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 Crochetas I was learning how to (finally) read crochet patterns. Since then, I’ve learned more about her incredible work.
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.)
The Polish Star stitch.
UC: What inspired you to start designing and writing about crochet?
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.
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.
An early example of Pauline’s surface crochet collages.
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
A 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Every Monday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be interviewing crocheters. Today’s interview is with Mary Beth Temple, crochet designer, author, podcaster, teacher, editor, and publisher.
I’m thrilled today to present my interview with Mary Beth Temple. Like many crocheters, I first became aware of Mary Beth through her Getting Loopy podcast. This interview has been a long time in the making. Mary Beth was kind enough to sit down with me – twice – during Vogue Knitting Live back in January. We spoke at length about some of her current projects, trends in the crochet industry, and our mutual buddy, Charles Voth. (Charles is my cyber friend, and he is Mary Beth’s friend in real life.)
Much of the interview was informal and chatty, so I’ve edited it down for the blog today. Mary Beth is often known online as Hooked for Life (her publishing company) and she can be found on its website, Facebook, Patternfish, Twitter, and on Ravelry (as MBTemple, on her designer page, and in the Hooked for Life Publishing group). Archived episodes of her podcast, Getty Loopy, can be found on Blog Talk Radio. I somehow forgot to take a picture with Mary Beth at Vogue Knitting Live (chalk it up to being starstruck), but she has granted me permission to use pictures from her designs and website in this interview. Unless noted, pictures are copyright Hooked for Life, and will link to the pattern page on Ravelry.
Underground Crafter (UC): You’re pretty outspoken about including crochet at knitting events, and the extent to which people sign up for crochet classes (versus their level of complaining about the lack of crochet at an event). Can you talk about how you first got into that role as the crochet advocate at knitting events?
Mary Beth Temple (MBT): Part of it was because I had the Getting Loopy podcast. I don’t produce new episodes anymore but there are over a hundred episodes still available at Blog Talk Radio. I wound up speaking to a lot of people in the industry, not just in my role as a designer and an editor, but also in my role as podcast host. Getting Loopy won three awards, we had thousands and thousands of listeners – not as big as some of the knitting podcasts, but at the time, Getting Loopy was really the only ballgame for crochet only. There were other podcasts that addressed crochet, that were crochet inclusive, but we were it for crochet only.
I found myself really advocating as the leader of the Loopy Groupies. It was something that was a problem. I would sit at The National NeedleArts Association (which is our trade association), and we would go to the Yarn Group meetings and they would go, “The knitters…” and I would yell, “And crocheters!” People got sick of that so now they say knitters and crocheters.
There is no one right answer to this. On the one hand, I would like the knitting shows to be more supportive of crochet. On the other hand, the crocheters have to step up. On the other hand, there are crocheters that say, “Well, I can’t afford to go these big conferences.” Sometimes I feel like, particularly near the end of Getting Loopy, I was preaching to the choir. I mean, the people that were listening to Getting Loopy were advocating, they were the people taking classes and buying patterns and whatnot. So I couldn’t very well go on the show and rant that crocheters were not supporting the shows, because, of course, my listeners were, by and large.
So I get it – not everybody has unlimited funds. I get that there’s a swath of the market that does not want to be preached to about having to support the shows when they don’t want to. I’m not here to put a gun to anybody’s head. And I think that’s different for me. I think I was a “gun to the head” person five years ago and then the recession happened. If you can’t afford a $90 class – or, it’s not even an affordability issue, if you choose not to spend your money that way – it is not up to me to tell you how to spend your money.
I do think if it is not an affordability issue, and somebody is coming into your town or to your show, and you’re going to be there anyway, and it’s something you’re interested in, you should make a little extra effort to support that person. I’ve taken classes from teachers I admire that I didn’t even particularly care about the class subject, but I wanted to support the event.
So here at Vogue Crochet (laughs)… Vogue Crochet – Trisha [UC comment: Malcom, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Knitting] will kill me! Here at Vogue Knitting Live, in New York City, because I am local, there is somewhat less pressure on me to sell out because I don’t require an airline ticket and all that other stuff.
I will say, without pandering, Trisha Malcolm has been trying every year. This is never going to be a 50/50 crochet and knitting show, but that’s not what it’s meant to be. So let’s just say that in the same way that a girl doesn’t have to join the Boy Scouts, not everything is for everybody, and I do understand that. But we’ve tried different crochet classes every year, and we’re getting the hang of it. We’re starting to find out what works in this venue, and once we figure it out, we’ll get to do more.
UC: I know, I actually registered for her class last year and they contacted me and said it was cancelled.
MBT: And that had nothing to do with Jennifer. I had someone come up to me yesterday and say that Jennifer Hansen cancelled. Jen Hansen didn’t cancel – she would have been here! But at that point, it’s dollars and cents.
Again, I have a little more latitude because I’m not as expensive at this event for them. We’re trying new things. I’m teaching Bead Crochet tonight, we’ve never taught that here, so I don’t know. I’m teaching Tunisian Crochet Basics – that is a guaranteed sell out every time I teach it. I’m teaching Crochet Entrelac for the second time – that was very successful last year.
The other thing that I’m sort of interested in is using the numbers from this show. For example, last year, Crochet Entrelac was on the schedule and when we went into the final week, we had 11 students signed up which is not wonderful, but it’s ok – nobody’s unhappy with 11. 23 showed up.
UC: Hmm, so a lot of people registered on the day of the class or that weekend.
MBT: Right. To the point where we had to go find another room, because the room I was in would not accomodate 23 people, even with additional chairs. We did a little Girl Scout field trip through the hotel, looking for a ballroom, which again, Vogue Knitting was right there. They got us a bigger room, they helped us move everybody, I offered to stay late, so that nobody missed any material, and we did it.
That is a very small study. Extrapolating that data, I wonder if crocheters are not necessarily cheap so much as slower to sign up.
UC: Are you finding that most of the people in your classes identify themselves as crocheters, as bicraftual, or as knitters looking to learn crochet? Who do you usually attract at these more knitting focused events?
MBT: Tunisian, believe it or not, is mostly knitters.
UC: I do believe that, actually.
MBT: The other classes are, by and large, knitters who crochet. Now, again, shout out to the local guilds, because they do put their money where their mouth is. If I’m going to be anywhere within a 5 hour drive – God Bless the New York City guild, the Long Island guild, and the Connecticut guild. Now are they all coming to Crochet Entrelac tomorrow? No, because they took it last year. But that class is selling very nicely. So I’ll find out tomorrow if they’re knitters or crocheters or people that identify as bicrafty. It’ll be interesting.
I’m teaching Bead Crochet, tonight, and that’s new, and I happen to know that has a lot of guild members in it. That’s something new that they can take from me that they haven’t taken before. Tonight, we’re experimenting with shorter classes, sort of entry level, that are two hours, they’re less expensive, it’s not as big of a time commitment, they don’t have homework, and they only accomodate 20 people. It would be an easier sell out. As of yesterday, the class was not sold out, but as of tonight – you never know what you’re going to get when you walk in the room.
UC: I’m wondering about your new book, Curvy Girl Crochet: 25 Patterns that Fit and Flatter. Again, I feel that you’re the torchbearer. There are so few books about garment design – not just patterns – for crocheters. Can you tell me a little about the process behind this book and how it came to be?
MBT: Curvy Girl was an absolute labor of love. When I agreed to write… You know, there’s a whole process for getting books to market. The publisher has a vote, the sales department has a vote, the author has a vote, you know, everybody’s got what they want. A successful book is one where everybody goes in, if not happy, then at least content with how things worked out.
When we were negotiating to do Curvy Girl, [there were] two things that I felt very strongly about:
That we did not have size 8 models and call them plus sized. I wanted actual size 22 models in the book. And I felt strongly enough that I might lose that battle that I made sure we talked about it going in. This was not an adversarial thing, but I wanted to make sure that everybody was on the same page, that when I said plus sized, I don’t mean the size 6 girl that won America’s Next Top Model. I wanted actual adult women who wear larger sizes.
The other one, and I was fairly insistent, [was] that I be given the real estate to get that modification in there. I’ve said this 18 times, but I’ll probably say it 100 more: If you put five size 0 women in a room, they’re built very similarly. If you put five 2X women in a room, they’re not built very similarly. Beautiful plus sized patterns are one thing, but for the vast majority of that audience – including myself – it’s not going to fit right without modifications.
The thing I’m leading the torch on now [is] I think there are hundreds of thousands of competent crocheters who stick to scarves and blankets and hats because they’re afraid that they are going to spend a lot of time, or a lot of money, or a lot of both, and come out the other end with a garment that does not suit them. And that’s not just plus sized women, that’s everybody.
If you want to know what torch I’m carrying around now, it’s to try and convince some of these rectangle and square crocheters that they can dip their toe in the garment water and it’s not so scary as they think. It’s not scary because they don’t have the skills; it’s scary because they didn’t have the information. And now they do.
UC: They tried that pattern that didn’t have enough information, and they couldn’t resize where they needed to.
MBT: Or, it was boxy, or it was bulky, or both. So here [in Curvy Girl Crochet, you have]: lightweight yarns, elastic stitch patterns, waist shaping – or take it out if you don’t need it. Here’s how you measure you arm and find out how your sleeve needs to be.
You don’t want to measure yourself because that makes you uncomfortable, for whatever reason? Go to the store, buy a sweater that fits nice on you, take it home and measure it. Take it back, if you need to. I’m trying to put every trick in there that I have to take the stress level off garment crochet.
UC: Can you talk about what motivated you to start the Getting Loopy podcast, and your reasons for deciding to finish it?
MBT: This sounds kind of silly, but I had seen an advertisement for Blog Talk Radio (it was new at the time), and I thought, well that looks like fun, I want to play with it! Our first couple of shows were on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m., because when you’re new to Blog Talk Radio, before you’ve developed a following, you can’t get the prime time hours. And I thought, I’m going to talk about crochet, because that’s what I’m interested in.
Our first guest was Amy O’Neill Houck, who is now in Alaska, who is a designer friend of mine. I called up and said, I want to do this thing, and she said, “I’ll do it!” So the first six or eight episodes were mostly my friends. Somebody said later, why do you have so many designers on the show? Well, who else am I going to torture but my friends? (laughs) That’s how it got started and the first episode had like 37 listens that week, and it went on from there.
We moved to the prime time spot on Monday night. The fun thing about Getting Loopy was the chat room. There’s a group of people that still talk to each other because of the Getting Loopy chat room. They call themselves the Loopy Groupies. They’re all over. It’s really cool to go out into the world five years later and they’re like, “We’re Loopy Groupies!” and they’re there and they’re waiting for you.
The downside to that is it committed me to Monday night at 9 p.m. I did Getting Loopy for three years, I did over 100 episodes, and it got to the point as my design career started to take off, that… I hate to put everything down to money, but it’s a lot of time to run Getting Loopy. So then Blog Talk Radio said the only way that I could keep my time slot now that I had made it valuable was to pay for it. So a year before I was ready to end the show, some of the Loopy Groupies got together and did a pledge drive, and raised the $500 I would have needed to keep the time slot. So I ran it one more year, and [the fee] was going to roll around a second time, and they offered to do it again, but… I’m gonna offend some people here.
It’s much like public television, in which the same 50 people would have contributed again, and the other 23,000 that had listened to the show were not going to chip in a dime. Again, I didn’t want to charge for it, and I know some podcasters have gotten sponsors. I never wanted to go that route. The only way that I could manage Getting Loopy on my schedule was to do whatever the heck I wanted. I just didn’t want to take to take money from a yarn company or a magazine or a publisher, because no matter that they said you can keep control of your show, I would have felt in the back of my head that it might have changed my outlook on things and I never wanted to do it. That is not to say that people who take sponsorship are bad – I don’t mean that.
UC: Right, it’s just not your personal approach.
MBT: It just wasn’t for me, and in addition, it would have had to be managed. Somebody would have had to deal with the artwork and putting up ads and collecting the money, and really this is the stuff I have no time for.
So we ended when we did because the money that they had fundraised the year before had run out. And even so, that money only paid for the Blog Talk Radio fees, but it didn’t pay the website hosting, or the graphic design, or all that other stuff. I had a totebag sale and that raised some money. But it got to the point where I’d rather be designing new projects than running fundraisers for Getting Loopy.
In addition, I also felt toward the end like I had said everything I had to say. I found myself repeating a little bit. And then it suddenly turned into we were plugging whatever the new book was, which doesn’t interest me. As a platform, I felt I was getting ranty, and nobody listens to you when you rant. I just felt like we were done.
I have had many, many requests to bring the show back. I would consider doing it monthly, and I would more than likely tape in the afternoons to avoid the fees. So is it dead forever? Absolutely not. And there’s 115 episodes that people can still listen to. It amazes me that I still get emails from shows that I taped four years ago. People will say, “When you taped that episode, I was not interested in that topic, but as I’ve grown as a stitcher, I’ve gotten interested. And I can go to Blog Talk Radio and I can listen to the show you did on that topic, and now it’s really relevant for me.”
And, we used to host the Flamie Awards, so we would do a huge 2 hour extravaganza with people calling in from all over the world. So it was fun, but as my business has grown, I don’t have the time to give it the attention it needs, and it doesn’t earn enough money for me to hire somebody to do the scut work.
UC: Considering that you’ve worked in so many aspects of the industry – as a designer, podcaster, self-publisher, author, tech editor, etc. – do you have any tips you would give someone that is considering coming into the yarn industry as a professional?
MBT: The reason I do so much, and the reason I do what I do, is multiple income streams. And that makes me sound like a Amway salesman, but there’s going to be an ebb and flow in the natural dynamic of any small business. You’re going to have a hit pattern that sells 1,000 copies in two weeks, and the next four patterns are not going to sell at all, or they’re going to sell slowly, or they’ll sell a year later, and you cannot predict that.
So my theory is if there’s magazine money coming in, and there’s indie pub money coming in, and there’s book publishing money coming in, and then there’s royalty checks coming in, and then there’s a kickback from KnitPicks coming in from their IDP program, and then I get a teaching fee, it all balances out.
UC: So you would basically recommend that people diversify their income.
MBT: Yes. That said, I don’t want people to feel like they have to start doing everything at once. I mean, I started out doing magazine work, and then said, well that’s not enough money so I started Hooked for Life. Hooked for Life is very well established right now, so then I added the teaching.
UC: So you staged your growth.
MBT: Yes, but not on purpose. That’s just how it worked out.
UC: What’s next for you?
MBT: My next booklet that’s coming out the first of a series I’m writing for SoHo Publishing. It’s called Easy Cowls to Crochet. It will be out January 27 and it will be exclusively available at Jo-Ann Fabric for six months. (UC comment: Ravelry members can see patterns from the booklet here.)
There’s some new Hooked for Life stuff coming out. The Hooked for Life website has been upgraded and there’s a store coming with crochet kits.
I have a series of beaded jewelry designs that are being released over the next few weeks, some of which made their debut here at Vogue Knitting Live.
I’ll be at the Knit and Crochet Show in October. That’s a biannual event, but I’m not going to [the summer show in] Indianapolis. I’ll be teaching four classes in October.
I haven’t sold my next book yet, but I’m doing three more booklets for SoHo Publishing that will come out in 2013. I’m also a contributing pattern editor for the next Vogue Crochet issue with Charles Voth. We come as a team. And Robyn Chachula is also a contributing editor. We’re helping put the issue together. We don’t pick what goes in, but once they’ve made the selections, Charles and Robyn and I help them make the magazine, and that’s actually a lot of fun.
UC: Did you work on the last issue of Vogue Crochet?
MBT: Yes, I did. I had one design in the last one, and I’ll have two in the next one.
UC: That’s great. I heard the last issue sold out.
MBT: In about a minute and a half. (UC comment: Issues are still available for the iPad here.)
UC: People say that those special issues won’t sell, but I think people are starved for fashion crochet.
MBT: Well, here we’ve been saying for all these years that crochet doesn’t have to look crappy. So let’s get some crochet stuff and give it to a Vogue stylist! The stuff looked awesome. Even if it wasn’t your personal style, looking through that issue was like candy.
UC: That’s definitely Vogue’s strength in terms of how they present their look. It looks great, and you might want to make it. Sometimes the pattern can be great, but it looks frumpy the way it has been styled.
MBT: It also looked fashion forward. We’ve been saying for years that crochet can be fashion forward – because it can be! I mean, look at the runways! But if you style it on someone with too much hairspray, in a turtleneck under a corduroy blazer, then it looks old, like it’s old fashioned. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid. That’s the ballgame, so far as far as I’m concerned – to make this stuff look as good in the craft magazines as it does on the runway.
Thanks so much for spending time talking to me at such a busy show, Mary Beth! And for your patience in waiting for me to publish this interview :).
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting?
Annette: I learned as a child, perhaps around 6 years old. My mother taught me, because I asked her to. All women in my family were doing some kind of textile craft (sewing, embroidery, weaving, knitting…) and both my paternal grandmother and my mother were avid crocheters.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Annette: After crocheting quite a lot as a child and a teenager, I became more of an occasional knitter. In my late twenties, an injury in my neck caused lots of problems with my left arm, and I stop fondling yarn altogether. But when I was pregnant with my second child twelve years ago, I couldn’t fight the urge any longer, and walked into a yarn store. I decided to try to take up crocheting again, since I could do this without putting too much strain on my left arm, which was still fragile at that point (I’m glad to say it is much better now!). This was twelve years ago, and there weren’t many crochet patterns to my taste around. I wanted to make a little jacket for my daughter, so I just winged it. It was my first crochet design!
UC: Can you tell us a little about how your experience as a Swedish designer in France impacts your design process?
Annette: From my Swedish background, I have a profound respect for all things handmade, and the feeling that you can make just anything by hand. I grew up seeing people making beautiful things themselves all the time, and I think that was very important.
From my life in France (and I have now passed the point where I have been living longer in France than in Sweden), I have (I think!) a sense of style and elegance and a love for beautiful materials. A wonderful thing about French culture is that it gives you permission to think that things like beautiful clothes and accessories or delicious food have a lot of importance – and they have! Enjoying a great meal with family or friends, wrapping a gorgeous scarf around your neck or wearing a flattering garment that makes you feel pretty are things that create beauty, wonder and joy in everyday life.
With time, connecting my Swedish background and my life in France becomes more and more important to me, on all levels in life. There are a lot of very interesting developments in Sweden and the other Nordic countries around traditional textile techniques. I have also started importing Swedish yarns to France, and their specificity and character nourish my design process.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Annette: Sometimes, the idea for a design just comes into my head and I don’t know from where!
Sometimes, I get inspired by learning or exploring a specific technique. It can even be a knitting technique that I try to transpose to crochet that works as my starting point.
Other times, I find inspiration in a photo or a painting.
Or I just sit down and swatch different stitch patterns from a book, and start building my ideas from them. It’s so interesting to see how a stitch pattern evolves when you start modifying it!
What I think is the most interesting in my current design process is trying to free myself from existing stitch patterns and finding ways to create shapes in crochet myself. I’m currently working on a design where the stitch pattern is based on a picture of an exotic flower a friend in Florida sent me. The stole “Cirkel”, for which you can find the pattern in my web shop, is one of the first examples of finished designs in this vein. I wanted to design real, rounded circles on a filet background, which required quite a bit of drawing, swatching and creative use of stitches.
UC: Your blog is bilingual and your Ravelry group is trilingual. What do you see as the advantages and difficulties of maintaining a multi-lingual presence online?
Annette: Actually, my entire life is multi-lingual! I speak Swedish with my friends and family in Sweden, French in my everyday life, English with other friends and for work… Europe is a multi-lingual place, and if you want to be present on this market, you must communicate in several languages.
So, the advantages are that you include many more people, and get a bigger market. The difficulties? Essentially that it’s very time-consuming. Translations take time! Also, I only know three languages really well.
Today, I’m basically working with those three: French, English and Swedish. I’m rebuilding my website to adapt for multilinguism. The next step is to create a stronger presence on the Swedish market, and the step after that is to branch out to German, Spanish… But then I’ll need help!
UC: What are your favorite crochet books in your collection?
UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community that you would like to share?
Annette: I have a lot of blogs that I read and enjoy, but I don’t have the time to follow them on a very regular basis. Of course, I use Ravelry several times a day! I’m also an avid podcast listener, be it when I crochet or when I do household chores. I recently re-painted my son’s room, and yesterday I painted a wall where I’m going to put a bookshelf for my cookbooks. My favourite podcast for painting is Jane and Jen Knit Funny!
When I do research on a specific technique, I come across lots of interesting sites and blogs. I’m always in awe of all the knowledge and inspiration that is out there!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Annette, and sharing your enthusiasm about design with us!
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)?
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!
To find more blogs participating in Blogtoberfest 2011, visit Tinnie Girl. For Blogtoberfest 2011 giveaways, visit Curly Pops.
Happy Friday everyone! I’ve been thinking for a while about how to celebrate I Love Yarn Day, since I first read about it on the Craft Yarn Council website. The CYC has several suggestions about what to do to celebrate (and several projects from famous designers, too!).
My post for today is a celebration of my favorite yarns and also about yarncrafting for charity. If you have been crocheting or knitting for any amount of time, you have probably found that we yarncrafters are a generous lot. I even have some Finished Objects to share, in the form of charity crochet projects.
Like most of the yarns on my list, I discovered this super soft yarn in my LYS, Knitty City. As the name implies, Cascade Eco Duo is an eco-friendly yarn made of undyed baby alpaca (70%) and undyed Merino wool (30%). Since it is undyed, it is offered in a relatively limited range of colors (mostly browns, blacks, whites – very gender neutral) and it is marled. The softness is incredible and it is really nice to work with. There is a kind of self-striping effect with most of the colors. The one drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable, and since I hate handwashing, I only use this yarn for small accessories.
Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller Alpaca Love
This is my favorite big box store yarn. Alpaca Love is also a wool (80%) and alpaca (20%) blend. I love the feel of the yarn – a great combination of softness with firmness. It comes in some very fun coordinated colors. This yarn is very affordable (especially when purchased at Michaels using a coupon!). The drawbacks for me are the handwashing issue again, and the limited color range. I usually get around the handwashing issue by felting projects made with this yarn :).
Dream in Color Classy
Dream in Color Classy is another great yarn that I first tried out at Knitty City. This yarn has recently made several appearances on the blog (in my crocodile stitch project and my yarn haul post). Classy is a 100% superwash Merino wool yarn that is spun and hand dyed in the U.S. The colors are variegated and are really fabulous. The only drawback here for me is the cost, which means that I have to save it for slightly more special occasions. At least there are 250 yards in each skein, which makes me feel a little less guilty when splurging!
Patons Classic Wool
Patons Classic Wool is another big box store yarn. It is 100% wool and it is available in a great variety of colors, including both solids and ombres. (A few colors are also available as tweeds.) The solids have 210 yards in each skein and are reasonably priced. It isn’t the softest wool I’ve felt, but it isn’t scratchy, either. It is a great, firm, workhorse yarn which doesn’t split. The only real drawback for me is that it isn’t machine washable.
Spud and Chloe Sweater
Sweater is probably the yarn in this group that I’ve worked with the most. It is a blend of 55% superwash wool and 45% organic cotton. I also found it at Knitty City 🙂 about a year ago. I first picked up a skein of Turtle for a design submission which wasn’t accepted. I loved the yarn so much that I submitted two more designs with it, which were both accepted. The first was my Sunshine Blanket, published in the August, 2011 issue of Inside Crochet. I am also in the middle of a top secret project using these colors for Cooperative Press‘s Fresh Designs Crochet (Kids) book, which should be published in 2012. I honestly can’t think of any drawbacks to this yarn: the colors are great, it is machine washable, and it feels nice :).
You may have noticed that all of these yarns are worsted weight – yes, I am one of those American yarncrafters that prefers a heavier weight yarn! You may have also noticed that all of these yarns are made with natural fibers. I am by no means a “yarn snob” – I work with Red Heart Super Saver, too. But recently, I have really tried to limit my purchasing of acrylic yarn. I just don’t feel comfortable buying a yarn made from crude oil anymore. This is my own personal choice as part of changes I’ve made in my life to be more environmentally conscious. On the other hand, I can’t just let the existing acrylic yarn in my stash go to waste (that’s not too eco-friendly either), and so that is where some of my charity crafting and experiments with freeform crochet come into play.
One great way to use up your stash while finding a home for some of your creations is through charity crafting. I especially like to make items for infants and pets (because they are fast and cute, and because my very own special cat was adopted from the Humane Society).
I was inspired by the phrase “Think globally. Act locally.” and decided to make up a list of local NYC charities that accept handmade donations. I checked in with all of these organizations, and the list is current as of October, 2011.
ASPCA, the first humane organization in the Western hemisphere, has a wishlist of donated items for their Manhattan adoption center which includes handmade bedding or toys. Items can be dropped off during regular adoption hours.
Bideawee, the oldest no-kill animal humane organization in the U.S., welcomes Snuggles in any size for cats and dogs in its adoption center. These can be delivered in person, or mailed to the attention of Lauren Bonanno at the Manhattan location.
S.A.V.E., a pet rescue organization in Queens, is looking for small or medium sized bedding. Email the organization at savepetNY@aol.com to arrange pick up.
Knits for Infants is looking for hats, booties, sweaters, and blankets in soft, machine washable yarns for newborns and infants being treated at the North Central Bronx Hospital. Having worked in the health care industry in the Bronx for years, I can say that families served by this hospital would really benefit from the donations. They also accept yarn donations (no novelty yarns or “scratchy” yarns like Red Heart Super Saver, please).
Today, I’m showing off some of the projects that I’m donating to charity for I Love Yarn Day.
My post yesterday was a reflection on my craft goals for the year, and I’m thinking that when I update them, I will add some charity crafting goals. I used to donate a lot of projects to charity, and I would like to make more crocheted donations in the coming months.
For more finished objects, don’t forget to stop by Tami’s Amis!