Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Our Messiah performance on Saturday was a success, and heaps of fun if a bit nerve-wracking at times! Willie came along to listen, with Chloe and Celena and two friends. They brought me a bunch of flowers, which was lovely - one's first Messiah is a big deal, after all. ;)

A lot of the choruses rattled along at a cracking pace, which is exhilarating but also scary if you're not totally confident with your part. The period-instrument orchestra was excellent, and added a lot of sparkle and depth to the music. 
I loved Chloe's comment that the choir sounded "tight" - coming from a rock musician, that's a great compliment.

Here's one of my favourite choruses, the final "Worthy is the Lamb" and "Amen". These guys take it slower than we did, but it still sounds fantastic...

I'm nearly ready for Christmas! Jam Drops, Salted Toffee Almonds, and the all-important Pavlova have been baked. My mini-solo for Christmas morning choir has been practised (a verse of a carol called "Past three o'clock"). Tonight we'll wrap presents and put up a few decorations. And tomorrow afternoon, we'll go to Chloe and Celena's house for an "Orphan Christmas" featuring a vast vegetarian feast, cocktails, a performance by Booty Pageant, and a Slip 'n' Slide. ;)

Merry Christmas all!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Designer interview: Marie Segares

I had the honour of interviewing another designer as part of the Indie Design Gift-A-Long. I love hearing about other people's creative processes! Here it is, my interview with Marie Segares of the Underground Crafter. :)

Marie, wearing her lovely crochet design Thaden's Asymmetrical Shawl

Hi! Please tell us a little about yourself…  
Sure! My name is Marie Segares and I'm the crochet and knitting designer, teacher, and blogger behind Underground Crafter. I also host the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show, a weekly podcast for yarn industry indies filled with ideas for launching, managing, and evolving your yarn-related business. Random fun facts about me: I'm a native New Yorker and have lived in New York City for 92.5% of my life. I am a "cat person," though I think other people's dogs are really cute (most of the time). 
How did you begin designing? 
I got started designing because of my somewhat unique crochet teaching situation. I've taught crochet for a local union since 2008 (and knitting since 2011), and I often have repeat students. At first, I would create projects to demonstrate a particular technique or skill, or to give them practice with reading patterns. Eventually, I started submitting designs to magazines. I now have a mix of patterns published in magazines and other publications, self-published patterns for digital download, and free patterns on my blog. 

What is your favourite type of item to design? 
Accessories and blankets are my favorite things to make and to design. 

Which is your favourite design? 
Right now, my Thaden's Asymmetrical Shawl is my favorite crochet design. I love asymmetry when designing - I think it looks interesting and it keeps me on my toes when I'm making the sample ;). I've been wearing mine almost every day now that it's getting cold. The Dream in Color Jilly Lace is so soft and cuddly, and since it's a lace weight yarn, it's thin enough to fit under any coat. It's great for layering in this weather. My Alaskan Moonrise Scarf is my favorite knitting design. I just love the look of the stitch pattern, and the Miss Babs Yowza! Whatta Skein really lets the stitches shine. I guess you can tell I love hand dyed yarn, too! Both of these yarns are great - stunning colors, and the skeins are "jumbo sized" so you can splurge and be frugal at the same time!
Thaden's Asymmetrical Shawl

Alaskan Moonrise Scarf

Alaskan Moonrise Scarf (detail)

Are there any of your designs that need more love? 
Haha, I've always wished that my Visit to the Kantcentrum would get a little more love. It's a Bruges crochet design, and I had fun taking pictures for the tutorial. It's one of those patterns where gauge isn't critical and you can adjust the size easily, so it's fun to make. 

Visit to the Kantcentrum

What is your design process, and which are your favourite parts? 
I have two different processes. When I'm designing for other publishers, I usually look through their mood board or design call and immediately will get certain project ideas. Then I may dive into a stitch guide or look at different yarns to flesh out the idea a little further before I start swatching. For my self-published designs, my inspiration either comes from fashions I see in the streets of New York, or from thumbing through stitch guides, or from a great skeins of yarn. 

What skills do you find come in handy as a designer, other than crochet and knitting (e.g. sewing, drawing, coding)? 
I think comfort with math is critical for designers. I've always been that person who calculates how much everyone should pay and what the tip is when eating out in a group, so that's not a problem for me. Also being confident about writing is helpful. I'm not the world's greatest author, but I don't second guess myself too much about descriptions, blog posts, and social media conversations, either. I wish I had better (or, even some!) illustration skills since I think that would be helpful when submitting sketches to publishers. 

What special equipment do you find useful (e.g. software, fancy hooks/needles)?
 I do enjoy using ergonomic hooks and wood needles when I can, since I find that as I crochet and knit more often these days, I want to avoid strain. I LOVE my DSLR camera, and I use Lightroom for basic photo editing. 

What’s your absolute favourite yarn to work with? 
Oooh, this is tough. As I mentioned, I love hand dyed yarn, and I'm a huge fan of wool of all varieties. I also like undyed wool and alpaca. I know that may seem contradictory, but it's true! 

I just love Marie's Chubby Sheep!

Do you prefer to work with charts or written instructions?
I think it depends a bit on the project. I sketch charts when I'm creating my own crochet stitch patterns because I find it easier to figure out how things will line up and how many chains I'll need to get started. I am not that comfortable reading knitting charts, though, so I usually write out those patterns. I find it easier to work from written instructions on the whole, though, since I am often working in suboptimal lighting conditions and it's usually easier to mark them up to keep track of my progress. 

Have you noticed any differences between the worlds of crocheters and knitters? 
Haha, yes, at least in the U.S. There's definitely a lot of baggage about crochet and knitting here and which is "better" or "more versatile," etc. Since I teach a lot of international students, though, I realize that some of this is cultural.

Quadrilateral, a broomstick lace shawl - so pretty!

Do you have any advice for a newer designer?
Yes, lots! I share a fair amount of it on my podcast every week. But here are a few things I think are important for designing newbies.
Keep excellent notes while designing and creating your sample, especially if you don't already have a relationship with a tech editor you trust and who is "in synch" with you.

Remember what's important to you and your business and design career, and try not to get caught up in what others are doing. It's great to learn from other people, but you never have the full picture and everyone's situation is unique, so don't compare too much.

Try not to let negative comments and trolling get you down, but at the same time, listen to constructive feedback and see what may be valuable to help you to grow. I give you permission to throw a 5 minute pitty party after you get a mean comment, but then delete it and move on with your life! 

Lastly, are you making anything for the Gift-A-Long?
Yes! I'm working on cheezombie's Crochet Splat Cat Coaster to accompany a custom mug I bought on Etsy for a friend, and Bruno Bear by Justyna Kacprzak for my toddler cousin. 

Thanks so much, Marie!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gift-A-Long progress

The Gift-A-Long is going strong! If you'd like to see all the amazing projects which people have already finished, check out the FO (finished object) thread. There's still the rest of the month to go, so do jump in if you're keen. :)

I admit my own Gift-A-Long project (a Park Slope top) has stalled a bit...
I managed to knit the shoulders, sleeves, and body down to just below the armpits, but then I got caught up in knitting another exciting (and top secret!) project. The top is looking great though, and I'm looking forward to finishing it when I can.

Another cool part of the GAL is the blog interviews the designers have been doing! Those of us with blogs were assigned names out of a hat to interview. I’ve been interviewed by two other designers, which was really fun. Here are the links:

Interview: Amy van de Laar, Baroque Purls
- at Janelle Martin’s Eclectic Closet, and
Designer interview: Amy van de Laar, Baroque Purls
- at Nim Teasdale’s Little House on the Hill.

I'm also super-proud to have been featured in this highlights post:
GAL 2014: my picks of the unique, quirky and innovative designs
- at Elizabeth Felgate’s blog.

My own interview with Marie Segares is coming soon. :)