Lately I’ve been more careful about purchasing craft books. We’ve moved into a smaller house and there just isn’t room. But I never pass up the opportunity to use a new stitch dictionary. So I was thrilled to hear that one of my favorite designers (and best designer buddies) Robyn Chachula was publishing a new one: Crochet Stitches VISUAL Encyclopedia). I wanted to hear all about the making of a stitch dictionary first-hand, so I asked Robyn if she’d consent to an interview. You can read the result:
1) Tell me a little about how the project came about. Have you always wanted to write a stitch dictionary?
ROBYN: Wiley approached me about writing an encyclopedia to fit into their new line of “Visual Encyclopedia” books. They were not sure what to include, but wanted a large book filled with pictures and diagrams. For me, I always wanted a chance to compile all my favorite stitch patterns, motifs, tips, and tricks into one book.
2) How did your narrow your field–what criteria did you use for choosing stitches? Did you get to play a lot and invent new ones? If so, what did you like more? Making up stitch patterns, or cataloging existing ones?
ROBYN: To be honest, I wanted to include every type of crochet I know. So I started at the beginning with simple stitches and worked my way out. I wanted cables, pineapples, grannies, edgings, filet, color, on and on. What I ended up doing is trying to have at least 3-4 of every type of crochet I know. I say that because I know there is a ton more versions and types of crochet that I have not even discovered yet. Once I brainstormed, I came up with 9 chapters; simple, cables, lace, weird lace, Tunisian, color, grannies, flowers, and edgings. We originally were working with 350 stitch patterns, so I tried to shove into each chapter a few of every technique I could think of. Like in the lace chapter, I divided it in to chain space stitch patterns, cluster sp, shell, pineapple, and waves. Then I looked at designs of mine to see if I could pull from those first, then I headed to my antique pattern books from the turn of the century, I then headed to 60s and 70s pattern books, then to foreign (mainly Japan, Ukraine, and Belgium); and finally swatched. I pulled from so many sources since I really wanted a well rounded stitch dictionary. In each chapter, there are some classic, some foreign, some antique, and some new stitch patterns. I have to say the hardest part was not getting sucked into the fun of crocheting everything in any pattern book I was looking at, or coming up with 10 times the amount of patterns I needed. There are many chapters that I cut a ton of patterns because I was coming up with 100 flowers, when I only needed 25.
3) What yarns did you use for making swatches and how did you choose it? Did you have help crocheting all the swatches? (Not counting toddler and canine help!)
ROBYN: I got a mix of yarn from acrylic (Red Heart Soft Yarn and Eco Ways) to wool (Cascade 220 Sport and Naturally Caron Country) to Cotton (Cascade Pima Tencel and Lion Brand Cottonese) to luxury (Blue Sky Alpaca Silk). I wanted to have a number of fibers on hand, because as you know different fibers show off different stitch patterns. I knew I needed a lightweight animal yarn for the cables, and a shiny plant yarn for the lace. I wanted a large palette of colors for the color stitch patterns but also to make the book look more interesting.
I did have help crocheting. A lot of help. I only had 9 months from when I start to when it was published. As soon as I finished a diagram I would send it off to a crocheter. In the end, I probably crocheted about a third of the book. It was really hard since I had to be really tough on what I could use in the book; since these little swatches would be what others used to make sure they did the patterns correctly. It was amazing what 350 stitch patterns really look like. The boxes where huge. I sent them in in 100 batches and it took me all day to catalogue and photo them.
4) I was fascinated by the names of the stitch patterns. I know some of them are traditional, but you clearly got to make some up. Did you have a method, or did you just pick names that sounded cool?
ROBYN: That was one of the hardest parts of the book. I pulled from every resource I could think ok. I used Victorian names in with antique snowflakes, I used eastern European names in the Brussels lace, I used African towns in the color work patterns. Basically if the pattern reminded me of a time period or place, I would either use Proper Names or Places associated with it. And when all that failed I named them after my family or names we had on our baby list of names. Man, I thought coming up with Elianna was hard. That was nothing compared to this.
5) There are many great uses for a stitch dictionary. How would you especially like crocheters to use the book?
I would love crocheters to use the book anyway they want. Use it to learn a new form of crochet, use it as inspiration in their next project (by crocheting a bunch of the grannies and joining them into an afghan, or taking an edging and adding it on a fleece blanket, or using a Tunisian color pattern to make a woven shawl), use the tips to make their current projects even more wonderful. I just hope they grab the book and hook (and yarn) all in one swoop. These patterns are meant to be tested out and crocheted, so I hope they enjoy it enough to get stitching.
Thanks so much Robyn for taking the time to chat!
Which brings us to the final exciting part of this post. Robyn’s publisher, Wiley, has agreed to give away a copy of the book to one reader of this blog. Leave me a comment sharing how you like to use stitch dictionaries, and I’ll pick a winner on 10/20/2011.