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!

Ripple Mania CAL: Giveaway

Whether you’re just joining in or you’ve been participating in the Ripple Mania Crochet-a-long since October, I know you’re excited to hear more about the prizes!  The Ripple Mania CAL has four fantastic sponsors, Coats & ClarkLeisure ArtsLion Brand Yarn, and Magique Enterprises, who have each put together a great prize package.  This post describes the prizes, explains how you can enter the giveaway, and includes the schedule for the Ripple Mania CAL.  All images are used with permission.

The Prizes

Red Heart Ripple Mania Prize Package (Retail value: $75)

Red Heart is sponsoring a fabulous Ripple Mania package including an issue of Crochet Today! and a copy of the Ripple Effect pattern booklet,  along with everything you need to make the Windsor Ripple Throw – 8 skeins of Red Heart With Love yarn (2 skeins each 1530 Violet and 1814 True Blue D; 1 skein each 1907 Boysenberry, 1701 Hot Pink, 1401 Pewter, and 1805 Bluebell) and a 6 mm (US J) Susan Bates bamboo handle crochet hook.  And, to make it easy for you to work on your project on the go, they’re also including a Red Heart tote bag.

 

 

Leisure Arts Ripple Mania Prize Package. (Retail value: $48.85)

Leisure Arts is sponsoring an awesome Ripple Mania prize package including 69 ripple patterns in 5 pattern books!  The package includes 40 Favorite Ripple Afghans (Ravelry page), Beauty of the Earth Afghans (Ravelry page), Vanna’s Choice Color It Beautiful Afghans (Ravelry page), Ripple Afghans to Crochet (Ravelry page), and Rippling Effects (Ravelry page).  These books will definitely keep you crocheting for quite some time!

 

 

Lion Brand Ripple Mania Prize Package. (Retail value: $33.16)

Lion Brand Yarn is sponsoring a wonderful Ripple Mania prize package – 4 skeins of Amazing in Strawberry Fields, enough yarn to crochet the Candy Color Ripple Cowl.  You’ll have a fashionable accessory just in time for the deep cold of winter!

 

Magique Enterprises Ripple Mania Prize Package. (Retail value: $24.95CAD)

And for those of you who have been longing to try an Eleggant crochet hook after reading my review, Magique Enterprises is sponsoring a set including the Eleggant comfort crochet handle, six interchangeable hooks (in steel sizes 1.25 mm, 1.75 mm, and 2.25 mm, and in aluminum sizes 3.5 mm, 5.0 mm, and 6.0 mm), and o-rings.

 

Now that you’ve heard about all the amazing prizes available, you may be wondering how to enter this giveaway.  Read on for details!

 

Ripple Mania Giveaway Rules

To enter the Ripple Mania giveaway for your chance to win one of these great prizes:

  • Join in the Ripple Mania Crochet-a-long!  You can participate in the Underground Crafter group on Ravelry, in the comments on this blog, on the Underground Crafter Facebook page, or by Tweeting @ucrafter #ripplemania.
  • Photograph your Ripple Mania project!  Smaller projects (accessories, baby blankets, cozies, washcloths, etc.) must be completed.  Larger projects (adult sweaters, large throws, or bedspreads) must be at least 1/3 finished.
  • Projects must have been started and/or completed during the Ripple Mania CAL (between October 17 and November 28).  You can use any crochet ripple pattern, though of course I’d love it if you used one of mine :).
  • Share a photograph and description of your Ripple Mania project by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, November 28.  Each project counts as one entry in the giveaway.
  • To share your project on Ravelry: Add the project to your notebook with the tag ripplemania.  Share the project  in the Ripple Mania CAL Giveaways thread.
  • To share your project on Facebook: Post a Wall photo on the Underground Crafter page.  (Remember that if you don’t “like” the page, I won’t be able to message you on Facebook, so you’ll have to check back to see if you’ve won.)
  • To share your project on this blog: Post a link to a project photo (on your blog, Flickr, etc.) in the comments.
  • To share your project on Twitter: Tweet @ucrafter #ripplemania with a link to a photo of your project.
  • This giveaway is open to all crocheters worldwide.
  • By entering the giveaway, you are granting permission for your project photo to be shared in a collage of all entries on this blog.
  • On or about December 1, 2012, four winners will be chosen at random and contacted for mailing addresses.  Winners must respond by December 15, 2012 or their prize will be forfeited.
Thanks so much for joining in, and I can’t wait to see the projects!

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!

Stop by Ravelry to join in on the CAL.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Hairpin Lace Coaster

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series. You can read the other posts in this series here.

Before I tell you all about my hairpin lace adventures, let me just show you my painted crochet trivet after I blocked it.

And now on to the hairpin lace.  You may recall that I’m not overly excited by the look of hairpin lace.  Nonetheless, hairpin lace is a chapter in Crochet Master Class and I have two hairpin lace looms at home.  When I left for my vacation on Monday, I packed my Clover Hair Pin Lace Tool, Learn to Do Hairpin Lace, the May/June 2012 issue of Crochet Today! (with a hairpin lace tutorial), and the Hairpin Lace Coaster tutorial and pattern by Ferosa Harold.

I tossed a partially used ball of Lily Sugar’n Cream in Faded Denim into my suitcase, intending to make yet another trivet.  And then… all of these things sat in my bag for my entire trip.  On Wednesday night, when I was packing to come home, I realized that I had to try the hairpin lace, if only because I had carried the supplies to Pennsylvania.

It might be because I was exhausted and it was late at night, but I found both Learn to Do Hairpin Lace and Marly Bird‘s tutorial in the May/June 2012 issue of Crochet Today! incomprehensible.  If you were outside of my room that night, you would have heard a lot of “Turn it how?”  “What the…??” “Flip it which way?” coming through the door.  I decided to give Ferosa Harold’s tutorial a try.  And suddenly, it all made sense.

Me trying to get 48 loops onto the loom. It was a snug fit.

I didn’t notice this on the package until the next day.

D’oh!

Here’s my hairpin lace “strip” joined into a circle.

My first hairpin lace coaster, partially completed.

At this point, the coaster was looking super ruffled.  I assume this is because I used yarn (intending to make a trivet) instead of thread (for a coaster).  Since it was now after midnight and I still had to pack, I decided to restart with half the number of loops after check out the next morning.

Why yes, those are my jeans in the background. By now I was in Swarthmore, waiting for the LYS to open so I could visit on my way back to New York.

This one seemed a more appropriate length.  But then, disaster struck.

I called this my Mobius coaster on Ravelry. You can see at the top where I twisted the strip when joining it.

(Project page here.)  At this point, it just seemed ridiculous to start again – I mean, it’s a trivet, not a fitted sweater.  The point of this exercise was to learn to do hairpin lace, which was definitely accomplished.  So I followed the pattern through to the end.

I would definitely recommend Ferosa Harold’s tutorial if you’d like to learn hairpin lace.  There are step-by-step photos (for right- and left-handers), it’s free, and you can make a small project in a very short time.

As for me, I’m not sure how I feel about hairpin lace.  I prefer the look in circular objects like this trivet, but I’m still not sure it is worth the effort.  It’s true that it is quite simple to do (once you figure out what the heck you’re doing!), but it is fairly monotonous and the loom is a bit cumbersome.  The idea of making a hairpin lace blanket like Yarn Berry is doing kind of makes me want to run screaming for the hills.  And yet, I’m sure I can find a good use for this skill now that I have it.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Hairpin Lace?

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is part of my Year of ProjectsCrochet Master Class series. You can read the other posts in this series here.

I mentioned in my post for Day 6 of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week that hairpin lace is one of the crochet skills I want to learn.  As I’ve been thinking more about it, I realized that it’s a skill I think I should learn, but not something that I actually want to learn.  I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but Stitched Together’s post crystalized it for me: I am more interested in learning a new skill when I have a project that I’m interested in making.  While many people love the look of hairpin lace, in general I’m not that excited by it.  At best, my reaction to most hairpin lace patterns is, “That’s nice, but I would never wear that (and therefore don’t want to be bothered to learn to make it).”

On the other hand, I do want to dive into a new skill from Crochet Master Class, and hairpin lace seemed like the natural choice since I’ve never done it but I do have the special equipment.  Earlier this week, I spent quite some time perusing Ravelry’s pattern library until I finally found a hairpin lace pattern I could actually imagine myself making.  By a strange coincidence, it’s the Hairpin Lace Coaster pattern by Ferosa Harold, the featured crochet master in the painted crochet chapter.

Oh right. I never finished the painted crochet trivet.  D’oh!

I guess this means I’ll have a set of Ferosa Harold inspired hotpads (presuming that I actually finish them both).

Since I’ve successfully avoided hairpin lace for so long, I thought it would be fun to try out a few resources.  At some point in the next few weeks, I will sequester myself with Learn to Do Hairpin Lace, the May/June 2012 issue of Crochet Today!, and my Kindle Fire, which I’ve already pre-loaded with several hairpin lace tutorials.