Posted by: mamas2hands | July 23, 2015

How I Became a Designer

When I spend time with other yarn enthusiasts I am often asked how I became a professional crochet designer.

The beginning of my journey as a designer was learning to crochet nearly 44 years ago. I loved to crochet, but never followed a pattern (which drove my mom nuts). I would just play with the yarn and stitches until an idea popped in my head for how to use what I was doing to make something I wanted. Whether that was a toy, a piece of jewelry or a garment.

By the time I was in junior high and on thru high school I was more interested in sewing, so I rarely crocheted. Instead I increased my knowledge of sewing and tailoring garments. My mother gave me my own sewing machine at age 15 and it became my favorite toy. I would sketch out ideas for garments and then modify existing sewing patterns to create the actual garments. I still sew occasionally, but as my life has become busier with motherhood and working as a crochet designer and teacher, my time for sewing has decreased.

I returned to crocheting about 15 years ago when I tripped over my dog and severely sprained my ankle. To avoid going out of my mind with boredom, while stuck on the sofa with my foot elevated, I started playing with yarn and hook again. I wasn’t great at reading patterns, but I could look at photos of garments or other crochet projects and get the gist of the pattern. After a month I was up and about again, but I was hooked on crocheting again.

I made lots of afghans for my house as well as for many members of my extended family. I made a blanket for our King Size Bed, which was a massive undertaking.  There were also lots of scarves. Finally I decided to try tackling some shaping and made a hat, I kept messing with the stitches and working in the round until I had a hat I liked.  In all my experiments I would write down what I did, but it wasn’t in the conventional sense of a pattern.

One day at the grocery store I discovered some crochet magazines on the newsstand beside the check-0ut. Someone else must have been looking at them and decided not to purchase them. Instead they went home with me.  One of those magazines was “Crochet Today” which had stitch diagrams accompanying the patterns.

I had always found text instructions for crochet patterns to be rather tricky to follow, but the stitch diagrams made immediate sense to me. By using the stitch diagram I could finally figure out the text instructions. Suddenly it was all coming together for me.

I began to write down my creations in more conventional crochet pattern styles. And I would draw up my design notes in rough hand drawn stitch diagrams.  These notes were not organized in any real way and often were on odds and ends of scrap paper tucked into a project bag with the yarn and hook.

In the back of my mind was the thought that someone had to be writing these patterns in the crochet magazines.  I thought it would be great to be one of the people doing that.  Then I discovered Ravelry.com, and joined the site in April 2008.

Jennys-Books

Jenny’s Books

Because of Ravelry I discovered all sorts of wonderful crochet artists and designers and became very interested in Free Form Crochet. One of the artists that I met on Raverly was Jenny Dowde from Australia. I purchased her books on Free Form Crochet and when I heard she was going to be teaching in the United States that Autumn I was very excited.

It turned out that one of the places she would be teaching was the Fall Knit & Crochet Show in Portland, Oregon. That was a short plane ride from Denver, so I decided I would go take classes with her there. That show really did change my life.

When I signed up for Jenny’s classes I discovered the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) and joined it in order to get the discounts for the class fees, little knowing that a whole new world was about to open up for me.  I was excited to go to the show even though I was traveling alone for the first time in 10 years. I was excited to meet other Ravelers and had even made arrangements to meet one of my Ravelry friends there.

In my first class with Jenny, I met Pam Shore and Janet Bates, both who have become two of my very dearest crochet friends. We kept bumping into each other around the show. They were very bad influences when perusing yarn and/or hooks on the market floor. I had such a wonderful and inspiring time at the show, it really marked the end of me “crocheting alone”.

Pam recommended that I join the live chat room during Mary Beth Temple’s “Getting Loopy” podcast on Monday evenings. So I did and became one of the “Loopy Groupies” plugging in my headphones and typing away for 45 minutes each show.  Then Mary Beth offered a class thru Crochetville called “Designing for Print Publishing”.

I decided to take the class, even though I wasn’t 100% sure how to even write a pattern yet. The class was about how to put together a proposal and present it to potential markets. As part of the class we had to create a proposal and send it out to a potential market.

I sent my proposal to “Crochet! Magazine” where Carol Alexander was the editor. I was very excited when I got an email from her saying that they weren’t able to use it in the issue that I had submitted it for, but wanted to hold it for consideration for their next issue. I contacted Mary Beth to see if this was the good news I thought it was. She said it was. A couple of months later I had sold my first design to Carol.

Lace With A Twist Wrap - Photo courtesy of Annie's Publishing

Lace With A Twist Wrap – Photo courtesy of Annie’s Publishing

That was how my “Lace with a Twist Wrap” came to be in the March 2010 issue of Crochet! Magazine. Of course there were other adventures with this as it was my first time writing a pattern.  I think it was assumed by the Technical Editor, since I was a “new” designer, that I wouldn’t write the pattern correctly. Unfortunately the corrections that were made to the pattern actually introduced errors to it. Fortunately, many folks have successfully made this wrap and it spawned one of my most popular posts on my blog: “The Twists and Turns of a Mobius

I had to turn in the sample and pattern in July of 2009 for that design, so as soon as it was out of the way Mary Beth was telling me not to sit on my laurels. She advised that I keep working on proposals for other designs and encouraged me to attend the Knit & Crochet Show that August in Buffalo, New York.  I put together some ideas in a notebook and despite some nervousness went to the Meet & Greet at the show, where designers can meet magazine editors and others from the publishing business.

Shari White, Susan Lowman, Me, Joyce Bragg Waiting for Editors at Meet & Greet

Shari White, Susan Lowman, Me, Joyce Bragg
Waiting for Editors at Meet & Greet

While waiting in line I met a number of my colleagues who have become good friends over the years since. This show was also the first time that Mary Beth Temple and I got to meet face to face. I had only met her online before then.

Crochet Lace Fingerless Mitts - Photo courtesy Coats & Clark

Crochet Lace Fingerless Mitts – Photo courtesy Coats & Clark

I got leads on selling 3 different designs at that event, and made the contacts that led to many other publication opportunities later on. My first ever published design was sold to Bobbie Matela of Coats at the Meet & Greet. My “Crochet Lace Fingerless Mitts” this pattern came out in October 2009.

Cover of "Crochet World"

Cover of “Crochet World”

And Michele Maks (who was with Crochet World at the time) was very interested in my “Field the Spring Lamb” who went on to be on the cover of the April 2011 Issue.

I felt pretty confident at the end of that show that I could call myself a professional designer. Since then I have had over 100 designs published in magazines, Ezines, yarn company websites and my own pattern line: M2H Designs available thru my Ravelry shop or on this blog.


Responses

  1. Wow, very inspiring! I have made lots of scarves and blankets etc. for friends but never got around to writing down the patterns…maybe it’s time I did!!! xx


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