Interview with Pauline Turner

I’m excited to share an interview with Pauline Turner today as part of National Crochet Month.  Pauline is a multi-craftual artisan, designer, author, and teacher.  I was first introduced to Pauline’s work in the early 2000s when I read How to Crochet as I was learning how to (finally) read crochet patterns.  Since then, I’ve learned more about her incredible work.

You can find Pauline online via her websites, Crochet Design and the International School of Awareness.  She is also on LinkedIn and has a Ravelry designer page. All photos are copyright Pauline Turner and used with permission.

 This post contains affiliate links.

Pauline Turner

Pauline Turner, wearing a design composed entirely of triangles.

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

Pauline: I reluctantly learnt to crochet almost 40 years ago. I was teaching 41 other crafts and did not wish to learn something else.  (UC comment: You can read more about Pauline’s introduction to crochet in this feature in her own words from Crochet Insider.)

Polish Star Stitch

The Polish Star stitch.

UC: What inspired you to start designing and writing about crochet?

Pauline: The reason for learning was because my Principle and Head of Department at the Lancaster and Morecambe College of Further Education, where I was a full-time lecturer of crafts and allied subjects, insisted I taught crochet at the end of that year.

Zip insertion

A close of up the zip insertion on the cable hooded jacket from Finishing Techniques for Crochet: Give Your Crochet That Professional Look.

UC: Does your experience as a crochet teacher influence your designing or writing?

Pauline: Absolutely – in every way. To my surprise, I discovered I could incorporate crochet into all 41 of the other crafts I was tutoring. This in turn led me to produce innovatory mixed media designs and also to write about crochet from a traditional/historical point of view in order to fill in the gaps that were missing in those early days. Then eventually this led me to start my own business, Crochet Design.

pauline crocheting ice cream

A younger Pauline, crocheting with ice cream.

UC: What was the development process like for Finishing Techniques for Crochet?

Pauline: The Beginner’s Guide to Crochet, published by Search Press, which I wrote some eight years ago, has been extraordinarily popular and is in the process of being re-printed again in a different, very useable, format. There was a need for a publication that showed all the little tips and tricks that would help potential crochet designers to produce professional finishes. Anova Books suggested I produced the material for such a book in the form of Finishing Techniques for Crochet: Give Your Crochet That Professional Look. Anova is part of a group that includes the publishers Collins and Brown and also Batsford, two publishers I had previously written for with my Crocheted Lace and How to Crochet books.

The contract for this book was signed, the lead time was doable, yarn was sponsored by Rowan, and the rest was ‘eyes down, fingers flying on keyboard and with hooks’. To complete the deadline time, two outside crochet workers were asked to crochet and check the patterns of two projects. I went to London to be there as a consultant during the shoot.

Surface crochet collage

An early example of Pauline’s surface crochet collages.

UC: Tell us about the International Diploma in Crochet.

Pauline: Originally a distance learning course in three parts for crochet was devised during a brief spell when crochet was popular. I worked with Lancashire County Education Authority in course planning for adult education and they liked the format of this course but were dubious as to whether it was viable.

In 1983, the Diploma in Crochet was born for teaching crochet (Part I), designing and writing patterns for crochet (Part II), and for original creative crochet in the shape of art and sculptures as well as haute couture (Part III).  As the diploma course became more widely spread, recognised, and accepted, it attracted people from around the world and became the International Diploma in Crochet.

I did try to get my Diploma in Crochet course validated by an examining body but they all wanted me to lower the standard. The pass mark is 80% (a credit or distinction level in other courses).

There is no time limit as the course as been devised for people living in a real world with a real life. The bi-monthly newsletter keeps student interest – a necessity when learning alone. There is no starting time, and no time for the conclusion. Crochet Design needs to know if student has left the course. (We tend to prompt every 9-12 months to clear files.)

The take up of the course was slow because it was never advertised. It became known only by word of mouth. However, as more people realised its incredible content and high standard, the take-up began to gain momentum. Existing students were asked to work commercially in different fields and they in turn were subliminally advertising the course. Once I had qualified teachers who could assess Part I students, it was possible for Crochet Design to advertise the course overtly. Therefore, in the last three years, Crochet Design has enrolled an exponential number of students

mandalaA crocheted mandala in a ring, using textured yarns.

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

Pauline: This is an impossible question as different books become my favourites for different reasons.

Whatever I am working with will link me to favourite skilled authors, many whom I have met and therefore know that particular area of expertise I can rely on to confirm, deny, or consolidate what it is I am producing. Ironically, I only look at my books if I get a question about something one of them contains.

freeform crochet

A freeform crochet piece.

UC: Do you regularly visit any crochet blogs/websites for inspiration or community?

Pauline: Not as regularly as I would like. When the office is relatively in order and I have finished a project, I will browse the net for a couple of hours usually to catch up with magazines, CGOA, and student blogs. The difficulty with the net and myself is the time it can eat away when I know I have other deadlines looming. I do not visit these for inspiration, as I take my inspiration from nature and the people I meet even at airports and on trains. I cannot say I have never been inspired by something on the web but writing this, I am hard pressed to know when or what.

plant pot crochet

A crocheted plant pot with flowers.

UC: How did you become involved with the International School of Awareness?

Pauline: Ah, now isn’t that a pearl of a question? It happened without any personal intention, but just followed a series of events. During my crochet workshops, people commented they felt better by just being there. Others commented I had an incredible heat in my hands when I assisted them with their crochet and they were not feeling too well. Another frequently unsolicited comment was how I brought the best out in people. Apparently, I was able to succinctly encapsulate the reason or source of what was happening to them and with that awareness they could resolve the situation – this was not only with their craft but with their life.

My ability to use the seventh sense enabled be more aware of what was happening globally, in the atmosphere and environment. Without my knowledge, this ability was becoming known to the point where I was invited by businessmen and therapists abroad, to teach them how to develop their seventh sense. This happened before the turn of the century and the tools I shared with them were ones that had been designed for what would happen after 2012. Through these stages, the International School of Awareness came into being.

machine knit with crochet yoke

A machine knit design with a crocheted yoke.

UC: Do you have any upcoming classes or projects you’d like to share? (Dear readers, please note that I was quite delayed in posting this interview and these events have already passed.)

Pauline: On 20th October 2013, there is a celebration of the 30 years existence of the International Diploma in Crochet. I felt it was an achievement that deserved to be celebrated for all the sake of all students, past and present, who exist all around the world. It is also an acknowledgement to the supporters throughout the years who believed in its value.

This is an historic event which began in Morecambe, Lancashire UK, and is the reason the chosen venue is the Platform, Morecambe in recognition of Morecambe’s role in Crochet Design. Crochet Design has always resided in Morecambe and is the home base of the Diploma. Just some of what will be happening will be a 30 year ‘story board’. The Mayor of Lancaster will be present to close the event and also present the prizes to the competition winners. The editor of Inside Crochet magazine will open the even and hand the well-earned awards to a full graduate from Northern Ireland, plus certificates to students who have recently completed Part I and Part II. There will be ‘to- die-for’ displays of students work, along with trading tables. In the morning, children will add their stitches to a ‘Playtime on the spot’ collage. Everyone is welcome. The crochet competition will be judged on the previous day and there is more time to take in entries.  (UC comment: You can download a PDF report of the celebration, including winners of the competition, here: International Diploma in Crochet Report.)

Higham Hall near Cockermouth, Cumbria, UK features a residential 4-day course twice a year which I am tutor of, and the next one in January is on textured crochet. In February I will be giving a talk and taking a workshop with the Berkshire Spinners, Weavers & Dyers.

 

Readers, Pauline has shared this revised list of upcoming events, since I was so delayed in posting the initial interview.

  • 21 to 23 March: H&H Trade Exhibition in Cologne where I have been invited to demonstrate the beautiful hooks and knitting needles made by Tulip in Japan.
  • 26 & 27 April: Wonderwool Wales where I will be exhibiting. I will also be taking a woolschool on buttons and one on Tunisian pouches for mobiles etc. Also Helen Jordan (Thread of Life) will have a stand selling a large variety of tools for crochet.
  • 23 to 26 June: At Higham Hall, I will be tutoring a residential course on the ‘Creative Appeal of Crochet” focusing on colour, texture and combining both techniques and mixed media.
  • 27 & 28 June: Woolfest Cumbria, where once again you can come and talk to me on my stand.
  • “Teaching Methods” workshops 2014. The whole course is in 4 parts.  The four parts are being combined over two days on 23rd and 24th August 2014 to allow those from further afield to attend, even to combine it with a summer break with family and friends. The weekend costs £150 but excludes lunch.

Thanks so much for sharing this interview with us, Pauline, and for your patience.  We appreciate all you have done to advance the art and craft of crochet!

Interview: Dora Ohrenstein, Crochet Designer and Author

This post contains affiliate links.

Today’s interview is with fellow New Yorker, Dora Ohrenstein.  Dora is the publisher of the Crochet Insider ezine; a designer whose work has appeared in Crochet!, Crochet Today!, Crochet World, Interweave Crochet, and Vogue Knitting Crochet, among other publications; the author of Creating Crochet Fabric, Custom Crocheted Sweaters (reviewed here), and The New Tunisian Crochet (reviewed here); and a crochet teacher.  Along with Gwen Blakley Kinsler, Dora is also the co-editor of Talking Crochet, which recently won Crochet Concupiscence‘s Awesome Crochet Blogger Award for Best Crochet Newsletter.

You can find Dora online at the Crochet Insider website or on Ravelry (as crochetinsider, on her designer page, and in the Crochet Insider group).  All images are used with permission.

Dora Ohrenstein

Dora Ohrenstein.

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

Dora: When I was about 20, I lived in Amsterdam on a tiny little houseboat. It was the Age of Aquarius and everyone was getting crafty. I learned to crochet and since I had no background whatsoever, I just started making clothes without knowing what I was doing. But then I totally stopped for literally decades. I became a professional singer and that consumed all my time. I didn’t pick up the hook again until early in this millenium.

Shawled Collar Tunic

Shawled Collar Tunic from Custom Crochet Sweaters.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Dora: I wasn’t performing much by that time, and needed a creative outlet. I made a few sweaters and went to a CGOA conference, where I met Jean Leinhauser. She and Rita Weiss liked my stuff and bought several sweater designs for their books. Then Jean taught me how to write patterns, since I’d never followed one!  (UC comment: Dora has a wonderful interview with Jean here.)

new tunisian crochet

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Dora: So many places! Sometimes it’s a fashion silhouette, sometimes a yarn or stitch. I keep many swatches lying around and then one day I find the right project for them. I’ve also learned that once you’re a pro, you can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit, you have to be generating ideas constantly. I would also say my motivation often comes from wanting to continually grow as a designer, try new techniques and strategies in my work.

Kerala Tank c Crochet Today

Kerala Tank.  Image (c) Crochet Today!

UC: Tell us about your motivation for launching Crochet Insider. What are some of the challenges and joys of publishing an online crochet magazine?

Dora: I haven’t really been publishing Crochet Insider as a magazine for a couple of years, it was just too much work once my design career really got going. But I loved doing it because of meeting and talking to so many interesting people. Challenges: it took huge number of hours and did not earn much, so it couldn’t continue indefinitely. There is still a lot of great content at the site and I wish more aspiring designers would read the interviews, because there is so much to learn.  (UC comment: Besides the Crochet Insider interview with Jean Leinhauser I linked above, two of my other favorites are this one with Vashti Braha and this one with Myra Wood.)

#15 Lace Pullover c Vogue Knitting

#15 Lace Pullover.  Image (c) Vogue Knitting.

UC: Your books place a lot of emphasis on teaching techniques and skills, along with the inclusion of patterns. Tell us about your decision to work this way rather than through pattern collections or historical work, which you’re also known for.

Dora: Many of these decisions are economic. I would love to publish a book on crochet history, but can’t afford to do so without a publisher. But no publishers wants such a book, because it will not sell in the numbers they need to be profitable. It’s sad but true. I try to get as much history into my books as they will tolerate. Hey, I’d love to go around the world and make film about crochet traditions, but again, where’s the funding? Publishers have been interested in my books that combine good designs with educational material, and I love teaching and empowering, so that works for me. In addition to being a designer, I teach singing and have for many years, so teaching comes naturally to me.

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt c Tension Magazine

Prelude Houndstooth Skirt.  Image (c) Tension Magazine.

UC: You design mostly women’s garments and accessories. What appeals to you about designing wearables?

Dora: This comes back to my background in crochet, or the total lack of it! I never was exposed to afghan making, thread crochet, or any of those fine American traditions. My parents were WWII immigrants and craftiness was not their heritage. I live in NYC and never had the chance to shop at big box stores, which didn’t even exist here until a few years ago. I do love fashion and had discovered for myself that crochet could make great wearables. It was shocking to encounter the yarn industry’s negativity about crochet wearables. So I’ve been very motivated to change that viewpoint with my work. And I’m in some very fine company there of course.

DoraBookCover.low.res

 

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

Dora: I would say to aspiring designers, don’t be naive about this industry – it’s very tough to make money, very competitive, and takes tremendous perseverance and drive. I’ve done all these things to build my career and earn money. And I enjoy all of them too. But I’d be happy to restrict my activities and lead a more sane life if it were possible.

Ariadne Scarf

Ariadne Scarf from Creating Crochet Fabric.

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

Dora: The books I bought when I started getting serious, about 10 years ago, are still my favorites. They are “vintage” ’70s and ’80s books by designers like Jacqueline Henderson, Sylvia Cosh, James Walters, Judith Copeland. (UC comment: I love those books, too!  I shared several from my collection in my Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week series.)  I adore Japanese pattern books, and the Ukrainian magazine Duplet — I stocked up on about 100 magazines when I visited the Ukraine! I also use stitch dictionaries, any I can get my hands on, including the huge Linda Schapper book, the old Harmony Guides, and Japanese stitch dictionaries.

UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community?

Dora: Pinterest and Etsy – lots of great inspiration. And Ravelry!

UC: What’s coming next for you?

Dora: I have a crochet reference book coming out in the fall of 2014 by Storey Publishing. The working title is The Crocheter’s Skill-Building Handbook. They are fantastic publishers, I’m very excited about it. A reference book not just for beginners but for intermediate crocheters too, with lots of information on working stitch patterns, shaping, construction, colorwork, and flexible tension. What I mean by the latter is the ability to control tension so you can really sculpt stitches.

Crochet Insider will get a facelift soon and I will be enlarging my indie pattern line and store at the site. I also plan to develop video classes, sort of like Craftsy, but as an indie venture so I can go direct to students.

Thanks for stopping by, Dora!

Book Review and Giveaway: The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein

Every Tuesday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet books.  Today’s post features  a giveaway of my review copy of The New Tunisian Crochet by Dora Ohrenstein, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This post contains affiliate links.

new tunisian crochetIt’s no secret that I’m a fan of Tunisian crochet, and I’m thrilled to see it regaining popularity.  Dora Ohrenstein‘s latest book, The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, is one of several recent crochet publications that explore the versatility of Tunisian crochet.  I recently received a review copy from Interweave/F+W Media.  Though it pains me to part with such an awesome book, I will be giving away my review copy, so read on for details.

The New Tunisian Crochet opens just as anyone familiar with Dora’s writings at Crochet Insider and elsewhere would expect: with a history lesson.  The first chapter, What is Tunisian Crochet?, reviews the appearance Tunisian crochet stitches in needlecrafts publications in the 1850s and discusses the possible origins of the craft.  This section will delight your inner history nerd and will also appeal to your intelligence.  Dora’s writing style assumes her readers have brains and she doesn’t feel the need to talk down.  She sites her references and even includes a reading list.  Dora also mentions some of the contemporary Tunisian crochet designers, such as Carolyn Christmas and Angela “ARNie” Grabowski, who have helped to re-popularize and reinvigorate the craft.

In the next chapter, Tunisian Crochet Techniques, Dora writes in a conversational tone and provides tips and explanations that are useful even to an experienced Tunisian crocheter.  The book includes illustrations along with descriptions of the basic Tunisian crochet stitches.  In general, I don’t find Interweave’s illustrations helpful and it is hard for me to tell where the yarn and hook are placed.  I wish that these illustrations made use of multiple colors (as most of the Japanese stitch guides do) so that it would be easier for me to identify the difference between the previous rows and the current stitch.  In many ways, the illustrations are in keeping with the general tone of this book, which assumes a level of knowledge of the basics of crochet and Tunisian crochet.  More experienced crocheters will find this lack of review refreshing, but Tunisian newbies may need to consult other resources for more support.

Chapter 3, Tools for Tunisian Crochet, reviews the various available hooks and tools for blocking.  Dora includes a list of web resources.

The next chapter, Special Techniques and Effects, is where things start to get very interesting.  Dora covers a myriad of Tunisian techniques here, including basic double-ended crochet, short rows for circles, stranded colorwork, and entrelac.  Each technique includes a small project or pattern and you will want to pull your hooks out right away and get swatching.

For all you stitch guide junkies, Chapter 5, Stitch Dictionary, is for you.  This section includes 33 Tunisian stitch patterns organized into five sections: Basic, Intermediate, Lace, Textured, and Tunisian and Standard Crochet.  Each pattern includes US abbreviations and international stitch symbols.

The final chapter, Projects, includes 12 project patterns.  The project breakdown is

  • Women’s Accessories – 6 (a shawl, a hat, mittens, a scarf, a bag, and slippers)
  • Garments – 4 (a cardigan, a pullover, and a skirt for women, and a vest for men)
  • Home Decor – 2 (a sampler throw and a rug)

This section features patterns by many talented designers, including Dora herself.  My favorites from this section are actually the first four patterns: the Marisol Cardigan by Andrea Graciarena, the Mago Vest by Charles Voth (interviewed by me here), the Rivuline Shawl by Vashti Braha (interviewed by me here), and the Shantay Skirt by Doris Chan.  I also like the Sierra Bag by Margaret Hubert (interviewed by me here), which changes up the typical entrelac pattern by including different sizes.  I can also imagine myself trying out some of the stitch patterns from the Ariadne Sampler Throw by Lisa Daehlin.  (Ravelry members can see all of the book’s designs on its source page.)

The book closes with a reference section in the back, which includes a key to the stitch symbols used throughout the book and a glossary of US pattern abbreviations.  It also includes illustrated and written instructions for all of the basic crochet and Tunisian crochet stitches.  Finally, a bio of each contributor is included.

Overall, this is a great book for a crocheter interested in going beyond the basics of Tunisian crochet.  In addition to the wonderful tips and tricks, stitch guide, and history lesson, the book includes many great projects – several of which highlight or teach a specific Tunisian crochet skill.  The stitch guide and the patterns use both US pattern abbreviations and international stitch symbols.  The downside to this book is that the illustrations assume prior knowledge and are really just there to trigger your memory of particular stitches.  Also, it is a softcover and it doesn’t stay open when flat.  If you are a true Tunisian crochet newbie, you may need to supplement this book with something else (I would recommend Kim Guzman‘s Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet).  I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars for any crocheter interested in learning more about Tunisian crochet.

Full disclosure: A free review/giveaway copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Giveaway

As I mentioned earlier, I’m hosting a giveaway for my review copy of Dora Ohrenstein‘s The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time-Honored Traditions, courtesy of Interweave/F+W Media.

This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 31, 2013.

Book review: Custom Crocheted Sweaters

This post contains affiliate links.

I recently received a review copy of Custom Crocheted Sweaters: Make Garments that Really Fit by Dora Ohrenstein, of Crochet Insider fame, from the nice people at Lark Crafts.

Like most crocheters, I’ve been waiting a long time for a book like this.  Although I personally have little interest in actually making a sweater, I would love to have a greater understanding of how to make a crocheted sweater that fits and looks great.

Knitters have (seemingly) thousands of books about sweater designs (I’ve written about 7 in this post).  On the other hand, until January, crocheters seemed to have Modular Crochet: A Revolutionary New Method for Creating Custom-Design Pullovers (out-of-print and for sale on Amazon for $50-$260) and the first section of Couture Crochet Workshop (also selling for $100-$300 on Amazon).  (Yes, there are many crochet books of sweater patterns, and some even include tips on fitting and customization, but few seem to be primarily designed to teach the reader to design and customize her/his own sweaters.)

As soon as I heard that Dora Ohrenstein was working on Custom Crocheted Sweaters, I began eagerly anticipating its release.  Surprisingly, the book actually managed to live up to my high expectations.

Structure

The book opens with a 42 page overview of sweater design, divided into these sections:

  • The Art and Craft of Making Garments,
  • Overview of Sweater Construction,
  • Choosing Yarns,
  • Measuring Your Body,
  • Understanding Fit,
  • Demystifying Patterns,
  • Reading Schematics,
  • Shaping and Alteration 101, and
  • Finishing with Care.

In these pages, Dora covers the different types of sweaters (“Oh, so that’s what a raglan sleeve is!”); provides incredibly detailed instructions for taking your own measurements as well as measuring beloved/well fitting sweaters in your own collection; and shares tips such as the best approach to altering an existing pattern to create a sweater that fits your unique measurements and preferences.

The next section, called The Sweaters,  includes 10 sweater designs featuring a variety of construction types.  Each sweater has a detailed pattern and is followed by one to three “lessons.”  There are a total of 17 lessons, including 4 “Master Class” lessons:

  • Altering Body and Sleeve Lengths,
  • Fine-Shaping Necklines and Shoulder Straps,
  • Blocking to Your Measurements,
  • Altering Length,
  • Widening the Color,
  • Altering Length and Waist Placement,
  • Master Class in Fitted Armholes,
  • Adjusting Size by Changing Gauge,
  • Master Class on Armholes and Sleeve Caps,
  • Lengthening Sleeves in an Angled Pattern,
  • Internal Shaping with a Bust Dart,
  • Widening Sleeves with Internal Shaping,
  • Master Class in Sleeve Alteration,
  • Adding Neckline Depth,
  • Bust Alteration in Top-Down Design,
  • Length and Waist Alterations, and
  • Master Class in Bust Alteration.

In addition to the lessons, each sweater pattern includes a detailed overview of the benefits of that particular construction type, suggestions on what to consider when substituting yarns, and tips for choosing a size to fit you.

The sweater patterns are primarily written patterns in U.S. terminology, but the major stitch patterns or motifs for each design are also shown in international stitch symbols.  The book is cleanly organized and well written.

Sweater patterns

I didn’t expect to love all of the sweater patterns in this book, and I didn’t.  This book is really about the information contained in the opening section and the lessons.  The sweater patterns are almost an extra – if you like them, that’s great, and if not, you can apply the lessons to other patterns in your collection.   As far as I’m concerned, the information in this book is absolutely worth the price of admission, regardless of whether you actually plan to make any of the patterns in the book.  (You can check out pictures of each design on the book’s Ravelry page here.)

And now for the not so good news…

Now that I’ve told you how great the book is, it’s time to discuss the improvements I would suggest for the second edition :).

It would be wonderful if a book like this, which requires a fair amount of reading and detailed focus while crocheting, could be spiral bound.  The book is a paperback and doesn’t really lay flat, so you can’t crochet and read at the same time.

Most of the models have long hair and the pictures are lovely.  BUT, often times the model’s hair obscures the shoulder construction.  Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but in a book where there are literally pages dedicated to detailed discussion of drop shoulders versus fitted sleeve versus raglan construction, it would be nice to have a clear view of the shoulders and neckline.

I made a montage of the worst “hair offenders” from the photos provided by Lark Crafts. From left to right, Uptown, Floating Tee, and Double Trouble Shell.

The third issue relates to the discussion of math.  It is well known that, in general, math is not a strength of most Americans.  Dora attempts to rectify this (as it relates to crochet) by talking the reader through the math of making changes related to gauge, stitch pattern repeats, etc.  I think these sections would greatly benefit from a little formula box where you could “fill in the blanks” based on your situation, rather than long descriptions of what to do, using fake examples.  (I foresee many folks with math anxiety being confused about which number replaces which number in the example, and immediately giving up.  Or worse, making a mathematical error leading to a  poor fit, and then thinking the book wasn’t helpful.)

Summary

Run out and buy this book now, before it is selling for $300 on Amazon and you are kicking yourself for missing out.  It’s like having your very own sweater tutor that you can turn to at any moment for help with a project.  I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, even with its (few) flaws, because overall it teaches much more than I expected to learn from it, and certainly more than other books that are currently available.

(And, in case you are wondering, yes, I am keeping my review copy and not hosting a giveaway.  It’s just that good.)

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.

Interview with Melissa Horozewski, author of Austentatious Crochet

This post contains affiliate links.

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.

Congratulations Melissa!

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.

Melissa Horozewski

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!

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