One of the things I enjoy most about my job is working with other fiber artists. It is somehow so satisfying to collaborate with people whose work you really admire and who… well, who really understand why I’m so crazy about all things fiber (Because, y’know… they’re crazy that way too!). And I’m lucky enough to have quite a few of those collaborations going on at the moment. SpaceCadet yarns have been chosen recently for four designs in two upcoming books, as well as for designs by a couple of independent designers, and was used in an award-winning sock (more about that soon). Exciting times!
When Sharon Silverman asked me if she could use my yarns for not just one but two designs for her upcoming book, I practically ran to dyepots to mix up the dyes for two new colourways just for her. She is a crochet designer, teacher, and the author of four books: Basic Crocheting: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started, Beyond Basic Crocheting, Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting, and Crochet Pillows with Tunisian & Traditional Techniques. And the creator of the Moonmist Shawl, which Sharon designed with my Luna Laceweight in Evening Fog.
As a really accomplished and inspiring fiber artist, I wanted to find out more about her and her work as a designer…
At what point, in your own mind, did you switch from being a crocheter to a crochet designer? What defined that change for you?
For my first crochet title, Basic Crocheting, I was not confident enough to design all of the patterns myself. I purchased a few from established designers. The sweater pattern was disappointing: it was all single crochet, which made it very stiff and impossible to pull over your head, and it was definitely not “basic” like I had requested. I took a deep breath and told myself it was time to design a sweater. I picked a chevron pattern and did it! Because it was the first time I had worked with multiple sizes, I actually made one sweater in each size to make sure the instructions would work! That sweater was the first time I really felt like a designer.
Do the design ideas flow easily for you, or do you ever find yourself stuck? When you are stuck, what do you do to find inspiration again?
With the wonderful yarns available today in every material and colourway, and with the addition of Tunisian crochet to my stitch bag of tricks, I rarely feel stuck for a design. I keep a binder of “Design Ideas.” Anything that catches my fancy goes in there, from architectural elements to interesting color combinations to nature photos. Often I’ll browse through that with some yarn and stitch dictionaries in front of me. Swatching is a great way to get inspired.
What was the inspiration for the Moonmist shawl?
I love lightweight shawls, and the Luna laceweight yarn seemed perfect for an openwork pattern. I like the addition of some post stitches for added texture. To make the shawl symmetrical, I started in the middle of the back and worked left and right.
As your own crochet skills grow, do you find it harder or easier to design simple projects for new crocheters?
I think one thing that crocheters appreciate is the clarity and kindness with which I write patterns, whether for beginners or experienced crafters. I always try to give an overview, kind of like a road map: here’s where we’re starting, this is the route we will take, and here’s where we will end up. Otherwise it’s like driving blind. I have been crocheting for more than 40 years, and I still come up against poorly written patterns that I cannot figure out. It’s frustrating, and there’s no reason for it except laziness and arrogance on the part of the designer, editor, and publisher.
Along with clear instructions, technique photos are crucial. I want crocheters to feel like I am looking over their shoulder ready to answer any questions they have. “Does the hook go here or here?” “Do I skip this shell or work into it?” Photos can help them understand what the pattern requires.
I always enjoy creating simple yet interesting patterns for new crocheters.
For anyone wanting to try crochet for the first time, what resources would you recommend? Where should they start?
For anyone just starting out, there is no substitute for sitting down for an hour or two with a friend or instructor. That way you can make sure you are holding the yarn properly, making your stitches right, counting correctly, etc. Crocheters are often surprised to realize how important the non-hook hand is in managing the flow of yarn from the ball to the project. Your local yarn shop or a crochet conference may be your entree into the wonderful world of crocheting.
Ravelry is a wonderful resource, an online community for yarn folks without the intrusiveness of Facebook! YouTube also has many good videos. There are some great designers out there. Read what other people have said about their designs–and how good their instructions are–and choose a book or pattern from your favorite.
I am a huge fan of Tunisian crochet. For anyone interested in giving that a try, I recommend my books (Tunisian Crochet: The Look of Knitting with the Ease of Crocheting and Crochet Pillows with Tunisian & Traditional Techniques). Both of those come with detailed instructions and photos to explain the basic stitches. My first book, Basic Crocheting, also has a lot of visuals and illustrations.
If you had the opportunity to tell the world the one thing they
really ought to know about crochet, what would it be?
Crochet does not have to be frumpy and boxy! Choose the right combination of yarn, hook, and designer, and you can create garments that are beautifully shaped, drape like a dream, and are high-fashion enough to grace any runway.
Now, I’m not allowed to tell you anything about Sharon’s upcoming book — it’s all top secret. But I will tell you that it’s coming out for Autumn 2012 and it’s got some gorgeous designs in it… and two new beautiful new colourways from SpaceCadet Creations. But in the meantime, do go check out her website, www.SharonSilverman.com, and especially her pattern page on Ravelry, where you can find the pattern for the Moonmist shawl, for the lovely Sonata shawl (above) — the first of Sharon’s designs that really caught my eye — and tons more. She’s on Ravelry as CrochetSharon and on Facebook as Sharon Silverman Contemporary Crochet.