I’ve had the honor of being interviewed by crochet and knitting designer Sarah Gomez of ALittleBitToKnit! Click here to read the interview. Be sure to check out the rest of Sarah’s blog for more designer interviews and lovely fiber craft projects!
Susan is the sweet and talented fiberista behind Jazz Handz Fusion Fiber. She creates affordable cotton gradient yarns with brilliantly unexpected color combinations. Jazz Handz yarn is unique in that the plies are tied together at intervals rather than plied or twisted. This makes for an airy fabric with excellent stitch definition, perfect for both lacy and textured projects.
1. Do you knit? Crochet? How long had you been in the fiber arts before you started creating yarn?
My love of fiber started when I was 8 and my Great-Great-Aunt Alice taught me needlepoint. She was a wonderful lady and did amazing petit point pictures right up until her death at 102! In high school I was given a crewel kit to make a piece for a school auction. Not knowing how to do any crewel stitches, there was a learning curve. But the piece, and the art, inspired me! I found the love for the feel of yarn in my hands, no matter what the medium!
Then I took a LYS knitting class with my mum. Two things came out of that class, something resembling a sweater, and finding my true fiber art love. I knit whenever I could find time, and money for yarn. Many years later I discovered felting and designed, knit and felted a closet full of purses and bags. But since I didn’t know what to do with them, I drifted slowly away from knitting for awhile.
Then for 5 years I joined with my mum and we created a successful business hand sewing “Pincushion Posies”. But, five years later, it was time for something new. I learned to crochet and then came back to knitting. It felt like I had come home.
2. What inspired you to create your own yarn, and how did you get started?
I love yarn! Wools, cotton, alpaca, you name it. Color is another thing I love. It must be from my pincushion days and years as an art teacher, but color is just as important as the feel of the yarn. After finding gradients, I soon discovered that I couldn’t get a good cotton gradient. There were a few on the market, but I wouldn’t really call them available. I either couldn’t get the colors I wanted, or didn’t want the colors available, but figured that I couldn’t be the only one feeling frustrated about this. So, I set out to create my own yarn in fun colors, that I liked, and make it available to others at a reasonable price.
3. Tell me about your process. What is the hardest part? The most enjoyable?
I start with 4 strands of cobweb weight, cotton. As I spin the yarn into a cake, I cut one strand (at predetermined points) and use a very strong knot and tie on the next color. By staggering these changes in color, a gradient effect is created. Add in lots of time untangling thread-like yarn that misbehaves, and random knots and breaks thrown in by evil yarn mills, and you end with a beautiful cake of colorful yarn.
The knot I use is the magic knot. Videos on how to make the knot can be found on the internet. I would say it’s magic for several reasons. First, it is very, very strong. I test each knot as it’s made and sometimes get a bit too zealous. While the knot has never broken, it is stronger than the yarn, which sometimes breaks as I tug away at it. Second, the knot magically disappears as you knit or crochet right over it. I actually cut the ends very close to the knot itself with sharp embroidery scissors, but most people weave in the ends. Really, it is nearly impossible to find that tiny little knot later on in the finished project. Magic!
The hardest part is actually finding the yarn I use. So I spend far too much time scrounging it up here and there. The actual process involves playing with color, frustration with knots, disappointment with knots and breaks in the yarn on the cone, and a contraption my husband built for me with plans I drew on a napkin!
Playing with color is by far the most fun! Depending on the day, and inspiration, my stash goes from neatly organized to having every color scattered about “playing” with other colors. Sometimes, the best combinations occur when I randomly set yarns down next to one another. It’s always hard to actually make the ones I set about doing in the first place, because others will appear that look much more exciting to me. I think some call that attention deficit, but I call it inspiration!
4. What is your favorite part of owning Jazz Handz Fusion Fiber?
The Jazz Handz Etsy shop, not so much fun. I’m not a fan of, nor completely literate of computers. But it’s also the best part too. I’ve been given the opportunity to meet the nicest people through the shop. I get to make someone happy with what I’ve made, then they take that and create the most beautiful things! It’s very flattering to me when someone chooses my yarn to spend so much time with. They crochet or knit, every day for weeks sometimes, and in the end there’s this brand new beautiful thing in the world! And I think, I had a little bit to do with that!
If you’d like to try some beautiful Jazz Handz yarn, Susan is offering a discount code for 16% off any purchase! That brings the price of a 100 gram skein of luxury gradient yarn to just $14.24. Here’s how to get the discount:
- Go to the Jazz Handz Etsy shop here.
- Add the items you would like to buy to your cart.
- Click on the Cart symbol to view your cart.
- Under the section that says “How You’ll Pay”, click on “Apply shop coupon code”.
- Enter the code 2016KNOTTHEORIST16 and check out.
This offer is open to all countries and will end on January 21, 2016 at midnight PST.
As an additional bonus, Susan has also generously offered to sponsor a giveaway of one skein of Fusion Fiber! To enter, comment below with your favorite Jazz Handz colorway. Then, click here to submit your entry and see ways to earn additional entries. This giveaway is US only and will end on January 21, 2016 at midnight PST.
“In French, ACCRO means addict. I am a crochet addict,” Julie writes on the About page of her blog. Julie is a French-English designer who specializes in modern crochet accessories with unique shapes and constructions. One of my favorite ACCROchet designs is the Twisted Cowl, a multicolored scarf worked in Tunisian crochet. I also love Julie’s shawls Theoretically, Adstock, and Granite and Quartz.
Left to right: Adstock, Granite and Quartz.
1. Describe your favorite place to crochet! If you crochet everywhere, describe the most unusual place you have crocheted.
Well, I really do crochet everywhere. Most often I crochet in my living room, after the day is done. I also crochet in the car when it’s not me driving, while waiting for my food when I have breakfast out with The Man and/or The Teens, etc.
To my daughter’s dismay though, the most unusual place I’ve crocheted is probably at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal earlier this month, as we waited for One Direction to come on stage. =)
2. How did you become hooked on crochet?
I initially tried knitting, but it didn’t stick. It made my shoulders tense, and I was so anxious that my metal needles were all scratched at the tip.
A friend of mine in Minnesota (hi Heather!) was really into crochet, and she was cranking out projects like a madwoman. She got me hooked long distance. She’d help me via email! At the time, there were few resources online (pre-Ravelry, pre-Crochet Me, pre-modern fiber world) and her help was definitely what fed my becoming forever hooked.
3. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Everywhere seems like a cliché, but it’s really true! Often I’ll just grab yarn from my stash and play with it until I figure out what it wants to become. My entire online world is filled with crochet images – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, RSS feeds – and they all feed that creative part of me. Images also impose themselves in my head and refuse to leave me alone until I make them come to life.
I like my designs to be simple, clean and modern. I want beginners to feel like they can accomplish them, and I want long-time crocheters to see something new in them that they want to try.
4. What is your long-term goal for your design business?
My ultimate goal is to carve a name for myself as a modern bilingual (French & English) crochet designer. It’s still somewhat hard to find good crochet designs in French, and that was my original goal, but I do also speak English and so I want to design for everyone.
I hope that ACCROchet will be a synonym of simple, clean and modern quality crochet designs. Of a designer that cares about the people who trust her, and of a trusted resource in the fiber world.
5. What advice would you give someone making one of your designs for the first time?
Crochet looks awesome and sometimes complicated, but it’s really just a matter of knowing your basic stitches and then reading where to put them. You have to take it line by line, with patience, and definitely not be afraid to frog when you find a mistake. I really believe that anyone can crochet anything, if only they have the right mindset. I write with the Craft Yarn Council guidelines, and I find they’re a super resource for beginners. I’m also around whenever anyone needs help. I love receiving emails from crocheters. =)
Julie has decided to give the winner of this giveaway the choice of 3 free patterns from her Ravelry Store! For a chance to win, comment below with your 3 favorite ACCROchet designs. Then, click here to enter. The giveaway will end on October 15 at 23:59 PST.
Patty of Happy Patty Crochet designs amazingly realistic crochet flowers. Above, you can see pictures of her Moth Orchids, Ranunculi, African Violets, and Magnolia Grandifloras. In all, Patty has almost 50 different flower designs.
I love how strikingly accurate Patty’s work is. She masterfully reproduces not just the shape of each leaf and petal, but their relative positions in the finished bloom. Patty also does a wonderful job capturing the delicacy of the flowers.
You can find all of Patty’s designs on her website, her Ravelry designer page, and her Etsy store. Also make sure to check out her blog here, where she shares updates about her patterns as well as tips for executing them.
Q. Describe your designing workspace. Do you work inside or outside? Are you surrounded by fresh flowers, or do you work from photographs?
A. My studio consists of a large round table that stands in the middle of the room, and around it cabinets filled with yarn, more yarn, and more yarn and lots and lots of crocheted flowers – roses, ranunculi, orchids, daisies, magnolias, lilacs, finished flowers and failed attempts of finished flowers. 🙂
I work mostly inside. I work outside or in a coffee shop if I find that I need a change of scenery, some inspiration or when my two normally little lazy cats decide that its time to chew and destroy everything I’m working on. 🙂
If I can find the flower I’m working on, I get it from the local flower market or from just outside my house. If I cannot find the flowers, I work with photos.
Q. In what ways have you used your crochet bouquets?
A. Mostly as gifts – most of my designs either end up as decoration in my home, or in the homes of my family and friends.
Q. What advice would you give someone trying one of your designs for the first time?
A. Just enjoy it! crochet is all about fun and relaxation. Take your time, and just enjoy it! Oh, and pay attention to shaping. 🙂
Bonus Question! I read on your blog that you have a passion for fruit carving. How did you get started with that?
A. I was first introduced to fruit carving when I was around 9 years old – in school we had art classes, and occasionally, classes that focus on Thai Art. In one of those classes, we learned fruit carving, it was very basic, and we had to bring our fruits from home – I, as per usual in those days :), forgot to bring mine, and had to share a small papaya with a friend, on which we unleashed our small not-fit-for-carving knives. 🙂
As time passed, I fell in love more and more with Lai Thai (Thai Art), with its beautiful smooth and curved lines, and stunning shapes, and I got closer to fruit carving. I kept attempting and practicing at home, using mostly papayas, and I slowly got better. My teacher noticed that I had a passion (and maybe talent) for this art, and I started participating in competitions – where my responsibility was carving flowers out of pumpkins 🙂 We won some and lost some, but it was great fun and an amazing experience that changed the way I look and approach flowers even today.
For those of you who would like to attempt a Happy Patty Crochet design, she is sponsoring a giveaway of one of her patterns! To enter, comment below and tell Patty which of her designs is your favorite. Then, click here to submit your entry. The giveaway will end on September 23 at 23:59 PST.
More Designer Interviews
Meet Katya Novikova
Katya Novikova is a self-described “yarnaholic” and crochet addict. She designs hats, mittens, and cowls, but the majority of her designs are airy lace shawls and scarves. I admire Katya for her ability to create light, drapy crochet fabric without large holes. I also love that Katya’s designs use stitch themes that are cohesive but not repetitive.
Pictured above are three of my favorite of Katya’s designs: Hourglass, Dunes, and Overcast. You can find all of Katya Novikova’s crochet patterns, which are both written and charted, on her Ravelry designer page, here.
Q. Describe your yarn stash! What does it look like? Where is it stored?
A. My yarn stash is my treasure. I store it everywhere in my home, and, as a treasure, it is well hidden in places where my daughter can’t find it. I like natural fibers and I really enjoy to work with them. I have anything you can imagine in my stash – variegated and solid yarns from lace weight to bulky.
Q. Who taught you how to crochet?
A. I taught myself to crochet when my daughter was about 6 months old (now she is 3 years), just to kill the time while she napped. I used photo- and video-tutorials, mostly from YouTube. I didn’t expect I would love it so much – it turned into an obsession immediately.
Q. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
A. I think the fine, airy textures of Japanese style impact my work. And I’m inspired a lot by other designers’ work, maybe because I’m a novice to crochet. I always find something absolutely new for me.
Q. What is your favorite part about being a crochet designer?
A. My favorite part is crocheting as it is – I always love making things with my own hands. I need to work with a material and transform it into an object. And, as a designer, I can make things my way.
Q. Can you tell me about Picnic, your newest design?
A. When I was a child, each summer I spend in countryside in my grandma’s house. And my newest shawl, Picnic, is a summery design as I mean it – in a country, rustic style.
Katya is sponsoring a giveaway of her beautiful shawl design, Picnic! To enter, comment below and tell Katya which of her designs is your favorite. Then, click here to submit. The giveaway ended at 23:59 PM on September 9, 2015. Congratulations to girliefriend, the winner!
Meet Vicky Chan
Vicky Chan is a talented knitting and crochet designer whom I have long admired for her sophisticated garment designs. Though she has only been designing for two years, Vicky has already been presented with prestigious awards.
For example, she placed third in the Pierrot Yarns Contest of Spring 2015 for her continuous motif shrug Clair. She was also the recipient of two 2015 Flaming Hook of Justice Awards. Jordan, a lacy pineapple top, was named the Best Tank/Sleeveless Top Design. Cynthia, a lacy shorts design, was named the Best Shorts/Pants design. My personal favorite of Vicky’s designs is Angela, which is a beautiful seamless oversized cardigan.
You can check out all of Vicky’s patterns, which include both charted and written instructions, on her Ravelry designer page here.
Q. What are your favorite crochet tools to use?
A. I love my good old Areo crochet hooks that I have kept for many years. My other favorite tool is my Clover locking stitch markers (I actually wrote about it on my blog). Sometimes I may also use my beautiful Japanese bowl as a yarn bowl (it’s featured in the photo here on my blog).
Q. What inspired you to become a crochet designer, and what were your toughest struggles along the way?
A. I have always enjoyed arts and crafts since I was a kid. I’m glad that Ravelry has made it possible for me to become an independent designer and explore my artistic creativity. Of course, my husband’s moral support and encouragement have also played an important part, even though he cannot tell the difference between crocheting and knitting. Couple of my toughest struggles are:
- writing pattern instructions to accommodate different crochet skill levels, text and chart readers while keeping the number of pattern pages down.
- providing multiple sizes when the crochet stitch patterns are often quite challenging to size up/down.
Q. Which of your designs do you or recipients of your work wear the most?
A. “Irene”, “Clair”, “Jordan” and “Julia” are worn by me the most.
Q. What one piece of advice would you give someone creating a crochet or knit garment for the first time?
A. My advice is to take the time to make a swatch, even though it’s very tempting to dive in and make the garment right away. The swatch can help you obtain the correct gauge and is ultimately less time consuming to frog.
Vicky has kindly offered to sponsor a giveaway of one of her designs! To enter, comment on this blog post and tell Vicky which of her designs is your favorite. Then, click here to submit. The giveaway ended on August 27, 2015 at 12:00 AM PST.
Meet Dedri Uys
Dedri Uys is a passionate crochet designer and blogger. She is best known for her Amish puzzle ball designs, which are modular stuffed toys perfect for baby gifts. Of these designs, my favorite is the Gregor Rhinosaur. Dedri is also well known for her gorgeous free blanket design Sophie’s Universe, which was made available in a popular crochet-along this spring. You can see a portfolio of all of Dedri’s designs on her Ravelry designer page.
Left to right: Gregor Rhinosaur, Sophie’s Universe, Sophie’s Universe close-up.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about how you came to be familiar with puzzle balls?
A: My mom made us some when we were children ( fabric ones) and then my mom’s friend sent me a link to a fabric one. I was too lazy to get my sewing machine out, so I decided to crochet one instead.
Q: Can you describe your first crocheted puzzle ball? Did it look anything like the designs you went on to publish?
A: The plain Amish puzzle ball (free pattern here) was my first try and first design. It is the basis on which all the puzzle animals are created.
Q: How did you go about developing your first design? Did you have any experience with amigurumi?
A: Not really. I’d made 3 vehicles (car, tractor, and digger-loader), but I was very much a beginner designer when I made the ball.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give someone trying one of your designs for the first time?
A: Read carefully and trust the pattern! Sometimes written instructions don’t make sense until you actually make them. Most of the people who get stuck with the design do so before even casting on a stitch. I have learned to follow a pattern blindly (regardless of what I think it should say), before making any judgements. If it still doesn’t make sense when I’ve worked it up, that’s a different matter. But sometimes patterns take a little faith.
Dedri has generously offered to give away a copy of her book, Amamani Puzzle Balls! To enter, comment below and tell Dedri which of her patterns is your favorite! Then, click here to submit. The giveaway ended on Wednesday, August 6 at 23:59 PST.
Meet Tanja Osswald
Tanja Osswald has loved crochet ever since she started at six years old. She is well known on Ravelry for her friendliness and her beautiful slip stitch designs. My favorite of her designs are the fingerless mitts that use her innovative horizontal cabling technique. Comet, which is perhaps the most well known of Tanja’s designs, showcases this technique beautifully. Shown on the left below, this design was also the deserving winner of the Flaming Hook of Justice Award for the Best Fingerless Mitts Design of 2015. Besides fingerless mitts, Tanja has several lovely geometric shawl designs that also use slip stitch crochet. Of these, one of my favorites is Igel, shown on the right below. Be sure to check out her designer page on Ravelry here.
Q: If your favorite design was a robot, what would it do and how?
A: My favorite robot would wind all my hanks into nice and neat yarn cakes, ready for me to use – and it would work slowly and diligently, a pleasure to watch and meditate. My favorite design is always the next I come up with – so it is hard to imagine a matching robot.
Q: Where is your favorite place to crochet?
A: My favorite place to crochet is anywhere I can sit comfortably. That can be a couch, a seat on the train, in a cafe… good light is a bonus.
A: In 2008 I played around with hotpads and oven gloves (see right). I worked these at a tight gauge, so they are thick and insulating. A friend at the Häkelclub (an internet forum) brought up the idea of making projects just from slip stitches (like in Bosnian crochet) and that got me started. It was interesting to explore different stitch patterns, but I had no idea it would become such a big love for me.
Q: Describe the time you invented horizontal slip stitch cables. Was it intentional? Did it take a while to figure out?
A: That was in the spring of 2010. I wanted to make a pair of fingerless mittens for my mother. They were supposed to be just plain and mindless. Then, work stress kicked in and I just had to be creative to relax a bit. I love cables because they are pretty and mathematical (all those permutation groups) and ancient (the Celts had awesome cable patterns). What more to wish for?
I like to work my mittens sideways so I can use the stretchy back loop only slip stitch rib. I also wanted the cable to run along the whole length of the mitten. Topologically, it should be possible to make a horizontal cable with a continuing thread – so why not make one in real life? My commute was about 45 minutes. On the way to work, I tested the principle of making horizontal cables, and on the way back, I made my first cabled mitten.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give someone trying one of your designs for the first time?
A: Enjoy! 🙂 And just contact me if you need help with anything.
Sneak Peek and Giveaway
As a special bonus, Tanja has shared a special sneak peek of one of her upcoming designs! She has also generously offered to give away a copy of one of her patterns. Enter here and tell Tanja which of her designs is your favorite!
The giveaway ended on July 29th at 23:59 PST.
I am continually inspired by the works and styles of other designers. I love learning new techniques, constructions, and stitch combinations. Therefore, I am excited to reveal that I will be publishing a series of interviews with some of my favorite crochet designers, starting next week. I will ask about design processes, backstories, and tips for getting the best results in your own projects. I hope you will be as inspired by them as I am!