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My interview today is with crochet designer Melissa Horozewski. Melissa was nominated for the Crochet Liberation Front Flamie for Best New Designer in 2009, and her work has been published by Crochet!, Crochet World, Inside Crochet, Interweave Crochet, and Leisure Arts.
Melissa is also the author of Austentatious Crochet: 36 Contemporary Designs from the World of Jane Austen, which was released last week and is already the top seller in new releases on Amazon.com.
You may have noticed a recent interest in knitting patterns that are somehow related to classic British literature. For example, What Would Madame Defarge Knit?, was published in May by Cooperative Press and Jane Austen Knits is available now for pre-order through Interweave. Melissa has introduced the same concept into crochet with her new book. Melissa’s motto is “I cannot live without books or hooks,” and she is a big fan of Jane Austen. Her favorite Austen book is Persuasion, with Pride and Prejudice a close second! Melissa can be found at her website, Stitch Scene or on her Ravelry designer page. All photos in this interview are from her new book and are used with Melissa’s permission.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Melissa: My sister and I were raised by a single mother, and each day after school, we would walk to the hair salon where she worked and spend at least 2 hours waiting in a tiny breakroom for her to finish her shift. One day, a woman who would come in each week to have her hair set took pity on my sister and me. She invited us to take crochet lessons from her. Once a week, we would walk to her house after school, and sit at her highly polished dining room table learning to work with a hook and thread. My first project was a heart doily that I entered in our county fair that year. The doily received a large purple grand champion ribbon and though I haven’t made another doily since, it got me hooked on crochet.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Melissa: In the late 80’s, when I was in my early teens, there just didn’t seem to be a lot of crochet garment patterns that were what I was looking for. This was before the internet was in most households, and as I lived in a very rural area, the closet big box store was almost 2 hours away and a yarn store wasn’t even on my radar. That’s when I started creating garments for myself, designing on the hook so to speak.
UC: You’re an avid reader and crafter. Many crafters (like me!) struggle to find time for reading. How do you balance your love of both hooks and books?
Melissa: Great question! Our family is rather outside of the norms in the approach we take to life. We have always started getting our kids ready for bed at 7pm. When they were younger, this included reading to them; as a result, even though they are now 9 and almost 15, they don’t balk at getting ready for bed at 7pm because they are avid readers, too! This allows all of us to be in our beds by 8 at the latest and we all read for an hour or so. My husband was not a reader when we married, but he is now. So during the day, I hook and at night, I book. But [while writing] Austentatious Crochet, it was difficult to stay as balanced in my approach to life, and to find time to read books that were not related to Austen research.
UC: Austentatious Crochet features 36 projects inspired by the work of Jane Austen. What was the design process like for this book?
Melissa: Usually a stitch pattern inspires me, or a skein of yarn, but the process of designing for this book was sketches, followed by my finding what stitch pattern and yarn would produce the look I was envisioning for that design. I have no shortage of ideas, but time to put them all into reality is difficult for me to find. There were over 50 sketches that I painstakingly whittled down to 40 designs. 4 were not included because the pictures were not up to the level I was looking for. But I can be very indecisive. It was difficult for me to choose which of my designs would make it into the book.
UC: What is your favorite crochet book in your collection (besides your own, of course)?
Melissa: I have a rather large collection, so it is very hard to say, but probably Lily Chin’s Crochet Tips & Tricks: Shortcuts and Techniques Every Crocheter Should Know, as I used it again this week to learn how to make a duplicate stitch. Anything to make my life easier, I am all over.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Melissa: Everywhere! I have a large office box filled with scraps of paper, sketch sheets, and photos of design possibilities that may not see the light of day if I don’t find the time. For example, I’ll be at a restaurant and see a woman wearing a shirt that perhaps has an open back with some sort of motif across the opening that I would love to translate into crochet, so I’ll sketch it on whatever paper I can scrounge out of my purse. My kids have bemoaned the fact that in our vacation pictures is often a stray picture of carpeting in the hotel hallway as either the colorway or the motif struck me visually. When I come up with a book idea, or a creative name for a design to made sometime in the future, it all goes in the box.
UC: Has teaching and designing crochet patterns impacted your personal crafting? If so, how?
Melissa: Most definitely. My daughter complains that I never make anything for her anymore and she is right. I make what is commissioned in the size asked for. Squeezing in time to make gifts for others is difficult as well. But I am slowly getting back to that and creating time for what I love to do versus what I consider to be a chore.
UC: Do you have any favorite crafts or book blogs/websites you’d like to share?
Melissa: The Republic of Pemberley is a huge resource for Jane Austen fans. I always enjoy reading Dora Ohrenstein’s Crochet Insider as she travels quite a bit and covers international crochet, as well as crochet history. I don’t have a lot of time to spend online unfortunately, which is sad as it is huge resource and mostly untapped for me.
UC: What goals do you have for the next year?
Melissa: Well, I want this year to be more than just about survival. As I did all the designs for Austentatious Crochet, all the writing, and all the production (hiring the photographer, models, stylists, scouting locations, etc.), it took a huge chunk of my time away from my family, so I have been scaling back. I want to cultivate more relationships. I need to become a better networker and delegater. But even so, I would like to get more designs out there as I have so many ideas just sitting in ‘the box’, but unless I can learn to delegate, that is unlikely to happen. It all seems to come back to there are simply not enough hours in the day. Don’t all of us mothers feel that way?
UC comment: I can’t speak as a mother, but I know I feel the same way! Thanks so much, Melissa, for taking time from your schedule to stop by for an interview!