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Interview with Cheezombie

Through my travels through the internet, I often come upon interesting designers.  Cheezombie is one such talent.  She is one of the (relatively) few knit amigurumi designers I’ve come across, and her work has a distinctive style.  Cheezombie is shrouded in mystery, so I’m honored that she stopped by for an interview (but don’t expect a picture!).  You can find Cheezombie online on Etsy, Twitter, and Ravelry (as cheezombie, in her Slug Love group, and on her designer page).  All pictures are used with permission and link to the patterns.
Cheezombie's UnCrabby Crab.
Cheezombie’s UnCrabby Crab.
Underground Crafter (UC): What inspired you to start designing?
Cheezombie: I found other knitters online (thank you Ravelry!) who wanted to make the same wacky stuff I did. So I put out the patterns. Then all these people take these patterns & turn out amazing, creative things I never would have thought of in a million years. I am continually astounded at how a few written lines & silly pictures can spark a veritable flood of awesome. So THE PEOPLE are why I design. Shout out to EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO EVER KNIT A CHEEZOMBIE PATTERN. I love you all. You blow my mind on a regular basis.
Cheezombie's Eddie Lizzard.
Cheezombie’s Eddie Lizzard.
UC: How did you develop your Knitting Manifesto and how does it connect to your designs?
Cheezombie: The Manifesto is what all cheezombie patterns strive for: brevity, clarity, & fun. It’s serious stuff. Sort of. Plus it’s good to have a manifesto. Everyone should have one.  (UC comment: If you aren’t familiar with Cheezombie’s manifesto, check it out in this interview she did with FreshStitches!)
Cheezombie's Omar Alien.
Cheezombie’s Omar Alien.
UC: Your work is primarily self-published.  Can you talk about your decision to focus on self-publishing rather than on designing for other publishers?
Cheezombie: What can I say, they’re my babies. I’m a bit retentive about how they’re presented to the world, and retaining all rights to the designs is very important to me, and it’s gotten so easy to self publish with all the pattern sites popping up all over, it just makes sense. I’m not opposed to publishing for others, and I have and will continue to do so, but I’m super picky about where I submit designs. It’s like interviewing daycare centers, it has to be a perfect fit.
Cheezombie's Garden Slug.
Cheezombie’s Garden Slug.
UC: What are your favorite knitting books in your collection?
Cheezombie: The book collection has gradually dissappated what with virtually endless online resources.  Knittinghelp.com & YouTube have changed my life. but I still have a Kaffe Fasset book (for the colors of course!), and I regularly check out Mochimochi books from the library just to read them over & over like picture books.
Cheezombie's Sheepish.
Cheezombie’s Sheepish.
UC: Your business name is awesome.  How did you come up with it?  (Or will you have to kill us if you tell us?)
Cheezombie:Take a gaming avatar (unabashed nerd here) that looked like a zombiefied piece of cheese. A cheese-zombie, if you will. Add a midwestern twang and it becomes a cheezombie. Add a bunch of starey-eyed animals of ridiculous proportions and a bunch of slug loving creepy cute obsessed knitters and you get cheezombie patterns.
Cheezombie's Splat Cat.
Cheezombie’s Splat Cat.
UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community that you would like to share?
Cheezombie: Ravelry is my people! It amazes me that I can immediately connect with like minded knitters from all over the world, anytime. We have the Slug Love group for sharing photos, swaps, & general squeeeing, I post sneak peeks, coupons, and gratuitous cat photos there too.
I also like Craftsy for cruising projects from crafts of all types, from sewing to jewelry & all kinds of other fun stuff.

 

UC: Tell us about your newest patterns.

Cheezombie: The newest pattern is Splat Cat & I have one coming out in an upcoming issue of Knitty.

 

Thanks for stopping by, Cheezombie!

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

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

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

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

 

Kim Guzman.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Kansas City Cowl. Photo (c) Caron.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

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

 

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

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Luna Sweater. Photo (c) Interweave.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Ripple Mania CAL: Giveaway

Whether you’re just joining in or you’ve been participating in the Ripple Mania Crochet-a-long since October, I know you’re excited to hear more about the prizes!  The Ripple Mania CAL has four fantastic sponsors, Coats & ClarkLeisure ArtsLion Brand Yarn, and Magique Enterprises, who have each put together a great prize package.  This post describes the prizes, explains how you can enter the giveaway, and includes the schedule for the Ripple Mania CAL.  All images are used with permission.

The Prizes

Red Heart Ripple Mania Prize Package (Retail value: $75)

Red Heart is sponsoring a fabulous Ripple Mania package including an issue of Crochet Today! and a copy of the Ripple Effect pattern booklet,  along with everything you need to make the Windsor Ripple Throw - 8 skeins of Red Heart With Love yarn (2 skeins each 1530 Violet and 1814 True Blue D; 1 skein each 1907 Boysenberry, 1701 Hot Pink, 1401 Pewter, and 1805 Bluebell) and a 6 mm (US J) Susan Bates bamboo handle crochet hook.  And, to make it easy for you to work on your project on the go, they’re also including a Red Heart tote bag.

 

 

Leisure Arts Ripple Mania Prize Package. (Retail value: $48.85)

Leisure Arts is sponsoring an awesome Ripple Mania prize package including 69 ripple patterns in 5 pattern books!  The package includes 40 Favorite Ripple Afghans (Ravelry page), Beauty of the Earth Afghans (Ravelry page), Vanna’s Choice Color It Beautiful Afghans (Ravelry page), Ripple Afghans to Crochet (Ravelry page), and Rippling Effects (Ravelry page).  These books will definitely keep you crocheting for quite some time!

 

 

Lion Brand Ripple Mania Prize Package. (Retail value: $33.16)

Lion Brand Yarn is sponsoring a wonderful Ripple Mania prize package – 4 skeins of Amazing in Strawberry Fields, enough yarn to crochet the Candy Color Ripple Cowl.  You’ll have a fashionable accessory just in time for the deep cold of winter!

 

Magique Enterprises Ripple Mania Prize Package. (Retail value: $24.95CAD)

And for those of you who have been longing to try an Eleggant crochet hook after reading my review, Magique Enterprises is sponsoring a set including the Eleggant comfort crochet handle, six interchangeable hooks (in steel sizes 1.25 mm, 1.75 mm, and 2.25 mm, and in aluminum sizes 3.5 mm, 5.0 mm, and 6.0 mm), and o-rings.

 

Now that you’ve heard about all the amazing prizes available, you may be wondering how to enter this giveaway.  Read on for details!

 

Ripple Mania Giveaway Rules

To enter the Ripple Mania giveaway for your chance to win one of these great prizes:

  • Join in the Ripple Mania Crochet-a-long!  You can participate in the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, in the comments on this blog, on the Underground Crafter Facebook page, or by Tweeting @ucrafter #ripplemania.
  • Photograph your Ripple Mania project!  Smaller projects (accessories, baby blankets, cozies, washcloths, etc.) must be completed.  Larger projects (adult sweaters, large throws, or bedspreads) must be at least 1/3 finished.
  • Projects must have been started and/or completed during the Ripple Mania CAL (between October 17 and November 28).  You can use any crochet ripple pattern, though of course I’d love it if you used one of mine :).
  • Share a photograph and description of your Ripple Mania project by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, November 28.  Each project counts as one entry in the giveaway.
  • To share your project on Ravelry: Add the project to your notebook with the tag ripplemania.  Share the project  in the Ripple Mania CAL Giveaways thread.
  • To share your project on Facebook: Post a Wall photo on the Underground Crafter page.  (Remember that if you don’t “like” the page, I won’t be able to message you on Facebook, so you’ll have to check back to see if you’ve won.)
  • To share your project on this blog: Post a link to a project photo (on your blog, Flickr, etc.) in the comments.
  • To share your project on Twitter: Tweet @ucrafter #ripplemania with a link to a photo of your project.
  • This giveaway is open to all crocheters worldwide.
  • By entering the giveaway, you are granting permission for your project photo to be shared in a collage of all entries on this blog.
  • On or about December 1, 2012, four winners will be chosen at random and contacted for mailing addresses.  Winners must respond by December 15, 2012 or their prize will be forfeited.
Thanks so much for joining in, and I can’t wait to see the projects!

Ripple Mania CAL Schedule!

Wednesday, 10/17 – Ripple Mania Kick Off!

Ripple Mania CAL Chat on Ravelry

Week 1 Chat on Ravelry

  • Supply list and project suggestions
  • Colorize Your Ripple: Choosing a Palette for Your Project

Wednesday, 10/24 -Ripple Basics

Week 2 Chat on Ravelry

Wednesday, 10/31 - Ripple Variations

Week 3 Chat on Ravelry

Wednesday, 11/7 – Squaring Up Your Ripple

Week 4 Chat on Ravelry

Wednesday, 11/14 – Adding ripples to hexagon and square motif patterns

Week 5 Chat on Ravelry

Wednesday, 11/28 – The Big Reveal!

Stop by Ravelry to join in on the CAL.

Hispanic Heritage Month 2012 Interview Series: Paola Navarro from Delicious Crochet

This post is part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series.

Today, I’m interviewing Argentinian crochet designer Paola Navarro, also known as Delicious Crochet.  She has been selling her signature style of amigurumi patterns in her Etsy shop since 2007, and can also be found on Ravelry (as DeliciousCrochet and on her designer page), as well as on her website, Flickr, Craftsy, and Twitter.  All pictures are used with Paola’s permission.

 

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

Paola: When I was a kid, my mom and grandma taught me the basic crochet stitches. But back then, I wasn’t too interested in crocheting or knitting.  Then, as a teenager, I became more attracted to this craft and some years ago, I just completely felt for it!

 

Granny by Delicious Crochet. (Click for pattern link.)

UC: When did you first become interested in amigurumi?
Paola: I always loved designing toys! Even as a kid, I used to sew some dolls and teddies! Then, just by accident, I stumbled across amigurumis and discovered they were just perfect for me, because they give me the possibility of combining two passions: crochet and toy design.

 

Randy the Raccoon by Delicious Crochet. (Click for pattern link.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Paola: In fact, I always did my own designs, and not just for crochet. And everything inspires me, specially my hubby and nieces.

 

American Bison by Delicious Crochet. (Click for pattern link.)

UC:  Tell us about crochet in Argentina.

Paola: In Argentina, both crochet and knitting are almost exclusively practiced by women. Most women learned from a family member, like their grannies, moms, or old aunts. And to a lesser extent, at school.

A couple of years ago, some yarn sellers started teaching adults and kids how to crochet and knit in their stores on Saturday afternoons and this was a great success. Also, you can see some grown women crocheting in doctor’s waiting rooms, parks, while waiting in bank lines, and even in buses!  (UC comment: I crochet on the subway all the time, so I guess I’d fit in if I moved to Argentina!) Not so the young women. They prefer crocheting or knitting in their homes.  Just some people know how to do both, but knitting is more common among Argentinian women.

Caveman by Delicious Crochet. (Click for pattern link.)

UC: Can you tell me about your decision to offer your patterns in English and Spanish?

Paola: Well, as I can speak both, I thought this was a great idea to help my designs reach more people across the world. Most of my buyers are used to crochet patterns written in English, but Spanish speakers are somewhat reluctant to use patterns in a foreign language, specially if they are crochet beginners. And having the possibility of using a pattern in their own language gives them more confidence.

Angie the Pig by Delicious Crochet. (Click for pattern link.)

 

UC: Your pattern photos have a signature style with a white outline and a solid background. How did you start using that style?

Paola: This is a way of giving my photos, as well as my amigurumis, the same signature style and more consistency to my shop. Then, when someone sees an amigurumi photo with this style, they will think: this MUST be from DeliciousCrochet.

Coquena the Llama by Delicious Crochet. (Click for pattern link.)

UC: You have over 15,000 Etsy sales. (WOW!)  Can you share some tips for new Etsy sellers?

Paola: All my designs are original and have my own style. When you see one of my designs, you know its mine even before seeing its name or my signature elsewhere. I think finding your own personal style instead of trying to imitate others and printing it in your creations is something buyers really value.

There are no secrets for running a shop. Just do what you love the best way possible and always take good care of your buyers.

Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing, Paola!

I’m  blogging daily throughout October.  Visit I Saw You Dancing for more Blogtoberfest bloggers and CurlyPops for Blogtoberfest giveaways.  Search #blogtoberfest12 on Twitter.

Interview with Kathryn Vercillo, author of Crochet Saved My Life

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

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

Kathryn Vercillo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Crochet Saved My Life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kathryn wearing a thread crochet necklace of her own design.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Nicky Epstein, book review, and giveaway

I’m really excited to share an interview with Nicky Epstein today.  Nicky is a knit and crochet designer, bestselling author, and teacher.  A few months ago, I received a review copy of one of her books (which I won’t name… yet) and thought it was  “just a knitting book.”  After reading it, I found that it was a book that would be equally beneficial to crocheters and knitters since it dives so completely into the world of felting.  The book is Knitting Never Felt Better: The Definitive Guide to Fabulous Felting, and I highly recommend it if you’ve always wanted to explore felting – but more about that later.

Nicky can be found online at her website, her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and her Ravelry designer page.

After the interview, I’ll be sharing my review of Knitting Never Felt Better, as well as a giveaway, courtesy of Sixth & Spring Books.

 

The Interview

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

Nicky: My mother and grandmother taught me at an early age.

Nicky Epstein. (Photo courtesy of Nicky Epstein.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Nicky: I entered a contest for McCall’s Needlecraft magazine and won first prize with my “Unicorn In The Garden” sweater. They asked me for more designs, which they published, and I began to get calls from other needlecraft publications, because I was doing intricate colorwork.

Several versions of the Angel Puff Scarf, one of my favorite patterns from Knitting Never Felt Better. Photography by Jack Deutsch Studios. Photo copyright © by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission.

UC: Your book, Knitting Never Felt Better, is an in-depth exploration of felting, which could be used by crocheters as well. I was particularly intrigued by the dimensional felting. How were you introduced to these techniques, and what was it like exploring them for the book?
Nicky: I saw cloth shibori scarves at the American Folk Art Museum in New York and thought “Hey, I can do that with knitting.”  It was so much fun, I couldn’t stop.  And it expanded into the book. I used nuts, marbles, ping pong balls, shells, and more to create the dimensional designs and by the time I finished I had felted all the wool in my apartment and more!!!

UC: What was the design process like for Knitting Never Felt Better?
Nicky: I wanted to make the book a complete guide to felting, so I designed a wide range of pieces using various knitting techniques that lent themselves to felting, including techniques we thought couldn’t be done, like textured stitches and colorwork.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Nicky: From everything I see, from nature to gift wrap designs to vintage fashions. I try to expand the boundaries of knitting in my designs.

Cherries Jubilee Slippers from Knitting Never Felt Better. Pieces are knitted, then felted, then sewn together. Photography by Jack Deutsch Studios. Photo copyright © by Sixth&Spring Books. Used by permission.

UC: What is your favorite “go to” craft for your personal crafting?
Nicky: Redesigning furniture using fun techniques like decoupage, painting, etc. I also like designing jewelry and buttons, and have designed 4 lines of buttons for JHB Buttons.

Nicky Epstein Alpaca Button. (Image courtesy of JHB International.)

UC: What are some of your favorite crochet and knitting books in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
Nicky: Barbara Walker’s books, Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlework, Harmony Guides, Vogue Knitting – great basics to build on.

UC: Do you have any favorite knitting/crochet/craft/design blogs or websites to share?

Nicky: Pinterest, Ravelry, Etsy, Mary Taylor’s Knitting On Top Of The World, and of course, my own website.  Sadly, I don’t have much time to read most blogs.

UC: What else do you have planned for 2012?
Nicky: My new book, Knitting in Circles: 100 Circular Patterns for Sweaters, Bags, Hats, Afghans, and More, is being release in August by Potter Craft/Random House, and I have very busy teaching and traveling schedule that is listed on my website.

Nicky, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your answers with us!

The Book Review

Sixth & Spring Books recently released a paperback edition of Nicky Epstein’s Knitting Never Felt Better: The Definitive Guide to Fabulous Felting.  If, like me, you missed out on the hardcover edition, I recommend that you check this book out.

Although the patterns inside are geared towards knitters, this book provides a really thorough examination of felting, so I would even recommend it for crocheters.  The book opens with Go Felt Yourself, an overview of felting, which includes general felting instructions, FAQs, a list of ten great yarns to use for felting (as recommended by 60 yarn shop owners), and before and after photos of a 23 stitch stockinette swatch in 19 different yarns.  The chapter closes with two patterns for knitting projects along with felting instructions.

The next chapter, Dimensional Felting, is by far my favorite.  In this chapter, Nicky explores different techniques for creating dimensional projects by attaching marbles, balls, nuts, pebbles, shells, buttons, dowels, and other objects to your finished yarn creation while felting.  She also shows some great examples of textures created by drying felted yarn with binder clips attached.  This section is filled with swatch pictures that include details about how the effect was created, as well as 6 project patterns and 12 stitch patterns.

In A Potpourri of Stitch Patterns, Nicky explores stitch patterns that “still maintain their visual interest” after felting.  This section includes 6 cable stitch patterns, 6 mosaic patterns, 39 color stitch patterns, 2 one-color slip stitch patterns, and 10 lace patterns, as well as one project made from a pattern stitch.

The next chapter, A Variety of Techniques, explores intarsia, stranded colorwork, color blocking, duplicate stitch, surface embroidery, entrelac, drop stitch, beading, and combining natural fibers with synethics.  As in the previous chapter, each stitch is shown before and after, and there are many suggestions for felting with these techniques.  (My favorite tip is to avoid weaving in ends with your intarsia project, and then to cut them off after felting.)  This chapter includes 21 stitch patterns and 3 project patterns.

Appliques, Cords and Bag Handles includes tips for adding “unique adornments” to your projects.  This section includes 8 applique patterns, 6 cord patterns, and 8 designs for bag handles along with two project patterns.

The next chapter, Cut It Out, focuses on cutting up felted fabric (from your own knitting or crocheting, or from upcycled garments) to make a variety of fun projects.  Most of these projects require sewing.  I love the 5-in-1 sweater projects, which shows how to create two hats, a decorative flower, a dog sweater, and a purse from one old sweater, and there are some great bags and toys in this chapter as well.

The next chapter, Sculptural Felting, includes patterns for 13 fruits and vegetables, a fruit bowl, and a covered bowl/gift box.

At the end of the book, there is a techniques section that reviews the pattern abbreviation terms and includes written instructions for some stitches, increases, and decreases.  There are also illustrated instructions for a provisional cast on, three-needle bind off, kitchener stitch, duplicate stitch, and 9 embroidery stitches used in the patterns.   Nicky includes 13 pages of pattern templates for the cut felted patterns.

The book is filled with great suggestions from Nicky’s readers, as well as tips for making and using your felted creations.  Each stitch pattern includes before and after felting pictures, and all of the projects include directions for felting and assembly.  Most patterns use U.S. pattern abbreviations, but many of the colorwork patterns include charts instead.  The layout and photography is attractive, so the book makes great “eye candy.”  As you might expect from Nicky, most of the patterns are women’s accessories, bags, and garments, but there are some items for men, children, and home.  The book includes so many stitch patterns that a knitter can also create their own projects using the stitch patterns and felting techniques included inside.  The introduction to each section also includes details about the type of yarn and needles used for the swatches in that section.

While this book is clearly aimed at knitters, as I’ve mentioned, there is a lot that crocheters can glean from it.  For example, an intermediate crocheter could “translate” the types of color and textured patterns likely to felt well by comparing A Potpourri of Stitch Patterns to a crochet stitch guide.  Similarly, most projects in Cut It Out could easily be made with a crocheted fabric.

To keep the review balanced, I’ll mention a few things that could be improved or that might turn off some readers.  While I think much could be adapted by an intrepid crocheter, I would have loved to see some crochet stitch patterns included in the book.  Some readers will wish that more of the patterns were charted.  Like most paperback books, it doesn’t lay completely flat when you are reading, but there are flaps on both covers that can be used as page markers.  The book is aimed at an intermediate knitter, so there isn’t much review of the “basics.”

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any intermediate knitter who enjoys working with natural fibers.  This book presents a lot of wonderful information about felting in an easily digestible and beautiful form, and there are some wonderful knitting patterns included.  I would also recommend this book to an adventurous intermediate or advanced crocheter who already has the basics of felting down and is interested in exploring dimensional and colorwork options.

 

The Giveaway

The nice folks at Sixth & Spring Books were generous enough to share an additional copy of Knitting Never Felt Better: The Definitive Guide to Fabulous Felting, so I get to keep my review copy :) .  This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, August 15, 2012.

To enter:

  • Leave a comment telling me about your felting experience.  Have you ever tried felting before (or have you accidentally “felted” some laundry)?
  • For additional entries, like Underground Crafter on Facebook, 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, or in the Ravelry group letting me know what you did!)
  • One winner will be chosen at random.

 

Good luck!

Interview with Sandie Petit, founder of Crochet Cabana

In the early 2000s, when I first learned to read crochet patterns, there weren’t many good crochet websites.  One that I would visit time and again for help understanding a new technique was Crochet Cabana.  Even now, as a crochet teacher I often refer beginners to this wonderful site.  So I’m really excited to interview Sandie Petit today, the founder of Crochet Cabana.

Besides the Crochet Cabana website, you can find Sandie online on her blog, her Facebook page, her YouTube channel, her Etsy and Ravelry shops, and on Twitter.  She is less frequently seen on Crafty Corral, her first crochet blog, and Tumblr.  You can also buy Crochet Cabana items at Cafe Press.  All pictures and logos are used with her permission.

 

Sandie Petit.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Sandie: In the summer of 1980, I went on vacation with some girlfriends in Mississippi. They pulled out their hooks and started crocheting and offered to teach me. That got the ball rolling. When I returned home the local TG&Y became my primary source for patterns, yarn, and hooks. The yarn was Sayelle at the time. For many years I thought Boye was the only kind of hook manufactured! With the advent of the Internet a whole new world opened up to me and I now have quite a nice hook collection! My house is often overrun by yarn and I have more patterns than I could complete in several lifetimes!

 

 

First Crochet Cabana banner.

UC: What was the original inspiration behind Crochet Cabana?
Sandie: Crochet Cabana began in 1997 as a couple of pages on my personal website, Sandra’s Backyard. The original purpose was to have an area where I could jot down what I knew about crochet for my own reference. I also wanted to provide information for those just learning to crochet. I wanted to write it all down, with pictures, in a way that I hoped could be easily understood. All of my first tutorials were written with the new crocheter in mind. As I learned more myself – both in the field of crochet and also in web design – more was added.

In my wildest dreams I never imagined the site would get so large. As I got requests for information on this or that topic, I would add those topics also to the site. In 2001, my husband purchased a domain name for Crochet Cabana as a gift for me. Then in December 2004, we decided to purchase hosting space so I wouldn’t have to keep moving the site as it grew too large for the present host.

 

 

Current Crochet Cabana banner.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Sandie: For designing, inspiration is everywhere. The world around you. Television. The Internet. Sitting in a doctor’s office or in traffic I might notice a particular color or pattern that is intriguing. Quite often it is a matter of need. I need a gift and I have xx amount of time (usually a very short window). It’s actually quite difficult to come up with something new and I always wonder if someone else has already done it. There are so many wonderful designers out there! I don’t feel that I do that much designing really, but when I post a picture of something I’ve worked up I know someone will ask for the pattern as soon as it’s posted.

As to inspiration for tutorials and videos, that generally comes from visitors to the site who inquire if I can show them how to do this or that. If enough people seem to be having the same problem or are interested in a particular technique, I consider adding it to the site. I do fairly often get requests for me to do a video or tutorial on how to work a particular pattern. That is something I cannot do because of copyright issues.

 

 

YouTube Preview Image

(One of Sandie’s videos.  We start our foundation chain the same way!)

UC: You are a true pioneer of the DIY/craft scene on the internet. What were the benefits of establishing yourself online early, and what are some of the changes you’ve had to deal with in recent years?
Sandie: How nice of you to say! When I first began, I had no clue how to put up a website. My husband created the original site and showed me how to update it. Since then, I’ve done most of the work myself though my family, who are much more computer literate than I, have been a great help over the years. My daughter created the logo presently on the Cabana.

One of the benefits of being established so many years ago is that I can appreciate the technological advances available today. I clearly remember having to move the site over a dialup connection! What took many hours then would take mere minutes now. I am still using the same program to update the site (Microsoft Front Page). It is no longer supported so I will eventually have to find a new program to use – which is something I dread.

In those beginning days, way back when, one didn’t have to worry about Internet theft. In recent years, there has been a problem with people taking the work of others and claiming it as their own. Just a few months ago I found photos lifted from one of my tutorials on which the person had placed her own name right on the photos and put them on her site as her own. It was a foreign site and though I requested she remove them, that didn’t happen. You really have no recourse in these situations and it is quite discouraging since it is a lot of work to take photos, edit them, and add all the text to a tutorial, as well as making videos. Sadly, this has also happened to other designers. Sometimes you will even find people selling your patterns on Ebay, particularly if they are free patterns. They just copy them and sell them. It’s really terrible. In fact, I removed all the patterns I had on the site after one such incident. Since then, I’ve put a few back and opened Etsy and Ravelry shops. There are still quite a number I haven’t put up anywhere again. I am really torn about what to do as I love sharing my work with others. (UC comment: What a shame!)

Another change is that people are more and more moving to video teaching. I LOVE video teaching. It is amazing to me that I can create a video demonstrating how to do something, giving the tips I’ve learned through the years, and have someone in another country watch it and learn the technique. I guess I am showing my age here, but it just fascinates me. I often wish I had my own video studio and staff! I still have much to learn. I hope the industry doesn’t change too much while I’m learning!

Yet another change I have seen is the availability of e-books and e-patterns, both free and for sale. Being able to get a pattern you want immediately certainly has its up side. One thing I like about this is if I sell a pattern this way, I know exactly who purchased it and if I update it or find a significant error, I can let them know quite easily. Along with this is the self-publishing industry, such as Lulu, which has grown tremendously in the past few years.

The problem with all this availability is that much of it is free. This hurts the designers for whom crochet sales are a significant part of their earning power. I think this may be why we are seeing more complex designs as magazine publishers have to find a way to entice people to spend their discretionary income. It’s a dilemma I’m sure we will be addressing for some time to come as the industry works to find a balance between paper publishing and e-publishing.

 

 

One of Sandie's charity scarves, donated to Knit Your Bit.

UC: You do a lot of charity crochet. Can you tell us about some of your favorite charity projects, causes, and organizations?
Sandie: There are so many worthy organizations out there. I find that people generally gravitate toward a cause that is in some way meaningful to them. For example, I have lost many loved ones to cancer so if an opportunity arises I might donate to that cause. I had two preemies so I will occasionally donate preemie hats and afghans.

I also like to help out organizations that are based in my own state when I can. I also love to make scarves and squares. Those things came together for me in Scarves for Special Olympics where I could donate to the Louisiana branch of their organization. I was even able to deliver the scarves and meet the people there. That was rather exciting. They do require you to use particular brand and colors of yarn and there are size specifications, but I find that a challenge. I like to try and find different ways to make the scarves unique within those boundaries. This is an annual project so if you haven’t participated in the past you can always pick up and join in the next go round.

Then there is the National WWII Museum’s Knit Your Bit which is also located nearby and accepts scarves. I have had many family members in the military, including my son, and I am happy to be able to do something for the soldiers who put their lives on the line for us. Knit Your Bit gives a bit of a thank you to those soldiers. They accept any pattern, any color so it’s very easy to participate. Most of the vets are men so colors tend to lean in that direction.

I also like to be sure my work makes its way to the people for whom it was intended. With that in mind, I am cautious about sending to people I don’t know. I have known Sandy Holladay for many years and have no qualms about sending items to her for The Bridge and Beyond Project, which helps the homeless. She accepts many different items including scarves, mittens, and socks. She does amazing things with donated squares, putting together afghans which are then given to one of several local missions. Each day I am thankful that I have a roof over my head, clean clothes, and food to eat. It’s a shame there are so many who don’t have these basic needs met.

Heartmade Blessings has been around quite a number of years. They accept 12” squares which are put together into comfortghans. Several people I know personally have benefited from this effort.  (UC comment: I’m actually working on several squares right now to donate to Heartmade Blessings as part of the Crochetlist March charity challenge.)

Crafting for a Cause is a wonderful group that supports our Native Americans. Most of the items made are sent directly to the reservation so you can be sure they are getting where they are needed.

In addition to official organizations, I like to donate where I can locally. As time goes on, postage costs for mailing packages has gone up so anything I can deliver is a plus.

That said, I occasionally like to send to SIBOL, way across the pond from me. I just love to go to Sue’s blog and Flickr page and see all the beautiful things. Everything is so artfully shown. She accepts 6” squares which are joined into lapghans for nursing homes in her area. Her challenges are fun too!

 

 

 

One of Sandie's charity scarves, donated to Knit Your Bit.

UC: You are a CGOA Master of Advanced Crochet Stitches and Techniques and a CYC Certified Crochet Teacher. Tell us why you decided to pursue these certifications and how/if they’ve been helpful to you.
Sandie: I am going to share with you my REAL reason for taking these courses. Shhhh. I never think my work is good enough and I thought that if I took these courses someone else could tell me if I was doing things correctly and, if not, I could learn the proper way. Having the certificates does not mean that I am a wonderful crocheter, but it does mean, to me, that I’ve run the course and persevered to complete it successfully. I may have a tiny bit more confidence than I had before since I did pass the courses.

I also thought that having the certificate would give a bit more weight to my qualifications as an instructor if I decided to teach community education classes or even paid classes through a craft store.  (UC comment: I am also a CYC Certified Crochet Instructor and Teacher, and will actually be attending classes this weekend to become a CYC Certified Knitting Instructor and Teacher.  For more discussion on the pros and cons of certification, see this post.)

The two courses are very different. I did learn some new techniques through my work on both courses, particularly the CGOA course because it covered more of a variety – like hairpin lace, which I’d not done a lot of before.

I find that every step you take is one step closer to your goal. You mentioned knitting. I’ve been trying to learn to knit for many years. I can cast on and I actually can knit, but if I drop a stitch, that is it for me. However, every time I try I get a little bit further in my understanding. It is the same with crochet. When I did the CGOA course, I did not work much with thread and I had to complete a filet thread project with thread, which I did successfully. I did not pick it up again until recently, but those things I learned at that point have come back to me and I find I just love filet!

I don’t know if the certificates mean anything to those who look at my work. I think your work really has to speak for itself. When I pick up a magazine or look online at a pattern I may purchase, I don’t know if that person has a certificate or not. I just like the pattern, the colors, and the way it was photographed, perhaps the stitches used or the yarn. I think taking the course was for me more than anything.

I would dearly love to take Pauline Turner’s course. I understand it is difficult and I think if I passed that one I would really feel like a crochet master.

 

 

 

UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
Sandie: There are so many! Those that jump right to mind are Quick and Cozy Afghans which I use quite a bit; the Vanna books, particularly Vanna’s Afghans A to ZDonna Kooler’s Encyclopedia of Crochet; and Margaret Hubert’s The Complete Photo Guide to Crochet. I have dozens of pattern and reference books and leaflets though. That just scratches the surface. One of my recent purchases was Super Finishing Techniques for Crocheters by Betty Barnden. Her Filet Crochet book is great also.

 

 

One of Sandie's charity scarves, using the "V for Victory" pattern by Rachel Vives, donated to Knit Your Bit.

UC: Do you have any favorite crochet websites/blogs to share?
Sandie: I don’t get around to the blogs as much as I used to, but here are a few that I visit often:

Generally, I look at my blogroll to see who has updated and I will visit the top five or ten of them and sometimes the sites they recommend in their blogroll.

After reading other interviews on your blog, I also started following Vashti.   (UC comment: Thanks Sandie!  I am honored to have you as a reader.)

 

Thanks so much for stopping by for an interview, Sandie!

Interview with crochet designer, Vashti Braha

I am so excited to share an interview with Vashti Braha today.  I first learned about Vashti’s work because, as you know, I love Tunisian crochet, and she has designed some amazing Tunisian crochet patterns.  I’m a devoted subscriber to her Crochet Inspirations newsletter.  If you love to crochet, you should sign up, too. Vashti’s newsletter somehow simultaneously looks at crochet with the fresh and inspired eyes of a precocious newbie and the wisdom of an ancient master.  Every time I read it, I am inspired to pick up my hook!

Vashti has been designing professionally since 2004, and is also a writer, a teacher, and publisher of her own designs (and of DJC Designs, Doris Chan‘s pattern line).  Her Designing Vashti blog won the Crochet Liberation Front‘s Flamie for Best Crochet Blog in 2010.  Vashti can be found online at her Designing Vashti website, her Ravelry designer page, her Designing Vashti: Crochet Inspirations Facebook page, and as Vashtirama on Twitter.  She also blogs at Vashti’s Crochet Pattern Companion and Toy Designing Vashti, and with several other crochet designers at The New Crochet Cowl Scarves.

All pictures in this interview are used with Vashti’s permission.

Vashti Braha.

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

Vashti: My earliest memories are of my Mom crocheting, knitting, and embroidering. I would sit with her for hours and try to untangle the yarn in her yarn basket while she crocheted on the couch. It felt very natural to learn how to crochet from her one day when I was nine. This was 1973. I remember thinking “Aha! Now I have the power to make anything I need to survive.” I was thinking of Tarzan, Gilligan’s Island, and Hodge Podge Lodge at the time–I imagined crocheting myself a hammock, tether, sack, or other survival item.
The first things I made were clothes and accessories for my younger sister’s dolls. (Her passion at the time.)
Although Vashti is primarily known for her fashion pieces, she also has fun, children's patterns like the Teacher's Gallon Friend classroom toy pattern.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Vashti: Until I was 30-something, somehow I never noticed that real people wrote patterns for crochet designs! I changed as a crocheter when my son was born in 1999. I set new challenges for myself, took on ambitious projects, and read new kinds of crochet books and patterns. I started noticing how each designer had a different style. That’s when I imagined what I might design some day.
Thanks to the new online crochet world that was developing at the time, I learned about the CGOA Chain Link conferences. At a conference in 2004, I unexpectedly sold my first designs and was on my way.
Vashti is one of the designers that contributed to the Pam's Comfort Cables benefit pattern, available through KnitPicks. Here is her Brighid's Willow block.

UC: You originally started your crochet career selling your designs to other publishers.  Now, you are almost entirely self-published.  Can you talk about that shift – what inspired it and what are some of the challenges and rewards you see as your own publisher?

Vashti: I became an independent designer and publisher due to a combination of factors. Freelancing (selling designs to other publishers) was not a perfect fit for me. Then, as the industry changed, I reached a breaking point with it. I’m glad to see that more recently it has been improving in some ways for freelancers.
I’m going to rant a bit now, and I’m only speaking for myself. Every designer is unique, so I don’t pass judgment how any other designer goes about their business. Also, a few of the issues I list below have improved since I started publishing independently, and I do still freelance here and there.
For years, the print publishing industry in general has been battling rising print costs, a rigid and bloated hierarchy of middlemen, and new forms of digital competition. Crochet publishing has also been promoting outdated assumptions about crochet and about intellectual property rights. Until very recently, I think every new crochet designer started out freelancing. As far as I know, being published (in a print magazine or book, or by a yarn company) was the only game in town.
Unfortunately, some time after I began designing, the publishers’ rising costs were being passed along to the designers: in other words, pay rates for designs started stagnating. I’d like to know if the amount paid to the production staff, the printing presses, the postal services, etc., was also flattening and drifting downwards!
Not only that, we designers were also supposed to work harder for the same or lower pay: write the pattern for 4 to 6 sizes instead of 1 to 3; provide schematics and stitch diagrams; add special tips and swatches in alternate colors; etc. All this, and still keep the pattern short!
Do you know what kinds of designs meet these requirements the best? The ones made of a few big squares. For a designer, that’s a rudimentary way to design a fashion item! It also limits the development of crochet’s potential. For the rest of the industry, however, this kind of crochet pattern seems to be the favored way to sell yarn. Well, I don’t go to the trouble to design something, and write up the pattern for it as clearly and accurately as possible (in 5 sizes, with diagrams, etc.) so that I can sell someone else’s yarn and lose all rights to my intellectual property as a bonus LOL!
I’m hearing from designers that with a few exceptions, companies have been slow to take the edge off for a pretty essential part of the industry, the designers! Instead, to add insult to injury:
  • Sometimes contracts have not been provided even when requested; if so, nothing is negotiable;
  • It’s breezily mentioned that your projects were stolen or given away;
  • Big and obvious project photography notes from the designer are disregarded so that the project is photographed inside out or upside down;
  • The pattern is redesigned without permission from the designer, usually by the tech editor (who can be quite surly!).
Yarn companies need designs to sell yarn. What are pattern magazines, leaflets, and books without patterns? But not just any patterns! New ones, distinctive ones; yet some publishers recycle the same design with no additional compensation to the designer. What crocheter wants to pay for a design twice? Even if the publisher changes the yarn, crocheters still know it — this means that good design matters to crocheters.
There reached a point when it stopped making sense to me to pursue freelancing. More crochet was appearing on fashion runways, and I was teaching trendy crochet design. I couldn’t see submitting trendy design proposals, then waiting 6 months to find out if they would be published 6-12 months after that, when I could publish them myself online in as little as a few hours. Almost every day a new way to publish and go directly to fellow crocheters presented itself. I remember when Etsy happened, and free blogging, and then…Ravelry!
I keep the proposal deadlines in mind of some of the larger publishers. So far, I’ve been preoccupied with my own learning curve -learning how to produce my newsletter, use SEO and analytics, understand Facebook’s latest changes, etc. Before I know it, a freelance deadline has passed me by, so I look to the next ones. A design of mine is in a new book, Simply Crochet: 22 Stylish Designs for Everyday. Another one is in a forthcoming Tunisian crochet book by Dora Ohrenstein.
Vashti's Slip Tectonics Cowl pattern.

UC: I love the Designing Vashti newsletter, especially how you share your inspirations and explorations of different techniques.  How did you decide upon using that format to share your adventures in crochet?


Vashti: Thanks so much! I feel honored when a crocheter is interested enough to say, “You may email me every two weeks.” It makes each issue a special occasion and I want to make the most of it. I have a sense of intimacy with my subscribers and this causes me to write about crochet in a contemplative way.

I chose the newsletter format for two main reasons:
  1. It’s the easiest and best type of “headquarters” I could create for people who want to know when I come out with new designs, offer classes, and other news.
  2. I made a commitment to my inner crocheter to do for crochet, and for fellow crocheters, what I wish were already being done. I like thinking about crochet. I get plenty of newsletters in my inbox about yarn, crochet, or knitting, and I always hope they’ll give me something to think about. My subscriber list has grown constantly since the first issue in October, 2010, so I’m not the only one out there who likes to think about crochet!
A great fringe benefit of the newsletter is that it disciplines me as a writer. I like finding out what newsletter topic inspires me every two weeks.
Vashti's Rimply Tunisian Neckscarf.

UC: In the last few months, you have talked a lot about slip stitch crochet.  What do you enjoy about this stitch?

Vashti: It gives me a fresh new experience of crochet. I’m discovering a whole microcosm in the seemingly simple and limited slip stitch, sort of like the Horton Hears A Who! story, or like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. My inner crocheter is startled and fascinated — and amused that crochet books are still being published that state authoritatively, “The slip stitch is not for making fabric”! The slip stitch results in some amazing fabrics, but aside from that, scratch its surface and it reveals a lot about crochet itself.
Thirsty Twists Bathmat.

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

Vashti: I have a gazillion and couldn’t part with any of them! I love all of my stitch dictionaries, especially: the Harmony Guides Volume 6 & Volume 7, several published in Japan, and Robyn Chachula‘s new Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia.

Undaria Flutter Scarf pattern.

UC: What are your favorite types of yarn to work with?

Vashti: I almost always like a z-twisted yarn (the plies of the yarn are twisted to the left) instead of s-twisted (twisted to the right). I crochet right handed, and my yarn overs don’t unwind a z-twisted yarn, so it doesn’t get “splitty” on me. I like how my really tall stitches look in smooth z-twisted yarns because the multiple yarn overs don’t make them look stringy. (UC comment: Doris Chan recently wrote a detailed blog post explaining the difference between z- and s- twisted yarns, if you’d like to know more.)

Lately I’ve been fascinated by alpaca. It’s hard for me to resist sparkly yarns, like silk and mohair spun with metallics and little sequins or beads. Handspun angora is a special kind of magical.
Tunisian Shakti Scarfythings.

UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry – designer, teacher, writer, and now publisher.  What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?

Vashti: Each of us is designing our business and crochet lifestyle, as well as designing crochet patterns. Thanks to the digital revolution and to the multifaceted nature of crochet, we have more choices than it first appeared back when I started designing. I continue to be inspired by how each designer makes her or his own path with it.
The three things I’d most like aspiring professionals to know are:
1) Join up with others and compare notes. It’s easy to miss opportunities, or to be taken advantage of, or to lose perspective, because this is a solitary job for most of us in this industry. Find a fellow professional you can call periodically, just to chat about the biz. In addition, meet up as a group online. Crochet designers need to meet up with each other, separately from tech editors who also need meet up with each other for example, or teachers. Ravelry groups help make this possible, but they are public. It’s better if you meet privately (I speak from experience).
2) The designer creates new intellectual property. The designer and only the designer starts out with all rights to the property, unless she or he chooses to let others have some. No one protects this property better than the originator of it.
It’s easy to lose sight of this simple fact.
I wish someone had made it clear and simple for me years ago. I still would have sold some or all rights to some freelanced designs, but with eyes open.
I’ve learned that a huge amount of people seem to prefer to profit from other people’s intellectual property instead of create their own, whether they can pay enough for it or not. I’ve wondered, why is it so many people, when they could create their own stuff and then do anything they want with it? After having designed a lot, I’ve concluded that it’s because it’s actually really hard work to create something out of nothing all the time. It’s much easier if someone else does it!
So, I’d say to aspiring professionals: don’t underestimate how eager people are to legally take your property off of your hands, even while discounting its value. I’ve heard this from several publishers: “It’s just one design. What’s the big deal? Why hold onto it forever? You’ll have plenty more.” If it’s such a burden, why do they want it so much LOL?

3) Rather than feel flattered or important when given yarn to design with, I wish designers would expect it. Designers are already paid too little for a living wage. Yarn companies need designers much more than designers need any particular yarn. It should be the other way around: a yarn company is lucky when a designer chooses their yarn to design with, to blog about, or to recommend!

Sparkle Love Knot Lariats pattern.

 

UC: What are you planning for 2012 and beyond?

Vashti: I’m looking forward to teaching several crochet classes both nationally and locally in 2012. I love teaching and getting to know students, and am very patient. Some crocheters who have had trouble learning in the past just need to find a calm and patient teacher.

I post updates in my newsletters as classes are scheduled. I can announce the classes I’ll be teaching at national conferences as soon as the schedule is posted for the summer and fall.
My first local class this year is Introduction to Slip Stitch Crochet on February 4 in Sarasota, Florida. I teach Advanced Slip Stitch Crochet on February 11. In March, I’ll be teaching Tunisian lace and crochet jewelry.  I’ll teach more topics in April. These classes all take place at my favorite yarn shop, A Good Yarn in Sarasota, Florida (941-487-7914).

I want to try online classes too, though that might have to wait until 2013 or late 2012.

 

Eva Shrug Slip Stitch Rib pattern.
The Crochet Inspirations Newsletter has its own Facebook page that has been coming in handy. I originally set it up as an experiment with Facebook pages, but I go to it to scroll through the archived issues, to post follow-up info to an issue, and to answer questions.
For example, in the newest issue I talked a lot about my mannequin, Lindsay. Several readers emailed me to ask where I bought it, so I posted the link at the FB page. One week I forgot to include an important photo in the newsletter before I sent it out, so I posted it on the Facebook page for that issue. Come to think of it, I think I should remind my subscribers about the Facebook page.
Wow, Vashti, thank you for being so generous with your time, so detailed in your responses, and for offering some great advice for aspiring/emerging designers.

Crocheted Softies Blog Tour, Day 6

I’m stoked to be part of Stacey Trock’s blog tour for Crocheted Softies: 18 Adorable Animals from around the World today.  I am interviewing Stacey, reviewing her new book, and hosting a giveaway for a signed copy of the book, courtesy of Martingale & Company, so read on for more details!

The Interview

Stacey Trock is the mind behind FreshStitches, and is known for her crocheted, amigurumi animal designs, which are available for download on her website, on her Ravelry designer page, and in her Etsy shop.  (Stacey also sells her finished critters in her Etsy shop, in case you don’t crochet, as well as kits for her most popular patterns.)  You can also find Stacey online on Facebook and Twitter.  The pictures of Stacey’s work are used with her permission.

Stacey with one of her creations.

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

Stacey: I started crocheting when I was a little girl… my mom taught me.  I don’t really remember learning, but I remember there was a time when I could only crochet a chain… and I spend a fair amount of time making a VERY long chain!

Wally the Koi Fish.

UC: What was your original inspiration to start making amigurumi, and what led you to start designing your own amigurumi patterns?

Stacey: I call it my ‘quarter life crisis’… I finished school and knew I didn’t want to work in an office. I though to myself, ‘what would I do if I could do ANYTHING?’… and I knew that I loved crocheting! I’ve also always loved stuffed animals (and had previously sewn a few of them), so it seemed like the natural thing to do.  I put all of my energy towards designing a collection of amigurumi and getting a website up and running, and I’ve never looked back!  (UC comment: I had a quarter-life crisis, too, but I didn’t do anything as cool as Stacey during mine!)

Kieran the Beaver.

UC: I love that many (most?) of your designs are larger than the typical wee Lilliputian scale of amigurumi patterns and are more “kid friendly.”  Can you tell me more about that?

Stacey: I think the size of my amigurumi reflects my love of stuffed animals.  I think they’re so cute and cuddly… and it doesn’t make much difference to me whether I crochet, sew, or knit them.  I happen to think crocheting makes the nicest fabric for stuffed animals (as compared to knitting), but my love is the animal itself.  So, it seemed pretty natural for me to focus on the larger size animals.  Most of my stuffed animals are about 8″ tall when completed… and of course, they could be made larger or smaller by using thicker or thinner yarn.

I do realize, though, that lots of folks love making the smaller amigurumi, and I’ve recently released a line of tiny amigurumi.  It’s important for me to design animals that people love… so if there’s lots of people who love the smaller animals, I want to do that, too!  My true love is still the big guys, though :)

Ro the Tiny Monster is one of Stacey's tiny amigurumi patterns.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Stacey: I’m like a sponge… I suck inspiration up from all over! I look at lots of drawings and cartoons (and Clip Art)… I love seeing how other artists conceptualize animals and break them down into basic shapes and components.  I also love all things cute: Japanese stationary, children’s toys, jewelry with animals on it… you name it, I’m inspired!

Oddly enough, I’m not terrifically inspired by actual animals.  (That sounds really lame when I say it aloud!) I’m an animal-lover, but I don’t draw inspiration for my stuffed animal designs from the actual animals themselves :).

Slithers the Snake, from Crocheted Softies, which can double as a scarf.

UC: Most people associate amigurumi and crocheted toys with acrylic yarn, but in Crocheted Softies, you’ve managed to create an entire book of patterns using eco-friendly yarns.  Tell me about your decision to do this.  What was your design and yarn selection process for this book?

Stacey: I’m really passionate about using quality yarn.  And, by quality yarn, I don’t mean ‘yarn sold in a fancy yarn store over big box stores.’  I’ve found scratchy, icky yarn in LYSs (local yarn stores), and some quite pleasant yarns sold by the major yarn manufacturers. What I mean is yarn that is pleasant to work with and that will help you make a quality product that you can be proud of.

For me, crocheting is a tactile process: the yarn runs through your fingers as you hold it… and when you make a stuffed animal, you’re making something that will probably be snuggled up against your child’s face. Why would you want to use a yarn that you’re not totally in love with?

I’ve always used high-quality yarn in my designs, but I thought that writing this book was the perfect opportunity to spread the word about fantastic Earth-friendly yarns… because you’re right, most people pick up a skein of acrylic yarn to make amigurumi.  For me, Earth-friendliness is about being aware of where your yarn comes from and it’s environmental impact.  I know that not everyone will pick up a skein of organic cotton to make your next animal. But, it’s important to me that people realize that when they’re crocheting, they’re creating a lovely little piece of artwork… and maybe they’ll think about using materials that are worthy of the love and energy they pour into the piece.

About my design process… for a couple of animals, I picked pairings that seemed perfect and hilarious: there’s a panda made from bamboo, an alpaca from alpaca and a kiwi from a New Zealand yarn.  For the remainder of the animals, I searched around for yarns that had the texture that would be right for the animals, and came in a colorway that would work.  There’s so many lovely yarns to choose from!

Shewwin the Alpaca, from Crocheted Softies, made in yummy, undyed Cascade Eco Alpaca.

UC: Does your background working in a yarn shop (Knit New Haven) influence your design process?  If so, how?

Stacey: It doesn’t directly influence my designs, but working in a yarn store influences me tremendously in my yarn-life.  I’m lucky enough to see all of the yarns that are coming into the shop on a regular basis, and hear customers’ reactions to them.  I also benefit tremendously from helping customers with their knitting/crocheting problems… I think I’ve gotten a really good sense of what people find difficult/easy about crocheting and pattern-reading.  Since I learned to crochet when I was so young, I don’t remember learning… so hearing the experiences of others who are learning helps me design patterns in a way that’s accessible for the largest number of crocheters.

Courtney the Owl in an Egg can hatch right before your eyes.

UC: Do you have any favorite craft/crochet/creativity blogs or websites to share?

Stacey: Oh my gosh… there’s too many!
I think Delicious Crochet, MochiMochi Land, and MyGurumi are some of the most clever animal designers on the block! I love seeing what new designs they come up with and I just think they’re some genius ladies!

As for blogs, I’ll share a few that are on my reader (which are only a couple from the oodles of amazing inspirational folks out there!):

And, I always happen across lots of inspiring things on Ravelry, Pinterest, Craftsy and Twitter.  So much great stuff going on!

Kai the Kiwi, from Crocheted Softies, in a merino/possum (!) blend.

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

Stacey: Oooh… that’s a very tricky question because I’m actually quite a minimalist about owning books :). I just bought Craft Activism, which is a totally awesome book about how people use all sorts of different crafts (including crochet) as forms of activism. And, I’m in love with Vanna’s Afghans A to Z for sentimental reasons… it was my first crochet book, and I’ve made a number of afghans from it! (UC comment: I once had a well loved copy of Vanna’s Favorite Gift Afghans, but I sold it online to pay some overdue bills during my quarter-life crisis!)

My other favorite books are knitting ones… I’m too multi-crafting to stick to just crochet books!

Lala the Panda, from Crocheted Softies, made with a bamboo/merino wool blend.

UC: What’s next for you?

Stacey: Oooh… I don’t know! I’m absolutely in love with what I do, so I’m totally going to stick with it… and I’m contemplating about how I’d like to branch out.

This January, I’m going to be teaching a couple of online amigurumi classes for Craftsy, which I’m super-excited about. I’m also going to be adding more tiny amigurumi designs to my site over the next year (and, of course, lots of new big ones!), as well as expanding the number of patterns I offer as kits… they’ve been popular!

I sometimes think about designing knitted animals… but I’ll have to see if that’s in the cards! I’m excited to see where FreshStitches will be this time next year :).

Thanks, Stacey, for stopping by for an interview today, and for signing the giveaway copy!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more chances to win a copy of Crocheted Softies!

Book Review


I confess that I was really looking forward to receiving my review copy of Crocheted Softies from Martingale & Company for several weeks before it arrived.  I really like the look of Stacey’s work, and especially enjoy the larger sizes of most of her amigurumi patterns.  I grew up receiving awesome crocheted bears from my grandmother, years before I ever heard the term amigurumi.  These bears were some of my favorite playthings as a kid, and I love how Stacey merges the coziness of an old fashioned teddy bear with a contemporary look.  I was also really intrigued by the the book’s concept of making amigurumi with earth-friendly yarns.  In my mind, amigurumi has always been associated with acrylic yarn, but in the past year, I’ve been looking at my yarn stash and trying to replace my petroleum based yarns with natural fibers.

I’m going to come right out and say that I love this book, and definitely will recommend it far and wide.  The book starts with several concise but detailed sections: Getting Started, Crochet Stitches, and Additional Techniques.  Stacey’s writing style is really conversational, and she gives some wonderful tips on substituting yarns, informal gauge, assembly and stuffing, and caring for your softies.  She also provides patterns for “basic animal shapes” which are used throughout the book.  Once you are familiar with the basic head, for example, you can use it to make many of the softies.

The book then introduces 18 softies, sorted by region.  Most of the critters are made with one skein of yarn in the main color and then smaller bits of other colors.  Stacey uses safety eyes throughout the book, but provides you with a quick technique for making crocheted eyes so you can easily substitute if your softie is for a baby or toddler (or you just plain don’t like safety eyes).  She uses an interesting range of fibers and her premise is that if you are using only one skein, you can try out some yarns you may not be as familiar with, like soy, corn, or recycled silk, without much of an investment.  All of the projects are super cute and would make great gifts, but I do have a few favorites: Stretch the Giraffe, Lala the Panda, Salty the Crocodile, Milton the Slowpoke Snail, Mr. Crabby, and Sherwin the Alpaca.

I think the book is great for a crochet newbie because it explains things like yarn substitution in a really friendly way, but it’s also wonderful for a more advanced crocheter because it encourages you to move outside of your comfort zone by trying new yarns and experimenting with pattern modifications.  (At the same time, you could make these patterns with your standard favorite yarns also.)  Like all Martingale & Company books, it has a really clean and eye pleasing layout.

Just so I don’t sound like a groupie, I’ll balance my review a bit. Crocheted Softies doesn’t pretend to teach you everything you need to know in order to crochet, though it does have written explanations and illustrations of the basic stitches.  Therefore, it will probably be too challenging for someone who has never crocheted before.  It doesn’t include international stitch symbols, which is ok by me since the patterns are really straightforward, but I know some people prefer to have both abbreviations and stitch symbols. (The book uses U.S. crochet abbreviations, by the way.)   The book obviously doesn’t include a range of project types, and only focuses on softies (though there is a variety of shapes and animal/space creature types).

If I wasn’t buried under a mountain of holiday crafting and design deadlines, I would absolutely be making MC his very own Mr. Crabby right now (not because he’s cranky, but because he’s a Cancer).  I think it will be on my Valentine’s Day gift list instead.

I give the book 5 out of 5 stars as a fun project book that shares some helpful techniques and skills for making amigurumi.

Giveaway

I’m so excited that Martingale & Company provided two copies of the book, so I actually get to keep mine while still offering a giveaway to my readers!  This giveaway is open to international readers.

You will have 7 days to enter this giveaway.

To enter,

  • Leave a comment on this post by 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, December 16, 2011.  Be sure to include your email address (which won’t be displayed) so I can contact you if you win.  (Please note that my comments are moderated, so if you are a new visitor, your comment will not appear immediately.)
  • For another chance to win, like the Underground Crafter Facebook page.  Then you can either post a comment on Facebook or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already like my Facebook page, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, join my Ravelry group.  Then you can either post a comment on my Ravelry group or here again so I will give you another entry.  (If you already are in my Ravelry group, just post a comment for another chance to win.)
  • For another chance to win, share the link to this giveaway via Twitter, Facebook, or your blog.  Then post a comment here with the link to your Tweet or blog post, or leave a comment on my Facebook page so I will give you another entry.

Good luck!

Interview with Kathryn Vercillo from Crochet Concupiscence

Today, I’m pleased to present an interview with Kathryn Vercillo from Crochet Concupiscence, one of my favorite crochet blogs.  It is sort of like the USA Today of crochet blogs – a roundup of everything going on in the crochet world, plus Kathryn’s personal projects – but with much better/more engaging writing.  Kathryn is working on a new project Swaddle, which she will share with us.

Kathryn is a professional writer and blogger, and she lives in San Francisco, where I used to live as a toddler (yes, it is true, I haven’t lived in NYC for my entire life – I did spend three years elsewhere).  You can find Kathryn on her blog, on her Twitter page, or on Ravelry as CrochetBlogger.

Kathryn Vercillo, in one of her crocheted dresses.

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

Kathryn: Like many other people, I learned a basic crochet chain from my mom when I was a kid but then didn’t really do anything else with crochet until I was an adult. A few years ago, I was struggling with a very serious bout of depression and I kept trying to force myself to explore different interests in order to escape from the clutches of such sadness. I can’t even tell you how many things I tried (hula hoop dancing, drawing, computer gaming) and somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to try crochet. It immediately resonated with me when nothing else had.

I started re-learning crochet at that time by trying to read vintage crochet patterns from my mom’s old magazines but those proved too difficult to understand (although I can read them now). I ended up getting some “how to crochet” books for kids from my library and learning from them, using YouTube videos as a supplement when certain stitches confused me. It started out as a possible hobby and became a true passion. Now I crochet daily and research the craft all of the time.

UC: What was your original inspiration for starting Crochet Concupiscence?

Kathryn: I am a freelance writer for a living and had been working as a professional blogger for other people for about five years. Every time that I had a new interest, I started a blog of my own to explore it further and share it with others. However, I never really devoted a lot of time to any of those previous blogs because I was busy blogging for others. Last year I started cutting back on my professional blogging work in order to focus on some other writing projects. That opened up a space for me to launch a blog of my own that I could really devote myself to. Crochet had become the love of my life by then and I wanted to spend as much time as I could researching it so it was a natural step to launch the blog. My favorite part of every day is the writing I do for Crochet Concupiscence.

Kathryn wearing one of her cowl projects.

UC: You’re a very active blogger with an established audience, but seem to have a life, too (or perhaps that is all a scam, and you are chained to your computer all day?).  What tips do you have for emerging bloggers?

Kathryn: I do try to have a life although I admit that I probably spend more time crocheting and blogging than the average person would :). Based on my experiences both with Crochet Concupiscence and with the blogs I’ve done professionally for others, here are my blogging tips:

  • Take the time to ask yourself what you want from your blog. The thing about the blog world is that there are many, many different tools for bloggers (Twitter, SEO stuff, WordPress plugins, etc. etc.) and you can easily get lost as you learn about each of these new things. If you know exactly what you want from your blog, it will be much easier to sift through all of this and choose only those things that make sense to you and keep you enjoying your blog. Your goal might be to keep track of your projects in one place, or to connect with other like-minded people around a topic like crochet, or to have hundreds of thousands of followers and be a big influencer in your niche. Whatever goal you have is fine but it’s important to know what it is.
  • Establish a posting schedule. I write about the same things each day of the week so that I don’t have to think “what should I write today?” For example, I always do crochet artist profiles on Mondays and crochet book reviews on Tuesdays. It’s a time saver. I also recommend setting aside specific times of day or days of the week to do your blogging. This keeps you on track.
  • Read other blogs that interest you. This will keep you inspired, give you ideas for what you want to do with your own blog, and help you connect to a larger community, which is a key thing that makes blogging fun.

UC: You are working on a new project, Swaddle, which explores the way women nurture the men in their lives.  Tell me about your inspiration for this project and what type of support you are looking for from the crochet community.

Kathryn: Yes! Swaddle is a crochet art project that uses the traits inherent in crochet to explore the ways in which women communicate with the men in their lives and how this affects their relationships. I believe that women are generally taught to be the caregivers and problem-solvers in their relationships, and they often use words to do this.  Sometimes the ways we communicate as women do a great job of nurturing the relationships we have and sometimes they go awry and really stifle those relationships.  Swaddle explores both sides of this through crochet art.

Historically, mothers swaddled babies to keep them safe but it sometimes went wrong and ended up killing the child, and that’s where the imagery comes from for the project.

This crochet project will ultimately have 12 – 24 pieces in it for display in a gallery. The title piece is Swaddled. This is a collection of crocheted swaddling blankets wrapped around representations of male figures. Some are cozy and comfortable, as we expect crochet blankets to be. Some are strangling and suffocating. Some are too loose and the male is exposed. This represents the core idea behind the title project.

Communication, relationships, and women’s roles have long been themes I’ve explored in my writing and artwork. When I started getting into crochet, I knew that I wanted to do some type of art project with it. Crochet is stereotypically a female craft and can be constructed in both a delicate “feminine” way and a structural “masculine” form so it lends itself well to art that explores gender issues. I also think that the repetition in crochet with its constant loops and knots easily represents communication, so it works well for this project.

I would love to see the crochet community support this project and that’s why I’ve chosen to use Kickstarter to crowdsource funding to make it a reality. People can donate as little as one dollar to support the development of the project. People who donate $20 or more will be allowed to select a set of stitches in the color of their choosing which will go in to one large-scale art piece in Swaddle to represent the participation of those who have helped the project along.

I’d like to note that I’m using yarns from indie female yarn dyers and spinners so the funding through Kickstarter will also help the fiber community in that way.

UC: I usually ask about favorite blogs, but I think your Hooked Together project gives us all a great view into your blog reading habits.  Instead I’ll skip right to asking about your favorite crochet books in your collection.  Do you have some that you always return to, or new favorites, to share?

Kathryn: Yes, Hooked Together is a compilation of all of the crochet and fiber blogs you read. I’d also like to note that each Saturday I do a “link love” post with links to my favorite crochet posts from the week so that’s another great way to see what I enjoy reading.  (UC comment: I love Link Love – I don’t read as many blogs as Kathryn, so that’s how I find out about posts I haven’t seen yet.)

As for books, I’m currently obsessing over Edie Eckman’s Around the Corner Crochet Borders. It features 150 crochet edging options, so it’s a great way to learn lots of different stitch combinations in a manner that is easy to follow.

I recently reviewed Sarah London’s Granny Square Love, and I adore many of the projects in that book because I’m kind of in love with grannies lately. (UC comment: Me, too!  I had great fun reviewing Sarah’s new book, and have been on a granny kick lately.)

And I’m a huge fan of Crochet Master Class, which you actually turned me on to because of your great posts working through that book!  (UC comment: Thanks, Kathryn! You can read my Crochet Master Class posts here.)

Finally, I am working my way through a great vintage crochet book called Crochet and Creative Design by Annette Feldman that is more about the theory behind crochet construction.  (UC comment: Thanks for introducing me to this book, Kathryn.  Of course, you know I had to rush out and buy a used copy for my vintage crochet book collection!)

Kathryn's lover's knot scarf.

UC: Has blogging about crochet influenced your personal crocheting?  If so, how?

Kathryn: Great question! Blogging about crochet gives me an excuse and motivation to constantly research crochet, so it has exposed me to many different things in crochet that I might not have found otherwise.

It was through reading crochet blogs that I came to understand both the importance and the how-to of blocking crochet. And it was through crochet blogs that I learned about tapestry crochet, which is a type of crochet that I really want to delve into in the near future.

I think crochet blogging also helps to keep me productive because I always want to have new work to show off on my blog. I’m participating in Year of Projects through Ravelry and I always try to chip away at my list to present something for those weekly posts on my blog.

Kathryn makes friends with an alpaca at the Tucson Wool Festival.

UC: What are your favorite types of yarn to work with?

Kathryn: I’ve never met a yarn I didn’t like! No seriously, in terms of fiber, I’m currently loving bamboo/ silk blends. They are soft, shiny, somewhat eco-friendly (bamboo is, silk isn’t always) and work up easily. I also just recently bought some crazy soft baby alpaca and that may be my brand new love.

I prefer to buy hand-dyed and / or hand-spun yarns from indie dyers and small stores. Six Skeins and Candy Skein are two examples of online stores I like. (UC comment: Candy Skein’s proprietress is Tami from Tami’s Amis, the host of WIP Wednesday and FO Friday.) I also like Yarns of Italy, which isn’t an indie dyer but offers a select set of yarns direct from Italy at affordable prices. I prefer variegated yarns and like to stick to a blue/grey spectrum with some infusion of bright colors (greens and purples, mostly) and neutrals (creams, black and white).

If I had to pick a name brand yarn type that most people know, though, I’d definitely go with Malabrigo. I can never pass up a Malabrigo that comes into my path. And I also like Lorna’s Laces. I have a ridiculous yarn stash, which is organized loosely by color and put on display in vintage metal containers throughout my home.  (UC comment: I’ve been planning to check out Candy Skein and haven’t tried Six Skeins or Lorna’s Laces yet, either – so thanks for the positive reviews!)

Kathryn's large granny square project.

UC: What are your favorite types of projects to pick up for your own personal crocheting?

Kathryn: I make a ton of capelets, cowls and scarves. I often buy just one or two skeins of yarn and these items are small enough that I can use just that small yarn amount. I also like those small projects because they allow me to see how various stitch combinations work out without a huge commitment. Plus one great crochet accessory like that can really pull together an outfit!  (UC comment: So true!)

I do typically have one larger project on the hooks – lately it’s been a large granny square blanket but I’ve also done a lot of dresses – that I can go to when I want to crochet but don’t want to think about what I want to make! In general I like to work on seamless crochet projects with very few color changes.

UC: (Insert question here: If there is anything I haven’t asked about related to crocheting, blogging, yarn, etc., that you would like to talk about, please include it here.)

Kathryn: I would just like to add that one of my main goals in terms of what I can contribute to the crochet community is to strengthen the connections that crocheters have online. This is reflected in my Hooked Together project, of course. But I also try to do it steadily with my blog by reviewing books and yarn, interviewing crocheters, sharing links, highlighting daily Etsy selections, etc. I believe that the crochet community is a terrific community and think it’s wonderful that we can connect online in the twenty first century so I try to do my part to establish and strengthen such connections.

UC: Thanks so much for stopping by, Kathryn, and I think you are meeting your goal of strengthening the online connection between crocheters!  Please stop by the Swaddled Kickstarter page and contribute to this exciting art project.

To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl.  For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.

Reminders: