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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…”
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!
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.
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)
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.
Welcome to the Pineapples for Everyone Shawl CAL! If you’re just joining in, you can find the free pattern here. Ravelry members can join our CAL chat here. Our tag is 2013PFEcal.
As I mentioned last week, I finished my shawl but it was in need of some blocking. Confession time: I hate blocking.
It may be the fact that I live in an apartment with a cat, or perhaps it is the delayed gratification aspect. It might also be that I’m not so great at it.
I’ve arrived at a comfortable halfway point with my crocheted and knit projects. I agree that blocking is a necessary evil. I will block them, if necessary, but only if I can figure out a way for spray blocking, my favorite method, to work with my project.
I’ve mentioned before that I use children’s play mats, rather than “blocking boards,” for blocking. I found these on sale and it has worked for me so far. Above, you can see my shawl pinned out on my mom’s bedroom floor (thanks Mom!), waiting to be sprayed. I decided to accentuate the points a bit more by pinning those in place.
The amazing thing about blocking is that my shawl already looks better, and I haven’t even blocked it yet. Otherwise, it has a rumpled appearance.
If you’re new to blocking, here are some of my favorite online resources to help you get on your way:
This Knitty article by Jessica Fenlon Thomas talks about how to block different fibers while providing an overview of different methods for blocking. Yes, it is about blocking knits, but the same can apply to blocking crochet :).
This blog post by Doris Chan destroys the myth that crocheters don’t need to block. As she says, Just Do It!
I hope everyone has had fun with the CAL so far. I’ve been seeing some amazing projects on Ravelry. Remember that if you’d like to be entered to win prizes, you’ll need to share a picture of your finished shawl by next Friday, March 29. You can follow the links below (The big reveal) to show off your shawl. Good luck!
There is a range of skill levels and project types included. All patterns are written in U.S. pattern abbreviations, and several also include charted stitch symbols. Here is a breakdown of the patterns in this book:
I wasn’t disappointed. I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the Chrysanthemum Shawl by Anna Al.
All of which brings me back to my book review. My overall reaction to this book is virtually identical to my review of Knit Noro: Accessories. To my eyes, this book is presented as an artsy tribute to Noro yarns and not as a crochet pattern book. While I can attest to the fact that the designs are, in fact, quite beautiful (because I’ve seen them in real life), there is so much going on visually in this book that it is often difficult to see the projects.
Most projects are photographed against walls with floral wallpaper, on models with clothing in bold colors with elaborate patterns or adornments. It’s almost as though the entire layout is competing with the projects for your eye’s attention. Nonetheless, the projects overall are quite lovely (and would probably work well in other yarns, if you’re not a Noro fan).
This is a hardcover, and it does lay flat while you crochet. Crocheters who enjoy working with thinner yarns or colors will definitely enjoy these projects. The range of skill levels make this book appropriate for all but beginners to pattern reading. As with all pattern books, your enjoyment will be closely related to how much you like the designs. Ravelry members can view images of all but one design on the book’s source page here.
My overall rating is 4 out of 5 stars. Though I have concerns about the presentation, the patterns I’ve looked through are clearly written and the projects I’ve seen are beautiful. If you were hoping for a giveaway, you’ll have to look elsewhere because I’m keeping my review copy. I’m hoping to make at least one of these projects in 2013.
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.
Today, I’m interviewing Amy Shelton, the co-owner of Crochetville and the current President of the Crochet Guild of America. Amy is obviously a big supporter of the crochet community, both online and “in real life,” and she happens to be a pretty busy lady, too 😉 – so I’m really glad she had some time to share her thoughts.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Amy: My third-grade teacher taught all the girls in the class how to crochet. (The boys weren’t interested.) We sat on the back steps of the elementary school during recess and learned how to make the basic stitches. My mom and grandmother were both skilled crocheters, so they helped me further my skills and knowledge at home. By the time I was in 8th/9th grade, I was making all sorts of thread projects using my mother’s Magic Crochet and Decorative Crochet magazines.
UC: Many crocheters know you as one of the owners of Crochetville. How did you go from being a member to a co-owner?
Amy: It’s sort of a long story. Are you sure you really want to know? Actually, I think it’s a pretty interesting story, and I’m happy to share.
In 2004, my aunt sent me a gorgeous purple scarf using four or five different novelty yarns that she had crocheted for me as my Christmas present. I hadn’t crocheted much for several years, but the scarf made me pull out my old hooks. I searched for online crochet message boards and came across Crochetville in January, 2005.
At the time, there were fewer than 800 members and the site used free message board software. In February of that year, Donna Hulka (co-owner of Crochetville with me) had to move Crochetville to a new site host and new message board software due to the number of members and site visitors. I didn’t post much at the time, as I was admin for a message board for a small indie business in another industry.
In 2006, I became involved in helping run the site when someone with extensive message board admin experience was needed to help Crochetville make the transition from being a small site where everyone knew each other intimately to a much larger site with new members joining on a regular basis. Within a month of my involvement, Donna made me a co-administrator of the site.
As 2006 progressed, Crochetville continued to grow exponentially. The number of concurrent members and guests on the site meant we had to move from a shared server to a dedicated server, because our site volume was crashing the entire server. Crashing the sites of those businesses that share the server with you doesn’t tend to make you a lot of friends!
Dedicated server hosting plans are quite expensive. Donna and I decided it was time to turn Crochetville into a business so it could pay its own bills. We could no longer justify paying Crochetville’s operating expenses out of our personal household budgets. In January of 2007, we took the plunge and formed the legal entity of Crochetville LLC. We’re pleased to say that Crochetville LLC has been profitable from the very beginning!
We now have over 63,000 registered members and an average of 123,000-170,000 unique site visitors each month. Our periods of heaviest traffic tend to be the months of October through February.
UC: Sometimes joining an online community can be a bit overwhelming. What suggestions do you have for a newbie who wants to get her (or his) feet wet on Crochetville?
Amy: Crochetville is now so large (with over 2.4 million posts) that it can definitely be a bit overwhelming for people new to the site, especially if someone is also new to message boards in general. Crochetville is a very friendly community thanks to all of our wonderful members who spend time there every day. Here are my tips on how to make friends and begin to feel at home at Crochetville:
If you’re new to message boards in general, take the time to read our FAQ document. It has lots of information on how to navigate the forum, respond to a discussion thread, start your own discussion thread, and more.
If you’re just new to Crochetville, spend some time on the main page of our site. Make note of the different sections into which the site is organized. Read the folder descriptions so you’ll know where you’ll be able to find certain types of information. That will also help you know the best place to start a new discussion thread.
Before making your first post, spend some time reading through current posts on the forum. Once you’ve got a feel for the atmosphere of the forum, jump right in and post a thread to introduce yourself. Jump into any other discussions of interest. Our forum members are some of the nicest crocheters I’ve found. They’re always happy to welcome new members, answer questions, help direct you to patterns.
If you have a crochet business, take some time to read our general advertising policies. If you have an indie crochet business (pattern designer, hook maker, yarn dyer, etc.), read our free advertising policies. There are many different ways you can promote and advertise your business for free on Crochetville, getting your name out to hundreds of thousands of dedicated crocheters throughout the year. Indie businesses frequently have very limited advertising/marketing budgets, if they have one at all. We know it’s difficult to get the word out about your business, so we’re happy to provide an easy, free outlet to help you reach your target market of dedicated, enthusiastic crocheters. (UC comment: Thanks for sharing this great resource for indie crochet entrepreneurs!)
UC: You’re currently the President of the Crochet Guild of America – thanks for your volunteer efforts on behalf of the crochet community! How can crocheters become more involved with the CGOA or local chapters?
Amy: Serving on the board of the Crochet Guild of America has been an amazing experience. I’ve truly enjoyed the opportunity to help promote CGOA’s mission to preserve and advance the art of crochet. I encourage everyone to join the CGOA. The cost is only $35 per year and many benefits come along with membership.
For more information on CGOA, please visit the website. You can check out the list of member benefits here. One of the best things about CGOA is Chain Link, our crochet conference. Held twice a year, the conference offers crochet classes to suit every level of crocheter. There is also a show floor with vendors selling yarn, patterns, hooks, tools.
For those aspiring to become a crochet professional, CGOA offers a free mentor program to members. You can be paired with a crochet professional who will provide information, assistance, and encouragement to you. Members can also become involved at the national level by serving on various committees.
There are also many CGOA local chapters around the country. Most chapters offer monthly meetings where you can meet with others who share your love of crochet. Some meetings are informal sit-and-stitch events while other meetings may include classes, workshops, and other in-depth instruction. Many chapters also contribute to various crochet charities on a regular
basis. To find a chapter near you, visit this page. If there’s not a chapter near you, consider starting one. You can find information on how to start a chapter here. (UC comment: I also recently learned about the Cyber Crochet online/virtual chapter on Ravelry when I interviewed crochet tech editor, Juanita Quinones.)
UC: I’m sure it is hard to find time to crochet for yourself with such a demanding schedule. When you do have a few moments to crochet, what are your favorite types of projects to make?
Amy: It is sometimes difficult to find time to crochet, but I do my best to work crochet time into my schedule as often as possible, even if it’s only a short period each day. Garments and accessories are my absolute favorite things to crochet. I love to make tops, sweaters, jackets, shawls, scarves, and handbags.
UC: You’ve had a variety of roles in the crochet industry, including community builder, designer, and teacher. What advice do you have for aspiring professionals?
Amy: Don’t quit your day job right off the bat! Most crochet professionals are in the business because of their deep love of crochet, not because it’s a get-rich-quick industry. It takes a lot of effort and time to create a regular, sustainable crochet income.
If you want crochet to become your full-time job paying you a full-time living wage, be prepared for a lot of hard work. Most professionals find that in order to make a full-time income from crochet, they have to wear many different hats: selling designs to publishers, independently publishing patterns, teaching (locally and/or nationally), writing books and pattern leaflets, tech editing, and more. The more you can diversify with different income streams, the more financially successful you will be. The number of people who can make a full-time living from crochet is quite small indeed when compared to all those who consider themselves crochet professionals or aspiring professionals. I don’t want to discourage people or crush anyone’s dreams, but it’s important to recognize the current reality of the industry.
If all you want is some extra income as a supplement to your other income, then things will be much easier for you.
Social media is becoming more and more important as well. You need to have an outlet to reach customers and build a relationship with them. Having a presence on Crochetville, Ravelry, Facebook, and your own blog or website is imperative. Be careful with what you post. Customers want to feel a connection to you, but you don’t need to draw them into the minute details of your personal life.
The best piece of advice I can give is to take advantage of CGOA’s free mentor program. The professionals who volunteer their time to serve as mentors are doing so because they love this industry and they want to give back some of what was given to them on their way to professional status. I think it’s pretty amazing that they’re willing to train and instruct their future competition, all for free, don’t you? (UC comment: I participated in the mentor program a few years ago, and learned so much from my mentor, Mary Nolfi. I can’t speak highly enough of this opportunity!)
Do a lot of research and network with other professionals. Attend Professional Development Day at CGOA’s Chain Link conferences. You’ll get to meet and talk with many other professionals in pretty much every crochet discipline. At Chain Link, designers can also participate in Meet-and-Greet sessions with crochet editors on Saturday. It’s an excellent opportunity to show your portfolio to editors face-to-face, a chance that you’ll only find at this conference.
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
Amy: My crochet friends who know me well can tell you that I have a love for making garments designed by Doris Chan. The first conference I attended, I think 90% of my crochet wardrobe were pieces designed by Doris, and I hadn’t even realized it at the time! So I’d have to say my favorite crochet books include all of Doris’s books.
UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?
Amy: Crochetville will be unveiling our new blog in the near future. (If we haven’t done so by your time of publication.) The blog will provide us an ideal format to post our own articles about the crochet industry, crochet tutorials, book and product reviews and more. We have many exciting things planned for the new blog in 2013!
I really enjoy reading Vashti Braha‘s crochet newsletter. She includes wonderful insights into her design process and detailed information about stitches or techniques she’s currently working with. You can sign up for her newsletter here. (UC comment: I’m also a huge fan of Vashti’s newsletter, and I interviewed her about it here.)
Doris Chan’s blog is another favorite full of crochet information.
UC: Besides the blog, what else is new at Crochetville?
Our booth also features exclusive crochet kits, crochet books (and author book signings), custom-made jewelry, shawl pins,and buttons in colors designed to perfectly match/coordinate with Red Heart yarns, Dreamz interchangeable flexible Tunisian crochet hook sets, and something new: access to our digital pattern store.
You can purchase digital patterns right in the booth, print them in the booth, then log in to your account later to download your pattern to your own computer or mobile device. This makes it so easy to buy and print a pattern, buy the yarn and other supplies you need, and take everything with you so you can start your project immediately.
We do our best to make our booth the most fun booth at these events. Drop by to play our game show called “Let’s Make You Squeal.” Drop by many times throughout the day to see what will be on sale for a 15- to 20-minute period during our special Flash Sales.
Thanks for stopping by, Amy, and sharing your advice with us!