What better way to celebrate NatCroMo than to spread the word about crochet? Today, Larry Keltto at The Solopreneur Life shared an interview with me as part of his “How I Made My First $10,000″ series.
You can find the interview, about my experience starting and growing Underground Crafter part-time, here. You can also follow Larry’s blog to read great tips for aspiring or existing solopreneurs! (And, if you are wondering what the heck a solopreneur is, Larry shares his definition here.)
Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with Frankie Brown. Frankie is a multi-craftual designer. I first discovered Frankie’s work last year when I used her Jelly Mould Blanket motif in a baby blanket I made for my newborn cousin. After doing a little digging on her designer page, I realized that I had was already familiar with several of her designs (especially the Ten Stitch Blanket) through other blogs that I follow.
Frankie offers all of her self-published crochet and knitting patterns as free downloads through her Ravelry designer page. She asks her fans to contribute to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation, and, to date, over 600 of her supporters have contributed over £7,000 (over $12,000)! Frankie is known as rosemily on Ravelry, where she also co-moderates the Frankie’s Knitted Stuff group.
All pictures are copyright Frankie Brown and are used with permission.
Country Rose, a crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.
Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started crocheting and knitting?
Frankie: All the women in my family (and some of the men, too) knitted, crocheted, and sewed, so it was inevitable that I would, too. One of my earliest memories is my Mum teaching me to knit at the age of three. It was a pink square and I don’t think I actually knitted much of it. Later, I would be allowed to do the occasional row in my Mum’s or my Granny’s knitting. As I grew up, I would knit a lot with my Granny, who was probably the keenest knitter in the family, but it was my Great Aunt who taught me to crochet. I made endless giant granny square blankets, using random wool.
Treat Bag knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: What inspired you to start designing?
Frankie: I was a member of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, which invited submissions for its quarterly magazine. They would have a theme for each issue and these themes caught my imagination. The first thing I designed for them was a knitted ammonite for the ‘Sea’ theme and then the Ten Stitch Blanket. Mostly I interpreted the themes literally so I knitted a pile of holes for Holes and little people for Bodies (Bendy Bodies). This was where I developed my taste for quirky knitting.
Woodland Wreath knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: Where do you generally find your creative inspiration?
Frankie: Most of my inspiration comes from things with straight lines: ironwork, tiles, things with patterns worked into them. I’m also a quilter and I’ve interpreted various patchwork blocks in knitting. I love Mathematical shapes and patterns, spirals, flexagons, tessallations. This leads on to origami which has been the starting point for various designs. Many of my patterns are worked in garter stitch which lends itself well to straight lines and angles. As well as shapes, I also love playing with colour and here I am inspired by just about everything I see. Often, I will get a colour scheme from fabric but the colours for one of my blankets came from a packet of tea. If all else fails, I use the colours of the rainbow.
Apple Core Blanket, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: All of your Ravelry patterns are available for free, but you ask people to donate to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation. Tell us what was behind your decision to offer all of your patterns for free, why you chose this particular charity, and how you feel this has worked out.
Frankie: When my Mum died, I thought about how she had used her creative talents throughout her life to raise money for various charities and I decided I wanted to do that, too. This coincided with me joining Ravelry and finding that people were already talking about the Ten Stitch Blanket. I chose to raise money for the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation as a friend’s son was born with biliary atresia and I have seen how this has affected them and also the help they have received from the charity. To be honest, most people that download my patterns don’t donate, but those that do are very generous and as more people find my patterns and they grow in popularity so the charity gets more money. I think the fact that my designs are free has also helped to spread the word about them. Many people have also used my patterns to knit things to help other charities, something which really pleases me. To be honest, even if nobody ever donated, I think I would still want my patterns to be free. I like sharing new ideas, just as you would tell a friend when you’d found something exciting, I like to share my discoveries with as many people as possible.
Jelly Mould Blanket, a crochet pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: Most of your patterns are self-published. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?
Frankie: Really, I only see the advantages of self-publishing. I can design what I want, when I want and in my own time. I have control over how my pattern looks and I do my own proof-reading so there are less likely to be mistakes. I also really love the feedback that I get through Ravelry. I’ve learnt how to write more clearly and the importance of good photos from people telling me when they get stuck on one of my patterns. Seeing what is popular also gives me ideas for new designs and I particularly enjoy the community that is building up on my Ravelry group, Frankie’s Knitted Stuff.
School Tweed, a knit pattern by Frankie Brown, available in the Tea Cozies 2 collection.
UC: You also have patterns in three collections by the Guild of Master Craftsman. How did you become involved with these projects?
Frankie: This happened at about the same time that I was writing for the Knitting and Crochet Guild. There was a competition in Knitting magazine for tea cosy patterns so I entered one year, then the next, then they had a coffee cosy competition … The books feature their favourite patterns from these competitions. The most exciting thing about these books for me was seeing my designs professionally photographed – they look so grown-up!
Big Dots, Little Dots crochet blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: What are your favorite crochet and knitting books in your collection?
Frankie: The books that I use most as practical tools are the Barbara Walker treasuries and Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book. I also love any books with a historical slant and collect Victorian knitting books. My favourites though are the Elizabeth Zimmermann books; I read those again and again. What she does is encourage you to play with your knitting and see what happens and that’s what I do.
Wheels Within Wheels crochet motif pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: Do you have any crafty websites or blogs you frequent for inspiration or community?
Frankie: This is a tricky question. You’re talking to the woman whose mobile phone is so old, it can’t even take photos, and who refuses to have a Facebook page. Ravelry is the only craft site that I use regularly, and although I enjoy chatting to people on my group there, that’s enough for me. I read various blogs for relaxation but none of them have much to do with knitting.
Double Spinning Star, a patchwork inspired knitting pattern by Frankie Brown.
UC: Do you have any future plans you’d like to share?
Frankie: I would like to write a book one day. I have in mind something that would show how to knit all sorts of shapes and textures, illustrating each one with a few simple patterns. That way, knitters could use it as a starting point to design their own projects. Most of my designs are based on really simple ideas and it would be good to share those with others.
Squares on the Roll knit blanket pattern by Frankie Brown.
Thanks so much for stopping by to share your thoughts, Frankie. We’re looking forward to seeing that book – it sounds great!
It’s been a very cold winter here in the Northeast. Yesterday, temperatures were in the teens! But March is National Crochet Month, and this year’s Crochetville Designer Blog Tour has a Spring Garden theme. I kicked off the tour by sharing my Hydrangea Shrub granny square pattern, and then the dreary weather inspired me to design some more spring-themed grannies. I’ll be releasing one square a week during NatCroMo, and the patterns are available as free Ravelry downloads through March with the coupon code NatCroMo14.
I call this pattern A Ray of Sunshine. My maternal grandmother, who taught me to crochet, had a small strip of garden in her mostly concrete backyard. She often grew sunflowers back there, and as a child I remember them often being taller than me! I loved running up and down on the angled metal cellar door as a kid, and the sunflowers were the first thing I would see as I slid/ran down. Sunflowers always brighten my day, and I hope this block does the same for you!
I used some leftover yarns to crochet the square. I had a lot of fun making the petals.
Yesterday, while going through my neglected blog reader, I came across a Moogly tutorial for wet blocking crochet squares. I usually spray block, so I thought I’d try it out on this square. I was able to spread out the petals a bit more.
For this particular block, I can’t decide which version I prefer. What do you think? I’m wondering how I should block the next square I make!
Download the pattern here for free through March 31, 2014.
This month, I plan to highlight crochet on my blog by sharing interviews with crochet designers, reviews of crochet books, and introducing several new crochet patterns. (For my own sanity, I won’t repeat last year’s daily NatCroMo blogging though!)
I think all of my regular readers know that crochet is my favorite craft. (Ssshh, don’t tell the knitting – it could get jealous!) My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 9 years old, but I didn’t learn to read patterns until I was 27. One of my first attempts at pattern reading was inspired by my desire to crochet a granny square. (I learned using Julie A. Bolduc‘s Basic Granny Square.)
The theme of this year’s NatCroMo blog tour is Spring Garden, and since granny squares were my original inspiration for learning to read patterns (which eventually led me into designing), I thought I’d introduce a new motif pattern today.
I call this 6″ (15 cm) square the Hydrangea Shrub. When I was growing up, my grandmother’s neighbor had delightful, multi-colored hydrangea shrubs in her front yard. I loved looking at them as I walked up to my grandmother’s house, and ever since, hydrangeas always remind me of spring.
I took pictures of those hydrangeas in the small park adjacent to the American Museum of Natural History. I love all the vibrant and pastel colors you can find hydrangeas in.
To crochet the Hydrangea Shrub square, you’ll use basic crochet stitches (the chain, double crochet, and single crochet); working in rounds; increasing; joining new colors; and bullions, crossed stitches, and post stitches. Written instructions for the last three stitches are provided in the pattern.
Download this pattern free with coupon code NatCroMo14 through March!
Halos of Hope is the featured charity for the blog tour. They provide volunteer-crafted hats to cancer centers around the country. If you’d like to crochet some hats for your local center, you can find recommended patterns here.
Enjoy the rest of the tour, and happy crocheting!
You can find more information on the 2014 Sampler MKAL here, and can order the pattern here. Join in any time for a fun project with great prizes!
This month’s giveaway sponsor is Michelle’s Assortment. Michelle sells her wireworked shawl pins, stitch markers, bookmarks, and charms on Etsy and at fiber events around the country. You may remember that I had the opportunity to meet her at Vogue Knitting Live in January.
I snapped that picture of her in her booth, where I helped out for a few hours. Michelle has some lovely work. In fact, I’m the proud owner of three of her stunning shawl pins.
In addition to her Etsy shop, Michelle can be found online as CraftyFlutterby on Ravelry and on the Michelle’s Assortment Facebook page. Michelle will be a vendor at several upcoming fiber events, including the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival from March 14 through March 16. (I had a fabulous time at the festival last year, which you can read about here.) She’ll also be at several Ohio events in the next few months: A Knitter’s Fantasy in April, OddMall in May, the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair in August, and the Autumn Fiber Festival in October.
Michelle will also be the MKAL giveaway sponsor in November. Thanks, Michelle, for your generosity and support!
Michelle will be providing the winner’s choice of any straight pin with a single bead in her shop inventory. You can find her current inventory of straight pins in her Etsy shop here. Be aware that her stock is likely to change by the end of March after the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival. (The shawl pins shown above are, from left to right: the Heart Shaped Stone Bead, the Winter is Coming Shawl Pin, and the Glass Bead with Hot Pink Wrap.)
To enter the giveaway, post a picture of any 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-A-Long sampler square you knit during Marcj in the relevant spoiler thread onRavelry by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Monday, March 31, 2014. (KAL participants who are not Ravelry members can instead share pictures with theUnderground Crafter Facebook page or Tweet pictures to @ucrafter.) Each square you share a picture of will count as one entry. One winner will be chosen at random on or about April 3.
At Vogue Knitting Live 2013, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Watson from Full Moon Farm. Laura’s yarns were extremely colorful – and so was she! – so I was immediately drawn over to her booth. It was wonderful to learn that she’s a New York State local (about 90 minutes north of New York City). I ran into her again at 2014′s event, and she was kind enough to take some time from the busy lifestyle of a farmer/shearer/spinner/dyer/entrepreneur to share an interview.
Underground Crafter (UC): Besides shearing, spinning, and dyeing, do you also crochet, knit, and/or weave?
Laura: I knit, but am a rank amateur. It is on my list to get better. I felt and do Australian Locker Hooking.
UC: Tell us more about your motivation for starting Full Moon Farm, and about its expansion.
Laura: I grew up on a sheep and beef farm. I (like all my siblings) moved away from the farm but then, in the end (like all my siblings) I returned to farming. I stuck with the sheep. I like them and can manage them, physically, without assistance. My flock started with 1 bred ewe, Border Leicester. I added Corriedale and then Merino, so now my flock is a motley mix with decent body size for meat, and nice, fine wool for spinning and felting.
UC: Some of us urban dwellers have fantasies about moving out to the country and starting a farm. Can you tell us a bit about the realities of farm living and working?
Farming is a 24/7 life. One must be prepared for fencing or haying a field in the heat of the summer or checking on the flock in the middle of the night in the cold during lambing season. The benefits are the beauty of the pasture or hay field, the coziness of a full hay loft, new born lambs – so sweet and bouncy – and fiber.
UC: One of the things that struck me about your booth at Vogue Knitting Live was your colorways. Where do you find your inspiration as a dyer?
Laura: I love color and have so much fun dying my yarns and spinning fiber. I usually go with colors I like. I am not afraid to combine colors and just go with my gut to choose what combinations to make. I have recently started trying to be more focused and going with a theme such as “Mom’s Flower Garden” or “Field of Sunflowers.”
UC: You have the opportunity to travel to many fiber related events. Tell us about some of your favorite fiber festival experiences.
Laura: I love going to fiber festivals because I know that the people attending are there because they love (or like a lot) fiber, so we already have something in common. I like to see what the other vendors are doing too because there is such versatility in wool and other fibers. It makes me smile just writing about it.
My favorite event is a little fiber festival in Clermont, NY at an historic site. It is called The Chancellor’s Day Sheep and Wool Festival. The setting, on the banks of the Hudson River, is idyllic, and they do historic re-enactments, such as shearing sheep using an antique shearing machine. It has grown in size and popularity over the years but remains small, quaint, and very friendly.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura!
By the way, I love the look of the skein I bought from Laura in 2013. It has since been wound into a yarn cake and is awaiting transformation into a beautiful project!
I’m happy to introduce my pattern from the collection, the Symmetrical Scallops Scarf.
The sample was knit in Seaweed, which reminds me of the darker green colors we see in our waterways here in New York City. The pattern is based on a stunning vintage counterpane in Knitting Counterpanes: Traditional Coverlet Patterns for Contemporary Knitters by Mary Walker Phillips. (It’s a wonderful book, by the way, and I’m so glad it was republished after being out-of-print for many years.)
I’ll be co-hosting a knit-a-long with the four other designers featured in the collection, Tian Connaughton, Nazanin S. Fard, Faye Kennington, and Carol Schoenfelder. The collection has something for everyone – 2 blankets, 2 scarves, a shawl, mitts, a hat, and mittens – and you can join in the KAL by casting on any one of the projects. Ravelry members can see all the patterns on the Chroma 2014 Collection source page here.
One of the interesting things about being published in this collection was that Knit Picks had a sample knitter create the sample, which means that I can join in the knit-a-long to finish my own version! I started it way back in July when I was working on the pattern, but it’s been in hibernation for quite a while. My scarf will be in Parakeet.
(You only need 3 skeins for the scarf, but I have an extra.) I love these colors, too, so I’m excited to see how my version turns out.
The KAL starts on March 3 and runs through May 5. Knit Picks is donating 5 print copies of the entire collection for giveaway prizes, so why not join in? You can find the details in this thread in the KnitPicks Lovers group on Ravelry. I hope to see you there!
Today, I’m sharing a guest post with Sharon Silverman as part of her blog tour for her latest book, Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets. I previously interviewed Sharon here as part of her blog tour for Crochet Scarves: Fabulous Fashions – Various Techniques. I was all ready to write an introduction to Sharon, but she’s been kind enough to introduce herself in the guest post! You can also find links to where to find her online at the end of her post. All photos are copyright Sharon Silverman and used with permission.
I’ve inserted a few comments in purple. Enjoy the post!
Tunisian Crochet Hits Its Stride
Thank you to Underground Crafter for the invitation to write a guest blog. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on Tunisian crochet.
First, a little bit about me. I became a crochet designer in a roundabout way. After writing several travel guides for Stackpole Books, editor Kyle Weaver asked me to do another guide to an area about ninety minutes away from my home. It just wasn’t the right project for me. My children were little, it would have involved a lot of commuting, and I didn’t have the essential insider knowledge that the book deserved. However, we really liked working together, and Kyle mentioned that Stackpole had just started a craft line. His exact question to me was, “Can you do anything?”
Why, yes! I crochet. The timing was perfect, since Stackpole had just released Basic Knitting. They hired me to write Basic Crocheting: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started. I rediscovered my love of the craft, was introduced to the fabulous yarn produced today, met a lot of fantastic designers, developed a great working relationship with photographer Alan Wycheck and editors Mark Allison and Kathryn Fulton at Stackpole, and have never looked back. After that first volume, I wrote Beyond Basic Crocheting, Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting, Crochet Pillows, Crochet Scarves, and Tunisian Crochet for Baby (coming September 2014), all for Stackpole; and Tunisian Crochet Baby Blankets for Leisure Arts. My designs have appeared in the 2006 Crochet Pattern-a-Day Calendar and in Crochet Red: Crocheting for Women’s Heart Health (reviewed by Marie here). I am a design member of The National NeedleArts Association and a professional member of the Crochet Guild of America. I have taught at venues large and small, and was featured on three episodes of HGTV’s “Uncommon Threads.”
When I was browsing through a stitch dictionary while designing for Beyond Basic Crocheting, I came across something I hadn’t seen before: Tunisian crochet. I didn’t have a long Tunisian hook, but I tried a few stitches on a regular crochet hook. Wow! I had never seen fabric like that created with a crochet hook. It immediately hit me that Tunisian crochet was the perfect solution to the problem I refer to as “rivers of double crochet.” That look does not have much to commend it, in my opinion, and I am always disappointed when I see it in today’s designs. (I think when people disparage crochet, that’s the style they’re reacting to. Can’t blame ‘em.)
Anyway, Tunisian had none of that “loopy” look. I started with a swatch of Tunisian simple stitch. It went so fast! I remember laughing out loud because it was simply so much fun to do. Soon I grabbed some scrap variegated yarn to see how that would look. The way the colors on the return pass appeared between the vertical bars of the forward pass…it was stunning. In short order I tried every single Tunisian stitch pattern in that book. Wait a minute: you mean I can make fabric that looks knitted and purled? Lace? Cables? Relief stitches without having to work around a post? And I can do all of that with a crochet hook? I’m in!
After putting one Tunisian pattern in Beyond Basic Crocheting, I started thinking about a book with all Tunisian patterns. With the right size hook and the right weight of yarn, Tunisian didn’t have to be bulky or just for blankets. It was perfect for garments and accessories as well. I wanted to call the book Tunisian Crochet: Not Just for Afghans Anymore! but Stackpole preferred the more sedate Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting.
At that time is wasn’t unusual for crocheters to say, “Huh?” when I mentioned Tunisian crochet. But everyone I taught it to was crazy about it. This was near the beginning of what I happily think of as the Tunisian crochet renaissance. Other designers were discovering or re-discovering Tunisian and doing fantastic things with it.
Fast forward to today. The Tunisian crochet group on Ravelry has almost 5,000 members—we’re waiting for you! Major magazines now feature Tunisian patterns as a matter of course. And the books! Scads of books either exclusively Tunisian crochet, or with a substantial number of patterns. The Tunisian Crochet Group on Yahoo is an excellent resource and a place to get questions answered. And, of course, you can check YouTube for tutorials.
One indefatigable proponent of Tunisian crochet is Kim Guzman (interviewed by Marie here). I think I have all of her Tunisian crochet books. Kim wrote a wonderful post encouraging all of us to be Tunisian crochet cheerleaders. You can read it here.
Along with Kim, many other designers are hard at work creating fantastic Tunisian patterns. I hesitate to name them because I know I’ll forget somebody—whoever you are, please forgive me, and post your name in the comments!—but some people whose work you might be interested in are Doris Chan, Dora Ohrenstein (interviewed here, book reviews here and here), Kristin Omdahl, Robyn Chachula (book review here), Vashti Braha (interviewed by Marie here), Marty Miller, Lily Chin, Karen Whooley, Sheryl Thies (book review by Marie here), Tammy Hildebrand (interviewed by Marie here), Darla Fanton, Jennifer Hansen, and others. A quick search for “Tunisian crochet” on Amazon gives a long list of titles.
The book gave me the opportunity to try some interesting Tunisian techniques, including stranded colorwork. I used that for the Bright Strands blanket.
Tunisian Crochet for Baby is currently going through the editing process. Here is a sneak peek at some of the projects.
Thanks for stopping by, Sharon!
Today is National Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association‘s annual event to bring attention to women’s heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. This year, Jimmy Beans Wool founder Laura Zander is bringing her Stitch Red campaign to crochet, with Crochet Red: Crocheting for Women’s Heart Health, a collection of 31 patterns. Since I don’t have much red in my wardrobe, I thought I’d spread awareness by reviewing Crochet Red, instead. (A portion of the proceeds from this book are donated to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health to support The Heart Truth campaign.)
The book opens with a stunning image of a stack of red crocheted items, and then shares a thumbnail of each of the designs in the table of contents. Not surprisingly, the book then launches into a series of notes, forewords, and prefaces (by the director of the Heart Truth, Deborah Norville, Vanna White, and Laura Zander), each of which discusses women’s heart health.
The next section of the book, Projects and Profiles, includes 30 patterns. Each pattern includes a designer profile. In many of these, the designer shares their own story related to heart health. Most patterns also include a health tip from the designer, such as their favorite heart healthy foods or exercise. Most patterns, especially the wearables, include multiple views of the project. The exceptions are the two wraps, neither of which is shown on a model, and the smaller projects, like the mitts, which just include one picture. The garment patterns also include schematics (in red, naturally). All patterns are written in U.S. crochet abbreviations, and five patterns also include international stitch symbols.
The next section, Heart-Healthy Living, includes a variety of information about heart health, such as self test, exercise recommendations, tips for staying motivated about healthy lifestyle changes, and nine recipes.
The Crochet Know-How section shares the standard “back of book” information like a glossary of abbreviations, hook sizes, yarn weights, and a US to UK abbreviation conversion chart. It also includes short photo tutorials of the basic crochet stitches (chain, single, slip stitch, half double, and double crochet) and the adjustable ring for crocheting in the round. The book ends with a bonus pattern, a list of yarn suppliers, and an index.
Throughout the book, images of mountains of red yarn, piles of red crocheted fabric, and models in red garments are presented against mostly white backgrounds. The contrast creates a really beautiful effect and you just want to keep flipping through the book. The layout is particularly helpful in the Heart-Healthy Living section because it contains a lot of text. The contrasting colors and the images break up the wall of text and keep the book visually interesting.
Overall, the book includes 31 patterns.
- Women’s top (cardigans, tunics, shrugs, pullover, etc.): 9
- Women’s coat or jacket: 4
- 3 each: cowls, scarves, bags
- 2 each: hats, blankets, wraps
- 1 each: pillow, mitts, sachet
- 13 easy,
- 13 intermediate, and
- 4 experienced.
My favorite designs are the Flower Garland Cowl by Robyn Chachula, the Gingham Afghan by Tanis Galik, the Heart Shaped Coat by Nicky Epstein, the Petal Cabled Hat by Linda Permann, the Slouchy Cowl by Edie Eckman, and the Sweater with Cowl by Marly Bird. Ravelry members can see the 30 main patterns on the book’s source page here. (The bonus pattern, Kristin Nicholas‘ Heart Sachet, is visible on the book’s front cover.)
Although this book has a stunning layout and a great collection of patterns by many of today’s most popular designers, there are a few things I wish were done differently. I would have liked to see the wraps on models, particularly since they can be challenging to style. I think many crocheters would want to see more patterns with international stitch symbols. Most of the garment patterns are in 3-4 sizes and some crocheters will be looking for more. The Heart-Healthy Living chapter is a bit lost at the end – putting it up front would have made everyone look through it and would probably have a greater impact on awareness. I wish there was more information about how much of the proceeds were going to The Heart Truth. (Is it a percentage? A fixed amount per book? Is there a maximum donation? etc.)
This is a surprisingly affordable collection of patterns, particularly since there are so many garments. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars for a crocheter who likes pattern collections and who enjoys crocheting projects for women.