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!

Interview with Renate Kirkpatrick, book review, and week of giveaways kick off!

This post contains affiliate links.

Today I’m pleased to feature an interview with Renate Kirkpatrick, the fiber artist, teacher, and author living in the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, as my 100th blog post!  I first discovered Renate’s work through the Tunisian Crochet group on Ravelry.  The moderators posted the names of several Tunisian crochet books on the group page, and I saw Renate’s Crochet Techniques listed.  I decided to take a chance and order it on Amazon since the description sounded delightful.  (You can read my review of the book as part of my comparative review of the 20+ crochet stitch guides in my collection here.)  Since then, I’ve seen more of Renate’s work on her blog, her Flickr photostream, her Facebook page, and her Ravelry designer page.  I particularly love her recent pictures of her crocheted metallic vest on Flickr.

The Interview

Renate Kirkpatrick

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

Renate: To be honest, I really don’t remember… I do recall, as a child, sitting with a neighbour as she crocheted slippers and how thrilled I was when she gave me my very own pair… perhaps something subliminal going on there.  My grandmother and great grandmother were both wonderful crocheters/knitters, and I have a box filled with their beautiful works that I treasure, but I never knew them so perhaps there’s a bit of genetics going on too.  I think I made my first granny square in my mid-teens.  (UC comment: I also treasure my grandmother’s beautiful work, some of which you can see in this post.)

Renate made this felted, hand dyed, freeform hat with beads for the 2011 Alice Springs Beanie Festival.

(UC comment: For more info about the Beanie Festival, an event where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists share their work and culture together, visit the website here.)

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Renate: Family, friends, students… Family members and friends would ask me to make this or that and I’d write it down as I went so not to forget.  Students asking for more than just sampler squares.  The sheer challenge of coming up with a pattern idea and writing it down.

 

Renate’s second book.

UC: I recently bought a copy of Bring Colour to Crochet: 64 Multi-Coloured Squares.  What was the design process like for this book?  How did that compare to the process for your other two books?

Renate: My first two books, Freeform Crochet and Beyond: Bags, Cushions, Hats, Scarves and More (Milner Craft Series) and Crochet Techniques, came about through tragedy.  The local craft shop where I was teaching was destroyed by fire, along with all my sampler rugs (afghans) and the many freeform examples I had on display.  Luckily, I still had all the patterns.  I put together book proposals and submitted them to a number of publishers.  About 6 months later, Sally Milner Publishers contacted me for 2 books and so it began.  I like to think that Bring Colour to Crochet: 64 Multi-Coloured Squares sits somewhere between the first two.  My hope is that the traditionalists and freeformers alike will be challenged and inspired by the variety of colour incorporations and also the many novel stitches that make up this 64 pattern sampler.

 

Renate’s Metamorphosis freeform cushion cover includes water soluble fabric, machine and wet felted patches, felted beads, crochet motifs, and glass bead embellishments.

UC: What first inspired you to teach crochet?

Renate: The desire to help and share.  I was teaching Papermaking and Hooked Rag Rugging at said local craft store when I was asked if I’d like to teach some basic crochet as well.  Not one to do things by halves, I decided that once the students had a grasp of the basics they might want to try their hand at something more challenging to continue on – and so, the first sampler rug was born (Classic in Crochet Techniques).  From there it was a matter of staying a step or two in front of these enthusiastic ladies and with each crochet technique explored (Tunisian, double-ended, in the round, Jacquard), a new sampler was created as a teaching tool and goal setter.  (UC comment: My students keep me on my toes too, and definitely inspire me to learn new techniques and advance my skills.)

As a teacher, there is nothing more satisfying than having a student come to class lacking confidence and leaving excited and believing they can do it.

UC: Has teaching crochet impacted your own personal crafting?

Renate: Absolutely… The very fact that I was asked to teach the basics propelled me forward to research and explore.  Without my students asking “What’s next?”, I would never have learnt what I know today or achieved half as much.  It was a student who first introduced me to freeform, which has become my passion and the creative joy of my life.

Renate’s Scribbler purse.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Renate: It’s always so cliché but nevertheless true, the Natural World and all that that encompasses – colour, texture, and form.  What can I say?  I’m an Australian; our colours are over-the-top, vivid, bright; our textures tactile; and our forms bold.  It’s more than enough to keep me inspired for a very long time.  I blogged about this very theme some time ago.

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

Renate: I think I may have more craft books and magazines than the local library, but can’t say I refer to one more than another.  I do like to crawl the opportunity shops for old, old, patterns and books but so do others, or so it seems, because they’re very hard to come by now.

Renate’s Sideshow Alley shawl.

UC: Do you have any favorite crafting blogs or websites you’d like to share?

Renate: Ravelry is probably my most favorite site.  It brings together so many different people and ideas.  I’ve met so many interesting, passionate craftspeople that I feel quite at home and the mind boggles with all the exciting things happening in the yarn world.

 

A detail from Renate’s Sideshow Alley shawl.

 

UC: (Insert question here: Feel free to share anything that I haven’t asked about that you would like to talk about related to creativity, crochet, designing, new projects, teaching, etc.)

Renate: As I look back over the years and remember how crochet/knitting, indeed many older crafts, were considered out-dated, redundant, and doddery, I’m delighted to see their revival and the enthusiasm in which they are being embraced all ’round the world.

Lastly, and at the risk of repeating myself because I say this so often, I’m an avid believer in “the doing.”  How often do you hear, “Oh, but I’m not the least bit creative…”  I still maintain that everyone harbours some creativity within them and it comes to life through “the doing.”  Talent is one thing but not nearly enough.  Without “the doing,” how will the talent ever awaken and come to fruition?  A good old Aussie saying, “You’ll never know unless you give it a go…”

Well said, Renate!  Thank you so much for stopping in for an interview today.  And now on to the book review…

Book Review

Since I enjoyed Crochet Techniques (Milner Craft Series) so much, I decided to pick up Renate’s Bring Colour to Crochet: 64 Multi-Coloured Squares.  (You can check out a great picture of the completed sampler here.)

My version actually has a different cover, since I ordered it through the Crafter’s Choice book club.

The book starts with an introduction that includes illustrated stitch instructions, a stitch symbol key, and some helpful tips for weaving in ends since the patterns require frequent color changes.  Renate also includes directions for edging and joining the squares in the beginning section.  As with Crochet Techniques, stitch abbreviations throughout the book use Australian/UK terms with US terms in parentheses.

I use stitch samplers as a teaching tool a lot, so I really appreciate the book’s concept.  Each sampler square is photographed individually and each square uses two to five colors.  The squares are organized into 13 groups (Basic Stripes; Spikes; Shells: Zigzags; Reliefs; Ripples; Chains; Mosaics; Clusters and Bobbles; Afghans; Variable Stripes; Novelty Squares; and Bricks and Boxes) which makes it easier to find them later. Since the entire sampler uses the same five colors, there is a very coordinated appearance to the book.  If you have several stitch guides, you may recognize some of the stitches in Renate’s squares, but often the colors are introduced to new effect.  My personal favorite stitches are Square 25, 31, 32, 34, and 43.

On the other hand, if you are not fond of Renate’s color palette, you can obviously substitute yarns, but that topic isn’t specifically addressed.  There isn’t any pattern difficulty rating listed, so it would be hard for someone new to crochet or pattern reading to have a sense of the comparative difficulty of the patterns.  You can tell from reading the book that Renate as a teacher is relatively laid back about gauge (tension) and she suggests that you use a hook and yarn that you are comfortable with.  However, I know from personal experience that when I was still relatively new to pattern reading, I had great difficulty getting my squares made from Jan Eaton’s 200 Crochet Blocks for Blankets, Throws, and Afghans: Crochet Squares to Mix and Match to be the same size.  I think some beginners might need more explanation of gauge, yarn substitution, and hook sizes if they were working up a full sampler from Renate’s book without having her physically present as a teacher :).

Overall, I really like the sampler format.  I found quite a few stitches that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, or which were reinvented through the use of color.  I enjoyed Renate’s relaxed style compared to some books which can make me feel like the Crochet Police are looking over my shoulder.  However, if you are the type of crocheter who likes to follow the pattern exactly in terms of gauge, color choices, etc., you may find that Renate is not “strict” enough for you.  I recommend the book to crocheters looking for some new stitches, who enjoy making afghans and rugs, and/or who are afraid of color and would like a friendly teacher to walk them through some explorations.  The book may be too challenging for most beginners to work their way through (though an adventurous beginner would have a lot of fun experimenting with the book).  In my Amazon review, I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Giveaway

Today’s giveaway kicks off my week of giveaways in celebration of my 100th blog post, which you have just read!  Yay!

Today’s prize is The Crochet Lite Crochet Hooks-Size I 5.5mm.

This hook is brand new in the package and includes batteries.  In addition to having a comfort grip, this hook lights up, so you can work on that stitch sampler afghan in the wee hours of the night :).  It has an on/off switch to protect battery life.  I have never used the Crochet Lite hooks but it seems like a cool idea :).