Meet the Designer: Dora Ohrenstein

I would like to introduce you to crochet designer, Dora Ohrenstein. With six books and over 200 published patterns to her credit, Dora’s fresh take on classic styles appeal to many crocheters. Dora gives us a peek into her life and shares about her love of both crochet and music.

Crochet World: Dora, tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you learn to crochet? Have you always been interested in crafts?

Dora: I learned to crochet when I was about 20 – I taught myself from a magazine. This was in the “Age of Aquarius” — a time of renewed interest in crafts. I was living on a tiny little houseboat in Amsterdam, and a friend who had a weaving shop gave me some gorgeous yarn to work with in lots of colors. I started making garments because no one told me it was hard to do. But after that time I did not crochet again for decades.

CW: I know you are a multi-talented woman. What did you want to be when you were a child? What interested you in college, your early career? Tell us where you career path has led you currently?

Dora: My parents started me on piano lessons at age 8 and I always loved music.  When I had enough of houseboat living in Amsterdam, I finished my BA at Barnard College and decided to major in music. Then I started taking singing lessons. I was already quite a good musician, so when I graduated I decided to pursue a career as a singer. I sang professionally for about 25 years, doing all kinds of music but most notably I was the solo singer of the Philip Glass Ensemble for 10 years and travelled all over the world in that role. I have also been a singing teacher for the last 20 years, and I teach two full days a week, giving one-on-one voice lessons, at a college in Staten Island. I find having these two different lives – in music and in crochet design — quite stimulating!

CW: When did you begin designing? What was your first published design?

Dora: Around 2003 I suddenly was drawn to the crochet hook again. I wasn’t performing much any more, and I yearned for a new creative outlet. I never used patterns and always designed everything from scratch.  My first published designs were in a book produced by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss –  2005 or thereabouts. I met them at a CGOA conference and they were great mentors who helped me break into the designing biz.

CW: What excites you about crochet and keeps you designing?

Dora: I love the architectural qualities of crochet – how you can build anything working in any direction. I also love the zillions of lovely stitch patterns and motifs. I enjoy trying different stitches, then changing them a bit, or a lot, or combining them with other stitches. The possibilities always seem endless in crochet and that keeps me designing.

CW: What does your design process look like? Where do your ideas for designs come from?

Dora: Sometimes from a pretty swatch I’ve made. Other times, walking the streets of New York City where I live, I will see fabulous fashions in a shop window, or on someone and that will inspire me.  I also follow high-end knitwear designers like Missoni or Anna Sui and try to capture some of their sparkle in my own work.

CW: What is your favorite fiber or yarn to crochet?

Dora: Don’t ask me to pick one!  I do love alpaca, pima cotton, cashmere – you know, all the expensive stuff!

CW: You have some beautiful designs in the both of the spring newsstand specials from Annie’s. The Antonia Vest from Marvelous Crochet Motifs is a beautiful combination of Tunisian crochet and motifs. Tell us more about the design.

Dora: Antonia is based on a swatch I had for years, where I combined a square motif with Tunisian crochet using self-striping yarn. The idea was that a simple motif gets more interesting when working it with self-striping yarn, as you get different colors at the center and outsides of each motif, but they all go well together. The rows of Tunisian produce more conventional stripes, and combining motifs with striped Tunisian fabric was a cool way to exploit many color possibilities.   I just never knew exactly what item to use it in.  The concept finally came together with this vest. It was quite a challenge to get the Tunisian stitches to fit into the motifs tidily.

CW: Any suggestions for those that want to tackle this challenging project?

Dora: I don’t think it’s so very challenging if you take it one step at a time and trust the pattern. Sometimes people overthink or second guess the designer, but usually this gets them into trouble. The motifs are quite easy, and the basketweave Tunisian stitch is just a little more advanced.  I recommend making one motif and then adding some Tunisian crochet to the motif, to see how all how your Tunisian stitches will fit into it.  Then practice the Tunisian basketweave stitch by making a swatch.  Once you’ve done this prep, the rest will come without much difficulty.

CW: Your Wanderlust Top on the cover of Easy, Breezy Crochet Lace is also a motif design. It looks so light and airy and perfect for summer. This is one of those designs that you could make over and over again in different yarns. Do you have any suggestions for our readers?

Dora: This one too is all about using self-striping yarn with a motif.  Because the stitches are open the fabric is very flexible, so anyone should be able to get a nice fit on this garment.  Pick a yarn that is not stiff at all, and make sure that it’s a self-striping yarn.  Not all variegated yarns create stripes – some have only short lengths of any color and are meant to create a mottled effect. This will make the elements of the motif hard to see and is not recommend. Rather, look for yarns that have long lengths of each color to get the best result.

CW: In that same issue, there is also a beautiful shawl you designed.

Dora: The inspiration for Fantasia Wrap was a really pretty stitch I found in a Japanese stitch dictionary that I had not seen used in any designs I came across. When you design a shawl, you have to find something special to do so that it stands out, and the added wide ruffle was the special element I introduced for this design.

CW: If you were given unlimited resources and time what would be your ultimate crochet design?

Dora: It would be something where I didn’t have to think at all about writing a pattern and someone else following it. I have many ideas that have to be restrained because I know it would be hard to write the instructions, or make sizing work. Now I am not complaining because creating patterns is my job.  But since you are asking what I would enjoy if time and money were not considerations, I would like to see what I’d come up with if I didn’t have to write a pattern — and some day I will do this!

CW: What is your idea of a perfect day?

Dora: Strong cup of coffee, reading the paper, yoga class, big bowl of fruit, teaching singing for a couple of hours, crocheting for a couple of hours, dinner and wine with a friend, reading a good book, a bit of TV before sleep.  Something like that.

CW: Thanks Dora, for giving us a peek into your life as a designer. If you want to see more of Dora’s designs, make sure to check out her Ravelry page and new book, Top-Down Crochet Sweaters.

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Fiber Festival Season Begins!

Have you ever been to a fiber festival? If you love “all things yarnie” then you don’t want to miss this experience! Fiber festivals are held all over the country, and many take place during the spring and summer months. If you crochet, knit, spin, weave, love to touch yarn and learn new things, make it a point to visit a festival near you.

I recently went to the Fiber Arts Festival in Jay County, Indiana and had such a good time walking around and learning new things, I thought I would share some photos with you.

Lots and lots of yarn and fibers to touch!

Classes were offered and you could watch demos of spinning and sheep shearing, too.

Shearing the sheep is like giving them a hair cut; it doesn’t hurt them, but they aren’t really all that happy about it!

It was hard to resist these cute little guys!

It’s fascinating to watch wool fibers being spun into yarn on a spinning wheel. I learned so much about spinning wheels, weaving looms and felting, too.

Check out this list of fiber festivals to find one near you. You’ll have a fun day and may just come away with a new hobby!

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The Beauty of Celtic Knots

When I think about the month of March, I always think about St. Patrick’s Day. And since I am a crocheter, St Patrick’s Day doesn’t have me thinking about wearing green or corned beef; I think about Celtic knot crochet and my friend, Jennifer Ryan!

Jennifer’s Celtic knot designs are works of art and I recently asked her to share with us how she began designing her beautiful Celtic knot creations.

Féileacán Shawl
Crochet! Magazine, Summer 2015

Crochet World: Jennifer you have designed some beautiful Celtic knot projects in the last few years. Some of my favorites include the Kerry Shrug, Clare Beauty top and the Féileacán Shawl. Tell us what inspired you?

Jennifer: I love the patterns and intertwining pathways of Celtic knots so I spend time looking through books of knot designs and Celtic-themed catalogs. Often a particular knot design will jump out at me and I can see in its shape a particular project come to life.

Celtic Knot Pin
Free Pattern

CW: How did you develop your Celtic knot technique in crochet?

Jennifer: About 10 years ago I came across a couple of how-to books on decorative knots. I had a great time learning from these books how to weave a variety of knots with a variety of mediums (but not crochet yet!).  Then about 7 years ago when I wanted to send in some of my ideas for the first time to a crochet magazine, I thought that creating something with crochet and Celtic knots would stand-out from the rest and increase my chances of having my designs accepted.  It worked!  Later that year I used the same thinking to create my first entry into the CGOA’s Design Competition – it worked again! I won 2nd prize for my Glendalough Shrug and later created the Kerry Shrug as a simpler version that was published in Crochet! magazine.  I was thrilled that my new technique was recognized and have been doing ‘Celtic knot crochet’ ever since.

Kerry Shrug, Crochet! Magazine, Spring 2013

How do you plan a Celtic knot design? Does the garment shape come first or the knot design?

When I am planning out a garment (or any project), it can go both ways! Sometimes I love a knot design so much that I will want to create a garment around it. So, I list all the garment shapes that would work with it and pick the one garment I would like to add to my wardrobe. J

Other times I want to make a certain garment and then I browse my ‘inspiration folders’ for a knot that will fit well within the garment’s shape.

Clare Beauty
Crochet! Magazine, Autumn 2014

Any advice for beginners who want to try your beautiful technique?

Many people want to make the Kerry Shrug or the Clare Beauty as their first project but I usually recommend they try some of my smaller and simpler designs that are available for free in my Ravelry store. Picking projects that use Size 3 or larger yarn is better, too for your first project. Don’t give up! Sometimes you need to put a project down for a few hours or days to give your mind a rest. That’s okay. I also have several step-by-step photo tutorials on my website to take you through the process of weaving several knots.

If you had the all the time and resources needed, what would be the one Celtic knot design you would love to create?

Crocheters are artists that get to wear their artwork on their person while grocery shopping, going for a walk or sipping coffee at their local café – I love that! So, I would love to create a garment full of Celtic knot flowers and vines in a variety of bright and eye-catching colors that is a piece of art in itself. It would require several hours and skeins of pretty yarn, but that is just one of my dream projects to create.

Jennifer, thanks so much for sharing with us today!

Just in time for St. Patrick’s day, try your hand at crocheting Celtic knots by making one of Jennifer’s free patterns. And look for more beautiful Celtic knot crochet designs from Jennifer in upcoming issues of Crochet World.

Celtic Knot Bracelet
Free Pattern

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Marvelous Crochet Motifs

If you are like most crocheters one of the first things you learned to make after mastering the basics was a granny square motif. Always a perennial favorite, the granny square is often the first motif we fall in love with, but certainly not our last.

 

Now on the newsstands, Marvelous Crochet Motifs is filled with over 35 motif projects, including a few variations on our favorite granny square. Here are a few highlights from this special edition.

You’ll find join-as-you-go projects like the Gradient Granny Top with its variation on the granny square made by off-setting the center of the motif. Cute as a top, crochet more motifs and add to the length for a fun beach cover-up too!

I love the Squaring the Circle purse. It’s a fun way to use up small bits of leftover floss and size 10 thread. The bright pastel color range is perfect for spring, but you can make it your own by using black thread and bright primary colors of floss. Or how about one in neutrals tans, beige, creams, grey and black?

Some projects require just a few motifs like the pretty Spring Star Flowers Shawl crocheted in a beautiful hand-paint look alpaca blend yarn.

And who can resist our cute model, Scarlet looking over the Peekaboo Quiet Book! You’ll have fun making the 6 motifs that make up the project. Each page has a fun activity to keep little hands busy. There is a page with a funny frog catching flies with his tongue, a peekaboo bear, flowers to button on and off, and more!

There are also plenty of projects for your home including several thread pieces to crochet. This beautiful Trefoil Doily uses an unusual triangular motif. And the possibilities are endless; make it as the pattern suggests or keep adding more motifs for a runner or even a tablecloth!

Add a pretty touch of sunshine to your home with the Sunny Garden Throw. Using the motifs only in the border, keeps the focus on the motifs and the pretty lace edging.

Make sure you pick up this special edition soon at your local craft store or Walmart. Or go here to order your copy today.

Happy Crocheting!

Looking for more crochet inspiration and design ideas? Try a free issue of Crochet World magazine on us! Click here.

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Crochet World April 2017

The April issue of Crochet World is now available digitally and will soon be on the newsstands. You’ll find lots of fun springtime projects to crochet including a variety of afghans for you and your favorite little ones.

Every time I see this cute Down on the Farm throw for kids I just have to smile! Of course our pint-sized model, Scarlet certainly helps make this project all the more adorably cute!

Our Spring Flowers Afghan, designed by Rena V. Stevens will bring the beauty of spring right into your home! Covered with yellow tulips and pink crocus, not only is this one fun to crochet, you’ll be proud to show it off too!

Our log Cabin Scrapghan is perfect for using up left over bits of worsted-weight yarn. You’ll have so much fun choosing your colors, you might just be sad to finish this one!There are 2 more beautiful afghans in this issue along with 4 gorgeous pieces crocheted with thread!

Our Designer Spotlight features Joyce Geisler’s beautiful Motif Medley Table Runner in stunning shades of French Rose, orchid pink and mint green for a pretty springtime look. Of course, no matter what colors you choose, you’ll have fun crocheting this join-as-you-go runner. And it would make a stunning tablecloth or set of place mats too!

You’ll also find some quick projects in this issue including our cute Best Buddies set perfect for springtime holiday gift baskets or a new baby!

Or you may want to crochet our useful Messenger Bag which is not only roomy enough to hold most tablets and a few essentials, but also makes a stylish purse too. This is our Beginner’s Luck feature and we hope you’ll use this pattern to share your love of crochet by passing along the tradition and teaching a friend, neighbor or relative.

You’ll find lots more designs here guaranteed to keep your crochet hooks flying all spring long!

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