Tag Archives: ravelry

Interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager

Today, I’m happy to share an interview with crochet designer, Julie Yeager. Though we’ve never met in real life, Julie and I share a love of crocheting squares and blankets, and of participating in crochet related swaps. (And, I learned from the interview that we also both grew up shopping for yarn at Woolworth’s in New York City!)

Julie can be found online on Ravelry (as JulieAnny, on her designer page, in the Julie Yeager Designs group), Facebook, and Etsy. Julie also founded and co-moderates the Vanna’s Choice Fan Club group on Ravelry, where you can exchange squares and share pictures of your Vanna’s Choice creations. All photos are copyright Julie Yeager and are used with permission.

Julie Yeager

Julie Yeager.

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

Julie: I’m honored to talk to the readers of Underground Crafter, Marie.  Thanks for having me. (UC comment: Thanks so much, Julie! It’s great to have you stop by.) I’ve been knitting and crocheting since I was about 8; learned from my Irish mom. I would buy sparkly crochet thread at Woolworth’s in the Bronx, NY and crochet clothes for my Barbies. I also made my share of granny square tote bags. I didn’t do much crafting in my 20s, maybe an occasional baby blanket, but then when I became a stay at home mom I got back into knitting and machine knitting for my daughter. When I discovered Ravelry I got into crocheting afghan squares and blankets and I haven’t stopped.

 

Stained Glass Afghan Square

Stained Glass Afghan Square, available as a 12″ block pattern.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing? 

Julie: I’ve always changed patterns to my taste and would put together the yoke from one sweater with the sleeves from another so I guess I’ve been “designing” a little for years.
I joined some afghan square swap groups on Ravelry and perfected my technique using the patterns of many great designers. Interweave Crochet magazine and the Crochet Me website sponsored a contest in which readers could submit afghan square patterns and the winners would become part of a published pattern called the Chain Reaction Afghan Project. I just picked up my hook and started playing around and submitted a few designs. Three of my designs were chosen and appeared in Interweave Crochet in 2010 – 2011. It was very exciting and the start of my designing career. With Ravelry, I had a great tool to share my work.

 

Hexaghan

The Hexaghan, including 6 different hexagon designs joined together into one 61 hexagon blanket.

UC: You primarily design crocheted squares. What is it about square motifs that you enjoy designing? 

Julie: I love designing 12-inch squares in aran weight yarn and I have an obsession with Vanna’s Choice. I like the modern look of large scale stitching and I feel like a sculptor with my hook in hand. Fitting my idea into a 12-inch square and getting it to square is very satisfying. My squares are small enough to design and crochet quickly, and I enjoy writing a clear pattern that is easy to follow. I also like an unfussy and repetitive design; as a pattern-user I do not like to have to constantly refer to the instructions and I want my customers to enjoy themselves. Also, there are no fitting problems with blankets!

 

Catalina Afghan Square

Catalina Afghan Square, a free pattern available in both 9″ and 12″ sizes.

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

Julie: With Ravelry and Paypal and a head full of ideas, it is easy and stress-free to work this business around my life. I have a full-time job as a Registered Nurse and am raising a 16-year-old, so I can write and publish patterns around my schedule. Although I would love to have my patterns in magazines and books, for now I find this a great outlet for my creativity and am very happy with how it’s going. It is not for everyone; you have to be a jack-of-all-trades and competent with designing, writing, proof-reading, and know your way around the internet. No editors or publicists on my staff, haha.

 

Tangled Web Afghan Block

Tangled Web Afghan Block, a 12″ square design.

 

UC: You’ve hosted several Mystery Crochet-a-Longs. What do you enjoy about using this format to release your patterns? Do you have any tips for designers who want to dip their toes into the MCAL waters? 

Julie: Mystery Crochet-a-Longs are a fun way to draw interest to my patterns. I am lucky to have a base of fans who trust me and are willing to blindly follow where I go! I can only do it about once a year because designing, crocheting, and writing and proofreading a pattern for a whole blanket is very time-consuming! I need a compelling idea to keep my interest through the work! My fans seem to enjoy it and it keeps them interested in my new work. It also brings new fans. I’ve kept the Mystery’ghan free for participants and then later I put the pattern up for sale. The finished projects become a marketing tool. I’m always a little nervous hoping that people will like it after they’ve invested their time and money into a “Mystery.” My only advice is that you have your pattern fully tested before you start.

 

Garden State Afghan

Garden State Afghan, which Julie originally offered in June, 2013 as a MCAL design, includes eight 4″ squares, four 8″ squares, and two 12″ square patterns.

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

Julie: When I first started swapping afghan squares, Jan Eaton’s 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans was my favorite. I also worked my way through a few other square reference books, like 101 Crochet Squares by Jean Leinhauser. I love Edie Eckman’s Around the Corner Crochet Borders for finishing after I have a pile of squares to join! I sometimes use The Crochet Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden for stitch inspiration. I try to invent my own stitches these days!

 

Sun Catcher Afghan Square

 

Sun Catcher Afghan Square, a 12″ block.

 

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

Julie: I am a Ravelry addict and check in there several times a day. I like to check the Hot Right Now pattern list and I also check in with my group to see if anyone has any questions or if anyone has posted an awesome photo. :)

 

In Treble Afghan Square

In Treble Afghan Square, a 12″ block.

 

 

UC: What projects do you have coming up this year?

Julie: I am currently working on the pattern for my next Mystery-Ghan and hope to have that ready for a June 2014 start. Stay tuned to my Ravelry board for information on that. Clues will be given out over a six-week period and you will have a complete afghan finished!

 

Thanks again for stopping by, Julie, and I wish you and your fans the best for a fun summer Mystery-Ghan!

Interview with Tamara Kelly from Moogly

I can’t believe the last day of March is already here! I had so much fun celebrating National Crochet Month, and I’m happy to end the festivities with an interview with crochet designer and blogger, Tamara Kelly.

You may know Tamara from her blog, Moogly, or from crocheting one of the more than 130 designs she has published since 2008. Besides her blog, you can also find her online on Ravelry (as tamarairene or on her designer page), on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on Twitter as @mooglyblog.

All photos are used with permission and are copyright Tamara Kelly unless otherwise noted.

Tamara Bio Photo 2013

Tamara Kelly. Photo (c) RSH Photography.

 

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

Tamara: I tried to teach myself in my early twenties from a pamphlet I’d picked up at a craft store – what a disaster! And it didn’t help that I’d decided on a super fuzzy chunky boucle and a Tunisian hook (not that I knew the difference). I set it aside, thinking crochet wasn’t for me, until a few years later. At that point I’d gained a baby, as well as a sister-in-law who’d been crocheting for years. She showed me how to chain and single crochet, and in those 5 minutes I was “hooked!” I taught myself the rest from a stitch dictionary, and crochet quickly became my favorite craft!

 

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow

Rainbow in the Clouds Pillow.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Tamara: I made many projects from other people’s patterns, but I often found I was making my own changes and improvements. When I started doing commission crochet work, other crocheters asked me to share my patterns – and I found I liked the design side better! With designing, I get to crochet what I want, when I want it, and never have to make the same thing twice if I don’t want to.

 

Riley Cross Body Bag

Riley Cross Body Bag.

 

UC: You self-publish all of your work. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

Tamara: The advantage is definitely control – I love being my own boss! All my deadlines are ones I set, and if I need to take a week off, or scrap an idea completely, or change directions, there’s no one telling me no. The challenge is not having a team – people to bounce ideas off of, people who are media and promotion experts. Luckily, I’ve been able to join a community of other crochet bloggers, and we support each other and help each other out.

 

Moroccan Midnight Cowl

Moroccan Midnight Cowl.  (Tamara also designed a matching pair of fingerless mitts and slouch hat.)

 

UC: You’ve undergone a few transformations online – from a mommy blogger, to a maker, to a designer/blogger. How did you make the decision to focus on designs, and then to offer your patterns free on your blog?

Tamara: I love new challenges, and I love being my own boss. When I tried mommy blogging, I got bored – it just wasn’t for me. When I started taking commission work, I loved getting paid for my hobby, but I didn’t love making the same things over and over again – and suddenly I had a whole bunch of bosses, with their own unique demands! When I design, I design for myself, for my kids, to my own tastes. I always love what I’m doing, and I think that that’s what comes through on the blog! I decided to make most of my patterns free, for several reasons. During the 10 years I spent crocheting as a hobby, free patterns were almost all I could afford. Additionally, I have a husband who works in the advertising field, so that model was familiar to me. By having ads on my blog, I’m able to provide free patterns, and give back to the community, while still earning a much needed income for my family – everybody wins! And that makes me happy.

 

Easter Lily

Easter Lily (November Lily).

 

UC: Do you see yourself primarily as a blogger, designer, or publisher, or do you wear all three hats equally?

Tamara: Definitely a blogger and a designer – and blogging and social media certainly take more actual hours of the day… but I’m always designing in the back of my head at the same time. I crochet in my sleep! Publishing is a side effect of running a blog I suppose, but it’s not something I think about too much. I just love putting together a great blog and fun patterns, and sharing them with others!

 

Circle of Love Afghan

Circle of Love Afghan.

 

UC: What tips or advice do you have for emerging crochet bloggers?

Tamara: Keep it positive, and be true to yourself and your own voice. Don’t worry too much about what will “sell” – share the things you love, and let that love show. Be generous with your time and talents, and find like-minded bloggers to network with. If you have a question, someone else has likely had it too!

 

Wavy Baby Blanket

Wavy Baby Blanket.

 

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

Tamara: Hands down my favorites have to be my stitch dictionaries. I have big ones, little specialized ones, and I hope to get some Japanese ones soon! The Harmony Guides 300 Crochet Stitches Volume 6 is what taught me how to read a pattern, how to read charts, and what amazing things crochet can do! (UC comment: This is one of my favorites, too, because it is so thorough. I’m also a stitch dictionary junkie, and you can see my reviews of this book and 20+ other crochet stitch guides here.) It is sadly out of print, so I had my copy specially spiral bound to preserve it. I still use it regularly!

 

Magic Spike Mandala Square

Magic Spike Mandala Square.

 

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

Tamara: So many! Ravelry is a great go-to of course, as well as The Yarn Box and All Free Crochet. I visit dozens of other crochet blogs every week, including Stitch 11, Repeat Crafter Me, Petals to Picots, Fiber Flux, The Crochet Lounge… and so many more!

 

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket

Blackberry Salad Striped Baby Blanket.

 

UC: What plans do you have for the rest of 2014?

Tamara: There’s so many exciting things happening this year – not all of which I can talk about yet! I’m always planning new crochet and yarn related giveaways – and I love promoting small businesses that might be interested in giveaways, including other designers, indie yarn dyers, hook makers, you name it! Also in 2014, I’m leading the Moogly Afghan Crochet-a-Long, where we crochet a different 12″ square every 2 weeks from now until November – that will give us enough for a 4′ x 6′ afghan at the end of the year, and the month of December to put it all together in time for gift giving! It’s not too late to join up, and it’s all free. (UC comment: There’s an unofficial Moogly Afghan CAL 2014 group started by fans on Ravelry, too.)

 

Thanks for stopping by for an interview, Tamara! 

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: 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!

Vogue Knitting Live 2014: Day 2

VKL NYNY

My second day at Vogue Knitting Live started off with no hot water at home (and who doesn’t love showering in cold water when it’s sleeting outside?).  In the rush to get out the door, I forgot to take the ceremonial pre-show picture of me in my handmade goodies.  (I was wearing my 2013 Temperature Scarf, which is perfect for cold weather.)

My first stop was an interview with the delightful Kate Atherley from Wise Hilda.  I should be posting it in a few weeks.  I asked her to pose with her two books, Beyond Knit & Purl and Knit Accessories.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Kate Atherley

Then I walked through the fashion and art exhibits.  I’m planning a separate post about these, so I’m sharing just one picture today.  This is a crocheted piece by fashion designer, Gabriela Serigatto.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Gabriela Sarigatto2

My next stop was the Marketplace.  I learned a lot from Rosemary Drysdale‘s Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting, and she was signing books at the Vogue Knitting booth.

VKL NYC 2014 Rosemary Drysdale Autograph

From there, I snuck over to the Leilani Arts table.  You see, they sell this Soft Donegal yarn, which has become the favorite amongst the men in family: soft but charcoal (with a little tweed to keep my interest).

VKL NYC 2014 Studio Donegal

I promised my dad I’d make him a version of this cabled hat, so I needed another skein.  Melissa Leapman rung up my sale.

Then, I went to the Knitty City booth (it’s always a treat to see your favorite local yarn shop at an event) to get my copy of Knitwear Design Workshop: A Comprehensive Guide to Handknits signed by Shirley Paden.

VKL NYC 2014 Shirley Paden autograph

Shirley was really quite friendly and we had a nice chat about her class on Craftsy, which is a companion to the book, as well as the We Love Shirley Paden group on Ravelry.  (Shirley assures me she didn’t name the group!)  The group sounds like a lot of fun and they have even hosted three Design-a-Longs.

I had a few minutes after the book signing to watch the beginning of the Fiber Factor Fashion show.  I learned there will be KALs throughout 2014 and the next “season” will begin in 2015, but I missed the announcement of the winner.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Fiber Factor Rachel Henry Gates of Dawn

This stunning felted dress, Gates of Dawn by Rachel Henry, was one of my favorite Fiber Factor projects on display.

Believe it or not, I had time for two more quick stops before reaching my final VK Live destination.  I took a picture of Virginia from Yellowfarm (interviewed here), who I met at last year’s event.

blog VKL NYC 2014 YellowFarm Virginia

And, then I visited the Full Moon Farm booth, to snap a picture of Laura.  My interview with her will be coming up soon.  We met last year, too.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Full Moon Farm Laura

And then I headed off to the Michelle’s Assortment booth.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelle's Assortment Michelle

I helped out in Michelle’s booth for a few hours in the afternoon, so she could stretch her legs and walk around the Marketplace for a bit.  It was a great opportunity to learn more about her creative process.  She’s sponsoring two months of prizes for my 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-a-Long, so it was great to meet her in real life and see all of her awesome shawl pins, bookmarks, and stitch markers.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelle's Assortment circles

I particularly like Michelle’s round shawl pins.  It was also great to see her collaboration with other indie business owners.  Michelle had several samples from Ash Kearns on display to show off her shawl pins including Havelock (left) and Everton Lace Wrap (right), along with the print versions of the patterns.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelle's Assortment Ash Kearns samples

Of course, I couldn’t spend all that time in Michelle’s booth without falling in love with some shawl pins.  I was initially drawn in by the circles, I ended up choosing two straight pins for myself.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelle's Assortment goodies

These will definitely need to be re-shot in natural lighting because you can’t see the beauty in this picture.  I’m off to get some rest before Day 3!

Blog tour interview: Reba Linker, author of Follow the Yarn

Today I’m excited to be share an interview with fellow New Yorker, Reba Linker, as part of her blog (and podcast) tour for her latest self-published book, Follow the Yarn.  It’s an interesting book that combines genres by including a biography of Reba’s late knitting teacher, tidbits from Reba’s memoir/exploration of herself as an artist, knitting tips and tricks, and some very fun illustrations.

You can find Reba’s website here.  You can also follow that link to subscribe to her newsletter, which will enter you into giveaways for her new book and other prizes.  You can also get extra chances to win by becoming a fan of her Follow the Yarn and author pages on Facebook.  (By the way, one of the giveaway prizes is a free download of any of my self-published ebooks or patterns.)  Follow the Yarn is available for purchase on Lulu.

Reba Linker.
Reba Linker.

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

Reba: I first learned to knit as a little girl from my mom, but never developed it as an interest at that time. As I later learned, she did a variation on the Continental style. I re-learned as an adult with Ann Sokolowski, the knitting teacher who inspired Follow the Yarn. Ann also advocated using the Continental style, (she felt it makes a more consistent product, but she also understood students that were committed to the ‘English’ style), so I had the long-ago muscle memory from when my mom taught me, which helped a lot.

Follow the yarn

UC: Your background is in dance, but you’ve worked in many areas of the arts. How did you transition from dancing into the written and visual arts?

Reba: I closed my dance studio at the end of 2007 and gave birth to my son in early 2008. I wanted to find a way to build a career that did not involve a 9-5 job.

UC: How did you get started writing?

Reba: I just started writing! Actually, I started writing and drawing. When I started telling my son a story about a mommy and daddy who wanted a baby, I thought it would make a sweet children’s book, so I wrote and illustrated Welcome Home Baby!  Then – since I am a composting enthusiast – I took a Master Composter certification course and for my final project I wrote another children’s book, The Compost Heroes, which I read to children in schools, libraries, etc. Follow the Yarn was a big leap for me, since it was unlike anything I had previously done.

Page 9

UC: What was development and publishing process of Follow the Yarn like?

Reba: The whole process has been amazing! As I describe in the book, I literally heard a voice that said “I want to write about Ann!” while I was sitting in my beginner’s knitting class. No one could have been more surprised than me, as I did not consider myself much of a knitter, nor writer! Following that voice and learning to trust where it was leading me has been one of many tremendous gifts I received from the experience.

It started out as a collection of my teacher Ann’s knitting tips and funny quotations – she was such a character – and she had so much technical know-how as well as great practical common sense advice to offer. Then she passed away, and then my father and then my mother after that, so life demanded that it change. While it is still a collection of knitting tips, a kind of knitter’s companion, the book transformed into something much more than that.

There is so much more to knitting than meets the eye. Ann had an uncanny ability to touch people’s lives in an extraordinary way through the everyday act of knitting; Follow the Yarn, too, in part uses knitting as a vehicle to explore life.

Now that the book is finished, the promotion and outreach begins, so the experience just keeps opening new doors.

compost heroes

UC: What advice do you have for new authors?

Reba: Follow YOUR yarn! Trust what wants to come out, see where it leads you. Above all else, do it! Take the plunge! There is so much to learn in the experience. As I write in Follow the Yarn, “The doing and the daring are the keys to unlock the treasure chest!” I didn’t know until I was halfway through what wanted to be said, and I think that may be true of a lot of people. Sometimes we don’t know our story until we start to tell it.

UC: What is your favorite knitting book in your collection?

Reba: I love Barbara Walker’s Learn-To-Knit-Afghan Book, and I am still making my way through her wonderful collection of stitches.

On of many humorous illustrations from Follow the Yarn.
On of many humorous illustrations from Follow the Yarn.

UC: Do you have any knitting, yarn, craft, or writing blogs or websites that you recommend?

Reba: There is an amazing amount of knitting/crocheting skill and thoughtful, engaging writing out there and I can hardly keep up with it all. I am so honored that the knitting blogs on this tour are some of the best. What is astonishing is the kindness and generosity of the people as well. Of course, a site like Ravelry is a never-ending resource (you are welcome to friend me as Reba9).

UC: What’s next for you?

Reba: Follow the Yarn unleashed a torrent of creativity for me. I am already planning my next book, which will expand on the themes of personal growth that I started to explore in Follow the Yarn. And – I plan on making a small pocket-sized book of just the notable quotes – all the pearls of wisdom – from Follow the Yarn.

Of course, I will keep on knitting!

I am tickled by the idea of creating an array of stuffed animals or puppets to match the characters in my book, The Compost Heroes, to take with me when I read the story to children.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Reba, and we wish you the best!

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour:

November 11: Life, for instance AND Sharon McWilliams Show podcast

November 12: My Sister’s Knitter

November 13: Daydream Knits

November 19: Artist First Radio

November 21: Grace, Grit & Gratitude with JaiKaur podcast

November 22: Underground Crafter

November 25: Crossroad Reviews

November 26: Never Not Knitting podcast

December 5: Confessions of a Yarn Addict

December 9: Marcy Nelson-Garrison’s Product Mentor Blog

December 10: Nekomentsu

And, if you’d like to check out the book yourself, don’t forget to enter the giveaway on Goodreads by December 6!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013 Interview Series: Marisa Munoz from al-abrigo

Today, I’m interviewing Spanish knitwear designer Marisa Munoz, also known as al-abrigo.  Marisa can be found online through her Spanish language blog, Al Abrigo; her Facebook page; her Pinterest page; and on Ravelry (as al-abrigo, on her designer page, or in the al-abrigo designs group).

All images are copyright al-abrigo and used with permission.  Click on design photos to link to pattern pages.

Marisa Munoz, known as al-abrigo.

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

Marisa: I’m self-taught. I learned the basic notions from books, magazines and reference sites such as Ravelry or KnittingHelp. And I’ve improved on my technique experimenting and knitting much.

 

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Marisa: The day I realized that I was analyzing the construction of clothing of people (on the street, in the subway, on TV…) I knew I had to be inevitably a knitting designer. That was the turning point!

 

Scabiosa Top by al-abrigo.
Scabiosa Top by al-abrigo.

UC: You have such great footwear patterns.  What is it about designing for the feet that appeals to you?

Marisa: My first designs were baby booties. I didn’t find modern and fun models in baby shops, so I decided to design them. Since then I haven’t stopped! They’re sweet and very fast to knit. The perfect gift for future moms!

Schoolboy Baby Sandals by al-abrigo.
Schoolboy Baby Sandals by al-abrigo.

 

UC: You’re hosting your first mystery knit a long this fall.  Tell us about your decision to do that, and what participants can expect.

Marisa: I was looking for a fun way to promote my designs when I happened to organize a MKAL. And there are already over 700 knitters attracted by curiosity! (UC comment: You can find out more about the Los Lirios MKAL here.)

 

UC: Some of your patterns are available in multiple languages, but all are available in English.  Tell us about how you decide what language to offer each pattern in.

Marisa: I write all my patterns in English because I think that knitting terms and abbreviations are much more visual and easier to understand than other languages. Then I translate them into Spanish because many knitters here ask me for the patterns in our language. And because it’s my mother tongue!

Wendy by al-abrigo.
Wendy by al-abrigo.

 

UC: You grew up in Valencia, Spain, where you currently live.  What was the yarn crafts scene like there when you were growing up?  How does it compare to the yarn crafts today?
Knitting was an activity for grandmothers when I was a little girl, but now young people are interested in learning craft as a hobby. There are several yarn shops, street markets are held regularly and crafters meet up to sew or knit. This change makes me happy!

UC: Does your cultural background influence your crafting? If so, how?

Marisa: I think that everything we’ve made and learned throughout our lives affects unconsciously to the “here and now”.

 

Scabiosa Shawl by al-abrigo.
Scabiosa Shawl by al-abrigo.

UC: Do you have any favorite Spanish or English language crochet, knitting, or craft blogs to share?

Marisa: Aventuras de CosturasCajón Desastre, and Noodlehead.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Marisa.  Good luck with your first MKAL!

The next interview in the series will be posted on September 19 with Christina Mershon.

Nativity

Growing up, I was fascinated with the Nativity scene my maternal grandmother would set up during the Christmas season, and I remember being eager to place the baby Jesus into the manger after midnight on Christmas Eve.  That Nativity set was the one physical object that I most associated with the holidays during childhood, and since I first saw crocheted Nativity scenes, I’ve thought about making one for my mother.  I bought Carolyn Christmas‘s Amigurumi Nativity pattern in paper form a while back, but never had the time (or the right yarn on hand) to make it.

At the beginning of the year, I started planning to make the set.  I definitely don’t have much in the way of “flesh tone” yarns in my stash, so I appealed to the folks in the Surmount the Stash group on Ravelry.  The generous mamajulia stepped forward to send me some yarn she had leftover from a project, thus helping me avoid a trip to Michael’s that might result in a stash explosion.

The last few weeks have been tough for me, so over the long weekend I wanted to pick up simple that I could make without too much thought.  The Amigurumi Nativity seemed like the perfect project, but of course, I couldn’t locate the pattern.  I searched high and low and finally gave up and was ready to order another copy.  And that’s when I learned that it’s now available as a Ravelry download.  I’m a longtime fan of Carolyn’s work, and I’m always happy to support another independent designer, so I bought the pattern on Rav, added it to my Kindle Fire, and set to work.

My first three heads (perhaps for Mary, Joseph, and the Angel).
The first three heads (perhaps for Mary, Joseph, and the Angel).

I plan to vary the skin tone for the three Wise Men, so my amigurumi version will be similar to my grandmother’s set.  This is officially my first holiday project for 2013.  (Last year at this time, I was just beginning my holiday crafting list, so I feel like I’m on pace for this year, too.)

I also made some progress on my temperature scarf.  I have one row for each day of 2013 through May 24th.

Temperature scarf through 2013-05-24.jpg

I’ve used all but one color now, and it is really interesting to watch the scarf unfold.

As for reading, I’m about a third of the way through American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  I was on the waiting list at the New York Public Library for a while.  I don’t really know what I expected, but I’m enjoying it so far.

And, back in March, MC and I watched The Bible miniseries, and that got us talking about the actual Bible.  I’ve never read it in its entirety, and since – regardless of your faith and religious beliefs – it’s such a significant work in the development of Western civilization, I decided that I should actually read it all the way through.  After a little bit of research, I bought The NRSV Daily Bible: Read, Meditate, and Pray Through the Entire Bible in 365 Days last week.  Although it is tempting to read more at each setting, I decided to follow the book’s pacing.  It has been interesting to read the Bible in these little snippets, and I think I’ll probably remember each section better since I’ll have more time between readings to reflect.

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

Book review and giveaway: Knitting with Icelandic Wool

knitting with icelandic wool

Back in the winter, I received a review copy of Knitting with Icelandic Wool by Védís Jónsdóttir from St. Martin’s Griffin.  I was immediately drawn in by the stunning photography and the beautiful designs.  The nice folks at St. Martin’s Griffin were also kind enough to share another copy which I’ll be giving away today at the end of my review, so read on for more details.

Some of you may be wondering why I would review a book about (mostly) sweaters towards the end of May, but to my mind, summer is the perfect time to get started on a larger, cold weather project!

Knitting with Icelandic Wool is the English translation of Prjónað úr íslenskri ull, an Icelandic pattern book published in cooperation with Ístex.  The book opens with two historical essays, “The Origins of Icelandic Knitting” and “The Wool Industry in Iceland.”  Both are interesting for those of us who are needlecrafts history nerds.

After the essays, the book dives into the pattern collection, which includes 25 garment designs for women (mostly sweaters, with two dresses, two vests, a skirt, and a slip), seven sweaters for men, seven unisex sweaters, 10 children’s sweaters, and 19 “miscellaneous” patterns (mostly accessories for women and children, along with a dog coat and a girl’s dress).

Each pattern is presented with a full page photo, often in a beautiful outdoor environment, an introductory paragraph, a detailed materials list and sizing information, and a note about construction.  Pattern instructions then follow.  In most cases, a flat picture of the item with measurements is presented (instead of a schematic) along with one or more color charts.

Back in January, I had a chance to get my copy autographed by Vedis at Vogue Knitting Live.

Vedis Jonsdottir signature

I shared with her my concern (fear?) about making one of these beautiful designs, and she reminded me that Icelandic sweaters are simpler to make than they appear.  Most of the instructions for these patterns are only 1 page long.  Many are constructed in the round in stockinette stitch with minimal shaping.  While most of the patterns feature exquisite colorwork, it is typically confined to the yoke or trim.

The book ends with a short Information section, that provides brief instruction on stranding, swatching for gauge, care of Icelandic garments, and finishing/detailing techniques.

In general, the photography is wonderful, the patterns are beautiful, and the instructions are written clearly.  The book is a hardcover, and feels and looks like a classic that you will return to time and again for wardrobe staples.

I would have liked to read more about the unique properties of the Icelandic wool, or about the process used for felting (since it is mentioned that Icelandic sweaters are sometimes felted). The book is clearly marketed towards intermediate knitters and there is no skill level listed on any pattern.  I think it would have been helpful if the translated version included a page of tips for working in the round and colorwork prior to the introduction of the patterns.  While I agree with Vedis that the projects are straightforward in terms of construction, I think that the apparent complexity might scare away some knitters who could be easily converted with just a page or two of information.

All of the patterns are quite striking, but I was particularly drawn to Bláklukka, Dropar, Fjara and VormorgunnKeđja, Klukka, Kria, and Útjörð.  There was even a sweater that MC could appreciate, Strax, because of its masculine simplicity.  (Ravelry members can view most the patterns on the book’s source page here.)

Most of the patterns in this book are available elsewhere, as they are part of the large Istex pattern collection.  As I mentioned, though, there is something wonderful about having these patterns collected into a sturdy hardcover book, that can lay flat while you are working on one of the classic projects.

I recommend this book for knitters who like the classic Icelandic sweater look, who enjoy (or who want to venture into) stranded colorwork, and for those looking for a pattern book that will outlast the latest trends in knitwear.

Giveaway

I’m pleased to share a giveaway for a copy of Knitting with Icelandic Wool by Védís Jónsdóttir, courtesy of St. Martin’s Griffin.  Due to the increasing costs of shipping, this is only open to U.S. residents.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, June 2, 2013.  

 

To enter:

  • Leave me a comment telling me about about your knitting garments.  Have you made garments before?  Constructed flat or in the round?  What techniques have you used?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, 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 will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

Book Review and Giveaway: The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein

Every Tuesday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet books.  Today’s post features  a giveaway of my review copy of The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

new tunisian crochetIt’s no secret that I’m a fan of Tunisian crochet, and I’m thrilled to see it regaining popularity.  Dora Ohrenstein‘s latest book, The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, is one of several recent crochet publications that explore the versatility of Tunisian crochet.  I recently received a review copy from Interweave/F+W Media.  Though it pains me to part with such an awesome book, I will be giving away my review copy, so read on for details.

The New Tunisian Crochet opens just as anyone familiar with Dora’s writings at Crochet Insider and elsewhere would expect: with a history lesson.  The first chapter, What is Tunisian Crochet?, reviews the appearance Tunisian crochet stitches in needlecrafts publications in the 1850s and discusses the possible origins of the craft.  This section will delight your inner history nerd and will also appeal to your intelligence.  Dora’s writing style assumes her readers have brains and she doesn’t feel the need to talk down.  She sites her references and even includes a reading list.  Dora also mentions some of the contemporary Tunisian crochet designers, such as Carolyn Christmas and Angela “ARNie” Grabowski, who have helped to re-popularize and reinvigorate the craft.

In the next chapter, Tunisian Crochet Techniques, Dora writes in a conversational tone and provides tips and explanations that are useful even to an experienced Tunisian crocheter.  The book includes illustrations along with descriptions of the basic Tunisian crochet stitches.  In general, I don’t find Interweave’s illustrations helpful and it is hard for me to tell where the yarn and hook are placed.  I wish that these illustrations made use of multiple colors (as most of the Japanese stitch guides do) so that it would be easier for me to identify the difference between the previous rows and the current stitch.  In many ways, the illustrations are in keeping with the general tone of this book, which assumes a level of knowledge of the basics of crochet and Tunisian crochet.  More experienced crocheters will find this lack of review refreshing, but Tunisian newbies may need to consult other resources for more support.

Chapter 3, Tools for Tunisian Crochet, reviews the various available hooks and tools for blocking.  Dora includes a list of web resources.

The next chapter, Special Techniques and Effects, is where things start to get very interesting.  Dora covers a myriad of Tunisian techniques here, including basic double-ended crochet, short rows for circles, stranded colorwork, and entrelac.  Each technique includes a small project or pattern and you will want to pull your hooks out right away and get swatching.

For all you stitch guide junkies, Chapter 5, Stitch Dictionary, is for you.  This section includes 33 Tunisian stitch patterns organized into five sections: Basic, Intermediate, Lace, Textured, and Tunisian and Standard Crochet.  Each pattern includes US abbreviations and international stitch symbols.

The final chapter, Projects, includes 12 project patterns.  The project breakdown is

  • Women’s Accessories – 6 (a shawl, a hat, mittens, a scarf, a bag, and slippers)
  • Garments – 4 (a cardigan, a pullover, and a skirt for women, and a vest for men)
  • Home Decor – 2 (a sampler throw and a rug)

This section features patterns by many talented designers, including Dora herself.  My favorites from this section are actually the first four patterns: the Marisol Cardigan by Andrea Graciarena, the Mago Vest by Charles Voth (interviewed by me here), the Rivuline Shawl by Vashti Braha (interviewed by me here), and the Shantay Skirt by Doris Chan.  I also like the Sierra Bag by Margaret Hubert (interviewed by me here), which changes up the typical entrelac pattern by including different sizes.  I can also imagine myself trying out some of the stitch patterns from the Ariadne Sampler Throw by Lisa Daehlin.  (Ravelry members can see all of the book’s designs on its source page.)

The book closes with a reference section in the back, which includes a key to the stitch symbols used throughout the book and a glossary of US pattern abbreviations.  It also includes illustrated and written instructions for all of the basic crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches.  Finally, a bio of each contributor is included.

Overall, this is a great book for a crocheter interested in going beyond the basics of Tunisian crochet.  In addition to the wonderful tips and tricks, stitch guide, and history lesson, the book includes many great projects – several of which highlight or teach a specific Tunisian crochet skill.  The stitch guide and the patterns use both US pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  The downside to this book is that the illustrations assume prior knowledge and are really just there to trigger your memory of particular stitches.  Also, it is a softcover and it doesn’t stay open when flat.  If you are a true Tunisian crochet newbie, you may need to supplement this book with something else (I would recommend Kim Guzman‘s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet).  I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars for any crocheter interested in learning more about Tunisian crochet.

 

Giveaway

As I mentioned earlier, I’m hosting a giveaway for my review copy of Dora Ohrenstein‘s The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 31, 2013.  

To enter:

  • Leave a comment telling me about your experience with Tunisian crochet.  How did you learn, what are your favorite types of projects, and what would you like to learn to make with Tunisian crochet?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, follow Underground Crafter on Twitter, join the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, and/or share a link to this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, 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 will be chosen at random.

Good luck!