Time for another designer profile. This week, meet Ana Clerc. Ana designed the beautiful crocheted shawl-- A Girl at the Spoke-- for the Musings from Mercury Hall Pattern Booklet. Down at the shop, Kennedy just put together A Girl at the Spoke kits in all sorts of great colors-- hurry down and get one. But first, check out this Q&A-- Ana tells us about her passion and her process:
How long have you been working with fiber? Do you crochet exclusively or also knit? - I've been working with fiber for as long as I can remember. I was very young when I was taught to crochet, and then knit. Perhaps 30-35 years ago for each of them. That's a sobering thought. I was taught to sew not too much later. I think I knit as much as I crochet, but I find myself designing for crochet more. Both are equally represented in my WIP pile, however.
When did you develop your passion and how did you learn?- Early, early. Every woman in my family did some sort of fiber art, so I always had my hands in various workbaskets. I think the first time I really remember working with fiber was about 3, when my mom let me embroider huge stitches with crewel wool and a yarn needle into burlap. I did lots of those. I was also taught how to make sailor's knots really early - both my grandfathers were ex-sailors, so using yarn to make things was second nature to me. I was 5 when I was taught to crochet, and 8 when I was taught to knit. Nothing special, basic stitches. And probably more to keep me out of everyone else's projects than to intentionally teach me something at first. I was always asking to try, and always pulling things out to play with. So someone finally gave in - a combination of my mom and great-grandmother, I think. There was also a small loom at our house, and we had family friends who were spinners and weavers, so I was surrounded with it. It wasn't until my family moved from Galveston, TX (little need for warm woolies) to a suburb of Chicago and then Milwaukee (great need for warm woolies) that I really came to appreciate the ability to make things to cover one's self well. I then moved to MInnesota for college, and I really began to re-learn knitting and crochet there. They are serious about the wool up there. I bugged my mom to help remind me what to do, and I peeked in at the serious knitters at the yarn shops up north. I also developed a passion for historic clothing really early, and worked as a costumer for a while. I really began to understand the importance of shaping and fit doing that, and was taught so much by other costumers.
Favorite projects over the years? - My son liked to wear hats everyday when he was a bit younger, and he asked for some fairly interesting ones generally. He had me knit him a pineapple hat, one that looked like a turtle's shell, a tomato hat. He asked for a knit chicken for his last birthday, so I made him one. Who could deny a request for a chicken? My daughter's requests tend to be a bit more straightforward, but I did make her a basket full of food for a Red Riding Hood dress-up. She's been enjoying a knit earthworm lately. I've designed a few owls for giggles too. I like making things like that most of all. I also like historic reproduction knitting and crochet as well as sewing. I've been slowly working on a Victorian Era tie-shawl for myself. I have had to talk myself out of making a whole bustled costume to go with it.
Tell us about your process coming up with A Girl at the Spoke? I got the idea to do a lightweight crocheted shawl and was really inspired by 1930's dresses and the capelet bodices many of them had. I went back to original magazine images and film stills as well as dressmaker's patterns to get a good feel for the shaping and details many of them had. I also really wanted to put a bold floral border on the bottom of the shawl to really refer to some of the images of the day. I made a few quick sketches and swatches and went from there.
What are you working on now?- I'm working on another piece for the next HCW booklet, as well as an e-book of toddler dress patterns (knitted and crocheted) with fabric skirts on them. And another crocheted shawl is in the works.
Where can we find you on Ravelry/your blog (or website)/FB etc? - On Ravelry, I am badgersmama, but my patterns are under my own name. My blog (where I write infrequently) is http://oceanofstitches.blogspot.com/, and though I rarely am on FB, I am under my own name there as well. On twitter, @oceanofstitches
Any advice for folks who want to try designing their own patterns? - First, research. Look at everything you can. If you're inspired by leaves, look at high-resolution photos of their structure. If you're inspired by period clothing, look at every contemporary painting, print, and existing costume you can. Then try to sketch it out - get an idea of what shape you want. It doesn't matter if you can only draw stick figures. And most importantly, challenge yourself and have fun doing it. Don't be scared.
Any funny crochet/knitting stories (disasters, etc.)? - Hmm. Well, I am constantly underestimating the size of my enormous head. I measure, and still make hats too tight. I once tried to compensate for it by making a truly enormous tam. It was so big, the back of it reached below my shoulder. It was more a wimple than a hat at that point. I tried to convince myself that all would be well, and wore it out and about. When I felt it ruffling away in the breeze, I knew that I had to frog it.
Where do you get your design inspiration?- Old movies, vintage photos and clothing, and plants. I think I could look at any of those all day long. Especially vintage pictures of my great-grandmother. She had been a seamstress, and was raised by her grandmother who had also been a seamstress. That woman could DRESS.
Anything else? - I will be giving a 3-part class for A Girl at the Spoke starting on June 3rd.