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

Today I’m sharing an interview with Viola E. Sutanto, a graphic artist and product designer. Viola’s new book, Packaging Your Crafts: Creative Ideas for Crafters, Artists, Bakers, & Moreexplores different materials and techniques that can be used to design pretty packaging for your handmade goodies. Using artisan profiles, tutorials, and plenty of pictures, she shares a ton of packaging inspiration with her readers. (In addition to the interview, I’ll be offering a giveaway for the book, courtesy of Lark Crafts, so read on for more details.) Edited to add: Due to technical difficulties with blog comments, the giveaway is being postponed to a later date.

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

 

Interview

Viola Sutanto

Viola Sutanto.

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

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

Designing Your Packaging

Printed fabric drawstring bag by Soma Intimates.

 

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

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

Working with eco friendly fabrics

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Designing Your Packaging 3

Fabric bags by Amie Nilsson, Merino Kids.

 

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

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

Designing your packaging 2

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

 

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

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

Ribbons

Fabric bundles tied with ribbon.

 

UC: What’s next for you?

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

Interview: Dora Ohrenstein, Crochet Designer and Author

Today’s interview is with fellow New Yorker, Dora Ohrenstein.  Dora is the publisher of the Crochet Insider ezine; a designer whose work has appeared in Crochet!, Crochet Today!, Crochet World, Interweave Crochet, and Vogue Knitting Crochet, among other publications; the author of Creating Crochet Fabric, Custom Crocheted Sweaters (reviewed here), and The New Tunisian Crochet (reviewed here); and a crochet teacher.  Along with Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Dora is also the co-editor of Talking Crochet, which recently won Crochet Concupiscence‘s Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for Best Crochet Newsletter.

You can find Dora online at the Crochet Insider website or on Ravelry (as crochetinsider, on her designer page, and in the Crochet Insider group).  All images are used with permission.

 

Dora Ohrenstein

Dora Ohrenstein.

 

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

Dora: When I was about 20, I lived in Amsterdam on a tiny little houseboat. It was the Age of Aquarius and everyone was getting crafty. I learned to crochet and since I had no background whatsoever, I just started making clothes without knowing what I was doing. But then I totally stopped for literally decades. I became a professional singer and that consumed all my time. I didn’t pick up the hook again until early in this millenium.

 

Shawled Collar Tunic

Shawled Collar Tunic from Custom Crochet Sweaters.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Dora: I wasn’t performing much by that time, and needed a creative outlet. I made a few sweaters and went to a CGOA conference, where I met Jean Leinhauser. She and Rita Weiss liked my stuff and bought several sweater designs for their books. Then Jean taught me how to write patterns, since I’d never followed one!  (UC comment: Dora has a wonderful interview with Jean here.)

 

new tunisian crochet

 

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Dora: So many places! Sometimes it’s a fashion silhouette, sometimes a yarn or stitch. I keep many swatches lying around and then one day I find the right project for them. I’ve also learned that once you’re a pro, you can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit, you have to be generating ideas constantly. I would also say my motivation often comes from wanting to continually grow as a designer, try new techniques and strategies in my work.

 

Kerala Tank c Crochet Today

Kerala Tank.  Image (c) Crochet Today!

 

UC: Tell us about your motivation for launching Crochet Insider. What are some of the challenges and joys of publishing an online crochet magazine?

Dora: I haven’t really been publishing Crochet Insider as a magazine for a couple of years, it was just too much work once my design career really got going. But I loved doing it because of meeting and talking to so many interesting people. Challenges: it took huge number of hours and did not earn much, so it couldn’t continue indefinitely. There is still a lot of great content at the site and I wish more aspiring designers would read the interviews, because there is so much to learn.  (UC comment: Besides the Crochet Insider interview with Jean Leinhauser I linked above, two of my other favorites are this one with Vashti Braha and this one with Myra Wood.)

 

#15 Lace Pullover c Vogue Knitting

#15 Lace Pullover.  Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

 

UC: Your books place a lot of emphasis on teaching techniques and skills, along with the inclusion of patterns. Tell us about your decision to work this way rather than through pattern collections or historical work, which you’re also known for.

Dora: Many of these decisions are economic. I would love to publish a book on crochet history, but can’t afford to do so without a publisher. But no publishers wants such a book, because it will not sell in the numbers they need to be profitable. It’s sad but true. I try to get as much history into my books as they will tolerate. Hey, I’d love to go around the world and make film about crochet traditions, but again, where’s the funding? Publishers have been interested in my books that combine good designs with educational material, and I love teaching and empowering, so that works for me. In addition to being a designer, I teach singing and have for many years, so teaching comes naturally to me.

 

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt c Tension Magazine

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt.  Image (c) Tension Magazine.

 

UC: You design mostly women’s garments and accessories. What appeals to you about designing wearables?

Dora: This comes back to my background in crochet, or the total lack of it! I never was exposed to afghan making, thread crochet, or any of those fine American traditions. My parents were WWII immigrants and craftiness was not their heritage. I live in NYC and never had the chance to shop at big box stores, which didn’t even exist here until a few years ago. I do love fashion and had discovered for myself that crochet could make great wearables. It was shocking to encounter the yarn industry’s negativity about crochet wearables. So I’ve been very motivated to change that viewpoint with my work. And I’m in some very fine company there of course.

 

DoraBookCover.low.res

 

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, publisher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Dora: I would say to aspiring designers, don’t be naive about this industry – it’s very tough to make money, very competitive, and takes tremendous perseverance and drive. I’ve done all these things to build my career and earn money. And I enjoy all of them too. But I’d be happy to restrict my activities and lead a more sane life if it were possible.

 

Ariadne Scarf

Ariadne Scarf from Creating Crochet Fabric.

 

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

Dora: The books I bought when I started getting serious, about 10 years ago, are still my favorites. They are “vintage” ’70s and ’80s books by designers like Jacqueline Henderson, Sylvia Cosh, James Walters, Judith Copeland. (UC comment: I love those books, too!  I shared several from my collection in my Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week series.)  I adore Japanese pattern books, and the Ukrainian magazine Duplet — I stocked up on about 100 magazines when I visited the Ukraine! I also use stitch dictionaries, any I can get my hands on, including the huge Linda Schapper book, the old Harmony Guides, and Japanese stitch dictionaries.

 

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

Dora: Pinterest and Etsy – lots of great inspiration. And Ravelry!

 

UC: What’s coming next for you?

Dora: I have a crochet reference book coming out in the fall of 2014 by Storey Publishing. The working title is The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Handbook. They are fantastic publishers, I’m very excited about it. A reference book not just for beginners but for intermediate crocheters too, with lots of information on working stitch patterns, shaping, construction, colorwork, and flexible tension. What I mean by the latter is the ability to control tension so you can really sculpt stitches.

Crochet Insider will get a facelift soon and I will be enlarging my indie pattern line and store at the site. I also plan to develop video classes, sort of like Craftsy, but as an indie venture so I can go direct to students.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Dora!

2013 Crochet Blog Awards

I’m really pleased to share that I won two 2013 crochet blog awards.

Awesome Crochet Blogger Award

Kathryn from Crochet Concupiscence awarded me her 2013 Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for Best Crochet Interviews for the third year in a row (!).  (On a side note, wow, the pressure is really on now to come with some fantastic interviews!  Luckily, I already have a few up my sleeve that I’ll be posting later this year.)

Kathryn is one of my favorite bloggers, and this is really an honor.  I love her annual blogger award series and her weekly link love posts, which always introduce me to new crochet blogs.  You can read my interviews with Kathryn here and here, and find out more about what I love about her blog here.

I’m sharing links to four of my favorite crochet interviews from 2013:

You can find links to all of my interviews (mostly with yarn industry professionals) here.

 

Blog Button AllFreeCrochet

I’m happy to hear that my All Weather Cowl pattern (available for download here) was chosen by AllFreeCrochet as one of their 100 Favorites: The Most Popular Free Crochet Patterns of 2013, and so I’ve also been named one of their 2013 Top Bloggers.

This might explain why my Pinterest source page currently looks like this:

All Weather Cowl on Pinterest

(Usually, there is a variety of different photos!)  The All Weather Cowl is definitely one of my favorite samples to wear out.  (I even wear it around the house when it’s extra cold.)  I only wish the yarn I designed it with, Galler Yarns Aztec Boucle, hadn’t been discontinued this past summer.  You could make the entire cowl with just one skein!

Perhaps this award will motivate me to make another sample with a yarn that’s currently available…

Favorite Online Crochet Resources: Link Party at Crochet Boulevard

Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources. Today’s featured site is Crochet Boulevard, my favorite crochet link party.

I was first introduced to Barbara from made in k-town shortly after I began blogging in 2011.  I honestly can’t remember how I found her, but I fell in love with her striking photography, great projects, and clear writing.  Soon after I found made in k-town, Barbara started hosting crochet link parties which eventually needed a home of their own — the Crochet Boulevard.

crochetboulevard

There are just so many reasons I love this link party, but I’ll start with the reality.  I’m only aware of less than a handful of others that are only for crochet and not a mix of crochet and knitting.  But even if there were hundreds of crochet link parties, I’m sure Crochet Boulevard would still be at the top of my list.  Barbara’s readers get to be involved with choosing a theme by voting, so people tend to pick topics where they have great projects to share!  Crochet Boulevard is also very international and multicultural.  I’m always introduced to new blogs (many of of which are in languages other than English) and I get to “meet” bloggers from all over the world.  Even amidst these differences, our commonality – the love of crochet – clearly brings everyone together.

Make sure you stop by Crochet Boulevard this week to share your projects in the latest Free Topic Friday link party!  Barbara can also be found online at the made in k-town Facebook page.  Although Barbara is a busy lady including being in the midst of wedding planning, she did have some time to stop by for a NatCroMo interview.  (As a side note, to keep her blog active during this busy time, Barbara has invited some great guest bloggers to made in k-town.)

Barbara Langer
Barbara Langer.

 

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

Barbara: It’s been so long, I actually can’t remember it very clearly. My earliest memory is sitting on the couch on my parents’ balcony (yes, there was a time when we had a couch out there), learning my first chain stitches. I must have been six or seven years old. My first “projects” were potholders and bed socks. Crochet has always been a part of my creative life, so it always felt easy and natural, like painting with watercolors or crafting with paper – the “normal” stuff that every child grows up with.

Barbara still makes coasters.  Click the photo to link to her beautiful Spiral Coaster/Potholder Pattern.
Barbara still makes potholders. Click the photo to link to her beautiful Spiral Coaster/Potholder Pattern from made in k-town.

UC: What inspired you to start blogging? And then how did you decide to host a link party?

Barbara: There was a time in my early twenties when I lost interest in crochet because I somehow felt like there was nothing new to discover (oh, how wrong I was… *gg*). Then, ten years later, I was sick at home for weeks and somehow discovered the colorful and inspiring world of crochet on the internet. I decided two things: first, I just HAD to grab my hook again and try all the new things I had seen on various blogs, and second: I wanted to be a part of the the online crochet community and share my work, too.

icrochet was one of the sites I visited regularly before I even started blogging myself: it was great to look at the pictures, then follow the links and discover even more crochet goodies. I could spend hours browsing icrochet and all the blogs that were connected there! When I started my blog, made in k-town, I wanted to host my own link-party, too – but somehow I wanted it to be different from the others, and so I had the idea of hosting monthly theme-parties, with topics like “granny squares,” “flowers,” “Christmas crochet” and many more. After a few months I decided to outsource the parties to another blog, because I thought it was a pity that those awesome galleries were somehow lost in the archives with all the other stuff I was posting – and so I started The Crochet Boulevard!

A screenshot of the voting section on Crochet Boulevard.  You still have time to choose the next theme!
A screenshot of the voting section on Crochet Boulevard. You still have time to vote for the next theme!

UC: Since it is NatCroMo… Can you share a favorite crochet memory with us?

Barbara: It’s funny, I can still remember the night when I first picked up a hook again after my decade-long abstinence. I had discovered the internet crochet world just before I went to bed, but then I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. So I got up again, sneaked downstairs to my parents’ apartment and searched for my old hooks and some yarn. Back in my own living room, I made myself comfortable on the coach, put on the Country station on satellite radio and started hooking – “just a few stitches” to see if I still knew how to do it. Next thing I remember is my boyfriend getting up the next morning, asking me what I’m doing up so early ;). Luckily, it was a Saturday morning, so I could get some sleep later. That night I had tried all the different granny squares I could find on the internet – they never made it to a bigger project, but I’ll never forget how I got my crochet-mojo back.

Barbara's African Flower Square from made in k-town.  Click the picture to link through to the tutorial.
Barbara’s African Flower Square from made in k-town. Click the picture to link through to the tutorial.

UC: What was your favorite crochet theme party on Crochet Boulevard?

Barbara: Ah, that’s a tough one! I generally think that the parties are getting better with each month, because there are more and more girls who join us and share their work. So our last party, Colorful, is really a pleasure to look at in its whole! And instead of looking back, I’m really looking forward to the parties that are still to come. I’m dreaming of a huge freeform or yarn-bombing link party, but since both topics are rather specific crochet niches, I’m afraid that only very few of us could actually share their work (although we’d all love to see a little freeform or yarn bombing, right?). Maybe one day…

UC: What are your favorite types of crochet projects to make?

Barbara: Oh my, I’m already bored with my answer: blankets and potholders :). On the other hand: who could ever be bored with blankets and potholders?  (UC comment: So true!  Check out the beauties in the Crochet Boulevard Blanket link party here.)

Barbara's double-ended crochet, reversible Magic Blanket is one of my favorite projects from made in k-town.  Click the picture to see all of her Magic Blanket posts.
Barbara’s double-ended crochet, reversible Magic Blanket is one of my favorite projects from made in k-town. Click the picture to see all of her Magic Blanket posts.

UC: What are your favorite websites for crochet-related content and community?

Barbara: Although there are lots of crochet websites I’ve bookmarked for further investigation, it always comes down to two: Pinterest and Ravelry. Pinterest is my daily crochet inspiration and my favorite resource for general browsing. I’m following lots of crochet boards there, and everytime I visit Pinterest, there’s always something new to discover and re-pin. When I’m looking for something specific, I rely on Ravelry. They’ve got a huge database, and so far I was always lucky to find exactly what I was looking for.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Barbara, and for creating and maintaining my favorite crochet link party!

Favorite Online Crochet Resources: News with Crochet Concupiscence

Every Saturday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite online crochet resources.  Today’s featured site is Crochet Concupiscence, my favorite source of crochet-related news.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Kathryn Vercillo‘s blog, Crochet Concupiscence.  I’ve interviewed Kathryn twice on my blog (here and here), and I’ve previously described Crochet Concupiscence this way:

It is sort of like the USA Today of crochet blogs – a roundup of everything going on in the crochet world, plus Kathryn’s personal projects – but with much better/more engaging writing.

Crochet Concupiscence logo

It’s because of that combination – Kathryn’s tireless efforts at gathering crochet news along with the quality of her writing – that I find myself returning to her blog again and again.  I always discover new blogs through Kathryn’s weekly Crochet Link Love on Saturdays, and I also love her vintage crochet discoveries (which can be found in her new 50 Years of Crochet feature and her series on Edgy 1970s Crochet Designers).

Although Kathryn’s a busy lady – she maintains three different blogs, writes books, and is organizing a multimedia project to teach people to use crochet to improve their overall wellness –  she took some time to answer a few NatCroMo13 questions.

Kathryn Vercillo

Underground Crafter (UC): What’s your favorite crochet memory?

Kathryn: My sister and I sometimes crochet together when she is here. I remember one time that she came here and we had a fire going in the fireplace and I was working on my crochet work while she was reading out loud to me by the light of the fire. It felt like I was part of an amazing 19th century novel.

 

UC: What are your favorite types of projects to crochet?  

Kathryn: This varies so much depending on my mood. Crochet can serve so many different emotional needs! Lately I’ve been in a complicated emotional space in both my personal and professional lives and as a result I’ve been drawn to really simple, instant gratification projects that offer the opportunity to focus and go inwards. For example, I’ve been crocheting a lot of post stitch and cable stitch crochet hat patterns because I can follow the pattern, focus on the work at hand and kind of let everything else slip away but the project is never so complicated that it feels draining or trying.  (UC comment: I love to make granny squares when I’m stressed out, for the same reason!)

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet websites?  

Kathryn: It’s so hard to choose just a few websites. That’s why I do crochet link love every week, to link to all of the best crochet content from around the web because there is so much of it and the sources change from week to week! I like Pinterest for finding crochet inspiration, Ravelry for finding patterns and I’m learning to like the Facebook crochet community although the Facebook platform has taken me some getting used to. (UC comment: Kathryn frequently shares a crochet question of the day on her Facebook page and it’s very fun to play along!)  I’m increasingly interested in Twitter chats and hangouts where you can connect with a smaller group of people in real time but there are only a handful of those; I’d like to get more involved in that.

UC: You’re a very organized blogger.  Can you share your current blog schedule with us?

Kathryn: My current posting schedule varies depending on what’s in the news but you can usually count on these things:
  • Crochet artist profiles on Mondays
  • My new 50 Years of Crochet History posts on Wednesdays (starting with crochet in the 1930s)
  • Designer crochet or crochet fashion posts on Thursdays
  • Something about crochet health or crocheting for creativity on Fridays
Then throughout the week some of the other things that I feature include crochet news, roundups of crochet pattern links, and info on crochet designers. Occasionally I’ll do crochet book reviews or giveaways. I’ve also just started accepting crochet sponsors on this blog so there are posts introducing the amazing things that they offer and usually featuring a giveaway at some point during the month.
Thanks, Kathryn, for stopping by, and for regularly scouring the web to share such amazing crochet content with your readers!
What’s your favorite online resource for crochet-related news?

Interview with Kim Guzman, a.k.a. CrochetKim

I am so incredibly pleased to share an interview with Kim Guzman today.  As a lover of Tunisian crochet and a member of the very active Yahoo group that she co-moderates with Angela “ARNie” Grabowskitunisiancrochet, I’ve been a big fan of Kim’s work for years.  (Kim also does a lot of “regular” crochet design, too, as she discusses in this recent blog post.)

Kim is incredibly prolific as a designer, author, and teacher, and always seems to me to be the hardest working woman in show (er, um, yarn) business.  Yet if you are active on Crochetville, Ravelry, or almost any other social network where crochet is being discussed, you have probably interacted with Kim, who is very generous about sharing tips, advice, and her knowledge of crochet.

You can find Kim online through her main website (which links to her Crochet Kim/free pattern website and her Kimane Designs/self-published pattern website) and her blog, WIPs ‘n Chains.  Kim’s free videos can be found on her YouTube page and on the website of the new crochet magazine, Crochet 1-2-3 here.  She also teaches online classes at Annie’s and Crochetville.  Kim is also on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Ravelry (as crochetkim, in her group, and on her designer page).  All pictures are used with Kim’s permission and, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Kim Guzman.

 

Kim Guzman.

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

Kim: When I was about 9 years’ old, my parents joined the Army together. During their basic training, my sister and I stayed with my grandparents. It was quite a long stay with grandparents and I believe that she taught us to crochet just to give us something to do while away from home. She started us off with granny squares and I learned from verbal instruction only. It wasn’t until I was about 18 years old that I purchased my first patterns. I wasn’t even aware of patterns and had been designing my own for all that time.

 

Sunday Best Sweater, one of Kim's self-published designs.

UC: When were you first introduced to Tunisian crochet, and how did you come to work with it so often?

Kim: In about 2000, Darla Fanton had turned the crochet world on its ears with her double-ended Tunisian crochet designs. She did a lot of books, but the publishers wanted more. Annie’s Attic sent me some double-ended hooks and asked me to try my hand at double-ended Tunisian. I had never done it before, but I immediately set to work. My double-ended designs weren’t accepted. I found that I preferred the look of regular one-sided Tunisian and I had three books commissioned within six months.

 

 

Kansas City Cowl. Photo (c) Caron.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Kim: I have been designing since I learned to crochet. It was at least 10 years of crocheting before I sat down with a pattern and taught myself how to read it. Not knowing about patterns was the key to my “no fear” attitude toward design. My grandmother’s doilies inspired me to design my own when I was only 10 years’ old.

 

Lacy Bobbles Scarf and Wristlets. Photo (c) DRG Publishing (Annie's).

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Kim: My creative inspiration is usually in the yarn itself. I bond with a yarn for awhile by swatching with it. When I come up with a stitch pattern and drape that I find pleasing, I bond with it awhile until it tells me what it wants to be. While I do browse the internet and catalogs for trendy clothing, I don’t usually have the ability to see something in fabric and be able to translate their shapes into crochet. Well, I take that back. I don’t usually find myself doing that. But, publishers will sometimes choose a photo of something in a pleasing shape and then ask that I translate that shape or construction into crochet. It’s design-on-demand. I never feel like my design-on-demand work is very good. It doesn’t come from the heart.

 

 

Cabled Mitts from the Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Tunisian Crochet. Photo (c) Leisure Arts.

UC: Your four latest books, the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet, Tunisian Cables to CrochetShort Row Tunisian Fashion, and the forthcoming Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide, all focus on Tunisian crochet. What was the design process like for these books?

Kim: You act as if I’m organized. ha! I am the furthest thing from organized.

For the Beginner’s Guide, I thought about yarns and projects. I thought about beginner projects and intermediate projects. And, I just started crocheting and writing. I put every little trick I know about Tunisian crochet in that book. It includes things normally not found in Tunisian crochet books like seaming horizontally or vertically, how to change colors, how to work with a lot of colors, step-by-step on how to felt projects and so much more. Everything that I had seen over the years which I had seen caused some questions. Even how to work with a self-striping yarn so that wide pieces of the body of a garment match the same sort of striping in the upper pieces around the arms and neck is included. It was the very first time I was given full control over what went into the book and I went all out.  (UC comment: I highly recommend this book for Tunisian crochet newbies!  You can read my review on the Crochet Guild of America’s blog here.  Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

 

Dublin Owl Hat and Mitts from Tunisian Cables to Crochet. Photo (c) Annie's.

For the Cables book, I did it right after I finished my Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide.  (UC note: This book is expected to be published in March.)  When I was working on the stitch guide, I did a swatch of a cable, then I did another, and another. I had about 10 cables in next to no time. I wanted to somehow keep the cables together, but I had already done the required number of stitch patterns for the Stitch Guide (65). This would have put me over the expected number by ten, so I decided to pull those cable stitch patterns from my proposed stitch patterns and create a separate book. Since the cables required special instruction, I didn’t want to put them in a book with only charted stitch patterns. I wanted them to have a further instruction.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

 

Sapphire Wrap from Short Row Tunisian Fashion. Photo (c) Leisure Arts.

In Short Row Tunisian Fashion, which is currently available in hard copy and download, I have six projects which use the short row technique in Tunisian. But, the real surprise is the crescent wrap which includes a pineapple stitch pattern. No, not a regular crochet pineapple stitch pattern. It’s Tunisian crochet from start to finish. I believe it to be the first ever published pineapple stitch pattern in Tunisian crochet.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

Then, in March, my new Stitch Guide will be available. It’s already available on Amazon for pre-order. I’ve never done a full stitch pattern book before. But, I’m especially pleased with it because, although there are some classic Tunisian crochet stitch patterns, most of them are completely out of my head. I wanted a charted book and this book really challenged me because I had to draw out all the symbols myself. But, it was well worth it and I feel that this book is my biggest contribution to crochet yet.

 

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including designer, writer, teacher, and social networker/community builder. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Kim: I think the sweetheart, Margaret Hubert, put it best: “Don’t quit your day job.” While I have somehow been able to do these wonderful things as my career, as a single mother, it has been tough! There isn’t a lot of money in it. Most times, we’re just barely surviving and we’ve had to make numerous sacrifices. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been able to stay at home with my kids and do a job that I love. I can’t think of a better way to go through life.

 

 

Luna Sweater. Photo (c) Interweave.

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

Kim: I am especially fond of the Japanese stitch pattern books. They have spent more time with me on the couch than in the book shelf.

 

UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?

Kim: Well, I’m just going to look at my computer and see what websites I always have up there.

  • Yahoo Mail. Yep, always there.
  • Yahoo Groups. I’m a moderator of the Tunisian Crochet group, so I always have that up.
  • Facebook. Seriously, I think I would go into withdrawals if I didn’t have my Facebook peeps. ;-)
  • Crochetville. Staying on top of the students’ questions for my classes and responding to any pattern questions asked in the forums.
  • Annie’s. Also, staying on top of the students’ questions. I like to respond to questions immediately. I respond as quickly as I possibly can. If I was doing a project, and I had a question, it would really be bothersome to have to set it down and wait for a week to get a response. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, but I really do my best to get to questions immediately.
  • Pinterest. Oh, the crochet pretties!
  • Tweetdeck: I like to stalk my friends. :-)

 

Laced Cables, a pattern from Kim's online Tunisian Cables and Lace class at Annie's. Photo (c) Annie's.

 

UC: You’ve been teaching online for years.  Tell me about your experiences as an online teacher. 

Kim: I prefer teaching online over teaching in live venues. Like I said, I’m a single mother. I have a small child. I want to stay home with him and I don’t want to leave him for a week at a time. Online teaching allows me to stay at home with him. But, it’s more than that. Online teaching gives me the opportunity to give well-thought-out answers to my students. And, I don’t walk out suddenly remembering that I forgot to teach something.

I have been teaching online for over 10 years. I’ve been teaching project classes, but I’ve just started adding some design classes to the mix which will begin in February at Crochetville.

 

Thank you for stopping by, Kim, and sharing your answers with us!

Interview with Kathryn Vercillo, author of Crochet Saved My Life

Today, I’m interviewing Kathryn Vercillo, one of my favorite crochet bloggers, for the second time.  (You can check out the first interview here.)  Kathryn recently self published a book, Crochet Saved My Life, about the ways crochet supports physical and mental healing.

Kathryn is a professional writer, and her work has been published in magazines such as Latina and Skope. Kathryn has also written for numerous websites and blogs, including PC World and Houzz. And, of course, Kathryn is the mind behind Crochet Concupiscence, and is also known as CrochetBlogger on Ravelry and Twitter.  You can also find Kathryn and Crochet Concupiscence online on Facebook, G+, and Pinterest, and you can sign up for her newsletter (which generally features awesome goodies and discounts) here.

Kathryn Vercillo.

Underground Crafter (UC): Your new book, Crochet Saved My Life, shares your personal experience of using crochet to help deal with your depression. Tell us more about your decision to write the book and to share your experience with depression, which is often stigmatized in our society. What were some of the challenges you faced in starting this project?

Kathryn: I have been a writer for as long as I can remember and I knew that there was another book in me, but I wasn’t sure what it would be about or when it would happen. I started writing the Crochet Concupiscence blog shortly after beginning to heal from depression and it was a really great project for me. I enjoy writing about crochet every day and I’ve really been happy with the terrific support I’ve received from the online crochet community. So it began to get clearer and clearer that my next book would be related to this topic that was becoming increasingly important to me – meaning the topic of crochet.

There were actually a few false starts. For example, I had ideas for a crochet pattern book and was thinking at the time that I wanted to get into pattern design. But as I started doing that I just found that it wasn’t really that enjoyable for me for a variety of reasons. I admire and respect the terrific crochet designers that are putting out books, but making my own patterns turned out to not feel right. I like doing a lot of random crochet work and creating my own designs but I don’t enjoy the process of writing that down and translating it all into something that someone else can follow.

I also started writing some short stories about crochet. I enjoyed that but I can’t say that I was passionate about it. In the meantime, I was continuing to post a lot on the blog and I found that one of the topics I was drawn to again and again was how crochet helped in healing people and just improving quality of life. So it began to occur to me that this was really a topic I wanted to explore further and to do that I needed to get at the core of why it was so important to me, which meant confronting my own depression story. As I started to do that, I found myself not only having a lot to say but also feeling really positive while writing the material and that was what told me that yes, this was the right project at the right time.

One of the toughest things for me with this book was deciding how much of myself to share and in what way. I did not want this to be entirely a memoir about my own experience but I did think that it was important to share that story in detail. I wanted to be honest but not self-pitying. Finding that voice was a little bit tough. In the end I decided to write the book much like I write my blog – just casually talking to my reader. I found that it worked for me and I hope it works for the readers!

The other thing is just that the length of a project like this is tough in many ways. You sit there isolated at your computer and even though you’ve written 100 pages you aren’t anywhere near done. There’s no instant gratification. There is a lot of self-doubt. There is a lot of writer’s block to contend with. I’ve been writing long enough to know how to work through that but it’s never easy!

 

Crochet Saved My Life.

UC: What was the development process like for this book? How did you find the other people you profile and encourage them to share their personal experiences in your book?

Kathryn: In the beginning I just started by creating an outline of topics that I personally thought crochet might help in healing and that I wanted to learn more about. I started with my own story because I think that’s where all good writing begins. Then I began doing basic research (thanks Google) to start getting new ideas about the topics on my outline. So, for example, I knew I wanted to cover the topic of how crochet can help with anxiety so I did a bunch of searches into that to start fleshing out that chapter.

In the meantime, I did a few posts here and there on my blog about health-related topics. The response I received was terrific and really encouraged me to keep going with my research. I put out a few “calls for stories” on the blog. At first I really had no idea how I would use those stories other than just for getting ideas about what else to include in the book or maybe pulling a few quotes for chapters I’d already identified as interesting me. But then the stories I received were so incredibly powerful that I knew that they needed to be told in full.

Women were responding to my calls for stories and telling me really intimate, personal, difficult details about their lives. I felt like it was my responsibility to honor that and find the best way to share their stories in a way that celebrated their strength while conveying the role that crochet played in helping them to heal.

I had about a dozen stories from those calls on my blog but since they were now going to be such a key part of the book I knew I needed more. That was when I started putting out calls for specific topics, to help cover areas of the book that I didn’t have enough material for. So for example I put out messages on Twitter asking if anyone wanted to share their stories about using crochet as a pain management tool.

In a few cases, I actually found specific people who had blogged about a topic and reached out to them individually to see if they wanted to share their stories. Of course, some did and some didn’t. My whole approach to this process was believing that the stories that were meant to be told right now would be the ones that came forth. I made sure everyone had the right to choose how much personal detail to share, whether or not to share their real names, etc. I wanted to respect that everyone is in different stages of healing and should tell their story from that place. I hope I did a good job of that!

 

Kathryn wearing a thread crochet necklace of her own design.

UC: This is your second self-published book. Can you tell us about the experience of self-publishing? Do you have any advice for those of us who are considering self-publishing?

Kathryn: Yes! In 2011 I put out my booklet of articles about cool elderly women who crochet. That was mostly a test run to see how I liked self-publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace tool. At the time I was still really undecided about whether or not to get a traditional publisher but the experience of self-publishing was so positive for me that it clinched it for me that I’d self-publish. I honestly believe it’s the best option for most writers today. You get to retain your rights, make many decisions for yourself about the entire process, collect more in royalties (usually), etc. and as a solopreneur that is all really important to me.

I have two pieces of advice for people who want to self-publish. First is to surround yourself with experts to help you in the process. I worked with a really great photographer for my book cover and she did images that I just never would have gotten on my own. And it’s a bit tangential but I have a really great web/tech guy who helps me keep my blog running right. If I didn’t have him, I would have spent tons and tons of time trying to keep the blog’s problems at bay (he helped in particular with a big issue I had with my web host) and I wouldn’t have had the time/energy to get the book out on schedule. Other professionals that a writer may want to work with include editors, marketing people, and interior layout designers.

The other thing is that you have to be willing to play many different roles to successfully self-publish. I needed to treat this like a creative work, almost a piece of art, as I was making it. And yet, I needed to be my own taskmaster and manager, insisting on maintaining a schedule to keep it on track. And now that it’s out, I can’t think of it as a creative work anymore, because then the critiques would be too emotionally tough to bear, so now I need to switch gears and think of it as a product I’m trying to sell to the right people. But still, it’s my baby and to promote it I need to stay genuine to its creative intent. So you just go back and forth a lot, utilizing different skills. I think if you aren’t prepared to do that then self-publishing can be really, really tough.

Practically speaking I think that the CreateSpace tool is a really good one. It was easy to understand. It affords you a lot of control but there is an online community there to support you with questions and help. There are other options (Lulu, Blurb) and I don’t know a lot about them but my experience with CreateSpace has been really positive.

 

Kathryn's Edgy 1970s Crochet Designers series is one of my favorites!

UC: Your blog has some new features since I last interviewed you. What are some of your current and upcoming Crochet Concupiscence projects?

Kathryn: I am running two regular series right now that I’m really enjoying. And the first is one that I know you enjoy as well – my articles about the crochet designers from the 1970s! Each Wednesday I take a look back at the work of a crochet artist who emerged around the early 1960s. I explore the work they did at the time, the boundaries that they were pushing in the fiber art world, etc. Then I try to find out what they’ve been up to since. A large number of them are still creating art today, although it’s often not crochet art anymore, and it’s fun to see how their careers have gone over time. These people really contributed a lot to the growth of crochet, making it the craft we know today, and I think it’s not only interesting but important to honor them for that.  (UC comment: Yes, it’s true, I’m completely addicted to this series since I love vintage crochet!)

The other regular series is my Designer Crochet Series where I take a look at a famous fashion designer each Thursday and see if there is any crochet in their collections. This is a yearlong project and I’m about halfway through it. I actually haven’t gotten a lot of feedback on this one so I don’t know if people are enjoying it as much as I am but it’s something I really love doing.  (UC comment: I’m always amazed by all of the pictures you find for each of these posts!)

Another big change on the blog is that I’m trying to include more inspiration posts where I do a roundup of 10 or more (sometimes as many as 100) items in a specific category. Some examples of that include 20 Ideas for Combining Crochet with Fabric, 15 Fun Projects for Button Lovers who Crochet, 10 Ideas for Upcycling Denim with Crochet, and 100 Unique Crochet Scarves.

And finally I’ve recently begun to take a strong interest in crochet blogs published in other languages so I’ve been doing some posts sharing my favorites. People who are interested in that can start by checking out my posts on Spanish Crochet Blogs but I’ve also covered Italian, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Finnish and a few others.

 

 

Kathryn's Designer Crochet series explores the use of crochet in the work of many fashion designers.

UC: You do a lot to support the crochet community through your blog and other social media outlets. Do you have any suggestions for crocheters who are interested in being more involved in the online crochet community?

Kathryn: Thanks! I love being a part of the crochet community. My best advice is to be available everywhere but active in only your favorite spots. So for example people who want to can find me through Ravelry, Hookey, Etsy, and a whole bunch of other places because I do make myself available there. However, I’m only super active on Twitter and Pinterest, and to a lesser extent G+ and now Facebook. Facebook was a compromise for me because I’ve never really liked the format there but so many people wanted to see a Crochet Concupiscence Facebook page that I felt like it was important to get more active there.

My point here is that you want people to be able to connect with you but you don’t want to burn yourself out by trying to keep up with all of the latest social sites. Find the ones that you really enjoy. (UC comment: I think this is great advice.  I try to focus my time on the sites that I enjoy using the most!)  I like Twitter because for me it’s a place where it’s easy to have quick conversations with many different people. Plus I like participating in TweetChats, such as Crochet Chat, which is the first Wednesday of every month. I like Pinterest because of the visual beauty of it; I truly enjoy spending time there. And I like the G+ format for finding and sharing information. I enjoy those so I spend time there. I spend less time on the sites I enjoy less because if you’re not having fun with the community then what’s the point! I also want to give a shoutout to Hookey here – I haven’t spent nearly enough time on it myself (only so many hours in a day) but whenever I’m there I find a really great crochet community so anyone who is looking for a new place to start finding some great online connections would do good for themselves to try there.

I also really encourage people to comment on my blog and even to email me. I like the one on one connection of really getting to know people.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Kathryn, and for sharing your tips with us!

Year of Projects, Year 2: Decisions

This week,  I auditioned six more motifs for my mom’s milestone birthday blanket.  I made each sample with stash yarn, and I’m happy to report that I’m almost to the bottom of one of my plastic yarn tubs!

This is my version of Duckbill Dalliance by Margaret MacInnis.  I like this motif a lot, but I don’t think I will be using it for my mom’s bedspread.

I found this great motif, M-6, in a vintage crochet book I have, Crochet and Creative Design by Annette Feldman.  I bought this book after interviewing Kathryn from Crochet Concupiscence.  I made my version in a self-striping yarn.  I love it, but it is definitely too openwork for a full bedspread.

Then I moved on to Afghan #9 by Valerie Vandergriff from Contest Favorites Afghan Squares. Because I plan to donate this square to charity, I made it 12″ so my version includes a few extra rounds.  This motif is definitely in the running for my mom’s bedspread.

And finally, I had to try out the Monet Pineapple, one of my all-time favorite motifs.  This was designed by Janie Herrin and appears in 100 Afghans to Knit & Crochet.  I also added a few rounds to my version.  This brings my charity square total up to 14 out of my YOP2 goal of 52!

At this point, I was ready to make a decision.  (Ok, I wasn’t actually ready to make the decision, but I was ready to stop making more samples!)  But then, I got an email from my sister.  You see, I had sent her the link to the Pinterest board of patterns I set up a few weeks ago, and she just got around to reading it this week.  Naturally, she thought two patterns that I hadn’t even tried yet were the perfect choices for my mom’s bedspread, so I made samples of those, too!

This is the Lacy Square Motif by Crochet Atelier.  (Side note: This is the first time I followed an entire pattern on my Kindle Fire.  It wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be, and I saved some printer ink and recycled paper!)  If I were to use this motif, I would adjust the center part of the pattern so that the circle and the petals were a bit smaller – I suspect that my chains are much larger than those of the designer.

This is the Super Cable Aran Spiral Bedspread by Flora Yang.  This pattern might also need a little adjustment if I were to use it for the final project.

My plan now is to send pictures of all the possible motifs to my sister for a final decision.  Then I will purchase the yarn and get started.

And that brings me to my next set of decisions.  You may recall that one of my YOP2 goals is to participate in the 2012 Ravellenic Games.  The kick off is the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern time.  There are a few things that I need to do before then:

  • Choose a sock pattern.  My main goal is to complete my first pair of knit socks during the Ravellenic Games.  I think I’ll be using the Austermann Step Sock yarn I received in the July Goodie Box Swap.  These will be entered in the sock put event.

    The yarn, along with DPNs and patterns that were included in the swap.
  • Make (at least one) gauge swatch.  I want to make sure I have the right needles available before casting on Friday.
  • Decide if I’ll be entering the modular relay.  If so, I’ll need to decide whether I’ll be competing with charity squares or motifs for my mom’s bedspread or motifs for a scrap blanket for me.  (That’s right, I want to make even more blankets!)  I will need to declare a number of motifs, which will naturally be based on the project I’m working on for this competition.
  • Choose a team (or teams).  This has been the toughest part for me.  Normally, I would enter a crochet-focused team, like Team Crochet, but that seems strange if my main project is knitting.  (Although, apparently, I can enter more than one team.)  If anyone reading is also participating in the Ravellenic Games, do you have any team suggestions for me?
Suddenly, I’m feeling very tired ;).  I may also try and make another stash yarn hat to cross-compete in the Hat Dash, Holiday Hurdles, and Synchronized Stash Busting events.  I can just decide to do this as I go along, so there is no stress about this possibility.  I should hopefully have some great updates for next week’s post!
For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-a-Long on Ravelry.

Year of Projects, Year 2: Rerouting

(This post is part of my Year of Projects, Year 2 series.)

This week, my goal was to try out some potential motif patterns for the bedspread I’m planning for my mom’s milestone birthday in February.  My sister’s bedspread took about 5 months to finish, and I’m assuming this one will be more complicated, so I want to get started soon.

My sister's granny square blanket, with colors inspired by the New Orleans Saints.

I started a Pinboard of potential vintage patterns earlier this week.

It’s been really hot here, so I’ve mostly been crocheting with mercerized cotton.  My first two swatches were a bust.

My first attempt, in Galler Yarns Parisian Cotton in Orchidee.

The first pattern I tried was the Marguerite.  Each hexagon is 40 rounds (!).  If you’ve ever tried a pattern from this era (1914), you know that there are a lot of details left unexplained.  I ended up cutting the petals short by about 6 rounds, just to see if I would be able to figure out how to create the petal effect.  I don’t think I did such a great job, and in any case, it would take too long to make each motif on my deadline.  I’ll have to tackle this pattern at a future time.

I did find another hexagon pattern in the same vintage booklet, Priscilla Crochet Booklet Bedspreads.

Figure 34, Hexagon for Bedspread.

After 6 rounds, I wasn’t overly excited about this one either.

Now, I’m thinking of switching gears entirely.  Instead of a vintage pattern (with the added stress of translating/interpreting the instructions), I may just use something from this wonderful book I picked up at Vogue Knitting Live.

There are a lot of lovely lace motifs, and everything is charted.  Hopefully by next week, I will have narrowed down my options for my mom’s bedspread.

Just so I could feel as though I accomplished something this week, I made my first two granny squares.  I sat right next to the air conditioner and used a partial ball of Lion Brand Wool Ease from my stash.  I think the colorway is called Sage, but the label is long gone, so I can’t be sure.  Both were based on patterns from The Granny Square Book by Margaret Hubert.

Dogwood Flower.

My Ravelry project page is here and the pattern page is here.

Ferris Wheel.

My Ravelry project page is here and the pattern page is here.  It was nice to use up some stash yarn and to crochet with something a bit thicker after a week of thread.  I’m glad I finished my first two grannies – only 50 more to go!

For more Year of Projects posts, visit Come Blog-A-Long on Ravelry.

Holiday

I’m making good progress on the Bruges waves scarf for my friend, OB.  I started it during my final Bruges lace class with Tatyana Mirer last week.  (More details on the yarn and the classes.)

I like the contrast between the feminine curves of the pattern and the dark, unisex color of the yarn.

When I asked OB about her preferred colors for a possible winter accessory, she asked for charcoal grey, or black, grey, and white. What do you think – will she be happy with the color?  (She was mildly shocked that I was already working on holiday projects!)  I’m actually using the hook she gave me for my birthday (reviewed here) – I think that will add to the story behind the scarf.   As soon as this is finished, I’ll pick my knitted hat project back up.

I dove right into my Year of Projects goal to make my mom a special bedspread for her milestone birthday in February.  I spent the last few days looking for vintage (or vintage looking) motif patterns that I think she might like.

My mom doesn’t read my blog (I think), but we follow each other on Pinterest, so I gave the board a very cryptic name so she wouldn’t suspect its true purpose.  (By the way, if you’re on Pinterest, I’m always looking for more needlecrafts boards to follow!  I’m ucrafter.)  I’m hoping to spend some time making sample motifs today since I’m off from work.

As for reading, I finished Halfway Human by Carolyn Ives Gilman (reviewed here) and started and finished two other books - Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg (reviewed here) and The Righteous by Michael Wallace (reviewed here- since my last Wednesday update.

 

Right now, I’m reading The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.  I love reading her dystopian novels – and it doesn’t hurt to know that she knows how to knit for a good cause.  I’m about 30% through the book and the characters and story are still unfolding.

For more Works in Progress, visit Tami’s Amis.  For more Yarn Along posts, visit Small Things.