Interview with Aoibhe Ni Shuilleabhain

I’m delighted to share an interview with Aoibhe Ni today.  She’s a crochet designer from Ireland who has done some lovely Tunisian crochet designs.  You can find Aoibhe Ni online on her website,  her blog,Twitter, YouTube, and Ravelry (as flick, in her fan group, and on her designer page).  Photographs are by Half a Dream Away and are used with Aoibhe’s Ni’s permission.

 This post contains affiliate links.

Aoibhe Ni’s Beyond the Sea Hat

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and Tunisian crocheting?
Aoibhe Ni: I started crocheting when I was 12 or so. My Mam taught me how to make granny-square blankets out of scraps. It took a few years for me to really get into it, but when I did, I started to look for as much information as I could on the craft. At the time, we had no internet at all, so I had to resort to the library in Dublin city centre, and the small selection of Irish Crochet Lace books they had.

Needless to say, it was a huge leap from knowing how to treble crochet, to getting the hang of pattern reading, making lace doilies, and free-form Irish Crochet lace, but along the way I had a lot of fun.

Aoibhe Ni’s Strips of Bacon

UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Aoibhe Ni: I always designed, mostly due to a lack of pattern resources out in the “wilds” of Co. Meath farming land. Most of what I produced early on was useless for the purposes intended. I designed a bag, once, using treble crochets, and decided I didn’t need to line it. Half-way into town, I discovered I had lost half the bag’s contents. A cheap lesson well-learnt, I will tell you!  (UC comment: I think we’ve all had similar “a ha” moments with our early designs!)

Aoibhe Ni’s Guinevere

UC: Much of your design work uses Tunisian crochet. What appeals to you about this technique?
Aoibhe Ni: Both the versatility and the restrictions appeal, actually.

I find, in many ways, traditional crochet is too open for me to gather much inspiration. I find that a few, well-placed restrictions make all the difference with a design. They help focus my thoughts, help me invent new ways around any hurdles I encounter, turning them into advantages along the way. I’d much rather paint a picture with three colours than with a whole palette, and that’s what Tunisian gives me, with its straight lines, and fairly uniform stitch-height.

Within that, I get to play and invent and experiment. What you see in the finished pieces is only a fraction of the things I have tried out along the way.

Aoibhe Ni’s Anansi

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?
Aoibhe Ni: I have worked with a few magazines, and intend to keep collaborating with a range of people in the coming years, but it’s true, I do, primarily self-publish.

In the beginning it was out of necessity. With a market full of rookie designers, getting noticed can be difficult. The only way to prove myself, I found, was to self-publish and hope for the best. If I was good enough, and lucky enough, I’d get noticed.

Now, I do it because I am an impatient designer. I like getting ideas out there as fast as possible, letting people see what I’m doing, get a design to crocheters lickety split. When you work with a publisher, that process can take months, or years. I understand the need for the delay, but I’m not a fan of the waiting time.  (UC comment: The waiting time is tough, I agree – especially when you have a design you are very excited about.)

Aoibhe Ni’s Argo


UC: Tell us about your Legendary Shawls collection and your inspiration for developing it.
Aoibhe Ni: My inspiration came directly from some of my close, knitting friends. We’d often meet up, and I’d spend half the Stitch’n’Bitch session pining over their gorgeous knitted lace. “It’s easy”, they’d insist, “You just have to knit”. Now, while I DO knit, and I respect it greatly, my first love has always been crochet, so whenever they’d explain how to make a lacey section, or a create a nupp, I’d imagine it on a crochet hook and try to understand from that perspective. One morning I woke up and had a genuine “Eureka!” moment, and the techniques I have created for Legendary Shawls were born.

I use well-known knitted lace techniques, turn them on their heads and create unique, crochet fabric. I’m pleased that the technique also opens up a wide range of hand-dyed yarns for the crocheter who hates colour-pooling as the technique also helps reduce that problem a lot.


UC: Your patterns use both U.S. and U.K. crochet terminology. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of offering patterns this way?

Aoibhe Ni: I think, because crochet is a relatively young craft, certainly when compared to knitting and weaving anyway, that we haven’t found a common ground with our terminology just yet. As a result, I think it’s absolutely necessary to provide a pattern that is easy and enjoyable for everyone to read at their leisure. I believe there is nothing worse than paying good money for a pattern, and then having to struggle, so I do all I can to avoid that for my customers, and make my patterns as clear, enjoyable and regional as I can. I even have my free shawl pattern, Pax, translated into French!

I write first in UK terminology, because that is what comes more naturally to me having learnt those terms as I grew up, but I have little difficulty now, after some experience, translating back and forth at will. I think many beginners see the difference in terms as a huge stumbling block, but with more designers providing patterns in both UK and US, I think this issue will become less of a problem in the future.

And who knows, maybe some day we’ll all agree to a common set of terms and all this will be consigned to the history books!

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

Aoibhe Ni: I actually have very few, would you believe? As I mentioned, I grew up with few crochet resources to hand, and no local book or wool shops to help me out, so most of my finished pieces early on were out of my head, and that early practise has stayed with me. I do love The Technique of Irish Crochet Lace by Ena Maidens, and I can’t recommend Crochet for Babies and Toddlers by Betty Barnden enough for beginners looking to branch out a little. It is the book I always went back to when friends and relations announced a new arrival.

There are some absolutely amazing books out there full of beautiful crochet that I would love to have time to work my way through, but designing is a full-time job, so I have no time left to enjoy anything created by my peers. Maybe some day!

Aoibhe Ni’s Snapdragon Shawl

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community that you would like to share?
Aoibhe Ni: When I teach my regular beginner’s classes around Dublin, I get asked this a lot, and I always suggest people check out PlanetJune for patterns and Attic24 for inspiration. I’d love to have a cup of tea with either woman. I imagine it’d be a very up-lifting experience.

Beyond that I use music a lot, and I get great inspiration from my Ravelry Group.  The members have come up with some wonderful adaptations so far, and seeing my own patterns in different colours and fibres can really spark off an idea. I love their creativity.

Aoibhe Ni’s You Spin Me Right ‘Round Rockband Drumkit Cozy

UC: What’s your next project?
Aoibhe Ni: My next project will focus on ladieswear. Provisionally called “Legendary Ladies,” I plan to do a small but interesting collection of tops, with a wide range in size. Blouses, t-shirts, shawl-necks, mini-dresses, who knows, yet, but it will surely be a fun year of creating, so watch this space!  (UC comment: This sounds like a lot of fun – I’ll be looking out for the collection!)

Thank you Aoibhe Ni for stopping by!

Calling all ripple lovers: Announcing the Ripple Mania CAL!

If you love crochet ripples, you’ve come to the right place. I’m kicking off the Ripple Mania Crochet-A-Long today.  This CAL will teach you everything you need to design your own fabulous ripple projects – how to select a color palette, how to increase and decrease, how to design your own ripple stitch patterns, and how to “square up” your ripples if you want to have straight (modular) pieces. If you just want to dive into crocheting, that’s ok, too!  Each week, I’ll share new ripple stitch patterns for you to crochet. The CAL is free to join.  Each week, an updated PDF will be available to download on Ravelry, and Ravelry members can chat in the Ripple Mania CAL thread in the Underground Crafter group.  (You do not have to be a Ravelry member to download the PDF.)  Once the CAL ends on November 21, Ripple Mania will be converted to a “for sale” pattern ebook.

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!

All patterns will be available using both U.S. and U.K. crochet pattern abbreviation.  Although I’ll be sharing some photo tutorials for this CAL, you will need to know the chain, US single/UK double crochet, and US double/UK treble crochet stitches. If you need some ideas, check out this Gallery of Ripple Color Inspiration!  (All images are the copyright of the crocheter and are used with permission.)

Rainbow Brite Ripple Blanket by dlander340 on Ravelry.  Pattern: Crochet Ripple Baby Blanket by Judy Hice.


Granny Ripple by Wylderghost.  Pattern from Nursery Favorites.


Neopolitan Ripple, pattern and sample by Michelle from Greeting Arts blog.


Blue Waves by Elizabeth Nardi in Charlotte, NC (izybit on Ravelry).  Pattern: Sunrise Ripple by Carole Prior from Afghans for All Seasons Book 2.


Pattern: Neat Ripple by Lucy of Attic 24.  Projects from left to right: Baby Ripple Blanket by kennedysm1th on Ravelry, Baby Ripple Blanket by Littleberry on Ravelry, Henry’s Big boy bed blanket by Tubb on Ravelry, Ripple Baby Blanket by allee-ballee on Ravelry, and Sofadecke by nadias on Ravelry.


Autumn Ripple by Anita Edmonds (kirbanita on Ravelry).  (More details in this blog post.)

Wintery Ripple Afghan by Tinochka7 on Ravelry.  Pattern: Wells Ripple Afghan by Anastacia Zittel.


Watermelon Ripples by Karen Baisley (KarenRedBaron on Ravelry).  Pattern: Easy Ripple Pattern by Susan B.  Karen took her color inspiration from this project by Linda74.


Ripple Afghan by Tamara Gonzales, who blogs at Crochet with Tamara.  (I interviewed Tamara in 2011 here.)


Linda74 on Ravelry, who blogs at alottastitches, has created many variations of the Rustic Ripple by Terry Kimbrough.  The pattern is available in several Leisure Arts publications, including Afghans for All Seasons.  Top row projects (from left to right): Lime Candy Cane, Corduroy Colors (Scrappy), The Midas Touch, and Wisteria.  Bottom row projects: Rugby Ripple, Game Day, Ripplin’ in the Wind, and Surf and Sand.


Thanks to all of the wonderful Ravelry members and bloggers who allowed me to share their ripple projects to spark your creativity!  Visit Ravelry to get started with the Ripple Mania CAL!


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 Catherine Hirst, author of Granny Square Crochet and giveaway

This post contains affiliate links.

Today I’m interviewing Catherine Hirst, the author of Granny Square Crochet: 35 Contemporary Projects Using Traditional Techniques I’m also hosting a giveaway for my review copy of the book, courtesy of CICO Books.  (I’m actually going to be sharing the review at another time, but here’s a spoiler: There are a lot of really cute granny chic patterns!  My personal favorites are the White and Bright Bedcover and the Granny Square Gloves.  I also liked the motif designs in the Sweet Posies Pram Blanket and the Dot in a Square Cot Blanket.)

Catherine describes herself as a contemporary crafts instructor, and she teaches and writes about crochet, knitting, and embroidery.  She can be found online at her website, her blog, Ravelry, Twitter, and Facebook.  Several of her instructional videos in knitting and crochet are available on Videojug.

Catherine Hirst. (Self-portrait, used with permission.)


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

Catherine: My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 7 years old. I liked it right away and haven’t stopped since!

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Catherine: Designing is, in the end, a practical consideration, because I can make finished products that fit perfectly or look exactly as I want them to look. For me, designing from scratch happened gradually; I started modifying patterns first, finally losing my fear of changing the original pattern, and then as I grew more confident, the modifications became more and more elaborate until it didn’t seem like a big deal to take the step of just starting to crochet a piece without a pattern at all.

UC: What about the granny square, and motifs in general, appeals to you as a designer?

Catherine: I love the geometric regularity of a granny square – if done properly, it always looks neat and clean. I prefer not to have too much frill and fluff in my designs. Motifs are brilliant because they can be joined together in novel ways to make different shapes and items – and of course you can incorporate a lot of colour as well.

My take on the Dot in a Square motif from Catherine’s Dot in a Square Cot Blanket.

UC: Crocheters and granny squares (and granny square home decor items) sometimes get a bad rap.  When you’re designing with granny squares, do you feel any additional pressure to break those stereotypes?

Catherine: I definitely wanted a modern approach when designing for Granny Square Crochet. I used techniques like the granny stripe, granny hexes, and granny triangles to make items that were designed to appeal to the modern eye and look clean. I also didn’t use the traditional black or very dark outside round colour that is so prevalent with old-fashioned granny square items.

UC: There are many techniques for joining grannies, and in your book you advocate a join as-you-go method.  What do you like about JAYG motifs?

Catherine: Excellent question! When joining after the fact with a crochet hook or needle, you always end up with a solid ridge line between the squares, which I think detracts from the open, airy appeal of the granny square. Join as you go joins only in the open spaces of the outside round of a granny, mimicking the construction of the granny itself. It makes the join invisible, the squares lay flatter, and the entire piece looks less heavy to the eye.

UC: You teach a variety of crafts, including crochet.  Does your experience as a teacher influence your design process, and if so, how?

Catherine: Definitely! I always eliminate extraneous steps that seem unnecessary to me. I’ll rarely use two sizes of hook in one design, for example. I try to make colour changes, increases and decreases, and finishing/seaming as straightforward as possible. I try to use nice round numbers of stitches as often as is practical, and I try to make my patterns as easy to follow and understandable as I can. As both a teacher and a crafter myself, I know well the horror of a poorly-written pattern!

UC: What is your favorite crochet book in your collection (besides yours, of course)?

Catherine: The Crochet Answer Book by Edie Eckman. It’s small and easy to carry around, and answers nearly any question that a beginner crocheter might have – and many more advanced crocheters, too!

UC: Do you visit any crochet or craft blogs or websites regularly?

Catherine: In my feed reader, I have The Purl Bee, which is Purl Soho‘s blog and features knitting, crochet, and stitching/embroidery; The Yarn Harlot for knitting; Posie Gets Cosy for embroidery;  Crochet with Raymond and Attic 24 for crochet; Knitty Blog for all sorts of yarn-y goodness; and many, many more.  (UC comment: This interview was written before Alice announced that she was discontinuing the Crochet with Raymond blog.)  I also have a Twitter feed (@craftyexpat) which is filled with wonderful crafty people and it’s a tool that really helps me keep up with craft events, etc here in London. On my website, I have all the up-to-date information about what I’m up to. Please visit and say hi!

 Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Catherine!


I’ll be giving away my review copy of Granny Square Crochet by Catherine Hirst, courtesy of CICO Books.  This giveaway is open to all readers on the planet Earth.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, October 12, 2012.

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