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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
All project pictures are from Crochet Wraps Every Which Way, are copyright of Stackpole Books, and are used with permission. You can find pictures of all 18 patterns here in the Stackpole lookbook.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Tammy: My second grade teacher offered to teach crochet to anyone in our class that wished to stay after school. I was the only one that stayed! My first project was a floppy, purple hat that we worked on together sitting at her big wooden desk.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Tammy: We moved to North Carolina from Niagara Falls when my kids were babies. I saw an ad in the newspaper for crocheters and thought it would be a great way to make a little money while I stayed home with my girls. After a couple weeks a light bulb went off and I thought “Wow! I could do this!” and so I started designing myself.
UC: You’ve held a variety of positions in the Crochet Guild of America. Can you talk about why you become involved with CGOA, and share any advice for professional crocheters who are interested in becoming more involved?
Tammy: I have served as the mentor coordinator, the professional development chairperson and I currently serve as the vice president. Initially I became involved because I wanted to give back to CGOA after how beneficial the organization had been for me but with each new opportunity, I find myself learning and receiving even more. To anyone that wishes to be involved, contact me or anyone of our board of directors and let us know. Each person has wonderful talents and strengths which are such a huge asset when we all work together as a team.
UC: Tell me about the development process for Crochet Wraps Every Which Way. How was it similar or different from the process of developing your previous booklets?
Tammy: I’m not much of a planner so in typical fashion, I learn as I go and tackle obstacles as they present themselves. The photography was done by a local photographer so it was my first time participating in the styling and photo shoots. That was a lot of fun!
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection (besides yours, of course)?
Tammy: My Harmony Guides as well as a Japanese stitch dictionary are always on my desk and I refer to them all the time.
UC: What’s next for you?
Tammy: I am scheduled to teach my first two classes at Crochetville‘s 10th anniversary retreat in February. The details are here. (UC comment: If you can get to Huntsville, Alabama in February, this looks like a great event!)
Tammy, thanks so much for stopping by for the interview. We wish you the best for the rest of the blog tour!
Are you ready to win your copy of Crochet Wraps Every Which Way, courtesy of Stackpole Books? This giveaway is open to all readers with an email address. Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, January 26, 2014.
Check out Stackpole’s lookbook and leave a comment telling me which pattern you’d crochet first and why.
The booklet is arranged into six chapters. The first five, Simple Knit & Purl Stitches, Ribbings, Embossed Stitches, Multi-Color Stitches, and Eyelets & Cables, include stitch patterns. Each stitch pattern includes a color photograph (about 1/4 to 1/2 of the page size) of a sample in Red Heart Luster Sheen (a fine weight yarn) photographed on a black background; a stitch guide including any terms (outside of the standards like CO, k, p, BO) used in the pattern; and stitch pattern instructions written in U.S. pattern abbreviations. Most patterns take one page, but there are a few that are only half the page (with smaller pictures). Because the stitches are organized into types, it is easier to find a favorite later on. The last section, General Instructions, includes a list of pattern abbreviations and tips for pattern reading.
This booklet is one of the new pocket sized guides published by Leisure Arts. At about 5 inches by 8 inches and 96 pages, this booklet is small enough to carry around in your knitting bag. I see the portable size as the main strength of this book. For those of you that never know what you want to knit when traveling, this book will give you 96 options. Because of the small size, the booklet lacks a lot of the features I prefer in a complete stitch guide, such as illustrated tutorials of basic stitches or unusual techniques. Therefore, it really isn’t suitable for a beginning knitter because you would already need to know the basic stitches and have some understanding of pattern reading.
I would recommend this booklet to knitters who enjoy creating spontaneous projects on the go, or emerging designers who knit during their commute or travel time. A stitch guide collector will find that many of the stitches are already represented in their other books.
Full disclosure: A free review copy of this booklet was provided by Leisure Arts. Although I accept free products for review, I do not accept additional compensation, nor do I guarantee a positive review. My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions.
(As a side note, this interview has taken so long to write up that I can no longer say that both Danielle and I live in New York City – since our interview, she has relocated to Long Island. On the other hand, now I can share that her Mackinac Tank pattern made the cover of the summer issue of Knitscene!)
Danielle has generously shared a coupon code for any of her self-published patterns with my readers! (Read on for more details.) All pictures of Makewise Designs patterns are used with Danielle’s permission.
Underground Crafter (UC): Can you tell me first how you got started knitting?
Danielle: Growing up, my mom always knew how to knit and crochet, and I started doing it all the time, but I wasn’t really all that interested.
When I went to college, I lived in a dorm that had a community setting, and one of the people in my dorm wanted to do the Warm Up America program where you knit blanket blocks and then they’re sewn together for charity and donated. For some reason, at 20, all of the sudden I wanted to learn how to make these blanket blocks, whereas I’d never wanted to do it before. So, she taught me garter, stockinette, whatever. I don’t know why, but the fabric started growing off the needles and it was like magic. I thought to myself, “All of these wasted years!”
UC: Well, you have the (knitting) genes, obviously.
Danielle: Exactly. It just started from there, so it’s been going on 15 years at this point.
UC: Did your mom get mad that she wasn’t the one who taught you, or was she like, “Finally, you’ve taken it on!”
Danielle: No, just the opposite. She was thrilled. She still does quite a bit of knitting and crochet. Since then, she’s taught me how to crochet. She’s totally embraced it and we love to share tips, share things we’ve learned, and have a conversations with each other in that language that only two knitters are going to understand, like “I moved that ssk…” and people are just like, “What are they talking about?”
UC: That’s awesome, now you guys have a secret language. How did you get started designing?
Danielle: I love to follow other people’s patterns. I love to see other people’s creative processes. At some point a switch just flipped and I thought, I’m looking for this thing, I didn’t find it anywhere, I didn’t find it on Ravelry (which is probably a representative sample of the knitting universe, at this point). I just thought, “Well, I’ve taken a lot of math, I know how stockinette behaves and garter.” There’s certainly still a lot of trial and error involved, but I thought why don’t I just try it?
I’m definitely kind of a Type A person, kind of I’ll do it myself, self-starter kind of person so I gave it a whirl. I gave it a shot and tried it and it was that same rush that I felt the first time [knitting]. Oh my gosh, the fabric, it’s growing off these needles, and now there’s that extra element of, and, it’s working out the way I expected in my head.”
UC: And that doesn’t always happen. You left out the part where you have to tear out the thing…
Danielle: Well, I’m trying to glaze over those parts! I actually just was working on a design where the downside of being a Type A rears its head. Take it out, take it out, to the point where I think one of the most important things that any really successful designer has captured is not only knowing themselves, but knowing their style and knowing when to stop designing a piece. Don’t keep designing, and don’t over design it. You don’t need to add that one more textural element, it doesn’t need that second lace pattern. What you’ve done is what should stay. It’s the editing process – that’s what I call it in my head.
UC: Where you keep out those extra pieces that are overkill.
Danielle: RIght. So when you look at something by Debbie Bliss or Jared Flood or Hannah Fettig (who’s one of my big favorites), lots of times you can look at their pieces and know that’s one of their designs because their internal editing is so strong. So for me, this internal editing is what I find the most challenging obstacle. When is it exactly what I have pictured in my head? Have I tried to overdesign it? Does it need to be that complicated? That type of thing is tough. That’s the learning curve for me.
UC: Related to that, I’ve noticed that your designs are primarily self-published or though some branch of Interweave. I’m wondering if that’s a conscious decision or did it just work out that way based on where you’ve submitted?
Danielle: I think it’s a blend. Self-publishing, a lot of designers will tell you, has a liberating aspect at the end. You miss that deadline, something comes up – personal nature or professional (your day job) nature – then you bump your publishing deadline a week, that’s life.
For me, I am a good deadline person, I’m a good time manager, I always have been, so I wanted to reach out for that third-party publication recognition and also wanted to challenge myself in that way to be working with a reputable publication, work with the yarn that they’ve chosen on their timeline. Working with Interweave, I’m just really familiar with their publications. I’ve long loved Knit Scene, one of my very favorite magazines, so I think I was specifically targeting them. I really wanted to part of that family because I love their style, their ethos, their way of expressing themselves.
UC: You could see yourself fitting into their publications.
UC: So what was that like the first time you have your printed pattern in one of their publications? Did you frame it on the wall?
Danielle: When you get something published in their magazines, they send you a copy of the magazine, but then they also send you copies of pages that were not inserted in the magazine – printed copies – so I put those in plastic sleeves because… Type A.
UC: That’s really nice of them. A lot of publishers don’t do that.
Danielle: So you get the bound copy and then you get the flat copy as well. But it wasn’t so much seeing it in print as it was getting that email from the editor saying that they would love to take the design and put it in.
The first time that happened to me, I think I looked at the email and thought, “This is a hoax!” Or, “Wait a minute, they didn’t mean to send this to me.” There’s that moment of self-doubt, and then your second thought is “Oooh, that is so cool!” My very first design for Interweave was for Interweave Knits and it was pillows. They were wool, bulky gauge, and I had to do it in July. It was a little bit of a steamy process, but it worked out.
UC: Do you have knitting books, for your own collection, or do you do everything online?
Danielle: When I need technical resources from the technical planning/pattern writing side of things, I much prefer written resources. I like to have them out in front of me. Obviously, stitch dictionaries. Interweave has a lot of publications that include charts for sweater sizing in different yarn gauges.
When I have the time to knit anything, other than what I’m hopefully designing for myself, I love online PDFs because I can keep them all in one place. The wealth of choices is overwhelming so I try to balance between the two, but I find that if I need a technical resource, I need it printed out.
Danielle and I bonded over our love of the Kinokinuya bookstore booth at VK Live.
UC: I know people think it is weird when you publish your patterns online that you don’t personally do everything online, but I feel the same way. For patterns, it’s one thing, but I want a tangible thing I can flip back and forth. Do you have any favorite stitch guides or books in your collection that you always go back to?
Danielle: You probably hear this a lot, but I love Kinokinuya, the Japanese bookstore that’s exhibiting here at VK Live. I love Japanese stitch dictionaries. I find that they include a lot of complex patterns, and sometimes I think my designing tends more towards simplicity, so sometimes I use those stitch patterns as a jumping off point and then I think, “Could I take out an element? Can I thin that idea out?” Because their patterns have cables, lace, and bobbles all in one stitch pattern, but maybe I just want the lace.
Lots of times, nothing ever comes of that brainstorming, but at the same time, I think it’s instructive. If I do want to edit that stitch pattern, how am I going to do it? If I take that cable out, what’s going to happen to the gauge and what’s going to happen to the texture? I think you can never get enough of that. I think it’s just like an established designer saying if you want to learn about designing and learn about the business, the best thing you can do is read patterns. Read other people’s patterns. Some people are going to shape that shoulder with a bind off and then seam that edge. Some designers are going to shape that shoulder with short rows and then do a three needle bind off. Why do you choose between them? Does it depend on the fabric, does it depend on the shape, does it depend on the style?
UC: Speaking of the Japanese stitch guides, do you have a preference for written patterns or charted patterns? Some people seem very committed to one or the other.
Danielle: I think that goes to my inherent way of learning, which is to write things down. I retain things better if I write it down myself. For me, written instructions make more sense to me than charts lots of times.
UC: So if you see it in the Japanese stitch guide, you’re writing it down for yourself.
Danielle: Often. And even, look at the chart, decipher what I think is happening in the chart, knit, and write it down at the same time – because even if I successfully translate it from the chart into actual knitting, a week later, I’ll forget half of what I did. I’m looking at it saying, “How did I manage this?”
UC: While you’re here at Vogue Knitting Live, what exciting things are you planning to do?
Danielle: I took a seaming class with John Brinegar – I think a refresher course is always valuable. I’m taking a steeking class this afternoon with Ragga Eiríksdóttir. I’ve never done it, and she’s teaching it in the round. Usually for me, knitting in the round is greater than or equal to knitting flat, so I’m going to try that. Tomorrow, I’m going to work for the String Yarns booth all day because I used to work for them.
UC: Do you have any exciting yarn store employee stories to share, or can you talk about how that influenced you as a designer?
Danielle: I think the influence is huge because you’re looking at different yarns from different manufacturers. On your feet, you need to know the gauge; the construction of the yarn – is it plied, is it a chainette, is it a single ply; you need to know how it blocks; how to treat it after it’s been knitted; what the construction of the ply is – 2 ply, 4 ply, 6 ply. It just exposes you to the entire world of options. So if you are comfortable working with a smooth Merino superwash, you don’t always spring to a Shetland wool option. You think it’s scratchy or something like that. But the upside of Shetland is it’s incredibly hard wearing and durable with really reliable gauge.
I think it broadens your horizons, it shows you what the options are, and it is really a good education into what you need to know as a designer. If you get into a third-party publication, they’re going to send you the yarn that they’d like you to work with it, and it might not be something you’re familiar with. You need to be able to look at it and say, “Oh, I see it has this construction, these many plies, these care instructions…”
UC: And even on proposals, you can say, I’m looking for an x type of yarn because you have that background knowledge.
Danielle: Yes, I think it isn’t just what comes in so you’re prepared to work with it, but exactly like you said, it also informs your choices of when you even make a submission, to a magazine or something you want to produce yourself. You make that educated decision about this design really isn’t good for a single ply yarn. I really need a plied yarn for this.
UC: That’s great. A lot of people just learn that through arduous trial and error, and you got paid to get that experience!
Danielle: And I got to touch a lot of really nice yarn, too.
UC: String has a fancy collection!
Danielle: Yes, the beautiful cashmere that comes in from Italy is amazing.
Danielle: I have some publications coming up this year for different outlets, and that’s really exciting. I always try to blog about anything that I’ve done that’s new. I try to expose a little bit of the thought process behind it – the inspiration, or a spot where I struggled – because I think that designing, even for somebody who is really experienced, is so much of a journey. I mean, sure, there’s a lightening strike of inspiration from time to time, but it’s also a very measured, thoughtful, mechanical process of needle selection, yarn selection, seamed, or unseamed, lace, texture, and that type of thing, and that’s what keeps me so excited about it still.
There is so much to learn and I frankly think I’ll never learn it all. Somebody will always know more than you about a specific thing, but it’s that excitement of learning it and trying to make myself better, while at the same time producing something with my own two hands that at the end of the day, I can actually hold it and touch it. That’s what’s most gratifying.
Danielle has offered a 20% discount on her self-published designs for my readers through midnight Eastern time on Saturday, July 20, 2013. Just use the code MAKEWISE in her Ravelry shop or on her website.
Thanks, Danielle, for taking the time for the interview, and for sharing the coupon code!
Everything the Internet Didn’t Teach You about Crochet
This book aims to fill in the gaps for anyone who primarily learned to crochet from YouTube videos. One can learn quite a lot online these days, but a newbie without a framework for the questions to ask can also miss out on a lot of important foundation knowledge.
The first section, Tools, focuses on crochet hooks and discusses sizing, material, and hook anatomy. There is a some discussion of other tools, including those for specialty crochet techniques like broomstick lace.
The next section, Yarn, includes information about yarn weight, fiber content, care instructions, and reading ball bands.
The Importance of Gauge notes that “[m]any new crocheters tend to shy away from gauge as if it were a dirty word.” As a crochet teacher, I can say that is absolutely true! This section not only explains why gauge is important, but shows how to measure gauge and gives tips for adjusting your gauge.
The next chapter, Reading a Pattern, provides a glossary of crochet abbreviations along with an explanation of the symbols like the famous * * and terms like work even. My favorite chapter is the next one, Working a Pattern, which includes three annotated patterns. In each, the pattern with U.S. abbreviation terminology is shown on the left while on the right, full written instructions with explanation are provided. This would be a wonderful way for a pattern reading newbie to check their understanding of pattern abbreviations.
In Making Fringe and Tassels, illustrated instructions are included for these finishing touches. The final chapter, Refresher Course in Crochet, provides written and illustrated instructions for the basic crochet stitches, post stitches, increases and decreases, and basic finishing techniques.
Everything… is written in a conversational tone that is easy to follow. It’s about the size of a folded piece of letter paper, and at 96 pages, it’s thin enough to fit into your project bag or purse to carry around as a reference guide. The book definitely shares a lot of information that would improve the stitching, pattern reading, and yarn/tool selection of a newbie or an internet taught crocheter with more experience.
I would have liked to see some discussion of crochet stitch symbols included. A more detailed index would have been really helpful because a newbie crocheter might not even know which chapter to explore for the answer to their question. In spite of these shortcomings, I think the book is a worthwhile companion to the library of a newbie or advanced beginner crocheter. It would also make a great gift for a new crocheter in your life.
Crochet Stitch Guide
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of crochet stitch guides. You might even say that I’m a stitch guide collector. The Crochet Stitch Guide is designed to be an on-the-go stitch guide. The book is about the size of a folded piece of letter paper, and at 96 pages, it is thin enough to be truly portable.
The 86 stitches are organized into 7 sections.
Clusters includes 27 stitch patterns. Many of these are quite lacy, although there are several that have a denser feel.
Textured Stitches includes 7 stitch patterns that use post stitches, clusters, combinations of different heights, and working into the front or back loop to create textured surfaces.
Picots includes 6 lacy, picot stitch patterns.
V-stitches includes 8 variations on the v-stitch.
Special Stitches includes 10 patterns using a variety of stitches such as popcorns and spikes.
Shells includes 14 stitch patterns made with some combination of shells/fans.
Miscellaneous includes 14 patterns using a variety of stitches.
There is a short appendix in the back that includes a guide to U.S. crochet abbreviations and terminology.
Each stitch pattern includes a swatch photographed against a black background. Special stitches are explained at the beginning of the pattern, so you will not need to flip back and forth.
Since many contemporary stitch guides show swatch pictures against a white background, the stitch pictures in this book have a vintage feel. It isn’t immediately clear why some patterns are in the Special Stitches section while others are in the Miscellaneous section. There are no international stitch symbols in this book, and only a brief explanation of the differences between U.S. and U.K. pattern terminology. There is no index, and there are no illustrations to demonstrate unusual stitches.
Overall, this is a solid stitch guide for a crocheter without an extensive stitch guide collection. If you have an existing American stitch guide collection, you may want to skip this book because some of the patterns will be familiar. On the other hand, the portability of this book makes it a good addition for a crocheter who travels a lot or crochets during while commuting.
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.
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)
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.
Condition: Missing dust jacket, but otherwise in very good condition
I haven’t had the chance to explore this book as much as some of the others since it is a recent acquisition. My mom gave it to me in December when she was packing up to move. She thinks she bought it at the Brooklyn Museum‘s shop when she worked there back in the day.
Barbara Abbey seems to have anticipated the internet by providing pages of translations of terms (from British, French, German, Spanish, and Swedish to American).
I can’t wait to use this newfound knowledge to track down international stitch guides!
Barbara also seems to know that there was been a break in the knitting knowledge passed down from our foremothers, and she shares a lot of information on things like taking proper measurements for garments and blocking.
There’s also a substantial stitch guide.
And for all you lefties out there, she even includes a tiny section on how to read patterns and explains how your decreases will slant.
But perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that my mom owned it. And, like me, she has the tendency to fold up articles and hide them in books. So I was able to discover this Daily News article reprinted by a (now closed) yarn shop.
The 1982 article includes a pattern for a knock off Perry Ellis sweater, which cost $180 ($429.43 in 2012 dollars). A sweater’s worth of cotton yarn cost $10 ($23.86 in 2012 dollars). Apparently, yarn costs have risen at a rate that is faster than regular inflation, at least according to thisConsumer Price Index Inflation Calculator.
Today, it would definitely cost you more to knit your own sweater, but then again, you’d be having more fun knitting than you would shopping, so it would be worth it.
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” Grabowski, tunisiancrochet, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
Yesterday, Vogue Knitting Live 2013 opened in New York. If you’re in the New York area this weekend, you should stop by! Here’s a quick wrap up of some of what I’ve seen so far.
The gallery exhibits were being set up in the morning, and I had a chance to photograph most of them before it got too crowded. Here are some of the highlights. (And speaking of highlights, keep in mind that these photos were taken in dimly lit hotel corridors.)
Colorful Stitches had an awesome array of knit food displayed like a picnic table. This bowl of cereal with a strawberry was my favorite!
Alyssa Ettinger is a ceramic artist with a studio in my native Brooklyn. I love the soothing pastels of her work.
Adrian Kershaw is a crocheter and knitter working with upcycled VHS tapes as yarn. Because her work is black and the lighting was so dim, the pictures don’t really convey the projects. They’re pretty cool!
Carol MacDonald is a printmaker who makes prints, cards, and tags using her images from her knitting.
Edwina Sutherland is a fiber artist working primarily with needlefelting. She shared her secret for successfully transporting her projects for display with me – wrap them in quilt batting.
And last – but certainly not least – was the crochet artist, Jo Hamilton. I’ve seen her crochet portraits online and was really looking forward to seeing them in real life. They are much cooler in person because there is much more texture and subtle color variations than a photo can convey.
I met with Danielle Chalson from Makewise Designs for a quick interview after lunch. Until I publish it, I’ll just share this picture of Danielle’s enthusiastic smile.
With over 70 vendors, the Vogue Knitting Marketplace alone could take up many blog posts. So I’ll just concentrate on the colleagues I visited and my purchases.
I stopped by Kollabora‘s booth a few times to say hi and to see my samples on display. Here’s a sneak peak of two of my upcoming crochet designs that they are debuting at Vogue Knitting Live. (The patterns aren’t available yet.)
It was also cool to see two of my other designs featured in their ad in the program.
I also took a picture of their schedule so I can remember to stop by their events. With a program this packed, every reminder helps!
Then I got the chance to meet Shannon Okey (a.k.a. Knitgrrl) in person. I have a pattern in one of the upcoming Cooperative PressFresh Designs: Crochet books so we chatted about that briefly. I somehow forgot to take a picture of Shannon, but here is a picture of the Cooperative Press booth :).I had a chance to check out Dishcloth Diva by Deb Buckingham in person. It looked just as scrumptious as I thought it would! (And I love that I can feel glamorous about making dishcloths!)
And then I saw the North Light Fibers booth. I was drawn in because their tagline is “Block Island made,” and MC used to vacation in Block Island as a kid. In addition to great natural fiber yarns, they sell these cozy alpaca socks.
I had a great chat with the owner and her husband, and I was drawn to their natural care products.
So what did I end up buying?
I bought a pair of cozy alpaca socks for MC, a book for me, and some handmade soap and lip butter from a local company.
You’re probably saying, “What?? No yarn??” You know I’ve been working on stashbusting for the past 13 months. I’m not sure if I’ll buy yarn at Vogue Knitting Live, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t on the first day. I wanted the chance to look at everything and sleep on any potential yarn purchases… Let’s see how I hold up today!
Needlecrafts, handmade creativity, and other good stuff