Meet Crochet! Magazine Editor Ellen Gormley

Ellen Gormley, the editor of Crochet! magazine is not only my coworker, but a good friend and fellow crochet enthusiast. One of the things I admire most about Ellen is her infectious teaching style both in person and on camera.

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Ellen has more over 300 published designs including garments, bags and accessories, and home decor. She has been published in numerous crochet magazines and has written five books, including Go Crochet! Afghan Design Workbook, published in 2011, and Learn Bruges Lace, published by Annie’s. She is the instructor of several Annie’s online classes including Learn to Crochet and Learn to Read Symbol Crochet Diagrams video classes and is also one of the crochet experts featured on Knit and Crochet Now! which airs on PBS. In 2013, Ellen was named editor of Annie’s Crochet! magazine.

I thought it would be fun for you to learn a little bit more about Ellen so I recently I had a conversation with her.

Jackie: Tell us a little about yourself. Did you grow up in a crafty family?

Ellen: My mom was a dabbler of all things yarn and needlework. I remember only a few finished items but I know she had many, many unfinished items of all types of needlecraft. We lived next door to my great aunt Margaret who was an avid thread crocheter. I’m sure she influenced my love of the craft.

How did you become interested in crochet?

Since my mom and great aunt crocheted it was natural that I would learn. My mom and I made a scrap granny square blanket for my grandmother and that project seemed to have sealed my love for crochet.

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In addition to being a designer, the editor of Crochet! magazine, authoring several books, starring on Annie’s Knit and Crochet Now TV, you also have done 6 video classes for Annie’s. I love your classes, you have such a relaxed and encouraging style. You are a natural. Tell us a little bit about what it is like to film the TV show or a class. I know from personal experience it is not as easy as you make it look!

Ellen and crew getting ready to film in the Annie's studio

Ellen and crew getting ready to film in the Annie’s studio

Thank you! There is no real magic except the video team making it seamless and professional. I truly believe in leaving in “mistakes” when I’m teaching, instead of pretending they don’t happen. Those mistakes can be great teaching moments, as we all make mistakes. Students will make mistakes too and confidence comes from learning how to fix them. I love demonstrating how to go back and “undo” and do correctly. I try to remember to speak slowly and to repeat steps. The beauty of video classes is that you can watch and re-watch as many times as needed to learn. On video the instructor will have infinite patience!

Which class is your favorite of the Annie’s classes you have filmed?

I have a soft spot for the Learn to Crochet Lace class. I love all the projects but in my opinion the Broomstick Lace Shawlette is worth the entire class. I have made that scarf several times for gifts and I keep going back to it.

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Broomstick Lace Shawlette From Learn to Crochet Lace with Ellen Gormley

Broomstick Lace Shawlette
From Learn to Crochet Lace with Ellen Gormley

Any words of encouragement for crocheters that want to learn more?

Hold the hook any way you need to in order to get the job done. Short lessons over multiple days is the way to succeed. Use yarn that is smooth and not too dark in color. Use a yarn color that makes you happy. Don’t assume your first project will be gift-worthy, instead keep it for yourself so that you’ll see how far your skills have progressed over practice.

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Want to give Ellen’s classes a try? Get 20% off the digital download of Ellen’s Learn to Join Crochet Motifs and Granny Squares: From Simple to Sensational, November 30 – December 7. Use discount code CWELLEN at checkout or begin shopping here.

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Meet the Designer – Denise Lavoie

Last month I shared some of my favorite projects from Stress-Free Seamless Crochet in this blog post. Today I want to introduce you to one of my favorite designers, Denise Lavoie, who created the beautiful Paisley Lace Shawl featured in this newsstand special issue.

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I recently asked Denise to share a little bit more about herself and her love of crochet.

Jackie: Denise, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Denise: Well, let me quote my own Ravelry bio – I’ve been into textiles, like, forever, and am especially into color. Otherwise, I’m just a single gal with a liberal heart who’s into wine, art, men and song (and not necessarily in that order). To expand just a little further, I also have a lot of education (most of which I earned in evening classes while working full-time during the day) and am the first person in my immediate family to earn a college degree.

When did you learn to crochet?

I learned to crochet (and knit) when I was a tween, mostly self-taught. My maternal grandmother (a former New England textile worker) could neither knit nor crochet, but she had many friends who did. If I had questions, I would go visit her, and her crafty friends in the building (she lived in a high rise apartment building) would help me out. I loved visiting my grandmother and her friends, and I think they enjoyed seeing the projects I made. I know they always loved helping me with questions.

What other techniques appeal to you? I know you are also a fine artist as one of your paintings inspired your crocheted throw, Le Peinture Blanket  which was published in the summer 2013 issue of Crochet! magazine.

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Thank you for that compliment, Jackie! I also paint (mostly acrylics) as well as produce many mixed media pieces. I created all of the artwork for my first self-published book, Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace, and since they were portraits of early female pilots, it was quite a challenge for me. Creating faces has always kind of scared me; I enjoy and feel far more comfortable creating more abstract pieces, so the portraits in the book were way outside my comfort zone, but I was pleased with the final results.

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Portrait of Amelia Earhart From Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace By Denise LaVoie

Portrait of Amelia Earhart
From Leather, Lace, Grit & Grace
By Denise Lavoie

How did you become a designer? What was the first design you sold?

Well, I actually picked up a paint brush first, and then designing followed. Prior to 2009, I was teaching design school students non-design subjects (English, history, ethics [really, philosophy], and critical thinking), and one day in an effort to be more creative with color, I picked up some paint brushes and basic acrylic colors and started to put color on canvas. It was just multicolored dashes on a bright orange/red background, but I was hooked.

Once I became a Ravelry member, a friend in a crochet group posted that if anyone was interested in working with a stitch pattern that she had all but abandoned, send her a private message. I did, she sent me the stitch pattern, and I worked up the sample of what has become, since January 2011, one of the most popular crochet shawl patterns on Ravelry, the Festival Shawl – http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/festival-shawl.  It currently has over 530 projects and is sitting in another 1,776 queues!

My first sold designs came fairly quickly after that – the La Poetique Beret and Infinity Scarf Set –  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/la-poetique-beret-and-infinity-scarf-set. They were designed for the Vogue Knitting Live Pasadena 2011 fashion show for Premier Yarns. My first designs for Crochet! magazine hit the next year in autumn, 2012, and I haven’t looked back.

La Symphonie Jacket Wrap Crochet! Autumn 2012 Designed by Denise LaVoie

La Symphonie Jacket Wrap
Crochet! Autumn 2012
Designed by Denise Lavoie

What is your favorite part of the design process?

That’s difficult, because I pretty much love it all! I do love the making – watching a design come to life is a real thrill. Choosing yarns and colors is always a lot of fun for me, and since I regularly self-publish designs under my Voie de Vie design name, I also thoroughly enjoy the styling and photography.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

Inspiration is everywhere (to paraphrase Ralph Lauren), but I definitely get a lot of it from my liberal arts education. Mythology and literature and history and philosophy inspiration are all generously sprinkled throughout my designs. Color, nature, music and tradition can also inspire designs (such as flowers for the Gradient Flower Cowl that was published in the Annie’s Crochet! newsstand special, From Scraps to Sensational, or paisley for the Paisley Lace Shawl, shown above).

Gradient Flower Cowl Designed by Denise LaVoie

Gradient Flower Cowl
Designed by Denise Lavoie

What is your dream project? If you could design anything, pull out all the stops with the perfect yarn ready and waiting, what would you create?

It would be a formal gown, and probably with a combination of Artyarns and Habu Textiles (but it would ultimately depend on final swatches!). It would be something lacy and ethereal that (I hope) would make everyone stop and take notice. Crochet can have a lightness to it that packs an unexpected artistic punch. I would want this piece to underscore that.

What does an absolutely perfect day look like for you?

A perfect day would include lots of art, lots of fiber, lots of creating, good conversation (preferably over a great meal) and probably some travel thrown in for good measure.

If you did not crochet what would you miss the most?

Nope, I am not going there. I will always crochet, so there is nothing to miss. Let the joy continue ad infinitum!

Thanks for letting us have a behind-the-scenes peek into your life, Denise. We look forward to more of your beautiful designs in future issues of Crochet World and Crochet! magazines.

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A Granny Square Christmas

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Add a touch of whimsy, color and retro charm to your winter holidays while making your home feel warm and cozy! All the projects in this new pattern book by designer Lisa Gentry use simple variations of the granny square motif to create 15 fun and festive designs.

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Decorate your tree with grannies shaped into stockings, trees and star ornaments. Complete the look with a tree skirt crocheted from multiple-size motifs in traditional holiday colors.

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Then decorate all around the house with this cute garland of mini triangular grannys. The colorful square blanket and pillow for your sofa will complete the festive holiday look!

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Also included is a trivet and mug cozy which make great gifts too!

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Quick-to-make gifts including a hat, scarf, shawl and fingerless mitts for the whole family round out this fun collection of granny square projects.

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Make your holiday extra special with these timeless designs which have been reinterpreted in a fun and festive way. To get started making your own Granny Square Christmas, order the pattern book here.

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Celtic Cable Crochet

Many of you are familiar with Bonnie Barker’s Celtic cable designs which have been featured in Crochet World and Crochet! publications. For those of us that love to work post stiches and transform them into beautiful cables, Bonnie’s designs are sure to be among your favorites.

Lisdoonvarna Shawl Crochet! magazine Winter 2013

Lisdoonvarna Shawl
Crochet! magazine
Winter 2013

Hills of Ireland Throw Crochet World December 2015

Hills of Ireland Throw
Crochet World
December 2015

Bonnie’s second book, Celtic Cable Crochet, filled with beautiful designs was recently published, so I took the opportunity to interview her and find out a little bit more about one of my favorite designers.

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Jackie: Bonnie, your beautiful Celtic cable designs have been featured in Crochet World and Crochet! magazines for many years. Tell us how you became interested in crochet cables.

Bonnie: Well, by the time I was finishing high school, I had been crocheting for more than 10 years.  Back then (late 70’s, early 80’s), the only source of crochet patterns were pamphlets at department stores and my favorite (and only) crochet magazine called “Crochet World!”  Craft stores like Michael’s didn’t exist, at least not in Hialeah, Florida. After 10 years of crocheting every pattern I could get my hands on, I was thrilled to find a leaflet on Fisherman Crochet by Annie Ough.  I still have these two leaflets, one on afghans, and the other on crocheting garments.  Both leaflets are completely worn out, but are probably my most treasured patterns in my collection.

What inspires each new design? Is it inventing a new cable stitch? A place you have visited?

Inspiration can come from anywhere I suppose, at least in my experience.  My first attempt to create a new cabling stitch was inspired by my daughter Becky, who saw me getting ready to make another afghan from my favorite old pamphlet and challenged me to just do something different!  I took her words to heart and started playing around with crossing stitches.  This is how the Celtic Weave Stitch came about back in 2009, and was first published in Aran Afghans by Leisure Arts – the same publisher of those wonderful, worn out pamphlets I so love!

Bonnie visiting a new friend in Ireland

Bonnie visiting a new friend in Ireland

In 2012 I had the opportunity to accompany my husband on a business trip to Ireland. I never dreamed that I would get to go there.  My husband surprised me with a couple of added days to the west coast of the island and we even took a boat ride to the Aran Isles, the home of the cabling that caught my eye and captured my heart years before.  Out of that trip came my first book, Contemporary Celtic Crochet!

 

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What is your favorite part about the design process?

My favorite part is actually working with the yarn and seeing my sketches and my high school algebra skills come to life.  You never know exactly how things are going to work out.  That’s why I have several designs that will never see the light of day!  It is so deeply satisfying when your idea turns out the way you envisioned.

In addition to several pattern books, your first book, Contemporary Celtic Crochet seemed to give you a chance to really explore different ways to use cables. Tell us what it was like to focus on creating designs for a whole book!

This was a dream come true on the one hand, but also felt like being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool all at the same time!  I had so much to learn then, and still do.  For years I had been saving designs that were special to me.  The trip to Ireland pushed me over the edge giving me the courage to step out in faith and give creating a book proposal a try.  I came home with more ideas to fill in the gaps with the designs I already had created.

Your latest book, Celtic Cable Crochet is filled with gorgeous projects! I think there are at least 5 I want to crochet! How does this book differ from your first book? What are you most pleased with?

Wow Jackie!  Thanks for saying that!  One difference in this book is I tried to simplify the designs a bit.  Sometimes less is more.  By making designs that have fewer cables, the cables that are there can get more attention, creating a different kind of elegance.  I wanted the cables to make the wearer look great, and not just draw attention to the stitching.  I also introduce some new techniques that I’ve developed for making larger cables more streamlined, yet using only the fundamental crochet stitches any confident beginner should know!  I also tried to set them against a crocheted fabric that would make the cables stand out more.

Working with the Interweave team at F + W Media was amazing! These folks really know their business and were a joy to work with every step of the way.  I was very pleased with how they listened to my vision for the book from the very beginning.  I wanted more photographs of the designs, stitch diagrams, and another step-by-step stitch dictionary, and all my wishes were cheerfully granted!  I learned so much on so many levels.

If you could design anything, had all the supplies ready to go, what would be your dream project?

I would probably like to design an evening dress, using mixed media (fabric, fine yarns, beading, etc.). I know that this may be a bit impractical for the publishing world.  I think that writing all the details down and sizing it for multiple sizes would make a really scary fiber/beading horror flick!  Hee hee!

What’s next? Another book? More Celtic cable designs?

One thing I would love to do is to teach on a national level.  I’ve been a teacher for more than 30+ years in everything from music to home school to crochet classes to substitute teaching at a local public school.  I have more than 100 videos on my Bonnie Bay Crochet Youtube channel and have recently enjoyed hosting Crochet Alongs to help crocheters become more comfortable with some of these new cabling techniques.  I would love to write another book when the time is right, and yes, it will definitely have more Celtic cable designs!  I believe we’ve barely scratched the surface of the possibilities in this genre of crochet design.

Bonnie, thanks so much for giving us a peek behind the scenes into your life as a designer. We look forward to many more Celtic cables designs form you in the future!

For a limited time, Bonnie’s Rose Diamond Stole from the December 2011 issue of Crochet World will be available on Annie’s ePatternsCentral.com

Diamond Rose Stole Crochet World December 2011

Diamond Rose Stole
Crochet World
December 2011

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Stress-Free Seamless Crochet

If you ask a roomful of crocheters what they dislike most when it comes to crocheting, many will tell you it’s sewing all the pieces together. Most of us find the comfort of crocheting to be soothing and a joy to do. But when it comes to finishing up a project, it may take days, weeks or even months for us to get motivated to do all the sewing that is required. When I managed a yarn shop, many people would confess to having completed projects that just needed to be sewn together squirreled away in their closet!

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If you find yourself just wanting to crochet this fall and not worry about seams, take a look at the Crochet! newsstand special, Stress-Free  Seamless Crochet. You’ll find a variety of projects that are created with join-as-you-go motifs, connected with buttons, worked entirely in the round or all in one piece.

Here are just a few of the 40 projects you’ll find in this issue.

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Designer, Margret Willson’s Mitered Shells Throw is just perfect in autumn colors or any color palette you choose. Each mitered square is built onto the next one in the row in join-as-you-go style, so when you are done, you are done! Crocheted in Universal Uptown Worsted, you’ll appreciate the softness, anti-pilling quality and color range of this easy-care acrylic yarn.

 

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The Paisley Lace Shawl by designer Denise LaVoie is on my “to do” list. I love the contrast between the subtle all-over texture and the lace border. The crescent-shape makes it so versatile and so wearable. Crocheted with one of my favorite yarns, Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, the shawl is worked side to side with the motif border crocheted right to the shawl.

 

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Thinking ahead to the holidays and gift giving? Women of all ages will want a pair of Juanita Quinones’ fingerless mitts, Diamonds On My Hands. Crocheted in the round using a fun self-stripping yarn, these mitts would be just as pretty in a solid-colored fingering-weight yarn.

 

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The perfect holiday fashion accessory may just be designer Leshia Tweddle’s Purple Passion Flower ShawlPatons Metallic yarn in beautiful shades of purple and burnished rose, adds just a hint of shimmer and shine. This triangular-shaped shawl is worked in join-as-you-go motifs with an H hook, so there is still time to get this one done!

 

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And what could be easier than crocheting a rectangle? No sewing here! Popular this season, Cathy Robbins’ Stormy Weather Vest with its waterfall front is perfect with jeans or over a knit dress for a special occasion. This one is crocheted in one piece with slits for the armholes. Using a variegated worsted yarn gives this simple-to-make garment a more complex look.

Look for Stress-Free Seamless Crochet at your favorite craft or bookstore or get your print or digital version here.

Happy Crocheting!

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