In honor of Friday being the first day of summer, I thought I'd share this adorable crochet pattern for a sun with sunglasses from the book How to Make 100 Crochet Appliques: Patterns for Fun Flora, Fauna, and Icon Patches and Deborah took a few minutes out of her busy day to answer a few interview questions. So get your hook out and crochet up a bit of sunshine and read all about the designer who brought it to you!
More about the CPi book:
This charming book presents 100 crocheted patches arranged in sections by theme, including farm animals, ocean life, feathered friends, flora, techno, holidays and special occasions. Crocheted appliques are skillfully photographed, and written instructions are accompanied by stitch diagrams. A beautiful photo gallery provides ideas for how to use these easy-to-crochet appliques, with simple instructions for applying them to other surfaces.
Deborah Burger has taught crochet for 20 years, through Girl Scouting, various community centers, summer camps, at her local yarn shop, and the John C. Campbell Folk School. She is active in the online community Ravelry, and has written articles and patterns for Interweave Crochet and the e-zines Crochet Insider and Crochet Uncut. She lives in Jonesborough, TN.
Now onto the interview that Deborah graciously took a few minutes out of her day to share with you. Thanks so much! My favorite is question 7 where Deberoah has a great phrase that I will most assuredly be adopting!
What does your workspace/design/creative space look like?
The studio is the smallish back bedroom of Dragonfly Cottage. One wall is paneled in red cedar to keep moths out of my yarn stash, which is the third photo. The walls are decorated with original art by family members, and there are lots of books, as in every room of the cottage. In my studio most of the craft books reside in one bookcase, while children's books and fantasy literature live in the other bookcase. The room also doubles as our guest room, and is frequently inhabited for a few days or a week, by one or more grandchildren. (The eldest 2 of whom love to crochet or knit with "Nana". They are girls, 12 and 11, respectively). I also tend to crochet or knit in the living room, and there is always at least one ongoing project next to my easy chair.
I save some, but not others. I do tend to save swatches of stitch patterns-- they're useful in their own right, but also sometimes function as "scrumbles" in a larger freeform or art piece. I also save those design projects that have either hit a roadblock of some kind, or lost my interest at the moment, if I have an idea that I may be able to get back to them at some point in time. I currently have a knitted baby blanket "on hold" because of some technicalities I haven't had time to work out. It's "living" in a basket with 2 crochet shawls that I do intend to write patterns for at some point, but have not done so yet. I also have some swatches and sketches filed in notebooks, to follow up on later. If I feel that an item is really a "mistake", I tend to frog it and reuse the yarn. When I designed a crochet sock pattern several years ago, I made 6 different socks along the way, before the final pair of identical socks that ended up in the pattern. I did not save the "prototypes" as each failed to address one or more of the design issues I was trying to solve. Last summer I had a sweater from another designer's lovely pattern nearly complete, when I decided it didn't really look good on my-- I frogged it and rewound the yarn, and am looking for another use for the yarn.
What's on your "next to try" list?
A friend has been experimenting with Tunisian Crochet through the back bump, which offers some intriguing fabric texture possibilities. I hope to have time later this summer to play around with that. I'm also knitting my first fully cabled Aran style sweater. At this point, I've been crocheting long enough that there is not a lot of new stuff I haven't tried.... but knitting is new enough to me that it still offers the adventure of learning something new. I'm just beginning to write knitting patterns (it is a slightly different language, with its own syntax and conventions!). I've also been exploring the possibilities of weaving with several kinds of very primitive looms, and am looking forward to doing more with those.
Do you ever work with recycled materials?
I do a lot of artwork with found objects and recycled materials! Dragonfly Cottage is a "live-in montage" of found/recycled article sculpture and repurposing. In crochet and knitting, I find some of the recycled yarns to be really wonderful, and I use them whenever possible. I love recycled Sari Silk, and also some of the newer yarns that blend a variety of recycled fiber types. I've also used the yarn made from recycled blue jeans, and find it a great choice for my cotton needs. Sustainability is a serious concern for us, and using recycled materials is one of the ways our lives and art ( my husband is also a potter, watercolorist, cabinetmaker, and musician) can grow in sustainability.
What music do you listen to when designing?
My music choices vary. But most of what I listen to while working out new ideas is Celtic and World/fusion music. When I'm crocheting samples, and just trying to crank them out quickly, following the directions I've written down, I tend to listen to Classic Rock music. I find that Bruce Springsteen songs mostly have exactly the rhythm that enhances my crochet! I have a "crochet playlist" that comprised 5 Springsteen cd's, along with Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, and The Eagles. It's my "go-to" playlist for crochet. My husband, the dyed-in-the-wool folkie, laughs at me!
How long does a design take you to create?
How long it takes is a difficult question. The designs for "100 Crochet Appliques" were all very small. Working from my idea list for each chapter, each design/pattern took me about 3-5 hours. I did them one or two a day, 3 or 4 days a week, for about 3 months. Larger projects take longer. Some designs take several weeks or even months, from first idea, through imagining, sketching, swatching, making and writing phases.
How do you organize your supplies?
This photo shows some of my (pile filing!) organization. At my desk, there are piles of paper and books... but I know what's in each pile and where the business card of a yarn supplier is. It's a terrible tragedy if someone moves my piles, though! The yarn is in clar plastic drawer units and storage containers. It's separated according to fiber content and weight-- one bin for acrylic blend worsted; another for worsted wool. All the cotton yarns are in one large bin; but sock yarn is separated into 3 drawers according to how many yards I have of a colorway. Laceweight yarn, dk yarn, novelty yarns, and bulky yarns, each have their own bins or drawers. My hooks and needles are in various containers: all the crochet hooks I regularly use are in a rolled nylon pouch with 4 inner vinyl zip pockets. The steel hooks are in one pocket;the lettered small sizes (A-G7) are in the next; H-N in the next, and notions in the last one. It's handy to carry with me. There is a mug on one of the bookcases, though, with various "extra" hooks--- some really large ones, some long tunisian hooks, and some of shapes I find more visually appealing than regularly useful. A nearby cannister holds straight knitting needles. My dpn's and circulars each have their own vinyl pouches. Books of patterns, stitch dictionaries, books of techniques, and books for visual / fashion inspiration are all in the bookcase beside the main yarn stash, and share space with the hooks and needles. My painting and sculpture supplies and weaving looms are in other parts of the house, though, as space allows. I paint in the same room where my husband does pottery, because of the ready water source there, and the stain-proof flooring. I set looms up wherever space permits, and we walk around them till their projects are complete.
I'm a voracious reader, with wide taste! In terms of craft and art, I read the magazines, Interweave Crochet, and Crochet! For knitting ideas, I read KnitSimple, KnitScene and occasionally Interweave Knits. I also love to read Elizabeth Zimmerman's books on knitting technique and encouragement. For pleasure, I read many murder mysteries, and also fantasy novels. Currently, I'm in the middle of Laurie R. King's most recent "Mary Russel"novel, and George R. R. Martin's "Game of Thrones" series, though I am not watching the tv series. Anxiously awaiting the release of Louise Penney's newest mystery this August. I also really love great literature, having been an English teacher in previous life-phase. I re-read "The Saga of the Volsungs" this past winter and spring, as well as Dante's "Divine Comedy."
How would you describe your personal style?
Whimsical. I am generally "turned off" by conventionality,a nd love the sense of adventure that "thinking outside the box" offers. I tend to cook without recipes, modify patterns or design my own, re-purpose items, and dress as if I were an unsupervised 6-year-old: whatever I like, regardless of "the rules" about what ought to go together. If an idea or fashion or item strikes my fancy, I follow that, trying to be responsible in use of resources, the environment and fellow beings in a growing manner.
How do you determine what a design is going to be made with?
I really prefer natural fibers and environmentally responsible processes, so that's usually an early consideration in choosing a yarn for a design. I think about both the function and appearance of the item-- does it need to be absorbent, insulating, stretchy, softly draping? When I've chosen a fiber or fiber blend and weight or size of yarn, then I look at the colors. I really abhor splotchy color pooling, so I usually spend a fair amount of time on making sure that the stitch pattern and yarn colorway I want to use will actually work well together. Sometimes I've tried a lovely yarn in 3 or 4 different ideas before finding the one that will really work for it; and sometimes I've chosen to use a different stitch pattern in order to show the color to its best advantage. Often, though, in design work, my own preferences are over-ridden by the editorial choices made by others! When I create a sketch and swatch for a garment or other item, it's with my choices. However, when a publisher buys that design, I make the sample in the colors and yarn chosen by their art department, based on their chosen color scheme, styling issues, and photographic clarity issues. For example, most of the projects I imagine using the appliques for, in "100 Crochet Appliques" would be made in an acrylic/wool blend or a superwash wool yarn, or cotton thread for some of the "kitchen-y" projects. However, the best yarn to use for showing stitch definition in the book's photographs was a mostly cotton yarn with very smooth texture.
Do you have a collection of anything?
Yes. My challenge is to keep my "collections" from totally taking over all my spaces! I collect yarns, first of all-- some of the yarns I have are in my collection without any intention of ever using them-- they are beautiful in their own right, and I find inspiration in looking at the beautiful hanks hanging above my desk from Shaker pegs. I also have a collection of antique glass jars and bottles, one of antique crochet hooks and antique (mostly crocheted) textile bits. My textile collection, though, also includes tapestry embroidery from Ethiopia, Kent'e dyed cloth from Nigeria, handpainted silk from Japan, etc. I collect old books, Delft-painted porcelain, and hand-made buttons......
How did your book come to be made?
I had just finished proofing the final pages for my first book, "Crochet 101", when my editor emailed me and asked if I would like to take on the Appliques project. It was her (Linda Neubauer) idea, really. She had made a board of "general idea" images on Pinterest, and asked me to look it over and decide if I'd like the challenge of doing 100 of those little icon-patch-applique projects in the space of 4 months, start to finish. I looked at the board, and thought it would be a fun challenge. Like writing haiku, the challenge was to create a visually appealing (and identifiable!) image, using no more stitches than would fit in one page of instructions, including the photo and diagram. Each design needed to use only 3 or 4 colors, and finish to less than 6" square if made in worsted weight yarn. Some might find that set of parameters sort of a strangle, but it sounded like a challenge to "visual poetry" to me-- in poetry the final presentation of the idea is limited by the rhyme, rhythm and length presecribed by the form being written, just as this project had "limits" for each project. I had a lot of fun, each day, taking an idea and simplifying its visual image to simplest shapes and then making them happen with simple crochet stitches.
The all important question (from Ravelry) what is your favorite swear word?
Well, as anyone who knows me can attest.... I don't "cuss" a whole lot, but when I do, SHIT is the word that lets off the appropriate amount of steam.
Thanks for the opportunity to let readers into my artistic world. You may find other useful information or pictures at my blog/website: www.dragonflycottagedesign.com.