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

This post contains affiliate links.

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

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

Viola Sutanto

Viola Sutanto.

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

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

Designing Your Packaging

Printed fabric drawstring bag by Soma Intimates.

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

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

Working with eco friendly fabrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Designing Your Packaging 3

Fabric bags by Amie Nilsson, Merino Kids.

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

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

Designing your packaging 2

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

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

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

Ribbons

Fabric bundles tied with ribbon.

UC: What’s next for you?

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

Thanks for joining us Viola!

Interview: Dora Ohrenstein, Crochet Designer and Author

This post contains affiliate links.

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?