s event, and she was kind enough to take some time from the busy lifestyle of a farmer/shearer/spinner/dyer/entrepreneur to share an interview.

You can find Laura online at the Full Moon Farm website and their Facebook page.  You can find out more about their yarn and fiber here and learn where to buy their products here.

 

Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm's Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.
Laura Watson at Full Moon Farm’s Vogue Knitting Live booth in 2014.

Underground Crafter (UC): Besides shearing, spinning, and dyeing, do you also crochet, knit, and/or weave?

Laura: I knit, but am a rank amateur. It is on my list to get better. I felt and do Australian Locker Hooking.

 

The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.
The Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2013.

 

UC: Tell us more about your motivation for starting Full Moon Farm, and about its expansion.

Laura: I grew up on a sheep and beef farm. I (like all my siblings) moved away from the farm but then, in the end (like all my siblings) I returned to farming. I stuck with the sheep. I like them and can manage them, physically, without assistance. My flock started with 1 bred ewe, Border Leicester.  I added Corriedale and then Merino, so now my flock is a motley mix with decent body size for meat, and nice, fine wool for spinning and felting.

 

Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm's booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014.
Felted signs in the Full Moon Farm’s booth at Vogue Knitting Live in 2014.

 

UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm. Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working?

Farming is a 24/7 life. One must be prepared for fencing or haying a field in the heat of the summer or checking on the flock in the middle of the night in the cold during lambing season. The benefits are the beauty of the pasture or hay field, the coziness of a full hay loft, new born lambs – so sweet and bouncy – and fiber.

 

Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
Felted hats at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

 

 

UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your colorways. Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?

Laura: I love color and have so much fun dying my yarns and spinning fiber. I usually go with colors I like. I am not afraid to combine colors and just go with my gut to choose what combinations to make. I have recently started trying to be more focused and going with a theme such as “Mom’s Flower Garden” or “Field of Sunflowers.”

 

Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
Yarn at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

 

UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events. Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.

Laura: I love going to fiber festivals because I know that the people attending are there because they love (or like a lot) fiber, so we already have something in common. I like to see what the other vendors are doing too because there is such versatility in wool and other fibers. It makes me smile just writing about it.

 

More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.
More yarn on display at the Full Moon Farm booth at Vogue Knitting Live 2014.

 

My favorite event is a little fiber festival in Clermont, NY at an historic site. It is called The Chancellor’s Day Sheep and Wool Festival. The setting, on the banks of the Hudson River, is idyllic, and they do historic re-enactments, such as shearing sheep using an antique shearing machine. It has grown in size and popularity over the years but remains small, quaint, and very friendly.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura!

 

By the way, I love the look of the skein I bought from Laura in 2013.  It has since been wound into a yarn cake and is awaiting transformation into a beautiful project!

Full Moon Farm Fabulous Yarn