Interview with Lindsey Stephens of Poetry in Yarn

Every Monday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be interviewing crocheters.  Today’s interview is with Lindsey Stephens, a crochet designer and blogger.

I can’t remember how exactly I first came across Lindsey Stephens’ Poetry in Yarn blog, but I do know it’s been a staple in my Google Reader for quite a while.  Lindsey’s blog, unlike many crochet blogs that I follow, is primarily text based.  Lindsey is still able to capture my (relatively short) attention with her posts, and I hope you’ll check her out if she’s a new-to-you blogger.  Lindsey is also a crochet designer and can be found online on her website, on Ravelry (as Leebah and on her designer page), on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube.

All pictures in this post are used with Lindsey’s permission and link back to the pattern page on Ravelry.

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Lindsey Stephens.
Lindsey Stephens.

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

Lindsey: I had tried to teach myself to knit, and it was a huge failure. I couldn’t handle all those loops (although really it had more to do with trying to learn with a fuzzy boucle).  Anyway, my step-niece was visiting me and she was crocheting- she never had more than 3 loops on the hook at a time. I was like “I gotta try this!”

Though Lindsey is primarily a crochet designer, she does have some knit patterns like the Learn It, Love It, Knit It Lace Scarf.
Though Lindsey is primarily a crochet designer, she does have some knit patterns like the Learn It, Love It, Knit It Lace Scarf.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Lindsey: You know, I don’t think any one thing inspired me. I just like to mess around with stuff and see what I can do. Just kind of “I wonder what would happen if I try this…” And then I discovered that other people were interested in what I was making.

UC: You have a mix of self-published designs and designs published by yarn companies, magazines, and book publishers.  Do you have a preference for self-publishing or traditional publishing?  What motivates you to seek one form of publishing over another?

Lindsey: Each method of publishing has its own merits. I like self-publishing because I get to work with so many other facets of the production process like layout and editing.  Getting to work one on one with a technical editor is a great learning experience for anyone interested in designing. It’s also great to be able to have an idea and run with it- no approval or submissions needed.

“Traditional” publishing is a trade off. You can’t always keep rights to your designs, but you may get slightly more publicity depending on the company, as well as more money up front. (Up front is a relative term. I just received a check in the mail for a design I did for a publisher 17 months ago.) A self-published pattern might make me more money in the long run, but the funds only come in one purchase at a time.

One of Lindsey's designs from Crochet 1-2-3, the Chanukah Candle Pillow.  (c) Valu-Publishing.
One of Lindsey’s designs from Crochet 1-2-3, the Chanukah Candle Pillow. (c) Valu-Publishing.

UC: Your Poetry in Yarn blog is one of the few crafty blogs I read regularly that doesn’t rely heavily on visuals, and yet you have such interesting content all the time!  How did you get started blogging and how do you keep it fresh?  Why did you decide to primarily use text-based, rather than photo-heavy, blogging? 

Lindsey: I’ve been involved in public speaking through debate, acting, and my work as a teacher for years. I am a talker. It just seemed natural to me to “talk” to people by posting on a blog. And also, I’m lazy. I can easily type out a post while lying in bed. For photos I would actually have to get up.  (UC comment: You make excellent points, Lindsey.  I will try to remember them on the mornings when I’m leaving my apartment early to take pictures of projects for my blog before work!)

Blackberry Blanket, from Lindsey's self-published e-book, At the Bakery.
Blackberry Blanket, from Lindsey’s self-published e-book, At the Bakery.

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

Lindsey: *Looking down at my bookshelf*

The The Crochet Answer Book by Edie Eckman was HUGE for me when I was first learning to crochet. Couture Crochet Workshop by Lily Chin opened my eyes for looking at how to increase and decrease in more complex pattern stitches. Cool Stuff : Teach Me to Crochet is the book that I used when I was learning how to crochet. 

Aureate Vest, (c) Susan Pittard, published in Curvy Girl Crochet.
Aureate Vest, (c) Susan Pittard, published in Curvy Girl Crochet.

UC: You’re both a Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) and The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) member.  What do you see as benefits of membership for aspiring crochet designers?

Lindsey: A CGOA membership can be beneficial regardless of whether or not you aspire to designing. You get a magazine as part of your membership as well as discounts with various companies. You also get discounts at the Knit and Crochet Shows. If you are interested in designing, CGOA has a mentoring program that can help.  

On the other hand, TNNA is purely a professional organization. That’s not to say we don’t have fun at trade shows, but we really go there to work. At a typical trade show I’m meeting with yarn companies, publishers, and other designers to discuss possible business opportunities.

Baby Bobbles Blanket from Leisure Arts #5267, Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection, Book 3.  (c) Universal Yarn.
Baby Bobbles Blanket from Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection, Book 3. (c) Universal Yarn.

UC: Since it is NatCroMo, can you share a favorite crochet memory with us?

Lindsey: My grandmother made lots and lots of crochet flower bookmarks that she would give away. She tried to show me how to make them once. First she showed me how to chain stitch, and I got the hang of that fairly quckly. Then she said, “watch this.” Well, the yarn moved and the hooked moved and all the sudden there was a flower on the end. She didn’t use terms like “double crochet” or anything like that. She just did it.  

UC: What are your favorite websites for crochet-related content and community? 

Lindsey: Hmm… I really enjoy Ravelry, but I find it slightly more knitting centered. Crochetville was the first crochet website I got hooked on. It’s great for crochet-centric information and groups. And I love the Crochet Liberation Front.

 

Thanks, Lindsey, for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!  Just a reminder that Lindsey’s blog, Poetry in Yarn, is one of tomorrow’s stops on Crochetville’s mega blog tour, A Tour Through Crochet Country.

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!