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Today, I’m really excited to share an interview with Beth Graham, a fellow crochet designer and teacher. Like me, Beth is also participating in the Indie Design Gift-a-Long. In addition to her self-published works, her designs have appeared in Crochet One-Skein Wonders: 101 Projects from Crocheters around the World, Crochet World, and Quick & Simple Crochet for the Home.
Beth can be found online on Ravelry (as zagraham and on her designer page) and on her design and teaching Facebook page. If you’re in the Ontario area, you may also find her at her local yarn shop, Shall We Knit?
All photos are (c) Beth Graham (except where noted) and are used with Beth’s permission. Click on the pictures to link to the pattern page.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first learn to crochet?
Beth: I grew up believing myself to be completely incapable of anything the least bit crafty. I am left-handed, after all. My mom half-heartedly tried to teach me how to knit at one point by demonstrating the movements facing me (mirror image), but I just couldn’t get it, so we both gave up.
Later, as I started working as a librarian, I borrowed a book on left-handed knitting from the library. It was so complicated, and I had no one to help me, so, again, I quickly gave it up. There it was: confirmation that I couldn’t do crafty things!
Years later, my family moved from the United States to Canada, and I was in work limbo for a bit while I was waiting to get permanent residence status. I remembered that I’d always admired a baby blanket that my sister-in-law had made for my son and thought that maybe I’d give crochet a shot. So that first cold, dark winter, not really believing I could do it, I bought Mary Thomas’s First Steps In Crochet and was finally on my way!
You see, this somewhat dated booklet included a “Note for Left Handers” that started, “We strongly recommend that left handers learn the right-handed way. It may seem awkward at first, but this is true for all beginning crocheters.”
Something clicked. Crochet is really a two-handed activity! It’s going to be awkward starting out no matter what! I could do this!
This is one of the first things I tell my beginning crochet students: I could do it! And they can, too.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Beth: Karen Crouch, the owner of Shall We Knit? in Waterloo, Ontario, where I work part-time, inspired me to start designing. As the resident “crochet guru,” I teach beginner crochet classes, and Karen persuaded me to try my hand at a few designs for those courses.
Things kind of exploded from there. I discovered, for example, that designs I thought of as “too easy” actually found an audience, and that even my knitter friends were interested in them! That sort of encouragement has been enough to keep me working toward finding my design voice.
I love teaching and I love learning. For me, design work has been all about learning: about good writing, about how to design, and about how to teach most effectively.
UC: Most of your patterns are for neckwear and dishcloths. What do you enjoy about designing these types of projects?
Beth: My crochet design is informed by my teaching, mostly. I want to offer students – along with knitters dipping their toe for the first time in the crochet waters! – easily managed, quickly accomplished projects. My goal, always, is to write simply and clearly, while offering the crafter enough interesting tidbits along the way to keep them hooked.
As well, I really enjoy making one-skein projects and utilitarian objects. Dishcloths are a fabulous way of exploring new techniques without having to commit to a lengthy project. And, even if your cloth ends up a little wonky, who cares? It’ll still get used – and may even give you a bit of a lift as you tackle those dreaded chores!
UC: You work a lot in Tunisian crochet (one of my favorite techniques!). How did you get started with Tunisian?
Beth: My crochet mentor, Judith Butterworth, introduced me to Tunisian crochet. Its “bicraftual” nature really appeals to me. It’s a little bit like knitting, with its two-part method of picking up stitches and then, essentially, binding them off on each return pass. It’s more than a little like crochet, though, too, in the manner in which yarn and hook are managed.
And, if you get the gauge just right? It produces a fantastically tailored-looking fabric. (See, for example, my Practice Makes Perfect Scarf – one skein of Smooshy wonderfulness!) UC comment: Smooshy is one of my favorite yarns!
UC: What’s your favorite crochet book in your collection (besides the ones you’re featured in, of course)?
That’s really a toughie. I love books and value having lots of information at my fingertips. The book I’ve been recommending the most lately, though, has got to be Edie Eckman’s The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask.
UC: Tell me about another crochet designer you discovered through participation in the GAL. What attracted you that designer’s work?
Beth: I’ve organized a wee CAL with some friends locally using Yuliya Tkacheva’s Metro Kerchief that is coinciding with the Ravelry GAL. I’m a big fan of classically tailored patterns (ones that are, dare I say, “knitterly” in their design?), and Yuliya’s scarf is just right!
UC: Do you have any favorite crochet related websites or blogs that you read regularly?
Sad to say, I really don’t. I’m on Ravelry all the time, though.
UC: What’s next for you?
Beth: I’ve got two pieces in slip stitch crochet coming out on December 30 in the Knit Picks Under 100 Crochet Collection that I’m pretty excited about. As well, look for some Tunisian crochet dishcloth patterns in Cooperative Press’s Fresh Designs Crochet series and in the Knit Picks IDP in the new year.
Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Beth!