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!

Interview with Danielle Chalson of Makewise Designs

Today, I’m very excited to share an interview that has been very long in the making.  Back in January, I was at Vogue Knitting Live in New York (posts here, here, and here), and I had the chance to spend some time with Danielle Chalson.   Danielle is a (mostly) knitting (with “a smidge of crochet”) designer.  You may know her as Makewise Designs.  Danielle can be found online on Ravelry (as makewise, on her designer page, and in the Makewise Designs group), her website, and Twitter.

(As a side note, this interview has taken so long to write up that I can no longer say that both Danielle and I live in New York City – since our interview, she has relocated to Long Island.  On the other hand, now I can share that her Mackinac Tank pattern made the cover of the summer issue of Knitscene!)

Danielle has generously shared a coupon code for any of her self-published patterns with my readers!  (Read on for more details.)  All pictures of Makewise Designs patterns are used with Danielle’s permission.

Me (left) with Danielle Chalson at Vogue Knitting Live.  (Forgive our super close up self-portrait!)
Me (left) with Danielle Chalson at Vogue Knitting Live. (Forgive our super close up picture – I have short arms!)

Underground Crafter (UC): Can you tell me first how you got started knitting?
Danielle: Growing up, my mom always knew how to knit and crochet, and I started doing it all the time, but I wasn’t really all that interested.

When I went to college, I lived in a dorm that had a community setting, and one of the people in my dorm wanted to do the Warm Up America program where you knit blanket blocks and then they’re sewn together for charity and donated. For some reason, at 20, all of the sudden I wanted to learn how to make these blanket blocks, whereas I’d never wanted to do it before. So, she taught me garter, stockinette, whatever. I don’t know why, but the fabric started growing off the needles and it was like magic. I thought to myself, “All of these wasted years!”

Agnes Shaped Scarf

The Agnes Shaped Scarf pattern.

UC: Well, you have the (knitting) genes, obviously.

Danielle: Exactly. It just started from there, so it’s been going on 15 years at this point.

UC: Did your mom get mad that she wasn’t the one who taught you, or was she like, “Finally, you’ve taken it on!”

Danielle: No, just the opposite. She was thrilled. She still does quite a bit of knitting and crochet. Since then, she’s taught me how to crochet. She’s totally embraced it and we love to share tips, share things we’ve learned, and have a conversations with each other in that language that only two knitters are going to understand, like “I moved that ssk…” and people are just like, “What are they talking about?”

Corinne Blanket

The Corinne Blanket, one of Danielle’s crochet designs.

UC: That’s awesome, now you guys have a secret language. How did you get started designing?

Danielle: I love to follow other people’s patterns. I love to see other people’s creative processes. At some point a switch just flipped and I thought, I’m looking for this thing, I didn’t find it anywhere, I didn’t find it on Ravelry (which is probably a representative sample of the knitting universe, at this point). I just thought, “Well, I’ve taken a lot of math, I know how stockinette behaves and garter.” There’s certainly still a lot of trial and error involved, but I thought why don’t I just try it?

I’m definitely kind of a Type A person, kind of I’ll do it myself, self-starter kind of person so I gave it a whirl. I gave it a shot and tried it and it was that same rush that I felt the first time [knitting]. Oh my gosh, the fabric, it’s growing off these needles, and now there’s that extra element of, and, it’s working out the way I expected in my head.”

Nor'Easter Cowl

The Nor’Easter Cowl pattern.

UC: And that doesn’t always happen. You left out the part where you have to tear out the thing…

Danielle: Well, I’m trying to glaze over those parts! I actually just was working on a design where the downside of being a Type A rears its head. Take it out, take it out, to the point where I think one of the most important things that any really successful designer has captured is not only knowing themselves, but knowing their style and knowing when to stop designing a piece. Don’t keep designing, and don’t over design it. You don’t need to add that one more textural element, it doesn’t need that second lace pattern. What you’ve done is what should stay. It’s the editing process – that’s what I call it in my head.

UC: Where you keep out those extra pieces that are overkill.

Danielle: RIght. So when you look at something by Debbie Bliss or Jared Flood or Hannah Fettig (who’s one of my big favorites), lots of times you can look at their pieces and know that’s one of their designs because their internal editing is so strong. So for me, this internal editing is what I find the most challenging obstacle. When is it exactly what I have pictured in my head? Have I tried to overdesign it? Does it need to be that complicated? That type of thing is tough. That’s the learning curve for me.

Knitscene Cover Mackinac Tank

Danielle’s Mackinac Tank, on the cover of the Summer, 2013 issue of Knitscene.  Photo (c) Interweave.

UC: Related to that, I’ve noticed that your designs are primarily self-published or though some branch of Interweave. I’m wondering if that’s a conscious decision or did it just work out that way based on where you’ve submitted?

Danielle: I think it’s a blend. Self-publishing, a lot of designers will tell you, has a liberating aspect at the end. You miss that deadline, something comes up – personal nature or professional (your day job) nature – then you bump your publishing deadline a week, that’s life.

For me, I am a good deadline person, I’m a good time manager, I always have been, so I wanted to reach out for that third-party publication recognition and also wanted to challenge myself in that way to be working with a reputable publication, work with the yarn that they’ve chosen on their timeline. Working with Interweave, I’m just really familiar with their publications. I’ve long loved Knit Scene, one of my very favorite magazines, so I think I was specifically targeting them. I really wanted to part of that family because I love their style, their ethos, their way of expressing themselves.

UC: You could see yourself fitting into their publications.

Danielle: Yeah, I think so.

Belle Epoque Scarf and Wrap

The Belle Epoque Scarf and Wrap pattern.

UC: So what was that like the first time you have your printed pattern in one of their publications? Did you frame it on the wall?

Danielle: When you get something published in their magazines, they send you a copy of the magazine, but then they also send you copies of pages that were not inserted in the magazine – printed copies – so I put those in plastic sleeves because… Type A.

UC: That’s really nice of them. A lot of publishers don’t do that.

Danielle: So you get the bound copy and then you get the flat copy as well. But it wasn’t so much seeing it in print as it was getting that email from the editor saying that they would love to take the design and put it in.

The first time that happened to me, I think I looked at the email and thought, “This is a hoax!” Or, “Wait a minute, they didn’t mean to send this to me.” There’s that moment of self-doubt, and then your second thought is “Oooh, that is so cool!” My very first design for Interweave was for Interweave Knits and it was pillows. They were wool, bulky gauge, and I had to do it in July. It was a little bit of a steamy process, but it worked out.

Courchevel Beret

The Courchevel Beret pattern.

UC: Do you have knitting books, for your own collection, or do you do everything online?

Danielle: When I need technical resources from the technical planning/pattern writing side of things, I much prefer written resources. I like to have them out in front of me. Obviously, stitch dictionaries. Interweave has a lot of publications that include charts for sweater sizing in different yarn gauges.

When I have the time to knit anything, other than what I’m hopefully designing for myself, I love online PDFs because I can keep them all in one place. The wealth of choices is overwhelming so I try to balance between the two, but I find that if I need a technical resource, I need it printed out.

Kinokuniya booth

Danielle and I bonded over our love of the Kinokinuya bookstore booth at VK Live.

UC: I know people think it is weird when you publish your patterns online that you don’t personally do everything online, but I feel the same way. For patterns, it’s one thing, but I want a tangible thing I can flip back and forth. Do you have any favorite stitch guides or books in your collection that you always go back to?

Danielle: You probably hear this a lot, but I love Kinokinuya, the Japanese bookstore that’s exhibiting here at VK Live. I love Japanese stitch dictionaries. I find that they include a lot of complex patterns, and sometimes I think my designing tends more towards simplicity, so sometimes I use those stitch patterns as a jumping off point and then I think, “Could I take out an element? Can I thin that idea out?” Because their patterns have cables, lace, and bobbles all in one stitch pattern, but maybe I just want the lace.

Lots of times, nothing ever comes of that brainstorming, but at the same time, I think it’s instructive. If I do want to edit that stitch pattern, how am I going to do it? If I take that cable out, what’s going to happen to the gauge and what’s going to happen to the texture? I think you can never get enough of that. I think it’s just like an established designer saying if you want to learn about designing and learn about the business, the best thing you can do is read patterns. Read other people’s patterns. Some people are going to shape that shoulder with a bind off and then seam that edge. Some designers are going to shape that shoulder with short rows and then do a three needle bind off. Why do you choose between them? Does it depend on the fabric, does it depend on the shape, does it depend on the style?

Integral Shawl

The Integral Shawl pattern.

UC: Speaking of the Japanese stitch guides, do you have a preference for written patterns or charted patterns? Some people seem very committed to one or the other.

Danielle: I think that goes to my inherent way of learning, which is to write things down. I retain things better if I write it down myself. For me, written instructions make more sense to me than charts lots of times.

UC: So if you see it in the Japanese stitch guide, you’re writing it down for yourself.

Danielle: Often. And even, look at the chart, decipher what I think is happening in the chart, knit, and write it down at the same time – because even if I successfully translate it from the chart into actual knitting, a week later, I’ll forget half of what I did. I’m looking at it saying, “How did I manage this?”

Integral Shawlette

The Integral Shawlette, which Danielle wore to Vogue Knitting Live.

UC: While you’re here at Vogue Knitting Live, what exciting things are you planning to do?

Danielle: I took a seaming class with John Brinegar – I think a refresher course is always valuable. I’m taking a steeking class this afternoon with Ragga Eiríksdóttir. I’ve never done it, and she’s teaching it in the round. Usually for me, knitting in the round is greater than or equal to knitting flat, so I’m going to try that. Tomorrow, I’m going to work for the String Yarns booth all day because I used to work for them.

Ripened Scarf

Ripened Scarf, one of Danielle’s free patterns.

UC: Do you have any exciting yarn store employee stories to share, or can you talk about how that influenced you as a designer?

Danielle: I think the influence is huge because you’re looking at different yarns from different manufacturers. On your feet, you need to know the gauge; the construction of the yarn – is it plied, is it a chainette, is it a single ply; you need to know how it blocks; how to treat it after it’s been knitted; what the construction of the ply is – 2 ply, 4 ply, 6 ply. It just exposes you to the entire world of options. So if you are comfortable working with a smooth Merino superwash, you don’t always spring to a Shetland wool option. You think it’s scratchy or something like that. But the upside of Shetland is it’s incredibly hard wearing and durable with really reliable gauge.

I think it broadens your horizons, it shows you what the options are, and it is really a good education into what you need to know as a designer. If you get into a third-party publication, they’re going to send you the yarn that they’d like you to work with it, and it might not be something you’re familiar with. You need to be able to look at it and say, “Oh, I see it has this construction, these many plies, these care instructions…”

Winterberries Hat Fitted Cowl and Fingerless Mitts

The Winterberries Hat, Fitted Cowl, and Fingerless Mitts Set.

UC: And even on proposals, you can say, I’m looking for an x type of yarn because you have that background knowledge.

Danielle: Yes, I think it isn’t just what comes in so you’re prepared to work with it, but exactly like you said, it also informs your choices of when you even make a submission, to a magazine or something you want to produce yourself. You make that educated decision about this design really isn’t good for a single ply yarn. I really need a plied yarn for this.

UC: That’s great. A lot of people just learn that through arduous trial and error, and you got paid to get that experience!

Danielle: And I got to touch a lot of really nice yarn, too.

UC: String has a fancy collection!

Danielle: Yes, the beautiful cashmere that comes in from Italy is amazing.

Sugarplums Blanket

The Sugarplums Blanket pattern.

UC: What’s next on the horizon for you?

Danielle: I have some publications coming up this year for different outlets, and that’s really exciting. I always try to blog about anything that I’ve done that’s new. I try to expose a little bit of the thought process behind it – the inspiration, or a spot where I struggled – because I think that designing, even for somebody who is really experienced, is so much of a journey. I mean, sure, there’s a lightening strike of inspiration from time to time, but it’s also a very measured, thoughtful, mechanical process of needle selection, yarn selection, seamed, or unseamed, lace, texture, and that type of thing, and that’s what keeps me so excited about it still.

There is so much to learn and I frankly think I’ll never learn it all. Somebody will always know more than you about a specific thing, but it’s that excitement of learning it and trying to make myself better, while at the same time producing something with my own two hands that at the end of the day, I can actually hold it and touch it. That’s what’s most gratifying.

Danielle has offered a 20% discount on her self-published designs for my readers through midnight Eastern time on Saturday, July 20, 2013.  Just use the code MAKEWISE in her Ravelry shop or on her website.

Thanks, Danielle, for taking the time for the interview, and for sharing the coupon code!

Book Review and Giveaway: Crochet with Color

Every Tuesday during National Crochet Month 2013, I’ll be reviewing crochet books.  Today’s post features  a giveaway of my review copy of Crochet with Color by Kazuko Ryokai, courtesy of North Light Books.

This post contains affiliate links.

Crochet with Color

I recently received a review copy of Crochet With Color: 25 Contemporary Projects for the Yarn Lover by Kazuko Ryokai from North Light Books.  This is the English translation of a Japanese book published in 2008.  If you have had access to Japanese crochet pattern books, the basic format of Crochet with Color will be familiar to you.

The book opens with a 40+ page project gallery.   Each project layout is two pages and includes a picture of the full project displayed along with close ups of several project details.  The projects are organized into two sections: Domestic Bliss Crochet (home decor) and Out and About (accessories for women and children).

The next section, Crochet Techniques and Instructions, features information such as tips for reading symbol patterns, different methods for starting a project in the round, and joining motifs.  The rest of the book focuses on the patterns for each project.  There is a small photo of each project (so you don’t need to flip back to the project gallery), a list of materials, and general instructions about construction.  Then patterns are shown through crochet stitch symbols.  The materials list is general – e.g., “49 yards (20 g) of aran-weight (#4 medium) merino yarn in purple for grapes” – so you can easily identify appropriate yarns for each project.

This book, like most of the Japanese crochet books I’ve seen, is delightful and inspiring to look through.  The color palette is bright and cheery, the photo styling is wonderful, and the projects, while not overly complex, are more interesting than what you might find in most American advanced beginner project books.  Kazuko’s designs make great use of crocheted adornments like flowers.  Ravelry members can see several projects from the Japanese edition of the book here.  My favorite projects are the Basketweave Pillows, the Daisy Throw, the Garland Scarf (called Lariat on Ravelry), and the English Garden Scarf.

On the downside, as a small yet thick paperback, it is difficult to keep the book open while crocheting.  Those who don’t like stitch symbols will have a hard time following along as written pattern abbreviations are not included.

Crochet with Color is a great book for an advanced beginner crocheter who has the basic stitches down but is able to read crochet stitch symbols (or willing to learn how).  Working through these projects will introduce new stitches and colorplay.  More advanced crocheters might find the patterns too simple, but would still enjoy looking through this book for ideas for adding color to their projects, displaying their projects around the house, and using crochet adornments to add a finishing touch to a project.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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 Crochet With Color: 25 Contemporary Projects for the Yarn Lover by Kazuko Ryokai, courtesy of North Light Books/F+W Media.

This giveaway is open to all readers.  Enter by 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 10, 2013.

Interview with Kim Guzman, a.k.a. CrochetKim

I am so incredibly pleased to share an interview with Kim Guzman today.  As a lover of Tunisian crochet and a member of the very active Yahoo group that she co-moderates with Angela “ARNie” Grabowskitunisiancrochet, I’ve been a big fan of Kim’s work for years.  (Kim also does a lot of “regular” crochet design, too, as she discusses in this recent blog post.)

Kim is incredibly prolific as a designer, author, and teacher, and always seems to me to be the hardest working woman in show (er, um, yarn) business.  Yet if you are active on Crochetville, Ravelry, or almost any other social network where crochet is being discussed, you have probably interacted with Kim, who is very generous about sharing tips, advice, and her knowledge of crochet.

You can find Kim online through her main website (which links to her Crochet Kim/free pattern website and her Kimane Designs/self-published pattern website) and her blog, WIPs ‘n Chains.  Kim’s free videos can be found on her YouTube page and on the website of the new crochet magazine, Crochet 1-2-3 here.  She also teaches online classes at Annie’s and Crochetville.  Kim is also on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Ravelry (as crochetkim, in her group, and on her designer page).  All pictures are used with Kim’s permission and, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Kim Guzman.

 

Kim Guzman.

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

Kim: When I was about 9 years’ old, my parents joined the Army together. During their basic training, my sister and I stayed with my grandparents. It was quite a long stay with grandparents and I believe that she taught us to crochet just to give us something to do while away from home. She started us off with granny squares and I learned from verbal instruction only. It wasn’t until I was about 18 years old that I purchased my first patterns. I wasn’t even aware of patterns and had been designing my own for all that time.

 

Sunday Best Sweater, one of Kim’s self-published designs.

UC: When were you first introduced to Tunisian crochet, and how did you come to work with it so often?

Kim: In about 2000, Darla Fanton had turned the crochet world on its ears with her double-ended Tunisian crochet designs. She did a lot of books, but the publishers wanted more. Annie’s Attic sent me some double-ended hooks and asked me to try my hand at double-ended Tunisian. I had never done it before, but I immediately set to work. My double-ended designs weren’t accepted. I found that I preferred the look of regular one-sided Tunisian and I had three books commissioned within six months.

 

 

Kansas City Cowl. Photo (c) Caron.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Kim: I have been designing since I learned to crochet. It was at least 10 years of crocheting before I sat down with a pattern and taught myself how to read it. Not knowing about patterns was the key to my “no fear” attitude toward design. My grandmother’s doilies inspired me to design my own when I was only 10 years’ old.

 

Lacy Bobbles Scarf and Wristlets. Photo (c) DRG Publishing (Annie’s).

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Kim: My creative inspiration is usually in the yarn itself. I bond with a yarn for awhile by swatching with it. When I come up with a stitch pattern and drape that I find pleasing, I bond with it awhile until it tells me what it wants to be. While I do browse the internet and catalogs for trendy clothing, I don’t usually have the ability to see something in fabric and be able to translate their shapes into crochet. Well, I take that back. I don’t usually find myself doing that. But, publishers will sometimes choose a photo of something in a pleasing shape and then ask that I translate that shape or construction into crochet. It’s design-on-demand. I never feel like my design-on-demand work is very good. It doesn’t come from the heart.

 

 

Cabled Mitts from the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet. Photo (c) Leisure Arts.

UC: Your four latest books, the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet, Tunisian Cables to CrochetShort Row Tunisian Fashion, and the forthcoming Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide, all focus on Tunisian crochet. What was the design process like for these books?

Kim: You act as if I’m organized. ha! I am the furthest thing from organized.

For the Beginner’s Guide, I thought about yarns and projects. I thought about beginner projects and intermediate projects. And, I just started crocheting and writing. I put every little trick I know about Tunisian crochet in that book. It includes things normally not found in Tunisian crochet books like seaming horizontally or vertically, how to change colors, how to work with a lot of colors, step-by-step on how to felt projects and so much more. Everything that I had seen over the years which I had seen caused some questions. Even how to work with a self-striping yarn so that wide pieces of the body of a garment match the same sort of striping in the upper pieces around the arms and neck is included. It was the very first time I was given full control over what went into the book and I went all out.  (UC comment: I highly recommend this book for Tunisian crochet newbies!  You can read my review on the Crochet Guild of America’s blog here.  Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

 

Dublin Owl Hat and Mitts from Tunisian Cables to Crochet. Photo (c) Annie’s.

For the Cables book, I did it right after I finished my Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide.  (UC note: This book is expected to be published in March.)  When I was working on the stitch guide, I did a swatch of a cable, then I did another, and another. I had about 10 cables in next to no time. I wanted to somehow keep the cables together, but I had already done the required number of stitch patterns for the Stitch Guide (65). This would have put me over the expected number by ten, so I decided to pull those cable stitch patterns from my proposed stitch patterns and create a separate book. Since the cables required special instruction, I didn’t want to put them in a book with only charted stitch patterns. I wanted them to have a further instruction.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

 

Sapphire Wrap from Short Row Tunisian Fashion. Photo (c) Leisure Arts.

In Short Row Tunisian Fashion, which is currently available in hard copy and download, I have six projects which use the short row technique in Tunisian. But, the real surprise is the crescent wrap which includes a pineapple stitch pattern. No, not a regular crochet pineapple stitch pattern. It’s Tunisian crochet from start to finish. I believe it to be the first ever published pineapple stitch pattern in Tunisian crochet.  (UC comment: Ravelry members can see all the projects from this book here.)

Then, in March, my new Stitch Guide will be available. It’s already available on Amazon for pre-order. I’ve never done a full stitch pattern book before. But, I’m especially pleased with it because, although there are some classic Tunisian crochet stitch patterns, most of them are completely out of my head. I wanted a charted book and this book really challenged me because I had to draw out all the symbols myself. But, it was well worth it and I feel that this book is my biggest contribution to crochet yet.

 

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

Kim: I think the sweetheart, Margaret Hubert, put it best: “Don’t quit your day job.” While I have somehow been able to do these wonderful things as my career, as a single mother, it has been tough! There isn’t a lot of money in it. Most times, we’re just barely surviving and we’ve had to make numerous sacrifices. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve been able to stay at home with my kids and do a job that I love. I can’t think of a better way to go through life.

 

 

Luna Sweater. Photo (c) Interweave.

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

Kim: I am especially fond of the Japanese stitch pattern books. They have spent more time with me on the couch than in the book shelf.

 

UC: Do you have any crafty blogs or websites to share?

Kim: Well, I’m just going to look at my computer and see what websites I always have up there.

  • Yahoo Mail. Yep, always there.
  • Yahoo Groups. I’m a moderator of the Tunisian Crochet group, so I always have that up.
  • Facebook. Seriously, I think I would go into withdrawals if I didn’t have my Facebook peeps. 😉
  • Crochetville. Staying on top of the students’ questions for my classes and responding to any pattern questions asked in the forums.
  • Annie’s. Also, staying on top of the students’ questions. I like to respond to questions immediately. I respond as quickly as I possibly can. If I was doing a project, and I had a question, it would really be bothersome to have to set it down and wait for a week to get a response. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, but I really do my best to get to questions immediately.
  • Pinterest. Oh, the crochet pretties!
  • Tweetdeck: I like to stalk my friends. 🙂

 

Laced Cables, a pattern from Kim’s online Tunisian Cables and Lace class at Annie’s. Photo (c) Annie’s.

 

UC: You’ve been teaching online for years.  Tell me about your experiences as an online teacher. 

Kim: I prefer teaching online over teaching in live venues. Like I said, I’m a single mother. I have a small child. I want to stay home with him and I don’t want to leave him for a week at a time. Online teaching allows me to stay at home with him. But, it’s more than that. Online teaching gives me the opportunity to give well-thought-out answers to my students. And, I don’t walk out suddenly remembering that I forgot to teach something.

I have been teaching online for over 10 years. I’ve been teaching project classes, but I’ve just started adding some design classes to the mix which will begin in February at Crochetville.

 

Thank you for stopping by, Kim, and sharing your answers with us!

Non-yarn haul: Knitty City

Although I’ve been participating in Surmount the Stash all year and have been fairly good about avoiding new yarn purchases, the siren song of my favorite local yarn shop, Knitty City, began calling to me last night.

The start of my yarn craving was receiving an email update about another local yarn shop that is closing because the owner is relocating to Philadelphia.  I was feeling very good about the fact that I deleted the email and didn’t ride up there to start buying yarn I don’t need because “it’s on sale.”

I’ve also been working on some design submissions, and when that happens I often get the craving for a new color or brand of yarn.  I’ve wanted to try Sweet Georgia Yarns for a while now, and they happen to be the yarn of the month at Knitty City, and as such, are 10% off.

And, this weekend I was actually supposed to teach at the Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival, but when my classes didn’t fill, I decided to stay home rather than take the long trip up to teach a small class.  I’m sure I would have had a lot of fun anyway, since last year was so wonderful, but I needed the rest and saving the money didn’t hurt either.

While all of these things were influential, in truth, like most Americans, I partake in retail therapy from time to time.  (I’ve been working on curbing that, too, after participating in the 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge through Frugally Sustainable along with one of my best friends, OB.)  The past month at work have been remarkably taxing, and I’ve been in the office about 60-70 hours a week while also trying to keep up with my various part-time jobs.  Since I had already budgeted for yarn shopping at the Festival, I decided to stop by Knitty City instead.

I did check out the Sweet Georgia yarns, and they were as beautiful as I remembered, but I didn’t immediately have a project in mind so I decided not to buy any yarn.  (I consider this a small victory.)

Then I saw the sign mentioning a 20% of sale on books.  I immediately headed right over to the Japanese book section.  Since those tend to be more expensive and are harder to find in the States, it seemed like the wisest choice.

I fell in love with the top swatch.

Although I have a reasonably sized collection of Japanese crochet and Tunisian crochet books, Knitting Patterns 500 is my very first Japanese knitting book purchase.  I’m not as familiar with knitting stitch symbols, so I look forward to that new challenge.

I also discovered two other books that went onto my wishlist for a future time, 1000 Knitting Patterns Book and 100 Aran Patterns.  I’m really looking forward to decoding the knitting symbol patterns and coming up with some fun designs using this book!