Interview with Michele DuNaier

Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with crochet and knitting designer, Michele DuNaier. You may know Michele as the designer behind MAD Cap Fancies. Michele can be found on Ravelry as MADuNaier, on her designer page, and in the MAD Cap Fans group. All photos are copyright Michele DuNaier and used with permission.

This post contains affiliate links.

Michele DuNaier

Michele DuNaier.

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

Michele: My first lessons were as a child at my grandmother’s knee.  She came from a long line of knitters and crocheters; when she was young in “the Old Country” that was how the family’s clothes were made.  She could knit a thigh-length stocking in one afternoon, so she was exempt from farm work!  I would say I am more of a crocheter than a knitter, although I love both.

Ron's Skulking Cap

Ron’s Skulking Cap, a Harry Potter inspired crochet hat design by Michele.

UC: What inspired you to start designing?

Michele: After retiring, I became heavily involved in knitting and crocheting for charity.  After making over 100 hats in the space of a few months, I began to find it simpler to just design my own.  Then, when I realized Ravelry made it so easy to self-publish, I thought – why not?

Amagansett Girl

Amagansett Girl, a crochet shawl design by Michele.

UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?

Michele: My inspiration comes from a variety of sources.  The seasons inspire me, of course, as well as favorite books, movies, and television shows. A lot of my designs are inspired by old Victorian patterns and doilies.  I also like to design what Ravelry friends tell me they are interested in – for example, they currently have me looking into crocheted crescent-shaped shawls.

Victorian Mantelet

Victorian Mantelet, a crocheted shawl design by Michele.

UC: Most of your patterns are self-published.  What do you see as the advantages and challenges of self-publishing?

Michele: I actually have 3 designs published in pattern books so far, and a fourth due out this July in a magazine.  I prefer self-publishing, however; it gives me the creative freedom to design whatever I like, format the pattern as I wish, include photographs, poetry, creative writing, and whatever else I want to throw in!  Plus, I am always loathe to sell away the rights to my patterns – each one seems like one of my children.  I can’t say that self-publishing contains “challenges” – more like “opportunities” to express myself as I wish.

Meg's Hug-Me-Tight

Meg’s Hug-Me-Tight, a crochet design by Michele, inspired by the 1994 adaptation of Little Women.

UC: What are your favorite things about designing?

Michele: I love the Math inherent in needlework design.  Not that I always totally understand it or can predict what will happen, but I love wrestling with it in shawl design.  I also love parts of needlework design which I did not even expect I would be doing, such as photography, design layout of the pattern file, and doing some creative writing to get things out of my mind and onto the page (or rather, the screen).  I think of my grandmother often as I crochet and knit, and wonder what she would have thought of her granddaughter’s patterns virtually traveling the world via Ravelry!

First Love

First Love, a crochet shawl design by Michele.

UC: Since you’re multi-craftual, do you have a favorite “go to” craft when you’re working on projects for yourself?

Michele: It depends on the project.  Certain types of projects seem to call for knitting, others crocheting.  But then I love to try and create a design to use the other craft instead, just to see if I can. For example, hats and baby boy sweaters just seem to me better done in knitting than crochet, so I have tried to design some in crochet just for the fun of doing it differently.

Tropical Heatwave

Tropical Heatwave, a crochet shawl pattern by Michele.

UC: From your Rav profile, it seemed like you transitioned from a life in tech to a life on a farm/homestead.  Can you tell us about this transition and how it impacted your crafty life?

Michele: I do not live on a farm or homestead, really.  I live on the edge of a forest, but did that even when I was working in the technical field.  However, the transition from work to retirement was what enabled me to have the time to begin designing.  And ironically, I found there are so many steps involved in designing and self-publishing which are similar to software design and support. Sometimes I mistakenly refer to my patterns as “programs…”

Secret Crush

Secret Crush, a knit hat design by Michele.

UC: What are your favorite crochet and knitting books in your collection?

Michele: I love Doris Chan’s Everyday Crochet: Wearable Designs Just for You and Edie Eckman’s The Crochet Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You’ll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You’ll Ever Ask; I love reprints of old crochet patterns from the 1800s, as well as old doily patterns.  I also love Barbara Walker’s Treasuries of Knitting Patterns.

Daydream Shawlettes

Daydream Shawlettes, knit shawlettes designed by Michele.

UC: Are there any crafty websites you visit regularly for inspiration or community?

Michele: I am compulsively on Ravelry throughout each day, especially now that I have my own group, MAD Cap Fans.  I also frequent (all too often) websites which sell yarn, such as Jimmy Beans and WEBS

Thanks so much for stopping by, Michele! Good luck with your upcoming releases!

Frantic Holiday Crafting Update

YOP3 sheep

On December 1, I set a goal of finishing a project every other day in December.  With just a few days to go, I’m happy to say that I did pretty well.

First off, I finished three secret for future publication.  (You can read vague details on my Ravelry project pages here, here, and here.)  I can’t show pictures of the finished projects, but I can share the yummy yarns that I used.

Yarn collage

All of these were new-to-me yarns, and I really enjoyed discovering each one!  On the left is Imperial Yarns Columbia, which is a great workhorse yarn, but with a bit more softness than you would expect for a sturdy, worsted weight, wool.  In the center is Rowan Big Wool, which has a delightful feel as well, and it works up very quickly since it’s a super bulky yarn.  And on the right is Valley Yarns Valley Superwash.  The colors in real life are much richer than what you see on the screen.

And then there are the projects I already shared on the blog, a crescent shawl I made for my sister with Mountain Colors Twizzle, which has stunning colors and a scrumptiously soft feel (thanks to the silk content); the plain, ribbed hat I knit for MC using Studio Donegal Soft Donegal; and the brimmed hat I crocheted for my friend using Patons Shetland Chunky.

I did manage two other finishes in December.  Both were inadequately photographed in the holiday rush.  The first was a lap blanket for my grandpa, crocheted with two strands of what Ravelry calls “vintage” Bernat Softee Chunky that I bought at the famous Smiley’s Manhattan yarn sale.

Grandpa lap blanket

I created an ombre effect by changing the strands I held together for each row.  I also made a little heart motif on some of the squares, since my grandpa just had a pacemaker installed.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make new projects for my other relatives, so I dug through my collection to find some existing projects to gift.

Holiday gift Collage

I gave my grandma the original sample of my Pineapples for Everyone Shawl pattern, my uncle the hat I originally knit for MC (that was deemed “too fussy”), and my aunt a cowl I made as part of a CAL in January.

And then on Christmas Day, I did the last finishing touches (but forgot to photograph them) on the headband for my sister’s boyfriend.  It’s something he could wear to a football game in his current home (New Orleans) or in the new city he’ll be moving to after graduation (Houston).  Each side has a different flavor.

Geaux Saints I am a Texan

At this point, I’m averaging something closer to a finish every 3 days, which isn’t bad for the holiday season.  And, I’m on my way to (hopefully) finishing ten projects by the end of the month.

I have one more secret project to knit.  The yarn, HiKoo Simpliworsted, was a bit delayed in arriving and it looks lovely.

SimpliWorsted

And I received a fabulous gift from Kim Guzman (interviewed here) on Christmas Eve.  She sent me some of her famous apple butter (yum!) and packed the box with yarn (the now discontinued NaturallyCaron.com Country).  So with that, I started a baby blanket for my cousin (who, according to Facebook, may already be in labor).

Heart blanket thru 2013-12-27

This is a refinement of the pattern I made for my grandpa, where the hearts are a bit pointier and the squares are easier to join as you go.  The color that looks brown in the picture is actually a dark purple.

In other yarn related news, my sister gave me some yarn from her recent trip to Montenegro for Christmas.

Ana yarn

It’s now official that my yarn stash is better traveled than I am, since I also have skeins from Italy and Patagonia.

How did your holiday crafting go?

For more Year of Projects posts, visit this thread on Ravelry.

Frantic Holiday Crafting: Finish 3

It’s amazing how a little challenge can make your fingers fly.

Nice boring hat blog

This is a nice, boring hat for my special guy that I just finished.  I used the same yarn to make a slightly fancier hat a few weeks ago, but in using my secret knit testing tactic (asking him to “try on a hat” to see if it would fit someone else), I discovered it was too fancy for his tastes.  I knew the yarn, Studio Donegal Soft Donegal in Charcoal, would be perfect for him, though.

Grey days

I’ve been wearing “the fancy hat” though it’s a bit big on me, but I may give it to my uncle for Christmas.  After all, I’m less than 20 days away and with many unfinished gifts.

Since I set a challenge to myself last Sunday of finishing a holiday project every two days, I haven’t exactly met my goal.  But I have finished three projects.  (You can see the others here and here.) I feel like I’m on track, and, like most crocheters/knitters, I have a stash of finished items hanging around that can be gifted if necessary.

Some amazing yarn arrived in the mail on Friday for two upcoming designs that will be published in a magazine next year.

Imperial Yarn

I’m loving the feel of this Imperial Yarn Columbia 2-Ply.  I’ll be knitting up a secret project with it next.  One of the great joys of being a designer is having the opportunity to use all kinds of wonderful yarns that I wouldn’t usually have access to.  I’ve been wanting to try Imperial Yarn for a while and it isn’t disappointing.

Valley Yarns

I’ve also been eager to try Valley Yarns out.  Some of the students in one of my knitting classes took a field trip to WEBS in the summer, and I didn’t go because I’m trying to bust my stash.  Luckily, I get to sample the Valley Superwash now, so I don’t have to be too jealous!

I’m having some problems reading comments on my blog right now, but I’m hoping they are still coming through.  If I don’t respond to your comment, it hasn’t been fixed yet.

You can find links to more Year of Projects posts on Ravelry here.

Year of Projects: Crochet Master Class – Entrelac, Take 2

This post contains affiliate links.

This post is part of my Crochet Master Class series.  You can read my previous post on crochet entrelac here.

I’ll admit that the holiday crafting crunch time has arrived, and thus, I have not made any progress on my entrelac project.  I decided to share some entrelac inspiration though!

I looked on Ravelry and did a Google search, and it really does seem like most crochet entrelac patterns use Tunisian crochet.  I was able to find a few interesting patterns that are using standard crochet stitches and not Tunisian.

Joyce Wyatt may be the entrelac master featured in Crochet Master Class, but Carolyn Christmas is the designer I think of as the entrelac crochet master.  I mentioned last week that I learned Tunisian crochet entrelac from her booklet, How to Make Tunisian Crochet Entrelac.  I was pleased to see she has several single crochet entrelac offerings on her Gourmet Crochet website.

How to Make Single Crochet Entrelac by Carolyn Christmas

I fell in love with the Around the World Rectangle Baby Afghan from this booklet, but then I saw the Giant Dahlia Afghan.

From Entrelac Giant Dahia Afghan by Carolyn Crochet. The booklet includes both single crochet and Tunisian crochet versions.

Carolyn also has a great felted handbag.

Felted Entrelac Handbag by Carolyn Christmas.

The pattern booklet is available for sale here.  None of these patterns are available for digital download, but I think I may order one of the booklets since I have been so pleased with other booklets I purchased from Carolyn in the past.

There were three other patterns I found using single crochet entrelac.  These are all available online for free.

Entrelac sock by Jen Bianchi is available on her Knitters’ Row blog.  I’m pretty sure you can make two, even though the pattern title is singular ;).

Leslie Ann Bestor‘s Crocheted Felted Entrelac Handbag is available for download on the WEBS yarn store website.

The Enticing Baby Afghan is available to download from the Lion Brand Yarn website (registration required).  As a side note, it really disappoints me that Lion Brand still doesn’t list the designer’s name on their patterns.  As far as I can tell, all of their competitors (e.g., Red Heart, Caron) include the designer name.  (Stepping off the soapbox now.)

I found one lovely looking paid download entrelac pattern, the Felicity Shawl by Christie Pruitt.  You can buy the pattern on Ravelry or KnitPicks.

Felicity Shawl by Christie Pruitt.

This was the only crocheted entrelac pattern I found which didn’t seem to use only Tunisian crochet or only single crochet.  The stitch pattern looks really fun.

Do you have any other crochet entrelac patterns to recommend?