Interview with Michele DuNaier

Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with crochet and knitting designer, Michele DuNaier. You may know Michele as the designer behind MAD Cap Fancies. Michele can be found on Ravelry as MADuNaier, on her designer page, and in the MAD Cap Fans group. All photos are copyright Michele DuNaier and used with permission.

This post contains affiliate links.

Michele DuNaier

Michele DuNaier.

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

Michele: My first lessons were as a child at my grandmother’s knee.  She came from a long line of knitters and crocheters; when she was young in “the Old Country” that was how the family’s clothes were made.  She could knit a thigh-length stocking in one afternoon, so she was exempt from farm work!  I would say I am more of a crocheter than a knitter, although I love both.

Ron's Skulking Cap

Ron’s Skulking Cap, a Harry Potter inspired crochet hat design by Michele.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Michele: After retiring, I became heavily involved in knitting and crocheting for charity.  After making over 100 hats in the space of a few months, I began to find it simpler to just design my own.  Then, when I realized Ravelry made it so easy to self-publish, I thought – why not?

Amagansett Girl

Amagansett Girl, a crochet shawl design by Michele.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Michele: My inspiration comes from a variety of sources.  The seasons inspire me, of course, as well as favorite books, movies, and television shows. A lot of my designs are inspired by old Victorian patterns and doilies.  I also like to design what Ravelry friends tell me they are interested in – for example, they currently have me looking into crocheted crescent-shaped shawls.

Victorian Mantelet

Victorian Mantelet, a crocheted shawl design by Michele.

UC: Most of your patterns are self-published.  What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

Michele: I actually have 3 designs published in pattern books so far, and a fourth due out this July in a magazine.  I prefer self-publishing, however; it gives me the creative freedom to design whatever I like, format the pattern as I wish, include photographs, poetry, creative writing, and whatever else I want to throw in!  Plus, I am always loathe to sell away the rights to my patterns – each one seems like one of my children.  I can’t say that self-publishing contains “challenges” – more like “opportunities” to express myself as I wish.

Meg's Hug-Me-Tight

Meg’s Hug-Me-Tight, a crochet design by Michele, inspired by the 1994 adaptation of Little Women.

UC: What are your favorite things about designing?

Michele: I love the Math inherent in needlework design.  Not that I always totally understand it or can predict what will happen, but I love wrestling with it in shawl design.  I also love parts of needlework design which I did not even expect I would be doing, such as photography, design layout of the pattern file, and doing some creative writing to get things out of my mind and onto the page (or rather, the screen).  I think of my grandmother often as I crochet and knit, and wonder what she would have thought of her granddaughter’s patterns virtually traveling the world via Ravelry!

First Love

First Love, a crochet shawl design by Michele.

UC: Since you’re multi-craftual, do you have a favorite “go to” craft when you’re working on projects for yourself?

Michele: It depends on the project.  Certain types of projects seem to call for knitting, others crocheting.  But then I love to try and create a design to use the other craft instead, just to see if I can. For example, hats and baby boy sweaters just seem to me better done in knitting than crochet, so I have tried to design some in crochet just for the fun of doing it differently.

Tropical Heatwave

Tropical Heatwave, a crochet shawl pattern by Michele.

UC: From your Rav profile, it seemed like you transitioned from a life in tech to a life on a farm/homestead.  Can you tell us about this transition and how it impacted your crafty life?

Michele: I do not live on a farm or homestead, really.  I live on the edge of a forest, but did that even when I was working in the technical field.  However, the transition from work to retirement was what enabled me to have the time to begin designing.  And ironically, I found there are so many steps involved in designing and self-publishing which are similar to software design and support. Sometimes I mistakenly refer to my patterns as “programs…”

Secret Crush

Secret Crush, a knit hat design by Michele.

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

Michele: I love Doris Chan’s Everyday Crochet: Wearable Designs Just for You and Edie Eckman’s The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask; I love reprints of old crochet patterns from the 1800s, as well as old doily patterns.  I also love Barbara Walker’s Treasuries of Knitting Patterns.

Daydream Shawlettes

Daydream Shawlettes, knit shawlettes designed by Michele.

UC: Are there any crafty websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Michele: I am compulsively on Ravelry throughout each day, especially now that I have my own group, MAD Cap Fans.  I also frequent (all too often) websites which sell yarn, such as Jimmy Beans and WEBS

Thanks so much for stopping by, Michele! Good luck with your upcoming releases!

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.